Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Bikram Cooking

Trying to up my "crunchiness" factor, I quickly joined in when my friend suggested we split a whole share with an organic local farm co-op this year. Every Wednesday, we (she) pick(s) up a bunch of fresh organic veggies/berries/herbs that we split. Side note: Looking forward to something in the fall? Hate the heat? Want to, for any reason, make the summer fly by? Join a farmshare. Wednesdays come fast! Anywho, so Wednesdays, yes. They come every 7 days or so and I feel this need to beat the clock to use up everything we got with the last bunch (those beets still hanging in my crisper? Don't you worry about those.). This is also super fresh, locally grown produce and it seems like a disservice to let it go past its prime before we eat it. Sometimes though, its impossible. We get busy/Bubbles craves non-organic-locally-grown-fake-cheese-smothered-pasta/I just can't eat 1 1/2 heads of lettuce myself in 1 week (ahem, hubby, a little help here please?)/or in this case, I bought a bunch of asparagus at the store (for conventionally-grown food non-snobs) forgetting that Wednesday was once again visiting us soon. So I said to myself last Tuesday, "Self, what should we do with this almost-beyond-its-prime-asparagus tonight, the hotest day of the year so far? Oh! We'll roast it in a 425 degree oven, of course!"

So we did pecisely that, on our way to Penne with Roasted Asparagus and Balsamic Butter. I've made this before, apparently for hubby, although I don't remember making it for him. I've learned that a whole stick of butter is unneccesary (truth hurts, Paula), but other than that and subbing a skinny noodle for a fat noodle, made the recipe as written. I've even become a little more brave/patient in my reduction skills and think this was my best balsamic reduction yet!

must. take. better. photos. oh, and clean stove.
You know it's done when it coats the spoon like that. It certainly doesn't look like enough for a pound of penne (or in my cupboard's case, rigatoni) but I promise, it is!

While that was reducing, I was "waking up" the asparagus in the oven. That is old. At 425F. And not sealed well.

roasted, with a touch of olive oil, salt and pepper.
Because a hot oven and 1 sauce pan wasn't enough, I boiled a gallon and a 1/2 of water to make the pasta. If I wasn't sweating bullets, this would have been a simple, delicious, quick meal. It was only 2 of those. Although it was easy in and of itself, it's not easy when you have to dump a pasta pot into the colander with one hand because the other hand is attached to the Gatorade bottle you're chugging from to stave off dehydration.

But once all the pieces are done, simply combine with 1/2 a stick-ish of butter and some fresh grated parmesan, wipe the sweat from your brow (and cheeks, and arms, and ok, getting gross here) and dig in.

And if you're lucky, you'll get a bite of rigatoni with a piece of asparagus stuck in the middle! Those silly kids!

Monday, June 6, 2011

LoveLove CowCow

It's been a while since I've visited the Dog portion of DinnerandDogs. Unfortunately, due to never ending home projects, our time with the homeless pups has been quite limited. This weekend though, I broke out! I escaped the spackling and headed over to NJ to hang with some awesome dogs. (shhh! Don't tell Hubby. I told him I was "cleaning out the basement.")

Even better? The amazingly talented Lauri from Lalee Photography stopped by Cutters Mill to take some pictures of our sweet pups. She's responsible for Hubby's and my postcardmuseum-worthy engagement and wedding photos, and hopefully, she'll be responsible for catching the eyes of future furever families for our pups! Check out all of her WJVA photos here.

I got to reconnect with a few dogs that have been hanging around for a while, as well as meet some new ones. Specifically, I really got to know (and love) Pete and CowCow. The ride TO Cutters Mill was a little hairy*, with Pete trying to get into the front seat while restrained in the back seat, and CowCow pulling a "Ribby" and pawing for pets from the seat next to me.

Petey. Poor Petey. He has no idea what a dog's life entails. He's super sweet, there's no hiding that! I was told to expect a very shy and scared dog when I picked him up. He is definitely NOT a fan of the car, but once (lifted) in the (front seat of the) car, settles right down and goes along for the ride. He certainly wasn't shy on Saturday though! He wanted to investigate everything. Grass, cardboard, plants, Mountain Dew bottles, everything. He didn't seem afraid of anything he checked out, but did show a bit of fear when a loud truck or motorcycle passed by.

