December 20, 2012

Northern Lights Cafe (Review)

It was supposed to be the bookend to a perfect morning; we'd woken up late after staying up into the wee hours of the morning with our Dungeons and Dragons group, and then snuggled with the children until nearly lunch time.  We listened to Christmas music and talked about which presents we'd like to see under the tree. Then we piled in the car, Boy and Girl grinning from ear to ear about the first serious snowfall in the valley (which had occurred while they slept,) and ran a few light errands.  Nothing better to top it off than a trip to the Northern Lights Cafe (650 E. Boise Ave, Boise, ID 83706 (208) 424-9111,) a cozy little breakfast place that we used to visit every Sunday when the children were still toddlers.

December 13, 2012

Romio's Pizza and Pasta (Review)

Have you ever been to a restaurant, and after you finished eating your first instinct was to tell everyone you know exactly how much you loved it?  That's exactly how I felt after dining at Romio's Pizza and Pasta (8125 W. Fairview Ave, Boise, ID 83704 (208) 658-1550.)  

December 10, 2012

Other People's Recipes: Ramen in the style of David Chang

If you are going to let your blog lapse over the Thanksgiving holiday, the least you can do is come back with a bang.  That's what I intend to do by walking you through the process of this fantastic Ramen dish.  First, though, a side note.  It isn't always cut and dried which things I serve to you get the "Other People's Recipes" tag.  Obviously, something out of the proverbial ether doesn't deserve the tag, and something that I copy word for word out of a cookbook does, but many recipes are somewhere in between.  I will see another person's take on a dish, and after experimenting something new will be born.  I feel that the roasted pork shoulder I presented last fall varied enough as to fall under the "mine" category (although I included a link to the recipe that inspired me, just in case.)  This Ramen?  Not so much.  But that being said, I did tinker with it.  It isn't prepared exactly as described in David Chang's Momofuku cookbook.  If you want to do it exactly his way (and considering that he's a Michelin star and James Beard award-winning chef and restaurateur and I'm not, I wouldn't blame you) buy his book.  If you want to hear about my experience, stick around after the jump.

November 12, 2012

Spaghetti Squash with Herb Pork Meatballs (Recipe)

I really love spaghetti squash.  Ever since I was introduced to it, it is my preferred way to eat spaghetti.  Forget extra nutrition (although it's there in abundance.)  I just think it tastes better.  The squash is rich and buttery, and goes well against red sauce.  The chorizo spaghetti recipe I presented a couple weeks ago is a prime example, with the chorizo and chicken broth both complementing the squash perfectly, but when I wrote the post I ended up using regular noodles to appease Boy, who does not at all feel the way I do about this amazing vegetable.  

November 9, 2012

Quick Bite: Lunch at Burger Belly

I had burgers on the brain again today.  Since yesterday, actually.  I was walking home from the bus stop, and the smell of freshly grilled hamburgers permeated the air.  If I would have had ground beef at home, I would have called an audible and just cooked one for myself.  Instead, I shook it off and made a pretty fantastic (IMO) pork dish which I'll be writing about soon.  

November 6, 2012

Ciabatta Steak Sandwiches (Recipe)

The hippies were over again, and so usually that means several weeks of good vegetarian food to post on my blog.  Certainly some of the things going on in my kitchen were worthy of writing about.  But I didn't, because I wasn't the cook pretty much the whole time people were over.  Wife and I both like to cook for others, but she likes to entertain, and so she always made sure people had something tasty in hand.  When she wasn't cooking, our guests were.  I gorged myself on homemade pizza, and ate a crazy good quinoa salad with curry powder AND brown sugar, but apart from something I've already blogged about, I traded the kitchen for a cold beer and a Stephen King short story collection.  I wish I did have some fantastic new veggie meal to share, but I will have to console myself with presenting what I made Wife and I the night before our guests arrived--an amazing round steak sandwich.  
Perfect veg.
It wasn't supposed to be--my menu, meticulously planned, said "pork chops," and by now you probably know I'm a stickler for whatever's on the menu.  But the round steak was marked down, and when I found a perfect package of ciabatta rolls, I was sold on the idea.  Still, it starts with the produce.  As you can see, I had a green bell pepper, a prepackaged container of mushrooms, and a yellow onion.  Normally, I would cook this all together, but I wanted to make sure my sandwich had a ton of flavor, so I approached the mushrooms the way my wife would.  Into a large cast iron skillet went a tablespoon of butter over medium heat.  Once it had melted and was sizzling, I placed the mushrooms in a single layer. 

