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Archive for the ‘Food for Thought’ Category

There’s a lot of times where I find recipes on food blogs and I think “That would be great for a party!” But I don’t host as much as I would like and though I would love to think so, appetizers cannot count as a meal.  If they did I would survive solely on Trader Joe’s frozen appetizers.  Seriously.

The most recent OMG I have to make this! incident came when I was directed to this site by my cube-mate.  My cube-mate who started cooking classes at night- for realsies.  I am so J. We have a daily discussion of “Oh, hey, did you read Pioneer Woman today?” Or “You need to check out Smitten’s new post.”  This is what we do to try and distract ourselves from the excel spreadsheets that define our 9-5 existence.

Annnnywho, getting back to the food- this site is amazeballs.  I love these girls- I love their food, their photos, these are the things I wish I could do all day.  I knew this recipe needed to be a part of my life asap.  I was also trying to plan a lil’ girls night with my ladies from grad school- the cutest girls to ever grace a finance program.  I suggested a night in- that way we could relax, save some $$, and actually have a conversation rather than yell over Top 40 hits and drunk Fund Accountants.

Happy Hour on Friday got pushed to Saturday and then it turned into an impromptu football party. (Yay Patriots in the Superbowl!!!)  I also decided that it was a good chance to explain American football to Irish Kate.  (I know a lot of Kates, and she really is Irish. Like from Ireland, not Southie Irish.) The menu-planning wheels got to turning, and I decided on the tart, sausage stuffed mushrooms, and spinach & artichoke dip.  All things I’ve never made before.  I was a tad nervous not using a solid tried & true recipe, but, really, how much can you mess up apps? I was also excited to spend the day cooking, but, I didn’t need to.  These were super simple, and after a quick prep session in the morning, things were ready to pop in the oven once my friends arrived.

I followed the recipe for the tart, and this recipe for the dip, for proportions and cooking time, as for the mushrooms- I used Ina’s guidance, but sort of winged it.

I started with button mushrooms, took off the stems and made sure there was room to stuff in each one.  I reserved the stems and chopped them to put in the stuffing.

Rather than sweet italian sausage I wanted to try the amazing apple-gouda sausage I recently discovered at whole foods.  Two birds, one stone.  Sausage & cheese, no need to buy more cheese.  However, as these are already fully cooked they are really hard to get out of the casing, so I needed a bit of help.

Thank you Cuisinart mini-prep.

To a skillet I added olive oil, garlic, the sausage, and the chopped mushrooms.  I think that’s it- I of course didn’t write anything down and it’s been a few days so I’ve forgotten the step-by-step.

Once that was heated through I transferred the mix to a bowl and added breadcrumbs, and a wee bit of parmesan cheese.

I then stuffed the mushroom caps- which had been mixed with a bit of olive oil and Marsala wine, since the recipe called for it, and I have a bottle on hand that’s not going anywhere fast.  I assembled these and put them in the fridge, and got to work on the spinach dip.

This is really too easy- spinach, artichokes, cheese, BAM!

Both are ready to go!

Once the girls arrived I got started on the tart- easy as pie.

Hello friend.  I like you.

Hot dip ready to go!!

Now, again, my skills as a food blogger are still novice, the tart was tasty and the mushrooms went fast I nearly forgot to take more pictures of it once it was served!

The night was a success all around- Pats won and we explained to Kate what a safety was.

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I totes cheated on this one.  I had a nearly full container of Whole Foods Nut N’Honey Granola, but I was tired of it on its own, and granola bars were the next best idea…

Granola, cinnamon chips, canola spray and the pan ready to go!

However, the honey I had to use to hold it all together was a bit, err, crystallized.  I boiled a pot of water and poured it into a bowl with the honey container and left it to melt.

When everything was mixed, I turned it out onto the pan and formed a sort of square, using a well oiled spatula.

Into the oven (350 for 20 minutes) and occasionally took it out and smooshed it with a spatula to make sure everything was sticking together.

And here we have granola “bars.”  Hmmm… we’ll see how they taste!

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My New Year’s dinner left me with quite a few left-over roasted potatoes… I wanted to do something interesting with them.  I also had a few pieces of bacon left in the fridge- so tried my hand at hash & eggs.

