Tuesday, January 23, 2007


We had our long-lost Brooklyn friends and their kids over Saturday night. I don't know why I was sweating the menu -- our friends are so laid-back and were just such a pleasure to spend time with. Crazy. I worried about all the dumb things no one who matters notices: a missed dust bunny rolling down the stairs; the grease spots on the backsplash that I've grown used to; the tornado of toys that is M's room, and for which no amount of cleaning ever seems to remedy. Our friends didn't notice; we were all too busy catching up and trying to get some food into our kids to do a white-glove test.

Menu-wise, I was pretty set on the portobello lasagne, but Amy softened me with her idea about crab cakes, and I decided that even though I hate frying things because I can never get them crisp but end up with limp greasy things, I thought I'd give the crab cakes a whirl. Amy and I didn't connect that day for me to get her recipe, so I picked a recipe from AllRecipes.com and embellished a bit. Turns out you can pre-shape crab cakes and then broil them when your guests arrive (who knew?). Easy peasy, and if you care, a lot less calorie-laden than the fried version. And our guests asked for the recipe, which I have to say was pretty tasty -- crab and mayo, what's not to love? So, if you're feeling crabby this week, here's the embarrassingly easy recipe we used.
Embarrasingly Easy Crab Cakes

1-1/4 cups crushed crackers (I used a bunch of different kinds like Carr's and Ritz -- whatever we had on hand left over from friends coming over recently -- and whirred them in a food processor)
1-1/8 cup mayonnaise
1-1/2 tsp. prepared brown mustard (I used some English mustard I'd made in a fit of pre-Christmas craftiness)
1/4 cup chopped onion
1-1/2 stalks celery, chopped
2 tsp. Old Bay Seasoning
1-1/4 pounds crabmeat (I cheated and used 5 cans Trader Joe's canned crabmeat)

Preheat the oven on broiler setting. Lightly grease a baking sheet, or use a non-stick baking sheet and skip the greasing.

In a medium bowl, mix together everything but the crabmeat. Then gently stir in the crabmeat. I used a 1/4-cup measuring cup to scoop out the crab cake mixture, and then shaped each scoop into patties.

Lay the patties on a cookie sheet, and if you want to make them later, just cover the cookie sheet with plastic wrap and stick in the fridge for a while. (Be sure to use a cookie sheet with a ridge or you'll start a grease fire -- that mayo really lets loose with the grease when it heats up.)

When you're ready to cook them, broil for about 8 to 10 minutes on each side until they're a nice golden brown. That's it!


I'm stocking up on crab meat because I always thought crab cakes were a super-special restaurant treat, but these were cheaper than about any other entree we could have made, were super-crazy-easy to put together, and tasted delicious -- a product, I'm sure, of the more than one cup of mayonnaise.

In slowish food musings, I've been pretty down because our family hasn't made a marked switch to slow food and slow life like I'd hoped. I took an honest look of our life and schedules and demands, and think our failure might have a bit to do with the immovable time-space continuim, which provides a harried 11 minutes after work to get dinner into my boys' stomaches. This 11 minutes doesn't allow for the candle-lit, lemon-garnished dinners I'd envisioned. A friend told me she recently got a pressure cooker that has changed her life -- whole chickens in 20 minutes, brisket in 55. This frightens me, as I still think of pressure cookers as sporting the ticking, hissing time-bomb topper and periodically choosing to explode all over a kitchen and maybe take out an eye or arm in the process. I'm told modern pressure cookers aren't like this, but old perceptions die hard.

We just got rid of satellite, after realizing that we don't really watch or enjoy TV (The Flavor of Love, The E! True Hollywood Story, Armed & Famous -- need I go on?) and between our basic package and Phil's Major League package he never had the leisure to watch, we were spending $750 a year to watch The Daily Show. So I'm thinking some of that money might go to a pressure cooker. Or a pirate costume; I can't decide.


Thursday, January 18, 2007

What to Cook? What to Cook?

So we've got some friends coming over Saturday for dinner. A little background:

These friends lived in Indy when we did, but we didn't know them. They moved to Brooklyn a little after us, and we met them through mutual friends who also made the Indy-to-Brooklyn move. We moved back here, and a bit later they moved back here. They've been back a few years, and other than running into one of them at Target a couple years ago, we haven't seen each other. Pathetic. So we finally said, "Why aren't we hanging out?" and so they're coming to dinner Saturday night.

