Friday, November 7, 2008

Dinner Out

I had actually planned on cooking dinner tonight, even after being so excited about going out to eat. David and I couldn't really think of a place we wanted to go. It sort of felt like when we get to go out on a date together for the first time in ages, but we are so stumped on what would be the most fantastic, romantic, fun, delicious, thing to do. So, I opted to cook, and wait to go out on Saturday.

I decided that we would have baked potato bar tonight. Things in the first half of my day went well, but due to some traffic on the roads, I didn't get Vincent down for a nap until late. I didn't know how long he would nap & still needed to get sour cream (gotta have that for baked potato bar!), so I wanted a back up plan in case we didn't make it to the store in time. I had made a potstickers filling, thinking I would just fold some during his nap and freeze them for another time. I decided that we'll just have that for dinner.

Then, when Vincent woke up from his nap, I had a brilliant idea to go to Redmond and pick up David from work, go to the mall to look at cell phones, eat mall food, and let Vincent run around. We ended up at Bellevue Square & ate breakfast sandwiches & corn chowder at Specialty's. Wow, what an exciting dinner! But, I have to say that Specialty's does have the best egg, cheese and sausage breakfast sandwich. The corn chowder wasn't bad, either, and their foccacia bread is fantastic! We each had a little chocolate chip cookie sample at the end to boot.

**Please continue to see what we are eating for dinner by adding my other blog to your favorites: Cheers!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Hunts - DAY 30!!!

Well, we did it! We (almost) made it straight through our 30 days. Our last challenge dinner was beef chow mein and sort of this seafood soup.

Chow Mein - it was okay. Well, it was good. David enjoyed it a lot. The thing is, I had this idea in my head that it would taste exactly like the stuff you get at a Chinese restaurant. I bought the noodles that are used when you order Hong Kong style crispy noodles, but I don't really know what all goes in those dishes to make it taste so much like crack. My noodles weren't even crispy, regardless of how long I tried to keep them in the hot pan. The package had a little recipe, but it only called for soy sauce, and I swear the stuff you get in the restaurant has more than just soy sauce for the flavoring. The sauce at restaurants are more of a gravy, too. There's gotta be tons of MSG in that stuff. If there is someone who knows how to make a good Hong Kong style crsipy noodle dish, please tell me how.

"Seafood" soup - not really. I used dashi powder to make a broth and the "seafood" was actually some extra fish cakes, unused from the hot pot. I added some baby bok choy, tofu, and shitaki mushrooms. A really light, brothy soup. It seemed to be liked enough.

I didn't go out with a bang on this challenge, I know. I did miss two days. But, I had good reasons for missing, and I would have to say that I did get something out of these last 32 days. I learned to be a better meal planner, grocery list writer, grocery shopper, ingredients user, meal prepper, juggler of busy toddler while trying to make dinner, and most of all a better home cooker. I will continue to cook at home, with the goal of doing it every night, but knowing that some nights it just won't happen.

Stay tuned for what we had on our first dinner night out post challenge...

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Hunts - Day 29

Tonight, we had hot pot for dinner. "Hot pot, or less commonly Chinese fondue, refers to several Chinese varieties of steamboat stew. It consists of a simmering metal pot of stock at the center of the dining table. While the hot pot is kept simmering, ingredients are placed into the pot and are cooked at the table. Typical hot pot dishes include thinly sliced meat, leafy vegetables, mushrooms, wontons, egg dumplings, and seafood. The cooked food is usually eaten with a dipping sauce. In many areas, hot pot meals are often eaten in the winter." -Wikipedia

I went to Uwajimaya today. I feel like I broke the bank this week with grocery shopping. It must've been because I had no idea what I wanted to make for dinner each night. I went into PFI on Monday blindly. Today, I went into Uwajimaya armed with a shopping list that was drawn up blindly. Not knowing what to make for dinner meant an incomplete shopping list. I knew this when I left the house. What I didn't know was that I would end up spending so much money. Yes, my cart was pretty full, but I usually walk out of there spending about $50. A little more was spent today...It wasn't like I got anything exotic, like matsutaki mushrooms, either. In fact, the mushrooms I left with were uninteresting, plain, sliced white button mushrooms. At least I got to park for free & I got my hands on some Beard Papa eclairs!