SO GOOD.  I really think my cooking strength lies in the realm of diner food.

I diced up the left-over roasted potatoes and set them aside.  I then diced the raw bacon and threw it in the cast-iron skillet

Once the bacon was beginning to brown-up I added the potatoes

While that was coming together I threw on two eggs

I put some hash on a plate, added just a tad of shredded mozzarella,


On went the eggs, and a bit of ketchup on the side… such a tasty breakfast for dinner treat!

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Hello 2012!!

Sparkly shoes for New Years Dinner

TGITHT!!

(Thank God it’s two-thousand twelve!)  For realsies.  It’s high time for a new year. 2011 wasn’t all bad- but, it certainly had its moments.  I’m glad it’s long gone and I’m excited at the prospects for a new journeys and exciting things to come.

So, as I discussed in my last post this holiday season has been hectic, and after the whirlwind that was Christmas weekend I was looking forward to some downtime for  New Years.  New Years &  I have a strained relationship, and the older I get, the less I like it.  There’s so much pressure to do something really fun, go to a crazy party- pay a ridiculous cover to a bar, drink champagne and kiss someone at midnight.  As my Dad calls it, “amateur night.”  I would much rather spend the night with close friends, family, and keep things low-key, certainly pop some bubbly, maybe play a round of Scrabble and watch a movie.

This year, my plan was to cook myself a delicious meal and relax; the ultimate treat these days.  I did just that and it was magnificent.  I didn’t feel lonely or sad, it was just perfect.  I am my own best date sometimes.  So here’s to 2012, living to the fullest, staying true to me, and making it all work.

Here’s what I made to ring in the new year…

Chicken au Champagne or shall we say… Chicken con Prosecco.

I made this recipe a few years ago with the real deal- Veuve Cliquot, but I couldn’t justify the nearly $50 bottle for just me.  And, to be completely honest, I prefer Prosecco and Cava.  To me they are drier and more palatable than the traditional French Champagnes.

Look at that roasted beauty…

And to go with it, Ina Garten’s Herbed New Potatoes and roasted brussel sprouts

herbs and potatoes

And yes, that is a glass of bubbly in the background, I love my antique champagne glasses, not the flutes, but the flat saucers almost.

And of course… dessert… Gluten-Free brownies and Vanilla Ice cream.. oh yes.

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The glamour shot.

So many things to tell you dear readers!!

I’ve recently been MIA due to a new gig I’ve picked up.  In an effort to pay off my student loans before I’m 60 (yes that’s a gross exaggeration) and to stimulate my mind & spirit (since the cube has become dull & repetitive, after 6 years, that tends to happen, ugh) I have a part-time job now at wait for it…  Williams Sonoma!   YAY!

I used to go in there on weekends, and just stroll around the store, touching fabulous cookware, dreaming about the day I might finally register for a KitchenAid Stand Mixer, a set of All-Clad (yeah, right), or and endless collection of cookbooks. (That I would most likely only peruse for fun and continue to Google recipes much like I do now.) Being the week before Christmas I’ve been super busy between the cube and the pre-holiday retail rush.  I’ve been there every night this week until 11 or later.  That means not much time for cooking!  It also means that hopefully I’ll have some fun gadgets to share with you or experiences at the store.  And, it means that I have to be very strategic in my meal planning.

This week I made a lasagna for dinner Monday, and to have the leftovers for lunches.  For a quick dinner each night before heading to the mall I’ve heated up some squash soup that I made a batch of a couple of weeks ago and froze.

Onto the main event: Lasagna Bolognese.  I didn’t intend for it to be gluten free- but, my roommate is GF and I always feel bad making things that I can’t share with her.  And, by default, Whole Foods seemed to be out of any other kind of lasagna noodle that night.  The DeBole’s No-Boil Rice Lasagna noodles worked perfectly! Just make sure to handle your grocery bags with care or you’ll end up with more pieces than sheets… oops.

In the end it worked out because I used a smaller, oval casserole dish and had to use the broken pieces to fit.

