Saturday, June 25, 2016

Food for Thought

My computer didn't seem to feel like connecting to the Internet yesterday.  It was having none of it.  Today, a lovely cool morning start, and it seems happy to be surfing.

It's funny, I was thinking this morning, in the quiet - hubby is off at a shoot, the two older boys are at the Steubenville of the Rockies retreat for the weekend, the Girlie (after surviving her first clinical yesterday) is heading off to an all day shift at Old Navy and the 7 y.o. is talking to himself while playing xBox - how our calendar has changed over the summers.  Summers with the kids home used to mean a fairly wide-open schedule.  Time for whatever we chose - friends, pools, shopping, staying cool in the basement, dinners together.  Now, the only thing that's similar is the kids are all home.  Two have almost full-time jobs, one is also taking two summer courses, one is awaiting news about a job and one is enjoying the boredom of a summer break.  Then, of course, they all have friends to meet up with, events and concerts to go to and time to just be out of the house.  We do our best to eat together as a family, but it's becoming more difficult.  I don't think I like it.

As our lives morph, my cooking does, too.  Now, I look at our schedules and make sure that on certain nights, the food is either good cold, or easily re-heatable, sort of like when the kids were all in sports.  This week I have two posts started for recipes.  Instead of taking the time-consuming route (remember, I have no people in the house and scrapbooking things on my dining room table) and moving them all to one, I've decided to post one and add to the other next week, for a longer post.

My rhubarb is a ways away from being harvest-able - aka, it died, so I'll have to re-plant next year.  We are also growing some at my in-laws that should be ready later this summer, for a short, first-year harvest.  So I grab it at the store when I see it and figure out what to do with it later.  I hosted a breakfast on Father's Day and needed something to finish, and remembered the rhubarb.  Loree's Rhubarb Nut Coffee Cake was the perfect thing.  It's moist and the cake really lets the sweet-tart of the rhubarb shine through.  There is a scrumptious sauce that goes on the cake prior to serving, but I think in the future, I'll serve it on the side.

When hubby asked if we could host his folks on Father's Day, I had already planned on making him breakfast, so it was no biggie to have them over.  My world-traveler son wanted crepes, but I told him it's not his day, but hubby thought that sounded good.  I was looking for a good cheese filling and found Sauteed Cream Cheese Crepes.  With a kitchen already nearing 100 at 9:30 in the morning, there was no flippin' way I was double cooking these, so I just made them standard crepes.  We filled ours with the cheese and cherry preserves.  Whipped cream and a smidgen of maple syrup, more preserves or powdered sugar would have been a nice touch, but my brain had melted out my ears by the time I sat down, so thought was no longer possible.  Luckily they were creamy and just sweet enough, no thought was necessary.

We got back from our Kansas Wedding trip too late on Sunday for me to plan a menu - what with the unpacking and broken dryer to contend with.  Monday, I managed to make dinner with things I had on hand at home.  Sweet!  Friday rolled around, I was still cooking from my pantry and 'fridge, and I was needing sides.  This Copy-Cat Chick-Fil-A Cole Slaw was one of them.  It was creamy, but not too vinegary and not too sweet.

When we travel, we stay in suite-style hotels, 1) because we can get us all in without paying for two rooms, and 2) so we can use the kitchenette to make lunch and snacks from.  This being the case for our recent trip, I had some items we brought home that needed to be used up.  Blueberries were one such item.  The heat was continuing to go up, so I didn't want anything that required the oven on for any length of time.  Shortcake sounded good, so I looked for a sweet biscuit recipe instead of a pound cake.  These Shortcake Biscuits are what I found.  No cutting in butter, as it uses cream instead, a good thing since the cream I had on hand was rear it's expiration date.  They were tall, 1" high before baking, but moist and just dense enough to withstand macerated fruit and juice without falling to pieces.  The recipe says it makes more than it really does - I only got five, so I had to make a second batch.

The heat continued all week, and into the weekend, blah!  Still had no menu.  Still hitting the market for small items.  Hubby grilled brats, and potato salad is a must with brats.  I opted to go for a non-cream based Garlic-Herb Potato Salad.  I picked up red potatoes and the rest I had on hand.  This was really good.  Bold flavors, and red potatoes always hold up so well.  I didn't miss the creamy base.

Father's Day my sister hosted dinner for our side of the family.  She served up grilled pizza.  She's made them before and talked about it.  I've read about them on blogs.  I have, however, not tried them on our grill.  Until now.  I made three.  This Grilled Cherry, Goat Cheese and Arugula Pizza was for the Girlie and I, because we don't mind stepping out of the pizza box.  We both loved the cherries - I used Rainier because they were on sale.  The sweet-tart of the cherries, combined with the creamy of the goat cheese and the bite of the balsamic reduction was just fab!  I couldn't find arugula outside of a bagged mix, so I opted for spinach, that I chopped.

I made a traditional pepperoni pizza, with my go-to Pizza Sauce, but we needed one more, because these are smaller and there were five of us.  So this Bacon Chicken Alfredo Pizza was my third grilled pizza (we could fit two at a time on our grill.)  The Alfredo base was perfect - garlicky and creamy.  I did cook up one chicken breast, but you could totally use rotisserie.  Because the recipe was an "oven" pizza, I simply had all the toppings ready to go when the crust was done, spread on the sauce, topped with the topping and let the pizza go another 2-4 minutes to melt the cheese.  Because everything was cooked, it work like a charm.

NOTE:  All three of my pizzas used this Quick Bread Dough.  I divided the one batch into three crusts.  I followed the instructions for cooking/assembling that came with the cherry pizza.  Be sure to well grease both sides of the dough and the grill.  I think a less round pizza would work well - fewer sides falling between the grids.  The infused garlic oil (the cherry pizza), I wouldn't do again.  It was a step that didn't add any discernible flavor, that I could tell.  The cherry pizza instructions said "medium" grill, which isn't helpful in the least.  We started at 350, but that was too high.  In the end we were around 225 for a crust that cooked and stayed golden within 2-3 minutes.  You will need to find your grill's sweet spot, temp-wise.  It's a little tricky getting the dough on for the first side, but once you've figured out a way that works, it's cake.  I love the thin-but-not-crunchy crust a grill get you.

Easy Sesame Noodles were a simple, and quick side for the drumsticks below.  It was supposed to be a pretty warm day, so I wanted as little time in the kitchen as possible.  These noodles took 15 minutes or so.  They were flavorful, but if you like sesame, I'd add a bit more sesame oil.  Otherwise they had good flavor.  I think they would be good the second day, cold, with or without a protein or added fresh veggies.

I always approach "sauced" slow cooker foods with a bit of trepidation.  The sauce either gets way too loose with the addition of the fats cooking out from the meat (and thus dilutes any flavor), or the sauce cooks away.  This Slow Cooker Honey-Soy Chicken Drumsticks recipe calls for eight drumsticks, but I had 12, so one more reason to worry about sauce.  I was, however, pleasantly surprised.  The sauce remained.  It coated the drumsticks, which were fall-apart tender.  It even reduced, as was called for in the recipe.  The flavor was awesome, too; the orange was still evident in the sauce.

Storms are brewing up and I have done little.

Happy Saturday,

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