St. Paddy’s Day 2019

Sunday Dinner – 17 March 2019

St. Paddy Snow

The scene out our back windows Sunday Morning showed no hint of green, as a late season snow had covered everything in downy white. Inside the mood was festive though, with St. Paddy’s Day Radio from Sirius XM streaming throughout the house. I began peeling carrots about 7:30, and had them sautéing with onions and shallots before eight. I’d picked up two nice flat cut corned beef briskets (Morton’s of Omaha) from Aldi. They went into the pot next, along with malt vinegar, pickling spices and a can of Guinness.

Corned Beef in the Pot

After that simmered for five hours, I added about three pounds of red potatoes and a couple small heads of cabbage cut into wedges.

This was the second year using this recipe from Sunset Magazine. It turned out perfect this time. Last year I’d used cheaper point cuts from Jewel or somewhere, and it was good, but this year’s meal was dramatically better.

Corned Beef and Cabbage

Claudia made dark chocolate Guinness cupcakes with vanilla icing and caramel that were awesome.

Guinness Cupcakes

For the wine pairing, surely you jest.

Irish Libations

So fill to me the parting glass, goodnight and joy be with you all.

Pho

Sunday Dinner – 10 March 2019

Pho

I love the Pho from Koi Asian Bistro, and have thought about making my own for years, but was a little intimidated by the process. I actually bought a 12-quart stock pot more than a year ago, for the express purpose of making a batch, but didn’t get around to doing it until this weekend.

I used Chef Qui Tran’s recipe, from Nudo House in St. Louis. I followed the recipe to the letter, with the following exceptions. Not finding knuckle bones, I substituted soup bones and shanks. For the rock candy, I used Turbinado Sugar. Star anise wasn’t available in our town, so I used anise seed and fennel seed. Finally, in place of the flank steak, I used bottom round roast.

We served the broth over rice noodles and thin slices of the beef, with bean sprouts, scallions, red onions, Jalapeño slices, lime wedges, Sriracha and chiffonade of basil.

Claudia made an incredible lime and ginger dressed salad for the side, and a Vietnamese coffee mousse for dessert.

Coffee Mousse

Wine was a beautiful Mendocino County Sauvignon Blanc from Franc Dusak, which paired perfectly. The other choices would have been rosé or Pinot Noir, but I can’t imagine those being any better.

I think the only change I would make next time would be to brown the bones and onions under the broiler a bit before starting the broth. The other note is that this should be served piping hot, which I was inattentive to because of the timing of the meal this time.

A little of the Sriracha goes a long way, by the way. I put some on every bite of meat, which was fine, but by the end of the bowl of broth, it had added quite a bit of spice. Caroline seemed to like it. A drop or two on a tiny slice of meat, and she said “Oooh!”

Mardi Gras

Sunday Dinner – 3 March 2019

Table Set for Mardi Gras

We have certain “go to” meals that we fix for specific annual events. For years now, I’ve fixed jambalaya and bread pudding with whiskey sauce on the last Sunday in ordinary time before Lent begins.

A friend and co-worker from my days in Mattoon brought Jambalaya to work for a potluck one time and it was soooo good I had to have the recipe. I can tell you that I’ve never made it with chicken. This recipe really is easy and I’m not really sure why I don’t make it more often!

Jambalaya

Seasonings:

  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 1/2 tsp white pepper (I cut it down to just 1)
  • 1/4 tsp sage
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1/8 to 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Vegetables:

  • 1 C chopped onion (I just chop up a whole onion…it’s probably more than a cup)
  • 1/2 C chopped celery (again, I probably double that)
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped (you can really use any color…I think I prefer the flavor of the green in this)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced (or more to taste)

Meat:

  • 1/2 lb smoked sausage (I just used a 12 oz package)
  • 1/2 lb shrimp or chicken (I always use shrimp, and always use then entire 1 lb bag)

Other: 

  • 1/2 C tomato sauce (the cans I get are 8 oz so I just use the whole can)
  • 2 1/2 C vegetable broth (you could use chicken stock if you’re using chicken instead of shrimp)
  • 1 1/2 C uncooked long grain rice (I usually use a brown rice, but I had a lot of jasmine in the pantry)
  • 2 Tblsp olive oil

Instructions:

  1. Mix seasonings together in a small bowl and set aside
  2. Chop vegetables and set aside
  3. If making with chicken or raw smoked sausage, brown meat in 2 Tblsp olive oil
  4. Add chopped vegetables and cook about 5 minutes til soft (if not using raw meat, I just start at this step)
  5. Stir in tomato sauce, broth, rice and seasonings.
  6. Bring to a boil and simmer until liquid is absorbed (don’t lift the lid), about 45 minutes to an hour.
  7. I add the shrimp at the very end since I’m afraid of raw shrimp and buy the precooked

Alternatively, after bringing to a boil, pour the mixture into a greased 13 x 9, cover with foil, and back @ 350 degrees for about an hour, until liquid is absorbed.

