Monday, August 31, 2009

A little meal for two

When you are cooking for a small number, you run the risk of too many leftovers. There are definitely certain meals that I love, but after the third or fourth time in a row of eating it, they really lose something. In order to avoid meal burn-out, I started using recipes that were made for two. One that I had made several times was fried catfish and and green beans with crushed almonds. As is often the case, these two recipes are from One of my favorite things about them is that they are both really simple, rather quick, and made for two.

When I showed Rick the recipes, he was excited about them. I had thought that I had made them for him before, but apparently ;), I hadn't. For the preparations, Rick broke up the slivered almonds while they were still in the package while I prepped the green beans. He also toasted the almonds. While Rick minced two cloves of garlic and pressed another, I sliced two shallots to substitute for the chives in the catfish recipe. I've never done that substitution before, but I needed to get rid of the shallots. We breaded the catfish with panko after an egg wash instead of just flour. Rick was on frying duty, and I put the green beans together. When I was making the sauce for the catfish, I forgot to put the ginger in, but it turned out great! I know I've said it before, but Rick said that it is on his lists of favorites. We've been talking about redoing this recipe this week so that he can experience it with the ginger, but we'll see.

Here are the recipes. Both of these recipes serve 2!

Fried Catfish with Chive-Ginger Sauce
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 small garlic clove, pressed
  • 1 teaspoon (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • 2 6- to 7-ounce skinless catfish fillets
  • All purpose flour
Whisk vinegar, soy sauce, lime juice, grated ginger, garlic and golden brown sugar in small bowl to blend. Mix in 3 tablespoons chopped chives. (Sauce can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.) Press 1 tablespoon chopped chives onto both sides of fish. Sprinkle fish with salt and pepper. Dredge fish in flour; shake off excess.

Pour peanut oil into heavy large skillet to depth of 1/4 inch. Heat oil over medium-high heat. Add catfish fillets to skillet and cook until crisp outside and just opaque in center, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer catfish to paper towels to drain. Place catfish on plates. Pour sauce over. Garnish catfish with whole chives and serve immediately.

Changes I made: bread fish in panko; subbed 2 shallots for chives forgot to use ginger (it's great either way!!)

Green Beans with Crushed Almonds
  • 1/2 pound green beans, trimmed
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 cup blanched whole almonds, finely ground

Cook beans in a 3-qt. saucepan of boiling salted water until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes, and drain. Melt butter in a large nonstick skillet over moderate heat, then cook garlic, stirring, until it just begins to turn golden, about 1 minute. Add almonds and cook, stirring, until they begin to color slightly, about 2 minutes. Add beans and cook, stirring, until tender and heated through, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Changes I made: Break the almonds in their plastic package and then toast them. I used two cloves of garlic instead of one. I cooked with extra virgin olive oil instead of butter.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Oven-Cooked Pork Ribs

Yesterday was definitely a day full of cooking for me. I suppose I was trying to get in as much cooking as possible before school restarts next week. In addition to the cake that I made, I also did biscuits and gravy for Rick and I for breakfast, and then for dinner, we had ribs and cole slaw.

We've done baby back ribs in the past, but this week, Publix has spare ribs on sale. My favorite way to do ribs is to start off with them in the oven and then put them on the grill to get a little charred and add some flavor. I had done them not too long ago using this method, and they turned out perfectly. I start them off by preheating the oven to 250F. The ribs are covered on both sides with barbecue sauce (yes, we will get to that later!), completely wrapped with aluminum foil, and placed on a baking sheet to cook for 2 hours. As you can imagine, the ribs create quite the aroma as they cook which makes waiting the 2 hours a little difficulty towards the end.

Usually, after the 2 hours are up, we take them to the grill for a few minutes per side, but when we got to the grill last night, it refused to light. We weren't really sure what was going on, and since it was starting to get dark, we decided to take them back in to finish under the broiler. I added a little more barbecue sauce to both side of the rack of ribs and broiled them for a 5-7 minutes per side. I was really impressed with the results! They didn't dry out which is always a fear of mine. The key is to cook the pork to 160F to make sure to that all the bacteria are killed while still ending up with a tender, juicy piece of pork.

