Thursday, May 31, 2012

Foodie Pen Pal Reveal!


It's that time of month again!! This is my second month as a foodie pen pal (see my first reveal here and details of the program from Lindsay at the Lean Green Bean here). The program is pretty amazing, with over 600 people participating, and all that it entails is buying delights (up to $15) and shipping them to your pen pal...then sit back, receive your own package and enjoy!


This month, I received a package from Jeannette of The Whimsical Cupcake. Her blog is the exact opposite of mine, so if you're craving something delicious and sweet and baked, head on over and check it out. I have to admit I spent a couple of hours reading through her entire blog so be forewarned that it will make you hungry!!! Especially this recipe, for shirley temple cupcakes because, let's be honest, everyone's favorite drink when they were young was a shirley temple!


Jeannette really hit it out of the park with me! Which is super impressive since I think the only thing I said was that I don't like coconut and that I miss Southern cooking since I've moved to NYC from Nashville. She really ran with that. And it's amazing how much she sent me! I'll be cooking Southern food for weeks, and I will NOT be complaining.


What's even more impressive is how sweet and bubbly she came across even through email. I can definitely say I will be adding her blog to my list of ones to frequent. Maybe I can actually learn how to bake something that's not from a box! (Or maybe not).




Serious, amazing stuff in my box! All Southern, all the time. I seriously couldn't have asked for more! I've already told my family about the chicken fry and the jalapeno cornbread mix and my dad made me promise not to use either unless he is around to be my taste tester!




Every woman's favorite--chocolate!
So first up, Ghirardelli's dark chocolate with sea salt and almonds. Let's be honest...you have me at chocolate. This baby was gone within a couple of days of receiving the package, so good thing I took a picture of it as soon as I unwrapped it! I highly highly highly recommend it--it was the deliciousness of chocolate covered pretzels except healthier, but with the chocolate, crunch and salt!




Carroll Shelby's Chili kit!!! 
How ironic; my Memorial Day hamburger post (which will be up tomorrow) discusses my mother's famous chili. That recipe is to come, and now I'll get to do another post on Texas chili! My mom's chili features beans, peppers, mushrooms, etc. so the chili using this mix will be a treat since it's good old Texas chili--meat, meat, meat!




Bull's Eye Kansas Style BBQ sauce
Hellooooo summer! This will be perfect on top of all of the many meats my family will be grilling down the shore. I'm thinking I might see some baby back ribs in our future...




Louisiana Fish Fry's seasoned chicken fry
My grandmother used to be absolutely famoussss for her fried chicken. Sadly, she stopped making the heart stopper before I ever had a chance to taste it--although she did continue making pan fried chicken, which was delicious, so I can only imagine how good the fried chicken was. I've never made fried chicken (although I can only begin to explain how much I enjoy eating it) so I'm REALLY looking forward to making some! 


Native Texan Fire Roasted Salsa
Get in my belly. Whoops, too late! This little baby was cracked open the same day I received my package, and I will never be the same. So.damn.good. If you see this, pick a bottle up. Or actually, pick up two and send me one. Pweeeeez?


Hodgson Mill Jalapeno Cornbread Mix
How did Jeannette know my affinity for baking from a box?! Now this, I can certainly handle. And, as I already said, I have at least one test subject...but let's be honest, like me, my entire family is obsessed with cornbread. Adding jalapenos just makes us drool a litttttle more. I see a meal of fried chicken with cornbread in our future...


I'm so psyched for every single thing Jeannette sent me, except those I already ate...which I'm no longer psyched for, I'm sad that I have no willpower and couldn't make them last longer!! And to Jeannette--I love you. Too far? Ok...Thank you, thank you, thank you. Let's become best friends. You can teach me to bake. And I can...eat? Ok we'll work on our relationship...


If you want to see what I sent my foodie pen pal, check out Kelly's blog Roots and Wings! When she told me she had no access to Trader Joe's I was 1) shocked 2) saddened for her and 3) emboldened to get her hooked on my faves! Hopefully she loves everything and, for the record, I'm happy to stock you up again whenever you need Kelly!


I highly recommend becoming a foodie pen pal...who knows, maybe we'll be paired up? Head on over to The Lean Green Bean to check out the program and sign up!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Grilled Chicken with Southwest Salsa

So after spending the first day of Memorial Day Weekend at my parents house, we trekked down the shore to my aunt's. For such a large house, man was it packed!! There were 9 of us staying there. You know what that means? Captive audience...