One layer!  Very important!
I cooked them in batches, about 3-5 minutes a side, until they were a beautiful golden brown, and lightly sprinkled them with salt.  Wife began preparing all mushrooms this way after a Good Eats episode where Alton Brown said that mushrooms needed to be treated like meat, and it certainly brings out the best in them when they are seared like this.  At the same time, I heated a second cast iron with a bit of olive oil, and added the bell pepper and half the onion, thinly sliced, and began cooking them down as well.  
So beautiful.  

From the Winco Deli.
 I kicked on my oven's broiler to its low setting and moved on to the ciabatta rolls.  Throwing health concerns to the wind, I put a thin layer of butter on the inside of the rolls (top and bottom.)  I wanted to make sure that these rolls were nice and crispy.  I put them in for five minutes initially, and then checked them each minute after that until I was content.

Eye of round is super cheap.
As the last of the mushrooms finished, I began preparing the meat.  Eye of round is pretty cheap, and I bought two packs of five thinly sliced steaks for just under five dollars.  That meant each sandwich would have two and a half slices of steak, which made my gluttonous little stomach jump with joy.  I rubbed each piece of meat with salt, pepper, and thyme.  I added just enough olive oil to the mushroom pan to keep things from burning, and ticked the heat up to medium high.  I wanted to get a good sear on the thin steaks without overcooking them.
High heat, short cooking time on these guys. 
I waited for the pan to get up to heat and then threw the steaks on for 45 seconds a side, which ended up just about perfectly.  If anything, I'd cut five seconds a side.
The good stuff.
I sliced some good mozzarella.

The onions are well caramelized. 
I placed the peppers, onions, and mushrooms on my toasted ciabatta.

Pretty hefty sandwiches.  
 I then followed it up with the steak and cheese.  Closing up the ciabattas, I lathered the top of each one with another pat of butter, and then put the sandwiches back under the broiler.  But I wasn't quite done cooking.  I'd saved the juice from my steaks:

Where flavor lives.
 This stuff was going to allow me to make a cheap au jus.  I used a can of beef broth to deglaze the pan where I'd cooked my mushrooms and steak, rubbing a wooden spoon along the bottom and sides to get up all the seared bits.  Once it was simmering, I added the steak juices, as well as a teaspoon each of thyme and worcestershire sauce and salt and pepper to taste.  At this point the smells from the kitchen were driving Wife crazy.   And why wouldn't they?  I pulled the sandwiches out, and liked what I saw--the cheese was gooey and melted, the steak was still tender, and it was piled high.  I poured the au jus into ramekins and served dinner.  These were just great.  I even ate two, despite knowing several bites into the second that I was full.  And now that our vegetarian houseguests have gone, I just might make these again.

October 30, 2012

Food Truck Rally!

I don't know how long Boise has been having food truck rallies; presumably they appeared sometime shortly after food trucks became all the rage on Food Network. I do know that "gourmet" food trucks have been around for at least a couple of years, having seen them around at various events (beer festival, I'm looking at you,) but as for the rallies? I first heard of them when I moved to the day shift at my "real" job, and began being able to use Twitter. (Sidebar: for any of you who use Twitter regularly and can't imagine your social media experience without it? Not that interesting on the graveyard shift.) Between fellow local foodies and such entities as the Boise Weekly and Radio Boise--both of whom are affiliated with said rally--I began to hear about it quite a bit.

October 25, 2012

Quick Bite: Fanci Freez's Budget Burger

It was a crisp fall afternoon in Boise.  Wife was at home sick, so while I normally take public transportation to work, I had the car.  This was mostly a bad thing--having the car meant finding a parking space at the university, and I didn't get to my office until twenty minutes after I should have despite arriving on campus ten minutes early--but there was one big advantage.  I could stop on the way home and get something to eat.

October 22, 2012

Grown Up Shells and Cheese (Recipe)

Macaroni and cheese.  It's a popular comfort food with people throughout the world, and my family is no exception.  However, when it comes to making it, ours is a house divided.  I like it homemade, with a thick layer of crunchy breadcrumbs topping pasta that is coated in a sauce made with the best sharp cheddar I can get.  Wife finds this type of macaroni dry, dull and lifeless.  If you ask her, macaroni and cheese is best when it comes from a box, the only cheese to be found in the form of a radioactive orange powder that has to be resuscitated with milk and butter before you can eat it.  (I imagine my description does a good job of conveying where I stand on the stuff.)  For awhile we tried to find a recipe she liked--she wants to enjoy real mac and cheese, anyway--but to no avail.  Everything from Alton Brown's "Good Eats" version to our friend's fabulous family recipe was met with reactions ranging from "ick" to "meh."  