For the sauce, I got the idea from a messageboard on Inside Carolina when we did them the first time, and we liked it so much that it has become our sauce of choice. It's simple and easy even though it isn't home made. When getting a bottled BBQ sauce, it can really be hit or miss (and more like miss, miss, miss in my experience) until I was introduced to the goodness that is Sweet Baby Ray's. The label isn't flashy so it probably never caught my eye when browsing the sauce aisle at the grocery store, but I am so glad that I was introduced to it. We mix it with hot sauce (in this case, Moore's Wing Sauce). I did 3/4 Sweet Baby Ray's and 1/4 Wing Sauce so that it wasn't too hot for me!

Here are the recipes.

Oven-Cooked Pork Ribs


1 slab pork ribs (can be spare or baby back)
1 bottle of Sweet Baby Ray's Original BBQ sauce
1 bottle Moore's Wing Sauce


To make the sauce:
Mix 3 parts Baby Ray's to 1 part Moore's Wing Sauce. (I start out with a 3/4 cup and 1/4 cup and then add more from there)

For the ribs:
Preheat oven to 250F. While oven is preheating, brush both sides of the rack of ribs with sauce. Wrap ribs in aluminum foil and place on a baking sheet. Place ribs in the oven and cook for 2 hours. After two hours have passed, take the ribs out of the oven.
Check meat temperature with a meat thermometer to make sure that the meat is 160F. If it has not reached 160F yet, rewrap with the foil and return to the oven to cook some more (cooking time will vary based on oven and size of rack of ribs). Once the meat has reached 160F, unwrap from the foil and coat both sides again with the sauce.

Pick one of the two following options to continue cooking.
Option 1: Turn on oven broiler. Place ribs on a broiling pan, and broil rack of ribs for 5 minutes on each side.
Option 2: Place ribs on a hot grill for 2-3 minutes to char the meat, and then flip them for another 2-3 minutes of cooking.


Saturday, August 29, 2009

Adventures in Baking

I've never been a huge baker. Maybe it's having to get the ingredients just right with the measurements, or maybe it's the several times that I've burned myself on the side of the oven that make me a wee bit apprehensive about baking. I usually stick to brownies from a box (I swear by Ghiradelli's) or Grasshopper Squares around Christmas time (again, see boxed brownies!). Today, I decided to take a step outside of my comfort zone and combine Rick's recent request for desserts and his new found love for super foods. After seeing that Harris Teeter has both raspberries and blueberries on sale, I went searching on for some sort of dessert to have this weekend. I came across the recipe for the raspberry buttermilk cake and decided to substitute half of the cup of raspberries with half a cup of blueberries. I'm a little disappointed that I didn't have any parchment paper to line the 8 inch cake pan that I bought at Publix, but I did use Pam baking spray. The cake came out with ease!

And it was really good...pretty light and fluffy with the super-fruits on the bottom. I think that the next time that I make it, I may go ahead and use both whole packages of berries!

Here's the recipe:

Raspberry Buttermilk Cake
Gourmet | June 2009

Yield: Makes 6 servings
Active Time: 15 min
Total Time: 1 hr

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar, divided

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/2 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1 cup fresh raspberries (about 5 ounces)

Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in middle. Butter and flour a 9-inch round cake pan.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Beat butter and 2/3 cup sugar with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes, then beat in vanilla. Add egg and beat well.

At low speed, mix in flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour, and mixing until just combined.

Spoon batter into cake pan, smoothing top. Scatter raspberries evenly over top and sprinkle with remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar.

Bake until cake is golden and a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack and cool to warm, 10 to 15 minutes more. Invert onto a plate.

Changes I made: Used Pam baking spray instead of butter and flour for pan and used 1/2 cup blueberries and 1/2 cup raspberries

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Breakfast for dinner

This week, Rick hasn't been able to come over since he has had to do work at home in preparation for next week. I remember him having to do this last year, but it still makes me a little lonely without anyone to cook for besides myself. Tonight, I really needed to go to the grocery store, but with the darkening skies approaching, it would be a much better idea for me to whip up something for myself that didn't require that I leave the house.

