Slightly Cheaper Than Therapy

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Uuuhhh… September 28, 2007

Filed under: Fast Dinner,Sandwiches — slightlycheaperthantherapy @ 10:27 pm

Light\ Monte Cristo Sandwich 

“Can’t think.  Brain numb.  Inspiration won’t come.  Bad ink.  Worse pen.  Best wishes.  Amen.” 

 That’s exactly what I thought when I sat down to write this entry.  Absolutely nothing came after that, except, “what a lame way to sign a year book.” Then it was all crickets. 

 So here’s a super yummy alternative to a super high fat restaurant sandwich.  Sometimes you just gotta suck it up and go with the cholesterol fest of the real deal, because you won’t fool anyone into thinking this version is the original.  But for the other 364 days out of the year this is a darn good sub.  I can’t recall where I got this, but it was probably Cooking Light.  If you think this is your original creation, let me know and I’ll be happy to credit you.

Light Monte Cristos

4 pieces of Nature’s Own Whitewheat Bread
4 oz. of sliced turkey
4 oz. of sliced ham
2 slices of Kraft 2% American Deli Delux cheese
2 slices of light Jarlesberg
1/2 c. Egg Beaters
1 teaspoon (or less) powdered sugar
raspberry jelly

Spray a medium sized skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium heat.  Build your sandwiches, alternating the meat and cheese.  Lightly dip sandwiches in Egg Beaters and wipe off any excess.  There should be no drips.  Add sandwich to pan and cook until browned.  Repeat with second sandwich.

Slice in half and lightly sprinkle with powdered sugar.  Serve with as much raspberry jelly as desired. 

Light Monte Cristo Sandwich

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Cookie Dilemma September 27, 2007

Filed under: Cookies — slightlycheaperthantherapy @ 4:12 pm

When I started this blog, my only goals were to:  1.  record the adventures I have in my kitchen and 2. bring you guys (all 10 of you!!) the best recipes that I’ve had the good luck to stumble across, along with a few of my own creation.

 Tonight I am making one of my very favorite cookies and I am absolutely dying to pass on this recipe.  My problem?  I got it from one of those stingy recipe hoarders.  If your name is Kraft or Sara Lee or Mrs. Fields, by all means keep those recipes of yours a secret.  But unless you plan on making millions off of your super secret cookie recipe, you really should do yourself a karmic favor and share the love.  So  hand ’em over already. 

Anyway, god only knows what prompted this person to give me this recipe, but she did.  (YAY!)  But when she sent it to me via her husband, he made the comment, “Don’t spread this around.”  And when her daughter found out that I had gotten my hands on it she remarked, “Wow!  How’d you manage that??”  So my problem is…do I share this recipe or not?  It goes against all my ideas of fairness not to share it, but I’m a good little cook and usually do what I’m told.  Morals v. fairness…one would think these two would go hand in hand, but today they momentarily part ways. 

So you guys get to decide; thus absolving me of any wrong doing.  See how I did that?  Nice, huh?  Vote in the comments and if the majority think I should ante up, I’ll post tomorrow.  Otherwise all you’ll get are tantalizing pictures. 

 

Weekend citrus September 25, 2007

Filed under: Classes,Grilling,Meats,Seafood — slightlycheaperthantherapy @ 3:31 pm

 

Last week I attended my first-ever Central Market cooking class.  If you don’t have a CM in your neck of the woods, I am so so sorry.  It is my heaven on earth–a HUGE gourmet grocery store with fabulously a helpful and knowledgeable staff and lots of free samples.  Some of the stuff is a bit pricey, but hey, when you’re looking for rare fireflower honey you really can’t get in a twitch about the cost. 

The class I opted for was sort of a dueling chefs/learning experience.  Two of CM’s staff chefs, Cindy Haenel and Vance Ely, took lemons and limes (respectively) and came up with delicious appetizers, main courses and desserts.  I absolutely adore cooking with citrus, so this was PERFECT for me.  And the chefs are so down to earth that the classes seem more like hanging out in the kitchen with your best friend, rather than a rigid classroom.

So when the fam came into town, I decided this was the perfect time to try out these end-of-summer-esq dishes.  I decided to nix the shrimp from the pasta salad, since I was using it as a side dish and not a main course, and it came out pretty good.  It’s not great because (as I clearly see now) the shrimp really do add a lot to the dish.  But if you’re wanting a light pasta salad for a cookout that isn’t your typical Italian dressing concoction, this is a good substitute. 

The pork sandwiches could not have been better, though.  For some reason I got it in my head that I needed to grill the pork rather than bake it and sweet jesus am I glad I did.  The meat was absolutely, breath-takingly PERFECT.  Everyone ooohhhed and aaahhhed and drooled all over those pork loins in a way I have yet to witness in any place other than a steak house.  So definitely grill this recipe, don’t bake it.

