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Every night this week has felt pretty much like summer and with the crazy long daylight hours that we have in Indiana, we have been spending plenty of evenings in our outdoor living room, or, during our first summer here, our only living room.
 
The first summer that we lived in our house, we had no furniture. Well, that isn’t completely accurate, all of our furniture was in our garage while we spent countless hours installing hardwood flooring. It was one of those Murphy’s Law projects that should have been done in a week or two, but in reality took about six months.
  
When we first bought our house, we  didn’t plan to change the floor at all, but almost immediately we realized that the carpeting smelled awful. Even after shampooing and deodorizing, the smell was completely overpowering. It quickly became apparent that our floor had been doubling for a litter box.

 

No problem, just tear out the carpet and nail down hardwood, right? Riiiight. That’s what we thought this first day when we had our flooring “breathing” to adjust to the humidity.

In reality, we had to chip away sections of tile floor, pry up soggy particle board, removed sweet 1970′s parque, remove a few hundred square feet of perfectly good hardwood, then finally, after numerous trips to the dump, we could…

…wait for it…

…install and level plywood. You didn’t think it would be that easy, did you? Did I mention that I was still working in Memphis five days per week?

Chris did his best to work on the floor while I was gone, but between that project and our massive lawn to mow, it was a Herculean juggling act. As summer came to a close and it began to get too chilly for me to appreciate the comfort of our outdoor living room, we were finally able to move into our house for real.

We still like to relax on our back porch, and while I don’t think we will ever again do so with the frequency that we did that summer, I still enjoy grilling extravaganzas like the one we had last Sunday. 

Sunday’s all-grill dinner was topped off with none other than a grilled dessert. I’m a huge fan of grilled fruit and this may be my favorite. It had the sweetness of dried fruit, but was juicy like the real deal. An added bonus is that Chris, our house grill master, does the cooking when I come up with (almost) all-grill dinners.

Adapted from Skinny Chef.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp adobo paste from canned chipotles in adobo
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 ripe mangos, peeled, cut into 1-inch thick slices

Directions:

  • Heat balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan, boil for several minutes until in reduces by half.
  • Mix in olive oil, adobo paste, and salt.
  • Marinate the mango slices in the balsamic sauce for 2-3 hours or overnight.
  • Heat a grill over medium-high heat.
  • Grill the mango in a grill basket, turning once, until browned and slightly softened, about 5 minutes total.
  • Serve warm or cold, it is excellent both ways.

Servings ~ 4
Calories ~113 , Fat ~ 3.7g, Carbohydrates ~ 21.6g, Protein ~ 0.5g

In lieu of a Mother’s Day celebration on Sunday, Chris and I decided to grill. It isn’t that we didn’t want to celebrate Mother’s Day, it is just that our mothers live way too far away for a proper celebration.

The weather in Indiana was beautiful this weekend except for a few short rain showers on Saturday and we got so much accomplished. We were able to get all most of our grass mowed, our flower beds weeded, changed the oil in our cars and the tractor, went grocery shopping, went out for sushi, took the dogs out for a walk, went to the gym, and spent a decent amount of time preparing for a big change, still under wraps for a little while, at Duke’s House.

(No, there are no tiny humans involved with this change. Why do I feel like I have to clarify that all the time? Ahem, people who jump to conclusions…)

Finally, we had some down time on Sunday night and got to grill and hang out on our back porch. Too bad everyone else we knew was busy with Mother’s Day because the kale was good enough to serve to company.

This was both of our first times grilling kale and it was a big time win! I almost always like to have some type of salad-y element to my dinner, but I do not always feel like dealing with making a salad. Grilled kale was a much easier alternative.

From Daily Unadventures in Cooking.

Ingredients:

  • one bunch kale
  • aluminum foil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • fresh lemon, the juice of one to two wedges

Directions:

  • Place two sheets of aluminum foil, about 18″ each, perpendicular to each other on your work surface to form a cross.
  • Chop kale into bite size pieces, removing stems, and place the kale in the center of the foil.
  • Sprinkle with salt, pepper and olive oil and lightly toss.
  • Roll the top sheet of foil tightly around the kale. Fold the bottom sheet around the top roll, burrito style to form an airtight pouch.
  • Heat a grill to a medium heat, then place the pouch on the grill for about 12 minutes with the lid closed.
  • Remove from grill, carefully unwrap package and drizzle with lemon juice.
  • Plate and serve.

