Thursday, October 25, 2012

Mussels with Plum Tomato Sauce

Last week, to prepare myself for my European vacation, I started eating the food of the countries I was visiting. And by that I mean...I ate a lot of mussels.

I love mussels. I really do. They're pretty darn cheap (although you need a lot to fill you up), take only a few minutes to cook (which is perfect for a working woman) and take on the flavor of what you cook them in without completely losing their own unique taste.

I posted one of my favorite mussel recipes early in the year, which just does not do justice to the frequency for which I eat them. I do hate blogs that constantly use the same protein (as you may remember my feeling of "chicken, AGAIN?") but I also want to represent the amount that I actually eat ingredients...hence the number of salmon recipes and my clear love for a good salsa/relish.

So, alas, mussels are likely to start making a more frequent appearance. Good for those who love them. Maybe not so much for those who don't. However, many of these recipes can also be used on clams, for people who are fans of those, shrimp, or even to cook a piece of light white fish in. The possibilities are really endless.

The one completely necessary, absolutely needed ingredient for every single mussel recipe? A loaf of good French bread, for sopping up the sauce. #yummy

1 lb. mussels

2 plum tomatoes, chopped
5 cloves garlic (yep, get ready), minced
1 shallot, minced
Italian parsley
Olive oil
White wine

Heat your olive oil over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, drop in the garlic and shallot and saute until golden brown. Add a few cubes of butter to enrich the sauce.

Once the butter has melted, add the chopped plum tomatoes and saute until the tomatoes let loose some of their juice and start to...wilt?

Add mussels. Pour white wine until about 1" is in the pot. Add some more cubes of butter (unless you are on a diet)

Put lid on pot and allow mussels to steam for about 5 minutes. Remove to a bowl. Discard any mussels that have not opened and enjoy those that have!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

European Vacation Part One

Unsurprisingly, my favorite part of my European vacation was not the food (for once)...mainly because British food lived up to its reputation of being godawful. Seriously, I don't mean to offend anyone, but the food was just not that good. To be honest, however, I didn't really have a choice of where we ate, so there is a distinct possibilities that we just ended up at not great restaurants.

We did have a couple of good meals--a roast baby chicken at a pub in Windsor, a delicious fillet of sole with tomato buerre blanc sauce at one of the business dinners -- but the highlight was definitely on the sights. I should warn, I am a BIG fan of historical sights. And history. I'm basically a huge dweeb (surprise to all, I'm sure). 

As you may have seen from my Sunday Meal Planning post, I actually ended up getting a chemical burn in my eye because I'm dumb and got the wrong contact solution. Luckily (kind of...) it happened at the end of my trip in London, so I had my lovely Belgian friends to help me with everything. Sadly, since I was blind out of one eye for a full day, we did not get to visit the cities we had planned, but we still had a lovely time (and a delicious dinner).

Here are some of my favorite pictures that came out of my 9 day extravaganza...

one of the gates at Buckinham Palace

token London shot--Big Ben + red bus. I mean COME ON.

the changing of the Horse Guard at Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace

outside of Windsor Castle

interior of the Castle

More Windsor Castle (take a guess what my favorite place was...)

Tower Bridge

Tower of London -- the White Tower

The Eye

Big Ben & Parliament

Our Belgian friends purchased and remodeled (staying true to the original and even using the original wood!) a working water mill from the 1300s! SO COOL

Monday, October 22, 2012

Recipes I'm Excited About

Lately I've been even more obsessed with Pinterest than usual. Which is saying something since, let's be honest, I'm normally pretty damn obsessed with Pinterest. 

In fact, every single morning when I sign onto my computer I open up my personal email, my blog email (contact me at, I love to hear from you!), then open a third tab which I look at my social media sites on--first Facebook, then my Pinterest page and last Twitter. Twitter then stays up for most of the day so I can get periodic updates from all the things I care about (read: other food blogs, NY restaurants and news outlets--yes, I do get a lot of my news from Twitter and no, I'm not embarrassed by it.) 

Normally my Pinterest page gets closed after I check out new pins and add a few. Lately, though, I've been checking out food boards of people I've never heard of because the dishes on them look so good. And what a refresher for my meal planning! I've gotten entirely new ideas from websites and blogs I've never heard of.

