After a whirlwind week of meeting and greeting and traveling and feasting, I needed an easy supper night. Chicken in the crock pot. Brilliant.
Two pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breasts. One cup of tomato sauce. One tablespoon of dried oregano. Eight hours in the crock pot. That's it. Supper. Everyone could serve themselves when they were hungry. Pictured is my helping, simply chicken topped with cheddar cheese. Is it the weekend yet?
July 31, 2014
Hooray! My "Husband" John was in town, so a celebration feast with our good friends Heather and Shawn, including Heather's Mom who was also in town, was in order.
Truth be told, John is not my husband. He is my best friend, cheerleader, champion and if we played for the same team, would be giving Handsome Chris a run for his money. With a sly smile on his face, John introduced himself to Chris with the statement that he and I are like Will & Grace - a package deal. This evening we were blessed with time together.
Feasting is always in order at our favorite place, the delicious, locally sourced Social Urban Bar & Restaurant. Our group of five ordered a total of nine (9!) different small plates, large plates and desserts. I will write about my three favorites. You really should take the time to spend an evening dining at Social - arguably the best restaurant in Rockford.
I come to Social primarily for the brussels sprouts. No lie. I have never, ever cooked a single brussels sprout. This vegetarian dish is so cravably amazing. Shaved brussels sprouts pan fried with capers, parmesan, and lemon. I have carried a k-cup of these sprouts down the street to a friend who was bartending so he could try them. I have taken this dish home and eaten it at room temperature at midnight. It is absolutely my favorite vegetable dish. This is my #1 choice from the evening's nine dishes.
Gnocchi, the small potato based Italian pasta, was so tender, delicate and flavorful this evening that I wanted to place another order for myself, not to share with the table. Chef Chase combined the gnocchi with green beans, a locally sourced smoked ham, freshly shaved parmesan and a stunning garlic scape pesto. When Handsome Chris comes to visit I will introduce him to Social. I will order this unique dish again. The question is open as to my sharing capabilities. This is my #2 favorite choice from this evening's feast.
Yes, where I go, dessert is sure to be ordered. We ordered every dessert on the menu. On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the Bo Derek of the group, the chef's choice ice cream was a 1 (I took a second bite to confirm how unpalatable it was), the ricotta fritters with an orange scented homemade nutella was a 4 (homemade nutella has more grit than its commercial counterpart - which is fine. The inclusion of orange limits the appeal, while the ricotta fritters were basically a homemade doughnut hole).
The standout of the dessert line up, coming in at a solid 8 was the olive oil cake. Permeated by lemon, the cake was a lighter, Italian version of the American pound cake. Served with a trio of sauces; fresh raspberry, Meyer lemon curd, and a balsamic vinegar reduction.
A leisurely three hour happy Wednesday.
July 30, 2014
My flight back north was at 6pm, directly during the supper hour. I was flying a small regional jet, I was simply happy they had seat belts. The day's of food - even a bag of peanuts - on an airplane have gone the way of the dodo bird. My dinner consisted of what I could find in the airport terminal within the nutritionally dead zone of post security check and pre boarding.
There was a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, which has the most delicious chai tea in the world, short of the pulled chai in the Kampong Glam district of Singapore. Their chai is made with visible tea leaves and whole spices, not a gross overly sweetened mix found in most commercial coffee shops. One straight chai, just a bag in hot water. Ahhhh....
For fuel, I stopped in a magazine shop. Between the bags of chips and candy I found this protein bar. Between these 20 grams of zero sugar protein and the tea, I was full and satisfied. Cheers to flying the friendly skies.
Happy (sad for leaving Handsome Chris) Tuesday.
July 29, 2014
Because I am trying my best to eat way more veggies than a person should, we spent a lot of time looking over the produce at Sprouts. Because I am still a vampire with no blood, I needed beef for the iron. This evening's supper was a perfectly cooked combination of that yin~yang.
This was another evening of H.C. cooking and I being ordered out of the kitchen. Yes Sir!
Zucchini, green beans, mushrooms, potatoes, red onion, garlic. Butterflied and perfectly cooked to medium-rare filet. Whole wheat garlic toast. So delicious. My last night in OK. I am already checking flights for my next visit. With feasting such as this next to my dear heart, how can I stay away?
July 28, 2014
Sunday Dinner with the Handsome Chris clan in Oklahoma. A perfect Sunday. He and I were too tired to think about cooking, having woken from an afternoon nap and realizing we had not really thought about what to cook nor shopped for any ingredients.
