Thursday, March 19, 2009

Life

14 words to the wise

Please forgive me for the delay in posting this. On Sunday, my daughter was born. I spent the better part of a week in the hospital and we all returned home, healthy and happy on Tuesday afternoon.

I'm going to take a small break away from food (and life rambling) blogging to settle into my new role as a mommy. I promise to return and look forward to cooking regularly again! We enjoyed our first "future cooking" meal last night which took FOREVER to cook in the oven from frozen. It was a yummy pasta dish! I am super glad I stocked up my freezer prior to having my daughter!! I wish everyone well and look forward to continue reading everyone else's blog posts when I'm sitting up late nights with baby in my arms!

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Asparagus pesto lasagna

7 words to the wise

I've had this recipe clipped from Vegetarian Times for a couple of years in a binder of things I've been meaning to make. Rather then republish the recipe, I'll link to it.The modifications I made were to add 2 sliced green onions (which I sauteed with the asparagus). I used 1 tsp of crushed garlic instead of the 1 clove of chopped garlic. I used mozzarella instead of fontina because it's what I had on hand. Oh and I used whole wheat lasagna noodles. The noodles on the very bottom didn't cook all the way. I'd suggest putting a thin layer of sauce under them. Other then that, I stuck to the recipe!
I liked the different take on the lasagna. I'm sure I'll make it again. It was pretty easy, but I have to say that getting 10 servings out of a 13x9 dish is a bit of a joke. For a main dish, it's more like 6 or 8 ;)

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Crispy polenta with mushrooms, sausage and creamed spinach

3 words to the wise

I still cook, I promise. I know it's been awhile since a post. Life is hectic. Here's what I made last night. It was by no means a gourmet, painstaking meal. Speed is the name of the game these days. I love the combination of textures and flavors in this. It's comfort food without being artery-clogging.
Crispy polenta with mushrooms, sausage and creamed spinach
Makes 3-4 servings
Ingredients:
1 tube cooked polenta
3 spicy italian sausages
1/2 lb mushrooms, sliced
canola oil
1 tb butter
1 tb flour
1 cup skim milk
1 tsp crushed garlic
salt and pepper to taste

For the spinach:
1 pkg frozen spinach, thawed and drained well
1/4 cup whipped cream cheese
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Cook sausage in non-stick pan or iron skillet over medium heat until just barely pink. Remove from pan and allow to cool. Unwrap polenta and slice into 1/4 inch rounds. Add 1 tb oil to hot pan and slowly add in half of your polenta. Cook without disturbing 5 minutes. Meanwhile, slice cooled sausage into 1/2 inch slices.

Flip and cook 5 minutes more, adding a little more oil if necessary. Remove from heat and repeat with remaining polenta. Drain polenta on paper towels. Add another tb of oil to hot pan. Add mushrooms and sausage to pan and continue cooking until mushrooms are just softened and sausage is no longer pink. Remove to bowl, leaving behind little sausage and mushroom bits.

Add butter and flour to pan and cook 1 minutes. Slowly add milk and crushed garlic, stirring constantly. Allow to thicken some and reduce heat to low. Cook for 5 minutes until a thick sauce is achieved. Salt and pepper to taste.

Lay slices of polenta on plate, top with sausage and mushrooms and pile on the creamy sauce.

For the creamed spinach, combine the last 5 ingredients well, cover and nuke for 2 minutes. Easy as can be.

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Thursday, March 5, 2009

Spicy rigatoni with spinach and mushrooms

7 words to the wise

I wasn't in the mood for marinara or pesto last night so I opted for a simple treatment of ricotta, red pepper, garlic and salt and pepper. This was actually much better then it looks.
Spicy Rigatoni with Spinach and Mushrooms
Makes 4 entree servings
Ingredients:
1/2 lb rigatoni
2 spicy Italian sausage links, sliced
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1/2 lb frozen chopped spinach
2 tbsp crushed garlic
1/4 cup part skim ricotta
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Cook rigatoni al dente in salted water per package instructions. Drain, reserving 1/2–1 cup of the pasta water. In a large saute pan, cook sausage until no longer pink over medium heat. Deglaze pan with a little water and add mushrooms. Cook another 3–4 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and gently stir in pasta, spinach, ricotta, garlic and crushed red pepper. Add reserved water until desired consistency and continue cooking until spinach is heated through. Salt and pepper to taste.

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George's Garage – Ninth Street, Durham

0 words to the wise

For date night on last Friday, we ventured to George's Garage. I was craving seafood, and knowing our remaining date nights are dwindling, we opted to spend more then usual. While I love Blu, the menu is rather limiting to me these days due to my restricted diet and my distaste for oysters.

