Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Monday Night Dinner

After a less than stellar weekend in the kitchen (hey, we all have bad days, or weeks, or years...), I decided to make up for it with Monday night's dinner. It would also be the last time my husband would be home for dinner for a few days, so I wanted it to be special. Hmm, now I sound like Ina Garten.

My daughter watched an episode of Down Home with the Neely's with me on Food Network Sunday afternoon and she expressed an interest in the Southern Creamed Corn recipe and asked that I make it. After seeing that rather smallish fresh corn on the cob is priced at 3 for $2.00 this time of year, I decided to just use the frozen corn I already had in the freezer at home. A quick search on the internet revealed that one ear of corn is roughly equal to 1/2 cup of corn, so I also decided to halve the recipe. Now I just had to figure out the rest of the menu. Fortunately, I went to the grocery store Monday morning, so I picked up two boneless beef ribeye steaks that were on sale and I was in business.

Mise en place for the Southern Creamed Corn.
As I didn't have any bacon grease (or joos) on hand, I just skipped that part and added a bit more butter. I always use unsalted butter. What can I say? I'm a control freak.
And now we wait, and wait... (Apparently my dear husband forgot to tell me that he was necessarily delayed at work) And still waiting... This dish is supposed to simmer for 30 minutes. This night? An hour and thirty minutes. Fortunately, I found that this dish can adapt. I simply turned down the heat and bided my time.

Once the word finally arrived that my husband was on his way home, I began the meat. These are simply seasoned with kosher salt, cracked black pepper and olive oil.

The steaks sear nicely and then go on a plate and are covered with aluminum foil to rest. On to the next step. Just in case you are wondering how we divide two steaks between three people: after resting, each steak is cut into thirds and we each get two pieces of steak.

I brown sliced crimini mushrooms in the same pan.

I added 1/2 cup beef stock, 1/4 cup white wine and simmered for a few minutes.

Late in the game I added two slabs of beef bone marrow that I had roasted in the bone earlier in the afternoon. More on that later.

The corn is finished right on time.

Despite the unexpected delay in serving the meal, it all turned out on time and it was all delicious. It's a good thing that after 25 years I have learned to accommodate my husband's sudden, and often unannounced, schedule changes. A tossed salad rounded out this meal and we were all well fed and very happy.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The "Ultimate" Hash Browns?

Just in case you have missed this little tidbit about me: I am a Food Network Junkie. Though here are quite a few shows and hosts that I snipe (or Shrike) about, I find this channel to be mostly useful and entertaining.

So when I was watching Tyler's Ultimate on FN yesterday afternoon, my attention was immediately caught by his Baked Potato Hash Browns. So much so that I grabbed the last of our russet potatoes (hmm, that scenario sounds vaguely familiar...) and made this dish for today's lunch.

I followed Tyler's instructions and grated the potatoes on an older kitchen towel. Another note to self: Hello?! Is anybody home? You have a food processor with a grater attachment. Use it!

Wow. Tyler was right. See all the excess potato joos that came out of these things? I do hope that this towel will get clean again.

The other players. Two bacon slices*, one-half shallot (not scallion), two green onions, salt, pepper, an egg white, olive oil (Yes, I know it's in a wine bottle. It's olive oil. Trust me), and because I don't have fresh thyme or parsley (Hello! Winter in Southern Indiana!), I substituted 1/2 tsp. of my own blend of Herbes de Provence.
*I have recently taken to buying packages of fresh bacon, cutting sheets of freezer paper, laying the slices out in a single layer on each sheet and then placing them in an oversize (about 2 1/2 gallon) zip-top bags, and then freezing them. It is easy to then grab the needed amount.

We are ready for the potatoes and the sauteed bacon and scallions.

Hmm, I diced when I should have sliced. Oh well, the scallions still work.

I mixed all the ingredients together and press down before frying. Once it was time to flip I made my husband turn around so that I could flip it without making a huge mess all over my kitchen. This is something I have learned: you CANNOT air-flip the food if you do not believe you will succeed. But, he did turn around and the deed was done. Yay for me!

