Tuna noodle casserole – redux

June 17, 2011 § 4 Comments

Photo credit: Sarah Shatz

I have some other recipes to share with you that I’ve been concocting with my mother while I’m here in the great North Woods.  But, I forgot my camera cord and can’t download any pictures.  Oops.

Also, this trip is turning out to be a busy one.  Without much time for musings and ramblings about food.  Nope.  We’re running around looking at flowers, checking on dresses, practicing hairstyles (or, more accurately, having hairstyles practiced upon us).  You see, we’re planning a wedding.

And, in answer to your question (in case you are a careful reader and just put two and two together, and found yourself saying, “heyyy, wait a sec…”), yes, Joel and I are already married.  But, we still haven’t had our wedding!  So, we’re gearing up to say our vows in the eyes of our friends and communities and to have a wonderful celebration, come October.

But, I didn’t want to send you all into the weekend without something delicious to think about.  Luckily, I have a recipe I created a while back that I just haven’t found the perfect opportunity for sharing yet.  But, I think this may be it.  So, in honor of being home in Minnesota (I haven’t lived here in years, but let me say, Minnesota is definitely still home!) I’m going to share with you a staple of the Midwest – and Lutheran church basements in particular – a casserole.  Or as it is more properly called, a hotdish. « Read the rest of this entry »

Indian spiced fish sandwiches

June 7, 2011 § 78 Comments

Shananana, yeah.  Shananana!  For some reason I feel like singing everything right now.  So, just pretend that this has a melody.  I’ve always felt life would be more fun if it were a musical.  Don’t you?

Actually, last week Joel and I went out for ice cream and our scooper (is that what you call the people who scoop your ice cream?) sang “what can I get for you?”  So, we sang our orders back, and he was so excited (apparently no one else was responding to him in song) that he gave us our ice cream for free – after an extended operatic interlude in which we discussed sizes and toppings and I tried to insist on paying.  We got a lot of stares from the other people in the ice cream store.

And, now I’m in a singing mood again.  I’ve been feeling very chipper ever since I did yoga in our backyard yesterday.  Yoga outside appears to be like a happy drug.  Who knew?!

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Salmon tacos with avocado-tomatillo salsa

April 26, 2011 § 21 Comments

I never think of Easter as being one of my favorite holidays.  It doesn’t have the twinkle or well-worn, nostalgic set of rituals that some of the other holidays do.  I seem to celebrate it a slightly different way and with different sets of people from year to year.  And yet, every year Easter somehow exceeds expectations.  It bursts out of the gate accompanied by trumpets sounding and banners waving.

Perhaps it’s because we’re giddy with the smell of loamy soil and dewy grass and the promise of new life that suddenly feels eminently believable.  Or maybe that’s the effect of the malted milk ball robin’s eggs I ate along with the eggbake at breakfast (eggbake – totally epic!).  Either way, what I never anticipate as a super exciting event turns into an epic day of full contact Easter egg hunts, awe-inspiring whiffle ball tournaments, old-timey singfake the words-a-long marathons (without a song book it turns out that the only songs that I know the lyrics to are songs I don’t want anyone to know I know the lyrics to – Katy Perry and Phantom of the Opera mash-up anyone?), and creepy lamb shaped cakes. It was a sorry, sorry thing to have to come back to the real world today.  Whatever happened to celebrating Easter Monday?!  I’m going back to Europe.

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Cajun Shrimp

March 26, 2011 § 13 Comments

photo credit: Sarah Shatz

You absolutely must try this recipe!  Seriously, you must.  In fact, you should make it tonight.  It’s one of my favorites.  I don’t make it that often – it’s a little decadent, that is, the quantity of butter is not exactly tiny (though, when it comes down to it, it’s probably still lighter than a cream sauce) – but whenever  I do make it, I’m delighted afresh by how scrumptious it is!  It has all the makings of a perfect weeknight supper, or an impressive meal for a date.  It’s easy, fast, and tastes far more delicious than anything this simple has any right to.

Plus, if you make it with shrimp with their shells still on, which you definitely should because it will give you both little shrimpies that are more tender and succulent and a more flavorful sauce, then you will get to have the fabulously messy tactile experience of peeling saucy shrimp (saucy in both senses of the word), and of licking every last drop of sauce off of your fingers as you eat them.  Then, you must follow this by dunking sturdy pieces of warm, crusty French bread into the sauce and mopping up every bit.

