Archive for October, 2011

Pizza Night

Last night Lindsay, a couple of friends, and I went to one of our favorite pizza places.

That's right. Since 1993.

Pizza Lucé is local chain that offers higher end specialty pizza, pasta, salads, sandwiches, appetizers, and desserts.  Plus they have a bar with a great beer selection (Yes, I partook of some very delicious and a bit of bitter orange Surly Furious).  They have many items on the menu that can be Vegan or Gluten-Free.  If you live in/near Minnesota I recommend making the trip.  Even if you aren’t in the area, you should check them out: 

I didn’t remember to snap photos of everything, but here is what is some of what we ordered:

Artichoke Dip. It is so good that Lindsay always orders it.

From their website: “Critics agree—we put the art in artichoke dip. In fact, each order is an identical baked reproduction of Picasso’s best known work from his acclaimed “Parmesan-Cream Cheese-Artichoke Hearts and Garlic” period. Love at first bite? Yes. Served with two loaves of our toasted homemade focaccia bread.”

The special last night. Pasta with a pumpkin cream sauce.

Bowtie pasta, roasted corn, spiced pumkin cream sauce, and scallion greens for garnish.  Also it came with two pieces of garlic toast.  Very nice fall flavors.

Pizza Athena. Basically a greek salad on a pizza. Brilliant.

Again from their site: “You don’t need to consult some internet oracle to know this little goddess has fresh spinach, tomato, feta cheese, Kalamata olives, artichoke hearts, red onions, Greek oregano and toasted garlic with light mozzarella on Bianca sauce.”

Everyone left very full and very satisfied.  The only flaw with the entire meal was when I was carrying out the leftovers, the pasta container slipped off and I lost a bit to the floor.  Yes, I did clean it up.

It’s A Hotdish, Damnit!

I’m a Minnesotan, born and bred.  Rural Minnesotan to be specific, so my perspective (and relatives) are definitely hick.  With that being said, it should be no surprise when I say that I fall firmly into the hotdish camp of the Great Hotdish vs. Casserole Debate.  It’s okay if the rest of the country doesn’t agree.  They’re wrong, but it’s okay for them to have their own opinion.

Tonight we had two friends over for supper and some mindless TV viewing.  Since the weather is getting cooler and there was a decent chance that Lindsay would be cooking when we made plans, it was decided that Tater Tot Hotdish sounded really good.

Rereading that last sentence, it sounds like Lindz is not a good cook.  I just want to set the record straight here.  She is a great cook.  She worked in two different restaurants for several years.  She is even highly praised for her ability to cook breakfast, specifically her eggs.  In fact, there were people who would walk out of brunch in one of the restaurants if they saw that she wasn’t working.  Nowadays, she just lets me cook because I enjoy it more and I’m more adventurous in trying different things in the kitchen.

Back to story.  Everyone I know grew up with a different standard version of this dish, but most of the time it was a way to use up different things from the fridge or freezer.  Even through all of the iterations, several key ingredients remain constant: tater tots, cream of something soup (traditionally mushroom), burger of choice, and frozen veggies.

I ended up cooking supper because I was home and Lindsay was busy with other stuff, so it all worked out in the end.  This recipe is going to have a lot of hand waving and approximations because I’ve made it enough that I just do it by feel.

First off you want to brown a pound of hamburger in a skillet and drain off the fat.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Place the burger in a large mixing bowl.  To that I added about a pound of frozen mixed veggies, about a pound of frozen green beans, and about a pound of frozen corn.  Then I added two cans of cream of mushroom soup.  The idea is to add just enough soup to coat everything without the final dish turning into, well, soup.

This is what it should look like

I put the filling into a 9×13 stoneware dish and leveled it out.  The final step is to place a single layer of tater tots over everything.  I then placed it in the oven and turned it to 375 degrees and left it for about 45 minutes (I forgot to get an actual number on the time, but this is pretty close).  Pull it out when you see the filling bubbling up through most of the tater tots.  IMPORTANT NOTE:  Never put stoneware into a preheated oven.  The thermal shock will cause stress fractures in pottery and in time it will crack on you.  Just put it in the oven and then set the temperature and let both heat up together.

And this is what came out:

Almost forgot to snap a picture!

Just so the meal didn’t feel so institutional, I decided to make a side salad with romaine lettuce, button mushrooms, onion, tomatoes, and parmesan cheese.

I don't know about nutritious, but it was delicious.