The girls were joining us, the favorite son was out of town working. The youngest likes sushi, as do H.C. and I. The eldest just wanted something chocolate. Four trays of sushi and a chocolate picnic cake from Sprouts fit the evening's bill. We also picked up fresh strawberries and blackberries for the beautiful grandbabies. Good food and great company.
The killer breakfast was the outstanding start to our Sunday morning. Not only does H.C. cook for me when I am in OK, he also shops for the fixings, insisting I sit on the patio of the tree fort enjoying the balmy weather and my first cup of morning coffee.
Knowing my preference for safe scrambled eggs, H.C. was willing to short order cook for me. Knowing his preference for fried eggs and his possession of mad kitchen skills, I smiled (apprehensively) and requested another go at fried eggs for my breakfast. Deliciously ripe cantaloupe, toasted brioche, hand pattied breakfast sausage, a mound of sauteed vegetables, and two perfectly cooked and utterly delicious fried eggs - with no runny yolks. There was no need for lunch after a morning feast like this.
Happy, happy Sunday
July 27, 2014
I awoke before my alarm clock, this is as exciting as Christmas. I had an 8am flight to Oklahoma to visit Handsome Chris.
The last time I visited, we ate out - a lot. Trying restaurants is a chef and a foodies way of dating. This time my trip was shorter and we preferred to hunker down, stay in for privacy and cook.
I am the cook when H.C. visits in the north and he is the chef when I visit in the South. I will say there is nothing quite as amazing as having a man say "Sweetie, please get out of my kitchen - go relax on the couch. Dinner will be ready soon." The saying goes that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach. Well, the way to a woman's heart is by taking over some of the chores like cooking.
We prefer to shop in a piece meal fashion at Sprouts when in OK. What we eat there depends on our mood and what looks good. Up north I shop for a week's worth at a time at Valli Produce. What we eat here depends on what new dish I am creating for this blog and what the week's schedule looks like.
H.C. scoffs that pre-made burgers and salad don't really count as cooking. I countered that he still had to take the meat from raw to edible and chop the vegetables. Plus plating it - knowing it would be photographed - and serving. All that completely counts as cooking in my book.
Happy, blissful Saturday.
July 26, 2014
Don't Judge. I let the youngest pick supper and the teeneage agreed.
Sometimes it doesn't matter that we are eating - even when it is the grossly overprocessed food from McD's. Sometimes what matters is that we are able to sit around the table together very early on a Friday evening before we all explode in different directions and won't see each other for the next six days.
Happy Friday - Hobbit supper #1.
July 25, 2014
I had a 'date' for 7pm this evening, hence the second supper. (Date you ask? What about Handsome Chris? Why are you going on a 'date'? The answer is at the bottom of this post!)
It was great to eat with my kids earlier even if it was McDonald's. By 6pm the teenager was off to his Buena Vista Social Club and the youngest was on her way to Door County Wisconsin with her father for an extended visit with her paternal grandparents. I was nervous about my 'date' for the evening as this meeting was a really long time in the making.
I suggested Greenfire Market mostly because of its easy access off the highway. The bonus is the bustling bistro atmosphere and the locally sourced menu.
After a glass of wine, to ease any apprehension, we ordered. Both of us are world travelers, so I selected Kobe beef carpacio while he selected oysters; a half dozen cold raw and another half dozen Rockefeller. I will confess that despite my years of adventurous eating I have never had a raw oyster. Tonight did not break that streak, I declined a raw oyster. We are in the middle of the country and I am always suspect of the freshness of seafood here. I did, however, thoroughly enjoyed the oysters Rockefeller.
Greenfire has a subsantial bakery, so of course dessert was in order. After surveying the selections in the bakery cases, we settled on a slice of pineapple, coconut cream pie. Drizzled with caramel and sprinkled with cinnamon, this creamy tropical pie was a perfect ending to our meal.
My date for the evening ... my biological father, Richard. It was great to meet him after all these years. He is a writer, like me. He is Irish, which must be where I get my irrevent sense of humor, propensity to use off colored language, and open heart on my sleeve. The evening began and ended with huge hugs.
A Very Happy Friday.
July 25, 2014
By Thursday the cupboards are reaching bare and my level of tiredness is increasing. I always have eggs in the refridgerator. They are quick, easy, filling and everyone likes breakfast for dinner
I also like the opportunity to play short order cook. The teen likes his eggs fried, topped with pepper jack and served on a toasted bagel to make a great sandwich. The youngest likes two, scrambled plain please. I like two scrambled with cheese and some hot sauce.