Here are some of the recipes I am most excited to try. Most of them are very hearty and fall-like; I've clearly gotten over missing the grill and am grabbing my oven with both hands (in oven mitts, of course)!

a cozy kitchen's roasted red pepper and burrata crostini

alexandra eats' chicken legs baked with white wine, olive oil & parmigiano reggiano

ezra pound cake's salmon with basil and sweet pepper sauce

crumb blog's rustic pork ragu

paula deen's honey mustard & pecan coated lamb

bon appetit's white bean ragout and toast

babble's halloween mix

blue eyed baker's christmas crunch cookies in a jar

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sunday Meal Planning

Hello! I'm back from my wonderful European adventure. It was an absolutely amazing trip, which I will show you pictures of later, of course, but it was not without its drawbacks. Number one drawback? I came home with a chemical burn in one of my eyes. Sad thing? It happened because I incorrectly read...English. Yes, my native language. Yes, I am embarrassed. More so, however, is that i am happy that my own idiocy didn't permanently affect my vision, and I'm expected to get full vision back this week. All of us realize how important vision is but, until you come face first to a situation where you might lose it, you don't realize exactly HOW important. Well let me tell you, I was a hot mess for a couple of days, and now I can forever appreciate my already awful vision (yes, I have geek goggles and no, I will no longer be embarrassed by them)

Upon my return home, the first thing I noticed, even WITH my bum eye, was that my fridge was completely empty. Not surprising, of course, since I was away for 9 days. But still, how depressing is that?? No joke the only thing I have in there is 4 bottles of water -- poland spring, obvs -- a couple of sticks of butter and mayonnaise. Yep, that is it.

So today is a big day. I obviously have to go food shopping. But, more excitingly, I also get my dog for the week! Have I told you about my Italian dog? Obviously you've seen the pictures of the adorable Kodibear...

...well I get this little fluffernutter for a full week while my parents gallavant around Italy (rude!)

So, as a treat for her, since she has been in the kennel for 10 days, I will be cooking my own dinner today, but also meatballs for my Italian dog. Italian dog? Yes. She is absolutely obsessed...with Italian food. Meatballs? Done. Pasta? Yep. Braciola? Licking the bowl. 

Besides making meatballs, here are the other meals I will be cooking this week...

Sunday: Spinach and ricotta chicken

Monday: mexican lasagna

Tuesday: salmon with clementine and avocado salsa

Wednesday:  shrimp and guacamole tostadas

Thursday: sole with eggplant and roasted red peppers

Friday:  crostini with ricotta, fig jam, proscuitto and basil

Saturday: big concert--whatever I have time for!


Friday, October 12, 2012

Off to Europe!

I am off on my European adventure...five days in London followed by three in Brussels. I will be doing such touristy things as visiting Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle the Tower of London and shopping in Harrod's. I will also be going to Borough Market, eating at numerous pubs and overdosing on fish and chips. I will then be visiting family friends outside of Brussels at their farm where I can do completely non-touristy things (as there likely won't be tourists for miles) but still overdose on food.

I shall miss you all (ok, I'm lying--I mean, I'm going to Europe!) but I promise to come back with tons of photos to share. Lots and lots of photos. Particularly of food. Tata for now!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Salmon with Strawberry Relish

Every home cook has a few recipes that they turn to all the time. Recipes that are quick, don't take a lot of effort to make, taste delicious and are hard to get tired of. 

Some of these are ones that can be made in a big batch and are frozen until the need arises -- meatballs in a red sauce; bolognese; chili; pulled pork; chicken noodle soup.

Others are ones that are beautiful in their simplicity -- a perfect steak with a baked potato and asparagus, all done on the grill; a BLT (or BLAT) made with the freshest of ingredients; fish packets with whatever fresh veggies are laying around.

Unfortunately, my apartment doesn't allow for many of the former...which I hope to change by purchasing one of these bad boys (and my apartment will be even more cluttered...yay!) Then I can prep lots of food and stop spending so much money on sushi. Which will be good for my hips, but mainly for my wallet. Big emphasis on my wallet.