In addition to the jambalaya Brian baked a  bread boule, and it wouldn’t be Sunday dinner at the Noe household without a green salad. This week I decided to make Penzey’s Green Goddess dressing to help balance out the seasonings from the main dish.

I stumbled on this recipe from Emeril Lagasse for bread pudding with whisky sauce and it is ah-maz-ing! I do alter it slightly, though. The first time I made it I read the the cinnamon as TABLESPOONS instead of TEASPOONS, only realizing it later when I decided to write it down on a recipe card. But you know what, it’s really, really good with that much cinnamon in it, so I make it that way all the time now. I also put in 1 cup of raisins…half a cup just doesn’t seem like enough.

New Orleans Bread Pudding with Bourbon Sauce

The meal was paired with nice Eldorado County Cuvée from 2016, the Coloma Mother Lode (55% Syrah, 35% Grenache, 10% Zin). This wine was Rhonish and delicious.

We’ll see…maybe I’ll make the jambalaya again some weeknight, otherwise, we’ll see again next year before Lent!

India in Kankakee

Sunday Dinner – 24 February 2019

This week, since the boys were with us and I’ve been telling Aunt Pat about it forever now, I fixed Indian dishes. It’s a a hearty way to eat vegetarian, and mix up the ethnic themes. As long as you have the spices, most of which can be found in your local grocery (I did have to get the Garam Masala from Amazon), there’s nothing unheard of in these dishes. It just takes a lot of chopping, and I’m thankful that Aunt Pat was here early to dice the potatoes and cut up the cauliflower!

Indian Meal Plated

I first fixed Indian food a few years back when our Girl Scout troop had India as our country for World Thinking Day. What an opportunity to grow as a cook. Just goes to show that it’s not just the kids who learn new things through scouting.

The salad dressing this week was also inspired by the cuisine. I had a very little bit of fresh ginger left from the main dishes, so I decided to make it into a vinegaratte, much like I did for the Chinese New Year. I used avocado oil, white wine vinegar, grated ginger, a little garam masala and agave to sweeten. It was absolutely delicious!

I started with the Indian Chickpea Curry with Spinach so I could put it in the crockpot since I was making two main dishes. Onions, garlic, ginger, chickpeas, tomatoes and a slew of aromatic spices are simmered, before adding to the crockpot. I doubled the recipe, so it was A LOT. To the pot I added about 12 ounces of spinach, and just stirring wilted it nicely. I added another 8 ounces of spinach later, once I had enough room in the pot again.

I prepared the Gobi Aloo last so I could serve it directly from the pan. Potatoes, cauliflower, coriander seed, ginger paste, turmeric, cumin, paprika and garam masala blend nicely together for a beautiful dish. I stumbled on this one awhile back when I had some cauliflower that I needed to use up, and remembered from my Sundays spent at the Hindu Cultural Center in Park Forest that we’d have something with that and potatoes. What did we ever do before Google?

To accompany the main dishes, we had Naan bread, which our local Aldi carries year round. You might wonder why we didn’t have rice as a side, but you’ll understand when you get to the dessert!

I’ve never been a fan of rice pudding. So much not a fan that I never tried to make it until the aforementioned World Thinking Day. Basmati rice (I use the white for visual appeal), coconut milk and cardamom really make this Indian Rice Pudding something special. Of course the whole milk, sugar and heavy whipping cream don’t hurt, either. The golden raisins add a nice sweetness and texture. The first time I made this, I didn’t use any nuts, but I also don’t think I used Alton Brown’s recipe. Thankful to Aunt Pat, Thomas and James for shelling all the pistachios (risking injury no less). I’m still not sure how I feel about having them in the pudding. Maybe I’ll have a more decisive feeling after I have seconds.

Indian Rice Pudding

Wine accompanying the meal tonight was a Shiraz from F. Stephen Millier.

Kudos to my family for being adventurous and trying new things. While nothing was “hot” spicy, the flavor profiles are certainly not something most of us are accustomed to.

One disclaimer…I do make Indian food more than once a year. It’s so quick and easy that I sometimes whip it up during the week. We always have chickpeas and frozen spinach (this was the first time I used fresh) on hand, so particularly during Lent on a Friday night, it’s a a hearty and comforting meal.