October 16, 2012

A Taste for Blood: Part 2

If you have been reading "Catfish's Dishes" for any length of time, you know that last year around this time I dedicated an entire post not to food, but to horror films.  I really love Halloween, and scary movies in general.  It had always been my plan to write a companion piece for use this Halloween, but due to an unforeseen complication during the making of pumpkin milkshakes over the weekend (translation--they were bad,)  I have decided to bump up this installment of "A Taste for Blood."  If you hunger for the macabre, scroll down and sink your teeth into this year's bloody recommendations.  If not, I'll see you back in the kitchen later this week.

October 11, 2012

Spicy Root Vegetable & Leek Soup (Recipe)

Sometimes you just get lucky.

The original recipes I post on Catfish's Dishes get here a variety of ways.  Some are long held family recipes, the stuff I was making long before I ever felt like writing about it.  Some were once other peoples' recipes, but have mutated so much under my watch that I feel fully justified in calling them my own.  Some are even proper "blog" recipes--things I created entirely for the purpose of writing about them, the sort of dish that involves planning, research, and possibly even failed attempts.

October 8, 2012

Chorizo Spaghetti (Recipe)

Spaghetti can be pretty boring.  Thanks to the way our grocery store experience works, what ends up on most dinner tables is sauce from a jar, ground beef or sausage, and a nasty powdered mess that purports to be Parmesan cheese.  It's rarely bad.  It's also not a food that elicits excitement.  But it isn't that hard to make a good sauce at home, and you don't have to be an Italian grandma to do it.

October 3, 2012

Mandarin Chocolate Won Tons (Recipe)

Well, actually....there is no recipe to be found here.  That's because it's over at my favorite food blog Macheesmo!  Regular readers know that I tend to gush about Nick's creations, but now I have a reason to think kindly upon his blog in addition to all the great food I have been inspired to try out.  He's on vacation with his wife in Peru (and having a blast, no doubt) and he's done me the solid of letting me guest post on his much more trafficked site.  So go see the recipe for these delicious desserts over at his blog, and then keep looking around at all the amazing things he has to offer.  Just promise me you'll come back.   

October 2, 2012

Other People's Recipes: Lemon Cocoa Panforte

Although the poll I posted in last week's blog doesn't close until the 10th, one thing is clear.  Mary Engelbreit's 'Tis the Season Holiday Cookbook is dominating the competition for what "Other People's Recipes" should focus on next.  Rather than wait for the poll to close, I thought I'd dive right in and start exploring.  This is a wonderful looking cookbook, with great pictures and intricate art throughout, but I haven't really used it for cooking in the two years since my Mother-in-Law gave it to me.  Wife made the Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Torte during a mock "Iron Chef" battle we had with the kids, but until now that was it.

September 28, 2012

Jenny's Favorite Chili (Recipe)

There. I did it. I gave away Wife's real name. I had to. Well, I guess I didn't have to have to.  I could have let the majority of people wonder who this Jenny was, and why I was promoting chili on her behalf.  But it's the name of the recipe.  It always has been.  This is one of the first things I began to make regularly once I got married, because it's just that easy and inexpensive.  I have read that in some parts of the country, there is controversy about whether or not chili can contain beans (or even tomatoes,) but unless your sole purpose is to top a chili dog, I don't see why you'd want to leave either out.

September 27, 2012

Looking Ahead

It's been a busy month here at Catfish's Dishes.  Apart from this past one, I have been managing to post multiple blogs in a week, and readership has gone up quite a bit.  Next week, I get even more of a bump as one of my recipes will be featured on a guest post at Macheesmo.  The Mandarin Orange-Dark Chocolate Won Tons are one of my favorite recipes, and a completely original creation by yours truly, so it will be great that a wider audience gets to experience them on October 3rd.

September 20, 2012

You Eat With Your Eyes

I haven't been in the kitchen much this week.  Wife made a lasagna that fed us for days on end, and my friend Grasshopper arrived in town to visit us before he heads off to Germany for the winter.  With my time consumed by shots of Old Crow and card games, I haven't so much as baked anything; my kitchen duties have been limited to making sack lunches and pouring bowls of cereal.  Still, it isn't like I haven't had food on my mind--more specifically, the interesting selection of food-based films available for streaming on Netflix.

September 17, 2012

Other People's Recipes: Thai Chicken Coconut Soup

I think I'm starting to see a pattern here.  Frequently, the recipes that I present under the "Other People's Recipes" label are things that I make because they are healthy.  I also like big, declarative flavors.  It isn't hard to get either of those things in a soup. Certainly not this Thai Chicken Coconut Soup that I've taken from an old copy of SELF magazine.