Yes, my darling readers, I finally had a large group that I could force to eat my numerous cooking tests! Ok, I took it easy on them this weekend (don't want to scare them off too early...plus, it was a holiday) but I am so looking forward to the number of summer recipes I can get opinions on! I mean, obviously I think everything I cook is delicious (ok, maybe that's not true, but I do like to get multiple opinions on recipes because I can then improve them based on feedback). 

As you know, I may have a minor case of OCD. For my blog, this means a calendar which has a schedule of posts (color-coded, of course), a notebook of recipes to blog (divided by season) and a "top 10" list of recipes to cook. So when I was asked to cook, which I was obviously counting on, I whipped out my handy dandy notebook as if this was a perfectly normal thing to do. Side note--it's not. People look at you funny. But I digress.

Since I'm easing into the weekend, I decided to make grilled chicken with southwest salsa for Saturday's dinner. I also have to give the caveat that...I can't grill. Like at all. Not that shocking though. I do have lady parts, and I seems like you can't learn to grill if you don't have those other parts. Or my dad defends his grill as his domain and doesn't let anyone into it. One or the other. That being said, I would like to byline all grilling recipes for the summer as saying...the actual grilling was completed by one Thomas O'Brien, expert grillmaster and expert at drinking beers while doing so. What a multi-tasker! Which means, for all intents and purposes, every grill recipe will simply say "grill until cooked". Sorry ahead of time.

Grilled Chicken with Southwest Salsa
PDF available here.


fancy plates my aunt has, no? Mine are from Target. I'm pretty sure hers...are not. I'm getting so classy cooking for people with real dinnerware! #upgrade

Ingredients:

1 chicken breast (per person), trimmed
Italian dressing

One can black beans
2 Haas avocados
½ red onion, minced
1 tomato, chopped
3 pieces of corn on the cob, cooked
2 limes


Directions:


1. Marinate the raw chicken in Italian dressing for 2 hours in the fridge. Remove chicken from marinade and grill until cooked through.

2. Prep the salsa by draining and rinsing the black beans. Place in a large bowl. Next, chop and remove the avocado from its shell*. Add to the bowl with the minced red onion and chopped tomato. Once the corn on the cob cools, remove the kernels from the cob and throw away the cob. Mix the ingredients together. Cut the limes in half and squeeze the juice over the salsa. Toss again.



3. Serve the chicken with salsa scooped on top.


NOTE: This salsa is a meal in and of itself so feel free to serve to vegetarians. My brother's girlfriend came in from Florence and got to my aunt's at like 10 and ate just the salsa and was perfectly content without any chicken.


Full plate--grilled chicken at top, grilled veggies on left and summer tomato salad (coming soon) on right. Healthy and delish!

*The easiest way to do this is to cut in half longways by rotating the knife around the pit of the avocado. Once halved, remove the pit by pushing the knife into it and flicking it out. Then slice the avocado while still in its shell and remove using a teaspoon.




Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Memorial Day Weekend - Part One

Welcome back to real life! I have to say, I have not missed it. This Memorial Day weekend was a fabulous one, full of family, laughs and, of course, lots of food!!


Thursday


As I wrote last week, on Thursday I went home to go to dinner with my parents for a joint birthday (mine) and anniversary (theirs) dinner at the lovely Nectar in Berwyn, PA. It was, as usual, absolutely delicious and we made quite a dent into their menu. We started with edamame, which is unusual at Nectar as they actually fry it, as well as the calamari. I love the sauces they serve with the calamari--one is a hoisin based sauce and the other a papaya one. I like to dip my calamari in both before eating it. And the calamari is very light as it is tempura fried as opposed to the kind you get at Italian restaurants. We then moved on to dumplings--the pork pot stickers, which were lovely as always, and the new edamame dumplings which, I have to say, were AH-mazing. Like seriously so good. I also ordered a roll at that point (neither of my parents are huge on sushi) that had jumbo lump crab on the inside and was topped with salmon, avocado and tuna. It was good, but the crab was not shelled very well, and it was a pretty big turn off. I then ordered some sashimi--salmon, scallop (my favorite! if you've never had it, GET IT. Seriously, it's amazing) and bluefin toro. My parents got pork and chinese sausage fried rice and chili beef. 

And that was just the FIRST night of the weekend! You can see why this is going to take me multiple posts to share.

Friday
The next night we stayed at my parents and ate on our deck overlooking our pool, which was just opened the day before and was thus a sparkling blue.


