Monday, November 30, 2009

I Did It! The Conclusion of NaBloPoMo

I completed NaBloPoMo!!  30 posts in 30 days, can you believe it?  And this what I earned:


Notice it has taken its place in the right sidebar.  I picked this badge mostly cuz she is in a kitchen, but it also pretty accurately reflects how I feel about the month.  I am really good at getting excited and into something for like a week, but not so good with the follow through.  So I am honestly proud that I was able to finish something I committed to.  And I know it was just blog posting, but it felt like homework a lot of the time.  There were many nights I really just wanted to go to bed, but I managed to get at least a few sentences up.  So that taught me that blogging doesn't always have to be a huge time commitment.  There is really no reason to have such long periods of time between posts.  But admittedly every post this month was not up to what I consider my usual standards.

So I completed it and I'm glad to be going back to my usual blogging when I feel like it ways. And you know what, I already know what I am going to post about tomorrow!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Dumpster Diving

Can you think of a worse title for a post on a food blog?  Don't worry, while homeownership did bring me to an all time low today, it isn't quite as bad as it sounds.  I've mentioned before that our backyard here at Wildwood is completely covered in ivy and we are attempting to make it not so.  Chris is a landscape architect, so he has the winter to design something better than all ivy yard, and in the mean time, we are tackling ivy removal.  The standard reaction this gets from people is a sarcastic, "good luck", which makes me think this is not going to be an easy job.

I sprayed the ivy with Round Up a month or so ago, which had absolutely zero effect.  Chris went on a mowing rampage and mowed down all the perennials in the front yard and all the ivy in the back.  Obviously it is going to come back, but it was nice to catch a glimpse of what a clean backyard would look like.  My mom suggested laying down wet newspaper over the ivy, cover that with wet leaves and leave it over the winter.  In spring, rototill the whole shebang, plant grass seed and hope that it isn't ivy that pops back up.  

So here is where the dumpster diving comes into play.  This afternoon was unseasonably gorgeous, so we got to the task.  We didn't have anywhere near enough newspaper around, so Chris and hit up a few local paper recylcing dumpsters to get what we needed (I also got two Cooks Illustrated and a Elle Decor, don't judge me.)  Chris, Katie and took turns laying the newspaper, spraying it with the hose to keep it down, raking leaves on top and then hosing it again. We finished the whole backyard, so I'll get back to you in the spring to let you know if our little experiment worked.  

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Darna

Tonight my parents brought my grandma over to see the house for the first time and to have dinner at Darna on Shaker Square.  This is my third time dining at the Moroccan restaurant and the flavors are consistently dazzling.  Favorites have emerged, especially the trio of salads - one of spicy seasoned carrots, one of roasted beets, and one of eggplant and roasted peppers.  Becky's favorite is the monkfish.   Dad was adventurous and tried the quail and I went with the langoustine special.  



Friday, November 27, 2009

Black Friday


Chris and I went out this morning in search of a range.  We went to Sears, Best Buy, Lowe's, Sears Outlet, B&B Appliance, and Home Depot and decided on a great deal on an Electrolux slide in range from the Sears Outlet.  It just makes me so excited to get the cabinets installed and someday enjoy a new kitchen.  Patience is a virtue, right?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

I am thankful for spending the day with family and eating so much my belly hurts. I am falling asleep to the smell of turkey cooking down on the stove. Pumpkin pie for breakfast and I am off to face the crowds in hopes of finding a range. Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Pumpkin Spice Cake

Just in time for Thanksgiving, here is an easy, delicious, and pretty lo-cal pumpkin recipe.  This recipe comes from Megan who made it for a potluck at work and I loved it.  She added pieces of Heath bar to the top, so I am doing the same for Thanksgiving.  Chris was able to find some pumpkin at Heinen's, but they were out at Dave's and I've heard there is a pumpkin shortage.  But if you are lucky enough to have some around, I highly recommend you try this recipe:

Pumpkin Spice Cake

Ingredients

1 box duncan hines spice cake mix

1.5 cups pumpkin (not pumpkin pie, like straight 100% pumpkin...comes in a can at the store)

JELLO instant butterscotch pudding

Cool whip Lite (I usually use all of one of the smaller containers)

Chocolate for shaving on top if wanted

Directions

Preheat oven to 325.  Grease an 8.5 x 11 pan with Pam.  Mix the pumpkin and the cake mix together (ONLY those 2 ingredients do not mix in any of the ingredients that the cake calls for like eggs or oil).  Put mixture in the pan and bake for about 22-23 minutes (it is ok if some of the cake sticks to a toothpick in the center).  Remove cake, and let cool completely.  


