Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Recent Eats

I don't have a 'real' post today, I just felt the need to write something since it's been a few days! Plus, we ate a lot of food in the past 4-5 days.

This past weekend, Memorial Day weekend, SP's youngest sister, Z, got married. Friday evening, EPAS and her family arrived in town. They stayed with us for the weekend. When they arrived, they hadn't yet eaten dinner, and neither had we, so we ordered pizza from our usual pizza place, Pizza Milano. Cheese pizza for the nephews; spinach-chicken-bacon pizza for the adults. I didn't take any photos because Pizza Milano's pizza has been seen on this blog before.

EPAS knows I love whoopie pies. She brought me some from a bakery at her farmer's market and we enjoyed whoopie pies for dessert. Yum!

The rehearsal dinner was Saturday evening and it was at Carino's, which is near the IHOP and Costco in Robinson. We've eaten at Carino's several times before, so I didn't take any photos. The meal started with a choice of house salad, Caesar salad, or soup. SP & I both chose the house salad with house dressing (Italian) on the side. For my entree, I had the 16 Layer Lasagna. I couldn't pass up the chance to have lasagna with beef. Since SP doesn't eat beef, we never make pasta sauce/pasta meals with beef. SP chose the Lemon Rosemary Chicken which came with a huge sprig of rosemary. For dessert we shared 2 desserts (Lemon Cream Cake and Tiramisu) with the matron of honor.

Sunday was the big day. The wedding and reception were both at a hotel and the events started around 4 pm. After the ceremony, there was a cocktail hour with cheeses, veggies, dips, and hot hors d'oeurves like crab balls, Swedish meatballs, sesame chicken, and bruschetta. The dinner started with a fruit plate of watermelon, honeydew, cantaloupe, and strawberries. Next was an iceberg wedge salad with a champagne vinaigrette and some cucumber, bacon, and feta on the side. The meal was a buffet with chicken romano, a beef and mushroom dish, dijon pork chops, stuffed shells, steamed veggies, and roasted potatoes. After the meal, coffee/tea were served. There was a cookie table filled with cookies baked by family & friends plus cookies from Bethel Bakery. And of course wedding cake: 2 layers of white cake with a chocolate filling between the layers and white icing. I didn't take any photos - it felt odd to take photos of a wedding meal.

I had been looking forward on Monday to grilling and then eating out on the deck, but it was just too hot to feel comfortable on the deck. For dinner, SP grilled lamb chops. We used some of our fresh rosemary in the marinade instead of the usual dried rosemary. We also grilled some zucchini & onions. Inside the house, we cooked the fresh pasta from the CSA then mixed in some of the goat cheese from the CSA. I know I've posted lots of lamb photos and grilled zucchini photos before, so I didn't take any photos.

It was a food filled weekend and I'm definitely still feeling quite stuffed. SP headed out early for work today so that he could go to the gym, and I think I am going to go exercise before lunch. Definitely too much indulgence over the weekend!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

CSA #7

Week #7 goodies: eggs, rhubarb, russet potatoes, green butterhead lettuce, spring onions, fresh pasta,apple cider (not pictured), chevre cheese,and hydroponic tomatoes.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Lemon-Oregano Chicken

We subscribe to The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (we both like having a paper to flip through as we eat breakfast and I like doing the puzzles every day) but I also check out The Tribune-Review online about once a week just for the food & drink section. Last week, there was a recipe for Greek Chicken & Spinach Casserole. It sounded good, plus we already had all the ingredients, so we decided to make it as one of our meals this week.

I was exhausted on Monday and not really in the mood to cook, but dinner doesn't cook itself, so I wearily entered the kitchen around 6:30 pm and started gathering ingredients. I realized I didn't have the recipe printed out. I didn't feel like going to get my netbook and firing it up. I didn't want anything complicated and I figured a real recipe would complicate things. So I decided to just throw stuff together.