And got to protect our food from this little (ok, big) nugget. 


Just kidding, she doesn't steal food--she's spoiled, and get it put into her bowl after we finish eating. I swear, Kodi eats better than I do. Anyway, of course we grilled deliciousness...look at the grill master--


photogenic, isn't he? Dad, are your eyes closed?! Nice.

Since we knew we'd be eating like fatties all weekend, we just made a basic dinner--my parents had pork chops, I had a strip steak, grilled baked potatoes (does that even make sense?), grilled asparagus and steamed broccoli. Although my dad is willing to grill justttt about anything, even he was stumped by how to grill broccoli.


barbecue pork chops on the grill


asparagus with chili pepper (obviously), salt and olive oil. If you grill asparagus, make sure to soak it in water for 20 minutes first or it cracks and is not so good.


And now for your (ok my) viewing pleasure, more pics of me stalking my dog trying to get a good shot. For some reason she realllly dislikes cameras. She must take after her owner (cough *daddy* cough).




Saturday, May 26, 2012

Cookbooks to Buy

As I haven't been cooking this week, I've been going through my lists of "posts I mean to write but never do because of all the cooking pictures I have". It's kind of freeing to actually, finally, write all of these! 


As I explained when I listed some of my favorite bloggers on the other page, food bloggers run out of ideas all of the time. We're not churning out new recipes without a little inspiration. Other food blogs are a fabulous place to find inspiration. But sometimes a girl just needs a new cookbook. 


I love cookbooks. My dream kitchen has a shelf under the island counter which will have cookbooks going all the way around. I dream of having thousands of cookbooks, all color-coded tabbed so I can easily find the recipes I'm looking for (yes, I realize I have OCD). My dad used to buy my mom a cookbook every Christmas. I'm not sure how I can wedge my way into this tradition, but I'll let you know how it goes in seven months. I adore books in general, and I adore food, so put the two together and you can imagine how happy new cookbooks make me.


The problem is that literally thousands of cookbooks are published each year. How the heck do you know which ones are good? Which ones are worth the money (which, by the way, is the only reason I don't already have a ton--what's up with cookbooks being $30?!?!) I have about 20 on my wish list, ones I've read reviews of and been given recommendations for, so I want to share those with you, because I'm sure if I have troubles picking books, then you do too!!


Cookbooks to Buy


Tender: A cook and his vegetable patch by Nigel Slater
available here.


This book was put on my list after a review by the Food Section, which reports that this 600+ page (600 PLUS pages?!) book is divided into chapters for individual vegetables. Sign me up.




Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson
available here.

Some of you may recognize the name Heidi Swanson. She began her life as a food blogger (and still is) at the wonderful site 101 Cookbooks. Since her blog is literally dedicated to testing out cookbooks, I have a feeling her latest one is going to be wonderful. 


Vegetables from an Italian Garden: Season-by-Season Recipes
available here.

This book is, at both times, a gardener's toolkit and a cook's guide. It is arranged seasonally, each season divided into two parts explaining how to grow, and then how to cook each. It features over 400 recipes for 40 plus vegetables.


Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes by London's Ottolenghi
available here.

Yotam Ottolenghi is a London celebrity chef, not unlike a Tom Collichio or Eric Ripert for New Yorker's mixed with Mark Bittman, as he writes a weekly column. This book features over 120 recipes designed by, importantly, a NON-vegetarian. 


The Flexitarian Table by Peter Berley
available here.

This is the go-to guide for home cooks who have vegetarians, pescetarians, and die-hard meat eaters in the same house. The recipes in this cookbook are designed for both, with each showing how to prepare a meat and meatless version of the same dish, at the same time, without spending double the time.


Mediterranean Harvest by Martha Rose Shulman
available here.

The Mediterranean diet is considered one of the healthiest in the world--in large part because of the emphasis on vegetables. This cookbook offers over 500 vegetarian recipes that don't rely on pasta or bread; don't let the title "vegetarian" scare you!


Yes, yes, there is definitely a trend with the cookbooks I want--vegetables! That should be a trend in everyone's house. It's time to stop relying so much on meat, start getting back to nature, and watch your weight slim down. Promise!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Kitchen Wish List

Whenever my birthday comes around, it makes me think of the, you know, gazillion or so things I want. Living in a 350 square foot apartment makes having a fully stocked kitchen pretty hard. But, on my fabulous iPhone (yep, still obsessed months later), with my favorite app ever, Evernote (for all my to-do lists which, as last post told you, there are many), I've decided to make a list of things I would like to have in my future dream kitchen.