Mix together the pudding like the box calls for, using skim milk (or whatever you drink).  Pour the pudding over top of the cooled cake and smooth so the layer is even.  Put whole thing in fridge for an hour or so to let that set together.  Then take it out and put layer of cool whip on top of pudding and then top with chocolate shavings if desired. (or I used crushed Heath bar)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Wicked!

Tonight Chris and I went with Gene and Mary to see Wicked.  The show was awesome!!  Not quite as exciting as the first time I saw it 2 years ago - when I was obsessed with the soundtrack - but still amazing.  I was very impressed with Elphaba, but Glinda wasn't as good as the last time and no one will ever touch Kristen Chenoweth (not that I was fortunate to actually see her do it, just watched her performances on YouTube, see below. And I love her on Glee).  



I think the other reason I didn't enjoy it in quite the same way is because I recently read Gregory Maguire's novel on which the musical was based.  The book and the musical share character names and general similarities, but the book is much darker and more complicated.  So I kept finding myself thinking about the differences between the book and the musical and thinking how much simpler the musical is.  I have to say though that I don't think I could have gotten into the book without my pre-existing devotion to the characters from loving the musical. 

The first act is so much fun and ends with my favorite song - Defying Gravity (which has also been on Glee).  My problem with the second act is the song "As Long as Your Mine".  It is just awkward and I don't enjoy it.  I do think Lady Gaga may have had some inspiration from the Emerald City Wizomania costumes:

Great music, great show, great night!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Icebox Cupcakes


How pretty are these cupcakes?   I made these for a co-workers birthday tomorrow.  She said each year for her birthday her mom makes her a homemade 4-layer chocolate cake, with raspberry preserves between each layer, iced with real whip cream and topped with fresh raspberries.  I wanted to make something similar in a cupcake form and thought Smitten Kitchen's  icebox cupcakes would be a great substitute.  So I can't take much credit for the recipe, just adding the raspberry on top. I have made an icebox cake before and the cupcakes are just as easy.  Especially now that I have established Heinen's as a reliable source for Nabisco's chocolate wafer cookies.  

Once you have the chocolate wafer cookies, these are as simple as whipping some heavy cream with a teaspoon of sugar and a few drops of vanilla extract until the cream stiffens enough to form peaks.  Then just layer the cookies with the whip cream, top with a raspberry, place in a cupcake tin and refrigerate over night.  It doesn't get much easier than that.  The cookies soften to form a cake-like consistency, no baking required!


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Pumpkin Carving

I have two pumpkins sitting in front of the house left over from Halloween.  About a week ago I came home to find one of the fatty squirrels that live around our yard sitting on top of one of them and he had taken a chunk out of the side.  Everyday I have come home to find the chunk out of the pumpkin has grown and turned into a hole and has now turned into this:


I didn't even know squirrels liked pumpkins, but apparently the fatty squirrel in my yard LOVES pumpkin.  Or maybe he is collecting pumpkin for his Thanksgiving dinner.  Either way, this pumpkin looks scarier than anything I could have carved.  

Saturday, November 21, 2009

What a day.  This morning we went downtown for the Pigskin Classic at Blind Pig for the Ohio State Michigan game.  Chris ran a 5k while Jen, Brooke, Kelly and I attended the Snuggiefest Tailgate.  So cozy!!  The collegiate snuggies are even softer than the originals.  And you know I love drinking in a snuggie.  The Buckeyes of course won and we had a great afternoon!

After a good two hour nap, Chris and I cleaned up and met Sarah (Ruby) and Nick at L'Albatros for dinner.  It. was. so. good.  Sarah I started with three cheeses.  The waiter talked us through the whole cheese plate, probably 15 different cheeses, and I don't know how he remembered all the cheese info.  We went with a goat cheese, a semi-hard manchego, and a truffle cheese.  Mmmm, I love cheese...  For dinner, I tried their vegetarian root vegetable cassoulet with goat cheese, Chris had the beef bourguignon, Sarah had the mussels, and Nick had the croque monsieur.  The food was awesome, the wait staff very attentive with the water (we really needed it, see above), and nice overall atmosphere.  And here is the best part - its really well priced.   I would say this food is some of the best value in the area.    So cross #2 off the list.  Oh and this cassoulet blew Lure's out of the water and it didn't even have any meat in it.  So if you are as curious about cassoulet as I am, I suggest you head to L'Albatros very soon to try it!

