Sunday, December 14, 2008

On a more domestic note...

Sunday, December 14, 2008
I've obviously been spending far too much time on various entertainment websites and rereading the Twilight saga-I've cooked several blog-worthy meals, and I haven't even written about them! I know that I decided a few months back that I should just write about whatever pleases me, but the original purpose, after all, was to write about my meals and my reading.

Once I finally descended upon my new, very-own kitchen, I felt inspired to cook all new recipes for a while. In spite of my vast cookbook library being safely tucked away in storage for the past few months, I have managed to accumulate something like 8 or 10 additional cookbooks. I'm pretty sure I have a dangerous cookbook buying addiction, by the way. A few of my favorites (from this new mini-collection): Simply Organic-a beautiful cookbook with very simple recipes, organized by season, which is perfect for the bounty of produce in California; Cooking Light Annual Recipes 2008-I've grown attached to Cooking Light, and I made a delicious Frozen Peanut Butter Pie this summer, courtesy of this cookbook; and my most recent acquisition, Rachael Ray's Big Orange Book. Granted, that last one is a given-I always pre-order new Rachael Ray releases.

Several of the meals that I've found in these books have turned out to be delicious, and definitely worth repeating. From Simply Organic, there was the heavenly salmon salad with raspberry vinaigrette. It literally could not have been an easier dish-I simply pan-fried two salmon fillets, made the vinaigrette with fresh raspberries while the fish cooked, and quickly rinsed arugula for the salad base. The fillets sit atop the salad, dressing drizzled on top. My husband was still hungry when he finished his portion, but that could be easily remedied with a larger piece of salmon or perhaps a small side dish.

One of the first substantial meals I made in the new house was Buffalo Chicken Chili Mac. Rachael Ray loves twists on macaroni and cheese, so she often creates cutesy little recipe titles like this. I know it's not the most creative. Anyway, the recipe is a fairly straightforward chicken chili, spiced up with the usual buffalo ingredients: hot sauce, blue cheese, carrots, and celery. I came to my love of buffalo wings rather late in life, and I don't know what took me so long. I can't even really think of a flavor combination that I love more than the happy marriage of hot sauce and blue cheese. When I lived in Austin, my husband and I refused to watch a movie anywhere but the wonderful Alamo Drafthouse, where you can eat and drink while enjoying your movie. Without fail, I ordered the buffalo blue cheese burger, which came smothered in hot sauce and coated in delicate crumbles of blue cheese. Yes, every movie I watched for two years I watched at the Drafthouse, and every time I ordered the same burger.

I digress...the buffalo chicken chili mac is actually a healthy and flavorful weeknight dinner. The recipe calls for whole wheat elbow macaroni, which is tossed with a saute of finely chopped chicken breast, celery, carrots, diced tomatoes, and hot sauce. The mixture is poured into a casserole dish, sprinkled with a combination of pepper jack cheese and blue cheese, and placed under the broiler for just a few minutes, allowing the cheeses to become golden brown and delicious. Yes, that might be my fifth use of the word "delicious" thus far...that just happens a lot when you're fortunate enough to find great recipes! My husband and I both enjoyed the dish tremendously, and it lasted for several meals, which is especially great in these troubled financial times.

Yet another success was Bacon-Wrapped Salmon with Mashed Potatoes and Broccoli, another offering from Rachael Ray. My mother-in-law likens salmon to candy, and I have to agree with her-it's got such a distinctive, heavenly flavor, and you don't have to do a thing extra to make that flavor stand out. Of course, adding bacon to anything only increases the delicious factor, and that wasn't any different for this dish. It was exceedingly easy-I started with the potatoes, because I knew they would take a while to be just right for mashing, and the salmon and broccoli went into the oven at just the same time. The recipe called for two interesting additions: cream steeped with thyme and lemon peel for the mashed potatoes and maple syrup melted with soy sauce to baste the salmon. After I heated the pot with the cream, I tossed the broccoli with garlic, red pepper flakes, and olive oil. It took approximately two minutes to wrap each filet in bacon (one slice per filet), and the fish and broccoli roasted for 20 minutes. By that time, my potatoes (a lovely mix of red, yukon, and purple baby potatoes that I purchased at Trader Joe's) were done. The final product was very tasty, and it looked rather fancy, if I do say so myself.

You'll have to excuse my food photography. I'm no Smitten Kitchen. Thankfully, my husband has considerable skill when it comes to great pictures, so I'll hopefully be able to employ him more frequently in the future. I neglected to take a photo of the salmon salad, but I was able to find a good representation online. I'm really enjoying seeking out new recipes, though it's probably a bit too ambitious to try to go all new. Beans and rice will be back soon, I'm sure.

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