Here's my version: grab a casserole dish. Drizzle olive oil in the bottom. Add chicken pieces and coat with olive oil. Season with salt & pepper. Pour in juice of one lemon (SP had already squeezed the lemon juice into a container for me; I do not like juicing lemons). There was no zest because we zested the last lemon for the lemon simple syrup we made the night before. Put a wee dot of butter on top of each chicken piece. Sprinkle with chopped oregano from the CSA. Bake uncovered at 350 for about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, I took the leftover washed and chopped spinach & arugula from the night before and put it in a salad bowl. Added the leftover chopped portabella from the night before. Decided I wasn't in the mood to try to open the huge Costco jars of roasted red peppers and kalamatas so moved on to the next part of dinner.

Rice. Well the rice cooker is in a cabinet and it's just too much work to get it out. Make it on the stove? No way. The cleaning lady just left 2 hours ago and I can never cook rice in a pot without boiling it over. I was not going to scrub boiled over rice water crud off the clean stove. Solution: Pillsbury frozen flaky biscuits.

The last steps: set the table. Crumble some feta into a container. Get out a dressing, in this case an olive oil flavored with sun dried tomato & basil. Pour a glass of iced tea with mint simple syrup. Stare out window until timer goes off.This was tasty! Looking at the recipe now, I realize we missed out on the almonds, which would have been a nice, healthy addition. But I like my version better because I don't actually enjoy cooked spinach that much. I'd rather eat a spinach salad than cooked spinach. I suppose the chicken broth would have added some flavor, but the lemon juice alone kept the chicken moist and didn't over power the chicken.

This would also be tasty with tarragon instead of oregano, which is a meal my roommate and I made frequently in grad school. Rosemary would be yummy, too.

The final step: clean up. Since it was trash night, SP handled all the trash and recycling while I did dishes. Happily, everything but the cookie sheet for the biscuits went in the dishwasher. And then I got to watch TV and savor a cup of hot tea and some citrus sables.

Monday, May 23, 2011

First Outdoor Meal: Grilled Pizza

The weekend flew by - but weekends always seem to these days. I think we finally finished everything connected to the 'House Project' which started back in early March!! Yes, three months of big and little things.

This weekend we:
mowed
weeded
swept the deck and front patio/walkway
transplanted the parsley
cleaned the deck furniture
sprayed to keep ants from invading
made the usual Costco/Giant Eagle trips plus Home Depot
did 4 loads of laundry
baked 2 kinds of cookies for Z's wedding cookie table
did some touch up painting
made 3 kinds of simple syrup (plain, lemon, and mint)
made 2 kinds of pizza dough

And the big project, the one that sucked up 3 hours of Sunday: the basement project. Specifically, what we call the 'green room.' It's not the main basement TV area, nor is it the guest room, it's the room under our sunroom that we have used as a 'junk' room. If we don't know what to do with something, it goes in the green room.

But one day I decided I wanted a 'craft table' for when I scan photos, work on the genealogy project/scrapbook, clip and file recipes, etc. So the guest bed in my office had to go to the green room to make room for such a table. Then I ended up getting a new, bigger, L-shaped desk, so my old desk went to the green room. This past weekend we finally set up the bed and added sheets and blankets and a comforter for guests this coming weekend. We also rearranged the miscellaneous furniture in the green room to try and make a nicer, more inviting additional guest room. We hung pictures that had been hidden in a closet. PLUS we re-organized and moved A LOT of stuff around between the laundry room, cedar closet, and green room. Actually, SP moved it all. I supervised and told him what to do. Do you have any idea how many board games SP owns? A LOT. I once counted and I think it was between 60-70! I think it's ridiculous, but he is very attached to his board games and points out that he's been 'collecting' board games for a very long time. We moved them out of the cedar closet and into a more accessible pantry-like storage closet we got at Target. That's a lot of games to move!

We found a lot of stuff that we could throw out. It's amazing what you pull out of the nooks and crannies of closets and shelves and rooms!! The garbage pile is HUGE. The trash guys are going to love us tomorrow!!! But I am much happier with how everything looks/is organized. SP could care less - whatever makes his wife happy and non-complainy makes him happy. As long as I don't 're-organize' his 'man cave' area (TV and XBox & guitars & other gaming stuff).