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Mediterranean inspired fish tacos

February 10, 2011 § 11 Comments

I know I have a tendency to get really excited about food. I also know I’m not the only one. So friends, prepare to get worked into a tizzy because these fish tacos are worth absolutely every joule of excited energy you could possibly muster and direct at them. Seriously, I feel slightly ridiculous, but I’m downright giddy over them (also rendering me somewhat incoherent, I’m afraid, so bear with me while I gush). And to think, I almost didn’t even make them because I was feeling lazy (horrors!). Now I want to eat them every day!  Well, at least for the next couple of weeks.

Sure, fish tacos, as a general rule, conjure up visions of rickety trucks serving lines of happy sun bleached beach bums whose friends are splashing in the surf in the background, not images of icy snowbanks up to your nose and bleak bare branches against a steel sky. However, these tacos manage to vibrate with bright colorful flavors even while using pretty much all seasonally winter ingredients. They are just so darn fresh tasting! The amazing meyer lemon and green olive salsa is as juicy and zippy as any salsa fresca. The cabbage and fennel slaw, unburdened by mayo, is light and crunchy. And there’s no gummy, oily, deep-fried fish here, just flaky pan seared fish accented with the spicy smokiness of paprika and fragrance of thyme. « Read the rest of this entry »

Curried tuna salad sandwich

February 7, 2011 § 9 Comments

I packed the saddest lunch with me to work last Friday. Well, maybe not the saddest, given that I’ve packed some pretty sad lunches with me in my time. Like the day in college where all I managed to scrounge together was a couple of Tablespoons of peanut butter in a Tupper ware. Or the day of cold leftover rice and a can of tuna mixed with mustard. These are the strange, pathetic things that happen when the refrigerator is virtually empty and I’m going somewhere for the weekend, so I put a moratorium on grocery shopping. Such was the case on Friday when my lunch consisted of a tiny limp dressing-less salad – saved from being entirely irrelevant only by the presence of a few chunks of avocado – and a piece of sprouted grain bread.

I think I was hungrier after I finished eating it than when I began. Then I decided to walk the 5 miles to a meeting I had to go to. It was sunny out for the first time in days and this had convinced me that walking was the best way to get from any given point A to any desired point B, which I think would have actually been true, except that the sun had not taken it upon itself to bother with melting the thick coating of ice on the sidewalks, so I wound up walk-skate-slip-sliding the 5 miles. By the time I reached my destination my stomach was growling loudly and angrily, and for whatever reason, the only thing I could think about was meat Stromboli. I probably would have eaten a stick at that point, but what I really really wanted was a Stromboli absolutely packed with lots and lots of meat. Feeling borderline deranged I rushed into a Whole Foods next door to where I was going, and when I beelined to the deli/cafe section, miraculously, they were serving Italian meatball Stromboli! Saved!  My guardian food angel must have taken pity on me.

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Easy crab toasties

November 4, 2010 § Leave a comment

You know what’s not a very cost-effective food binge to go on?  Crab.  I suppose it could have been worse.  It could have been lobster.  But I don’t know, call me unsophisticated but I really like crab better than lobster.  Anyways, while most people’s Halloween weekends were filled with chocolatey, peanut-buttery, crispy, fruity, caramel-dipped treats, mine was filled with buckets of crab.  Tender, slightly sweet and buttery with just a hint of the sea, crab.  I’d take it over a tootsie roll any day!

I guess it must have been a result of our proximity to the Chesapeake Bay.  As I mentioned before, we road tripped down to the DC area for the weekend and while there we had to eat out a lot.  At every restaurant, when I opened the menu, there was crab in some succulent sounding manifestation – chowder, salad, cakes, sandwiches – that I simply couldn’t resist.  Our drive back up on Sunday was on a perfect slightly sunny, slightly grey turning the corner into November day, so we wended our way up north with frequent stops for coffee, leg stretching and a little exploration.  We stopped for lunch in Delaware because, well, because none of us had ever stopped in Delaware.  We discovered an adorable little coffee shop in Newark, DE, and there on their posted lunch menu was crab melts.  Guess what we ordered.

