Great Dinner Dates with Great Roommates

Who’s running a 5K trail race at Jay Peak?  This girl!  Signed up yesterday.  I’m super pumped.  The black diamond run… my thighs are going to hate me…for a very long time.  I was supposed to run the Smuttynose Half with timefortangerine in September.  But, pavement running is just too harsh on my delicate knees, so I’ve switched over to something I’ve wanted to do for a while now – trail running!  Timefortangerine will be racing through her third half marathon in support of the Pope Memorial Frontier Humane Society in Newport, VT.    If you’ve got a few extra ones lying around, (maybe some quarters hidden in that big comfy couch?), and you feel some love for those cute furry pets the humane society’s work so hard to care for, think about contacting Ms. Tangerine here.

My weeks have been so crazy lately, though it seems I’ve done nothing at all.  I put together a training schedule to prepare for Jay, and have been sticking to it.  I’m finishing up the first of my two summer courses and that’s been eating up a good chunk of my time.  Sunday marks the last day of this course, though.  Hooray!  25% done with my second Bachelors.  This program is going by too quickly. I’ve been planning meals to make with Ms. Brittney for our family-style dinners here at the Gendreau residence.  So far, we’ve had a delightful few weeks of scrumptious suppers.   Check it out:

Below: Beer Battered Tilapia with a Mango Salsa served over a Brown Rice Blend

To the left: Fennel Garlic Chicken Breast served with Rosemary Roasted Potatoes and a mixed green salad.

Note last Wednesday’s white wine tasting in action below!

We had too many great meals to blog about recently.  We enjoyed Venison tacos and Venison Sloppy Joes.  Two super easy recipes and great ways to use up any leftover deer meat.  I can’t say I’m a HUGE fan of venison, so I appreciated these recipes for their ability to mask the gamey meat flavor.  Check out allrecipes for the Taco Seasoning and food.com for the Sloppy Joe recipes.  We used corn tortillas and added spinach, fresh cherry tomatoes, and sharp cheddar cheese to the ground venison for a tasty, gluten-free taco.  Do with yours what you’d like.  I ate my sloppy joe with rice, while others ate theirs with tortilla chips, and others on a bun.  These recipes are so versatile, everyone can find a way to enjoy them.

We also checked out the new restaurant in Waterbury – Prohibition Pig.  Great atmosphere, terrific beer list, good food.

Last night, we ended a chilly, drizzly day with a simple Beef Stew.

Just some carrots, celery, garlic, onion.  Easy peasy.  For those of you that know me, you already understand that I’m messy in the kitchen. I somehow manage to use every dish, every utensil, every measuring spoon, etc. in the house, even when it’s just rice that I’m cooking up.  I also have this tendency to spill things and drop things… The other day, while making dinner, you could nearly filla dustpan with the scraps that I threw around.  I’m totally serious here.  It’s pretty bad.  Last night, though, I hardly dropped a thing.  I was actually super excited about it.  When Brittney walked in the door from work I ran to her bragging about the tiny tiny pile of garlic pieces on the floor.  She was witness to my impressive ways.

The Stew was delicious.  Served some super simple dairy-free mashed potatoes. A nice easy way to round out an overall crummy day.

Beef Stew (adapted from Food and Wine’s Best of the Best Cookbook)

