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What's for Dinner #352: the pre-Daylight Savings Time 2015 Edition

So last night's General Tso's Tofu was ... ok. I really, really liked the texture and flavor of the tofu - marinating, tossing with a bit of cornstarch, and baking is a really great way of getting that crispy/chewy texture. The sauce was bland though - EJ thought it was missing some of the sweet flavor that is typical of General Tso's and I think it needed more garlic, ginger and chili paste. Will definitely try this again and make some tweaks. It was good enough that EJ did eat all of his broccoli though!

We leave at o dark thirty tomorrow morning, so tonight is clean out the fridge night. Our choices are leftover pasta, leftover tofu and salad. We won't go hungry and tomorrow night will be jerk chicken on the beach!! Rice and peas and cabbage salad on the side and lots of rum!

What's for Dinner #352: the pre-Daylight Savings Time 2015 Edition

We are trying to clean out the fridge for vacation next week, so last night was freezer gloop - that turned out to be tomato sauce. I sauteed some Aidell's mystery sausage - also from the freezer - some peppers, onions and garlic and added the sauce. Threw in some oregano, basil and parm rinds and let it simmer while I marinated some tofu for tonight's dinner and the pasta cooked. The last sub roll was turned into garlic bread and the last chunk of mozzarella was grated over top. Not bad for a cobbled together dinner!

Tonight I'm trying a recipe from Vegetarian Times, General Tso's Tofu. The tofu is marinating in mirin, rice vinegar, soy sauce, ginger and garlic and will be sprinkled with cornstarch and baked till crispy on the outside. Then tossed with a sauce made up of more mirin, rice wine, sesame oil, sambal oelek, ginger, garlic, tomato paste and veggie broth, thickened with more cornstarch. Steamed broccoli and brown rice. Healthy, pre-vacation food - that I hope also tastes good!

What's for Dinner #351: the Wishing & Hoping Edition [through Mar 2, 2015]

EJ had a hankering for Chicago style pizza last night, and since we have no viable options within a 3 hour drive, I looked up recipes and found one for Lou Malnati's. Sooooo - we made the dough, grated the cheese, pre-cooked the sausage just a bit and added some oregano and garlic to the diced fire roasted tomatoes. It was actually pretty spot on - and with a few tweaks will be perfect! We need to let the dough rest longer, get better flavored sausage, and add a bit more seasoning to the tomatoes. The dough recipe made enough for two pizzas (we halved the recipe) so there is another try in our near future - may try pepperoni this time. At any rate, it was a ton of fun, and pretty successful for a first try!

Not sure about tonight, as EJ may be in trial tomorrow and if that's the case, he'll be working and will just grab something quick for dinner. Otherwise, I'm craving Asian or Mexican - need something spicy to counteract the NEXT snow, ice and cold coming through. It is March, right? Right?!

What's for Dinner #351: the Wishing & Hoping Edition [through Mar 2, 2015]

Oh no, nothingswrong! I hope that this ends up being a minor setback for you! Sending happy, good vibes your way. And the chicken parm does look pretty darn good!

What's for Dinner #351: the Wishing & Hoping Edition [through Mar 2, 2015]

So EJ decided that since our Italian subs on Tuesday were so tasty and emotionally satisfying, we needed to reprise that meal. And since he is going through some job angst, I'm letting him pick what sounds good to him. Plus, it was super easy! And tonight we're heading out to our fave watering hole for some live music and will most likely eat there. So the salmon will wait for tomorrow - we're spending the day prepping for our vacation next week, so a nice dinner (with wine!) will be the perfect end to a busy day!

What's for Dinner #351: the Wishing & Hoping Edition [through Mar 2, 2015]

Wishing and hoping you have a perfectly spectacular March - you (and your East Coast brethren) have definitely earned it!

Fun Girls Weekend In Chicago! Trip Report

Actually, the giardinera was in a cup on the side and there was not any actually on the sandwich (see the attached photo). My husband is originally from Chicago, and I've eaten a few Italian beefs (I like mine hot and NOT wet - soggy bread, ugh!). This really was an enigma to us ...

I guess the moral of the story is to order pizza at Gino's and Italian beef at Portillo's or Al's. :)

Feb 27, 2015
iowagirl in Chicago Area

What's for Dinner #351: the Wishing & Hoping Edition [through Mar 2, 2015]

Ha! Well of course! We are pretty corny here in this state!