Servings ~ 4
Calories ~ 103, Fat ~ 4.4 g, Carbohydrates ~ 14.9 g, Protein ~ 5.0 g

The pictures from this post and my last one really got me thinking about natural versus artificial lighting. Both pictures were taken fairly late in the day as the sunlight was waning, but the light was still strikingly better than anything that my kitchen lighting can produce.

I have toyed around with the idea of getting a light box for food pictures, but I don’t exactly want it hanging out in my kitchen. Ideally I could just make dinner before it gets dark, but it is very rare that it actually happens.

Maybe it is time to make room for a light box. Does anyone else have one?


A Duke’s House original.

Ingredients:

  • 1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and sliced into semi-circle rings
  • 1 tbsp mirin
  • 1 tbsp tamari (soy sauce would be fine if you can’t find tamari)
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp minced ginger root
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 tbsp chopped cilantro for garnish
  • olive oil spray

Directions:

  • After prepping squash, combine other ingredients in a sealable plastic bag or other container.
  • Add squash to sealable container and toss to coat with marinade.
  • Spray grill with olive oil, then grill squash over a medium heat for about 10 minutes, or until tender, turning halfway though.

Servings ~ 4
Calories ~ 114, Fat ~ 1.4 g, Carbohydrates ~ 26.7 g, Protein ~ 2.6 g

I did the unthinkable this morning. I decided what I wanted for dinner ahead of time.

Unfortunately, it was not early enough for me to take the tempeh that I wanted for dinner out of the freezer before I went to work. That’s ok though, I thought, I’ll take it out when I go home for lunch.

Yeah, not so much. You see I locked my keys in the car during lunch today. Brilliant, huh?

Needless to say, I didn’t make it home for lunch today. So my dinner plans were foiled.

Fortunately my CSA box saved the day by being packed with plenty of alternate dinner options. (Wait a minute, it was at the CSA that I locked the keys in the car…)

The most obvious dinner choice, to me at least, was eggplant. The next step would be to find a recipe that was healthy, quick, and that I owned all of the ingredients for. Duke’s House is kind of out there and there is no running back to the grocery store after you get home. Well, maybe if you decide that you want wine with dinner…

Just from reading this recipe, I could tell that it would be great! I ate my eggplant with some quinoa cooked with garlic in chicken broth on the side. Mmmm!

In case you are wondering, there was more okra in my CSA box! More okra recipes coming soon!

Adapted from Beyond Salmon.

Ingredients:

  • 1 eggplant
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 clove elephant garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  • Peel eggplant and slice into ½ inch thick rings.
  • Place eggplant slices on a sheet of paper towels and sprinkle it with salt on both sides. This will cause the eggplant to release a lot of liquid which will make it less watery when it is cooked.
  • Let the eggplant sit for 15 minutes, then dry both sides well with paper towels.
  • In a large bowl, mix the honey, garlic, paprika, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper.
  • Dunk both sides of each eggplant slice into the marinade, then place the slices on a dish to take them to your grill.
  • Heat the grill to a high heat.
  • Using a grill brush, lightly oil the grill grate with olive oil.
  • Place the eggplant slices on the grill, close the lid, and turn down the heat to medium.
  • Grill for about 3 minutes until the eggplant has grill marks.
  • Turn the slices 90 degrees to make cross-hatch grill marks, then grill until marked, about 3 more minutes.
  • Brush the slices with remaining marinade, flip them, then repeat the grilling process on the other side. Be sure to regulate the heat so that the eggplant is browning, but not burning.
  • When the cross-hatch marks are complete, remove from grill and serve warm.

Servings ~ 2
Calories ~ 133, Fat ~ 3 g, Carbohydrates ~ 28 g, Protein ~ 3 g

Yesterday morning I learned about grilled peaches. Can you say perfect timing? There was a whole bag of peaches in our CSA box this week.

I had grilled peaches on my mind all day, I could just tell that they were going to be great!