September 14, 2012

The Menu: 9-14

When I saw Morgan Spurlock's documentary on what happens to a human body fed solely on McDonald's, I thought it was an amusing diversion, but nothing more.  However, coupled with a general trend towards combating obesity, I would like to think that the film is partly responsible for some of the changes at the Golden Arches.  As you may or may not know, the fast food behemoth pretty much threw their "Supersize" promotion under the bus immediately following this film (though they claimed that the promotion had just run its course.)  They have also added apples to kid's meals as well as other options that--while perhaps not as healthy as they appear--are less calorie-dense than their burgers and fries.  While these things haven't done much to give McDonald's the appearance of being a healthy place to eat, they take another step next week, when they add calorie counts to their menus.  I have to admit, I'm probably still not headed to a Mickey D's any time soon--apart from the Egg McMuffin, their food doesn't much appeal to me anymore--but I still appreciate this step.  They are the largest restaurant chain to ever do this, and the first to do it at a nationwide level.  While this won't appeal to a certain subset of people who want to eat a Big Mac without guilt, there are plenty of people who are willing to eat fast food as long as they can plan the rest of their eating for the day accordingly.  Now, I know that fast food is processed food, and lacking in nutritional value, and that even if you really want a cheeseburger from a drive-through, you can still get one from a local establishment, but those facts haven't stopped people from eating at McDonald's yet, so if they choose to improve themselves, that can only be a good thing.  
Picture from McDonald's

September 12, 2012

Burger N' Brew (Review)

While blogging is a good excuse to go out and try new things, sometimes it is important to just go eat somewhere you love.  That is why, when I made a quick fifty bucks by participating in a focus group, I took Wife down the street to Burger N' Brew (4295 W. State Street, Boise, ID 83703 (208) 345-7700) instead of looking for the next big thing.  Well, that and I had a coupon from the Town Planner calendar.

September 10, 2012

Barley Brothers Traveling Beer Show

I didn't think I was going to get to go to the Barley Brothers Traveling Beer Show when it hit the Boise area Labor Day weekend.  Despite having a blast at their McCall stop, I was tapped out, spending the last of my money watching my beloved Broncos go down in defeat against Michigan State.  Luckily, I have good friends.  Specifically, my best friend, who insisted I go.  When somebody wants to drink beer with you that badly, it's just rude to say no.

September 7, 2012

The Menu 9-7

One of the things I wondered as I started this new feature last week is if I would find enough links to have something to talk about.  It is quickly apparent that it should have been no worry at all.  It has been yet another busy week in the world of food.

Market HeaderI'll start close to home, where the Boise Saturday Market fired its founder and executive director, Karen Ellis.    Depending on who you believe, she was either ran out for sloppy business practices or the victim of internal politicking; maybe both.  The Market certainly seems eager to soldier on without her--their website has already updated their pages to reflect her removal--but I am curious to see what will happen next.  The market has grown quite a bit under Ellis' leadership, and although it has become so crowded that I tend to skip it in preference of smaller produce stands, I believe her vision has helped Boise keep pace with the national trends regarding local and sustainable eating.  

September 4, 2012

Other People's Recipes: Sausage, Spinach and Onion Turnovers

Now that school has started, Wife and have finally had to abandon the debauchery of summer.  Boy and Girl spent the middle of summer break at their other parents' houses, and so we abandoned our aspirations of health to eat at restaurants, order pizzas, grill meat, and drink beer and/or rum every night of the week.  It was a great time, but we are both ready to get back on track.  We have a pretty good collection of recipes building up that have calorie counts included, and I've gotten back in the habit of crafting menus designed to get my family healthy food without working too hard or spending too much.  Most of the recipes are designed with dinner in mind; while I was working nights I just packed sandwiches and left my wife to fend for herself during lunch.  Since switching shifts, however, we've tried experimenting with more interesting food.  For the first few weeks it was just soup--easy to make and easy to portion-control--but Wife gets bored easily.  After a couple of casseroles, it was looking like time to retreat to the ease of sandwiches until I stumbled across a delicious looking savory turnover in the pages of Cooking Light.

August 31, 2012

The Menu: 8-31

Today we're trying something a bit new here on Catfish's Dishes.  The Menu.  Not an actual menu--I'm not going to give you advice on which appetizers go best with the theme of Labor Day--but a weekly rundown of the best food related links on the Internet.  "Why?" You might ask.  Well, it's a big World Wide Web out there, and while I can't take the time to editorialize on everything that interests me, The Menu can help me to establish a shared language with my readers.

