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Could We

Today marks our last installment of this year’s 12 Days of Oscar.  This is the last film in this year’s lineup and the fourth film nominated for an Oscar this year.  Boyhood  was shot intermittently over twelve years with the same cast.  The film shows Mason (Ellar Coltrane) growing from grade school to college, living in Houston with his mother Olivia (Patricia Arquette) and his sister Samantha (Lorelai Linkleter).  Eventually both Mason and Samantha deal with their parents divorce, remarriage, blended families, and the general rites of passage growing up.  Boyhood in nominated for six Oscars: Best Picture, Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Hawke), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Arquette), Best Directing, Best Writing- Original Screenplay, and Best Editing.

There are a few food moments in this film but my favorite is when Mason and his girlfriend Sheena (Zoe Graham) go to an all-night diner at 3 a.m. and have queso dip until the sun comes up.  Maybe this is because queso dip is my weakness.  I love the stuff, and I would love to sit at a diner with an endless supply of it.  I have avoided making white queso dip at home for a variety of reasons (mainly, that I know I risk eating about ten pounds of tortilla chips drenched in queso until I am in a cheese coma).  Armed with some basic cheese knowledge and all of the self-control I possess, I finally made white queso dip, and it was awesome.  This came out so well that it really was hard to stick to one serving.

queso dip

White Queso Dip

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 lb. white American cheese
  • 1/8 lb. pepper jack cheese
  • 1/4 C. finely diced yellow onion
  • 1/2 jalapeno, diced
  • pinch of cumin
  • 1/8 – 1/4 C. milk
  • 1/8 C. amber or dark beer (optional)
  • 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil

Directions:

Heat a small non-stick sauce pan over medium heat.

Saute the onion in the pan until the onion starts to brown.

Stir in the jalapeno and cook for a few more minutes.

Tear or cut the American cheese into fourths (roughly 1 inch pieces) and add to the sauce pan.

Cut the pepper jack cheese into small pieces (roughly 1/2 inch) or shred it and add to the sauce pan.

Slowly pour in a small amount of milk and whisk it into the melting cheese.

Whisk in the beer if using.

Slowly whisk in additional milk until desired consistency is reached.  If you thin out the cheese too much you can add more cheese to thicken the dip but keep in mind the cheese will thicken as it cools.

Stir in the cumin and the olive oil.

Source: Side of Sneakers

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Dude Looks Like a Lady

Today is day five of 12 Days of Oscar, and the second film in this year’s series that’s an Oscar winner.  The 1993 film Mrs. Doubtfire won the Academy Award for Best Makeup, the only category in which it was nominated.  Following a divorce, Daniel Hillard (Robin Williams) works to find a way to spend more time with his children and Miranda Hillard (Sally Field) finds that she needs someone to watch the children after school.  Daniel, disguised as English nanny Mrs. Doubtfire, applies for and wins the job and hilarity ensues as he tries to not get caught.

There are so many great food moments in this film.  The run-by fruiting, the cake Mrs. Doubtfire dunks her face into, and the gumbo at dinner are just a few. My favorite though, is when Mrs. Doubtfire tries to make a fancy dinner her first day on the job and it ends disastrously.  “This hollandaise smells like burnt rubber,” she says before realizing her rubber chest is on fire. “First day on the job and I’m already having hot flashes, ” she says using pot lids to put out the flames.  Yes, hollandaise can be tricky, but it doesn’t have to be.  Hollandaise sauce is an emulsion of egg yolk and melted butter and traditional methods call for a lot of whisking.  This method uses an immersion blender and is by far the easiest, most fool-proof way to make hollandaise sauce I have ever encountered.  This was fantastic for eggs Benedict. Oh, and while we’re being non-traditional and improving efficiency I also used a muffin pan to poach the eggs.

eggs benedict

Quick and Easy Hollandaise Sauce (and Muffin Tin Poached Eggs for Eggs Benedict)

Ingredients:

for the hollandaise sauce:

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp. water
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 stick (8 Tbsp.) butter

for eggs Benedict:

  • 1 English muffin per serving
  • 2 eggs per serving
  • 2 slices Canadian bacon per serving

Directions:

To make the hollandaise sauce, combine the egg yolk, water, lemon juice, and pinch of salt in the bottom of a cup that barely fits the head of your immersion blender.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over high heat, swirling the pan constantly, until the foaming stops.

Transfer the butter to a liquid measuring cup.

Place the head of the immersion blender into the bottom of the cup and turn it on.

Slowly pour the hot butter into the cup while the immersion blender running.  The butter should emulsify with the egg yolk forming a sauce.

Continue pouring the butter until all of the butter has been added.  The sauce should be thick and creamy.