Once I had flipped the hash browns, I added my aluminum foil sleeve to the handle so that the pan can go into the oven. I have been using this same piece of double wrapped foil for this pan for several years. Aren't I frugal? Shouldn't my CPA husband be proud of me?

After 15 minutes in a 425 degree oven, the hash browns are inverted onto a plate. A pizza cutter works well to cut this into slices.

My husband asked for shredded cheddar cheese on top of his serving. A dollop of sour cream completes the plating.

So how was this? While I will slightly tweak the technical aspects of the recipe to better fit my style of cooking, over all it is a success. And my picky husband liked it. This is a winner in my book.

Hey! See? I did find some color! I guess I just need to venture away from my computer once in a while. In case you are wondering, this is a Christmas cactus that I put out on the front porch last summer. An impatien seed took root and grew and it has been blooming all winter. And the colors of the flowers even coordinate. How good is that?

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Marilyn Bakes - Who Knew?!

In an absolute fit of madness today, I decided to raid my fridge and grab the remaining apples that I had bought when my daughter, Spoonie and I went to Jungle Jim's in Fairfield, Ohio back in November. I decided that while I actually did want to bake a dessert for once, I didn't want to go all out. Hey, you take what you can get.

So, I peeled, cored and sliced four good sized apples and placed them in an 8" x 11" casserole dish.

Oops, I forgot my mise en place photo. Well, I am sure that you can figure out that the sliced apples started out whole and that the dry ingredients started out in their individual containers in my pantry. Take that Sandra Lee!

Then I assembled the dry ingredients: 1/2 cup flour, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon. I randomly decided that some kosher salt would not be amiss, so I added a bare pinch to the mixture (hint, you could probably count the grains).

Once that was all properly mixed together, I cut in 1/2 stick of softened butter. About halfway through this process I smacked myself on the forehead, wondering why I didn't do this all in my food processor. Note to self: remember you now have a food processor.

I did add about 1/8 cup of cinnamon sugar to the top of the dish. Because, you can never have too much cinnamon sugar.

The mixture then goes on the apples and the entire thing goes in a 375 degree oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the apples are tender.

It looks good. Yes, I know it's simple, but then again, so am I, so just deal with it.

The verdict? A couple of concerned individuals have expressed grave doubts that this dish will actually survive to be dessert for tonight's dinner. We will attempt to restrain ourselves.

Me? I'm happy. As a self-avowed non-baker, I feel rather pleased with myself.

Well, apparently the food is good after all.

My Continued Search for Color

Sigh, I woke up this morning to yet another cloudy, snow and iced-covered day. I ask you, where's the love?

Argh! If I don't start seeing some color outside, I'm going to go batty! Is this the true cause of cabin fever? Can I get a grant so I can study this?

Oops, poor Kelley has a college midterm test this morning and her car is absolutely coated in ice. Fortunately, her very nice dad offered her the use of his car (that gets to sit in the garage), while he took my car to work. Well, at least he has to fill my car up with gas now.

Hey, look! There's some color! It's a gold finch at the feeder.

And there's a male cardinal. Well, at least it's a little color in my life. I guess this will have to do until I can start seeing lots of green outside. I like green. Green is good.

Ah, look. These 5 gold finches (who are more green this time of year) must have heard my plea for some color. And to set off all that green we have a pair of house finches.

Friday, February 22, 2008

My Black and White World

Sigh, some days you just can't win. I was trying to be good. Really, I was. It just doesn't always work out that way. I had bought a pre-frozen packaged dinner that is supposed to be diet friendly. Now I won't tell you the brand name (let's just say the name evokes thoughts of sun and sand) and I should have tossed the meal and eaten the packaging instead. It couldn't have tasted worse and it probably would have been more filling. I finally could take no more and tossed the rest. My darling daughter took pity on her mom and made me a ham, swiss and onion wrap with mustard. There, that's better.