Friday, November 20, 2009

I love Eugene

I made the mistake of sitting down at Harry Buffalo tonight and proclaiming that "I love Eugene".  Which got me some funny looks cuz my friend Gene was sitting across from me (next to his lovely wife Mary).  But while I am very fond of Gene, I was actually referring to my new Home Depot kitchen designer.  Most of our kitchen cabinets were purchased from the Kraftmaid outlet, the pantry piece came from Craig's List, and the base mixer stand (that I am really pumped for) was ordered from Home Depot.  And after getting some quotes, I was surprised to find that Home Depot was our cheapest option for cabinet installation.  

So Eugene has been helping us schedule the official kitchen measurement and has also assisted with some tweaking of the floor plan and design.  I get so inspired and excited every time I go to the HD to talk to him.  Eugene is not only a very helpful designer, but he is also super friendly.  Every time I talk to him he says, "say hello to Chris for me".  Which is extra cute cuz he has a bushy mustache and an accent.  He's the best.  So now you know while I am going around proclaiming my love for Eugene.

I am also in the market for countertops and a new range.  I'm saying prayers for a Black Friday miracle on the LG range I want:

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Little Potato

How cute was yesterday's post?  Katie is a natural blogger.  She's my little sister so obviously we lived together for the first 20 or so years of life, but living together now is a little different - post-college "adults" and minus the rest of the family.  I really like it and not just cuz she will blog and make popcorn for me.  So because I love lists, here is my top 5 reasons I'm glad to be living with Katie again.

5. Espresso.  She has an espresso maker and she taught me to use it.  And on the weekends she makes me lattes.

4.  Cleaning.  She cleans the house on the weekends and says it is "satisfying".  amen.

3.  Entertainment Weekly.  She has a subscription and she is ON TOP of pop culture.  She makes sure I don't miss anything.

2.  Needle Point.  She makes funny needle point sayings:


nice housewarming gift

1.  TV Club.  She has the same taste in tv and we have a serious tv schedule that we stick to.  Hours of DVR time, couch lounging, Olive cuddling and popcorn eating going on over here.  And I love it.  

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Come and Get Your Popcorn

Here at Food'n'Such, I'm all about variety (hence the n'such).  That's why I've decided to offer you a variety of popcorn recipes in two days. That's also why I decided to let my sister, Katie, guest blog. She's our family's popcorn expert...sometimes you have to call in the big guns. You are in good hands, I promise.

Hello, this is Katie. For those of you who don't know me, let me start with what I am not. I am not a chef. I am not a baker. I am, however, great at pouring wine. Does that count??

So, when Molly asked me to write on her blog I was secretly hoping that I'd be asked to cover the "n'such". Not the case. Apparently, I do make a mean caramel popcorn. It's definitely my go-to for parties and gifts. So, I'm hoping others do not swipe this recipe only to give it back to me for Christmas...
I feel that it is important to note that this recipe is straight from a church cookbook. God-fearing women do many things well but they are especially adept at whipping up guilt-ridden treats. Scroll down and you'll soon understand...anything with this much butter does not come guilt-free.

Caramel Corn
1 1/2 c unpopped popcorn
1/2 lb butter or margarine
2 cups brown sugar
1/2 c Karo or white corn syrup
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla

First, pop the popcorn. I use an air popper when I make this recipe but I imagine you could use microwavable popcorn. Just make sure it's plain. This recipe makes A LOT of popcorn so do not be alarmed when you have three bowls of plain popcorn sitting on your counter. Set aside popcorn in large pan(s). I use two roasting pans- like I said earlier, this recipe makes a crazy amount of popcorn and I mean that in the best way possible.