Season to taste with salt if needed and add a pinch of cayenne pepper if desired.

**If you are going to make eggs Benedict, I suggest making the sauce last**  If you need to keep the hollandaise sauce warm, put it into a lidded pot and keep it in a warm place (such as an oven on the “warm” setting) until ready to serve.  It will only hold for about an hour and can not be cooled and reheated.

To make eggs Benedict start by poaching the eggs.  To poach them in a muffin pan, heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Put 1 Tbsp. of water in each muffin pan cavity (one cavity per egg, depending on how many eggs you are making).

Crack one egg into each cavity that has water in it.

Bake the eggs for 8-10 minutes.

Gently remove the eggs from the pan with a slotted spoon and place them on a paper towel lined plate.

Heat the Canadian bacon in a skillet until heated through.

Toast the English muffins.

To assemble, place one slice of Canadian bacon onto each English muffin half and top each half with a poached egg.  Top with hollandaise sauce.

Makes 1 1/2 C. of hollandaise sauce

Source: hollandaise from Serious Eats; muffin pan poached eggs from Life Hacker

eggs benedict hollandaise

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Stick On

When life is hectic, it’s nice to wind down at the end of the day.  Lately, winding down comes mainly in the form of listening to chatter from the Yankees game on TV while hanging out on Pinterest until I can’t keep my eyes open anymore.  I’m still spending way more time on the Food and Drink and DIY boards than I should considering the lack of time I have to be making the food and drinks, or the amazing DIY projects I see.  On a recent evening, while peeling myself away from staring at gorgeous wedding photos on the Weddings board, I came across a beef satay recipe that looked so simple and so tasty that it immediately went on the upcoming meal plan.  Of course, I also saw a centerpiece I loved so much that it immediately went on the upcoming wedding plan.  I digress.

The beef satay recipe was perfect for our schedule.  I mixed up the marinade and let the sliced beef hang out in the marinade bath overnight in the refrigerator.  Lane threaded the beef onto skewers and grilled it while I drove home and whipped up the peanut dipping sauce.  I also made rice the night before (waiting an hour for brown rice isn’t in the weeknight schedule) and we had a pretty fantastic meal in no time.  The original recipe included a “sweet hot dipping sauce” that sounded incredible, but I didn’t have ingredients on hand for that like I did for the beef skewers and peanut sauce.  I know beef and peanut butter might not seem like the most obvious combination, but trust me it’s fantastic.  I will definitely make this again, and I’ll be sure to keep you posted about the original dipping sauce.

beef satay

Beef Satay with Easy Peanut Dipping Sauce

Ingredients:

for the beef skewers:

  • 2 lbs. flank steak, cut into approximately 1-inch wide strips
  • 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 3 shallots, quartered
  • 1/4 C. rice wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp. lime juice
  • 2 tsp. sesame oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed

for the peanut dipping sauce:

  • 1/2 C. creamy or crunchy peanut butter (I used creamy this time)
  • 1 Tbsp. reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 3-6 Tbsp. milk
  • pinch of dried red pepper flakes

Directions:

To make the marinade, combine all of the ingredients except for the beef in a resealable bag or plastic container with a lid.

Whisk until the brown sugar is dissolved.

Add the beef and stir to make sure that all of the beef has been coated in the marinade.

Seal the bag or cover the container and refrigerate at least 1 hour, up to overnight.

When ready to grill, heat the grill to medium-high heat.

While you’re waiting for the grill to be hot enough, thread each piece of beef onto a skewer.  Metal skewers are fine, I use wooden skewers that I soak in water ahead of time (you can also soak the skewers and freeze them in a large resealable bag ahead of time, then pull out the quantity you need before grilling).

Place the skewered beef onto the grill and grill for 5-6 minutes, turning once.  Discard the extra marinade.

To make the peanut sauce, combine all of the ingredients in a small saucepan over low heat.

Stir constantly until the mixture is blended and smooth, and the peanut butter reaches a pourable consistency.  Start with 3 Tbsp. of milk and add more, 1 Tbsp. at a time until the desired consistency is reached.

Source: beef satay adapted from Chef’s Catalog; peanut sauce Diana Dishes original

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Quiet Storm

It’s hard to believe that it’s been three weeks since I last posted here.  I freely admit that I haven’t done much cooking.  We have been doing plenty of anniversary partying, coffee date with friend-ing, camping, vacationing, amusement park-ing, and drive-in move going.  What we have not been doing plenty of is meal planning, grocery shopping, and cooking.  There’s been some cooking, just not blog-worthy cooking.  We’ve slathered pork chops with barbecue and grilled them, and enjoyed many a corn on the cob or a burger.  We’ve also enjoyed plenty of meals out either celebrating or due to time constraints.  So, while I’ve been completely neglecting my blogger duties, I have been completely busy loving my new job, loving time with Lane and the kiddos, and celebrating both our own milestones and those of the people we love.