Pete seems to be fine with other dogs, I didn't hear him growl once. We don't know how he is with cats, but my gut** tells me he would pay them no mind. (**my gut offers no guarantee, all dogs will be cat tested before going to a home with cats) He really doesn't know how to walk on a leash, but doesn't do the puppy "I'm done now, you go ahead and I'll just sit here til you come back" thing. He nudges for head-scratches, but doesn't seem like he's had many before he was rescued by WJVA. He will need time and guidance to get aquainted with a dog's life and I believe will quickly bond to the family that adopts him. Pete is not for the absentee owner, he needs a patient owner who will teach him to be a dog, and one that will give him the confidence he needs to continue exploring his new world.

CowCow, oh sweet CowCow. Even though she's a 35lb-ish brown brindle and white dog, she reminded me so much of my Ribbinator. Those eyes. They get me every time.

I'd only heard good things about CowCow before finally meeting her on Saturday. I found those good things to be understatements. What a fantastic family dog just waiting for her family! CowCow is good with most dogs, but if getting a fur-sibling, would probably do best with brothers. She's a tomboy at heart; loved to play tackle with the boys!

But kids? Oh man does CowCow love kids! She's great on a leash and seems to know a lot about what a dog's life is. She doesn't have striking features, but I think that her future family is going to be saying the same thing Hubby and I say so often about our boys: "How could someone give this dog up?! We hit the jackpot!"
If you are interested in fostering or adopting these or any of our wonderful dogs, please contact me, or WJVA directly at Visit our website at for links to all our animals and upcoming fundraisers.

*The ride FROM Cutters Mill was a lot less hairy. We swapped seats, CowCow sat so well in the back seat and Petey curled up and caught a cat dog-nap in the front. I came this close to turning left instead of right on Rt 130 and heading home with these 2 sweeties.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Unordinarily ordinary

Now that spring has skipped us finally arrived, I'm getting antsy with dinners. I'm tired of comfort food regulars and eager to try all the fresh veggies sprouting up*. So naturally this week, I did none of that.

We had pizza.

With pepperoni.

What I did do, however, was bring a little summer into my ordinary pizza. Seriously, the simplest change in the recipe and it was so tasty I can’t believe I’ve never done it before.

Grilled pizza, anyone?

Hubby was out mowing the lawn, and I was starving and wanted dinner done quickly. I decided to give it a shot, and at $0.99 for a ball of dough at Trader Joe’s, what’s the worst that could happen? Tony’s Pizza is right around the corner if the worst did happen.

I spread the dough out on a plastic platter, not knowing how this would pan out, the last way I wanted to ruin it was by dropping a heavy pizza stone in transport to the grill. Although my pizza started out with a semi-round shape, it certainly didn’t retain it.

I spritzed the dough with some olive oil and sprayed the grill grate with some Pam for Grilling, so nothing would stick. In less than 5 minutes over medium heat, I was able to flip the dough, as it had gotten stiff enough that flipping was a breeze with regular tongs. After I flipped the dough, I spooned some jarred sauce** (also Trader Joe’s) and spread it around. I topped it with sliced fresh mozzarella cheese and slices of pepperoni. Close the lid til the cheese melts and wa-la! 5 minutes later, pizza is done, house is cool, and lawn is mowed!

Ok, I can’t guarantee the lawn mowing part, but that’s how my Tuesday evening went.

*Although everything I love is finally coming into season, I'm having trouble getting motivated to cook new and original dishes. See, we've discovered that we're expecting an itty-bitty new family member in December, and what is planned for dinner often seems to go by the wayside when baby makes his or her desires for mac & cheese known. Does anyone have any ideas or suggestions for me?

**I've had a request to perfect homemade pizza sauce. I obviously haven't started my attempt yet. I have a feeling I'm going to be inundated with homegrown tomatoes this summer, so I will get on that as soon as the harvest begins.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Not just any ol' Tuesday.