Kelley makes mom a real lunch. I could only eat half of this, so the rest is in the fridge for tomorrow's lunch.

I am beginning to think that my camera can only take black and white pictures.

See what I mean? Where's the color in my life?

Well, this is a little bit better. Too bad the plant is frozen.

Oh well, maybe tomorrow will be more colorful.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Eating Around the Tablescape

It's a good thing for me that my husband has a f'ntastic sense of humor, because he gamely played along with the plan last evening and we ate at the over-decorated table. I must say that we laughed about it all through dinner.

I think my husband is hiding behind the tablescape. Honey, can you pass the salt?
This is my husband's view of my end of the table.

And poor Kelley just had to stare at the table scape. Kelley decorated this plate for me several years ago. Though you can't tell it from this angle, I placed the plate, ala Sandra Lee, on an overturned cup.

So, logistically, how did it go? Well, putting the dishes of food on the table was an impossibility, so we ate buffet style. My daughter thought that we should honor Sandra Lee's love of all things cocktail, so we each had our 'drink' in a cocktail glass. And then, breaking down the tablescape proved to be almost as time consuming as assembling it had. Tonight, the table will be decorated as it always is this time of year.

Ah, much better. This is my winter tablescape. I typically change out the centerpiece for each season. That's four times a year, versus every day. And in case you are wondering, the faux gold-leafed chargers are always on the table. We also eat dinner out here most days. If you've ever seen my kitchen table, you would know why we don't eat there.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A Winter Morning and a Bored Woman

Have I mentioned that it's a bad thing when I get bored? Trust me, I get into more trouble when I am bored. Just wait, you'll see what this morning's mayhem was. But first, winter decided we needed more snow. About 3 inches worth...

This picture was taken from the comfort of my own kitchen.

And a little later...

Braving the cold and the snow, I ventured outside to take these pictures.

Oh look, there's my favorite old barn again.

A chickadee and a tufted titmouse visit the bird feeders. Hmm, I think I need to fill them again.

And now, on to the mindless mayhem...

I have often wondered at Sandra Lee's claims that it is super-simple and inexpensive to put together a lavish tablescape. So I decided to put this to the test this morning.

Inexepensive? Well yes, considering I already had all this stuff lying around the house.

Super-simple? No, as it took me an hour to gather everything, replace my regular centerpiece, arrange the live plants, the silk ivy, the ribbon and the ornaments artfully around the table. Then I had to put out the plates (including the totally useless dessert plate) and find the napkin rings for the napkins. Rats! I forgot the name cards. However will my family know where to sit without them?

But, according to Sandra Lee, I am now the smartest thing on the block and I know I will be rewarded with cries of "What in the world did you do to the table?" And, "How are we going to eat there now?" Not to worry, dear family. Your meal is homemade and will be ready to eat - once we can actually find the table.

My daughter Kelley decided to add to my tablescape. After she stopped laughing at her crazy mom, that is. She added votive candles that if lit could set the entire thing on fire.

Kelley then changed the napkins, added salad bowls and the much needed place cards. See, this is Kelley's seat. The crisis has been averted.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A Day in Indianapolis

I had a meeting and a luncheon at the Scottish Rite Cathedral in Indianapolis today. As it was a nice looking day and my husband was chauffeuring me to and fro, I took along my camera. Sit back, put your seat belt on and enjoy the ride.

We know we are close to Indy when we see these smokestacks. There are quite few industrial plants on the south side of Indianapolis.

The old and the new. The RCA Dome is current home of the Indianapolis Colts and the new, much larger stadium is being built a block away.

Funny, I've never noticed this sign before.

This structure completely covers the intersection of two major downtown streets. This is part of the Circle Centre Mall.

We arrive at our destination, the Scottish Rite Cathedral.

While I was waiting for my meeting to start, I wandered around the building, taking photographs. This is one of many ceiling medalions in the main hall.

There, you've arrived safe and sound.