The dilemma is that we're going to have four kids aged 10 months to 7 years running around our little house, and we're going to want to hang out and talk and catch up on the last five years. In other words, I don't want to be chained to a stove. I want to make something early in the day that I can stick in the oven for an hour or so and have ready. The other dilemma is that Ryan is a fish-eating vegetarian, which cuts out some options. So I'm thinking either:

  • Katie's Tuna Noodle Casserole, homemade applesauce, and green salad, or
  • Portabella Lasagne, green salad, and some yet-unnamed side dish, or
  • Patricia Well's baked risotto (with Katie's addition of spinach, which totally kicks arse), green salad, and some yet-unnamed side dish

R & M are an easy going, easy-to-be-around couple, so I'm not worried about impressing them, but wonder if Tuna Noodle Casserole might be a bit too casual when we haven't seen them in five years. And I definitely feel like vegetable lasagne or risotto with only a salad feels a little skimpy.

But if I go with one of the other options, what is the yet-unnamed side dish going to be? Will applesauce work with risotto or mushrooms? I just don't know. Thoughts would be welcome.

In other news (term used loosely), Amy's posting the recipe for her grandma's eggplant polpetti and Laura's successful venison version made me want to do two things: Try it with lamb (which we still have a freezer full of), and eat Eggplant Parmesan, which we haven't had in forever. Phil will eat it, but he doesn't adore it like I do, so we invited Noah and Holly over so that three out of four people in the room were into the meal. The recipe comes from my very old copy of Moosewood Cookbook, and I love it because the eggplant isn't fried, but tastes great -- a bit lighter than the traditional version.

Eggplant Parmesan

2 medium eggplants
3/4 cup or so milk
2 cups or so wheat germ (or bread crumbs, although I've not made it with bread crumbs)
Some italian seasoning like basil, oregano, and thyme -- about 1/2 tsp. each
2 quarts homemade or storebought tomato sauce
1 pound mozzarella cheese, grated
1/2 or so parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Pour the milk into one shallow bowl and the wheat germ mixed with the seasonings into another. Slice the eggplant into 1/2-inch slices. Now dunk it in the milk, coat it in the wheat germ, and lay it in a single layer on a baking sheet. (You'll need two sheets.) Bake for about 20 to 30 minutes -- until the eggplant is soft.

In a 9-by-13 pan, ladle some tomato sauce, add a layer of the baked eggplant, and cover with more sauce. Now grab a couple handfuls of mozzarella and sprinkle it generously over the top. Now layer again... sauce, eggplant, cheese. When you run out of ingredients or space, stop. Sprinkle parmesan generously over the top.

Bake uncovered for about 40 minutes -- until the top is bubbly and lightly brown. Let it sit for 10 minutes, and then dive in.


And while I'm at it, here's the risotto recipe mentioned above, which Katie first brought over the week T was born, which made a lovely, comforting, sorry-you're-getting-no-sleep meal:

Risotto Rosso

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, minced
sea salt to taste
1 cup Italian Arborio rice
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth or chicken stock
1/2 cup tomato sauce
A good handful of fresh spinach leaves
3/4 cup freshly grated romano or parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a heatproof baking dish, combine the oil, onion, and salt over moderate heat. Stir to coat the onion with the oil and cook until the onion is soft and translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the rice stirring to coat with the oil, and cook for 1 minute. Add the chicken stock and tomato sauce, and bring just to a simmer over moderate heat. Stir in half the cheese and the spinach, and smooth out the top with the back of a spoon. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Cover the baking dish.

Place the baking dish in the center of the oven. Bake until the rice is cooked through and has absorbed most of the liquid, 30 to 35 minutes. The baked rice should be moist but not soupy. Serve immediately.