I know what you're thinking. She said she was moving and things were chaotic, but really, she was just blowing us off. Or, she moved from the city to the boonies suburbs, and has no internet capability in those parts. I apologize for the absence, but am excited that a) things are calming down and b) we wised up and looked on the bottom of the modem/wireless router for the password so we could actually use the wireless connection we've been paying for for 4 weeks already. (seems silly to have to sit within a 5 foot radius of the router and still pay the same as those lucky ducks who get to sit anywhere in their house--or even porch, perhaps?? and use their fancy interweb connection, right?) So here I am, in Smalltown, PA, getting used to birds chirping (loudly. in a mammoth bush. right outside our bedroom window.), commuter train horns, and a slightly larger but much uglier kitchen in place of the pedestrians' converstions, police sirens, ice cream man's song, and a slightly smaller but much easier on the eyes kitchen that we left behind in Fairmount. So far, I've learned:
  • my oven runs hot (tragic Easter weekend apple cake disappointment);
  • I can fill 6 kitchen drawers in a flash, even when I made do with 2 mini-drawers for 2 years;
  • stopping on the way home from work for ingredients here isn't nearly as convenient as there;
  • we don't know all the weeknight specials at the good bars/restaurants yet.
Enter bullet point #4, a week and a 1/2 ago (Yes. I've had this material for 11 days. Don't judge. It gets worse when you see the sad attempt at photography.). It was an ordinary Tuesday. But an "ordinary Tuesday" in Fairmount is capped off with the most delicious tacos at Lucky 7 Tavern. Taco Tuesday, of course! So my brief elation that Tuesday had come around for another visit was quickly crushed when I remembered that Lucky 7 isn't exactly "right down the street anymore." Then I remembered we still had some croaker in our freezer (yes, we moved frozen foods), and I could bring Taco Tuesday to us! I wanted to make a good effort though, as to not settle for the next best thing. So I searched for a good batter recipe (although the one I've used from Joy of Cooking isn't half bad), as well as a good topping to put on the fish. So I found Sunny Anderson's Cerveza-Battered Fish Tacos and Emeril Legasse's Jicama Buttermilk Coleslaw. The amazing (to me, at least) thing was that the only ingredients I needed to pick up on my way home were the cabbages and carrots! Seriously, who has buttermilk and jicama just sitting around? Me, apparently. So I followed Sunny's batter recipe as written, except that I didn't realize I was supposed to divide the flour. So I separated it after I mixed the spices in, only to have a flavored-flour dredge for the fish. No harm there! Emerils was changed just slightly, to add that kick that my non-mustard-fan Hubby loves so much. Instead of the mustard, I chopped a chipotle in adobo finely and added that to the slaw mix. By George, I've done it. I managed to combine the ultimate topping (first tasted on routinely burnt battered fish filets cooked by a certain, unnamed, Hell's Kitchen contestant) and the perfectly cooked (well, most of the pieces) battered croaker filets.

I do apologize for the poor photography effort. In the mess of moving boxes and renovation materials, we couldn't find the camera, so this was taken on my phone. No worries, the camera has now been found...hanging on a dining room chair. Oops.

But in all seriousness, I do miss the city, and although I'm getting there, I just don't feel "at home" in our new town yet. Its still a recent change, I'm not disappointed or sad, I'm just surprised that I didn't slip back into suburban life as quickly or easily as I thought I would. I am thrilled though, that I was able to successfully bring another piece of our old home into our new home. That's what matters, right? Not the house itself, but what makes the house a home.

I do hope to be back on a more regular basis now...we'll see how that goes.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A layer of drywall, a ladle of spackle, and a dash of dust.

Ok, ok, I know. It's been for-ev-er since my last post. I tried oh so hard to post an entry on Feb 28th when I realized that I only had one post for the entire month of February. But obviously, that didn't work out. In my defense, February is only 28 days long, so it's not like I had a normal month to get all my blogging in. (It makes sense in my head...) February, 2011 was a big month! Let's recap:

I hit the big 3-0. I had an amazing sushi dinner with 15 of my bestest, organized by Hubby, including a nice little roast. Hmph. We won't discuss the visuals... I also had an awesome dinner party hosted by Ma, complete with my fave! I can't complain about 29, but 30 is going to be a good year too! I know it!