And by list, I mean itemized, with brands and costs. Not that I have OCD or anything...


Here's a selection of some of the things I'm DYING to have for my dream kitchen 


which, by the way, will look like either this...


or this...


Yeah, I have dreams...

Anyway, there's a lot of little things I'd like (a lot) but there are also some large ones...and some ones that are really random (like a juicer. Who owns a juicer? Soon enough, the answer to that question will be "this girl, right here". HOW COOL). Here's a selection of my kitchen wish list:

Cuisinart's SmartStick Immersion Blender



Le Creuset 5 qt. cast iron dutch oven


Slate cheese board


Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer


Full dinner settings of Fiesta Ware (preferably in this blue)

There's also a list of little things I need that I plan on picking up as I see them go on sale. Kitchen stuff goes on sale all the time, since there isn't really a season for it, so it's great to know what you want and just keep an eye out!

  • Silpat liners (for perfect baking)
  • Measuring spoons
  • Nice serving spoons (acceptable for company!)
  • Spatulas
  • Champagne flutes
  • Spice rack
  • Spoon rest for my oven
  • Utensil jar (after I get my nice serving spoons I can display them!)
Does anyone else have a list of wants? If so, share!




Sunday, May 20, 2012

Summer To-Dos

No Sunday Menu Planning post this week. As some of you know, Tuesday is my BIRTHDAY!!! Which has led to lots of dinners. It's also Memorial Day weekend and, as I live in the city, my goal is to get the heck out of it! I'm heading home Thursday night to have a joint birthday/anniversary (it's my parents 32nd!) and then we'll be going to my aunt's house down the shore.


::side note, you know I grew up in the dirty jerz since I say "down the shore" rather than "to the beach"::


Instead, I've been thinking of to-dos for the summer as Memorial Day is the official beginning of the season! I'm a BIG to-do list person (and resolutions person, but that's another story). A lot of it comes from work--PR people live for a good to-do list, and make timelines for everything (seriously, everything). I even have a color-coded calendar...and by "a", I mean "multiple"; I have a print out one on my desk for personal stuff, one for important work stuff, my Outlook calendar for work meetings, and a Google calendar that literally has my life in it. I don't know what I would do without my calendars and to-dos. Probably lie in bed crying that I don't know what to do with my life. That or go down the shore and pretend the rest of the world doesn't exist. One or the other...


So I've created a summer to-do list. Hopefully I'll get to do everything on it, but if I only get to do a few I'll still be happy. Wish me luck! Hold me to them! And, if we're friends outside of the virtual world, let me know if you want in!






1. Visit a pick-your-own berry farm. Seriously, I grew up in New Jersey and have driven by countless berry farms and never once have I actually stopped! Well that is going to change this summer. I'm on a quest!


2. Start running outside rather than on the treadmill. I'm the worst gym rat ever. I actually LIKE being in the gym (well, you would too if you belonged to mine). But I also HATE the treadmill--it's so boring. But I'm training for a half marathon and running is, you know, kind of imperative, so hating the treadmill can't stop me from doing it! Instead, I'm going to take my treks to Central Park and Riverside Park. I'll be the one leaning over with a cramp, trying to remember how to breathe.


3. Take a cooking class for a new cuisine. I love cooking classes. Like LOVE. But I always take ones of a cuisine I know and like. My favorite cooking class? Fresh pasta making. Second fave? Sushi rolling. Ask anyone what my two favorite cuisines are, and they will tell you Italian and Japanese. Well it is time to expand my horizons! I'm thinking maybe Thai or a lesser known cuisine from Asia. If anyone has any suggestions of good classes in New York, email me at seasaltnpepa@gmail.com!


4. Take a spontaneous day/weekend trip. Has anyone heard of the miracle that is ZipCar? I've had a membership for over a year and have only rented a car once. ONCE! So this summer, I want to rent a car and take a trip somewhere in New York, Connecticut, who knows? Maybe a weekend trip into New England? The world is FULL of possibilities for a New Yorker who has a car for a weekend. 


5. Host a cocktail party. If any of my to-dos are daunting, this is it. Not because I worry about the party itself--that's the easy part. I love making appetizers, love having people over, love hosting parties. In fact, in college, I used to have monthly dinner parties with about 20 people, most of whom were guys who could eat alot. Instead, this is daunting because...where in the world would I do it? My apartment barely fits me, much less friends. My parents moved away from my hometown, so it's pretty far for others. Sadly, I must say, this is the to-do that is least likely to happen.


