Saturday, March 28, 2009

Eat More Whipped Cream

This is a piece of the gingerbread I made recently. I won't bother with the recipe because, really, it wasn't all that good. But that's okay -- the real star here is the whipped cream. Gingerbread is simply a whipped cream delivery device.

Whipped cream: It's rich. It's sweet. You can eat it with your fingers if you want to. It's fun to watch whip up into a white, puffy cloud of pure cream goodness. When you put it on cake like this, it looks like your cake is wearing a little hat. And that, my friends, is awesome.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Salad Gets a Little (But Not Too) Crazy

There are a lot of things to love about salad. It's healthy. It's quick to make. When you add a little chicken or ham, it becomes a whole meal. But salads can also become a little boring, especially if you're serving them several nights in a row (which, when there are only two of you eating, is often the case).

Ben's solution for salad excitement is to cover it in hot sauce and blue cheese dressing and pretend it's a plate of wings. A novel approach for sure, but not for everyone.

That's why I liked Martha Stewart's Everyday Food ranch chicken salad suggestion. All the usual suspects (lettuce, carrots, cukes, radishes), plus homemade ranch dressing and hand-breaded chicken. Nothing too crazy but enough to make a plate of greens a little more interesting.

To keep the salad healthy, the dressing uses light ingredients: two parts low-fat buttermilk, one part light mayo and one part light sour cream. To that add a little vinegar, minced scallions, a couple pinches of dill and salt and pepper.

For the chicken, trim a few boneless, skinless breasts. In a food processor, create bread crumbs from four or five slices of whole-grain bread and a little olive oil. Pour 1/2 c. of the dressing in a shallow bowl and dip the chicken in the dressing, then the bread crumbs. Transfer to a rack on a baking sheet; bake at 375 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes.

Breading chicken using ranch dressing? It's a good thing.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Luck of the Irish

St. Patrick's Day may not be until Tuesday, but Ben and I started celebrating this weekend. And by celebrating, I mean eating food that I consider to be Irish in nature. Like the corned beef and root veggies I made on Saturday.

I hadn't necessarily planned to make my own St. Patty's Day meal, but when I did my grocery shopping this week, I was feeling particularly Irish, an emotion that may have been induced by a deli case of steeply discounted corned beef.

The corned beef was very good, as were the carrots and onions cooked along with it, but the real stars of the show were the roasted red potatoes, made with a vinegar-mustard dressing. You can find the exact recipe here, but I just eyeballed the measurements. Cut up small red potatoes, toss with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and roast in a 400-degree oven until tender. Throw a few cloves of garlic (unpeeled) in with the potatoes. While the potatoes are roasting, whisk together a little more oil, a little bit of vinegar and Dijon mustard, some chives and more salt and pepper. When the roasting is through, squeeze the garlic from the skins into the dressing. Whisk. Add potatoes, toss to coat, eat, delight in the potatoey goodness.

This recipe is great for a few reasons. One, it requires no potato peeling. Two, it is filled with garlic. Three, it is filled with garlic. I give it the Kiefer Kitchen Seal of Approval.

On Sunday, Ben and I continued our Irish-tivities with a trip to The Hibernian, Cary's best (and perhaps only) Irish restaurant. It's our favorite cold-weather eatery.

We appreciate The Hibernian not only for the great eats, but for the Irish atmosphere. (And I consider myself something of an expert on this topic -- I've seen "Far and Away" like six times.) A roaring fire, Celtic music, and more pictures of famous Irish people than you can shake a stick at. Also, I've heard at least one authentic Irish accent while we've been in there.

Ben and I have different approaches to our meals at The Hibernian. He generally opts for a ginormous sandwich while I go for a small cup of soup and leave room for dessert. I do this because the raspberry bread pudding is excellent and worth skipping the corned beef sandwich for. Sunday, I discovered that the orange-chocolate cake is also excellent. For visual proof, please see the "before" and "after" photos.



Notice that I did leave the orange slice, the mint leaf and at least half of the powered sugar that was dusted around the rim of the plate.

I was kind enough to share my dessert with Ben, who selected a battered cod sandwich for his meal this time around. (I went with the Irish stew and a slice of Irish bread, which New Englanders know as Boston brown bread.) I let him have his own spoon and everything. I guess I was just all caught up in the St. Patty's Day spirit.

Even though I love the raspberry bread pudding and I'm not usually a big fan of chocolate cake, this little confectionery wonder has made a fan of me. Éirinn go brách and pass the cake, please.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

"C" is for Crumbly

I made some lime sugar cookies the other day. I do not recommend you do the same.

It's not that they weren't tasty, because they were. But there were two major problems that overshadowed their tastiness. First, they were a crumbly mess. I made some on a greased cookie sheet and the spatula I used to lift them up broke them to pieces. Even when baked on parchment paper they fell apart like Tatiana Del Toro.

Here's the other reason I wouldn't make them: the lime zest in them makes them look weird. Maybe it's just my zester, but the green flecks are visible in the light, buttery cookies. Unappetizing. It reminded me of the time that I went to my friend's house for dinner in the fourth grade and her older brother explained the basil in the pasta by saying his mom sneezed in it and then I was so sick to my stomach that I couldn't eat any of it and her parents probably thought I was a rude dinner guest. Sorry about that, Mr. and Mrs. Soule. I'm sure the pasta was great.

The food: Lime sugar cookies
The verdict: Taste good, look bad

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Steak Has an Identity Crisis

I think chicken-fried steak is kind of a funny dish -- beef that thinks it's poultry. Of course, it is also delicious. Which is why I made some for supper.

I got the recipe from Eating Well magazine. It calls for a combination of pan frying and baking, instead of deep frying, so it's a little healthier. Not like eating a bunch of raw broccoli or anything, but better than, say, dunking a big hunk of steak in a vat of lard. So points for that.

I'll also say that this is very easy to make -- good for weeknights. And good for nights when you can't decide between chicken and steak.

The food: Healthified chicken-fried steak
The verdict: Finger-licking good

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Potato, Potaahto

I love eating mashed potatoes. But before they are mashed potatoes, they are regular old potatoes that require peeling. Peeling, I hate.

When you're in the Navy, don't they punish you by sending you to the brig and making you peel potatoes? Note to self: If you join the Navy, avoid being sent to the brig.