Well, I probably shouldn't do this, but I've started another Blog. Like I don't already spend too much time at the MacBook. As some of you might have guessed, I like to cook and I love to eat. So I thought I'd share my recipes, humble as they may be and an occasional dinner menu at our house. I am somewhat "reluctant" to share this project right now, but caution to the wind. The plan is to be discovered by the Food Network for my cooking show Cranky Franky's in the Kitchen.
Am I ready for critics? Probably not. I know my instructions are not always clear or precise. Let me know if something doesn't make sense. Anyhow, if you're interested, check out "Dinner's Ready"

Friday, December 20, 2013

A Lower Fat Mac and Cheese

I am on a low-fat "diet"- lowering my fat intake for the doc.

I was making broiled fish tonight and thought fennel would be an excellent accompaniment because of its delicate anise/liquorice flavor. My favorite fennel recipe is the one with bechamel sauce - basically the same sauce you would use as a base for mac and cheese. And I happened to have a little cooked pasta (plain without any sauce) - about 2 cups of cooked pasta -  left from the other night.

So I came up with a nice side dish - Mac and Cheese with Fennel.

For the fennel, I first sauteed two large fennel bulbs that I cut into eighths, in a little olive oil, garlic and dry vermouth - but with only a smidgen of olive oil.

For the sauce I used about 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter or less and 2 tablespoons of flour (usually the proportion is 1:1 but this will just barely work - the roux may be a bit dry, but oh well, I am cutting down on fat.

I added 1% milk a bit at a time, letting the sauce thicken each time until the sauce achieved the proper consistency. Off the heat - you don't want the parmesan clumping -  I added about 4 oz of fat-free feta cheese and about 1/4 cup of grated parmesan (parmigiano) and a few grates of black pepper. Forgot the nutmeg, but you can add a little if you like.

I put the sauce over the pasta and fennel, dusted with bread crumbs and baked it at 350 until the top browned. The flavors all go well together, the anise vegetable and the chew of the pasta with melted cheese sauce. Scrumptious. I don't miss the taste of sharp cheddar which is my usual base along with whatever other cheese I have on hand, including sour cream. talk about FAT. This, on the other hand is very low on fat and just as tasty I think.

If you like you can  use broccoli or other vegetable in place of the fennel - I've often added broccoli to my mac and cheese but this version uses more vegetable than pasta, less fatty cheese and so it is "healthier" of course.

This makes about 4 servings - but I could easily eat half the recipe. I restrained myself however and had only one fourth of the casserole. There's always tomorrow.

Dinner's ready! Buon appetito!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Ratatouille - From Garden to Table

This is the season for garden vegetables in New England. In the micro-climate that is our backyard, on the north side of Fall Mountain and about 700 feet above sea level means that our garden is about two to three weeks late in producing ripe veggies. But now the tomatoes are at their peak and the eggplant and zucchini and peppers have been coming strong for about three weeks now.

I've done ratatouille here before but here are some photos of my last batch:

Dice up the veggies: you can use a combination of yellow and green squash and more or fewer green peppers and hot peppers. Use what your garden gives you. Mushrooms are a nice addition, but I didn't have any on hand this day.
Eggplant, zucchini, green pepper,
hot pepper, onion, garlic,tomatoes,
parsley, basil, salt, pepper, olive oil
This was an extra large batch so I sauteed the garlic, onion and pepper first in about 1/4 cup of olive oil, then added only the eggplant.

Eggplant will soak up the oil like a sponge. But let it cook over high heat until it gets a bit tender,

I removed the eggplant, onion and peppers and added a little more oil to the skillet to make room for the squash

Then I added the zucchini, the tomatoes, the salt, parsley, basil and cooked everthing over high heat until the zucchini began to soften and the tomatoes cooked down some.

The tomatoes and zucchini release a lot of liquid. I wanted my ratatouille to be less soupy so I removed the veggies after they were cooked and let the tomato sauce cook down.

