Monday, February 24, 2014

Meatless Mondays

For awhile now, we have been enjoying Meatless Mondays in an effort to be healthier and reduce the amount of animal protein in our diets.  One step at a time, one day at a time.  Not that we don't enjoy vegetarian fare other nights, but Meatless Monday is a new tradition in our house.

Tonight I served French onion soup and a side salad of arugula, goat cheese, strawberries, with a chocolate balsamic drizzle.  

I used to prepare French onion soup in the 80's, along with quiche and fondue.  It sort of fell by the wayside and was resurrected recently with the caramelized onions I put on the baked potatoes, and the fondue.  And I also got some oven-safe bowls and dishes.   So here goes:

Slice 4-6 yellow onions French style; that is in thin slices.  I first cut the onion in half and then slice on the cutting board so it doesn't roll around.  

 Saute the onions in a large soup pot in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil.  Traditionally, butter is used, but I like the viscosity and the healthfulness of the oil.  Some people add a little flour to the onions to thicken the soup a bit.  I just caramelized and reduce them with a bit of red wine, before adding the broth.  I used a quart of store brand beef broth, and then added  two packets of low sodium bullion and 2 cups of water.  True vegetarians could use vegetable broth with the same results. Salt, pepper, a dash of Worcestershire.  That's it. Simmer for awhile on a low heat, about 60 minutes, or so all the flavors co-mingle.  

Meanwhile, I sliced some crusty bread, and lightly toasted it in the oven.  Again,  you can butter it first, but I opted for plain. 

I just popped this under the broiler for a couple of minutes.  I let it hang out getting crispy while soup simmered.     When the soup is done, spoon it into oven-safe crockery.  Place a bread slice, or two,  in each bowl. 

Top with grated Gruyere cheese and then a slice of Swiss over the top.  Place under the broiler until the cheese is melty and piping hot.


  Warm and satisfying and meatless.  DIVINE!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Baked Potato NIght

In my family, we are fond of naming the weeknights by dinner selections.  Tuesday (after two hours at the gym) has traditionally been called  Burger Night - be it beef, chicken or veggie;  we deem Saturday as Steak Night (Tim's choice after a hard week of work), and then lots in between.  Last night was Baked Potato Night.  We've enjoyed a mashed potato bar at theme nights, but I thought maybe this would be a bit of an easier, more healthy twist on that.

I brushed the three largest russets in the bag with canola oil and salt and peppered them.  I popped the baking dish in a 400 degree oven for about 45 minutes.  Crispy on the outside, piping hot on the inside.  

I caramelized some sliced onions with red wine reduction as a savory topping choice

There were several other condiment choices to top the Idahoan beauties.

Salsa, shredded cheddar and sour cream and chives are quintessential.

Then there are my two personal favorites -- 

crispy bacon and broccoli with cheese sauce.

Meredith chose to fix hers with salsa, cheddar and sour cream and Tim spooned on a medley of everything.  I halved mine.

One half held broccoli and cheese and 1/2 slice of bacon.  The other half caramelized onion, sour cream and the other half of the bacon.  

Easy, delicious, weeknight meal - I'm thinking Anything Goes Thursday.  


Monday, February 17, 2014

A Winter's Tale of Howell

Winter is such a boring time.  It's hard to find inspiring things.  I frequently pass this sign as I am traveling the back roads of Howell and it somehow spoke to me of the past and bucolic times.  

Oak Glen Road runs parallel to the Route 9 Corridor.  Yet, you find yourself in a pastoral setting with lots of country road sightings.  This sign was so inspiring, I mentioned it on Facebook and asked friends if they had any "out of the way" inspiration around the town of Howell.  I got comments like:

"I'd really like to know."
"Your backyard."
"I'll keep my eyes open."

We all like the recreation and the beauty the Howell Reservior offers, but I was looking for something like the Brown Eggs sign to give me a respite from the dreariness of winter.  So of course, I got my camera and took a little driving tour of a few back roads in Howell and here are some of the things I found.

The cow looked right at the me while I was shooting this photo.  There are working farms, close off the beaten path in Howell.  Chickens, cows and many horse boarding farms, pepper the town reminding us that it was once very agricultural, before Howell became a popular place to raise your family and get away, but not too far away, from urban life.  

A wooden door recessed into stone veneer is actually a rehab on the end of a chicken coop.  

Ironically, I found a lone flag on Victory Road.  Stuck in the mossy roots of a rotted tree, I wondered if it had been there through the snows or left over from summer or Veteran's Day.   

And then there's my own backyard, which is an inspiring place in itself in every season.  I took my favorite shot while clomping about in my snow boots.

