Cooking Tamale Pie

Since our oven’s still not working, I’ve been focusing my attention on meals that can be either cooked on the stove pot or in a crock pot. I actually made Tamale Pie from Dawn J. Ranck and Phyllis Pellman Good’s Fix-It And Forget-It Cookbook (page 128) before the oven crapped out, but I figured I’ll be making it again in the near future. Actually, I’d make it again anyway because it was so simple, filling and tasty (I’ve got to think of better words than that when writing about food).

All you need to make this dish is 3/4 cup of cornmeal, 1.5 cups of milk, an egg, a pound of cooked ground beef, some chili mix, a 16 oz can of diced tomatoes, a 16 oz can of corn (or cut off the cob if you have it, like I happened to at the time) and a cup of cheddar cheese. While the beef was cooking, I cut the kernels off the corn cob and combined the cornmeal, milk and the beaten egg. You then combine that mixture with the cooked beef, corn and tomatoes, put it in the crock pot and cook either on high for one hour or low for three. At that point, sprinkle the cheese on top, let cook another five minutes and
you’ve got dinner.

I like this recipe because it was a different enough take on Mexican food without being too much of a pain to put together. I mean, I love taco night, but that can get kind of boring. I also like enchiladas, but those are kind of a pain in the butt to make. This was super easy and, thanks to the shorter cook time than most slow cooker recipes, it doesn’t really involve that much prep or cook time. I also like that you can do some tinkering with this recipe with different kinds of ground beef, cheese and, of course, using fresh ingredients instead of the canned ones suggested in the recipe.

Cooking Giada De Laurentiis’ Italian Baked Chicken & Pastina

This recipe for Giada De Laurentiis’ Italian Baked Chicken & Pastina will go down in history as the one that broke our oven. That’s entirely true, actually, it’s not true at all. It just happens to be the last thing I baked in the oven before it mysteriously went kaput a few weeks back. But, even if it were the reason, it’d probably be worth it to some extent because this was a great and simple recipe that could be easily thrown together most nights and doesn’t take a lot of effort.

As you can see by clicking through to the recipe, you really only need to cut up some chicken, a few vegetables, saute them in some olive oil, make pasta, mix everything in a bowl and throw the dish in the oven for a half hour. Bingo bango, you’ve got dinner. And it’s a good one too, including cooked pasta, chicken, mozzarella and tomatoes. I will definitely make this again, once I get that damn oven fixed.

New Hampshire Bonus Food Pics: Steak Bombs, Cinnamon Buns & Breakfast

Two weekends back, we headed to New Hampshire to attend the surprise birthday of my wife’s long time friend. While there we hit up a few restaurants and ate some food I just had to brag about.

Just take a second to behold the glory that is a New England steak bomb sandwich. I don’t even know what’s in it, but I love it and want to eat one every day of my life, a life that would probably be all the shorter for such an experience. Anyway, this particular sandwich of the gods came from a place near my inlaws’ house called Giovanni’s and I highly recommend getting this food in your face if you can. Even after sitting in a bag on the way home, this was still a wonderful, cheesy thing of goodness.

Before heading home on Sunday, we went to breakfast at my inlaws’ favorite place, Janie’s. We’ve been there lots of times and I like that they always have a list of specials in addition to their regular menu. This time I got a bratwurst and sauerkraut filled omelet that was pretty tasty, but probably could have used more kraut. The real spotlight of the meal for me was that giant cinnamon roll I only ate half of so I could eat the rest for breakfast the next day. Man, I really need to get my oven fixed so I can figure out how to make these things, they’re my one real dessert weakness.

Soup’s Off

I love making soup, you guys. It’s one of the reasons I like fall so much, spending some time with a pot, some stock, vegetables and usually meat all mixing it up together on my stove. What’s not to like? Well, a lot if you’re a baby, apparently. As the weather turned cooler a few weeks back, I got really excited and broke out my copy of The Ultimate Soup Bible and started checking out new recipes to try. One week I made Cauliflower Cannellini & Fennel SoupĀ (page 221) which you can see aboveĀ  and the next I made Mediterranean Sausage & Pesto Soup (page 327) which is below. Neither blew my mind, but they were both good soups that made me feel warm and full, which is pretty much my criteria.

But, as I mentioned above, babies aren’t the biggest fans of soup. Even Lu, who’s gotten really good with her tiny utensils, didn’t find much to get excited about when presented with a mini bowl of soup. It’s something I didn’t even think of in my rush to get soup-ed up, but it either doesn’t look appetizing to her or she really wants to eat it herself which will just lead to a huge mess on our hands. I’m bummed out, but I’ve put soup on the backburner as far as meal planning goes for the time being (puns!).

Cooking Smitten Kitchen’s Baked Orzo With Eggplant & Mozzarella

A few weeks back my parents came in for a visit. Since my mom’s a vegetarian, I always try to come up with something fun and new to try when they visit. I was looking and looking and looking and then I came across the Smitten Kitchen recipe for Baked Orzo With Eggplant & Mozzarella and figured I had a contender on my hands. I neglected to take pictures of the last few steps, but I can assure you that this recipe is a good one to try out even if you don’t have any vegetarians in your crew.

The first thing I did, well before I even started prepping everything else, was get the eggplant cut up, salted and hanging out in a strainer over the sink. I’ve had problems getting the water out of the purple tubers before, but think it went pretty well this time. After a while I got to work on the rest of the prep work which consisted of chopping up carrots, celery, onions, garlic, tomatoes and mozzarella cheese.

With everything good to go, I got to cooking. The eggplant went into oil first which was kind of like frying, but without the crispiness. You take that out and set aside on some paper towels before using the same pot and cooking the rest of the veggies. Right here I have to stop and say that I appreciate any meal that doesn’t result in a mountain of dirty dishes at the end.

