Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Laptop Lunches #96

Cherry tomato salad with blue cheese and tarragon (America's Test Kitchen Cooking for Two, probably 2010), grapes, chicken "cassoulet" (Eating Well Serves Two), and orange slices.

I have checked Eating Well Serves Two out of the library about four or five times now and renewed and renewed until I can't renew anymore. I really need to just bite the bullet and buy it.

Anyway, the cherry tomato salad needed something. I had a little cup of pecans nearby that I mixed in when I actually ate it, which improved matters. I don't think I'll make this particular one again.

Chicken "cassoulet" has me wanting the real thing, which I will make some dreary winter week when I think I need the extra warmth cooking for two or three days offers. But this was fine for a quick version, and it got me to eat beans. (It's always tough trying to convince me to eat beans.)

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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Laptop Lunches #95

There's a heat wave descending on us here in the northeast. After an unbelievably comfortable first few weeks of June, with gentle temperatures and highs in the 70s, we're expecting triple digits. So I prepared most of my lunch ahead of time, and planned on something that should all be eaten cold.

Marinated broccoli-carrot salad, strawberry chunks, red grape and shrimp salad, and a stuffed egg.

The recipes for both salads came from Betty Crocker's Just the Two of Us. Both looked easy (super easy compared to the muliple-step processes I get from America's Test Kitchen's Cooking for Two series), and I was really intrigued by the grape-shrimp combo. I figured it would either be inspired, or a disaster. The marinated broccoli-carrot salad was fine; nothing remarkable. But the red grape and shrimp salad went far beyond even my "maybe inspired" expectations. Marinated shrimp and green onion flavored with tarragon pair perfectly with the grapes. It's a keeper.

I decided to show you how I stuff a single egg today, since I do it so often and it's such a good thing to have in your arsenal for those "got to have something from nothing" days when you haven't run to the store in a while. Most recipes are for stuffing at least 6 eggs, sometimes 12. But I can't eat through that many, and anyway, they taste best the day they're made. I don't know if this is a recipe or a tutorial, really, but I'm going to call it a recipe.

Slice a hard boiled egg and dump the yolks into a very small bowl. I use a ceramic 1/4 cup measure I have, but a small teacup or something of similar size will work. Mash the yolk with a cocktail fork.

Add a grind or two of black pepper, some salt, and whatever flavoring you're into for the day. Today, I used paprika.

Add about a cocktail spoon worth of light mayo and a tiny squirt of dijon mustard. If you're not a vegetarian, you can add a drop or two of Worchestershire sauce; whether you are or not you can add a drop or two of vinegar (any type you like). Mix with the cockail spoon. (Note: This is a drier mix than most recipes. It has a tendency to stay in place better, in my experience, than the wetter fillings.)

Stuffing them is super easy with a cocktail spoon. Just divide the mixture evenly and stuff. They are fine as they are, or you can add a garnish.

In this case I chose a small sprinkling of paprika.

Flavorings could include chopped herbs (I like dill or parsley) or chives, or finely chopped meat, or whatever else strikes your fancy. Use your imagination--with such a small amount, even if it turns out badly, you haven't expended much in time or money. When I perfect Caesar salad stuffed eggs for one, I will let you know--but suffice it to say for now that a bit of anchovy paste, garlic powder, and finely grated parmesan, with a finely shredded romaine garnish, can do amazing things.

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Monday, June 18, 2012

Laptop Lunches #94

A while ago, I found some fun pasta shapes in various vegetable flavors and colors, and I thought I would try them out in making a variation of a pasta salad I used to eat at a place called "Souper Salad." (Is there such a place anymore? Does anyone know?) Pasta salads are a great idea for the summer, when you don't necessarily want to eat a hot meal.

Anyway, this is what they looked like raw:

I'm showing this to you so you know what I was trying to accomplish. It didn't go quite as planned.

You see that when cooked my lovely hearts turned into...smushed things that could be almost anything. Oh, well. I did like how it tasted. So I have parmesan and corn pasta salad (recipe below), fresh peach slices, guacamole salad (America's Test Kitchen Cooking for Two 2010) and a tiny slice of key lime pie with a cup of whipped cream topping (America's Test Kitchen Cooking for Two 2011).

I knew the whipped cream would end up a little runny, but I didn't mind that. It still tasted good with the pie and cut the tartness of the lime. The key lime pie recipe was pretty simple and I would make it again, just as they say with maybe the exception of just using canned whipped cream.