6. Go to a flea market. And by flea market, I mean Brooklyn Flea...and, even more importantly, I mean Smorgasburg. If you're not from New York, you probably have no idea what I'm talking about, so visit this website, and get jealous. The problem with this to-do will be getting my rotund body on the subway afterwards. Or maybe I could just roll home...


7. Be a tourist in my own city. My family aren't big tourists. At least not in a city that's only a couple of hours away. Which is why, my darling readers, I have never been to the Statue of Liberty. Or Ellis Island. I've never ridden the Staten Island Ferry. I HAVE successfully visited the Empire State Building which, for all of you who've done so, is the most useless touristy thing to do ever. And you sure as hell won't be finding me in Times Square anytime soon. But maybe an on-off bus? The possibilities are truly endless...


8. Summer clean! Ok, I'm a little late on spring cleaning. Just, you know, a few months. But it's hard to do in NYC! I don't have storage to put things in and the storage I do have (hi Mom and Dad's basement!) is a two hour drive away. Have I mentioned I don't have a car? And no, genius people who would like to suggest I rent a ZipCar for THIS purpose, I will not be doing that. Instead I will be begging my parents to come visit and then I will beg them to take home a car full of my crap. The likelihood of that happening before it's time to bring back up my fall/winter clothes? Slim to none, methinks, slim to none.


9. Reconnect with old friends. This is the most important item on my to-do list. Two years ago I moved to New York, started working 60+ hour weeks, and forgot about my friends. Well it's time to reconnect--I'm looking at you high school friends! College friends who've moved? Expect Skype date requests. It's time to turn off my work computer and become a better friend. 





Thursday, May 17, 2012

Caribbean Jerk Pork

Have I ever mentioned that sometimes I read food articles that freak me out? And then I have a ridiculous reaction to them? Cause yeah...that happens. The reaction normally only lasts like uhhh 8 hours or so, but sometimes the articles really stick with me.

Examples: Articles on the fish in the Pacific that could be radioactive from the nuclear power plant disaster in Japan. Stopped eating all Pacific fish (that lasted about 2 days, but I have kept away from tuna since).  Or watching a video on the horrible treatment of chickens being raised for slaughter (still haven't gotten back to eating chicken as frequently as before I saw that video. Seriously, it will burn your retinas). OR the best example--when I read Skinny Bitch and became a vegetarian (that one lasted about 4 hours until my dad grilled burgers for dinner).

Last week I read an article about how unhealthy store-bought marinades are. I've always known that they're not great for you, but this article really opened my eyes about the fact that they're actually pretty bad. Which is NOT good for me, since I rely on marinades A LOT. So this week I decided to attempt to make my own marinade. I succeeded pretty well, but man there were a lot of ingredients that go into a good marinade. I think I'll go back to marinating fish and just stick with low sodium soy sauce and some citrus juice--two ingredients are much better than the like 10 in this recipe. But the Caribbean Jerk marinade really did end up being delicious, so if you're feeling ambitious, I highly recommend attempting.

Caribbean Jerk Pork


Ingredients

Boneless pork loin

Marinade:
1 tbsp black peppercorns
3/4 tsp nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
2 tbsp salt
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
4 tsp minced garlic
2 bunches scallions, finely chopped
3-9 peppers, either scotch bonnet or habanero (I actually got scotch bonnet pretty easily at my grocery store), seeded and chopped
Zest and juice of 5 limes
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup dark rum

Directions

1. In a large bowl, combine all marinade ingredients. Place pork loin in the bowl and cover with shrink wrap (if you have a small fridge, like I do, you can also combine all ingredients and then place the pork in a plastic bag and pour the marinade over it, so it doesnt take up a lot of shelf space). Marinate for at least 2  hours and up to overnight.

2. Preheat your oven to 400F.

3. Remove pork loin from bowl/bag. Place tin foil on a baking pan (to make clean up easier) and put pork on top. Pour marinade over the pork. Cook for 20-25 minutes per lb. 

4. Remove from oven and slice. 





Monday, May 14, 2012

Turbot over Lentils with Spinach and Tomatoes

As you may have gotten from my last post, I am VERY appreciative of my mother. One of her favorite things is when I come home and cook for her--she even calls me her "own personal chef". I'm not sure if it makes her happier to have me cook or if it makes me happier that my mom, who cooked for me almost every day for the first 18 years of my life, enjoys my food. I like to think its a tie.