In a medium sized pot, heat butter, brown sugar and white corn syrup. Bring to a boil  for 5 minutes stirring constantly. Remove pot from heat and stir in soda, salt, and vanilla. You'll notice a change in color and consistency while stirring. The caramel mixture will become a much lighter brown and almost fluffy in consistency. Pour the caramel mixture over popcorn in the large pans and mix well, spreading the caramel evenly over the popcorn.

Once its completely coated, place the pans in a 250 degree oven for 40 min stirring every 10 minutes. This will ensure that your popcorn comes out perfectly coated and evenly baked. Remove from the oven and move popcorn into a large brown paper bag or several large plastic bags. I like using ziploc bags because they are easy to shake up and will keep your popcorn fresh without moving it from one container to another. 

Trust me this caramel corn is worth the effort! It was even requested by one of Food'n'Such's faithful readers. 

Ok. So maybe you don't have 40 minutes of your life to dedicate to making caramel corn? Or, are you are so hungry at this moment that you need a quick fix- FAST?! I find myself in this predicament often. In these cases, I whip up a batch of kettle corn. It's super quick, super simple and requires 4 kitchen staples. Love it!

Kettle Corn
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup unpopped popcorn kernels
1/2 cup peanut oil (This is really important. The peanut oil heats to the right temperature and allows the sweetness to come through. Other oils get distracting. The first time I tried this recipe, I used a mixture of sesame oil and olive oil- it was like gnawing on burnt sesame bagels.)
salt

In a large pot heat peanut oil over med-high heat with 3-4 popcorn kernels. You'll know the oil is ready once the kernels have popped. In the meantime, combine the sugar and unpopped kernels together. This will help to better coat the kernels while popping. Once your oil is ready, add the sugar and kernel mixture and shake it like a polaroid picture. Make sure that the sugar and popcorn are spread evenly throughout the pan to keep the sugar from burning. Cover the pot and continue to shake. Listen until most of the kernels have popped and remove from heat. 

At this point you could do a number of things to add salt. I prefer to pour the popcorn into a bowl and then add it. The original recipe suggests a large brown paper bag. Or hell, you can add it while you eat. Just make it salty. You cannot have kettle corn without the dynamics of sweet vs. salty. Its a fact. Ask The Church Lady. Or Kate Gosselin...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Sweet & Spicy

I am a big fan of the sweet & spicy combo.  Whether it is Jeni's Spicy Thai Chili ice cream (yes you read that right. Intrigued? Click here for Cleveland Foodie's interview with creator of the fabulous ice cream line and here to find out where it is available in Cleveland) or Lily's Chocolates signature Heather (in honor of Heather Haviland of Lucky's Cafe and my local fave - the Vine and Bean Cafe) filled with spicy cayenne pepper, a dash of Madagascar Vanilla Bean and surrounded by yummy dark chocolate.  So when I saw this article in the NY Times combining this winning flavor combination and my favorite food, I knew it would made tonight.  


It just so happened I had already planned a dinner for this week that also fit the bill.  It is a healthy grilled cheese recipe from Ellie Krieger that doesn't use fakey fake weird fat free cheese.  It uses real ingredients and while it isn't exactly what you ate as a kid or what you would get at Melt, this is still a very satisfying sandwich for 350 calories.


Spicy Caramel Popcorn


Nonstick cooking spray

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1/2 cup popcorn kernels

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

3 cups sugar

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt.

1. Lightly coat two large, heatproof rubber spatulas and a large mixing bowl with nonstick cooking spray.

2. In a large saucepan or pot with a lid, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the popcorn kernels, cover and keep the saucepan moving until all of the kernels have popped, about 5 minutes. Transfer to the prepared bowl, removing any unpopped kernels.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together the baking soda and cayenne pepper.

4. Have two large baking sheets ready. In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, butter, salt and 1/2 cup water. Cook over high heat, without stirring, until the mixture becomes a light golden-yellow caramel, 10 to 14 minutes. Remove from the heat and carefully whisk in the baking-soda mixture (the mixture will bubble up).

5. Immediately pour the caramel mixture over the popcorn. Working quickly and carefully, use the prepared spatulas to toss the caramel and popcorn together, as if you were tossing a salad, until the popcorn is well coated.

6. Spread the popcorn onto the baking sheets and quickly separate them into small pieces while still warm. Cool to room temperature, about 15 minutes. Once cool, store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Makes about 4 quarts.