Then I returned the eggplant, pepper and onion to the skillet first because that had the flavors of onion and garlic that I wanted to impart to the sauce

And then the zucchini

And let the whole thing cook a bit more.

Served alone with crusty bread and some Italian sausages or serve over pasta without meat for a great vegetarian dish; I'd like to try it with a can of beans mixed in instead of sausage as we are trying to eat less animal protein in our overall diet.

My ratatouille is a bit chunky and not over cooked, you may like yours more cooked and with less of a bite.

I had enough to freeze a portion for another meal - probably a quick meal for when we are in our RV at PTown and have spent a day at the beach.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Eggplant Parmigiano - No Frying

We are thankful for our garden which is producing an abundance of eggplant - tomatoes are just now coming in along with zucchini, peppers, Swiss chard, more beans and other good stuff.

We are thankful for this eggplant which earth has given and human hands have made. I've done this before but here is a brief summary: peel, slice, salt the eggplant; dredge in flour that has been seasoned; dip in egg, dip into bread seasoned crumbs; place on oiled cookie sheet and bake at 375 for 25 minutes or until tender; sprinkle with parmesan (parmigiano) - this is what makes it eggplant parmigiano; put some tomato puree or sauce on bottom of a casserole, layer  the eggplant and sauce into the casserole; top with a little mozzarella if you like; bake at 350 for another 25 minutes or until bubbling hot. Suggestion : Serve with fried sausage and peppers.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Chili Con Leftovers

I made another non-traditional chili tonight. About the only thing it has in common with chili is the chili powder and beans, and even then I didn't have the right beans.

Two nights ago I grilled some pork loin cutlets, very lean but seasoned and grilled to perfection, not dry but juicy. I also grilled some zucchini and some jalapenos and Portuguese hot peppers with evoo, garlic, black pepper. Last night we had corn on the cob leftover.
Sweet Corn off the Cob, Beans, Parsley, Basil,
Chili Powder, Roasted Hot Peppers,
Pork, Tomato Sauce

Into the crock pot went two medium size cans of tomato sauce (not spaghetti sauce - just the plain tomato sauce) four pork loin chops cut into very small pieces, three medium size cans of beans (black beans and great northern and small white - that's all I had on hand) two ears of corn, kernels only, five or six jalapenos and Portuguese hots, roasted and peeled, and a whole zucchini which I first diced and sautéed with an onion and garlic and green pepper and a good handful of green beans from the garden that I cut up - all sautéed in evoo till tender. A few spoons of chili powder, parsley, basil, NO salt as the canned beans have some salt.
Sauteing some Zucchini, Onion, Green Beans,
Green Pepper,  Garlic, EVOO

The chili cooked all afternoon. We added a little shredded cheddar (not as much as I used to because I'm limiting my fat intake).

It had just the right amount of heat for me, a little hotter would be good too; I will say it was really tasty.

Dinner's Ready!

The Chili Con Leftovers with Cheddar and Bread

Simple but Picture Perfect

Grilled Salmon and Shrimp with Garden Veggies

Finally we are getting tomatoes from the garden along with green and hot peppers, eggplant and zucchini. Skewer those veggies with a giant shrimp and drizzle with garlic infused olive oil and grill until just charred. Along with a nice piece of salmon which was on sale at $3.99/lb and you can't go wrong.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Two-Day Bread

 Two-Day Bread
I've posted bread and pizza on the blog before, and I've always been fascinated with bread and how there are so many different tastes and textures, some of which depend on using different ingredients like milk or butter or molasses or eggs or whole wheat.  But what always puzzled me was how flour, yeast, salt and water could result in such different products.

A few years ago I bought a couple of bread baking books by Peter Reinhart.  To be honest, the author was just a little too precise and technical for me.  He listed ingredients in grams and percentages of the total weight.  He required one to construct a kind of brick oven to insert in the kitchen oven and most of the recipes involved using some form of a "pre-ferment" like a 'biga" or "poolish" or "pate fermentee".  These preferments were to be made a day or two or three ahead of time - before making the actual loaf, which would require several hours in itself.