For dessert, Sheryl and John brought over some apple crisp and vanilla ice cream.  Though somewhere in the process it lost the crisp, but nobody complained.  Not even sure that they noticed when we were all scarfing it down.

Yeah, that's right. You know what I'm talking about.

As an added bonus, the whole meal was gluten-free for those keeping track.

Destruction and S.O.S.

This past weekend we went down to Rochester to fix the shed behind Lindsay’s Grandma’s garage.  The damage was a bit worse than anticipated:

The rotten sheathing missing from one side.

But the repairs were done and most of the siding was put on.  As a bonus, Lindsay’s Grandma made us chipped beef for lunch one day, a.k.a. shit on a shingle for those who served in the military.  It was very tasty.


Side note:  Does it count as spamming if you post 4 times in the same day if it’s your own blog?

Categories: misc Tags:

It’s Chicken Kiev Time

Easily one of my all-time favorite preparations of chicken is Chicken Kiev.  Yes, even those overly processed ones that can be found in the freezer section.  So imagine my surprise and delight when I found a recipe in My New Favorite Cookbook™!  That’s The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook by the way.  This is great on another level too.  My wife, Lindsay, LOVES Chicken Kiev as well, especially with a side of wild rice and cottage cheese.  So this was a complete win for a recipe.

A quick note before I delve into the cooking.  There are aspects of this recipe that are fairly tricky.  I will try to explain what I did, and what I will do differently next time.  Trust me.  There will be a next time.  Also there is a lot of prep work and waiting involved, so plan accordingly.  We didn’t eat that night until 10:30, but it was worth it.  Even with turning the entire kitchen into a hazmat zone:

I can be messy when I cook

Once again this is adapted from The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook (p. 67-68) and I will type it out the way I did it.  I still strongly suggest purchasing the book because it is well worth it.

Ingredients – Herb Butter

  • 8 Tbs unsalted Butter, softened
  • 1 Tbs Lemon juice
  • about 1 Tbs white Onion, minced
  • 1 Tbs Parsley
  • 1/2 tsp  Tarragon
  • 3/4 tsp Kosher salt (or 3/8 tsp table salt)
  • 1/8 tsp Black Pepper
Ingredients – Chicken
  • 4 slices white Sandwich Bread, torn into quarters
  • Table Salt and Black Pepper
  • 2 Tbs Vegetable Oil
  • 4 (8 oz) boneless, skinless Chicken Breasts, trimmed
  • 1 C unbleached all-purpose (AP) Flour
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 tsp Mustard

For the Herb Butter:  Mix the ingredients in a medium sized bowl with a rubber spatula until thoroughly combined.  Form into a 3″ square on a sheet of plastic wrap.  Wrap tightly and refrigerate until firm, about an hour.

For the Chicken:  Adjust an oven rack to the lower middle position and heat to 300 degrees.  Add half of the bread to a food processor and pulse until it is coarsely ground, about 16 pulses.  Transfer to a large bowl and repeat with the remaining bread.  Add 1/8 tsp table salt and 1/8 tsp pepper to the crumbs.  Add the oil and toss until evenly coated.  Spread the crumbs on a cookie sheet and bake until golden brown and dry, about 25 minutes.  Make sure you stir the crumbs a couple of times to prevent burning.  Cool to room temperature.

Starting on the thinnest side of a chicken breast, butterfly it by slicing lengthwise halfway up.  Do not cut all the way through!  Open up the breast to create a single flat cutlet.  Put the cutlet between two sheets of plastic wrap and pound, starting in the center, to 1/4″ thickness.  The outer edge, pound to an 1/8″ thick.  IMPORTANT NOTE:  Be very careful when you do this.  I ended up getting tears and holes in the breasts which just caused a lot of unnecessary headache when I was trying to stuff the butter.  Place the chicken on a work surface and lightly season both sides with salt and pepper.  Now unwrap the butter and cut into four rectangular pieces.  With the chicken cut side up, place a piece of butter in the center of the bottom half of the breast (a quarter of the way up from the “tip” of the breast).  Roll the bottom edge of the chicken over the butter, then fold in the sides and continue rolling to form a nice tight package.  Press on the seams to seal everything together.  Repeat with the remaining breasts and refrigerate for an hour to allow the edges to seal.

This is what I ended up with:

Looks pretty

They look a lot better in the picture than they did in real life.

Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and heat to 350 degrees.  Place the flour, eggs, and bread crumbs in separate plates.  Season the flour with 1/4 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper.  Season the bread crumbs with 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper.  Add the mustard to the eggs and whisk to combine.  Dredge a chicken roll in the flour, shaking off the excess, then coat with the egg mixture, allowing the excess to drip off.  Coat all sides of the chicken with the bread crumbs, pressing gently so the crumbs adhere in an even layer.  Place on cookie sheet.  Repeat with remaining breasts.  ANOTHER IMPORTANT NOTE:  I placed the chicken into individual aluminum foil boats because I was certain that they would leak and I don’t have a rimmed baking sheet.  This worked great.  My mom suggested using a cake pan as another approach.

My aluminum boats

My aluminum boats

Bake until the center of the chicken registers 160 to 165 degrees, about 40 to 45 minutes.  Let rest for 5 and serve!


Roasted acorn squash with butter and brown sugar, wild rice, and chicken kiev.  Everything tasted great, but the kiev ended up being a bit salty.  I’m pretty sure I over salted the chicken after I butterflyed it.   Also, I really only needed about a half cup of the AP flour for the breading.  All in all, it was a fun challenge that I look forward to tackling again.

New Cookbook!!!

A couple of weeks ago, I got a new cookbook!

The Complete America's Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook

The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook is a compilation of the last eleven years of recipes from America’s Test Kitchen.  This is my new favorite cookbook because ATK tests and retests recipes to make them the easiest and most foolproof as possible.  Plus they give a brief explanation of why the recipe works better the way they printed it.  They explain the science of cooking without losing any of the fun of preparing really amazing meals.  That’s the other reason why I love this cookbook; the meals cause you to drool like my in-laws dog Ty.  Even though there are some pretty high-brow dishes in this book, all of the recipes call for ingredients that can be purchased at most supermarkets.  The ones that are harder to find, can be substituted pretty easily with other things.  See my previous post about the Horseradish Crusted Beef as an example.

Do yourself a favor and purchase this book (cover price of $39.95) or at the very least, flip through it the next time you are at a bookstore.

Categories: cookbook Tags: ,

Horseradish-Crusted Beef Tenderloin

Computer is fixed.  Break in work.  So back to posting!

I love to watch America’s Test Kitchen.  In my ever so humble opinion, it is the only real cooking show on TV these days (I’m not counting reruns of anything Julia Child).  Don’t get me wrong, I love to watch Food Network, it’s just that they tend to be more song and dance than substance.  One of my favorites is a prime example of this, Guy Fieri with Triple D and Guy’s Big Bite.  Both very entertaining and interesting shows, but not too big on the whole learning experience.

I saw this a little while ago and I thought it sounded really good.

Horseradish-Crusted Beef Roast

The recipe calls for a cut of beef called a Châteaubriand which is basically the center third of a whole tenderloin.  Since I’m basically flat broke and cannot afford such a cut, I substituted a top round roast that I stole from my parents.  I rolled it up and tied it off with some kitchen string so that it had the right shape.  I also tweaked some of spices because I didn’t have what they called for.  Namely, I used dried herbs instead of fresh ones.  I will post the recipe as I made it.  If you want the original recipe it can be found on p. 636-7 in The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook 2001-2011. (See future post)


  • 2 lb Top Round Roast trimmed of fat and silver skin, rolled and tied into a log
  • Kosher Salt
  • 3 Tbs Panko (Japanese-style bread crumbs)
  • 1 C plus 2 tsp Vegetable Oil
  • 1 1/4 tsp Ground Black Pepper
  • 1 Tbs Onion minced
  • 6 Garlic Cloves, pressed through a garlic press
  • 1/4 C prepared Horseradish, well drained
  • 2 Tbs Italian Seasoning (mix of parsley, rosemary, thyme, etc)
  • 1 small Russet Potato (about 6 oz) peeled and grated on the large holes of a box grater
  • 1 1/2 tsp Mayonnaise
  • 1 1/2 tsp Yellow Mustard
  • 1/2 tsp powdered Gelatin (can substitute an egg white wash)

Sprinkle the roast with 1 Tbs salt, cover with plastic wrap, and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour.  This is season the meat and draw out a bit of the moisture.

Toss the bread crumbs with 2 tsp of oil, 1/4 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp black pepper in a 10″ skillet.  Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until deep golden brown.  About 3 to 5 minutes.  Transfer to a cookie sheet and cool to room temperature.  Wipe out the skillet.  Once cool, toss the bread crumbs with the onion, garlic, 2 Tbs of horseradish, and the Italian Seasoning.