So it wasn't until 6:30 Sunday night when we finally got around to dinner: grilled pizza.When we got back upstairs from our basement 'fun,' we realized it was 81 degrees upstairs and pretty darn stuffy, so we put the a/c on, fired up the grill, and grabbed our 2 pizza doughs from the refrigerator. While SP divided and stretched the doughs into pizza crusts, I chopped our toppings: capacola, prosciutto, kalamatas, portabellas, tomatoes, basil, arugula, spinach, and mozzarella, parmesan.

Grilled pizza seems to work best if you grill the crust for a bit, remove it from the grill, add the sauce & toppings, and then return it to the grill to melt the cheese and finish cooking through. Sadly, SP had difficulties removing my pizza from the grill with the paddle. Here's how it looked when plopped directly on my plate:Here's where part of my pizza ended up:On the deck. Look at that! The tasty fresh mozzarella, not pre-shredded stuff, plus kalamatas and lovely, red, juicy tomato - splatted on the deck. There you go ants and raccoons - enjoy! It wasn't enough to splat my cheese on the deck - some of it got left behind on the grill: Here's how his pizza looked:Nice. Pretty. Round. Nothing left behind. Hmmm..... Funny how his pizza turned out so terrific... Payback for making him slave away in the basement????

Mine looked a little prettier after I sprinkled on some basil and parmesan:It tasted great, it was just kind of mangled and required a knife and fork! Mmmmm all that good cheese, fresh basil, prosciutto. There are fresh herbs (basil & oregano) in the crust, but for some reason they never seemed to show up in the photos I tried to take, and I was so hungry that I didn't feel like taking too many photos. I just wanted to eat!A delicious dinner, out on the deck for the first time this year, there weren't any annoying bugs swarming around, it was cooler on the deck than in the house, and I had a glass of freshly brewed iced tea with freshly made mint simple syrup. A wonderful end to a crazy busy weekend.

Friday, May 20, 2011

This Year's Herbs

Last weekend, we finally bought some fresh herbs to grow on the deck. But first, a photo of one of our fat squirrels:He doesn't look as fat in the photo as he did out the kitchen window. He was huge - clearly there's an abundance of squirrel food in our backyard/woodsy area. These squirrels, they get pretty cozy on our deck sometimes. They aren't too frightened of the humans inside the house. I have a wee fear that someday we'll leave the deck screen door open and one of these buggers will sneak inside and wreck my house/terrorize me!

Back to the herbs! This year's herbs include mint:Chives, and a pot with a 'leftover' petunia (we bought petunias for the front planter):Basil, which we started from seeds on Easter. It's growing, but it's growing a bit more slowly than I'd like. I'm thinking we might need to go back to the store and buy a basil plant and then next year start growing it from seeds in March.Rosemary:I cannot wait to try this rosemary in our lamb marinade or on roasted potatoes.

And thyme:Plus the parsley we got in the CSA this week. Right now, it's on the kitchen window sill, waiting to be transplanted into a bigger pot and placed on the deck.

The rosemary, chives, and thyme are new this year - we've never tried growing them before. This year we gave the mint a bigger pot because we think it didn't like the smallish pot last year - it didn't really thrive the way we expected after all the stories we've heard about how mint can grow 'like a weed' and 'take over a garden' if you aren't careful. Last year we also had pots of oregano and dill. Our dill got parched and dried out/died about 3 weeks after we got it, so we decided to not try it this year. We had success growing oregano, but we found that we didn't really use a lot of the fresh oregano, so we decided to not grow it this year. We do get bunches of it in the CSA periodically, so hopefully the CSA will satisfy our fresh oregano needs.