  • 5 carrots, peeled, halved, and cut into 1-2″ chunks
  • 5 stalks of celery, clean, and chopped
  • 2 medium yellow onions, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 lbs chuck roast
  • 3 T canola
  • 4 cups of gluten-free beef broth
  • 1/2 cup red Bordeaux-style wine
  • 1 t parsley flakes
  • 1 t rosemary
  • ground peppercorn
  • sea salt
  • 5 russet potatoes, peeled
  • 1 chicken bouillon cube
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1/3 cup potato water
  • 1/4 cup almond milk (or regular milk)
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Remove large fat deposits from the beef.
  3. Cut beef into 1 inch cubes.
  4. Sprinkle with sea salt and ground pepper.
  5. To a large saute pan set at medium-high heat, add 2 T canola oil. 
  6. Once hot, add beef cubes.
  7. Brown the beef on each side for 2 minutes.
  8. Transfer beef to plate.
  9. Add 1 T canola oil and carefully add the onions, celery and carrots.  Turn heat to medium and saute 5 minutes or until soft.
  10. Add garlic and saute another 2 minutes.
  11. To a large glass baking pan/ casserole dish (like pictured above, right) or dutch oven, add the veggies, meat and juices, beef broth, parsley and rosemary.
  12. Place pan in oven and braise for 40 minutes.
  13. Remove from oven, add 1/2 cup of red wine and stir.
  14. Return to oven and cook for 1 1/2 hours.
  15. Check the meat for desired tenderness.
  16. May need to cook for another 1/2 hour.
  17. While meat is braising, prepare the mashed potatoes.
  18. Quarter the potatoes and add to a pot.
  19. Cover the potatoes with water.
  20. Cover the pot and bring to boil.
  21. Turn to low and simmer for 20 minutes.
  22. Use a fork to test for done-ness (fork should easily pierce through the potatoes).
  23. Strain, saving 1/3 cup of the potato water.
  24. Add bouillon cube to water.  Mix well.
  25. Add milk, salt and pepper.
  26. Pour mixture over potatoes and mash well.
  27.  If too thick, add 1 T water at a time until you reach desired consistency.
  28. Serve stew over mashed potatoes. 

Tips:

Serve with remaining wine.  Delicious!

Fennel Garlic Chicken Breast (adapted from Food and Wine)

  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 t fennel
  • 1 t oregano
  • 1/4 t crushed red pepper
  • sea salt
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 extra large chicken breast cut in half or 4 smaller breasts
  1. With a mortar and pestle, grind the garlic, fennel seeds, oregano, red pepper and salt into a thick paste.
  2. Add the olive oil.   
  3. Make three gentle, diagonal slices on the top of each breast.
  4. Rub 1/4 of paste into each breast, rubbing into each of the cuts.
  5. Sear each breast over medium-high heat (no longer than 1 minute each side).
  6. Cook, covered, for 4 minutes. 
  7. Turn and cook, covered for 4 minutes. 
  8. Best served hot with Rosemary Roasted Potatoes and a green veggie. 

Rosemary Roasted Potatoes

  • 1 bag of baby red potatoes
  • 1 T rosemary
  • ground black pepper and sea salt to taste
  • 2 T olive oil
  1. Quarter red potatoes.
  2. Place potatoes in glass baking dish.
  3. Pour oil over potatoes to coat (may need to mix).
  4. Sprinkle rosemary, salt and pepper evenly over potatoes.
  5. Place in 450 degree oven for 45 minutes.

Beer Battered Tilapia (adapted from Eating Well)

  1. In a small bowl, combine cumin, salt, pepper, beer and flour.
  2. Whisk until mixed well.
  3. Coat each piece of fish in the batter.
  4. Heat oil in large saute pan over medium-high heat.
  5. Place fish in pan and cook 4 minutes per side (fish will start to flake when done).
  6. Serve over Seeds of Change Quinoa and Brown Rice topped with Mango Salsa

Mango Salsa (adapted from Eating Well)

  • 1 ripe mango, peeled
  • 1/3 cup sliced red onion
  • 2 T fresh lime juice
  • 1.5 T rice vinegar
  • 1/2 T fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 cup cucumber, peeled and diced
  1. Cut mango into small cubes (need help?)
  2. Add mango, red onion, and cucumber to a small dish.
  3. Add vinegar and lime juice.
  4. Season with cilantro.
  5. Cover and place in fridge for 30 minute.
  6. Eat with tortilla chips or over fish. 