As planned, on Saturday I cooked dinner for my parents. We went foodshopping at the farmer's market, and stopped at the wonderful Carlino's market in Ardmore, which has doubled in size since I was there last! My mum picked out a fancy olive oil for her to have, and we decided that we should do appetizers on our deck overlooking our (still closed) pool since it was 75 degrees and sunny. When we got to the farmer's market, we stopped at DiBruno Bros. stall and picked out a good bread, olives, proscuitto, 2 kinds of cheeses (you can taste test them there and the cheesemongers are super knowledgeable), grilled peppers and white beans in tomato sauce (sound familiar? This is where I got the idea!).

That night, I made my mum turbot, served over lentils (her favorite) with spinach and tomatoes and a side of roasted brussel sprouts (her other fave). She never gets to eat either of those at home because, well, my dad is a pain in the butt about certain foods (remember my artichoke post?) and lentils and brussel sprouts fall into that category. So my dad had almost an entirely different dinner. He had turbot served over jasmine rice with a side of steamed spinach. Seriously, maybe I should work in a restaurant. I'm already taking different orders!

The recipe for the lentils is based on Dishing Up Delights. It was surprisingly simple, although a bit bland. I think that could have been fixed with a sauce on the fish or adding some spice to the lentils. Next time!

Turbot Served over Lentils with Spinach and Tomatoes


Ingredients:

4-6 oz turbot, per person
1 c. dry white wine
1 lemon
1 cup dried lentils
1 bag baby spinach
2 tbsp olive oil
1 package cherry tomatoes
1 tbsp diced shallot
1 tbsp diced garlic
2 tbsp Italian parsley
2 tbsp fresh basil

Directions:

1. Cook lentils according to package directions. These really beef up as they cook, so don't underestimate one cup of the dried lentils. However, feel free to make more--you can always save for another meal.


2. Preheat oven to 400F. Meanwhile, marinate fish in white wine and lemon juice from the lemon. When the oven is heated, cook fish--it will take about 15 minutes, depending on how thick the fish fillets are. Cook to your own taste.

2. Once cooked, drain lentils and set aside.


3. Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and garlic and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the spinach and cook, stirring frequently, until just wilted. Add the tomatoes, lentils, basil and parsley and stir. Cook until warmed through, about one minute. Add salt and pepper to taste; you can also add lemon juice at this point.

4. Serve by placing lentil mixture on a plate and putting fish on top.



Sunday, May 13, 2012

Sunday Menu Planning



Happy Mother's Day to all of the fabulous mothers who are reading this. Moms are the most important people in the world (sorry dads!)--the first women we love, who we would not be here without, and the person who will always be there for you. Every single mother has done a great service to the world as a whole and I think one day a year is not enough to celebrate every thing you all do for all of your children. I hope you had a fabulous day with your children and families and hope you have many more!

I'm lucky enough to be best friends with my mom. Like not in the "omg my mom is my best friend" sort of way, but in the--I tell my mom everything, miss her if I don't talk to her for a few days, chat on gmail and text, need her opinion for everything. She is the most amazing woman I've ever met in the world and I hope every other child feels the same about their mom! (but seriously, mine's better. don't even get me started).

I went hope this weekend, as planned, and had a great weekend. Today we played golf at my parents new club and had a wonderful time. It was the first time I played golf in 6 years and, let me tell you, i'm amazing. Haha and modest too! But seriously, who knew that playing golf was like riding a bike? I guess I have to thank my parents; if I didnt play golf since I was like 5, I doubt I would have even been able to hit the ball! But I did, and I did, and its always been a wonderful bonding experience for our family, and I'm glad I've gotten back into playing!

As always, my mom was lovely enough to buy me some food while I was home! I got a couple of chicken breasts, ground beef, two steaks, a pork loin and eggplant lasagna. So clearly I know what I'll be cooking this week!!


Monday: steak with garlic mashed potatoes and broccoli

Tuesday: hoisin glazed pork loin with roasted vegetables

Wednesday: salsa chicken, made in the slow cooker

Thursday: tacos! Being home this weekend made me miss being a kid, and what's better than tacos for getting in touch with your inner child?