Dinner isn't always about a big production and a fancy meal. Often it is about feeding the family filling and nutritious food while hanging out in the kitchen, catching up on what's happening in our lives and reconecting at the end of a busy week.
July 24, 2014
I am (was) on VACATION - Woohoo!!! Yes! The children are (were) not with me, Handsome Chris is (was) at work, and I am (always) the best date because I get to eat exactly where and what I want to! Seven days and seven lunches.
Monday: I am a baker, I scope out local coffee shops/bakeries, I almost always order the scone. A scone is the litmus test of a bakery's metal. This is a peach ginger scone from the Gray Owl on Gray Ave in Norman. Super hot, strong black coffee was my scone sidekick. This scone had a very delicate texture, nice crumb. Alas, I will admit, this scone had no flavor. I can see the peaches but I cannot taste the peaches nor the ginger. Scones batter exists as a catalyst for the add ins. Please oh please - add more! I will try the Gray Owl again on my next visit - and I will order another scone.
Tuesday: The Greek House. Norman is a college town, and what kind of college town would it be if there were not a singular kick ass gyro joint? When H.C.'s son told me the Greek House cooks the fries in the grease drippings from the gyros I knew I had to try them. O.M.G. This is the best fricking gyro - ever. The fries? Amazing! The gyro? A warm soft pita, meat that is turning on a spit to roast and carved to order, tzatziki sauce that is fresh, cold and homemade, crisp fresh onions. As you can see, I had to eat it with a fork, the portions were huge. So sorry to my local gyro joint, I have left you for someone better.
Wednesday: I awoke to cool temps and a day of rain. My objective was to stay in my pjs for the entire day. I cobbled together this tuna melt from items on hand in the tree fort (H.C.'s bachelor pad). Albacore tuna salad from the local Sprouts market, baby Swiss cheese, English muffins. All cooked in the toaster oven until warm, melty and delicious. Even Frank the dog enjoyed a bite or two.
Thursday: I spent the day walking on the Main Street strip through Norman, my kind of funky shopping district with the arts, handmade items and second hand shops I love. I am the crazy psuedo-Asian woman who was walking with an umbrella on a 100 degree sunny day, because I needed my portable protection from the sun. I took a break and popped into Fancy That for a late lunch. The blackened Tilapia fish tacos sounded filling yet light. They were delicious; crispy slaw, fresh tomatoes, tender fish. These were barely blackened - not a touch of heat - so don't be afraid of the name for these overall flavorful tacos. The service? Perhaps it was the late lunch hour, perhaps it was a shift change, perhaps it was my lack of Oklahoma drawl, but the service was pretty terrible. I would like to eat here again - the specials board on the street looks so tantalizing, but the service alone may keep me away.
Friday: My week is winding down and *GASP* I have not yet eaten at the world famous Diner! Featured on Diners, Dives and Drive-Ins, this 1950s style diner is everything you want in a diner. Small venue, sassy staff, huge portions and great prices. A breakfast with myself was in order. At the waitress' suggestion, I selected the eggarito; scrambled eggs, green chilies, cheese all wrapped in a tortilla smothered in salsa verde and more cheese. Served with a side of the best hash browns I have ever eaten. My neighbor at the counter was eating pancakes. They looked amazing. I had to have one, blueberry please. My beverage of choice? Sweet Tea. And yes, aside from the burrito ends and the very middle of my pancake, I ate the whole thing.
Saturday: My Diner experience was so good that H.C. and I went there again for Saturday Brunch. I ordered the hash browns, again. I tried the biscuits and gravy. Meh - I like biscuits and gravy, but when the milk gravy is made from the sausage drippings and there are chunks of sausage. This was okay, unfortunately bland with no sausage, so nothing I would order again. The blueberry pancake was so spectacular I ordered one again this morning. The stellar point of a diner is seeing the cooks drop fresh blueberries into the pancake batter as it cooks on the griddle. I cannot imagine ever eating breakfast anywhere else in Norman.
Sunday: I left Oklahoma late Saturday night and drove straight through till morning. The downfall is that I drink coffee to stay awake on these overnight drives, then I am too wide awake to go to sleep when I arrive. A call to my very good friend Amy and a plead for breakfast on the patio at Der Rathskeller back home in Rockford. Fortunately she was free and willing to meet. Der Rathskeller serves Reuben omelettes with a side of homemade red sauce along with lyonnaise potatoes and sourdough toast. Just what I needed to end a great vacation week.
Eat well, live well, enjoy every minute.
The 365 Dinner series is published on Kindle!