I can't wait to start using our herbs! Hopefully, the rain isn't drowning them in their pots on the deck. We just got the herbs and transplanted them into pots and we transplanted petunias into the planter and into some pots. I always feel like the herbs and flowers are my fragile babies for a week or so. I fret if it's too windy or too rainy or too something and peer anxiously out the window to make sure everything is OK!!! We even waited a couple extra weeks this year because the past two years we always managed to plant our herbs and flowers early enough to be worried about those last few frost advisories. Then we had to scramble to protect everything, which is a bit of a pain with pots on the deck and more pots and the planter in the front.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

CSA #6

I've really been enjoying this year's CSA so far because we've been getting some new goodies. Like these portabellas. I know we've received mushrooms in our CSA box before, but I can't remember if we ever received portabellas. Also this week, asparagus:OK, so it is a tiny amount, only three spears once we split our share, but the first year we joined the CSA, the one and only asparagus week was the week we were on vacation so we missed out. Last year, we never got any asparagus. So even if it is only three spears, I'm kind of excited because asparagus is one of my favorite vegetables.Every year we get a parsley plant. Last year we foolishly bought parsley when we bought our other herbs and then we got a parsley plant in the CSA and ended up with two pots of parsley on the deck. We just don't use that much parsley! This year when we bought our herbs to grow on the deck, we figured we would just wait and see if we got a parsley plant from the CSA, and we did. Keeping it on the deck was a much better choice than our first year when we managed to kill 2 parsley plants in under a month in our sunroom. One got all brown and dried out, the other got limp and rubbery. Oops.And fresh oregano. Yum! We decided to not grow it ourselves this year, but receiving it in the CSA is always nice. It smells so darn good!

The other items in this week's box: pea shoots, red butterhead lettuce, green garlic, arugula, and a radish bunch.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Citrus Sables

Ever since we first made these Citrus Sables, we've been wanting to make them again. But we never have. I don't know why - two years is a long time to always mention a type of cookie that you really, really enjoyed but never make it! This past weekend, we did it. We made the Citrus Sables again. And they were just as tasty as we remembered. (Previous post here.)We found the recipe on Joy the Baker's blog. There aren't too many ingredients. Just unsalted butter, flour, sugar, powdered sugar, eggs, salt, and zest from a lemon & a lime. The 'hardest' part is probably making sure you don't overwork the dough. Or maybe it's shaping the dough into two logs. Sometimes our logs look kind of lumpy and uneven, skinny in some parts and fat in other parts. When you are ready to slice the cookie dough logs, you brush them with a beaten egg yolk and sprinkle sugar on the logs. We used our box of turbinado sugar. This box, which we bought at Christmas time, is coming in handy for a lot of baked goods this year (these sables, the dried cherry biscotti, the double ginger bundt cake). It makes a wonderful 'crust' around the cookie edges.Just be careful of baking time if you make your logs too skinny or cut the slices too thin. The cookies can get quite brown! Happily, despite their brown color, they aren't burnt/too hard.

Citrus Sable recipe here.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Chicken Meuniere

Sunday was a busy, busy day in the kitchen. But it was, for me, busy in the sense that I felt calmed and refreshed by my time cooking. There are some difficult issues I'm struggling to deal with right now, and I am struggling to make decisions about how to move forward from those issues, and it's all so very upsetting and confusing and stressful. Sometimes not thinking about anything is amazingly therapeutic. Sunday afternoon I put the radio on (my new speakers sound terrific - thanks to SP & Googer), gathered ingredients, and chopped and cooked my way through the afternoon, preparing two meals for the week and a dessert, never really thinking about anything but the food.

I already wrote about the wheatberry stuffed peppers we made. The other meal we made was Chicken Meuniere with Tomato & Parsley Sauce. It's very easy to make, and not very time consuming. I gathered my ingredients, parked myself at the kitchen table next to the window, opened the windows, and enjoyed the warmish air and sort of sunshiny weather while I pitted and chopped 1/4 cup kalamatas:Drained and rinsed 2 tablespoons capers:Grated zest of one lemon (recipe calls for half a lemon; we like lemon flavor so I increased it):
Measured out 1 cup flour and added some salt and pepper:Chopped four tomatoes (recipe calls for four Roma tomatoes; we just used whatever tomatoes looked best at the store):
And gathered the seasonings, parsley, salt & pepper:Clearly, we have not mastered the art of defrosting our chicken before preparing it! I scraped ice crystals off the chicken tenders when I seasoned them with salt and pepper:Next up, dredge the chicken in the flour mixture:
Shake off excess flour and place them on a plate:Cook the chicken in 2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter and 1/4 cup olive oil:Place cooked chicken on a plate & tent with foil. We didn't tent with foil to keep the chicken warm because we weren't going to eat the chicken on Sunday.Then we made the sauce. Combine 1/3 cup white wine plus kalamatas, capers, tomatoes, and lemon zest in sauce pan.Season with parsley, salt and pepper. We divided the chicken in half and the sauce in half so now we have two meals for later in the week. We'll enjoy the chicken meuniere with spinach salad.We each tried a tiny bite of the sauce and it was very tasty. Lemony. Salty and briny from the capers and kalamatas. We might have added a bit too much pepper. But still quite tasty.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Peppers Stuffed with Wheatberries

