Monday, February 18, 2008

Lunch for guests

For the first time since we moved into our house, we entertained. My in-laws came over for lunch since various business places gave off for Presidents' Day. Trillian's mother has cooked for us several times, and so I wanted to prepare a lunch that would match the wonderful meals she has made. I went with several stand-by dishes, experimenting slightly with them, but not too drastically.

Our menu:
Shrimp with chile and lime
Skillet-roasted potatoes
French green beans
Baked apples and pears

For the shrimp:
The simple idea behind this is to sautee some peeled, uncooked shrimp in olive oil that has been heated with chopped-up dry chiles. We frequently do this with chile and garlic, but I decided tonight to just use the chile and then squeeze lemon juice on them at the end. I don't remember what chiles we used in the past, but I used the dried chipotles on hand today. Even with the seeds removed, the chiles were hotter than usual, but not so hot that they overpowered the taste.

For the potatoes:
I use our large skillet for this. Olive oil in heated skillet. Sautee an onion until it's translucent and thinking about caramelizing. Add thinly sliced potatoes and herbs. Today, I used fresh thyme and rosemary, as well as some leek. Cover and stir around from time to time. I start this dish first so that the onions have plenty of time to caramelize and the potatoes can brown and soften.

For the green beans:
The easiest part of the meal. Trader Joe's has wonderful frozen French green beans. Unlike many other frozen veggies, they maintain their crispness and flavor. I threw a bunch of these into a saucepan with a little water and butter and let them heat up while I did everything else.

For the dessert:
This is a variation on the baked fruit I made before. I cored apples and pears before cutting them in half and placing them in the baking dish. I then used our mini-chopper to chop up some walnuts with cinnamon, to which I then added some honey--not a lot, just enough to keep it from falling all over the place. I put a spoonful or two into the center of each fruit half and baked for about half an hour.

At least my in-laws can be certain that I'm keeping their daughter well-fed.

Friday, February 15, 2008

What do you want for dinner?

Generally, I've been much better about planning meals and shopping specifically for them, but I haven't been on top of that this week. We had an excellent Valentine's dinner, which I will write about later, but so much thought went into that that we were headed towards dinner-time without a solid plan.

"What do we have?" Trillian asked.

I ran through a few things, including the sausage I'd bought recently from Whole Foods. Their "Whole Ranch" line includes a number of styles of sausage and are all gluten-free. This has turned out to be something I have to look for. I had been hoping to get chicken sausage, but the brand I used to get has bread crumbs in every flavor I found.

Using that as our basis, we decided on a quick, simple, but satisfying menu:
  • 2 Italian sausages cut up and browned with marinara then poured over them.
  • Quinoa pasta (gluten-free, decent fiber and protein levels).
  • Romaine lettuce with gluten-free blue cheese dressing. (Interestingly, blue cheese is another food that has to be labeled gluten-free to be safe. Frequently the mold used in it is started on bread and can transfer gluten to the cheese.)
I was able to heat up the sauce and make the salad while the pasta was in the pot, plus it's pretty hard to mess things up.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Heart cookies

I spent my night making some cookies for Scooter to make up for the tempting treats he has had to pass up. Although it required an extra trip to the grocery store (for food coloring since we didn't keep our old stuff in the move), I kept it pretty simple.

I started with a sugar cookie mix from Cherrybrook Kitchen, preparing the dough according to the directions. Rather than making the two-inch balls as suggested, I chilled the dough for a little bit and then rolled it out. The dough is a little crumbly, so I had to pat it together, but I was able to get a decent sheet of thin dough. Then I cut out a number of hearts. I had thought about using our vehicle cookie cutters too, but decided that those shapes might be too delicate to transfer to the baking sheet.

I still baked the cookies for about 12 minutes and then transferred them to a rack. Once they were a little cooler, I mixed together a simple confectioner's sugar/milk frosting with a few drops of red food coloring. I made the frosting in progressively lighter-colored batches, making only a little at a time. The first batch was fairly red, followed by a medium pink and two lighter pinks. I also fooled around with some food coloring "markers" I found at the grocery store.

The whole process, not including chilling time for the dough, took about an hour, and I now have a couple dozen good-sized heart cookies to get us through this pink holiday.