Then I got home and realized that I had already eaten all but two of the peaches. I guess there weren’t as many peaches in the bag as I thought.

No problem, we had apples also and the cinnamon and brown sugar topping for the peaches reminded me of the flavors of apple pie and baked apples. Mmmm!

I quickly decided that we would have grilled apples as well. It turns out that grilled peaches are awesome, but grilled apples blow them out of the water!

As Chris put it “These are even good enough to serve to other people!”

Thanks. I think?

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 apples (I used Fuji.)
  • 2 peaches
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • a few scoops of ice cream or your favorite whipped topping

Directions:

  • Slice apples and peaches into large enough slices to not fall through your grill grate.
  • Combine cinnamon and brown sugar, set aside.
  • Turn on your grill and set it to a medium heat. (Ours was just below 400 for the majority of the cooking time.)
  • Place apple and peach slices skin side down and grill for several minutes with the grill lid closed.
  • Flip the fruit and grill skin side up for several more minutes, grill lid closed. (Note: If you are good with chopsticks, they seem to be the best tool for cooking this meal.)
  • Once again, flip the fruit so it is skin side down. Sprinkle the top with the cinnamon and brown sugar mixture and cook for several more minutes with the grill lid closed.
  • Turn off the grill, then flip the topping side down and let sit, lid closed, until the cinnamon and brown sugar caramelized.
  • Serve warm with a few scoops of ice cream and/or your favorite whipped topping. We went with just fruit and whipped cream.

Servings ~ 2
Calories per apple (not including ice cream or whipped topping) ~ 116, Fat ~ 0.5 g, Carbohydrates ~ 34 g, Protein < 1 g
Calories per peach (not including ice cream or whipped topping) ~ 61, Fat < 1 g, Carbohydrates ~ 17 g, Protein 1 g

Apples on Foodista

Last night we had our neighbors over for grilled pizza. In keeping with the clean out the refrigerator theme, we needed to use up an onion and the green bell pepper.

So far we are on track to use up the perishables in our refrigerator before Friday morning. Except the milk. We never buy milk because we never drink milk, but Chris bought a gallon so he could devour a box of Chocolate Cheerios. That never happened.

When we first saw Chocolate Cheerios we simultaneously exclaimed, “Why did it take them so long to come out with these?!”

I’ll tell you why. Because they are not good. General Mills must have hired a young chocolate loving flunky into their New Product Development Department. Fail!

I never thought that I could dislike a chocolate flavored cereal, but these make those unflavored bags of puffed rice or puffed oats sound appealing.

Anyway, on to “Mission Clean Out Duke’s Refrigerator”. We are making good progress, here is what remains:

  • Dairy
    • 1/2 cup plain yogurt <– I will eat at some point today
    • 1 cup cottage cheese <– Chris will probably eat for lunch
    • 1 gallon of milk (well, most of it anyway) <– I will try to convince Chris to do a gallon challenge for the pure comedy of it. Kidding…kind of…
    • 1/2 cup sour cream <– This will go on fish tacos tonight
  • Fruits and Vegetables
    • 1 jalapeño <– In guacamole tonight
    • 1/2 bag scallions <– These will probably get tossed
    • 1/2 head cabbage <– Fish taco fixings
    • 2 apples <– Cut up to take on plane tomorrow
    • 1 plum tomato <– Fish taco fixings
    • 1/2 bunch cilantro <– Pico de gallo
    • 1.5 avocados <– Guac
    • 1 onions <– Pico de gallo
    • 1/2 bunch parsley <– This will also probably also get tossed

Last night’s pizza turned out great. Chris claimed that it was the best “non-California” pizza that he had ever had.

He has this “everything is better in California” bias, so I’ll take that as a win. I’d like to get him in a debate over barbeque with someone from Texas sometime. I think they would throw down, tri-tip might lose to Texas.

Just kidding Chris. Not about the bias, that’s real. But I genuinely wouldn’t want your beloved tri-tip to lose the better barbeque debate. You are confident that it would not. I trust you. 