For the main sauce I used the last and final frozen container of the big fat bolognese.  Dang that was a lot of sauce!  I was racking my brain for what else to use it for- I’d done just the sauce & pasta, stuffed peppers- lasagna was the last iteration I could come up with!  (Now if that isn’t a 25 cent word, I don’t know what is.)

I of course Googled lasagna bolognese and lot of folks use a bechamel sauce as well.  I wasn’t feeling that adventurous, and, if it was going to be gluten-free I would have had to make substitutions.  Instead, I mashed together a few recipes and came up with a layer of ricotta mixed with one egg (to help bind), thawed frozen chopped spinach, chopped crimini mushrooms, (more veggies to off-set the cheese), and shredded mozzarella.

I lost track of the order of my layers, but it went something like this:

Sauce, noodles, cheese

Noodles, sauce, cheese, noodles, sauce, mozzarella. (I think.)

Into the oven it went!

Now that is a thing of beauty.  Mangia!

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What’s better on a Friday after a long week than dinner in with some wine and someone to snuggle with?  Not much I tell ya.  Last week at the cube was epically exhausting.  I was beyond stressed to the point of not even being angry or annoyed with work, just absolutely numb.  So when Friday came around and Bri-guy and I were thinking of what to do, he knew just what I needed- nothing fancy, just some quality down time.

I decided the least I could contribute was the meal- since food and what I’m going to cook takes up about 80% of my daily thinking.  Bri-guy wanted to grill of course, and it has been unseasonably warm lately.  I decided to combine two of my favorite things then, grilled steak, and tacos.  This baby marinated all day in the fridge:

Flank steak, with garlic, onion, cumin, salt & chili powder & oil

 

Then it was time to get the shells and the fixin’s ready.  (Side note: crunchy tacos probably aren’t the best for steak, but, they are my fave, so I went with it.)

Corn tortillas, fried up until crispy

Now, I was also trying to be resourceful and use up a few things, so instead of crunchy lettuce, we had brussel sprouts slaw,  But instead of the apple, I went with a carrot this time.  And you know what, it was pretty good.

Cilantro, salsa, homemade guac, and brussel sprouts slaw

 

The taco all ready to be topped (though the guac is underneath

The meal & the company were just what I needed.  Even got my first seasonal viewing of Love Actually!  The only thing there was too much of was wine.  Whew.

Saturday was an epically bad hangover.  I mean, brutal…  not even this thing could help:

TBS Burger from The Butcher Shop

 

I could only manage about half, and it was dang delicious.  Perfectly cooked, topped with a bit of cheese and caramelized onions, I will definitely be going back for another one of those, though hopefully not hungover next time.  Ugh.

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There I was the other night, in Whole Foods, absolutely starving, and stumped as to what to make for dinner.  I was attempting a wholesome meal- brussel sprouts and salmon, but good lordy, the salmon was over $15 a pound!  I mean, I like to treat myself, but really?  Ugh.  For a another $7 I could go down the street and have someone else cook it for me.

I did about 3 laps before I settled in front of the chicken sausage/pork case.  I didn’t want chicken, I didn’t want steak, and I didn’t really want to buy anything pre-made.  I did a quick mental run-down of what was at home already- frozen rolls, condiments for a dressing, not a whole lot.  I already had the brussel sprouts in my cart, and I remembered seeing a shaved brussel sprout and apple salad.  I though, I can do that.  And then the apple gouda sausage caught my eye.  HELLO!  I grabbed  an onion, some mushrooms and dashed to the check-out.

It was like iron chef up in here!  I warmed up the sausage on the grill-top (was already pre-cooked), threw the onions in the cast-iron to caramelize, (adding sliced mushrooms at the end)


While those cooked up I got to shredding the brussel sprouts, 1/4 of a green apple, and made a dressing out of cider vinegar, mayo, salt & pepper.  It wasn’t half bad I tell ya.

When everything was ready I grilled up the roll, put on some spicy mustard, and topped the sausage with the onion & mushroom mix.

I don’t know if it was genuinely good or if I was just that hungry, but it was a good meal!  The slaw was crisp and tangy, and the apple gouda sausage was a definite win!

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