Friday, September 28, 2007

Mashed Potato Soup

I tried making a sort of soup for lunch with leftover mashed potatoes, chicken stock, and a little cream (topped with crispy bacon and shredded cheese) but it turned out pretty grainy so I don't think I'll do that again.

Mashed Potato Soup
1 cup leftover mashed potatoes
1/4 - 1/2 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup heavy cream or half and half
salt & pepper to taste

In a small pot over medium heat, combine leftover mashed potatoes and 1/4 cup of chicken stock. Stir until heated through, and well combined. Add more stock if the soup seems too thick. Add in the cream or half and half, and season with salt & pepper to taste. Serve with shredded cheese on top and/or crispy crumbled bacon. Serves 1.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Roast Chicken and Mashed Potatoes with Gravy

A delicious old standby, made with lemon, rosemary and garlic.

Roast Chicken and Mashed Potatoes with Gravy
1 whole chicken (4-5 lbs)
1 lemon
3-4 sprigs rosemary
4-5 cloves garlic
Olive oil
4 russet potatoes, cut into 2" cubes
2-4 Tbsp butter
1/2-1 cup milk, half and half, or cream, depending on how decadent you want to get
2 Tbsp flour
1 cup chicken stock
Salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 400.

Remove neck & giblets from chicken cavity, and rinse and pat chicken dry with paper towels. Sprinkle the cavity with salt and pepper, then quarter the lemon and put it inside. Peel the garlic cloves and put them inside. Tuck in the rosemary sprigs. Put the chicken on a rack in a roasting pan and coat the skin with olive oil, then sprinkle the skin liberally with salt & pepper. Roast for about 1 1/2 hours, until the skin is crispy and golden brown, and the meat registers 170 on an instant-read thermometer. Remove the chicken from the oven and tent with foil for about ten minutes, to let it rest.

In the meantime, cover the potatoes with cold water and cook on high until the water boils, and then for about 15-20 minutes more, until the potatoes are tender. Drain potatoes and return them to the hot pot to cook off any excess liquid. Mash the potatoes with a masher or a ricer, and add the butter and milk/half and half/cream. Start with just a little butter and dairy, and add more if it seems too thick. Season liberally with salt and pepper. If the chicken isn't done yet, you can keep the potatoes warm by putting them in a bowl over simmering water (like a double boiler).

Once the chicken is done, pour the drippings into a fat separator (if you've got one, or a regular measuring cup, if you don't; skim off the fat from the top). Add two tablespoons of the chicken fat to a saute pan, and then add the flour. Cook the flour for a minute or so, and then add the skimmed chicken drippings and a cup of chicken stock. Whisk until smooth, and season to taste with salt & pepper. Serve the gravy over the chicken and mashed potatoes.

Serves 4, with leftovers if two of those people are kids.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Chicken Potpie

I was all set to make roast chicken with mashed potatoes last night, when I discovered that Mr Wonderful and Tomboy had that EXACT thing for dinner on Saturday night. Dammit. So I figured I'd make the roast chicken another night, and instead we had chicken potpie. This will be my contribution to Sweetnicks' ARF/5-A-Day roundup on Tuesday, since it's full of gorgeous, bright veggies.

Chicken Potpie
2 T olive oil
2 T butter
1 c chopped carrots
1 c chopped celery
1/2 c onion, diced
1 lb chicken tenders, cut into bite-size pieces
2 T flour
1 1/2 c chicken stock
1/4 c milk, half & half or heavy cream (I had cream left over from the mushroom soup, so I used that)
1/4 c chopped fresh parsley
1 c frozen peas
1 refrigerated can of croissants (can that makes 8, not 4)
salt & pepper

Preheat the oven to 375.

Heat the butter & oil in a large pan over medium heat. When the butter starts to bubble a bit, add the onions, carrots and celery. Season the veggies up with salt & pepper, and let them cook for oh, about five minutes or so. You want the veggies to soften up a bit. Then push the veggies to the outside of the pan and add the chicken to the center. Salt & pepper the chicken, and cook until it's nearly done on all sides. Sprinkle the flour over everything and stir it up. Your pan will get really dry, and that's fine. Cook for another minute or so to remove the floury taste, then add the chicken stock and stir. Raise the heat a bit, and keep stirring until the flour is evenly dissolved in the stock and the liquid starts to thicken and bubble. Add the milk or cream, and cook for another minute or so. Finally, toss in the parsley and frozen peas.