Busy Sunday – Crockpot Beef Stew

Sunday Dinner – 17 February 2019

Family Around The Table

Like the title of this post says, it was a busy Sunday, and apparently the week following was no less hectic based on how long it’s taken to get this blog post done! I have a much greater appreciation for my husband and how he wrote every single blog post last year. Why did I decide I should guest host again???

We had tickets to see the last performance of KVTA’s Little Women for the afternoon (fantastic production, by the way) so there wasn’t a lot of spare time for meal prep that day. What better tool to use than the handy dandy crockpot? In the winter we use it at least once a week. I know there’s all this talk about the Insta Pot, but really, both require preparation. It’s just a matter of when you want to do it, in my opinion.

We hadn’t had beef stew for a while, and I don’t think we had it for Sunday Dinner since we started documenting. I don’t actually have a written recipe for beef stew – I learned from my mom and have adjusted it a bit over the years. But I thought I should do a little research anyway. I normally don’t brown the stew meat first, but Brian does, as apparently everyone else that has a recipe on the internet. So after cutting the beef into bite size pieces, the meat was lightly flowered and browned, and then the pan was deglazed with some frozen red wine cubes (handy tip for left over wine, not that we have that occur very often!). Along with the beef, carrots, onions, potatoes and garlic were added to the crockpot along with some beef stock and bay leaves. The other thing that I did differently was to add some worcestershire sauce. About 2 hours before serving time, fresh mushrooms were added, and then 1 hour before serving, frozen peas. As soon as we got home, I made a quick slurry to thicken the sauce.

What would Sunday dinner be without the salad? I dressed it this week with a raspberry vinegarette, and we served Hawaiin rolls.

My inbox is regularly spammed by Betty Crocker, and it turns out that they had an interesting cake that I thought I’d try out.  This Chocolate Chip Cake doesn’t use actual chocolate chips. Instead it requires lots and lots of grating of semi sweet chocolate. Thank goodness Thomas was willing to help me out with that task. The marshmallow butter cream frosting in the recipe is to die for. I was afraid it was going to be way too sweet, but everyone seemed to like it.

We had an unusually full house for dinner this week as dad’s youngest sister, my Aunt Mary Lou, joined us for the musical and dinner, and the boys were here for a visit as well.  It was hectic and loud with lots of laughter and talking over each other, but it was wonderful to have everyone around the dinner table. It reminds me of Sunday dinners at my Grandma Wulff’s house.

The wine that accompanied the meal was a 2015 Le Grand Chai Médoc, at the request of the boys, and there may have been after dinner drinks of Rumchata and Kahlua by some of the adults around the table.

Quiche for Sunday Dinner

Sunday Dinner – 10 February 2019

This week we had Quiche Lorraine and Quiche Florentine, along with one of Claudia’s lovely salads.

I cheated and used store bought crusts, baking them blind for about twelve minutes first thing Sunday Morning. I also crisped up a pound of bacon, chopped an onion, and shredded 4 ounces of Swiss cheese for the Lorraine. For the Florentine, I chopped up a couple cups of fresh spinach, and grated the rest of the block of Swiss.

The custard was four eggs, two cups of whole milk, a little sugar, some salt and black pepper, and about a teaspoon of Herbs du Provence. I put the other ingredients into the shells, and then poured the custard mixture on top. They baked for 15 minutes at 425 °F, then I turned the oven down to 350 and let them bake for another half an hour.

Claudia and Aunt Pat put together the salad, and Claudia made the vinaigrette with raspberry vinegar and avocado oil.

Wine was Jacqueline Bahue’s Cabernet Franc from 2016, one of our favorites.

I think I’ll make my own crusts next time, and will nearly double the amount of custard. The Florentine might benefit from a little grated nutmeg, too. Might also use either Gruyère or Emmental cheese.

Kid loved this meal, and Claudia especially liked the Lorraine this time.

Claudia also made lemon bars for dessert.

Lemon Bars with Blueberries

Chinese New Year 2019 Celebration

With Chinese New Year coming up on Tuesday, February 5th (Year of the Pig, if anyone is interested), this Sunday was our New Years celebration.

I tend to maybe go a little overboard when I do themed meals…I always want to make sure there is something for everyone, and that no one walks away hungry. Although, really, I’m not sure anyone leaves our house hungry!

Details are important to me, and we usually put on background music that is appropriate for the cuisine. Brian asked if I’d like to listen to Chinese music, and at first I was like, “Ugh, no”, but then I said “You know, if you can find some relaxing Chinese music, like if you go to a nice Chinese restaurant and you hear it in the background.”  He found just the right channel and it reminded me of being in a spa. Louie seemed to like it…

Louis Relaxing

Place settings that I bought in Chinatown in San Francisco in probably 2009 created just the right tablescape.