With nothing planned or thawed out ahead of time and with no real plan in hand, I made a great dinner last night that took less than half an hour from start to finish.  The next time I come home from work and decide that it’s faster to order something or head to a restaurant, I am going to remind myself that in the amount of time it would have taken to peel M away from her Kindle and O away from his Legos, we could be sitting down to dinner.  I thawed some shrimp, boiled some water, and got to work.  It did help that I had a hunk of Asiago cheese on hand, so if you don’t I strongly suggest putting a hunk of any sharp Italian cheese on your next grocery list.  Just in case.  If you’re looking for a great macaroni and cheese recipe, you can follow the instructions and skip the shrimp and peas.  I love this pasta with bacon or ham and broccoli as well.

pasta with cheese sauce shrimp and peas

Penne in Cheese Sauce with Shrimp and Peas

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. penne pasta, cooked to package directions and drained
  • 8 oz. sharp Italian cheese (such as Asiago), grated
  • 1 1/2 C. whole milk, divided
  • 2 Tbsp. flour
  • freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 C. frozen peas, thawed
  • 12 oz. uncooked large shrimp (25-30 per lb.), peeled and deveined
  • 2 tsp. olive oil

Directions:

While the pasta is cooking, prepare the shrimp.

Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat.

Add the shrimp in a single layer, sprinkle evenly with salt and pepper.

Cook the shrimp for 2-3 minutes, then flip them and cook for 2-3 more minutes just until they are pink and opaque.  Remove from the heat and keep covered.

To prepare the cheese sauce, warm 1 C. of the milk in a medium saucepan.

While the milk in the saucepan is warming up, whisk the remaining 1/2 C. of milk with the flour in a small bowl until there are no lumps.

When the milk in the saucepan is just starting to release steam, whisk in the flour and milk mixture and whisk constantly for 3-4 minutes over medium heat until the mixture resembles heavy cream.

Reduce the heat to low and add the grated cheese, a handful at a time, stirring until the sauce is smooth after each addition.

Continue until all of the cheese has been added to the sauce and stir until the sauce is creamy.

Stir in freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Stir together the cooked shrimp, pasta, and peas.

Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta mixture and stir to evenly coat the pasta mixture with cheese sauce.

Makes 6 generous servings.

Source: pasta and cheese sauce adapted from The Kitchn.

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Versatile Freestyle

Having a handful of versatile ingredients on hand makes it easy to decide what’s for dinner on the rare occasion that I have a gap in the meal plan.  Because I meal plan and like to make just one trip to the grocery store per week (or longer), gaps don’t happen very often.  On days when there’s four inches of rain falling and I really want to skip the trip to the grocery store, gaps happen.  Gaps also happen when life gets in the way of my regularly scheduled “programming.”  Just this weekend, the meal plan went right out the window when soccer was cancelled on Saturday.  The weather promised to play nice, so we made a spur of the moment decision to visit Brooklyn.  I spent Sunday celebrating my cousin’s upcoming wedding at a great bridal shower.  By the time I came home (there was a total of eight hours of travel round-trip involved for me), dinner was the remnants of Friday night’s pizza.  Gaps happen.  Meal planning wasn’t always my “thing.”  Especially when I lived alone, I would go to the grocery store and buy a few things that I considered to be staples and then half of the excitement would be how to put them together when I felt like having an actual meal.  Now I meal plan because while I think it’s an adventure to stare at an open refrigerator while trying to visualize whether or not I have this or that other ingredient, we try to keep dinner time more consistent.

Life happens, the plan isn’t always perfect, and this is where my single-girl foraging skills, some basic ingredients, and creativity are a life saver.  Okay, so by “foraging” I really mean “standing in front of the open refrigerator like I used to,” but that foraging procured a jar of roasted red peppers that I had on hand to use as a sandwich topping, and a bag of tortellini that I had hanging around to use for a tortellini salad.  It didn’t take long for me to decide to turn that jar of peppers into a sauce, use it to top the tortellini, and avoid venturing out to the grocery store in the pouring rain.  I’m glad I made that decision.  This was a tasty dinner that took almost no time to prepare.  I added shrimp as an afterthought because I felt like the tortellini needed a protein to make it a more substantial dinner.  Okay, so I rarely need an excuse to add shrimp to anything, but shrimp wasn’t part of the initial plan here.  I’m glad I added it in, it cooks very quickly and was perfect for scooping up the sauce.  Chicken would have been great here as well.

roasted red pepper sauce tortellini with shrimp

Tortellini with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce and Shrimp

Ingredients:

  • 14 oz. bag cheese tortellini
  • 7 oz. jar roasted red peppers, drained (or roast your own red peppers)
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 C. milk or heavy cream
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 lb. large uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined

Directions:

Boil the tortellini in a large pot of water according to package directions, until al dente.  Set aside.