As the last bits of summer are slipping away (faster for some of us, you lucky dogs), get one more good use out of your grill and give these two recipes a try. 

Grilled Shrimp over Orzo Salad with Lemon-Dill Vinaigrette (Cindy Haenel)

Orzo Salad:

1 tsp. grated lemon zest
1/4 c. fresh lemon juice
1/2 c. olive oil
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lb. orzo pasta, cooked al dente and drained
6 oz of feta cheese, crumbled (I would use more, personally, but I love feta and can never get enough.)
1 lg. yellow bell pepper, finely diced
1 lg. red bell pepper, finely diced
1/2 c. kalamata olives, pitted and quartered
2 scallions, finely sliced
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano

Whisk together the zest, juice, dill and garlic.  Add first tablespoon of oil and incorporate well before gradually adding the rest.  Season with salt & pepper, to taste.  Mix the pasta, cheese, peppers, olives and scallions together in a bowl.  Pour the vinaigrette over and mix to combine.  Add the oregano and season with salt and pepper to taste.

*I used the veggies I had on hand, which were red bell peppers and yellow squash.  Spinach, zucchini and even arugula would be nice in this.  

Shrimp
12 jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tsp. of lemon zest
6 medium wodden skewers, soaked in water
fresh dill

Preheat grill to high.  Toss the shrimp in some olive oil, lemon zest and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Thread 6 shrimp on a skewer, bending the shrimp so that the skewer passes through it twice.  Grill, turning once for 4 to 5 minutes.  Remove the shrimp from the grill.  Place on top of orzo salad and garnish with fresh dill.

Serves 6–I disagree.  This makes a TON of pasta.  You could easily half this and still have enough for 6. 

Marinated Pork Tenderloin with Lemon-Tarragon Aioli

2 1/2 lbs. of pork tenderloin
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1/4 c. fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons of lemon zest
1 tablespoon of sugar
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/8 teaspoon of ground red pepper
2 to 5 gloves of garlic, minced

Rinse tenderloin and pat dry.  Combine the rest of the ingredients in a large zip-top freezer bag or shallow dish.  Add tenderloin(s) and seal or cover, and chill for 4-6 hours.  Remove pork from marinade, discarding marinade.

Preheat oven to 400F.  Place pork on rack or broiler pan that has been sprayed with nonstick spray.  Bake pork for 20-25 minutes, or until a thermometer registers 150F.  Let stand 15 minutes.  Cut pork into 1/4-inch thick slices.  Serve with buttered, toasted diner rolls and Lemon Tarragon Aioli.

*As mentioned above, I recommend grilling this.  I believe we let the grill get up to about 400F before tossing the pork loins on.  We browned them for about 5 minutes on each side on the middle rack, then moved them up top till they reached 150F

Lemon Tarragon Aioli

1 c. mayonnaise
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
1 tsp. lemon zest
1/8 tsp. chopped tarragon leaves
1/8 tsp. salt

Combine all ingredients and chill.

Serves 6–Once again, both the pork and aioli recipes serve way more than 6.  Probably closer to 8 or maybe even 10, if you make it with the hearty shrimp pasta salad.   Also, I believe I added a bit more tarragon to the aioli, but that’s only because I really love a strong dose of it.

*One final note, the type of dinner rolls that the class served were almost like brioche–very light and airy.  I would suggest not using a heavy bread as it would detract from the other components.

 

Family, food and gluttony September 24, 2007

Filed under: Pasta,Seafood — slightlycheaperthantherapy @ 3:50 pm

I consider myself one of the lucky few who actually likes their in-laws.  Perhaps it’s because I’ve only known them a few years, or maybe it’s because they  live several states away and I only see them on occasion.  But I doubt it.  They’re all genuinely sweet, fun folks and I always look forward to seeing them when they (or we) visit. 

However, I do have to admit that I have my own selfish reasons for looking forward to their visits, especially my father in law.  See, he and I have almost identical tastes in food.  So when he’s in town it gives me an excuse to indulge in all of my favorite dishes because they just happen to be his favorites too.  He and I have been known to eat our way through three, yes three, pounds of mussels.  I can’t even begin to tell you how much coffee we’ve guzzled when he’s in town.  And my chocolate cake?  Fughedaboudit.  That stuff’s perfect for breakfast!  It’s like he’s my culinary partner in crime and I have complete license to eat the most diet-wrecking things on the planet. 

He and my sister in law and my niece (why don’t we say niece in law?  so weird…anyway…) have been in town since Friday, and boy howdy have I been cooking.  Last night I made a new found favorite and let me tell you, everyone loved it.  Only by some miracle of miracles I had just enough leftover for lunch today.  It is, of course, an adaptation from a Cooking Light recipe.  These guys are such a wealth of healthy and yummy food, that I just can’t resist going back to them again and again.  What’s more most of their food presents incredibly well, and this dish is no exception.  This would work perfectly when you’re trying to impress guests or romancing your main squeeze. 