Here is what is left of my herb garden.  A few sprigs of rosemary.  This aromatic is a savory perfume for potatoes, chicken and roasted veggies.  And me.  I like to run my hands across the sprigs and breathe in the scent.  Finding inspiration in my own back yard - DIVINE!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Valentine Dinner Extraordinaire

When Tim and I were dating in the early 80's, we often "fondued" meat and vegetables and spent the evening enjoying the intimacy of table top cooking.  If a morsel dropped in the oil, we kissed.  Corny - but romantic; we were dating and getting to know each other.  Last night we replayed the romance with a three course fondue dinner shared with Meredith and Nick.  No kissing or pda's (public displays of affection) allowed at this table.

We began the evening with a gin martini for the boys while Meredith and I shared  pink creations with pomegranate juice and grenadine - just right for Valentine's Day.

  We sat by the fire and warmed up and mellowed out before the dinner.

Fondue is traditionally Swiss and used at birthday celebrations.  We made classic cheese fondue, with Gruyere and Emmentaler cheeses, as our first course using an electric fondue pot.

  We dipped crusty French baguette chunks into the creamy and savory emulsion. Chardonnay was an excellent wine pairing for this course.

The main course was steak and broccoli fondue.  Peanut oil is less likely to smoke at high temperatures, so we heated that in the stainless steel fondue pot and took our time cooking the pieces of meat and the florets.

  The broccoli comes out crispy and has a unique taste after being fried in the peanut oil. We then dipped the cooked morsels in our choice of Bearnaise, teriyaki and a horseradish mayo/mustard creation.  We enjoyed some Sterling Cabernet, reminiscent of our trip to Napa last year.

Then the dessert.  Melting chocolate infused with some orange liquor made a rich fondue in a mini crock-pot for pretzels,cookies, strawberries and pound cake.  

   We continued with another bottle of Cabernet that Nick brought, - chocolate and red wine go so well together.  

The dinner event lasted hours.  We spaced out the courses, watched the snow fall, and enjoyed a toasty fire in the fireplace.  

Spending Valentine's day at home and  sharing the experience of table-top cooking with adult children.  DIVINE!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Welcome to Nancy's Bistro

My sister is one of my best friends.  We live within a couple of miles of each other, but often jobs, families, life gets in the way of us spending time together.  Yesterday was an exception. Nancy had a day off from the bank and I had a window of time.  She invited me to lunch.  You have to know my sister to know what a treat this is.  She expresses her creativity through food - cooking and presentation.  While I am a wannabe photojournalist, her dream is to open a restaurant.  

She transformed a corner in her living/great room into a bistro table.  She sets it up and serves a delicious lunch or dinner for two.  I was fortunate to partake of the offerings of the day.

Like me, Nancy is always into healthful meals.  Vegetables are a staple and so is salad.  Today the bowl of greens was surrounded by small dishes of add-ins -- tomatoes, onions and peppers, dressing and a homemade specialty.

She oven-roasted her own roasted red peppers with garlic.   She frequents a produce market where prices are good and vegetables abound.  She packed up a little jar for me to take home and share at my table. 

The main dish was shrimp skewers over a roasted vegetable medley of fennel, peppers, red potatoes and asparagus (she knows they are my favorite).  Of course there is always a wine selection - reserve Cabernet for this meal.  Warm and welcoming on a winter's day.

A closer look, plated.  After I added the salad to the plate - no more photos - time to enjoy!

We spent the afternoon, chatting, laughing together as only sisters do, and enjoying a healthy bistro feast.  Thanks for the DIVINE lunch.  See ya Sunday.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Superbowl for Two

Well, we weren't going to any parties, not with Tim icing his shoulder after surgery last week.  So we had our own little Superbowl Sunday party.  I'll reserve my game comments for the end of this post.

I wanted a semi-healthy theme (well at least one healthy choice - I have to weigh in for the month this week).  

I was in the mood for Asian cuisine, so I put together some lettuce wraps with couscous (whole wheat of course), tiny broccoli florets, and island teriyaki sauce.  The crunchy, large Boston lettuce leaves were the perfect pocket for my creation.  The orange garnish was refreshing as well as decorative.  TOUCHDOWN!

Equally healthy and easy, was a shrimp platter.  I bought raw shrimp that were peeled and cleaned so it was easy to defrost them, steam them, chill them and serve them.  SAFETY!

I do like lots of lemon on my seafood.  And there are leftovers enough for lunch today.

A play on chips and dip - spinach, kale yogurt dip with baked garlic pita chips.

Lastly, we enjoyed some standard party fare - little hot dogs.  They were wrapped in pretzel pastry and took a few minutes in the oven.  

He likes mustard dipping sauce, I like ketchup.

Okay, I'm not really going to comment to much on the game, but I did live in Denver for awhile and was an Orange Crush fan from the early 80's.  My favorite facebook comment on the outcome of the game had to do with the Broncos partaking of the recently legalized marijuana before the game.  A chuckle, probably not true, but it would explain a lot.  

Losing a bet to my husband for a foot massage - questionably DIVINE!