Blot as much excess moisture as you can from the roasted red peppers using paper towels.

Place the roasted red peppers and garlic into a blender and puree for 2-3 minutes until smooth.

Pour the red pepper mixture into a small sauce pan and stir in the oregano and salt and pepper to taste.

Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes until the sauce comes to a boil and starts to thicken.  Reduce heat to low and stir occasionally while preparing the shrimp.

To prepare the shrimp, heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat.

Sprinkle salt and pepper evenly over the shrimp, then add them to the heated skillet in a single layer.

Cook the shrimp for about 2-3 minutes, then flip and cook for 2-3 more minutes, until the shrimp are pink on the outside and opaque inside.

Add the milk to the sauce and stir to combine.

Cook for 2-3 minutes to heat through, then add the tortellini to the sauce and stir to completely coat the tortellini.

Top the tortellini mixture with the cooked shrimp (you can add the shrimp to the sauce as well and stir it in with the tortellini).

Makes 4 servings.

Source: Diana Dishes original

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The Gravy Train

I know that with Easter coming up many people have ham on the brain and so it’s easy to wonder why I’m over here blabbering on about turkey.  I have hosted and attended Easter dinners where both ham and turkey were popular offerings so it doesn’t seem fair for ham to have the whole show.  Lamb and lasagna have long been traditions for one family I celebrated Easter with for years, without a ham in sight.  Not only in my family, but in other families that I’ve celebrated holidays with, it seems like the goal is for the host to serve enough food that we could be trapped in the house for weeks without needing to worry about nourishment, so long as the refrigeration holds.

As I mentioned yesterday it’s possible that you want to make a small turkey dinner without tying up (or even turning on) the oven, whether or not you’re entertaining and whether or not it’s a holiday.  Turkey for no reason at all always seems to taste a little better than turkey for Thanksgiving or Easter, I think.  It’s also possible that you’re serving a big turkey dinner and would rather not deal with having to whip up a gravy from pan drippings while your guests wait and the turkey is quickly moving from “well-rested” to “ice cold.”  It’s entirely possible to make delicious turkey gravy without roasting a whole turkey, and without keeping your guests waiting. Make-ahead turkey gravy solved the gravy dilemma for me at Thanksgiving, when fried turkey plus crock pot turkey breast equals zero pan drippings for gravy.  It’s every bit as fantastic as gravy you make after roasting a whole turkey, and roasted turkey wings take most of the responsibility for that.  Make-ahead gravy does take some planning ahead as you’ll make a turkey stock and that stock will need to refrigerate for at least two hours (but better to let it sit overnight) before proceeding.  At first, the gravy may seem very thin but have no fear- it will thicken considerably and quickly once it’s off the heat.  You can add a small amount of cornstarch mixed with water if it isn’t thick enough for you, but (as I learned the hard way when making this in the past) a little cornstarch will go a long way toward thickening this.  It’s a pretty forgiving gravy, though and if you over-thicken it, thin it out with some chicken or turkey stock until it has a nice, pourable consistency.

turkey gravy

Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy

Ingredients:

to make the turkey stock:

  • 2 turkey wings
  • 4 ribs of celery (including leaves), roughly chopped
  • 1 onion, cut into chunks
  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 6 C. water

to finish the gravy:

  • 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 4 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 2 C. turkey stock, strained and defatted (from ingredients above)
  • 1/2 C. whole milk
  • 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
  • Kosher salt to taste

Directions:

Heat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large Dutch oven or roasting pan, roast the turkey wings, celery, onions, and garlic for 2 hours.

Remove from the oven and add the water to the turkey and vegetables (if you used a roasting pan, pour the vegetables and turkey into a large pot, add the water, and then proceed).

Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer the mixture over low heat for 1 hour, uncovered.

Strain the stock over a bowl with a minimum 4 C. capacity, then cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight.

Remove the fat that has accumulated on top of the stock.

In a large pan, melt the butter and whisk in the flour.

Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly for 2 minutes to cook out the flour taste.

Whisk in 2 C. of the turkey stock and cook until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon.

If the mixture does not thicken enough (give it at least 20 minutes on the stove and remove it from the heat for 5 minutes before deciding if it’s thick enough), dissolve 1 tsp. of corn starch in 1 tsp. of cold water and slowly whisk it into the gravy.

Whisk in the milk, cider vinegar, and salt to taste.

Makes 2 1/4 C.

Source: Noble Pig

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