I started planning the meal probably in the middle of the week. Lots of research and figuring out what to fix. I knew I would make Crockpot Beef with Broccoli because it’s good, easy and I’ve made it before. I always seem to Google for a recipe whenever I make it, and I’m not sure I’ve made the exact same recipe more than once. But, I found this recipe at Damn Delicious, and it’s a keeper.  Couldn’t be easier, and I had all the ingredients on hand anyway. Hardest part was slicing the chuck roast, and that was a cinch after having been gifted some proper chefs knives from a very dear friend. Recipe can be found here – seriously, super easy. And if you don’t have oyster sauce in your fridge, you totally should! At all times!!!

Broccoli Beef

Because one entree didn’t seem to be enough, I started thinking about other options. I’ve made fried rice, but figured with the jasmine rice, we didn’t really need more rice. I’ve also made vegetable lo mein, but for some reason, I was thinking about chicken. I don’t know that I’ve ever had cashew chicken before, but I like chicken and cashews, so what could go wrong? It didn’t take long before I settled on this recipe from Ree Drummond. She’s never led me astray before, and this time was no different. I did substitute red and yellow pepper for the green that the recipe called for. After I completed the recipe, I put it in the crockpot to keep it warm as I worked on other things. I did wait to put the cashews in until about 60 to 90 minutes before serving. The cashews held their shape but were tender. Sliced scallions and sesame seeds served as garnish.

Cashew Chicken

I love Chinese appetizers, and knew I was going to get egg rolls from the store, and thought about crab rangoon or shrimp toast (YUM!). But a person has to know their limits, and I wanted to make a dessert instead.

Dessert was much harder to decide on, as we don’t live in a metropolitan area and the Chinese section in our local groceries is somewhat limited. Some of the recipes were intimidating, others I would’ve needed to plan farther ahead so I could order ingredients from Amazon. I thought about egg tarts, but the last time I made them was a little frustrating. Almond cookies were also a consideration, but I knew I’d be picking up some Fortune Cookies (next time I might try making those myself!). Chinese donuts found on a buffet would’ve been OK if I weren’t scared to death of deep frying things. Then I stumbled on these Easy Chinese Moon Cakes from a link to 10 Easy Desserts on Yummly. Sounded a lot like a thumb print cookie, and bonus, I had all the ingredients (although I did pick up some higher quality strawberry preserves to use). I think this is completely Americanized (no offense to Shirley the contributor)…if I’d had access to some red bean paste, I would’ve been happier. But, they turned out well and were tasty. The only think that I would change in this recipe is to use the egg white that was left over from the yolk in the dough. Wasn’t really impressed with using a yolk for the egg wash, just not visually appealing.

Moon Cakes

Because it just wouldn’t be Sunday dinner without a green salad for me, I decided on Spring Mix (because I always have some on hand anyway) with Mandarins and chow mein noodles (instead of croutons). But what to use for dressing, that was the question. I was inspired by the other flavors in the main dishes so I started with a base of avocado oil, used rice vinegar, adding a dash of soy sauce, fresh minced garlic and ginger, and agave to balance the sour. I wish I could give measurements, but the only one I know for sure is that I used 2 small cloves of garlic. What can I say – some of my best cooking is completely impromptu. Added some scallions and chopped red pepper for color, and I must say, it was pretty darned good!

Salad with Ginger Dressing

I wanted something special to drink, and love the Lychee martinis from Koi Asian Bistro, so I set out to find canned lychees. But absolutely no place had them. Even Koi didn’t have any to spare to sell me. However, Jewel had fresh lychee nuts, so I picked up about three quarter of a pound and hoped we could figure it out. Brian, being the cocktail master and ever inquisitive being that he is, found a recipe to make the lychee simple syrup, and peeled and pitted them. Aunt Pat, mom and I had the lychee martinis with the first course (mom even let dad eat the lychees that were the garnish in her drink), while Brian had his usual martini. And because we were uncertain how the martinis might turn out, Brian picked up a bottle of Sake and Plum Fu-Ki wine, just in case. We had the wine with the main course, and it was a hit! It was on the sweet side, which for Brian and I is unusual, but it was very pleasant. We saved the sake for a digestif, served at room temperature. Bracing would be an understatement. So we heated it in a carafe submerged in hot water. Better. Warming it even more was even better. Brian was ready to dump the rest of the bottle out, but I’m thinking I could use it still to deglaze while cooking. At any rate, if I never drank sake again (and this was our second attempt), I wouldn’t be upset. Perhaps it’s an acquired taste, or our selections have been limited. I can’t even come up with adequate words to describe it…pure grain alcohol is the only thing I can think of!