Dump the whole thing in a rectangular casserole dish (mine was 11" x 7" and fit everything just perfectly). Open up the croissant can and drape the dough over the dish, covering the whole thing. Pop it in the oven and bake for 15 minutes, until the croissant dough on top is golden brown and puffy.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Cream of Wild Mushroom Soup

This is definitely not a diet-friendly soup, but if you're splurging and in the mood for something warm and filling and comforting, this will definitely fit the bill. Recipe is by Barefoot Contessa.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


In real life, no. But on the blog, I've definitely been slacking.

Real life has been taken up by such varied activities as:
  • attending the wedding of my best friend from junior high;
  • making regular trips to the used book store to unload the boxes and boxes of books I have;
  • planning, shopping for, and cooking meals for twice the number of people as I was cooking for a year ago;
  • planning the backyard design & layout with Mr Wonderful;
  • shopping for Tomboy's bedroom;
  • designing a combination desk/cabinet/bookshelf thing that Babydaddy is custom-building for me;
  • arranging for a vacation in two months, so that we can visit Mr Wonderful's mother and my mother;
  • and rebuilding the old laptop by deleting all software and files, then reinstalling windows and necessary software in order to speed up the computer and keep me from ripping my hair out in big fat chunks.
In other words, it's been the usual hectic mess around here. We do seem to be making some progress though; I've taken at least a dozen boxes of books to the used book store (if not more). Also, there is a bookshelf (hutch-type thing that goes above the cabinet) made, and two cabinet frames, although there are no doors or hinges or anything on the cabinets yet. The desk is not built yet either, but I expect Babydaddy will be done with the whole thing in a few more days. Then I have to putty up all the little nail holes, prime it and paint it. And THEN, finally, I can move all the office stuff out of Tomboy's room.

Thankfully, though, I have something to offset all the insanity in my life: Mr Wonderful. He really is great, y'all. He still makes me laugh and keeps me sane and gives me kickass backrubs when my neck is all knotted up. And he still gives me butterflies. I love how patient he is with the kids, and how he can come home from a long day of work and a hellish commute and make me feel like the most important thing in his day.

Tuna Puttanesca

This is a slightly spicy pasta dish that gets a protein boost with canned tuna (instead of the traditional anchovies). This is one of Rachael Ray's 30 Minute Meal recipes. I followed it pretty much exactly, although I cut back the garlic a bit. (SIX cloves Rachael? Really??)

Thursday, September 13, 2007


One can of Trader Joe's refrigerated crab (real crab, not krab, and never frozen) made about eight of these HUGE crabcakes.

1 can TJ's fresh refrigerated crab
1/2 c chopped red onion
1/2 c chopped celery
1/4 c chopped fresh parsley
juice of one lemon
2 T Old Bay seasoning
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 c mayonnaise (approx - you may need a little more or a little less)
1 c breadcrumbs (or so)
2 T butter
2 T olive oil

Dump the crab in a bowl and check it over to make sure there are no bits of shell in it (there weren't any in mine). Add the onion, celery, parsley, lemon juice, Old Bay, and the egg. Mix it all together, then add in the mayonnaise and breadcrumbs. The mixture should bind together fairly well and not be soggy. If it's too wet, add more breadcrumbs. If it's too dry, add more mayo. Shape into about eight big patties.

Put half the butter and olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Fry the crabcakes in batches, four at a time, for about 4-5 minutes per side (add the rest of the butter and olive oil before the second batch). You want the crab cakes to cook through without burning the outside, so you may need to adjust the heat a bit.

Serve over baby greens with a nice lemon vinaigrette.

Friday, September 07, 2007


I have been in just the worst freaking mood the past few days. I can feel myself being completely fucking irrational and totally blowing things out of proportion. Like the other night when I hollered at Rugrat for no good reason. He was yelling something down to me from upstairs, and I was in the kitchen washing dishes. I kept yelling that I couldn't hear him, and that he needed to come down and talk to me, and he kept yelling whatever it was down the stairs until finally I shut the water off and screamed at the top of my lungs, "[Rugrat's full name] get your ass down here RIGHT NOW!" And he came down, all wide-eyed and scared, and I proceeded to tell him in a super-pissy, barely-holding-it-together-way that when mommy is PMSing and tells you to do something, you'd best do it RIGHT AWAY and not continue doing whatever it is that's pissing me off. And he was very apologetic and of course I felt like a complete bitch, which I am.

And then there's the way I had absolutely no sense of humor with Mr Wonderful yesterday. He was joking around with me, trying to grab the clothes out of the air as I tossed them into the washing machine and I kept telling him to cut it out, until I finally lost it and started swatting him with a camisole and telling him to get out, get out, get out!