Sweet and Spicy Grilled Cheese

2 teaspoons canola oil

1 large red onion, finely diced

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

3 ounces sharp Cheddar, thinly sliced, divided

8 slices whole-wheat bread

3 ounces pepper Jack cheese, thinly sliced, divided

1 large or 2 medium beefsteak or hothouse tomatoes, sliced

Cooking spray


Directions

Heat oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Lower heat to medium. Add onions and saute, stirring, until edges are browned, about 10 to 12 minutes. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste.

Place 3/4-ounce Cheddar on 1 slice bread. Spread 1 tablespoon caramelized onions on top of cheese and top with 3/4-ounce pepper Jack. Top with 1 large or 2 medium slices tomato and other slice of bread. Repeat with 3 other sandwiches.

Spray a nonstick skillet or griddle with cooking spray and heat until hot. Place sandwich on griddle and weigh down with a heavy skillet or plate. Lower heat to medium-low and grill until underside is a deep brown but not burnt and cheese is partially melted, about 5 to 6 minutes. Flip sandwich and grill other side, an additional 4 to 5 minutes. Slice in half and serve hot.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Pork and Brussel Sprouts

Tonight's dinner was quite autumnal and super tasty.  I am a bum blogger cuz I didn't take a photo and I'm not up for writing much more tonight.  Here are the two recipes I used and I give them both 2 thumbs up.  Especially the parsley shallot sauce.  That would be good on everything.

Guy Fieri's Brother Brussels


Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 pound Brussels sprouts, ends trimmed, loose leaves removed
  • 1/2 pound bacon, thinly cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups diced yellow onion
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan, for garnish

Directions

Fill a large pot 3/4 of the way with water and add 1 teaspoon of salt and the Brussels sprouts. Put the pot over high heat and bring to a boil. Let boil until the Brussels sprouts are just fork tender about, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, drain the sprouts and transfer to an ice bath. Let cool completely, then drain and set aside.

Cut the Brussels sprouts into 1/4-inch lengthwise slices and set aside. Add the bacon to a medium saute pan, and cook until just crisp, then remove to a paper towel lined plate to drain. Adjust heat to medium-high, add the onions to the pan and saute until they are translucent and just beginning to caramelize, about 5 or 6 minutes. Add the butter to the pan, then add the Brussels sprouts and saute for 3 to 4 more minutes. Season with the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Transfer to a serving bowl or platter and sprinkle with the reserved bacon and the cheese. Serve immediately.


Herb Roasted Pork Loin with Parsley Shallot Sauce

Ingredients

  • 2 garlic cloves, minced (1 tablespoon)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage leaves or 1 teaspoon dried sage
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary, crumbled
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (2 1/2-pound) center cut boneless pork loin, trimmed of all visible fat
  • 1/2 cup Parsley Shallot Sauce, recipe follows

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Mash the garlic and salt together with a fork until it forms a coarse paste. Transfer to a small bowl and stir in the oil, fresh herbs and freshly ground pepper. Rub the garlic-herb paste all over the pork. Transfer the pork to a roasting pan and roast for 1 1/4 hours or until the internal temperature reaches 155 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer. Transfer the roast to a carving board and let rest for 15 minutes. Carve the pork into slices and serve with the sauce.

Parsley Shallot Sauce:

1 1/2 cups lightly packed flat-leaf parsley leaves

2 tablespoons coarsely chopped shallot

3 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons water

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a blender and puree.

Yield: 1/2 cup

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The List

Here is my list of Cleveland restaurants I need to eat at.  I am going to cap the list at 10 and obviously it excludes any places I have been to before.  Please leave suggestions!!

1.  Flying Fig
2.  L'Albatros
3.  Fire
4.  Osteria
5.  Happy Dog
6.  Blackbird
7.  Boulevard Blue
8.  Cafe Tandor
9.  Sokolowski's
10.  Sun Luck Garden

I think I can hit all of these in six months.  I will update as I go.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Cassoulet