Sheba and Shaggy have BOTH found furever homes!! I couldn't be happier for these furkids! I get goosebumps when I think about it. They both waited so so long for the right family to come along and it looks like they've each hit a jackpot. It saddens me to think about how much time they spent living in a kennel, but I know they'll make up for lost time. Best of luck to these 2 special pooches!

We bought a house! While it isn't our dream house, it is our right now house, and while it wasn't the smoothest, most painless process, it was totally worth it. Or at least that's what I'm telling myself now while the entire house, and my contacts, are covered in dust. It wasn't pretty when we first walked in, but we have visions, and as someone once described her home to me, it wrapped it's arms around me the second I crossed the threshold. We're in the throes of an almost complete cosmetic renovation that must be done by the end of March. The kitchen will be the last interior project, as right now it is about 1/3 the size it could be, and there are 3 different types of cabinets in there. But it's ours, and I can't wait to get back to cooking!

In the true spirit of Dinner & Dogs, I'll leave you with a few visuals...
Dinner as of late:

Dogs as of late:

They claim they need rest to prepare for having a yard. I claim they're the cutest, laziest dogs I've ever loved.

Have a great day! I promise I'll be back soon! [After a trip to Florida (for work, promise!) and a move]

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Fish and oranges and eggs, oh my!

I win. Don’t fight it. I made the strangest meal, and it actually tasted good. I-don’t-like-1-ingredient-in-your-19-ingredient-meal Hubby even liked it. Well, except for 1 ingredient, of course. But seriously. Who actually looks at a recipe with crooked eye brows, says out loud, “weird!,” and still prints it out to use that night? I’ll tell you who. People who have nothing but frozen fish, and other very random items on hand and don’t want to walk in the cold for other more traditionally-used-with-fish ingredients. I did have to stop for the oranges, but they were on the way, so it’s ok.
I’m going to start with the finished product photo first. It’s actually really pretty. In the middle of winter when everything in warming/comfort/cooked to death in a crock pot or Dutch oven, it was a welcome splash of color.

Yucatecan-Style Fish (Adapted from The Pampered Chef)
2 oranges
1 medium white onion
1 red bell pepper
2 tablespoons snipped cilantro
2 tablespoons citrus and basil rub (I suppose you could try a homemade mix of lemon and lime zests and dried basil)
6 tilapia filets (4oz each) or croaker, if that’s what your hubby and his buddies caught on his bachelor-party-fishing-trip and they sent the groom home with all the fish
2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
1 hard cooked egg, peeled
¼ cup toasted pumpkin seeds
Cut a thin slice off the top and bottom of one of the oranges so that it will stand upright as you cut the peel off. Now cut the peel off, taking as little of the flesh, but as much of the pith with it as possible. With the peeled orange in your hand, use a paring knife to separate the segments. I started to do it all fancy-like by getting under the segment membrane. Don’t bother. You won’t know the difference. Just don’t separate the segments by pulling them apart. You need them to leak some juice. Set the deconstructed orange aside.

Next, slice the onion into thin half moons and the pepper into strips. Chop the cilantro or snip with kitchen shears.
Sprinkle the rub over both sides of each filet of fish and place in a large skillet with the oil heated over medium-high heat. Cook 4-5 minutes, turning once about 3 minutes in. Pile the onion and bell pepper on top and cover the skillet. Cook another 5-7 minutes or until fish is thoroughly cooked and vegetables are softened (I actually took the fish out and continued to cook the vegetables for another 5 minutes or so).

Place the fish on your serving platter. Pile the onion and peppers back on top, then the sliced egg, orange segments and cilantro. Juice the remaining orange over the fish and sprinkle with the pumpkin seeds.
Now stare at the dish as you stared at the recipe, and then give it a go. You won’t be disappointed. I’m not sure how it all works but it does. The pumpkin seeds weren’t the most welcome visitor on our plates, but they added some aesthetics. I wouldn’t say leave them out completely, but maybe use them sparingly.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Tomato/Tomahto? Amy/Julia? Mushroom/Boeuf?