Rinse the grated potato under cold water, then squeeze dry in a kitchen towel.  Transfer the potatoes and remaining cup of oil to the skillet.  Cook over high heat, stirring frequently, until golden-brown and crisp.  About 6 to 8 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon transfer the potatoes to a paper towel-lined plate and season lightly with salt.  Let cool for 5 minutes.  Reserve 1 Tbs of oil and discard the rest.  Once the potatoes are cool, crush until coarsely ground.  Transfer the potatoes to the cookie sheet and combine.

Pat the exterior of the roast dry with paper towels and sprinkle evenly with the remaining tsp of pepper.  Heat the reserved Tbs of oil in the skillet  on medium-high until the oil is just smoking.  Sear the roast on all sides until it is well browned, about 5 to 7 minutes.  Transfer the roast to a wire rack over a plate and let it rest for 10 minutes.

Combine the remaining 2 Tbs of horseradish, mayo, and mustard in a small bowl.  Just before coating the roast, add the gelatin and stir to combine.  Spread the horseradish paste on the top and sides of the roast, leaving the bottom and ends bare.  Roll the coated sides of the roast in the bread-crumb mixture.  Press gently so the crumbs adhere in an even layer that just covers the horseradish paste.  Pat off any excess.

Return the roast to an oven-proof skillet and roast until a thermometer inserted into the center reads (approximately) 135 degrees for  medium.  About 40 minutes.

Transfer the roast to a carving board and let rest for 20 minutes.  Carefully cut the meat crosswise in 1/2″ slices and serve.  Note: I did have some difficulty removing the strings from under the crust coating.  A different possibility to try would be to use toothpicks to hold the roast in the proper shape.

I ended up only using about half of bread-crumb mixture.  I just pan fried the rest for a couple of minutes on medium heat and used it as a topping.

I oven roasted some potatoes, broccoli, carrots, garlic, and white onion as the side.  Just toss the veggies lightly with some olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper.  In this case I roasted them with the meat at 400 degrees for approximately 40 minutes.  I pulled them out when the potatoes were fork tender.

Oven Roasted Veggies

The Whole Sha-Bang.

Supper was served and everyone enjoyed.  Ok, it was only me and Lindz, but it still was very tasty.

Houston, we have a problem.

So I’m currently experiencing technical difficulties with my computer.  Specifically with the latest upgrade for Ubuntu.  I have several posts in the works, but right now I’m trying to get a properly working OS, so they have been put on the back burner (yes, pun intended).  I’m switching to a different Linux system not because of the upgrade fubar (though that was definitely the final straw) but because of their new UI.  I’m old school enough that I like a drop down menu to navigate through different programs as opposed to the weird “Unity” bar that they have.  So hopefully in the very near future several posts will be showing up.

Categories: misc

I want one!

Living in the Cities, I get to see all sorts of bumper stickers.  Most are very mundane, but occasionally I find one that gives me a good chuckle.

Categories: misc Tags:

Killing time . . .

So, I was wandering the Yuppie-ville shopping mall while Lindsay and Amanda were shopping. One of the three shops that somewhat interested me was a Williams-Sonoma. (Yeah, I hate malls.) Tucked amongst all the over priced kitchen gadgets I found a gem:

Star Wars Cookie Cutters

Star Wars cookie cutters!

Still over-priced.


Categories: misc Tags:

Hello world!

First off, a bit of background about the title of my blog.  God’s Playground is “one of several possible English translations of an old Polish phrase, Boze Igrzysko” (God’s Playground, A History of Poland, Volume 1: The Origins to 1795 by Norman Davies, p. xv).  While not actually being born in Poland, I’m about as Polish as one can get.  Both sides of my family are from the same area in Poland and immigrated in the 1880’s.  At any and all family gatherings homemade food played a major part, hence a lifelong interest in food.  Growing up watching cooking shows on PBS really didn’t help the situation a whole lot.

The goal of this blog is to chronicle my various adventures / experiments with food.  I am planning on attending culinary schools here in the Twin Cities next fall.  (I still have to go through the admissions process, a project for this winter).  I’m sure other topics will creep in, but like I said, the primary purpose is food.  The initial posts will be sporadic but I will try get into the habit of posting regularly.

So anywho, hello world!

Categories: misc