Monday, June 21, 2010

2010.05.27 - Turkey Larb, Pickled Carrots, Gelato

Larb is a funny name!  Therefore, I had to make it :)

Turkey Larb

I've never had larb before - I never see past the pad thai at a Thai restaurant.  This was pretty good, with kind of a flavor profile I've never had before.  Maybe it was the fish sauce.  I need to research recipes to use up the leftover lemongrass.

Pickled Carrots

I wasn't a fan, but I think that's because I don't like many pickled things.  I couldn't figure out a better vegetable to match with the larb.  Will have to research Thai veggie dishes!

Toasted Almond Gelato

This was deliciousssssss.  I wish the recipe had given more specific instructions for how to use the leftover almonds (I ended up throwing them out), but otherwise this was great.

2010.06.03 - Poppy Seed Chicken, Rhubarb Chutney, Spring Vegetables, Granita

I was working from home, so I could make something a little fussy like granita.  The rhubarb chutney and poppy seed chicken were delicious, didn't care as much for the vegetables or the granita.

Rhubarb Chutney with bread, cheese, crackers

I haven't had many chutneys, but this one was great.  Loved the color, paired well with the sharp Beecher's flagship cheese.  Everyone thought this one was a hit.

Poppy Seed Chicken Salad

I love poaching chicken, it's so easy.  I always use plain yogurt instead of mayo (hate) and it always tastes fine to me.  I'd make this again for any lunch or brunch especially.

Spring Vegetable Skillet

I couldn't find snap peas, so I used green beans instead.  This was just..blah.  I thought it was too oily as well.

Apple Tarragon Granita

This was...interesting.  Lesson number one - don't try to use a food processor instead of a blender for liquids - I got sticky apple juice all over my counter.  The granita was refreshing, but I don't think I like tarragon all in my face - I like it more hidden.

2010.06.10 - Beecher's Mac and Cheese

By popular request, I tried out Beecher's Mac and Cheese.  I added a salad to try to lighten things up :) 

Beecher's Mac and Cheese

I made an 8x8 dish with regular penne and 8x8 with Trader Joe's gluten free brown rice pasta.  I couldn't tell the difference between the two.  I used Bob's Red Mill GF all purpose flour fix for the roux.  It tasted just like what you get down at Beecher's in Pike Place Market.

Pro tip: buy Beecher's at Costco.  This mac and cheese is not cheap!

Salad with Herb Vinaigrette

The salad was a simple one of various lettuces, shredded carrots, broccoli, and cherry tomatoes.  I thought the recipe calling for "9 tablespoons" of vinegar was odd (and I think I lost count so I'm not sure if I put in 8 or 9!), but the dressing was pretty good!

2010.06.17 - Roast Chicken, Cherry Compote, Birthday Cake

I'm on vacation, so I could leisurely roast a chicken for this meal.  K's birthday was recently, so we celebrated with cake!

Honey and Lemon Roasted Chicken with Savory Cherry Compote

The chicken was great!  I didn't taste much lemon or honey in the end, but it was perfectly moist and the skin looked awesome.  I don't have a proper roasting rack, so unfortunately I lost a lot of the breast skin when I flipped it over as instructed since it had stuck to the bottom of my glass pan (hence the nontraditional chicken picture to the right). I used rosemary in the cavity of the chicken rather than the instructed thyme because a) I had rosemary on hand and b) I don't like thyme.  This was the first time I trussed a chicken!  I successfully managed to avoid getting salmonella all over my computer while trying to watch and pause and watch and pause a how-to video while tying the chicken.

The compote paired well and I did like it, although I'm not so sure about the texture of the walnuts compared with the much softer cooked down cherries and the syrup.  I'm not sure I'd make it again.

Steamed Asparagus

The ehow instructions for steaming asparagus were new to me and actually pretty fun!  They steamed perfectly and I served it with a little lemon juice and parmesan on top.  J said that must be the difference in being from the north versus the south - she cooks her asparagus in butter :)  I promised her an all-butter dinner in the near future to make up for it.

Got the asparagus from my favorite produce provider - Bill Pace, or as I call it, "the vegetable store".

Chocolate Cake with Fennel Ice Cream and Strawberries

I'm just beginning to scratch the surface of gluten free cooking, but discovering the Four Chickens blog seems like it will be a huge step in my progress.  This chocolate cake was GREAT.  Question: why does every cake recipe seem to always provide a ganache recipe that makes way more than you need?  I guess because you can never have too much chocolate ganache :)

Orangette is one of my favorite food blogs (and I've fan-girlishly sat right next to Molly at a Q&A once, eeee!) so I was very intrigued by the fennel ice cream.  She suggested it would pair well with chocolate and it did!  It tasted...too much like fennel seed on its own (if that makes any sense), but it worked very well with the cake.

Overall, a successful dinner and a ton of leftovers since only two others could make it that night.  The chicken leftovers microwaved just fine and remained just as moist. 



Since September 2004, I've hosted a "weekly" (as weekly as work has allowed, which sometimes means monthly :P) dinner for a small group of friends.  It started on Wednesdays (to coincide with watching America's Next Top Model), but has since settled in to Thursday.  I had just finished college and moved across the country for a job and wanted to turn some acquaintances into friends via bribing them with food :)  I was also sick of cooking for just one person - even the best recipe turns loathsome after you've eaten it as leftovers for three days in a row.   College friends, work friends, new friends, old friends - the group has changed throughout the years, but it's always been a great time.  The focus has always been more on friends, not food, but in recent years it has become the ideal venue for trying out items from my obsessive recipe collection.

The very first dinner was sandwiches.  At least I arranged the deli meat fancily on a platter :)  I would say I was a competent cook at the time, but I had grown up as a very picky eater and didn't have much imagination about food.  My college friends still give me a hard time about ordering nothing but chicken fingers in restaurants.  I'd been helping out with the family cooking since I was tall enough to reach the counter when standing on a chair (Dad's idea!), but I had just spent four years with an all-you-can-eat dining plan in a dorm.  No cooking required, unless you count microwave popcorn or Easy Mac. 

I don't remember much of what I cooked the first year.  However, I distinctly remember the turning point in September 2005 -- my friend X, original dinner member who has since sadly moved away, requested that I make Rachel Ray's Italian Mac and Cheese.  I don't remember how this came about and unfortunately deleted my work email archives and don't have the original email, but it was definitely something new -- the food being served as a project for the night, an event in and of itself.  It was a success and something about the whole thing caught my fancy.  I don't remember if I had already been watching "30 Minute Meals" at the time, but I started tuning in and bought some RR cookbooks.  Dinners for a while after that were mainly taken from RR's collection, and then I slowly discovered the world of food blogs and became more and more ambitious in my cooking.

I'm starting this blog so I can keep track of the menus I make weekly and some notes about how the recipes turned out.  I'm an engineer by profession and thought process, so I generally faithfully follow recipes and don't make up my own (so this won't be a traditional "food blog" with recipes per se).  Although I'm more creative in the recipes I choose to eat, I'm not very creative in how I cook them :)

I'll close with my Grandma's version of "Bon Appetit" -- at the start of any meal, she used to say "this is living".  Enjoy!