My freezer had a couple of lonely frozen meals, but I save those for weekdays when I don't have leftovers to enjoy the next day. I also didn't feel like thawing out the half pound of shrimp either. The one thing that caught my eye was the bag of frozen Grands Biscuits. My stepmother introduced me to these wonderful, frozen delights several years ago when I was visiting North Carolina. At first glance, it doesn't seem possible that these small frozen disks will become a delicious fluffy biscuit, but trust me when I say that such a miracle does happen! I tossed around the idea of using the little bit of sausage that I have left (before it goes bad) to do a sausage biscuit, but then it hit me...biscuit and gravy!!!!

Making gravy is really pretty easy. While the biscuit was baking in the oven, I browned enough sausage to make a patty and broke it up along the way. Once the sausage was cooked, I reduced the heat and added 1% milk to the pan (enough to cover it) and two splashes of heavy cream. I also added about 1 tablespoon of all-purpose flour and little bit of fresh ground pepper and salt. I used the heavy cream because I know what a pain it can be to get the gravy to thicken when using reduced fat milk (which is what I usually do). I let the mixture come to a boil and thicken before serving over the halved biscuit. I know Rick was jealous when I told him about my dinner. :)

Here is the recipe. I left it a little open with the ingredients so that it can be adjusted for more than one person. Enjoy!!!

Biscuits and Gravy
1 frozen Grands Biscuit per person
1 sausage patty per person
All Purpose Flour
Fresh Ground Pepper

Preheat oven to 375F per direction on the Grands Biscuit bag. Once the oven has preheated, cook biscuit(s) until they are golden on top (probably around 15 minutes).

While the biscuit(s) is/are cooking (when you have about 5 minutes of cook time left on the biscuits), brown sausage over medium high heat. After it has cooked thoroughly, add enough milk to cover the sausage, around 1 tablespoon of flour, and salt and pepper to taste. Reduce heat and simmer to let the mixture thicken.

When the biscuit(s) are done, take them out and half them. Cover biscuit with gravy. Divide gravy mixture evenly between biscuits if doing more than one.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A simple classic

Being on break is nice albeit a wee bit boring. Rick laughs at the fact that I get bored so easily which is even more frequent since I quit smoking. Luckily, it gives me more time and more opportunties to spend evenings with Rick. I think it adds to the love-hate relationship with being in school. I miss the days (and nights) of last summer when things like tests and clinicals the next morning didn't stand in the way of our spending time together and not to mention how annoyingly stressed out I'm sure that I am during certain times of the semester. I love him even more for putting up with me.

All that being said, this week Food Lion had t-bone steaks on sale at a ridiculously good price. Rick's mom had given him this wonderful (but kinda stinky) dry rub for steaks a while back, and we were more than happy to break it out twice this week for nights on the grill. It is a mixture of two different types of rubs, and when I find out the brands, I will edit and add them here so everyone can enjoy it, too!!!

Earlier, I confessed my fear of gas grills, and this week, that fear became a reality. Nope, the grill didn't blow up on us, but a poof of flame did leave Rick's right arm with quite a few less arm hairs. I'm not sure what happened with it, but he survived, and I have, once again, become a little timid around the grill.

To go with the steaks, I decided to go with the perfect pairing...potatoes. I opted to do mashed potatoes both nights. Usually when I make mashed potatoes, I do them the way that my Grandmother Elliott did and add onions to them, top them with cheddar cheese, and then bake them. We call them Nanny's Mashed Potatoes. This week, however, I didn't feel like dealing with the onions so I went for traditional mashed potatoes. The key to making perfectly fluffy mashed potatoes is to use a hand-held mixer. I used to torture myself and use a potato masher, but it never gave me the consistency that I craved. I do, however, start out the the masher before using the mixer. I just think that it's easier to mix with the mixer that way. Another thing that I did this week was to add heavy cream....evil, I know! I had bought it to make tomato basil crab bisque, and I figured that I wouldn't miss a couple of tablespoons. I also added a little bit of low fat milk as well so that I wouldn't use as much of the heavy cream. They turned out wonderfully!! I apologize for not having pictures again, but trust me, it was great!!!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Crab stock!!!