**Pizza picture coming soon. I’m still getting the hang of the new camera.**

Ingredients (for 4 “personal” pizzas):

  • 1 batch pizza dough
  • 1 batch pizza sauce
  • 1 lb fresh mozzarella cheese, drained in a strainer – This is an important step that we neglected but will be sure to do next time.
  • 1 green bell pepper, lightly sautéed
  • 1 onion, lightly sautéed
  • 4 thinly sliced sausage links, we used chicken sausage (pre-cooked)

Directions:

  • On a clean surface that is lightly coated with corn meal, begin to stretch out your pizza crust.
  • Stretch dough until it reaches your desired thickness.
  • Lightly brush one side of the crust with olive oil.
  • Before you take the crust out to your grill do the following:
    • Get all of your toppings ready. This means have the peppers onions sautéed, the cheese grated, and the sausage cooked and sliced. After the first side of the pizza is finished cooking this process will move fast!
    • Pre-heat your grill. We used a medium heat and used Heidi’s technique of opening and closing the lid to regulate heat.
  • Now that your toppings are ready and you have pre-heated your grill, place your crust, oiled side down on the grill.
  • Cook until it turns a golden brown.
  • Temporarily turn down the heat on the grill so that it is more comfortable to work over.
  • Before flipping the crust, lightly brush the other side with oil.
  • Flip! Carefully. I recommend grabbing the crust with a dish towel to flip it.
  • Quickly spread the toppings, sauce, cheese, and other toppings.
  • Adjust back to your cooking temperature.
  • Continue cooking until the cheese melts and the bottom of the crust is golden brown. Remember, the speed at which the top and bottom cook can be somewhat regulated by opening and closing the lid of the grill.  
  • Enjoy!

Servings ~ 4-5
Calories ~ This will depend a lot on your toppings.

Friday night as we sat at home channel surfing (exciting, right?) I happened upon a TV show about pizza and was quickly drawn in.

This isn’t too surprising because, as Chris will verify, if I am watching TV it will probably be:

  •  a show about food
  • Jeopardy!
  • Mad Money
  • or American Idol

I guess that means that if none of the last three items are on TV, but the television is on anyway, I will be watching food-related television.

The pizza show, I do not recall which show I was watching, highlighted Ed LaDou, “The Prince of Pizza”, who supposedly invented California style pizza, specifically the barbeque chicken variety. That is a serious claim to fame. I thank him for making his mark on American cuisine and for inspiring our delectable Sunday night dinner.

After watching a special on barbeque chicken pizza, I obviously had pizza on my mind all weekend. Who wouldn’t?

By Sunday afternoon I could not put off the pizza eating any longer. I got out my mixer and started making dough. Not only was I going to make dough from scratch, but I was going to enlist Chris to help grill some pizza.

After a little research, Heidi Swanson’s 101 Cookbooks was especially helpful for pizza grilling instructions, we got started.

My amoebic looking pizza. Maybe I went a little overboard on the onions? I don't think so, I was digging it.

 

Chris's "fancy" round pizza.

Lucky and Dusty moved to the front porch from their usual back porch hangout during the pizza grilling episode. We must have been a little too rowdy for their liking.

The pizza turned out great! We are already talking about grilling pizza again on Friday night. I highly recommend giving this a try.

As Chris said, “I don’t think I would even order pizza again. There is no reason to.”

Ingredients:

  • pizza dough
  • BBQ sauce (We each used our favorite variety. My store brand honey-flavored sauce tasted best.)
  • mozzarella cheese, grated
  • several ounces of pre-cooked and chopped chicken breast
  • 1 red onion, lightly sautéed
  • corn meal
  • olive oil

Directions:

  • On a clean surface that is lightly coated with corn meal, begin to stretch out your pizza crust. We initially got out a rolling-pin, but stretching was a far better technique.
  • Stretch dough until it reaches your desired thickness. I made mine a super thin crusted amoebic shaped crust. Chris went for a slightly thicker crust which he formed into a nearly perfect circle with neatly rolled up edges.
  • Lightly brush one side of the crust.
  • Before you take the crust out to your grill do the following:
    • Get all of your toppings ready. This means have the onions sautéed, the cheese grated, the chicken chopped. After the first side of the pizza is finished cooking this process will move fast!
    • Pre-heat your grill. We used a medium heat and used Heidi’s technique of opening and closing the lid to regulate heat.
  • Now that your toppings are ready and you have pre-heated your grill, place your crust, oiled side down on the grill.
  • Cook until it turns a golden brown.
  • Before flipping the crust, lightly brush the other side with oil.
  • Flip! Carefully. Chris used his fingers, I think I would have used a dish towel to grab it with because from the look on his face I would say the crust was hot.
  • Quickly spread the toppings, sauce, cheese, then other toppings, in this case chicken and onions.
  • Continue cooking until the cheese melts and the bottom of the crust is golden brown. Hopefully this happens at nearly the same time. Again, the speed at which the top and bottom cook can be somewhat regulated by opening and closing the lid of the grill.  
  • Enjoy!