Pistachio Pesto Pasta

 Shrimp & Scallops of Pesto Pasta

Shrimp and Scallops with Pistachio Pesto Pasta 

1 c. chopped fresh parsley
3 tablespoons chopped pistachios
1 tsp. lemon zest
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. paprika
2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
1 1/4 tsp. olive oil
little less than 1/2 lb. of sea scallops
little less than 1/2 lb. of shrimp
1/4 cup of all-purpose flour
1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. freshly ground pepper
2 tsp. olive oil
2 ounces of uncooked angel hair pasta

Combine first 9 ingredients in a food processor and process till smooth.  You will have to scrape down the sides a few times. 

Cook pasta according to package directions and set aside. 

Combine scallops, shrimp, flour, salt and pepper in a zip top bag.  Shake until shrimp and scallops are completely coated. 

Heat oil in a skillet on medium-high heat.  Add seafood and cook 3 1/2 minutes on each side.  Do not stir. 

Add pistachio pesto to pasta and stir well to coat.  This will take a bit of time and elbow grease. 

Top pasta with shrimp and scallops and serve immediately.

Serves 2

 

Sugar High Friday #35 September 21, 2007

Filed under: Desserts,Fruit,SHF — slightlycheaperthantherapy @ 2:53 pm

Figs!…Figs?…Figs…

That was my initial response when I saw the theme for this month’s Sugar High Friday.  Not necessarily because it was a bad topic, but because up until now, my only experience with figs had been the glorious Fig Newton (it’s fruit and cake!) that I ate as a kid.  Once I came to terms with submitting a recipe that I was not at all familiar with, I jumped head first into the world of figs.  I combed through recipe after recipe until I found one that sounded perfect for my first foray into fig cookery:  Fig-Raspberry Crisp with Lavender-Honey Sour Cream.  YUM.  So I took off to our local foodie grocery store (Central Market) and found that figs are currently in season (whew!).  I scooped up 2 1/2 lbs (aka $12.28) worth of them and went home to let them ripen up. 

Fast forward two weekend days when the Hubby and I were out of town, and I come back to a bag full of moldy mess.  $12.28 of moldy mess, even.  This is when I discover that my frugal, energy saving husband had cranked the AC up to 85 degrees.  This may not sound too bad, but in humid central Texas where the daily highs are around 90-95 degrees this time of year, it is a serious problem for fresh figs left near a western-facing window.  As I tossed out my expensive mess, I couldn’t help but (silently) wonder if we saved enough energy to cover my lost figs. 

So, that’s the long way of saying, my original, fancy pants recipe had to be scrapped.  I just didn’t have enough time to get back to Central Market for more and let the figs get “very, very ripe” like the recipe instructed.  And though I am sorely disappointed that I didn’t get to use fresh figs, I am not all together displeased with the recipe I ended up going with.

I found this recipe ages ago in an issue of Cooking Light, and it reminded me of those days so long ago when a Fig Newton was fruit and cake for me.  But it wasn’t inspiring enough to propel me off the couch, into the car and 10 miles down the road to get dried figs.  So it got shoved into one of the back corners of my mental recipe box under the category “try out one day when I’m bored.”  Luckily it wasn’t too heavily buried, for when I realized the delightful sounding fig-berry crisp wasn’t coming to pass, this recipe immediately sprung to mind. 

I only have one caveat about this recipe.  While this is a very yummy, very rich dessert, it is sort of a PITA to make.  Almost to the point that it makes me want to send the recipe back to the archives.  If you are a lover of Fig Newtons, give this one a try.  It’s like a grown-up version of the old cookie and I’m sure it will bring back lots of memories from pickier, less refined times. 

 The crust

 Boiling the figs.

Hot outta the oven.  I can never seem to wait.

Mmmmmmmm

INGREDIENTS

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour (about 6 ounces)
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into small pieces
 Cooking spray
2 cups dried figs, stems removed
1 cup water
1/2 cup granulated sugar, divided
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup (6 ounces) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
2 teaspoons powdered sugar

Preparation.

Preheat oven to 350°.Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, brown sugar, and salt, stirring well with a whisk. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse meal. Press mixture firmly into a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.

Combine figs, water, and 1/4 cup granulated sugar in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook 5 minutes or until figs are tender and sugar dissolves. Cool slightly. Place fig mixture and juice in a blender; process until smooth. Gently spread fig mixture over prepared crust.

Place remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar, cheese, vanilla, and egg in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth. Pour over fig mixture; spread to edges. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until set and lightly browned. Cool in pan on a wire rack; sprinkle with powdered sugar.