Last week, our CSA box contained wheatberries. I had never before eaten wheatberries, and I wasn't sure how to even cook them. Mike suggested I use them in a salad, and that definitely sounded appealing, but I was curious, I needed to know all about these little guys, I had to see all the possible recipes. The magic information powers of Google beckoned.

First, what is a wheatberry? It's the entire wheat kernel. Second, wheatberry recipes. There are a lot of wheatberry salad recipes out there! One of them caught my eye. It's from a site called Doctor Grandma's: Healthy Living Through Good Nutrition. There are several wheatberry recipes at Doctor Grandma's, but SP & I had been discussing making stuffed peppers for a few months now but have never quite managed to get past the discussing part. So these wheatberry stuffed peppers sounded really good. The recipe is called A New Twist on Stuffed Peppers.

*I have seen wheatberry as one word and as 2 words; I decided to type it as one word instead of two.The ingredients: wheatberries, mushrooms, onion, spinach, parsley, cumin, feta, bell peppers, ricotta, egg, dried basil, Parmesan. We omitted the garlic.

This was the second of two dinner meals we prepared on Sunday, so it was about time for a Sunday cocktail. I opened our new bottle of VO and SP made me a whiskey, soda, and lemon drink. Mmmm yum!Fortified with beverage, I started washing and slicing and chopping everything. We cooked the wheatberries earlier in the day. I don't remember the exact water to wheatberry ratio, but basically they simmer in water for at least an hour. Here's our ricotta, egg, and basil filling:I felt like we were making lasagna! We used two green peppers and three red peppers.I stuffed them with the ricotta. I thought at first that there was way more ricotta than five peppers could handle, but amazingly, it squishes down into the pepper nooks and crannies and we used all of it.Meanwhile, SP was making the wheatberry filling. It's pretty simple: saute mushrooms & onion with cumin (we used twice as many mushrooms as the recipe calls for), add the spinach and stir until it wilts, remove from heat and add parsley, wheatberries, and feta.When the wheatberry mixture was ready, I spooned it on top of the ricotta in the peppers.We used all the filing and then we set the pan of stuffed peppers in the refrigerator because we were not quite ready to bake and eat them.At dinner time, SP drizzled on the additional olive oil and sprinkled Parmesan on top before baking them.Here they are, heated through and with browned Parmesan on top:They looked yummy. But first, the food photographs. I think this is the kind of dish that, for me, given my camera and my camera skills, no matter how I positioned things, no matter what kind of light I tried to give them (evening sunshine, kitchen overhead lights), flash or no flash, any angle, the photos just do not do the dish justice. It looked much prettier and mouth-watering in person than it does in these photos.I finally quit fussing with the camera and my plate of stuffed pepper and dug in. These are filling! I was surprised but just one stuffed pepper was enough for me. Two were enough for SP. Of course, we'd been 'grazing' on ingredients all day, and tasting as we cooked, so maybe we a bit full before we sat down to dinner. These stuffed peppers are quite tasty. The wheatberry-mushroom-spinach mixture is really good. We decided that we really couldn't taste the cumin, but that if we had left it out, it's absence would be obvious. I think next time we might add a generous, rounded teaspoon of cumin, keep the mushrooms doubled, add a bit more feta (it kind of got lost in everything else), and maybe do orange/yellow peppers instead of green. We used all of our wheatberries and I find myself hoping we get some more in a future CSA box (or we just buy some at the store!).