August 28, 2012

DK Donuts (Review)

So..................................................................................................................who doesn't like donuts?

DK Donuts & Little Bean Espresso (1300 W State St, Boise, ID 83702 (208) 385-7480) has a special place in my heart.  For about a year I lived just across the street, in a dilapidated house that contained no less than four raging alcoholics at a time.  My place was in the basement, where I avoided much of the drama in exchange for mildew.  I didn't have much money at the time, and most of my food came in the form of Ramen noodles or canned food graciously given by churches.  Still, everyone needs an occasional treat, and mine was DK.  Every other weekend, said basement would be filled with a collection of my nerd friends, where we would stay up late into the night playing Dungeons and Dragons.  After the party had slain the heroes (because of course, everyone wanted to play as the bad guys,) we would venture over to DK, where plenty of fresh donuts could be found in spite of the late hour.

August 22, 2012

Caramelized Onion, Gorgonzola, Walnut, and Pear Pizza (Recipe)

I don't often attempt to recreate meals I've eaten at restaurants at home. Part of that is due to budgetary constraints; that is, most of my dining out these days is limited to breakfast dinners and pizza places, with a smattering of fast food joints both local and global. Simply put, I make better food at home than most of the things I leave the house to buy. Or, on the other end of the spectrum, the truly great food I've eaten at restaurants I have decided to leave at restaurants so that I'll have something to look forward to. Recently, though, I chose to make an exception on account of a special occasion. It was my seventh anniversary, and we hadn't really made any plans to celebrate. During the summer of 2005, it seemed terribly romantic to place our wedding so that it would fall in the middle of the twelve day stretch between Wife's birthday and my own, but while it's cute to tell people that the entire month of August is a party, it can be taxing when you begin budgeting and you realize that special occasions are happening faster than you can get paid. Add in an annual tradition of going to the fair and two children who are now at the age where they need copious amounts of school supplies, and something's got to give. So a night at a hotel (our favorite treat, even if we don't leave town,) or even a trip to the theater wasn't going to happen. [Full Disclosure: We do intend to go see "Snow White and the Huntsman" when it hits the dollar theater. But it's less dramatic if I admit I can just celebrate later. And besides, there is something special about acknowledging special days on the days themselves.] The only place our anniversary was allowed to exist, within the constraints of our budget, was in meal planning. Luckily, something I'd been meaning to investigate for the purpose of this blog--grilled pizza--happened to co-exist within the same parameters as something that qualified as a romantic memory--dinner at the Red Rock Brew Publt Lake. Last summer we went to visit our good friend Lotus (she who prompted all the vegetarian recipes I posted this summer,) and when Wife pooh-pooed all of the Asian restaurants that were suggested (to no one's surprise,) we ended up at a brew pub. In case you didn't know it, Salt Lake actually has a pretty strong brewing culture, despite government mandated handicaps. While I loved the chipotle barbecue salmon I ordered, and the rest of our party's food was tasty, the dish I attempted to recreate for my special day is what Wife ordered for that meal, a pizza containing caramelized, walnuts, Gorgonzola cheese, and juicy pears.

August 13, 2012

Homemade Ketchup

I like to cook, which I would assume you know from the fact that I take the time to blog about it.  I enjoy grilling, roasting, baking.  But I've never gotten around to what I consider to be one of the most impressive aspects of cooking:  making ingredients from scratch.

I mean, sure, I've made a vinaigrette when I didn't want to use the last clump of store bought dressing.  And I've made sauces as part of a larger recipe.  But I've never made homemade noodles, never made cheese or given life to dry mustard with my favorite beer.  Heck, I've never made beer.  Other than creating some salsas for a Cinco De Mayo party (whose lack of presence on this blog I may need to rectify,) I've left the artisan aspects of cooking to others.  That may have to change.

Despite my history of laziness (which some of you may have noticed during the month or so I didn't post here.....this time or the other time during the winter,) I have dipped my toes into the world of gardening the last two summers.  The first time around it was just tomatoes, and I didn't get many before my lassez-faire attitude towards watering killed my dreams of bounty.  This year, I fared a bit better, and while I killed my peas after only one harvest (and my jalapenos grew and grew without ever getting spicy,) I have been collecting zucchini and tomatoes all summer.  Enough tomatoes that when I went out and collected the most recent batch I looked at them and knew--they were ketchup.

August 9, 2012

The Sunrise Cafe (Review)

While my "real" job is as steady as can be, Wife often finds herself in flux.  Not that she is ever worried about being laid off, thankfully; her employment is more solid than that.  But working in child care, her hours can vary pretty wildly, especially during the summer.  Kids vanish for summer vacations, then come back with siblings who are normally in elementary school.  Some checks are small, and others....well, let's just say others prompt us to go out for breakfast on a Saturday morning.