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Shrimp and avocado tacos

August 22, 2010 § 4 Comments

Even though I generally think of myself as falling into that category of “people who like to cook“, sometimes I kind of wonder.  Right now, for example, I feel more like resting on the laurels of “one who has cooked well and enjoyed it at times” rather than wanting to actually cook up anything notable.  Also, lately, every time I’ve noticed I’m hungry, I look up and discover I’m either in an airplane, visiting someone, driving the hour and a half commute to my summer worksite, too grouchy to be trusted with a knife, or too hot to consider eating anything other than flavored dry ice.  Not exactly a recipe for being inspired to cook.  And I find it so much more of a schlog to cook when I’m not inspired (gee whiz, there’s a surprise).

Mostly I’ve simply been adding salt and pepper to everything that crosses my path and putting it on the grill.  And, while fulfilling the role of “home cooked food that nourishes and does not offend the palate”, it’s not particularly interesting.  Someone get this girl a tantalizing recipe, stat!

Thankfully, inspiration fell out of my freezer (literally) in the unlikely form of a bag of  frozen shrimp and some corn tortillas.  Shrimp tacos!  Now that’s something worth hauling the frying pan out over.  Especially shell-on shrimp.  I know, I know, shell-on shrimp seem like way more of an effort and are way messier than already peeled shrimp.  But, you see, they cook up infinitely much better.  Peeled shrimp almost always wind up over-spiced and over-cooked to a rubbery texture.  The shell protects this from happening, keeping moisture against the delicate meat to keep it tender and lightly flavored.  Plus, it’s really kind of wonderful and fun to get your fingers goopy and sticky, peeling shrimp to put into your taco.  So, why not just go for it?!

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Flying Fish Cakes…no, make that flying and fish cakes

May 24, 2010 § Leave a comment

I am not what one would call an imperturbable air traveler.  I don’t like flying at all.  I especially hate flying in small planes – you know, the little puddle jumpers that creak and whirr and bump like thrill rides at the merest wispy suggestion of a cloud. I keep trying to get over it and just embrace the experience, but I haven’t managed yet.  And, I can’t seem to stop myself from freaking out when in a little plane, all attempts at mindfulness and meditation be damned!  (Flying is convenient, sure, but it’s just so unnatural!  Were we born with wings?  No.  I love the part of the movie French Kiss where Meg Ryan’s character says, “I will get around as nature intended…in a car.”  Except I’d probably amend that and say on a bike.)  With every clunk or scrape I become convinced we’re going down.  “This is it,”  I think to myself grimly.  “I can’t believe my last meal on earth is going to have been a horrendous airport salad with flaccid lettuce, chicken (was it even chicken?) with chemically induced grill marks, and dressing that could well serve as a stand in for petroleum jelly…”

I know I’m more likely to get hurt in a car accident than airplane crash, but oh it is such a joyful occurrence to deplane and get back on the ground.  It signals time to immediately seek out a medicinal glass of wine to prevent the knots in my neck from becoming indelible, and some real food.

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Lemon cream roasted salmon

May 12, 2010 § 3 Comments

Whenever it’s an election season and I’m rabidly following debates and interviews and throwing things at my television or radio when I get annoyed with someone (it’s a good thing for the sake of my blood pressure that it doesn’t happen multiple times a year!) I find myself getting so sick of the phrase “don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good” that I could just, I don’t know, throw another sock at the radio, I guess.  Talk about a phrase that gets overused by politicians.  So, imagine my feelings when I found myself describing my cooking and reflecting that while I love excellent food, I don’t want to “let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”  Ooops.

The thing is, when it comes down to it, it’s often true.  If we set our expectations too high in the beginning, we wind up giving up before we’ve even started.  I used to think of myself as a perfectionist, but that is total bull, actually.  I like to dabble and keep it simple, rather than perfect.   So, quite good is good enough on most occasions.  Especially when it comes to cooking (and correcting typos, hehe), and I think that’s a good thing. Sure, I’ll never be a chef; I can just be a little too lazy to cook in ways that involve many intricate steps or any techniques much more challenging than chopping and whisking.  But, at least I do it.  I get home cooked meals on the table.  And they’re good.  Sometimes really, really good.

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