This recipe is one of the latter--a fresh piece of salmon, topped with a fresh fruit relish. Once you put the salmon in the marinade, change out of your work clothes and pour a glass of wine. By the time you're done that, its time to cook. The salmon takes about 10 minutes to cook, a veggie can be roasted right along side it, and the relish takes mere moments to put together. It is a fresh, delicious dinner that takes less time to make than it does to get home.

4-6 oz. of salmon for each person
Soy sauce
Orange juice
Fresh strawberries
Fresh parsley
Balsamic vinegar
Salt & pepper

Preheat your oven to 450F.

Marinate your salmon--place the fillets in a plastic bag. Add soy sauce and a splash of orange juice so that the fillets are covered. Place in fridge and marinate for about 20 minutes.

Place the salmon on a foil-lined baking sheet and place in the preheated oven. If you are roasting your vegetables, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and place on the same sheet (easy clean up!)

While your salmon is cooking, dice your strawberries and slice the fresh oregano. Place in a bowl and toss with salt and pepper.

Remove your cooked salmon after about 10 minutes, or until cooked to desired doneness. Place on a plate. Pour about 2 tsp of balsamic in the bowl with the strawberry relish and toss. Pour the relish over the salmon and enjoy!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

My Favorite Marinades

Marinades are gods gift to full-time employees. Seriously. I would love to meet a person who leaves work after a 10 - 12 hour day and just can't wait to get home, every single day, to spend an hour actively making dinner. Doing it a couple of days a week? Totally doable. Sometimes by the end of the work day all I want to do is go home and spend an hour chopping things.

More often then not, however, I want to come home and order takeout. The perfect compromise? Go home, pull your already marinated piece of meat out (or drop a piece of fish in a marinade before you change out of your work clothes), stick it in the oven with some veggies, and eat a healthy meal with a minimum of action required.

Hence the gift of marinades.

There's not much to a marinade--you can basically make it out of anything. The simple recipe is something delicious and flavorful + something acidic. That's it. The delicious/flavorful ingredient makes the meat taste better, the acidic ingredient tenderizes it. 

For frequent readers of my blog, you already know that I like bottled marinades--it literally doesn't get any easier to cook than to stick a piece of meat from your butcher into a plastic bag and dump a bottle of marinade into it for a few hours. But let's be honest...a homemade marinade is almost always better (and absolutely always healthier--I dare you to take a look at the nutrition facts on one of those bottles and not wince at the sodium level.)

Here are a few of my favorites:

Marinade Une: a few glugs of soy sauce + a splash of orange juice + a sliced orange
Drop in: a piece of salmon for a recipe like this or this.

Marinade Deux: bourbon + soy sauce + brown sugar + minced ginger
Drop in: a pork tenderloin for this recipe

Marinade Trois: greek yogurt + lime juice + olive oil + honey + minced ginger
Drop in: chicken breasts for this sweeter take on this recipe

Marinade Quatre: white wine + fresh parsley + olive oil + garlic
Drop in: a light white fish, like this recipe

Marinade Cinque: buttermilk + minced garlic + fresh oregano + salt/pepper
Drop in: chicken breasts; put it in the marinade in the am, in the evening pull the chicken out, roll it in crushed pretzels, bake and serve with honey mustard

Monday, October 1, 2012

Monday Menu Planning

Menu Planning is sort of like Menu Planning Sunday, except occurs on those weeks when your brother calls you at 2:00 p.m. and tells you he has an extra ticket to Jay-Z and do you want to come?

Uh...yes. Yes I do. And I did. And it was awesome. It was at the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn, which was shockingly easy to get to (thanks 2, 3) and impressively easy to get out of. Jay-Z played all his famous hits, not just newer ones -- including I Just Wanna Love You (aka I'm a Hustler Baby) and Big Pimpin' -- and did a seven song encore. I mean, come on, it doesn't really get any better than that.

And thus, Monday is my day for planning rather than Sunday. A legitimate postponement, if you ask me. So without further ado...

Monday: soy-marinated salmon with broccoli and asparagus

Tuesday: fresh pasta with bolognese

Wednesday: mussels in marinara sauce

Thursday: baked flounder with tomato and basil

Friday I will be heading to Nashville for another wedding (yes, that is three in the last four weekends) and I am SO EXCITED to return to my college town. I've already planned every meal, even helping with the bachelorette party to ensure we get deliciousness (and that the bride has a wonderful time, obvi)