The topic of today's blog comes via my mother. When I was home last week to get a new phone and re-join her family plan, she pulled out this article from the News Herald. It is about cassoulet, which I had never heard of, but this recipe describes it in mouthwatering detail. The article mentions two local restaurants that serve this dish, as well as an at home recipe that I will try sometime this winter. The first restaurant it mentions is L'Albatros in University Circle. I haven't been yet, but it just moved up on my list of Cleveland restaurants to try - Right behind Flying Fig, can you believe I haven't eaten there yet? Me. Neither. Anyways, the second restaurant it mentions is one of my old east side root favorites, Lure Bistro. When I was living at home in Chardon during my first year out of college, my girlfriends and I would go on a regular basis to get sushi and eat on their awesome patio. Well the sushi chef has since moved to his own place right up the street, Young's Sushi, which I haven't been to yet, but from what I hear it is the same great sushi at a much lower price. And that definitely puts it on my list of Cleveland restaurants to try. (Side note: that is the second reference to this "list" in one post. You would think an actual list existed somewhere. I think I need to write one down. Maybe an upcoming post?? If you have recommendations, please share.) Ok so back to Lure.

Tonight, Rachael (previously Rae Rae) and Theresa (previously Little Monster, I think? This is why I stopped using these crazy names, too hard to remember) and I had dinner at Lure and I of course, had to try the cassoulet. It is served with strings of sweet potato fries and has a ton of white beans. It was very tasty and filling and I would definitely get it again, it's a fantastic winter meal. Lure's atmosphere is wonderful, but our only complaint is that it gets really noisy. It must have been girls night out cuz there were several other tables of all girls and it got very loud. Rach had a lovely watercress salad with hazelnut vinaigrette and the Black Widow sushi roll and Theresa had the grouper which was awesome. I'm excited to try the cassoulet at L'Albatros to compare.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Tastefully Simple

Could you tell Chris wrote that last post?  Kind of cheating, but I was tired and he summed up what I had been chatting about pretty well.  Zumba was totally awesome and is definitely taking a place in my workout line-up.  And if you are trying to watch your weight, I highly suggest you check out fatsecret.com cuz it is my new obsession - easy to use and the exact tools I was looking for.  Plus if you have a blackberry with a 4.6 or higher operating system you can get an app for your phone.  Very convenient.

Tonight, Rachael (Rae Rae) had a Tastfully Simple party at her house.  Tastefully Simple is like a tupperware or jewelry or pampered chef type thing, but with food.  The food catalog is spices, mixes, and sauces that require only a few fresh ingredients to whip-up dips, drinks, baked goods, soup, dessert, you get the gist.  I'm not usually into this kind of thing, but the food was really tasty!  But the best part was how incredibly simple and fast it all was to make!  I arrived about an hour early and between 4 of use, we made 6 different kinds of dip, beer bread, apple cake (well we subbed canned peaches for the fresh apples cuz Rachie forgot to get apples), potato soup, and not part of the tastefully simple line-up: mulled cider, veggie pizza, shrimp cocktail, cheese plate, and olives in one short hour!  That is a fast feast.

My ordering strategy was to buy things that would be helpful to have around when I am in a pinch and need something to come together quickly.  I got a jar of caramel sauce cuz that makes a great dessert of just about anything, the beer bread mix and the wheat beer bread mix (big time crowd pleaser, especially with the preggo gals.  Maybe they are craving something they cant have...), the mix to make the onion onion dip since that is always helpful for unexpected entertaining, and a mix for parmesan biscuits.  It all arrives to my house sometime in the next 10 days, very cool.  So if someone invites you to a Tastefully Simple party, I would say go check it out.  I was pleasantly surprised.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Zumba

Tonight I took my first Zumba class and I now understand why it is such a craze.  It was so fun!  It was a one hour dance party without the alcohol.  I totally recommend it. Plus, don't tell CC, the instructor was really good looking. I'll be back:)  hahehaha. Ok enough of that.

Well since I've been on the topic of new things lately, I found a new website.  It's called fat secret. com   It's similar to weight watchers online, except it's free.  It gives you the opportunity to keep a log about what you ate, how many points you ate, calories, and tailors this information to a diet of goal you are trying to obtain. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Pasta Puttanesca

This is a great weeknight meal because it comes together very quickly.  While the pasta is cooking, the rest of the ingredients go in a skillet and then combine.  It has huge flavor its an Ellie Krieger recipe so you know its healthy!  And I think the pictures that Chris (CC, did you figure that one out?) are better than the ones on the food network's website.


