Friday, April 11, 2014

Week in Pictures

Finally starting w/ the warm weather - can't wait to soak up some sun this summer!
Food prep for the week..




Somehow we missed getting a picture of the actual cherry blossoms on my phone.
Standing by my favorite magnolia at UW.
I've become my mother - drying clothes outside on a nice day (yes, that's a broom).  
To be fair, I only get to do this for 3 months out of the year in the Northwest.
First time I've used ice cubes this year.  BTW, chopsticks make excellent stir sticks.
That pizza is my new bff.

I heard the Daytona's getting a TJ's distribution center - finally, you'll be able to partake in things like this!

Oscar must see himself more as the large menacing dog his shadow casts instead of his true self.


First batch of preserves this year..love strawberry season!


Pan seared fish w/ garlic and capers fried in lemon butter. Perfect warm spring dinner.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

My Updated Pizza Obsession

I have never been much of a bookworm.  Gabe, on the other hand, could live with his nose in a book and be happy.  He once spent a several hundred dollar Amazon gift card he got for Christmas by the following March - all on (you guessed it) books (several of which he still hasn't read - but that's another story for another time).  Oh, and my mother-in-law is literally (see what I did there?) a librarian so it's not really a surprise he has this love of books and reading.  But the man has some sEEEriously dry reading interests..in my most humble opinion, of course.  Topics of most interest include: history, military history, sci-fi, teen fiction, romance, etc.  Ok fine, I added in that last two but of the lot I would choose them over the other three - gun to my head.  Sharing a Kindle w/ him is a kinda hilarious because it looks something like: 

  • Lions of Kandahar
  • Foreign Devils on the Silk Road
  • Rubicon: The Last Years of the Roman Republic
  • Fifty Shades of Grey
  • Hannibal Crosses The Alps
  • Bossypants

Would love to see what sort of suggested readings he gets from Amazon.  Yes, you picked out my two books on that list and yes, I like literary junk food.  

Did someone say food?


Carby, carby goodness.

Uhh, right.  I can't say I have the type of attention span to get lost in a military history book about Prussia and forego sleep to do so.  I'm practical.  WHAT is for dinner tonight?  What is the best cooking oil to use for what?  Where did you go in Portland that I can't leave without stopping by for a doughnut?  That is useful information (to me).


Mmmmm, mushrooms..

Anywho - we eat this deeelish pizza for dinner all the time.  A little something like 4 years ago I posted about this pizza and how I love it and wanted to marry it b/c it was all that.  Well, I have a new pizza recipe in my life and I'll never look back. 


This picture is so fake, you know I had like 4 more slices of pizza.

Found this amazing recipe on Smitten Kitchen - another one of my favorite blogs and I've been making it a few months now, life has changed AGAIN.  Sorry PW, I still love you but this pizza is way better and still so easy to make.  It is the closest thing to take-out pizza I've been able to recreate at home.

She even gives all the options on when to start the dough - whether overnight, morning of or afternoon of times to start it.  Yes, it does need to rise but it's really painless, promise.  It's called LAZY Pizza Dough for Pete's sake.

Overnight - 22 hr rise
All-Day - 12 hr rise
Part-Day - 8 hr rise

These rise times are approximate and definitely work +/- a few hours.

Lazy Pizza Dough
from this recipe on Smitten Kitchen
makes a half sheet pan pizza

3 cups AP or bread flour (I use bread)
Slightly heaped 1/8, 1/4 or 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast (for OvernightAll-Day, or Part-Day Schedules respectively, above)
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/4 cup room temp water, plus an additional tablespoon or two if needed (I almost always need it)

Throw everything in to a mixing bowl and mix until your arm falls off.  Or get a stand mixer and mix w/ the dough hook attachment for about 10 min.  When finished mixing, cover the bowl w/ plastic wrap (I use the same bowl I mixed in because, ya, I'm lazy).  The dough will be very sticky and shaggy.  I always put a ring of olive oil around the bowl for fun.  

I almost always make this with either the all-day or part-day, stick it in a (cold) oven w/ the oven light on to proof (rise).  