It was early (5:30ish) and it was nice and quiet, relatively empty save for a few of the after work folks at the bar. We were seated, given our menus and told the specials by our fantastic waiter, Patrick. Seriously he made our seemingly average experience extraordinary. We opted for our appetizer and entrees from the specials menu.

For our appetizer we ordered a seafood platter. This consisted of fried calimari, two seared large sea scallops and two jumbo sauteed shrimp. My hubby ate most of the calimari and one of the shrimp. I ate the scallops, the other shrimp and a few pieces of the calimari. My only complaints about our entire meal stem from this dish. The scallops and shrimp were almost room temperature. Other then that, I thoroughly enjoyed it. The cocktail sauce and tartar sauce were fantastic. The tartar sauce differed from the typical mayo-based, relish over-run stuff you're used to. It was creamy and filled with what seemed like a mild minced onion or perhaps even some celery. I loved it.

For my entree I ordered the pan seared red snapper served over shrimp lemon thyme risotto. The snapper was tastefully seasoned, perfecctly cooked and served on top of a generous pile of arborio rice with healthy chunks of shrimp. The risotto was a little off in it's texture, not the creamy stuff I'm used to, but it was still very tasty. This entree was a steal at around $12!

My husband had the NY strip with mushroom jus. It was served with homemade fries and broccoli. He said it was fantastic. For dessert we shared bread pudding (he'd never had it) with caramel sauce and vanilla bean ice cream. Typically I order chocolate desserts, but this was completely satisfying and I also thought it was a steal at only $4.

As I mentioned before, the entire experience was lifted to another level by a fantastic, informative waiter, who urged us to ask for him by name when we returned post-baby. That, we will definitely be sure to do!

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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Bacon wrapped chicken with cheddar and almonds

10 words to the wise

This is adapted from a Rachel Ray recipe to what I had on hand and to be healthier. You could use any cheese and nut combination. I really liked the addition of green onions. We really also liked the mustard cream sauce (also adapted).
Bacon wrapped chicken with cheddar and almonds
Makes 4 servings
Ingredients:
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 cup sharp cheddar, grated
1/4 cup toasted almonds, chopped
2 green onions, sliced
4-6 slices turkey bacon
1 tb olive oil
2 tb butter
2 tb flour
1 1/4 cup skim milk
2 tb grain mustard (I used my dear friend Joyanna's spicy wintertime mustard)
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Pound chicken breasts thin between plastic wrap. Season both sides with salt and pepper. Cover the breasts with cheese, onions and nuts in equal amounts. Roll each one up and wrap each roll with a piece (or 2) of turkey bacon. Secure with toothpicks. This was the most tedious, pain in the ass part of the process because trying not to cross contaminate is such a pain. I think I washed my hands like 8 times!

Preheat oven to 375. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Brown chicken on all sides for a total of 5-6 minutes. Place chicken on small baking sheet in oven and cook for 10 minutes more.

In the same skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Stir in flour and cook 1 minute. Stir in milk slowly and whisk until smooth. Next stir in mustard and season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to warm until chicken is ready. Remove toothpicks from chicken and cut in half. Pour sauce over chicken.

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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Hearty slow cooker beef stew

3 words to the wise

I love an easy meal that you can prepare ahead of time, and then just pull out of the fridge, plug in and leave as you're walking out the door for the day. I'll let you know how this turns out once we eat it!!

Edit: The beef stew was great, but I ended up skimming a good amount of fat off the top of the pot and added at least a tsp of salt!

Hearty Slow Cooker Beef Stew

Makes 4-6 servings
Ingredients:
1 large celery, sliced thick
1 large potato, cubed
1 small onion, chopped
2 large carrots, sliced thick
1 lb. stew cut beef
1/4 c flour
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp rosemary
1/2 tsp thyme
2.5 cups water
2 cubes beef bouillion
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Heat water and bouillion to boiling in pot or in microwave. Stir to dissolve bouillion.Combine flour and spices in a large bowl. Mix in beef and toss well to coat. Pour into bottom of slow cooker.

Cutting up the veggies is the most time consuming part of this meal.

Add vegetables and cover with broth (bouillion and water). Stir well to combine. Cook on low 8 hours or high for 5 hours. Salt and pepper to taste.

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Monday, March 2, 2009

Photos of the Day - Iced in

6 words to the wise

At 9 months pregnant, I am not permitted by my husband, nor myself for that matter, to play on the slick roads with the haphazard SUV drivers. So here I sit alone, ordered to keep off my feet for the day. Of course I'm going to be doing a little cooking, but I've taken a few minutes to rekindle some of my love for photography. Ice is an interesting study...So are flowers. I received a beautiful bouquet from my boss for my baby shower a couple of weeks ago. These gorgeous roses and my favorite fragrant stargazer lilies...
Try to stay warm today, wherever you are. I'm off to search for something worthwhile to watch on daytime television!

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