Note: All recipes posted above serve 4-5 people. 

We’ve had many great meals in and some great meals out in the past few weeks.

Are we spoiled?  Maybe just a bit.

You really can’t ask for much more than healthy, hearty food shared with great friends, drinks, laughter, and the occasional dirty joke (maybe a bit too occasional around here).

Enjoy diving into these summery recipes and be on the lookout for some more gluten free meals in the near future!

“…nothing in life is too much trouble if it turns out the way it should.”

You’ve gotta love Julia Child.  What a character she was – not only in the kitchen, but also in life.  I can very much relate to this quote of hers in My Life in France.  This week, everything took a turn for the best.  I was a crazy-woman this week.  We drove from PA to VT on Monday, moved stuff from the condo into the car and then to B+S’s that evening.  Then came Tuesday when I unpacked and reorganized the kitchen.  Tuesday night we celebrated Brittney’s 23rd birthday with Ricotta and Spinach Stuffed Shells served with Garlic Bread and a Tossed Salad with a Flourless Chocolate Cake for dessert.



Ricotta and Spinach Stuffed Shells (adapted from myrecipes.com)

  • 24 Jumbo Shells
  • 15-oz. container ricotta
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan
  • 2 handfuls of fresh baby spinach (chopped)
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • Pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 26-oz. pasta sauce
  1. Preheat oven to 375º F
  2. Cook the shells according to the package.  Then drain and rinse with cold water.
  3. While the shells are cooking, mix together the ricotta, 1 cup of mozzarella, Parmesan, spinach, egg and all spices.
  4. Spread sauce to just cover the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch pan.
  5. Stuff the shells with the cheese mixture.  One heaping T per shell.   
  6. Set the stuffed shells in the pan.  Pour the remaining sauce over the shells and sprinkle with remaining cheese. 
  7. Cover the pan with foil and cook for 35 minutes.  Remove the foil and cook for 1o more minutes. 
  8. Let cool 5 – 10 minutes and serve. 

TIPS:

– This recipe can easily be made gluten free by purchasing gluten free shells.  I couldn’t find GF large shells, so I used GF lasagna noodles, spread the cheese mixture over the noodles, topped with additional Parmesan, a second layer of noodles, more sauce, then mozzarella on top.  Fantastic!


Flourless Chocolate Cake (from Allrecipes.com)

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 18 (1 ounce) squares bittersweet chocolate
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 6 eggs
  1. Preheat oven to 300°F.
  2. Add the water to a sauce pan on medium heat. 
  3. Add the sugar and salt to the simmering water.
  4. Whisk constantly until the sugar and salt have dissolved completely in the water.
  5. Set aside.
  6. Using a double boiler (I use a glass bowl set atop a sauce pan), melt the chocolate. 
  7. Once melted, remove from heat.
  8. Add the butter in pieces to the chocolate, using a hand mixer to blend the chocolate and butter together. 
  9. Beat the eggs together, then add to the chocolate mixture.
  10. Add the sugar water to the chocolate and mix.
  11. Pour the batter into a greased 9 X 9 pan.  
  12. Place the pan into a bath of boiling water (one pan set in a second pan that is filled with about 1″ of boiling water).
  13. Bake in the water bath for 45 minutes.  The top will still look wet.
  14. Cool on a cooling rack for 15 minutes and then refrigerate overnight. 

I only helped to create this birthday meal.  The real credit goes to Spenser and the Birthday Girl.  Spenser found these delicious recipes and worked with Brittney to create them.  The pasta was great and the cake to-die-for.  We even ate the cake warm (we couldn’t wait until the morning) and it was delicious served with vanilla bean ice-cream.   So simply, yet so complex.

The next night was my turn for meals.  The sunshine inspired a grilling session, so Honey Maple Chicken and Roasted Potatoes found their way to our plates.