Anyway, our hot pot spread tonight consisted of thinly sliced beef & pork (I forget which cuts), some fish cake products in various shapes, fresh firm tofu, baby bok choy, julienne carrots, scallions, glass bean noodles, and those boring white mushrooms. I used a very light chicken broth for the soup base, which I drizzled a little bit of sesame oil into, and added some sliced red onions. The sauce is this "bbq" sauce that I can't even begin to describe with a little soy sauce. We also had a little seaweed salad on the side.

For a hot pot experience that you don't have to do at home, you can visit Seven Stars Pepper on 12th Ave and Jackson Street. They don't have all the exotic stuff in the wikipedia photo, but it's still fun and will give you a good experience.

Tomorrow's our last dinner...what will we have?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Hunts - Day 28

It was REALLY hard for me to rally and make dinner tonight. I haven't gone grocery shopping for the week, nor have I made a shopping list, nor do I know what I want to cook this week. Is it "senioritis" for the last few days of cooking at home? Or, is it my subconscious Presidential election anxiety?

I peered into my refrigerator several times this afternoon before finally deciding on Thai red curry. This was a stretch. All I have for vegetables are carrots, celery, garlic, arugula, turnips, a sweet red pepper, parsley, and some sliced scallions. Seems like enough, but I would have liked an onion (even a 1/4 of one) or a shallot. I also had some chicken meat & brown rice. I pulled out my can of coconut milk & set out to cut my vegetables, not taking a moment to make sure I actually have red curry paste.

After I chopped the vegetables, Vincent and I headed out to an election party for an hour. We both ate lots of junk...okay, I did. He had some dried berries & a couple of chips that he only half ate. I also had a small bowl of Iranian soup that was yummy. We got home a little after 5pm, and I started cooking. Then, I looked for my curry paste...Not in the fridge. Shoot! That's right, I tossed it out when our old fridge died. I opted for some garam masala, and made a curry chicken fried rice. Since I was so full on M&M's and Doritos from the party, I was having a hard time getting excited for this dish. Even the thought of taste testing it made me feel ill. I worried it would just suck, since I didn't even want to taste it. But, it turned out nicely, and David quite enjoyed it. Vincent thought it was too spicy (but it wasn't "hot"). He ate leftover orzo salad & hummus from lunch.


Monday, November 3, 2008

The Hunts - Day 27 Guest Chef Night

No, we didn't go to FareStart this evening...their Guest Chef Night is on Thursday, not Monday. Instead, we had a guest chef here in our very own home! As mentioned yesterday, my friend is the Executive Chef at The Liberty Hotel in Boston. He's in town for a few days, so we had him over for dinner tonight. You have to check out the website. It's pretty nice.

I made pan roasted Thundering Hooves lamb chops and braised Brussels sprouts with bacon, and he made a bread salad with mozerella cheese. Nothing extravagant, just delicious food. We also had some plain brown rice, a couple of cured meats, some mixed olives, and bread. It was so fun to be back in the kitchen with Joseph, even for just a short time. The man has finesse. Unfortunately, Vincent didn't eat very much dinner. He had some meat, rice, and a little bacon & mozerella cheese. He totally rejected the Brussels sprouts. It's the first time I've made them for him, so I guess they're new to him & he wasn't feeling adventurous. He did eat several olives, though!

I went to PFI this afternoon to see what goodies I could find there. I mainly wanted some olives & olive oil. I left there with said items, and so much more. If you've never been before, I highly recommend the trek down to the end of the International District, getting flipped flopped around the streets there, and not giving up on finding it, to see what you've been missing. It's not fancy at all, but there are some fun treats to be had there. Definitely not as "fancy" as DeLaurenti's in Pike Place Market, which I also quite love. I got two types of cured meats (packaged), 2 pounds of olives (one of their mixes, and oil cured - they only sell by the pound), a box of Belgium waffle cookies, extra virgin olive oil, sherry vinegar, a chocolate bar, some praline paste, pasta, farro, arborio rice...and I think I had to stop there. I wanted so much more!

