Thursday, April 29, 2010

Operation: Expand Horizons - Recipe list

I've compiled a list of 31 days' worth of new recipes for Operation: Expand Horizons. Here it is, in no particular order.

Pork and poblano tamale pie
Falafel with hummus
Chicken cutlets with asparagus, capers, and shallots
Vegetable pad Thai
Pork chops with peppers and green beans
Spring vegetable couscous
Quick lemon mousse
Fettuccine with peas, asparagus, and pancetta
Spring vegetable and quinoa pilaf
Mushroom and leek soup with parsley dumplings
Pork stew with hard cider, onions, and potatoes
Three cheese beer bread
Arroz con pollo
Chicken and sausage cacciatore
Pasta Trapanese - pasta with tomato and almond pesto
Skirt steak with crispy garlic potatoes
Meat sauce with spaghetti
Lemon zucchini cornmeal cookies
Spinach and Brie chicken with tomato orzo
Breaded pork chops; wild rice with mushrooms and parsley
Pound cake tiramisu
Red beans with andouille sausage; buttermilk cornbread
Honey-soy grilled pork chops with bok choy and rice
Pineapple-stuffed jerk chicken
Coconut pineapple loaf cake
Creamy lemon squares
Pork and chive potstickers
Pork and chorizo burgers with green chile mayo
Best blueberry muffins
Bratwurst bites with beer-horseradish mustard; German-style fried potatoes
Multi-grain bread

Most of these recipes come from America's Test Kitchen, Everyday Food, and Bon Appétit. I'll post links and recipes as each one is tried.

Operation: Expand Horizons - An introduction

I am married to one of the most picky eaters I've ever known. This poor man was raised on a shitty diet of Salisbury steaks, pot pies, and few and far between poorly home-cooked greasy meals. This has left him with woefully narrow tastes. However, he's willing to change, and ten years with me has broadened him noticeably.

But there's still work to be done. I've begun a lifestyle change to eat less and eat better, both in quality and in variety, and I'm hoping to take him along for the ride. Actually, he doesn't have a choice, because I do all the cooking! :D I'm easy to feed. I am willing to try pretty much anything and I love vegetables. Him, not so much. But he appreciates the difference between canned and fresh, knows he needs to lose some weight by eating less/better, and has expressed a desire to eat a wider variety of food.

I also have subscriptions to two magazines that I love- Martha Stewart's Everyday Food and Bon Appétit. Every time I receive a new issue, I go through the whole thing and Post-It recipes. I write the name of the recipe on the Post-It, and write it down in an index with the magazine name and date. I do the same thing for internet recipe printouts, and I keep them in categorized 3-ring binders- beef, chicken, desserts, etc. This organization helps me by providing a quick reference that I can scan when planning the week. Needless to say, however, there are always more recipes than my husband is willing to try. This Operation will hopefully change all that.

In an effort to bring about these changes, and also to kick my own arse in the blog-updating category, I've decided to initiate Operation: Expand Horizons for the month of May. Every day will bring a new recipe to be tried.

Not every recipe will be dinner. A lot of them will be my own lunches, which will also feed our 3 year old daughter. Her horizons are still being developed, so this will be good for her too. Some of them will be dinner side items. A few will be desserts.

Each day will bring a post of the dish I made, a link to find it online if possible, and a photo of the results. I'm really looking forward to this!

Greek style chicken legs

Greek and Middle Eastern cuisines are among my favorites, right behind Mexican. There are a lot of similarities in the foods of Greece, Iran, Israel, Iraq, and the rest of the Mideast. The things I like best include hummus, tabbouleh, pita, gyros, and shish tawook.

If you're not familiar with shish tawook, find a good Middle Eastern restaurant and fix that. It's delicious- chunks of marinated and grilled chicken shmeared with a thick garlicky paste, usually served over rice or in a pita. You definitely won't be getting kissed for about two days after you eat it, but it's SO worth the breath. (Seriously- garlic will come not only from your mouth, but from your stomach and from your pores.)

Greek flavors are easily accomplished without a recipe. One of my favorites is a simple combo of garlic, oregano, and olive oil. I made some grilled chicken legs recently with these- just sprinkle the legs with garlic granules, dried oregano, kosher salt, and fresh pepper and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Refrigerate for at least an hour before grilling.

I often use garlic granules when grilling chicken or beef. It won't burn like fresh garlic will, and the taste stays a truer raw garlic flavor instead of the sweeter taste of cooked, which is not my favorite.

To accompany the chicken legs, I steam-microwaved a mixture of fresh veggies- bell pepper, onion, broccoli, asparagus, snap peas, and mushrooms. The trick to doing this is to microwave in stages. Tougher veggies like the broccoli and onions go in first; tender types like the bell pepper and mushrooms go in afterward so they don't overcook. My fancy microwave has a "Fresh Vegetables" button that makes it simple. You choose 1-3 cups and the timing is usually perfect.

I also made some white rice with slivered white onion added in at the last minute of cooking to keep a crisp, fresh oniony flavor that works well with the grilled chicken.

All in all, this is a quick, easy dinner that's full of flavor but not full of fat.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

All cake, all the time!

I figured it was about time to get off my lazy rump and update my blog, considering I gave the address to a news crew this afternoon. "What?!?" you exclaim. Yep, I'll be on camera tonight on my local 10:00 news, talking about legislation moving through my state that will allow home bakers and cakers like me to bake for the public out of our homes. Right now, it's against the law.

I love making and decorating cakes, so I do it for my rather large family's birthday parties, graduations, and other causes for celebration. Although I usually get reimbursed for expenses, I'm certainly not making any money in this endeavor. I also stay at home with my 3 year old daughter, and she is my #1 priority, so working in a bakery is out of the question. When I got a phone call yesterday from the owner of a new cake supply shop in town asking me to show up for a news crew's coverage of the pending legislation, I was all over it. I gave an interview in favor of the bill.

In the interim of getting the bill enacted, I'm going to continue making cakes for fun. Here are some pics of recent cakes I've done for my family.

Pistol Pete cake for my younger sister and her friend. They are both Oklahoma State Cowgirls.

SpongeBob and Patrick cake for fun, requested by my uncle for his office.

Birthday cake for my brother-in-law's girlfriend.

Groom's cake for my youngest brother's wedding. He and his wife are both Oklahoma State graduates. Some well-meaning soul stuck daisies on the cake board before the photographer came by. I could kick her for that.

I've also decided, in addition to the occasional family cake, I'm going to adopt a local nursing home and donate a birthday cake every month for the residents. I grew up with all of my grandparents and several of my great-grandparents in my life, and I have a soft spot for "the greatest generation" and old folks in general. It'll give me a chance to do something nice for some nice people in their twilight years, and I'll get to practice the old-school techniques like frilly borders and flowers that I don't usually do on cakes I design.