The first time that people peek into my freezer, one of the things that they notice are the bags of crab leg and shrimp shells. My mom has referred to them as "frozen trash," but I keep them for a very important reason. Once a year, I like to make crab stock. While it's not the most glamorous thing to blog about, it is something that I made today. The one thing that makes this batch especially cool is that the shells came from meals that Rick and I had enjoyed over our first year together. It is a part of our relationship, though, since we were the ones who enjoyed the meat that was once in those shells along the way.

With plans of making a tomato basil crab bisque in the future, I knew that the time had come to break out the stockpot, my frozen shells, and various other ingredients and get to work. Crab stock is the perfect substitution for clam juice in any recipe that requires it, and it also should be used when you run across those rogue recipes that calls for chicken stock and seafood is involved.

Rick and I had talked about doing it last night, but we were distracted by the awesome t-bones that we did on the grill last night (along with some delicious mashed potatoes that I almost ruined by accidentally dumping half a bottle of garlic powder in the water while boiling them).

As usual, I used a recipe from The only real changes that I make to it is to use a can of diced tomatoes instead of the real thing. After making it, I like to put the stock in ice trays to make 2 tablespoon servings. It makes it so much easier to use them in future recipes that way. Once they are frozen, I empty the trays and store them in a freezer bag. I used to keep them in larger containers which made thawing and getting the exact amount a pain to say the least. Here's the recipe.

  • 2 pounds picked-over crab shells (cracked or chopped) and /or crab bodies (cut into 1-inch pieces, carapace discarded; see Cook’s Notes), crab tomalley, and, if necessary, shrimp shells or lobster carcasses
  • 2 quarts water
  • 1 medium to large onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 to 2 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped tomatoes (tomato "guts" or canned or fresh)
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons black peppercorns
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • Kosher or sea salt


1. Place the crab bodies, shells, and tomalley (and optional shrimp shells or lobster carcasses) in a 6- to 8-quart stockpot and cover with the water. Bring to a boil, skimming the white foam from the surface of the stock. (Using a ladle and a circular motion, push the foam from the center to the outside of the pot, where it is easy to remove.) Reduce the heat so the stock cooks at a fast, steady simmer.

2. Add the onion, celery, tomatoes, garlic, bay leaves, peppercorns, and thyme, and let the stock simmer and cook down for about 1 hour. The liquid should just cover the crab shells as the stock cooks; if it doesn’t, just add a little water.

3. Season the stock lightly with salt. Taste for a rich flavor; if it seems light, simmer for about 20 minutes longer.

4. Strain the stock through a fine-mesh strainer. If you are not going to be using it within the hour, chill it as quickly as possible. Cover the broth after it has completely cooled and keep refrigerated for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 2 months.

Cook’s Notes The top shell, called the carapace, of all species of crabs offers little flavor other than that from the greenish brown tomalley you will find tucked in the interior. The head sac attached to the carapace, behind the face of the crab, is inedible and should not be added to stock. So I remove the tomalley to add to the stock for extra flavor and discard the carapace. The body is filled with meat and is excellent added to stock, especially if it is not picked of all its meat. The shells from the legs add good flavor whether they are picked or not.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Calamari Night

I am happy to report that I survived my third semester of nursing school. There are a couple of things that are less desirable about the end of the semester including way too many hours at the library, too many meals at Subway (because they are the only thing open at MUSC after 8pm), and no time with Rick. When the weekend after another week from you-know-where rolled around, I was excited to spend time with him and cook dinner for us. I have been wanting to do this recipe when I came upon it while searching for stuffed pepper ideas. Rick and I had been talking about doing it since we took a journey across the Ravenel Bridge and visited a little seafood place on the Crosstown by MUSC, Crosby's. In my rush to get the heck out of Dodge on Friday after our poster presentations, I forgot to go by there so I hit Mt. Pleasant Seafood on Shem Creek instead for a little over a pound of squid.