I don't usually know what I'm going to do this afternoon, let alone tomorrow, so planning on Monday to make bread on Wednesday just seemed like too much of a commitment.  Besides, I am impatient and need immediate gratification.  I want my daily bread today, not on Thursday.  I admit I fooled around with a couple of the recipes, but was not impressed with my skill or my results.  I reverted back to making my dough the way I always did: three mugs of warm water, three packages of yeast, a teaspoon of sugar, three teaspoons of salt, three tablepoons of olive oil (optional) and enough flour  to make dough...but never measured exactly.  (King Arthur All Purpose and I mixed in some Whole Wheat when I wanted to be a little healthier, usually about 3 parts white to 1 part whole wheat).

Yesterday I was making dough for pizza and decided to make my version of a "poolish" - basically a sticky, wet dough to set aside in the fridge.  I made my dough as usual but before mixing in all of the flour, took out about two cups of what was at that point a batter, a little thicker than pancake batter, and set it aside to ferment.  It then went into the fridge overnight.

I then took the remaining batter, added more flour to make dough and turned it into some great pizza and a calzone last evening.

Today I took the preferment out, let it warm to room temperature, added a mug full of warm water, a teaspoon of yeast, 3/4 teaspoon of salt and gradually added more white and wheat flour and beat it by hand till I had to take it out of the bowl to knead it.   The only oil I ued was to coat the dough in the bowl before letting it rise.  I let it rise for an hour and a half, then formed rolls and one large loaf.  Let it rise again for 30 minutes or so, brushed it with milk, and sprinkled it with sesame seeds (thanks to Bob who gave me a huge bag of the stuff), and baked them all in a 475-500 degree oven (my oven is so imprecise - did I ever mention that we bought it for like $275 from Sears Dent and Scratch Store 12 years ago?  We've recently looked at stoves and they have too much electronics, some have burner grates that are a disaster waiting to happen and they are like $800 to $3,000 and that's just a beginning...).

Anyhow, after 30 - 35 minutes the bread emerged looking like an Artesian Loaf, (did I say that right?)
I could not help it, I ate a roll with some butter while they were still hot.  While yesterday's pizza crust was excellent, the texture and flavor of today's bread were even better - crunchy on the outside, airy on the inside, and with a nice nutty flavor, thanks to the whole wheat and sesame seeds.

I will definitely try this method again when I feel I can make the commitment.  I may even look through the bread books again and try to do it more precisely.  But chances are that I will wing it as usual and hope for the best.  It usually works out.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Not Quite Vegetarian Chili

I've always loved vegetables but now I am trying to lose weight so more veggies the better.  But chili without meat...I'm not quite there yet.

For tonight's dish, I used a couple of pork chops diced up a lot smaller than bite size; 
2-3 cloves garlic, 
and diced: 
2 small onions, 
1 green pepper, 
6 jalapeno peppers, 
1 cup celery, 
1 zucchini;
2 tbsp olive oil, 
3/4 cup red wine, 
salt, pepper, chili powder, brown sugar and 
3 cans of beans (not pictured) - kidney beans, black beans, pinto beans ( more or different - as you like)
1 large can of crushed tomatoes (not pictured).

 Saute the garlic and the meat in a tablespoon of olive oil; add salt and pepper; add red wine and cook for a few minutes;  remove the meat and juices;

saute the onion in 1 tbsp of olive oil for a few minutes;

add the green pepper, jalapeno pepper, saute a few minutes; 

 add the celery and the zucchini; saute until heated through, a few minutes; add salt.

return the meat to the pot, add the tomato and beans;
add a tablespoon brown sugar and chili powder to taste
I realized I had a piece of grilled rib eye steak left over from the other night so I cut it up fine and added it to the chili...why not?

Serve with grated cheddar, jack or other cheese of your choice.  Salad and wine and homemade bread completed tonight's dinner.