Calories ~ You probably don’t want to know. The nutrition information for the crust is located here. I recommend either not calculating or guestimating based on your toppings and serving size.

In an effort to use all of our fruits and vegetables before they go bad, we often have to use veggies that are common between several meal in a week. This is often challenging when it comes to fish taco fixings.

Or is it?

Cabbage and pico de gallo mixed into ground turkey. Can it be?

Chris said no. “This burger will fall apart. It can not be grilled.”

I briefly considered cooking it in the grill pan, but I have shunned our grill pan since the first time I used it. The grill pan is basically a slow cooking George Foreman grill. Gross.

Chris agreed to grill the self destructing burger but made no promises. His masterful grilling skills paid off. This was the best turkey burger I have ever eaten.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. extra lean ground turkey
  • 2 cups finely shredded cabbage
  • 1 cup pico de gallo
  • 1 avocado
  • 1/2 onion
  • mayonnaise, mustard, or the burger topping of your choice

Directions:

  • Combine ground turkey, cabbage, and pico de gallo.
  • Divide mixture into four equal parts and form four burger patties.
  • Grill until cooked through.
  • Serve with thinly sliced avocado, onion, and mayonnaise (for me) or mustard (for Chris).

Last weekend we had a remarkably low grocery bill and I couldn’t exactly pinpoint why. We had purchased everything on the list and, as usual, a few extra items.

It turns out that we hadn’t bought any foods that could be combined to result in an actual meal, or so I thought anyway. Had we planned our meals, the list probably would have been a bit longer and it probably would not have taken me until Thursday to get around to making a reasonable meal. Grocery shopping FAIL.

Our seemingly inadequate grocery shopping coupled with my non-existent drive to cook anything that resembled a dinner resulted in some pretty sad eating at Duke’s House this week.

Today I decided that the cooking strike needed to come to an end. Here we have it: Grilled Polenta with Mushroom Ragout.

I really liked the grilled polenta. The crispy crust that the grill gave the polenta contrasted with the soft center nicely. It kind of reminded me of the crunchy sugar on top of a creamy crème brûlée. Chris and I both went back for seconds tonight!

I would normally post a color photograph, but I couldn’t get the settings on my camera to cooperate. Trust me, this one looks better in black and white than its yellow-tinted color counterpart did!

I guess we were able to make something decent with what we had. Next time I will try it out with homemade polenta. That just wasn’t in the cards this week.

Ingredients:

  • 1 roll of polenta (I used Trader Joe’s Organic Polenta, next time I will try my hand at making my own!)
  • 4 cups mushrooms
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 4 tbsp butter (I used yogurt butter.)
  • 1 tbsp garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp parsley
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 4 scallions, chopped finely
  • 2 oz queso fresco

Directions:

  • Slice polenta into 1″ to 1.5″ rounds.
  • Brush rounds with olive oil, season with salt and pepper.
  • Place polenta rounds on a very hot grill, brushed with oil. Do not move them or they will stick.
  • Cook for 3-5 minutes on each side depending on how crispy you like them.
  • Saute mushrooms and garlic in butter for several minutes until they are tender.
  • When the mushrooms start to become tender, stir in the wine and spices.
  • Reduce heat and simmer until the butter and wine sauce reduces some.
  • To serve, place the polenta round on a plate and spoon mushrooms and sauce over the polenta. Garnish with scallions and crumbled queso fresco.

Servings: 2 meals or 4 appetizers
Calories(per 1/4 recipe) ~ 218, Fat ~ 10 g, Carbohydrates ~ 22 g, Protein ~ 9 g

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