It was that way last Saturday, when we came out from under a little financial dark cloud and decided to celebrate by getting something to eat.  We knew we'd have a great breakfast at the Egg Factory, but I'd already written about it.  That meant leaving the neighborhood, hitting a chain, or going to either Merrit's or The Sunrise Cafe.  The former is well known in town for being the "Home of the Scone" (despite the fact that what they serve, while amazing, is actually a sweetened fry-bread, not the hard English tea-time snack,) but the latter, in my opinion, has often gone unrecognized for having the best biscuits around.  Wife didn't care, so I voted biscuit, and we drove over to the Sunrise Cafe (7135 West State Street, Boise, ID 83714

Quick Bite: The Lunch Special at Papa Joe's

Truth is, as much as I've loved working on Catfish's Dishes, I haven't had much time lately.  Big changes have been transpiring at the job I'm actually paid to do, and sneaking in some editing during shift hasn't been an option.  However, I knew I needed to get out my camera as soon as I decided to eat lunch at Papa Joe's.

One of the transitions at work has been that for the last three weeks, I've been coming to work in the daytime, after eight years of working the graveyard shift.  So while my goal is to always brown-bag it, on the days that I need to eat out my options have exploded a hundred fold.  I'm no longer stuck between Burger King, Los Betos, and the WinCo deli.  There are tons of options, even within walking distance.  So last Friday when I forgot my lunch in my haste to organize my Dungeons and Dragons maps for the weekend, I decided to give one of those options a try.

June 27, 2012

Other People's Recipes: West African Peanut Soup

    I thought it was going to be a long time before something replaced the roasted tomato soup I've been making as my soup obsession. I was wrong. But I can't claim the credit for my new fixation.
     We're cookbook readers in my house. Myself most of all, but Wife will pour through different tomes of recipes over breakfast, and the kids like to go through and imagine what it will be like when they are old enough to make molten chocolate cakes and bacon wrapped meats without anyone hovering over them providing moderation. My favorite is "The Joy of Cooking." It's dependable, instructive, and thorough. Though (at least according to the Meryl Streep film "Julie and Julia,") the recipes in the original "Joy" were hardly tested compared to the cookbooks of real chefs, I have found it invaluable as a starting point for nearly everything, and as somebody who really likes tinkering with the recipes I make, a starting point is all I need. Boy and Girl are both drawn to the holiday cookbook Mother-in-Law got us for Christmas, with vibrant pictures that really sell the food. But it is Wife who started the latest obsession--Cooking Light. She bought one of their magazines simply because we were trying to eat healthier, but I have come to appreciate the publication on its own merits. So many "healthy" recipes cut out any sense of flavor, but Cooking Light recipes have never disappointed me. I enjoy their recipes enough that when I saw a giant anthology collection at the public library, I knew I had to check it out.

June 13, 2012

Tilapia Pouches with Squash and Tomato

I'm pretty terrible at cooking fish.  Every time I cook it on the stove, it breaks apart.  Things are doubly bad on the grill.  It's a delicate meat, and I am not a delicate cook.  For a long time, my solution to this problem was the easiest one;  I didn't cook fish.  Of course, I could have just banged away at it, and I'm sure I would have gotten a handle on it soon enough, but while Wife is tolerant of the average screw-up in the kitchen, she isn't enough of a fish fan to try faulty flounder.  Not wanting to ruin everyone's dinner, I stayed away from fish each time I went to the store, at least since my attempt at crispy battered cod the summer before last turned into a paste that smelled like cat's breath.  I like a good piece of fish, but not enough to face down a horde of angry diners when I'm not on point. 

At least not until I heard about pouch cooking.  I was familiar with it from camping, of course, but somehow I'd never made the logical leap to the oven.

If you're not aware, you can cook any number of meats and/or vegetables together in sealed foil pouches; providing you've found the right balance of ingredients, they will come out of the oven as little bundles of perfectly cooked individual dinner portions, steamy and aromatic.

June 7, 2012

Chicken Curry

As I've reiterated over the last three or four posts, I don't mind eating vegetarian.  Wife, although not the biggest fan of vegetables in the past, has been so dedicated to getting into shape that meatless meals were easy to commit to.  In the end, it was the children who were the most resistant to eating dinner without meat, so when Lotus and her son left our house the last week of May, I wasn't surprised when Boy requested meat be on the menu.  However, I was surprised when he asked for curry.