When the dough is finished rising, (take the dough out of the oven if you're using it to proof and) preheat the oven to 550 degrees and prepare the pan you'll be baking the pizza on (I don't have a fancy pizza stone so I just use a 1/2 sheet pan) by dusting it with a liberal amount of cornmeal.  Sprinkle the dough (and your hands) with flour and use a spatula to scrape the it out of the bowl.  Stretch the dough to fit the pan (don't roll it out!) and make sure there are no sticky spots underneath by sprinkling with more cornmeal until it moves freely when you shake the pan.  

Bake w/ your favorite pizza toppings for about 10-15 min until the cheese is nice and bubbly, enjoy!


Killing me softly.


Notes:

I've since changed my mind about fresh mozzarella much due to the fact that, after reading the Smitten Kitchen posting about pizza, I agree the aged mozz is much better for pizza.  It comes out nowhere near as soggy and I still get a great flavorful cheesy topping.  I love the Trader Joe's Whole Milk Mozzarella hunk and grate it myself.  Furthermore, I haven't had the patience to add another step to the pizza by doing what she does w/ the canned tomatoes - I just used Trader Joe's jarred pizza sauce.  The sauce is really good but a tad on the salty side so I never need to add any other seasonings to the toppings.  Hope you try it!  And if you do, tell me how it turned out!
 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Back in the Saddle Again

I've been dreading this post for about 4 months.  At first it was kinda funny but then the more I put it off, the more I was like, ok, WTH is going to be the excuse this time?  Well, it isn't really anything exciting or flashy.  Life happens.  Work has been nuts.  Wah wah wahhh.

Needless to say, I'm back (for now).

This winter has been so mild, in my opinion.  I kept hearing about the Northeast and midwest getting hit by all those snowstorms and we got a very average 1.5" one day only to be washed away the next day..boring.  I know, I should be counting my blessings since the Seattle area isn't really known for handling snow well, but shoot - I wanted to build a snowman w/ Kuen!  But then again, that day that we did actually get the 1.5" of snow when we went outside to play she was entirely too scared to even touch the fluffy white stuff - much less build a snowman.



Anyhow, I've had some pretty awesome meals between last time I posted and now which I fully endeavor to share at some point, but for now - here's what's been going on...

I've made this like 3 weeks in a row which I'm totally loving (I added walnuts to mine).

I've been trying to do this with my hair (apologies to any co-workers for my appearance on days 3 or 4).  Loving the laziness factor but definitely not loving dry shampoo yet.  This one is the best smelling but I can never go without washing the day after I use it.

Made this a few weeks ago, very underwhelmed.  Maybe I had too much lemon juice coming out of my meyer lemon that time because I got no burnt bits?  Total first world problems.

Was so excited to try this lipstick out and was even MORE excited to pick it up at desolate Target on a Saturday (!) which has pretty much turned in to a ghost town since the whole data breach debacle.  Note to self: you are not white and nude lips look awful on you.

If you're a friend on FB, I recently posted about trying to start this.  Have the journal but can't seem to get anything down on paper yet - too afraid I'll mess it up.  Sigh.

Reading this.  Life changing perspective.

Also started reading this.  So. freaking. hilarious.  The part about the Minnelli/Gest wedding had me in stitches.

Have been eating this (baked in a 9x13 pan instead) with salad (with this dressing) several times this week.



Kuen has been requesting this every morning and prefers hers with dried cranberries, pecans and brown sugar.

Below is dinner from several weeks ago, recipe coming soon (I hope).



All those friends who haven't heard from me - I'm sorry, 2014 has gotten off to a crazy busy start!  I'm looking to surface soon :)

Monday, October 21, 2013

Momma Sally's Brownies

This post is going to be short and sweet - just like Momma Sally, Gabe's wonderful grandmother!  She grew up in the Midwest meaning she's genetically predisposed to having the cooking gene.  She's also a fantastic gardener, brilliant storyteller, devout churchgoer and an all around amazing matriarch to this family.  
Isn't she adorable??


Don't let that sweet exterior fool you though, she's tough as nails and fiercely independent.  Even though we aren't related by blood, I think of her as my own grandmother - the last living grandparent I have.  Thanks for being such a wonderful person and example for the rest of us, Sal.  xoxoxo

These brownies are awesome.  Very simple ingredients and a great brownie comes out of the oven every time.  Excellent basic recipe that I like to throw lots of different things in to and see how badly I can annoy Gabe.