I've never cooked calamari, but I have been a fan of it since I first tried it in Italy back in 1991. When I back came from Italy, very few people that I knew had tried it. My favorite version of it is in frutti di mare, and hopefully one day, I get brave enough to try the frutti di mare recipe that I have in the Italian cookbook that I own. It was the first one that I ever bought for myself, and the main reason I did was for that recipe. Maybe someday soon, I'll get brave enough to make it for Rick and me.

For a side, I decided to go with something easy that we've done before. I marinated a green pepper and half a red onion in balasmic vinegar, soy sauce, garlic powder (feeling too lazy to mince garlic) , and a couple grinds of Italian seasoning. That's my stand-by marinade, and it works really well with the veggies.

Much to my surprise, stuffing the squid was quite easy actually...thanks to a hint from a previous cook on I rolled the sausage mixture into small tubes and then stuffed those in the squid bodies. So easy!

As I stuffed them squid, I wasn't sure what to do with the leftover tentacle and one of the squid bodies that was split in half. Rick came up with the perfect idea to fry them in peanut oil. I put him in charge of those as he has more experience frying things than I do, and I really think that he's better at it than I am. As I've said before, I like to "play" with what I'm cooking which doesn't lend itself to good frying. Rick breaded the tentacles and the lone cut-up, body pieces with the panko-Italian breadcrumb mixture that I keep on hand and then fried them. Yum!! We dipped them in the little bit of leftover marinara sauce that I had in the refrigerator.

The stuffed squid didn't go over as well as I thought that they would. They were good, but they didn't make Rick's Favorites List. In the future, I think that I would serve them with marinara sauce drizzled on top or to dip in if I do make them again. Unfortunately, I didn't have that much on hand Friday night.

The Recipes:

Fried Calamari
1 egg
1/2 cup panko
1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
Calamari (don't really have a measurement here since we just used the tentacles and the cut up the one body that was split and unable to be stuffed)
Peanut Oil

Beat one egg in a small bowl. Fill another small bowl with 1/2 cup panko and 1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs Dip calamari into egg and then into mixture and place on a separate plate. Pour enough cooking oil into a heavy skillet to cover about 3 inches. Heat peanut oil over medium heat until around 350F. Slowly add calamari to skillet and fry until they are a golden brown (about 1-2 minutes total). Place on another plate that is cover with a paper towel to drain. Serve with marinara sauce of your choice!

Balsamic-Soy Marinade

1/2 cup Soy Sauce
1/4 cup Balsamic Vinegar
1 tablespoon Italian Seasoning
1 glove garlic minced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper

Mix ingredients together and use to marinade the vegetables of your choice.

Grilled Sausage Stuffed Calamari

  • 3/4 cup fine fresh bread crumbs
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 3/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika (preferably pimentón dulce)
  • 12 cleaned small (3-to 4-inch) squid bodies plus tentacles (about 1 pound total)
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil plus additional for drizzling
  • 1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley

  • Accompaniment: lemon wedges


Soak bread crumbs in milk in a large bowl.
Toast fennel seeds in a dry small skillet (not nonstick) over medium-low heat, shaking skillet occasionally, until fragrant, 3 to 4 minutes. Chop fennel seeds and add to bread-crumb mixture along with pork, garlic, paprika, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Gently mix with your hands until well blended. Using a small spoon, loosely stuff squid with fennel sausage, leaving a 1/2-inch space at top (you may have some stuffing left over). Seal tops using wooden picks.
Prepare grill for direct-heat cooking over medium-hot charcoal (medium heat for gas); see Grilling Procedure .
Coat stuffed squid and tentacles with oil and season with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Oil grill rack, then grill stuffed squid, turning frequently, until golden in spots and an instant-read thermometer inserted into center of filling registers 150 to 155°F, 13 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a platter. Grill tentacles until opaque and curled, about 1 minute, then add to platter. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with parsley.
My helpful hints:

  • To make stuffing the squid easier, roll the sausage mixture into tubes before stuffing.
  • Serve with marinara sauce

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