The guacamole salad was all right, but I think I'd prefer the jalapenos minced and include some of the seeds for some heat. Also, I think I'd quarter the chery tomatoes rather than halve them. The avocado really needs to take center stage. And finally, I don't think we needed the olive oil. It made the salad too heavy. I think I'll revisit this again to tweak it.

My recipe for parmesan and corn pasta salad is as follows:

Parmesan and Corn Pasta Salad

8 oz. multi-colored vegetable pasta (a wide, flat noodle works best, such as bow ties--I don't recommend rotini; you could even use spinach fettucine)
1/2 cup frozen corn
1 scallion, sliced thinly, divided
1/2 cup light mayo
1/3 cup grated parmesan
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
Fresh cracked black pepper to taste

Cook pasta in boiling salted water; drain. Toss with corn and half of the sliced scallion. Mix mayo, parmesan, garlic salt, and pepper in a small bowl, then toss with pasta and vegetable mixture. Chill for at least 1/2 hour to allow flavors to blend. Garnish salad with remaining scallions before serving. If you chill for more than a few hours, allow to come to room temperature before serving (it's better when it isn't too cold).

Servings: About 4-6

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Laptop Lunches #93

I really do need to go to the store. Bell pepper strips, baby carrots, celery sticks, snow peas, and yogurt ranch dressing; blackberries; mini gingerbread loaf slices, no-sugar added chunky applesauce, grape tomatoes; and a hard boiled egg with salt and pepper.

I love applesauce. I don't know why I don't eat more of it. It's healthy and cheap and shelf stable, and it tastes really good with the gingerbread. I recommend the gingerbread, incidentally, if you can manage to find the gingerbread flavored graham crackers. It's very easy and rewards you well for your effort.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Laptop Lunches #92

Something from "nothing"--what happens when I put off going to the grocery store for a very long time. Baby carrots, bell pepper strips, cherry tomatoes, and halved snow peas with yogurt ranch dressing; stuffed eggs with black olive garnish (recipe from Fannie Farmer), orange slices, a mixture of dried fruit (pineapple, mango, and papaya), and a tiny silicone cup of pistachios.

Fannie Farmer has a recipe for stuffing a single egg, something I normally improvise on my own, so I gave that a try. It's a little more liquid-y than I would like, but all right. Although I used the ham variation (as I am still in the throes of ham) I did tag this lunch vegetarian as well as gluten-free since it could very easily be made that way.

One thought I had about the olive garnish is that if one were the kind who liked to make school lunches for children, with funny faces, one could do that pretty easily with egg eyes, should one make a face out of something else (like a melon-slice smile). I prefer not to eat things that seem to be looking at me, but to each their own.

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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Laptop Lunches #91

Sorry about the crooked picture--I had a flashlight in my mouth because I have kind of bad lighting in the kitchen and I broke my floor lamp yesterday. It made it kind of hard to get a good picture.

Ham, olive, and cheddar mini-kebabs; water crackers; grape tomatoes, bell pepper strips, and carrot sticks with yogurt ranch for dipping; and a mixture of fresh pineapple chunks and blackberries.

I think buying orange grape tomatoes is a mistake. I mean, I see them in the store and I think, something new and different! but at home I think, something that matches carrot sticks too well and leaves me with nothing red.

Just a thought. Yellow would be all right, on non-pineapple days.

In other news, I found a recipe for ham lasagna I am dying to try. I did freeze a lot of the ham but I also have qutie a bit left in the fridge, and I keep looking for new ways of preparing it. So we'll see. Last night's ham and rice casserole, from the Fannie Farmer Cookbook, left something to be desired--more of a side dish than a main.

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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Laptop Lunches #90

Black olives in one of my new silcone food cups (not really a baking cup--a Japanese product I just couldn't resist for about $1 for a package of 3), orange grape tomatoes with yogurt-ranch dressing, a bit of leftover chicken and vegetable lasagna (needed a break from ham), kiwi slices, pineapple chunks, and some chocolate coconut candies I had left from what I made and mailed for Father's Day.

The candy was super easy and kind of fun to make. I think if I ever make it again I'll substitute for the almonds--peanuts or walnuts appeal to me a bit more--but they were tasty enough. Apparently, Dad has hidden the package and won't tell anybody where it is, so he must like them, too.