Friday: corn fritters with avocado salsa

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Crash Hot Potatoes

If you're a frequent visitor and have any idea what my page normally looks like, you may notice that I have added a new tab--my favorite blogs. Every single blogger reads other blogs; it's just the nature of the beast. Just like every home cook runs out of inspiration and gets tired of Taco Tuesday, bloggers run out of ideas for new posts. So I've added a tab with some of the blogs that I read ALL the time...and I'll update is more as I make new favorites.

One of the most famous food bloggers, and now author, is "The Pioneer Woman" aka Ree Drummond. She's the blogger the rest of us emulate--the one who really made it, has a dedicated following, a book deal and an adorable family. And she's a pretty damn good cook! I read her blog fairly frequently, but I'm definitely reaching back into the archives (aka 2008) for this recipe. I hope you all like it as much as I do, and I definitely recommend (after reading my post, OBVIOUSLY) jumping over to her site to see her amazing recipes. 

Crash Hot Potatoes


Ingredients

12 whole red potatoes (or other small potato you prefer)
3 tbsp olive oil
Salt and black pepper
Rosemary, chopped
Italian parsley, chopped

Directions

1. Bring a pot of water (that will cover your potatoes) to boil. Add salt and drop the potatoes in. Boil until fork tender and remove. Preheat oven to 450F.

2. Drizzle olive oil on a sheet pan. Place the potatoes with space between each. With a fork (or potato masher if you're fancy and have that--my 300 sq ft apartment just isn't big enough for that), push down on each potato until it smashes slightly, then do the same in a different direction. Do this to every potato.

3. Brush tops of potatoes with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, rosemary and parsley. 

4. Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes or so, until golden brown. Enjoy!


smashed, pre-oven



Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Spinach & Ricotta Pasta

This recipe was created by one of my ex-boyfriends' family. His dad was Italian, his mom Jewish, and the food delicious. Absolutely delicious. I got my dream of going to a Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve at his uncle's. His dad gave me some amazing recipes and tons of his favorite cooking magazines. He cooked really amazing Italian food and would spend hours in the kitchen on weekends.

His mom, however, cooked some really amazing quick recipes. Ones that, years after we broke up, I still use as they were fast and simple and yummy. This is one of my faves that he taught me. During college I probably made this once a week, because it's delicious the night of and is also really good when reheated...and I was ALL about leftovers in college. All in all, this recipe takes about 15 minutes. And I don't mean active cook time, I mean COMPLETE from start to finish. Yep. You're welcome.

Spinach and Ricotta Pasta

 
Ingredients

1 lb. penne pasta
1 package of baby spinach
1 small container part-skim ricotta (I use the 15 oz. container of this)
2 heaping spoonfuls of grated Parmesan
2 tbsp butter
Salt and pepper

Directions

1. Cook pasta according to package directions. It should take about 10-11 minutes.

2. Saute spinach over medium-high heat until wilted or microwave until wilted (about three minutes).

3. In a large glass bowl, cut up the butter. When the spinach is cooked, put it in the bowl on top of the butter so it causes the butter to melt. After draining the pasta, add that to the bowl as well. Scoop the ricotta on top of the pasta, add the Parmesan and salt and pepper to taste. Mix the entire thing up into a delicious gooey mess.

The best way to reheat is to add a bit of ricotta to the refrigerated pasta and microwave for about a minute. Then enjoy!


Sunday, May 6, 2012

Menu Planning Sunday


So this week was much more busy than I planned. Isn't that always how it is? I make a nice plan of eating at home and going to the gym and then the world implodes and instead I'm ordering takeout at 11 pm or going to drinks with friends that morphs into dinner that morphs into another bar. Rough life huh?


Well maybe not a rough life, but rough on my wallet at least. So this week, rather than eating fancy meals (or at least ones that LOOK fancy), I'm going to eat extremely-wallet friendly meals. Which, as I'm sure you know, tend to be absolutely delicious and not necessarily the healthiest, but do often have the lowest number of ingredients. Eating these means I will be trekking to the gym most days in an attempt to burn off those additional calories. And that doesn't hurt my wallet since I pay a monthly fee (I guess that means it does hurt, but I don't have to pull out my wallet every time I walk through the doors which is nice).


This also means that I'll be making some of my favorite family recipes. When my parents first got married, they were very young and my dad was going to law school. As you can imagine, their budget was tight, and they developed a lot of great recipes that were kind to their wallets. As kids, my brother and I used to love those recipes--I used tons of them when I was in college so I could save up for beer money--and I still do! I'm going to blog a couple of my faves and hopefully, when your mortgage payment looms or your rent check just got mailed or you bought a new expensive item you really needed but now you really neeed to live tight, you'll turn back to these posts and have some good ideas!