Honey Maple Marinated Chicken

  • 2 T Honey Dijon mustard
  • 1/3 C maple syrup
  • 1/4 t ground pepper
  • 3 splashes apple cider vinegar
  • 1 t vegetable oil
  • 4 chicken thighs or breast
  1. Mix together the mustard, maple syrup, pepper, vinegar, and oil. 
  2. Pour  over chicken.
  3. Refrigerate for 1 – 2 hours
  4. Grill chicken, turning only once until meat reaches an internal temperature of 165°F.


Maple Garlic Roasted Potatoes

  • 4 medium red potatoes, quartered, then cut crosswise into 1″ cubes
  • 3 gloves minced garlic
  • 1/4 C chopped red onion
  • 1 T Oil (vegetable, canola, or olive)
  • 1/2 t McCormick Grill Mates Smokehouse Maple Seasoning
  • 1/2 t Seasoning salt
  • 1 t coarse ground black pepper
  • 1 t sea salt
  • Two 14″ long sections of tin foil
  1. Cut the potatoes, garlic, and onions.  Toss together.
  2. Add the oil.  Toss to coat completely.
  3. Sprinkle on each of the 4 seasonings. 
  4. Toss once more.
  5. Divide into 2 and place each half on the tinfoil sections. 
  6. Wrap the foil to enclose the potatoes.
  7. Place foil on grill and cook until potatoes are tender (about 20 minutes on medium-high grill heat).  

I served the grilled chicken with the potatoes and steamed green beans.  The maple flavor was present, but not overpowering.  The potatoes were so soft and tender; they melted away in your mouth.  This is one of my first meal creations that wasn’t adapted from  other recipes or that followed a cookbook.   Try it out and let me know what you think!

With two great meals in a row, it’s hard to imagine a third dinner turning out equally spectacular, but low and behold, it happened. Brittney suggested a recipe she learned of through Eating Well Magazine.  Sesame- Ginger Pork Patty.  She chose to modify it to her own liking and used turkey burger and a spinach salad with edamame instead.



Sesame-Ginger Bunless Burger

  • 3 T GF soy sauce
  • 4 scallions, chopped
  • 1 T fresh ginger root, minced
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 t sesame oil
  • 1 t rice vinegar
  • 4 pineapple rings (if grilling) or a can of chunks (if using a George Foreman-like grill indoors)
  • 1 lb turkey burger
  • 4 handfuls baby spinach
  • 1 bag of edamame (enough to serve 4)
  1. Mix together the soy sauce, scallions, ginger, garlic, and 1 t sesame oil.
  2. Pour 1/2 of the mixture over the ground turkey. Mix until the meat is moisten (don’t over-mix).
  3. Form the meat into 4 patties.
  4. Grill the patties.
  5. While the patties cook, add the rice vinegar and remaining 1 t sesame oil to the leftover soy sauce mixture. 
  6. Add the pineapple rings to the grill -brown on each side. 
  7. Place a handful of spinach on each place.  Place one pineapple ring or several chunks on top of the spinach.  Place the grilled burger on top.  Spoon 1/4 of the sauce over each burger. 
  8. Serve with a side of edamame. 

I was happily surprised by how tasty these burgers were. The sauce seemed so scant I expected the burgers to be nearly flavorless and bland.  I was proven wrong.  They were oozing with flavor.  The pineapple nicely complements the dish.  I generally can’t stand pineapple, but I gobbled them up with this burger.  We are definitely adding this to our dinner repertoire.

So there you are, 5 recipes that will successfully feed a family of four for three consecutive evenings and for many lunches in between.  They are each succulent, flavorful, and nutritious (ok, maybe not the cake… at least it’s got some antioxidants, right?).  Each meal is fairly simple – easy enough for the working parent to whip up.  The results, however, are far more complex and will have your kids, significant others, friends, and coworkers raving about your kitchen skills and asking for more.

I promise you they’ll turn out like they should, and when they do, you’ll realize it really wasn’t much trouble at all.