Anyway, after cooking everything, you add in a few of the other ingredients, mix things up and pop it in the oven. You might need extra time to make this because of the eggplant and the oven time, but it’s really a simple set up that yielded awesome results. I mean, what’s not to like about orzo, two kinds of cheese and eggplant? It winds up being kind of like a veggie-filled mac and cheese which I am always in favor of.

Bonus Food Pics: Ruby Tuesday’s Black & Blue, Fish Tacos

As I snapped a picture of my food at Ruby Tuesday’s a week ago, my wife asked why I was bothering. I thought about it for a second and said that I should give chain restaurants the same opportunities on MATK as local ones. I’m actually a big fan of Ruby Tuesday’s and have been since one opened in Toledo as a kid. I’m a sucker for a good salad bar and think they’ve got a pretty good one.

Anyway, I started our meal off with a Black and Blue, which is a combination of Guinness and Blue Moon. I don’t think I’d ever had even a black and tan, but the combination was fun. I’m a big fan of combos, so this was up my alley, especially because they gave me the can of Guinness, so it was like getting two beers.

For dinner I went with the fish tacos which were alright. I’ve definitely had better, but I’ve also had worse. They were a bit spicy, but not too bad. Overall it was a good dinner with good service and the quality salad bar, so I left happy.

Cooking Spinach Rice Pilaf Pie With Chickpeas & Black Olives

Sometimes a goof in the kitchen can lead to some good results. A few weeks back I intended to make a recipe I found in Hannaford’s Fresh magazine that they give you for free if you spend a certain amount of money. It was going to be the simple Spinach Rice Pilaf Pie, but I wound up accidentally reading the wrong recipe’s ingredients (which I strangely had most of in my pantry). I only realized this after I drained a can of black olives and chickpeas for the other recipe. Even though those two things weren’t included in the original recipe I wanted to make, I worked them in and think the results were pretty solid.

I made this work by adding the olives and chickpeas to the egg/cheese mix that you incorporate the cooked spinach/rice mixture after that’s all cooked. I should have also baked this new, bigger mixture in a larger container of some kind. As such, I had a little spillage in the stove and it took a little longer to cook, but otherwise, I thought the added chickpeas and olives made the flavor a lot more interesting in this dish. Give it a whirl and see how it works for you!

Bonus Food Pics: Fiddlestix Breakfast

A few weekends back the family and I headed over to Fiddlestix for lunch, which wasn’t particularly new or shocking in and of itself. It’s become our favorite breakfast place around and always has really great food to stuff our faces with. However, this day was a bit different. Why? Because I had one of the greatest dishes of my life and no it’s not the wrap above…It’s the above work of art. What’s that, you say? Well, I don’t remember the name of it which is fine because, like everything we order, it was a special that week. But it’s actually a large soft pretzel topped with two poached eggs and cheddar cheese mixed with ham and peppers. Eating this meal was like what I assume it’s like on one of the cooking competition shows when great chefs are asked to make spectacular meals out of mundane ingredients.

Better yet, or possibly worse? I didn’t even order it. My wife did. I got a few bites, but those bites have lingered in my memory. I won’t say that I can’t stop thinking about it, but I would jump at the chance to order this plate again. Also, don’t get me wrong, the meat and egg filled breakfast wrap I ordered was pretty great, but it didn’t have one of my favorite foods of all time (pretzels) covered with another favorite (cheese with ham in it).

Cooking Alton Brown’s Chicken Biscuit Pot Pie

After a somewhat disastrous attempt at cooking a whole chicken that I’d rather not get too much into, my wife suggested I take the leftover meat — of which there was a good deal — remove the skin and make chicken pot pie, a favorite of hers. I figured it was the least I could do, I started looking around for recipes and landed on Alton Brown’s for Chicken Biscuit Pot Pie. It looked tasty, I had most of the ingredients and the idea of putting biscuits on top of something that already includes chicken, gravy and vegetables was quite appealing to me. I was sold, but a little nervous. Dough and I don’t always mix well, but the recipe didn’t seem that hard so I moved forward.

I didn’t make any changes to the recipe, but the only chicken sausage I was able to find was actually pre-cooked, so I didn’t need to cook that all the way in the pan. Aside from that, I did what Alton said and had pretty good luck. I got all the dry ingredients for the biscuit dough together first in a bowl and then got to work on the inside of the chicken pot pie.

Once that was done and set aside to cool a bit, I got to work on the rest of the dough. Like I said, I was a little worried about this part, but it only involved mixing the ingredients, putting some flour on the counter, smushing the dough down and then cutting out circles with one of our glasses. You then put the pie filling in the oven safe container, cover with the dough discs and pop it into the oven.

I was most surprised by how little time this all took to put together and how freaking good the end results tasted. Like I said, it’s got chicken and gravy, plus biscuits and chicken sausage, which I didn’t even know I liked. Wins all around.

Food Truck Fun: The Lucky Cow

I’ve been sitting on these images for a while, but I still wanted to talk about what I believe is the only food truck local to Cornwall, New York. I’ve seen the the green Lucky Cow truck at the farmer’s market I attend on a mostly regular basis, but have only gotten food from them once and it was a great experience. The truck offers completely home made vegetarian dishes as well as smoothies and shakes and has different offerings all the time. The day we got food from Lucky Cow, they had three entrees and we got them all. In the first picture you can see a mushroom quesadilla and their zucchini “crab” cakes, below is their falafel wrap which I believe they have on a regular basis. The food took a bit longer to prepare than I expected, but it wound up being worth the wait. Fresh, flavorful and reasonably price, I’d order all three again and look forward to trying out new options with future visits. To find out what they’re serving and where they’ll be, check out the Lucky Cow Facebook page.