Monday: hotdogs and potatoes (my favorite recipes from my dad's law school days. Seriously addicting.)


Tuesday: chicken bundles (since I didn't make them this week!)


Wednesday: baked potato with my mom's famous chili


Thursday: lasagna/stuffed shells (have not decided which one, but it will be one or the other)


I go to my parents house Friday after work to spend Mother's Day weekend with my mum, and I'll most likely be cooking her a nice dinner on Saturday...but I have not decided what that nice dinner will be. Any suggestions?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Seared Scallops with Greek Gigante Beans

I'm officially on a roll with this cooking thing! Well, to be honest, this recipe didn't turn out spectacularly. I stopped at a grocery store on my way home from work, one that I've never used their fish monger, to pick up the scallops and even though I specifically asked if the scallops were dry (NEVER get dipped ones, they're pretty gross) and he said they were...they weren't. To be honest, it was kind of my fault...I noticed the scallops had an odd sheen, but I was in a rush and was pretty set on this recipe since I had made the beans the night before. I should have changed my mind when I saw them, but I didn't so that's my own fault. Although if the fish monger HAD said they were dipped, I absolutely never would have bought the scallops. Oh well...you live, you learn.

Although my scallops didn't come out spectacularly, I still strongly recommend this recipe. The scallops are just a topping for the beans, which came out AMAZING. I'll be eating these for the next week. And I've certainly made delicious scallops before, so I have no doubt that if it had been different scallops I would have been extremely happy with this recipe. 

So don't let my horror story scare you off--although DO let my story make you become friendly with the person who sells you your fish, as they are the best source of information for how old the fish is, recipes, etc. I have a fishmonger at a store near me who I'm on a first name basis with (and, who continually tells me if he was 30 years younger we'd be married by now), who has never steered me wrong. In fact, I've gone in to the store to get one fish and he'll give me a look (if other customers are at the counter) and suggest a different, but similar, fish. With no questions asked, I ALWAYS change my fish and have never once been unhappy with the product I've gotten. Moral of the story--unlike with meat (which it's still good to have a relationship with your butcher) fish is SO temperamental and goes bad SO quickly that a good relationship with the person who sells it to you is imperative. 

Ok, lecture done...on to the good stuff!

Seared Scallops with Greek Gigante Beans
Downloadable PDF available here.


Ingredients:

4 sea scallops (per person)

1 lb. dried gigante beans (if these are unavailable, use Great Northern Beans or cannellini beans)
¼ cup olive oil
8 cups chicken broth
2 medium onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
28 oz can whole plums in juice, tomatoes chopped and juice reserved
¼ cup red wine vinegar
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tsp crushed red pepper


Directions:

1. Place beans in large bowl. Pour enough water over to cover beans by 3 inches; let soak overnight. This will rehydrate the beans--it is MUCH cheaper to get dried beans and rehydrate rather than get cans! And perfectly easy to do. The next day, drain beans and set aside.

2. Heat olive oil in heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add chopped onions and garlic and sauté until onions have caramelized a little and are golden brown, about 7 minutes. Add beans, broth, tomatoes & their juice, vinegar, oregano, and crushed red pepper to pot; bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until beans are tender, adding more broth by cupfuls to keep beans submerged and stirring occasionally, 2 to 3 hours, depending on freshness of beans. At the end, uncover and cook beans until tomato mixture thickens and liquid is slightly reduced, about 15 minutes. Season beans to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

MAKE AHEAD TIP: I did the beans the day before I cooked the scallops. It takes a while to cook, and I'm a hungry girl, so as my meal for that night was cooking, I worked on the beans. Then I ate and let the beans simmer. After they are cooked, let them cool slightly then chill in your fridge until cold, then cover and leave in fridge. I rewarmed the beans in a small pan on the stove over medium heat for about 4 minutes.

3. Rinse and pat scallops dry. Remove foot, if necessary. Score, salt and pepper each side.

4. Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a pan on the stove top over high heat. Once oil is hot, place scallops in pan and cook about 3 minutes, until that side is caramelized. Flip the scallops and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Remove from heat and serve over warmed gigante beans.



Enjoy! AND DONT DO THIS WITH DIPPED SCALLOPS. Ick. But the beans made a perfectly good meal in and of themselves, so feel free to just eat those!