Ingredients

  • 8 ounces whole-wheat thin spaghetti, vermicelli or angel hair
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup pitted chopped Spanish or Greek olives
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • 1 teaspoon anchovy paste
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes, preferably "no salt added"
  • 3/4 cup chopped fresh arugula
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan


Directions

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add pasta and cook according to the directions on the package.

While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a large skillet over a medium flame. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the parsley, olives, capers, anchovy paste, oregano and crushed red pepper to the skillet, and saute for 2 minutes more. Add the tomatoes and simmer for about 5 minutes. Stir in the arugula and simmer for 1 minute more, until the greens wilt slightly.

When the pasta is done, drain it and add it to the skillet, tossing it with the sauce to combine. Top with grated cheese.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

bruuuuce

This is the first ever post from my new phone. It is not ideal but I have to post and we just got out of the bruce springsteen concert. The man played for three hours straight I was very impressed! I jus wish I knew more of his songs. He has some serious die hard fans and they were having a blast. The highlights for me were the ten year old behind us who kept screaming "bruuuuce I love you!" And the older gentleman in front of who did some aerobic dance moves to pink cadillac. Let's just say we did not fit the overall demographic. It was an awesome show and this is coming from a girl who does not love concerts.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Rustic Potato Leek Soup

It is really expensive to eat out lunch everyday and hard to think of healthy things to pack that are fast and easy.  One solution I've used a lot in the past is buying Smart Ones frozen entries or bringing canned soup with me to work.  These are easy options, but I am concerned about eating such processed food on a regular basis.  Last week I made a pot of minestrone that easily provided a week's worth of lunch (and when you divide by number of servings, that soup is definitely more economical than canned or pre-prepared).   And this week I made a potato leek soup recipe from Ina Garten.  

I thought it would take a long time to prepare, but two pounds of potatoes can be peeled and chopped in five minutes and that is the hardest part of this recipe.  You do need a food processor or an immersion blender at the end to blend the roasted veggies to an appealing hearty soup texture.  I used my Cuisinart and blended in 4 batches.  I couldn't find creme fraiche at Whole Foods so I just skipped that, and to make it even healthier you could probably emit the cream as well.


Roasted Potato Leek Soup

2008, Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics, All Rights Reserved

Prep Time:

35 min

Inactive Prep Time:

--

Cook Time:

1 hr 35 min

Level:

Easy

Serves:

6 to 8 servings


Ingredients

  • 2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch chunks
  • 4 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts, cleaned of all sand (4 leeks)
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cups baby arugula, lightly packed
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine, plus extra for serving
  • 6 to 7 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 8 ounces creme fraiche
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra for garnish
  • Crispy Shallots, recipe follows, optional

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Combine the potatoes and leeks on a sheet pan in a single layer. Add the olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and toss to coat the vegetables evenly. Roast for 40 to 45 minutes, turning them with a spatula a few times during cooking, until very tender. Add the arugula and toss to combine. Roast for 4 to 5 more minutes, until the arugula is wilted. Remove the pan from the oven and place over 2 burners. Stir in the wine and 1 cup of the chicken stock and cook over low heat, scraping up any crispy roasted bits sticking to the pan.

In batches, transfer the roasted vegetables to a food processor fitted with the steel blade, adding the pan liquid and about 5 cups of the chicken stock to make a puree. Pour the puree into a large pot or Dutch oven. Continue to puree the vegetables in batches until they're all done and combined in the large pot. Add enough of the remaining 1 to 2 cups of stock to make a thick soup. Add the cream, creme fraiche, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper and check the seasonings.

When ready to serve, reheat the soup gently and whisk in 2 tablespoons white wine and 1/4 cup of Parmesan. Serve hot with an extra grating of Parmesan and crispy shallots, if using.

Crispy Shallots:

  • 1 1/2 cups olive oil or vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 5 to 6 shallots, peeled and sliced into thin rings

Heat the oil and butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat until it reaches 220 degrees F on a candy thermometer.  Reduce the heat to low, add the shallots, and cook for 30 to 40 minutes, until they are a rich golden brown. The temperature should stay below 260 degrees F. Stir the shallots occasionally to make sure they brown evenly. Remove them from the oil with a slotted spoon, drain well, and spread out to cool on paper towels. Once they have dried and crisped, they can be stored at room temperature, covered, for several days.

Yield: about 1/2 cup