What's for Dinner #351: the Wishing & Hoping Edition [through Mar 2, 2015]

We got about 8 inches of snow yesterday/last night, and it's -10 windchill. I'm not sure we'll ever completely thaw! We had a college bball game to attend last night (Hawkeyes win!) so dinner was quick black bean tacos with lots of jalapenos and chipotle garlic salsa. Hit the spot, but EJ said it got "boring." Hmph.

In preparation of the bad weather, I stopped at the Co-Op and bought salmon for dinner tonight. We'll have jerk salmon, hasselback potatoes, roasted rainbow carrots and purple cabbage slaw. And wine. It's Thursday after all!

Oh - and we did have chips with the Italian subs on Tuesday. Along with french onion dip. And it was SOOOOO good!

What's for Dinner #351: the Wishing & Hoping Edition [through Mar 2, 2015]

That sounds like a perfect night of eating, drinking, and entertainment!

Feb 26, 2015
iowagirl in Home Cooking
1

Fun Girls Weekend In Chicago! Trip Report

Mom, Sis, Godmom and I decided to converge on Chicago for a girls weekend and to celebrate Mom's bday. They flew from KC and Minneapolis (crazy cheap airfare!) and I drove from Iowa. I got amazing Priceline rooms in the most perfect location and we were off! Their flights got in early Friday morning and I didn't arrive until about 3:30 where I rescued them from the TGIFriday's they had converged on for "happy hour" while waiting on me. Their excuse was that it was one block from the hotel and it was cold. That was the last bad eating/drinking decision they made!

We went to Gino's for dinner - Sis and I split a small pepperoni, mushromm and green pepper. Mom really wanted Italian beef - it looked wonderful, but was so darn spicy it was almost inedible. Not sure what they heck they did to it, but it was HOT - we think it was something they put on the bread, because the meat that had not touched the bread was fine. Odd. Moral of the story - stick with pizza at Gino's! I also tried a new to me beer - a black IPA called Wookie Jack. It was perfect with the pizza and just right for the cold weather!

Saturday we slept in then had "brunch" at the Grand Lux Cafe where I had some of the best blueberry pancakes I've ever had. They were fluffy, not to much blueberry, and the syrup was this buttery mapley stuff that I would have been happy drinking! Sis and I split those and an egg white omelette which was fine. Godmom had traditional eggs, hashbrowns, meat and Mom had Eggs Benedict which were perfectly done. A great place to shore up for a day of shopping on Michigan Ave.

Mom wanted Italian for dinner, so we ended up at Coco Pazzo Cafe. Started with the mozzarella salad, which was better than I anticipated. the cheese itself was really good and they had roasted the tomatoes so they actually had some flavor in the dead of winter! We also shared some calamari. I ordered the pasta of the day, which was by far the best choice of the night. Homemade mushroom ravioli with a black truffle butter cream sauce and pine nuts. It was creamy, rich, vevelty comfort food and with a portion big enough that everyone got some! We pretty much shared everything - other entrees were rigatoni with sausage and peas in a creamy tomato sauce, spaghetti with tomato, garlic, olive oil and chile flakes and roasted veggies over polenta. I thought all the pastas were good. The veggies were meh - asparagus, portobello, zucchini, summer squash and peppers none of which are exactly in season over a disk of polenta that had little to no flavor. Not my favorite, but it was Sis's dish and she was happy with it. Tiramisu with four forks for dessert. I'd go back for pasta for sure.

Sunday morning Mom really wanted her Chicago dog fix, so we headed to Portillo's for her official birthday "breakfast". I had the Maxwell Street polish and cheese fries, which I really needed after staying out way to late with Sis the night before!

After Portillo's we wandered over to Eataly - and spent the next hour or so drooling and wishing we had more stomach room. What a fun place! We did take some desserts with us to have for later - a blackberry semifreddo, a triple layer chocolate thing and a limoncello cake. The semifreddo was the best in my opinion - Mom liked the chocolate.

Dinner was Godmom's pick - her fave Chicago restaurant, Lawry's. I had never been and truly it was the best prime rib I've had. The tableside theater was pretty fun and it was a great old school experience. Sis and I shared a meal, which comes with salad, mashed potatoes and Yorkshire pudding - we added a lobster tale, sauteed mushrooms and asparagus with Hollandaise. Medium rare prime rib. It was all perfectly fine and was a fun experience.