Probably Gabe's biggest annoyance factor - nuts!


Momma Sally's Famous Brownies

makes 1 8x8" or 9x9" pan - could be considered a single serving size if one tries hard enough

2 sq (2 oz) unsweetened baking chocolate (found in the baking aisle)
1 stick butter (1/2 cup)
1 c sugar
2 eggs
1/2 c flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt

Preheat oven at 350 degrees.  Melt chocolate and butter together, either in the microwave (for 30 second intervals, stirring between) or over a double boiler until just melted. Set aside to cool slightly.

First add the sugar to the chocolate mixture, then vanilla, salt, eggs, and finally the flour, stirring only enough to incorporate the flour.  Do not over beat.

Bake at 350, for 25-30 minutes. The edges should be pulling away, and the top of the center of the brownies be a little springy then you gently tap with your finger. You can also test by inserting a knife in the middle.

Notes: 

Of course I couldn't leave well enough alone.  Sometimes I knock down the sugar to about 1/2 c if I know I'll be adding in another sweet ingredient.  I've lessened the flour as well to make a more fudgy brownie.  Play with it and make it your own!

You can also try some different combinations of the below.  Most on this list would annoy Gabe.. 



Monday, October 7, 2013

Super Simple One Hour Chicken Soup

Instead of beer, I need to invent some sort of chicken soup tap for my house.  But a beer tap would be nice too, esp. for football season.  


Go Hawks!
I didn't realize this before but now that I have a kid in daycare the beginning of Fall doesn't just mean I get to bust out the boots and sweaters, it also means the start of  cold/flu season complete with snotty-nosed hacking children (mine included, unfortunately).  When Kuen first started, I don't think she made it past her first week before she got her first cold.  Then she just kept getting back to back to back to back colds.  Four colds within the first 5 weeks I think.  


"Oh, their immune systems need it!"  

"They'll rarely get sick after that!!"

I know, but it still sucks.

Kuenie looooves her some chicken soup, especially when she's not feeling well.  With a little bit of prep, this soup takes about an hour from start to finish - like to the table.  I take some super easy shortcuts that allow you to trim some time out of the cooking and you don't even have to skimp on the flavor.  I feel like an infomercial - "it slices, it dices, it juliennes!" 

GENIUS Time Saving Notes (no, seriously): 

Make sure you start a separate pot of boiling water (or chicken stock if you're using it) to add to the soup so you can cut down on time in bringing everything to a boil before simmering.  I have an electric water boiler/warmer so I've always got boiling water on tap, amazing how much it accelerates cooking time.  Plus it's so nice to have when you want a quick cup of coffee in the a.m., tea before bed or whatever you'd need scalding hot water for.

De-bone rotisserie chicken when you get home and pour off the gravy that has accumulated into a separate container.  You can save some time and have the chicken already prepared and skim the fat off after it solidifies in the fridge.

Thyme: Fresh thyme sprigs can be a real pill to strip so if you're in a hurry, just tie a bundle very tightly with some kitchen twine and throw the whole thing into the soup pot to simmer.  Fish the bundle out when you're done simmering.  Or just use dried, jeez.

I use my Vitamix on the lowest setting for minced veggies.  Best thing I found is that if you mince raw cauliflower, it looks like rice in the soup so I can mentally fake myself out to save on the carbs.  Everyone needs a Vitamix.  And a Roomba.

Wash and pare your veggies when you get home from the store.  Makes cooking fresh so much easier than if you had to start from scratch.  I fill up my sink and add about 1 c of white vinegar to wash produce, then rinse w/ cold water.  

Soups generally freeze very well so if you haven't found a way to put chicken soup on tap at your home either, just make a huge pot, portion out and stock your freezer.  You can even used gallon freezer bags - stack and freeze for quick thawing.  Don't forget to write the name and date on the bag BEFORE filling.  So you don't pull out what looks like a science experiment 6 mo. later w/ no idea what the contents are of the bag.