Curry was a staple of our menus when Lotus was living with us; we made it two to three times a month, and there were always leftovers.  But Boy had fallen in love with the dish, and he wanted to see how it would taste without the presence of his dreaded nemesis, tofu.  More specifically, he wanted to try it with chicken, a request I was more than happy to oblige. 

May 30, 2012

Quick Bite: The BFD at Q's

Usually, I don't write about restaurants unless I have the opportunity to give a full review.  This is a time intensive and expensive process, because I don't feel I can accurately describe what a restaurant is like unless I've tried at least three or four items on their menu.  For instance, I had to scrap a would be review of Salt Tears Coffee House and Noshery simply because (after a decadent breakfast with the wife,) I haven't been able to afford to go back for lunch, and now that I can I don't really remember what I intended to say about the first meal.  Apart from some meager ad revenue everytime somebody clicks on the links littering the corner of these pages, I don't profit from doing this, so reviews have to take a backseat to everything else; they're really just bonus content whenever I am lucky enough to be in the position to go out to eat a bunch, and that hasn't been much of a thing lately.

May 21, 2012

Vegetarian Stuffed Peppers

We'd finally gotten into a rut.  As I've mentioned on this blog already, friend of the family Lotus and her son have been staying with us for the past month and a half, and to save wear and tear on the oven as well as the budget, it was easier to plan meals as a joint unit instead of seperately.  This has meant that, apart from the lunch meat I take to work and a bit of smoked salmon on Mother's Day, we have effectively turned into vegetarians.  Now, I've said it before.  I like vegetarian food.  While many people find it restrictive, I actually think I am a more creative cook when I can't rely on meat to supply its flavor to whatever I am cooking.  That being said, this past week I hit a wall when it came to menu planning.  Black bean burgers were on the menu for a third time.  I'm growing to dread the sight of any form of noodle EXCEPT ramen.  Without revisiting Asian flavors Wife could do without or breaking her calorie budget, I'd pretty much exhausted every meatless recipe on Eating Well, Epicurious, Simply Recipes, and the other websites I visit for inspiration (not to mention traditional cookbooks.)  That's when I remembered it.  Catfish's Dishes.  Not this blog, but the ink-stained source material.  In the cabinet where I keep all of my cookbooks is a tiny notebook, lightly tan in color to emphasize how recycled it is.  It was part of a three pack I recieved one Christmas, and I think it was meant to hold poetry or personal musings.  Instead, I wrote recipes.  Just a handful; I didn't know much at the time.  The children were still toddlers, Wife was still Fiancee, and I knew plenty about cooking improvisationally, but I didn't have many recipes of my own.  There was a chili recipe that I still use to this day, and a chicken enchilada recipe that I most certainly don't...and then there was several pages of vegetarian recipes.  I pulled the book out and began looking for an idea to set me free.  Deep-Fried Tofu with Mashed Potatoes and Mushroom Gravy looked good, but doesn't fit Wife's diet.  Green Tofu Enchiladas ceased to be a possibility when the local Winco stopped carrying tomatillos. (Edit: This was only temporary. The tomatillos are back.)  Several others were shoddy things that should probably never see the light of day; edible at the time but not worth writing about.  What stood out, though, were the stuffed peppers.  I used to make them all the time when we were vegetarian.  I made them because I'd always liked my mom's stuffed peppers, but I have to say that the traditional beef-and-rice filling doesn't interest me as much ever since I came up with this stuffing mix.  The original recipe called for couscous, and you can substitute it if you prefer, but I have started using quinoa instead  because it has a much higher nutritional content. 

May 16, 2012

Spiced Pumpkin Blondies

     With as much cooking as I do, it should come as no surprise to anyone that I love cookbooks.  I like to admire the pictures (and imagine how successful my blog might be if I had access to their photographers,) I like to look for interesting flavor combinations that I can work into other dishes.  I like to do lots of things with cookbooks.  I just don't like to cook with them. 

     That isn't to say that I don't use recipes out of cookbooks--I do.  I just don't like having the book in my kitchen, inviting splatters.  Well--that's a lie as well.  I think splatters on a cookbook makes a cook look accomplished.  My Joy of Cooking has bits of cookie dough on it from over a decade ago, and every time I look at it I get a sense of just how far I have come.  What I dislike is the organization.  Recipes tend to list ingredients, and then explain how to use them, which is fine when you are trying to imagine the dish, but not so handy when you are trying to cook it. 

May 8, 2012

Other People's Recipes: Roasted Tomato Soup

I'll come right out and admit it; I don't mind the taste of most healthy foods.  My mother always tells people as a point of pride that I loved salad as a child, and I still do.  I like to snack on carrots and almonds just as much as I like to snack on Doritos and French fries.  But I've been learning, as Wife embarks on a quest to improve her health, that one thing is missing from most healthy dinners I've come across on the Internet. 