We then headed to a showing of the First Wives Club which was entertaining enough to keep us all awake after that meal! Great weekend of food, laughter and girl time, even if it was subzero temps all weekend. Can't wait to come back!

Feb 24, 2015
iowagirl in Chicago Area

What's For Dinner #350: The Robins are Back So it Must be Spring Right? Edition [through Feb. 25, 2015]

EJ wanted more than just salad last night, so it was breaded chicken breasts and past with creamy pesto. Roasted garlic sourdough, toasted, on the side. To up the veggie quotient, I added a bunch of halved cherry tomatoes to mine - they were getting a bit wrinkly and needed using. There was wine.

Tonight we both have a craving for cold Italian subs so EJ will head to the deli for the good ham, and salami, some aged provolone and good bread. We'll construct them with some chopped lettuce, mayo and some oil and vinegar whisked with some oregano and basil. Probably the salad that we didn't have last night on the side. Or chips!

What's For Dinner #350: The Robins are Back So it Must be Spring Right? Edition [through Feb. 25, 2015]

Wonderful weekend of eating in Chicago with my mom, sister and godmom! They flew in from KC and Minneapolis (crazy cheap airfare!) respectively, and I drove from Iowa. They landed much earlier than me and when I got there at about 3:30, I rescued them from the TGIF that they had landed at for happy hour! That was the last of the bad food choices for them!

Friday night was Gino's East for pizza (pepperoni, mushroom and green pepper). Mom wanted to try the Italian beef there and it was so spicy it was almost inedible. Couldn't figure out what they heck they had done to it, but the heat appeared to come from something they put on the bread. I tried a new beer - a black IPA called Wookie Jack - that I loved and was perfect for the arctic temps!

Saturday morning we slept in and then had brunch at the Grand Lux Cafe - some of the best blueberry pancakes I've eaten - to shore up for a day shopping on Michigan Ave. Mom wanted Italian for dinner, (and it was her birthday weekend!) so we went to Coco Pazzo Cafe. I ordered the best dish which was the pasta special. Homemade mushroom ravioli with a black truffle butter cream sauce. Garnished with toasted pine nuts and parsley. Yum! We stared with the mozzarella tomato salad, which was very good since they roasted the tomatoes, bringing out some good flavor in the dead of Chicago winter! Finished with tiramisu and four spoons.

Yesterday, Mom's actual birthday, we went to Portillo's for an early lunch so she could get her Chicago dog fix. I had the Maxwell Street polish (grilled polish with grilled onions and mustard) and cheese fries which is just what I needed after staying out til very late with my sis the night before.

We went from Portillo's to Eataly, and wandered around in awe for a while. Picked up a couple of pastries for later and drooled over pretty much everything else!

Dinner was my godmom's pick - her favorite place in Chicago. Lawry's. I had never been and it really was the best prime rib I've ever had. And the tableside service was very fun. Then we went to a showing of The First Wives Club on Broadway in Chicago which was good enough to keep us all awake after our big dinner! Back to the hotel after for more girl talk and pastries, then off to bed since we all had early departure times today. It was a great weekend, but tonight I'm eating salad.

What's for Dinner #349 - the Sub-Zero-For-Some Edition [Old]

Tonight is the Batali "hero" redux from the freezer as I want to get to a yoga class and then come home and try to get the house spit shined before I leave EJ for a girls weekend in Chicago. He's having a friend of ours over, so we'll clean tonight so he can spend Saturday cooking. I took the pepper mixture and the sausages out of the freezer last night, and will stop to get new bread. The mozzarella and parm are still in good shape. Assemble the sandwiches, pop them in the oven to get warm and melty while I vacuum! Small green salad on the side. Either wine or Appleton to drink ...

Tomorrow we have a basketball game to go to, so another freezer meal before hand - the Renaissance lasagna will be thawed and gently reheated. More greens - they're good for ya, ya know!

Then it's off to Chicago with my Mom, sis and GodMom - lots of laughing, drinking and eating will ensue. Plus some shopping and a showing of the First Wives Club. Very excited!