Sometimes I really hate being a woman.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Asian Chicken Salad

Loosely based on the Thai Chicken Salad recipe in the September 2007 issue of Bon Appetit, this salad has a super-yummy peanut butter-based dressing. It was pretty heavy on the garlic though, so I think I'd scale that back next time.

Asian Chicken Salad

2 roasted chicken breasts (I roast my chicken breasts - with skin & bone - at 400 with just some olive oil, salt & pepper, for about 40 minutes or so), shredded or diced into bite-size pieces
3 c coleslaw mix (shredded cabbage & carrot)
1/4 c chopped green onion
Thai Peanut Dressing (see below)
1/4 c chopped roasted, salted peanuts
1/4 c chopped cilantro
1/2 c crunchy fried asian noodles (the stuff you get in a can)

Toss together the chicken, coleslaw mix and green onion with enough of the dressing to get it moist (you'll probably have a ton of dressing left over). Top with peanuts and cilantro, and surround the salad with the crunchy asian noodles.

Thai Peanut Dressing (from Bon Appetit recipe)
4 large garlic cloves (I found the garlic to be a little overpowering, so you might want to scale back on this)
1/4 c soy sauce
1/3 c fresh lime juice
2 T sugar
1 T smooth peanut butter
2 t chopped fresh ginger (I used a microplane and grated mine)
1 1/4 t hot chili paste (such as sambal oelek)
1/4 c vegetable oil

Puree all ingredients in a blender. Mr Wonderful brought over his Magic Bullet, which is like a wee little blender, and I used that. It works great for prepping small amounts of food or making salad dressings.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Days of wine and sunburns

This weekend, Labor Day weekend, was the annual Harvest Wine Festival in Livermore. If you've never been before, it's a huge thing where you pay a "cover charge" and then get to go to all the Livermore Valley wineries and taste their wines all day. They have live music at most of the wineries, food and arts & crafts for sale, and FREE buses to ferry you around so you're not all blitzed, driving from one winery to the next. The festival spans two days and last year there were thousands of drunk people swarming all over the place, so it got a little nuts. This year, they didn't really promote it, they raised the ticket price, and they held it on Labor Day weekend, when most people are out of town or having BBQ parties at home. So it was a lot more mellow.

Mr Wonderful had the day off (woohooo! Day off together!) and we went to the festival, staying for about four hours and tasting a lot of nice wines. Late in the afternoon, we went to a winery where his friends' band was playing. Now, I have kind of a checkered past with these folks. I went to high school with some of them, and they had a little high school band that my then-future (now ex-) husband was in. After my ex & I divorced, he ended up marrying my ex-best friend a couple years later, and started another band with some of those same guys. Well, he's since left the band, but they are still playing (with a new drummer, obviously) and this is the band we went to see yesterday. Mr Wonderful is pretty close with the lead singer, and has been for many years....whereas I have not seen these folks in a decade, and was slightly nervous about "coming out" to them. Not only is my ex-husband now married to my ex-best friend, but my ex-best friend is Mr Wonderful's ex-girlfriend. So it's pretty incestuous.

Anyway...ex-best friend and ex-husband were not there (thank goodness! I was NOT ready for that), but the guys I did know from the band were very friendly and seemed glad to see Mr Wonderful and I so happy together. I went to get some more wine, and Mr Wonderful told them about moving in with me, and they were genuinely pleased for him. It was nice to see them again, after so many years, and I'm glad it went so smoothly. Not that I would expect shock and horror or anything, but I was quite pleasantly surprised at how welcoming everyone was.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Spring Rolls with Hoisin Dipping Sauce

Spring Rolls
Originally uploaded by snarkmeister
My mom recently sent me a few Bon Appetit and Gourmet magazines, and I thought this would be a great, light recipe to try. It's from the August 2007 Bon Appetit issue, and it turned out very well. It's low-fat, high in fiber, and full of incredible flavor. I poached the shrimp in plain old boiling salted water for a couple minutes, and they were perfectly cooked. It took a few tries to get the rolling technique perfected, but it's just a question of practice. I ended up adding green onions and a little bit of the dipping sauce to the spring rolls before rolling, and I think that improved the final product. Also, the hoisin sauce is pretty spicy, so you may want to cut back on the chili-garlic sauce if you're sensitive to that. It was fine for Mr Wonderful and I though; we like spicy stuff. :)

The recipe is available on