Here is the menu, just to recap:

Appetizers: Chicken and pork egg rolls, Lychee martinis

Salad: Spring mix with mandarins, red peppers, scallions and chow mein noodles dressed with a ginger and garlic vinegarette

Entrees: Beef with Broccoli and Cashew Chicken, both served with jasmine rice. Plum Fu-Ki wine made a nice pairing

Digestif: Sake

Dessert: Easy Chinese Moon Cakes and Fortune Cookies

It’s a good thing that Chinese New Year only comes around once a year. While none of the recipes were particularly difficult, there was a lot of preparation involved. I’m thankful that I have a husband that also likes to cook and help out in the kitchen. Having someone clean up my messes is so very nice! Not to mention having my own personal bartender. I think I’ll keep him.

Kung Hei Fat Choy, everybody!

Burns Night 2019

Sunday Dinner – 27 January 2019

Faux Haggis and Tartan Veggies

This week was our annual Burns Night celebration for Sunday Dinner.

It was some time in the 1980s that I first got interested in “the Great Chieftain o’ the Puddin-race.” There was a cooking show on Public Television called “The Frugal Gourmet” and the chef, Jeff Smith, made something approaching haggis in a coffee can instead of a sheep’s stomach. I didn’t ever attempt his recipe, but at some point in the last decade or so I found this recipe for crockpot faux haggis which uses ground beef and lamb instead of offal, and decided to try it. It’s essentially a meatloaf with haggis-like seasonings. We loved the taste and the aroma while it’s cooking, so it has since become an annual tradition. We make it as close to Burns Night (January 25th) as we can, and have added some other recipes to the mix over the years, including cock-a-leekie soup, roasted root vegetables and our version of cranachan.

The roasted vegetables are cubes of potato, carrot and beets. I toss them with oil, thyme, salt and pepper, and then par cook them in the microwave for 5 minutes before placing them on a baking sheet and roasting at 400 °F for about half an hour. The cooked peas are added to the bowl with the veggies when they come out of the oven, and we sprinkle on a little chopped chives. I used to make the more traditional “tatties and neeps” but these were a hit around the table, and preparation is a cinch, so I think we’ll keep them.

I adapted Bonny Wolf’s chicken soup recipe for the crock pot for the first course.

Wine was Matt Parish’s 2016 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, and it paired very nicely.

Dessert was a take on cranachan, with a mix of Greek yoghurt, Dewar’s Scotch, honey and oat granola layered with raspberries.

We proceeded the meal with Burns’ Selkirk Grace.

Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it,
But we hae meat and we can eat,
Sae let the Lord be Thankit!

Il Pollo Alla Cacciatora

Sunday Dinner – 20 January 2019

Il Pollo Alla Cacciatora

This week it was a hearty meal for a wintery day, Italian Hunter’s Chicken Stew.

I got this recipe online somewhere many years ago. It’s typical of rustic chicken dishes popular throughout Europe, such as Poulet à la Chasseur, or Coq au Vin in France.

I coated some chicken thigh pieces with seasoned flour (paprika, salt and pepper) and fried them for a few minutes in the Lodge cast iron dutch oven with a little olive oil. I removed the chicken, and sautéed some onion and then garlic for a bit, then added a cup of Chianti to deglaze. Then the vegetables (thin celery and carrot slices, and julienned bell peppers) and two cans of diced tomatoes went in, along with the chicken, more salt and pepper, and a couple teaspoons each of basil, thyme and oregano. Once everything got up to a boil, I reduced it to a simmer and then covered until tender, maybe thirty or forty minutes.

Claudia cooked brown Basmati rice and made a beautiful green salad to go along. She also baked a Vanilla Magic Custard Cake for dessert.

Vanilla Custard Magic Cake

Italian Beef

Sunday Dinner – 13 January 2019

Italian Beef Sandwich

Claudia made Italian Beef for Sunday Dinner this week. This is one of our perennial crock pot favorites. A roast, a packet of Italian dressing seasoning, a bottle of beer, some garlic and some pepperoncini go into the pot on low for hours until the beef falls apart. She serves it on buns with Mozzarella and red sauce.

She also made a salad, and sautéed some zucchini and other vegetables as a side. We picked up a quart of her favorite pasta salad (from JR’s Chicken in Kankakee) as well. For dessert, she baked brownies and served it with Aunt Pat’s DQ. Wine was the Ménage à Trois Silk soft red blend, which was an Aldi find and surprisingly nice.