April 30, 2012

Zesty Black Bean Burgers

When I first sat down to write this post, I included a lengthy explanation about my absence.  Then I realized that all I really cared about was the food.  I was in school.  I got overwhelmed.  Either you are still here or you aren't.  So let's skip any long-winded allusions to the prodigal son and get to cooking. 

                Now, I grew up in a very meat and potatoes kind of household.  Not just figuratively, either.  My mother is required as part of her job description to serve meat at every meal.  While I am sure that vegetarian ranch hands do exist, they are few and far between, and the bulk of the men and women who work out there want something more substantial than "hippie food."  Sometimes we had chicken. Sometimes we had pork.  On rare occasions fish (albeit in the form of "sticks,") made it onto the menu.  But mostly we ate beef.  Steaks followed hamburgers followed big beefy lasagnas followed sloppy Joes followed yet more steaks.  I'm not complaining.  Sometimes, like right after helping my dad butcher a cow, I might have questioned my eating habits; for the most part I ate of the meat and the meat was good. 

February 1, 2012

Guayaki Organic Yerba Mate

This italic text is fancy blogger speak for "This is important.  My crediblity is on the line here."  The following blog is a product review, and I want you as readers to know that I was not paid or coerced to say things about said product.  I've considered paid product reviews as a way to supplement the tiny advertising income this blog generates, but would rather have the people who come here be able to take me seriously.

So now that we're past the long winded disclaimer, why am I reviewing Guayaki's line of yerba mate based products?  Simple answer.  My co-worker Palm Springs was on campus for his calculus class, where he was accosted by one of Guayaki's marketing reps. (Edit:  Guayaki contacted me after I initially posted this to let me know that they don't actually have reps.  The person Palm Springs met on campus was one of the founders, and they still travel around the country promoting their product themselves.)  They gave him a variety of products to try, all for free, with one caveat:  "If you like it," the spokesman said, "give us a shout out on Facebook."  Palm Springs brought the products home, and promptly gave them to me.  Over the last month, I have entered into a contract with Boy in which I have given up the use of energy drinks and he in turn has given up candy, so PS knew that I would appreciate an alternative.  When he gave me the drinks, he also gave me the demo guy's caveat, but I knew if I liked it I could go one better than Facebook.

January 26, 2012

An Accidental Discovery: Tangerine Dream Rolls

I had never imagined, when first I set out to write about food, that I would ever say the words "it all started with a box of prepackaged Pillsbury mix," but here we are.

Who knew?
To be honest, I don't even know where the stuff came from.  I was cleaning out the cramped cupboard that houses my "baking only" ingredients and found this guy crammed in the back with some boxed cake mixes, from some long ago time when I must have not really given a damn.  The first impulse was to chuck it.  I've been enjoying baking more and more, and cooking alongside Poppin' Fresh seemed like a setback. However, I'm cheap and it's wasteful.  I knew from the start that I didn't want to make the hot rolls that were the main focus of the product.  The "great pizza crust" touted in the lower left corner was tempting, but once again I'd already locked in my menu for the week, and I wanted the dough boy gone.  (I needed room for cake flour, so that I could eventually make these.)  As anyone who even periodically reads this blogs knows, one area where I do have room to tamper is with dessert.  The two years I spent working at a cinnamon roll factory  had ruined me off of the sticky treats for most of my adult life, but with one caveat.  Orange rolls.  Perhaps it was because they only made them sporadically, perhaps they were just better, but while the cinnamon rolls I bagged each day grew to disgust me, orange rolls were a highlight of my day whenever the test pan ended up in the break room. 

January 20, 2012

Quick and Easy Chicken Salad

Let's get something straight right up front.  When I say chicken salad, I'm not talking about tuna's equally gloppy cousin.  I'm talking about a healthy, vibrant green salad topped with juicy slices of chicken breast.  If you were expecting the other chicken salad, you'll have to look elsewhere. 

Now that we have that out of the way, let's turn our attention to the salad.  While the actual assembly of the salad is easy,  the quick part is relative.  To give our chicken the proper flavor (one that will allow us to eat the salad completely dressing free,) we have to prepare it at least several hours in advance.  You'll want a couple of boneless, skinless chicken breasts-one for every two people you plan to serve.  Poke them a couple of times on each side with a fork, and place them in a large Ziploc bag with a tablespoon of olive oil, the juice of one lemon, and a teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes, plus a few dashes of salt, then stick them in your refrigerator to marinate.