What's for Dinner #349 - the Sub-Zero-For-Some Edition [Old]

With all that great sounding food, you didn't eat? Hope there's at least some leftovers for you!!

Feb 18, 2015
iowagirl in Home Cooking

What's for Dinner #349 - the Sub-Zero-For-Some Edition [Old]

Steve - we love that cookbook - from which the recipe for the afore mentioned gumbo comes! It's one of our faves for sure, even with all the fat PP calls for! Your shrimp looks wonderful!

What's for Dinner #349 - the Sub-Zero-For-Some Edition [Old]

That sounds perfect to me. Every darn bit of it!!

Feb 17, 2015
iowagirl in Home Cooking

Mardi Gras - sharing in Fat Tuesday

Chicken and andouille gumbo here - our local Co-Op makes a killer homemade andouille with a real kick - perfect for tonight and our windchill advisory!

Feb 17, 2015
iowagirl in Home Cooking
1

What's for Dinner #349 - the Sub-Zero-For-Some Edition [Old]

Last night was crabcakes, thrown together quickly and with roasted asparagus as the side so that we could get to the main event of the night - making chicken and andouille gumbo for a get together tonight. It's resting in the fridge, marrying all it's flavor - and will be served with rice. Our local Co-Op makes it's own andouille and it has a serious kick. Which should be perfect given that we are under a windchill advisory tonight and tomorrow. Hmph.

What's for Dinner #349 - the Sub-Zero-For-Some Edition [Old]

I know!!! We bought those when my SD's were 5 and 8, respectively at a WalMart in my small hometown. They came with two bowls and two cups. And. They. Just. Won't. Die.

What's for Dinner #349 - the Sub-Zero-For-Some Edition [Old]

We are also fighting subzero temps (but no snow!) so Saturday we spent running errands, then settled in for a delicious Valentine meal! Hand stuffed blue cheese olives for dirty martinis to start (yes, that is a Rugrats plate. Don't judge :) ), then filet with lump crab meat, homemade bearnaise, roasted asparagus with more bearnaise and yukon gold baked potatoes. We unearthed a 2001 Bordeaux, which was actually very good! Too full for dessert.

Yesterday was the end of Operation Clean Closets as we conquered the last of the closets that had not been cleaned out in about 12 years. We ordered pizza for dinner!

Tonight I'm making crab cakes with the remainder of the lump crap meat, and then we'll make a big batch of chicken and andouille gumbo for a potluck movie party tomorrow night!

What's for Dinner? #348 -- The Valentine's Day Edition [through Feb 15, 2015]

Tonight I'm making EJ take me out on a date! Chicago's Second City Improv group is at our local theater tonight, so that's the destination. We'll do dinner at our local cozy little tapas place that also does their own infusions and craft cocktails. Sounds perfect before what I hope to be a very funny show!

Tomorrow night we are doing our "romantic" dinner at home - filet with crab and bernaise sauce, sauteed asparagus and I think I'm going to finally try hasselback potatoes. Bakery tiramisu for dessert and a nice bottle of Bordeaux to go alongside. If I'm nice, maybe he'll make me a dirty martini to start. :)

Happy weekend all!

What's for Dinner? #348 -- The Valentine's Day Edition [through Feb 15, 2015]

Yesterday I got a note from my local Co-Op that they were having a flash sale on wild alaskan salmon - so that was WFD! We had jerk salmon, roasted potatoes with garlic and thyme and roasted green beans. A meal that used the oven and warmed up the kitchen - it's back to subzero temps around here.

Tonight we have a college basketball game to go to - at 6PM - so WFD is sandwiches from our favorite shop, smuggled into the arena in our heavy winter gear. Much better than the anemic hot dogs and dry, salty popcorn on offer there!

What's for Dinner? #348 -- The Valentine's Day Edition [through Feb 15, 2015]

Reposting from the last thread -

Did a little cooking this weekend, and a little take out - a good balance! I was craving pizza and since we can't get good Chicago style pizza where we are, EJ asked me to make homemade pizza - he likes it better than any take out we can get! So it was homemade pesto pizza with yellow and green peppers, tomatoes, and mozzarella and taleggio cheese. Appleton and diet Coke to wash it down! Then Saturday we delved into the cookbook my oldest SD bought me for Christmas - Batali's America - Farm to Table. We made the sausage and pepper "heros" - good hot italian sausages get browned, then olive oil, red and yellow peppers, red onion, red chili flakes, fresh thyme, red wine and tomato paste get reduced down and the sausages added back in for more simmering. Load the sausage and some of the pepper mixture on crusty rolls with good grated parm and some mozzarella, wrap in foil and bake for about 40 minutes. Great depth of flavor, but I'll try to reduce the olive oil next time as the pepper mix was a bit oily. Still a very tasty Saturday night dinner. Last night was take out Thai!