This isn't my first mushroom-based meal. If you don't like mushrooms, we probably won't get along. Or we'll meet, fall in love, and get married. You know, one of the 2. 

I found this recipe on my favorite food blog (besides my own of course) and knew my dutch oven was calling out to it. This recipe though, due to the lack of leftovers in the fridge, required me to make something for Hubby too, since he won't touch mushrooms with a ten foot pole. Wait. I take that back. He stirred the pot today and didn't sneeze/cough/fake anaphylactic shock. It's a step, but he certainly wasn't going to eat my mushroom bourguignon, so I made him a pot of Spicy Roasted Vegetable Soup.

I didn't take pictures of the soup, but it was easy to do and perfect for using those veggies you have that you don't want to go bad. It's all the normal stuff; we just amped it up. Veggie broth, 1 potato, 1 can of tomatoes, cilantro, 1 pepper, 1 onion, some garlic, a zucchini, a yellow squash, and a chipotle in adobo. See? Everything you have sitting around just waiting to get a little too ripe (and a good way to use up leftover chipotles). Hubby approved, and even slurped up the broth with some bread. But anyway...back to my 'shrooms.

Have you ever seen Julie & Julia? She gets all worked up over boeuf bourguignon that may or may not be served to important people. Well, I was just as excited to make this recipe, but I figured it would be just me eating it. Once again, I started with a big bowl of mushrooms.

And without the regular egg noodles or pearl onions I was supposed to have. But hey. There's a foot of snow on the ground, Trader Joe's didn't have them 2 days ago when I was there, and I'm certainly not heading out now to look. Broken papardelle and chopped regular onion will have to do.

Broken papardelle and regular onion certainly did do! There weren't many ingredients, nor were there many steps; most of the prep for this recipe was allowing each layer to simmer.

When it came time to add the next-to-the-last layer, I used half of an onion in large chunks instead of the pearl onions traditionally used. I've never had boeuf bourguignon, so it made no difference to me.

I'm an "it is what it is" kind of girl. Yes, I get frustrated and annoyed, and will complain with the best of them (Hubby, the comment box isn't working. I don't know what's wrong with it. Its not worth it to try to leave a comment. Trust me.) but I also try to live by a quote I heard several years ago: "If there's no alternative, there's no problem." Makes sense, huh? If there's nothing you can do about it, no sense in worrying. Just adapt and move on. Now, if you go back to the picture of ingredients, you'll see I'm using a $3 bottle of "full-bodied red wine." It gets worse. I'm using a 4 year old $3 bottle of red wine. Based on wine aging and inflation, that baby's worth like what? $3.50 by now? I didn't always cook with such high-class ingredients. But my high-class tastes aren't the point of this story. You see, at my bridal shower, a special friend gave us a bottle of wine labeled Big House Red and attached a tag to it that said "to enjoy, after the purchase of your first home."

We've gone through all the other wine in our wine rack. I've taken that bottle to a friend's house and rudely took it home when we didn't drink it that night (surprising, since conversation at that dinner eventually led to the frustrations Hubby and I are dealing with while trying to buy our first home, an ugly shell of a house that we've already renovated 35 times in our heads). Not-so-descretely, I've mentioned to people that if we drink that bottle before settlement day, we're going to jinx it and settlement day won't happen. So as I assembled my ingredients for my mushroom bourguignon, I remembered I needed red wine. And there was a foot of snow on the ground. You can fake the pearl onions, but bourguignon isn't bourguignon without red wine. If there's no alternative, there's no problem. "Ok," I thought, "I'll just wait. I'll make it this weekend after I can get to a liquor store." But wait! There is an alternative! That bottle of 3-Buck-Chuck on the bookshelf that I've been decorating as a hula girl 10 months a year and Santa Claus the other 2 months for the last 4 years. Yes! Adapt, and move on. Alas, I had my mushroom bourguignon and allowed the home-buying-process to move along as smoothly as it can muster.