*I ended up doubling the amount of cream cheese, vanilla, eggs and granulated sugar called for in the last step.  I tried it with the original amounts and it just didn’t seem like it was enough–I had bits of fig peeking through the cream cheese, and in my mind this was supposed to be a bar with three clear layers.  The doubled amount ended up looking and tasting great.

 

Need…dinner…fast…

Filed under: Seafood — slightlycheaperthantherapy @ 2:14 pm

My absolute favorite fast-break dinner to make is crab cakes.  Yes, you read correctly, crab cakes.  I took an already fabulous Weight Watchers recipe, put my own little spin on it, and ended up with a darn good meal that can be made in under 30 minutes.  Rachel Ray would be so proud (gag).   

I’m sure some of you might scoff at the idea of using canned crab, but don’t judge so quickly.  Good quality fresh crab isn’t especially easy to come by in these parts, considering we’re landlocked in all directions for at least 6 hours.  And having to actually go out of my way to Central Market to pick up the fresh stuff sort of takes the “fast-break” part out of the equation.  And while these are super tasty and are worth the effort (and then some), removing the quick part sort of diminishes my love of this dish.

 I’ve made these on several occasions for company (as my mom used to call it when I was little) and they’ve gotten rave reviews.  And, to be honest, I don’t even order crab cakes when I’m out anymore because they usually aren’t as good and/or are way greasier than these.  So just ignore the more humble ingredients and give ’em a try.  I just know you’ll love them as much as Hubby and I do.

crabcakes 

1 lb. canned crab, drained
8 oz. canned tiny shrimp, drained
1 1/3 c. dry Parmesan bread crumbs
1/3 c. finely chopped green onions
1/3 c. chopped fresh parsley (or 3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon dried)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoons 2% milk
1 teaspoon Louisiana hot sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons of Tony Chachere’s seasoning
4 large egg whites
1/2 c. dry Parmesan bread crumbs
2 tablespoons of olive oil

Combine first 10 ingredients in a bowl.  Divide into 8 equal portions.  Shape each into 1/2 inch thick patty.  Place breadcrumbs in a shallow dish and dredge patties in breadcrumbs.  Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add 4 patties and cook 3 minutes.  Carefully turn patties over and cook for 3 minutes or until golden brown.  Repeat procedure with remaining oil and patties.  Serve with lemon wedges, if desired.

 

Mmm…dressing. September 19, 2007

Filed under: Grains,holiday foods — slightlycheaperthantherapy @ 3:16 am

Like Peabody over at Culinary Concoctions by Peabody, I have been willing fall to come.  Not necessarily because I long for the cooler weather (that won’t be here till November) or the changing leaves (that won’t ever be here), no this year for some inexplicable reason I am completely fired up about the holidays.  I’ve been scoping out the new Halloween decor this year, trying to figure out how we can incorporate it into our yard decorating scheme.  And when it gets slow at the office, I’ve been day dreaming about going back to the Christmas tree farm in the next town over and cutting down our own tree again.  In about another month I’ll probably be humming “fa luh-la-la la-la, luh-la-la-la” under my breath. 

So in a blatant attempt to hurry the holiday season along, last night I made my mom’s traditional Thanksgiving dressing, or stuffing as it is referred to in other parts of the world.  Ours is dressing because I absolutely refuse to handle a whole bird carcass, let alone shove stuff up its butt.  And besides that, I don’t know any born-and-bred southerner that actually stuffs their bird.

Anyway, this turned out really well, except that I misread the directions and covered the whole thing when it went into the oven, which meant that it came out moister than I wanted.

And for the record, this did absolutely nothing to sway fall.  When I went out for lunch today it was muggy and raining.  Once the rain stopped it smelled like a freakin’ greenhouse. 

Dressing...

Thanksgiving Dressing

3 bags of cornbread mix, prepared
2 tablespoons of dried sage
2 tsp. poultry seasoning
salt & pepper to taste
1/2 of a medium sized onion, diced
1/2 c. butter
3 (14 oz.) cans of chicken broth
3 eggs, raw
3 hardboiled eggs, diced

Prepare cornbread according to package.  Allow to cool to the touch and then crumble well.  While cornbread is cooling, saute onions in butter until soft.  Preheat oven to 350.  Add sage, poultry seasoning, salt and pepper to crumbled cornbread.  Add broth, one can at a time, stirring well after each addition.  There should be a scant amount of liquid standing just above the cornbread in some spots.  Add raw eggs and stir well.  Add hardboiled eggs and mix.  Bake uncovered for 1-1 1/2 hours. 

*When I make this at any time other than the holidays, I usually bury 5or 6 chicken breasts into the dressing right before it goes into the oven.  The chicken comes out incredibly juicy and you’ve got a complete meal in one dish.