Tonight I'm going to repurpose the rest of the pepper mix by adding some more wine and some broth and making a pasta sauce for some spinach raviolis. Garlic bread on the side. And wine!

I actually made the pasta, tossed with some of the pepper mixture, sprinkled some of that good mozzarella over and baked for a bit - garlic bread on the side. It was really good!

EJ seems to have picked up a bug, so tonight may be cheesy scrambled eggs and toast for him!

What's for Dinner? #347 - the Post-Groundhog & Pre-Valentine's Day Edition [Old: through February 9. 2015]

Did a little cooking this weekend, and a little take out - a good balance! I was craving pizza and since we can't get good Chicago style pizza where we are, EJ asked me to make homemade pizza - he likes it better than any take out we can get! So it was homemade pesto pizza with yellow and green peppers, tomatoes, and mozzarella and taleggio cheese. Appleton and diet Coke to wash it down! Then Saturday we delved into the cookbook my oldest SD bought me for Christmas - Batali's America - Farm to Table. We made the sausage and pepper "heros" - good hot italian sausages get browned, then olive oil, red and yellow peppers, red onion, red chili flakes, fresh thyme, red wine and tomato paste get reduced down and the sausages added back in for more simmering. Load the sausage and some of the pepper mixture on crusty rolls with good grated parm and some mozzarella, wrap in foil and bake for about 40 minutes. Great depth of flavor, but I'll try to reduce the olive oil next time as the pepper mix was a bit oily. Still a very tasty Saturday night dinner. Last night was take out Thai!

Tonight I'm going to repurpose the rest of the pepper mix by adding some more wine and some broth and making a pasta sauce for some spinach raviolis. Garlic bread on the side. And wine!

What's for Dinner? #347 - the Post-Groundhog & Pre-Valentine's Day Edition [Old: through February 9. 2015]

Congrats Julie!! A beautiful view, kitchen and ring!!! Many, many happy years to you and SO!

Feb 05, 2015
iowagirl in Home Cooking

What's for Dinner? #346 - The Deep Freeze Edition! [through Feb 3, 2015]

I think you just need to keep snuggling her and order take out!

Feb 03, 2015
iowagirl in Home Cooking

What's for Dinner? #346 - The Deep Freeze Edition! [through Feb 3, 2015]

This sounds like the perfect winter/after shoveling lots of snow dinner!

Feb 02, 2015
iowagirl in Home Cooking

What's for Dinner? #346 - The Deep Freeze Edition! [through Feb 3, 2015]

We had 12 inches of snow yesterday, which ended up interfering with our satellite, so no game on the big TV. We had to stream it on our 13 in laptop - with none of the good commercials. Even our snacks of good cheese, smoked salmon and pate were just meh. Hmph.

Tonight it's chicken in black bean sauce (with red and green pepper and onion) and some TJ's spring rolls on the side. Adding a good amount of chile garlic sauce so that we stay warm!

Feb 02, 2015
iowagirl in Home Cooking
2

What's for Dinner? #346 - The Deep Freeze Edition! [through Feb 3, 2015]

So I could not find the kecap manis or noodles that I thought would work - thanks MmeFleiss and Frizzle for the suggestions! I'm going to make a foray to our (limited) ethnic markets this weekend to see what I can find, but may try that dark soy and brown sugar sub if I come up empty.

So .... at the market without a back up dinner plan. There were some nice looking snapper filets that I grabbed thinking that blackened snapper would be a tasty alternative. They were good, but the thicker parts of the filet were a little chewy - was that because I cooked them wrong (just seared in my CI pan til cooked through) or is that normal for snapper? Served with a grain blend to which I added cherry tomatoes, kalamatas and feta and some roasted green beans (to use up the ones I was going to make the mee goreng with). Not bad, not great.