Brussels Sprouts - first, I cut up some bacon into little bite sized chunks. I rendered the bacon in my pan until crispy. Remove the bacon, draining most of the fat, leaving about a tablespoon of bacon fat in the pan. I added sliced shallot rings to the pan and cooked them for about 1-2 minutes, until just soft. Deglaze the pan with white wine and add your Brussels sprouts. **Um, the sprouts should be cleaned of the outer leaves, and cut in half, lengthwise. Add enough chicken stock to almost cover all the sprouts. Add sliced carrots. Cover with a piece of parchment paper cut into a circle to fit the interior of the pan with a ventalation hole in the middle. If you just covered the pan with the lid, you will end up with what I did, which is the Brussels sprouts beginning to turn brown - not so appealing to the eye. Allow to simmer for about 10 minutes, or until just tender. Add the bacon back to the pan. Swirl in a little butter and finish with chopped parsley. Adjust seasoning as needed.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Hunts - Days 24, 25, & 26

Day 24 - Roasted Acorn Squash & Apple Soup with Whole Wheat English Muffin Open-faced Sandwiches
I took the whole roasted chicken from the other night & removed all the meat off the bones. I then took the bones and made a light broth. I roasted the squash and the apples (peeled) in the oven for about 45 minutes at 350 degrees F. I pureed the cooked squash and apple in the broth, adjusted the seasoning, and we had soup for dinner!

My little English muffin sandwiches were slices of the roasted chicken, cooked red onions, and a little gruyere cheese.

Day 25 - Bangers and Mash

Truthfully, we skipped a day this week. Day 25 should've been on Halloween. But, because it was Halloween, and we had plans to take Vincent out trick or treating, I told David that I we were going to skip cooking for the night and order pizza. Hot Mama's Pizza, to be exact!

So, for our Day 25, a day later, we had bangers and mash. David has been planning this for a week. He ordered German sausages from Thundering Hooves last week, and they arrived that day. His mash potatoes included pureed celeriac & were made with yukon potatoes. It was so delicious! Um, I didn't have any beer.

I also made another rustic onion tart, but I added sliced chicken and a sliced (homegrown) San Marzano (Roma) tomato. We didn't actually end up having that for dinner, but have had it around to snack on.

Day 26 - Pasta shells with leftover smothered pork & sauteed spinach - exactly as that sounds. I cooked pasta, reheated the pork, and sauteed spinach. Then, I tossed them all together! We had a simple salad on the side.

*I'm curious to see how the last 4 days of cooking will turn out. As of now, I have nothing planned. My friend, Joseph, who is now the Executive Chef of Boston's swanky Liberty Hotel, is in town. He's coming over to cook with me tomorrow afternoon. I'm excited! We haven't cooked together in over two years, when he left Seattle for other endeavers, and I was 6 months pregnant with Vincent. I've pulled out some lamb chops from the freezer, just in case.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Hunts - Day 23 - Guests

Nate and Kate are our friends. This May-October, we shared our Oxbow Farm CSA box with them. Last week was the last box of the season, and we ended up with the whole thing because I spaced out on corridinating the pick up with Kate. To make up for it, we invited them over for dinner. Turns out, though, I didn't really cook too many items from the box, but oh well.

I made Jen's smothered pork, the rustic onion tart I posted about earlier in the week, roasted beets salad, and a greens salad. We also had a half a loaf of Essential Bakery's whole wheat bread with Beecher's Blank Slate Tapenade, along with a little homemade (but not by me) plum jam & quince paste. We had a bottle of Chinook Wines' 2006 Yakima Valley Cabernet Franc, and started on a bottle of Desert Wind Cabernet Sauvignon. It really felt like a feast. We haven't had dinner guests in ages, and it felt so good to do something like this. I really do love a nice, homemade, sit down dinner with friends.

For the pork, I made it in a crock pot instead of dutch oven (I don't own a dutch oven, sadly). Rather than starting the braising liquid with butter & flour, I started it with butter, onions and garlic. I sauteed them a minute or so, then added the flour, let that cook another minute, and whisked in the chicken stock. I seared the meat, placed it in the crock pot & poured in the braising liquid, being sure to get some on top of the meat. I let it cook on low for half the day, from about 9:30am-2:30pm. At that point, I turned the heat up to high and let it go for another couple hours. Once the liquid was reduced and skimmed of fat, I strained it. Since we were having an onion tart for dinner, I didn't feel like we needed the onions for the meat.

For the tart, I used the Martha Stewart pate brisee recipe instead of the one from Simply Recipes. I ommitted the sugar for this dough.

Everything turned out great. Everyone ate a bunch, and I was amazed at how much bread and tapenade Vincent ate!