In a totally stream-of-consciousness thought, Phil agreed with Amy that pirate mittens are cuter than a pirate hat, so mittens it is. Shiver me timbers!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Ahoy! Mates

In the knitting world, there are things called "Knit-a-longs," or KALs in knitting parlance. Other than Sockapalooza 2006 (where I joined 600 others in knitting a pair of socks for someone unknown to me, and receiving a pair of socks knit by someone else), I've never really joined one. There are patterns that make the KAL circuit frequently: Harry Potter Weasleys, Hourglasses, Green Gables, Jaywalker socks. I've steered clear. So what, I wonder, just possessed me to sign up for the "We Call Them Pirates" KAL, in which between January 15 and March 15 I'll be knitting either a skull hat or skull mittens along with several dozen other KALers? I swear I've had nothing stronger than green tea today.
So what will it be? The hat or the mittens? And who should get them when I'm finished as I'll look like the world's largest poser in my J Jill clothes and Dansko clogs trying to pull off a skull hat...

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Post-Holiday Catch-up and a Question

You might not have noticed that I haven't been blogging. The holidays were a whir. A good one. I was off work for a while. We had Christmas Eve brunch with Phil's family. Santa was good to the boys, even taking the time to deliver M's new Superman bike for my parents all the way from Michigan; what a guy. True to four-year-old form, M's absolute favorite present (other than the bike) wasn't the special books or the remote-control car or the Operation game. It was a dry-erase board and markers that Santa picked up at Staples on Christmas Eve, having noticed that M has become obsessed with dry-erase boards. Go figure.
T's favorite was a Tigger-shapped pillow that he not only sleeps on, but hauls all over the house. It's about as big as him.
After the holidays, we went to Michigan to see my family. We came home and our good friend Jeff, who lives outside Boston, came to see us for a few days. We had some people over on New Year's Eve Eve. We went to Noah and Holly's for a party on New Year's Eve. (We took the boys and I came home around 9:30 with them; Phil and Jeff stayed until just after midnight; Noah and Holly's other guests stayed until about 7 a.m. Ahhh, youth.)

I keep thinking of great recipes I want to post, but somehow the thought of a long post scares me away from the computer. So I'll keep this brief while I'm getting back into the swing. How about a quick one?

When we had people over Saturday night, I thought we'd just do a ham -- have little buns and good mustard and mayo, and everyone could all make sandwiches. I was at a party once (to give you a flavor... someone brought a pinata filled with airplane-sized bottles of booze), and the hostess had a ham. How odd, I thought, used to hummus and maybe some olives. But the ham really helped keep an even keel on the wine that was flowing. Which might explain how we were able to stay there until 3 a.m. when the invitation clearly stated the party was from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. But I digress.

Anyhoo, Phil wanted to get a little more creative, so he pored through some grilling books and came up with two kebob recipes: One a beef and one a chicken. And then he made up a date recipe that I sneered at a bit -- as I always think of dates as one step from stewed prunes -- but it turns out it was my favorite food that night. Phil told me what he wanted, and I played sous chef. Here's what we did:

Bleu Cheese-Stuffed, Bacon-Wrapped, Not-for-Those-on-a-Diet Dates

Take a quantity of pitted dates (or pit them yourself by sticking a wooden spoon handle through one end and pushing the pit out the other). I think we did about two dozen. Slice down one side of each date so that you can lay it out and easily fill it with goodness. Now cut a little piece of bleu cheese to stuff in the date, lay a date-length piece of green scallion over this. Now close the date and wrap it with half a slice of bacon. Secure the bacon with a toothpick. Do this to all the dates while listening to, say, your new KT Tunstall CD. Put the dates in a single layer on a cookie sheet, maybe an inch or so apart, and if you're not ready to bake them yet, stick the cookie sheet in the fridge until you are. When you're ready, preheat the oven to 450 degrees, and when it's hot, bake the dates for 15-20 minutes, until the bacon looks cooked and there's maybe a little bleu cheese goodness running out some of the sides.

So Amy asked me this week about New Year's resolutions. You all know that I'm planning to knit for charity rather than impose another knitted mobius on any of you. But I also want to:
  1. (You knew this was inevitable, right?) Lose the three pounds the holidays cruelly handed me before they turn into 25.
  2. Make much more effort to stay in better contact with family and friends, and stop using being "swamped" as an excuse for not staying in touch.

  3. Spend more time tickling, reading to, laughing with, and hugging the boys without having an eye on the clock.

  4. Read the first volume of Shelby Foote's (God rest his soul) history of the Civil War.

And you? Have you made any resolutions this year??