Unless you're planning on eating the entire pot in one meal, I don't recommend boiling pasta or rice directly in the soup.  After a few days, your soup is going to get gummy and thick..not my fave.  Instead, while the soup simmers, in a separate pot you can start rice, egg noodles, any type of short cut pasta, grilled cheese or heat up a baguette to serve alongside.  Mmmmmmmmmm. 


Best picture I could get - sorry the cheese looks gross.
They were pretty curls before melting, trust me.

One Hour Chicken Soup

Makes 4-6 servings, easily scalable

1 yellow onion, diced (baseball size, or 1/2 a large)
2-2 celery stalks
1-2 large carrots
1 tsp fresh thyme, minced (or 1/2 tsp dried)
1 bay leaf
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 rotisserie chicken (store bought)
1 tbsp light cooking oil (I like light olive or canola)
Salt, pepper

optional additions:
2 c minced kale (I throw my kale in the blender and mince it really fine so it just blends into the soup - no picking around that, ha!)
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 - 14 oz. canned tomatoes
1 bell pepper, diced

1 c. cauliflower - minced (blender)
2 cans chicken stock
chicken bouillon cubes
fresh flat leaf parsley, garnish
grated parmigiana reggiano, garnish

Heat stock pot over medium high heat.  When the pan is hot, add oil until it shimmers in the pan, add diced onion and sprinkle w/ 1/4 tsp salt - saute 5 min, until slightly wilted.  Add celery, carrots, garlic, bay leaf and thyme, saute another 5-10 min.  While the veggies cook, remove half of the meat from the chicken and dice.  Stir in any other optional veggies at this point as well.  Make sure to stir occasionally so they don't burn.  If the pan is getting too hot, pull the heat back to med or med/low - all pans and stoves will vary.  

When the veggies are sauteed, add any of the juices in the bottom of the rotisserie tray to bump up the flavor.  Add diced chicken, (chicken stock and/or bouillon) and cover with liquid of your choice until it covers the veggies by about 2-3 inches.  Simmer for 30-40 minutes, salt and pepper to taste.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Buffalo Chicken Salad

Who's excited for fall?  

*raises hand*  

Let me start by thanking the weather gods because this summer has been absolutely amazing in terms of nice weather in Western Washington.  We kinda got robbed last year.  That being said, I may be the minority here but I'm entirely too excited to see the temperature drop so I can bust out the sweaters and boots.  Even for being a Florida native my entire life, I just cannot get enough cool weather. Of course, I could do with less rain but I'll take a cool rainy (entire) day over triple digit heat and still-wet-after-toweling-post-shower humidity. Yuck.  Don't miss that.  

Not only are the clothes cuter, in Seattle it signals the end of no-way-in-hell-am-I-turning-this-oven-on season.  

When I first moved to the Pacific Northwest and I was scoping out apartments, I was appalled to learn the thermostats didn't equal air conditioner - it controlled the heater.  Only.  I looked at the lady renting the apartment funny.  Huh? 


That means if it's 95 degrees out and you have a west facing window that isn't shaded by a beautiful greenbelt, you are sleeping in your skivvies with the windows wide open.  I just didn't grow up with open windows in the house.  We lived and died by whether or not our A/C was kickin'.  But that's the nice thing, if you DO end up trying to escape stifling heat by way of windows, you won't wake up having to worry about giant flying vermin (such as mosquitoes, horse flies or palmetto bugs..aka flying freaking cockroaches) flying in to your room at night.  

Spiders are more the NW pests.  Spiders and slugs.  Oh god, the slugs.  I find them gross but I should try to capture a video of my mom reacting to these slugs out there.  You'd think they were some sort of deadly spastic creature that can jump on your and suck your blood or something.  She literally convulses in disgust and scurries away like a crazy person.  Gabe and I find it both hilarious and ridiculous.  

Nature shock.  

My current obsession is anything w/ buffalo sauce and while the weather is starting to turn cooler, I had the pleasure of dreaming this up one night it was still warm enough to warrant not cooking anything over a hot stove.

I always have a rotisserie chicken from the store in my fridge to make sandwiches, quesadillas, whip up a quick dinner, etc.  I just use some of the meat mixed w/ Frank's for the chicken.  Comes together super quick and you're not withering away over a hot stove trying to bring life-giving sustenance to your family, man!



Buffalo Chicken Salad
Serves 1 (but easily scaleable for more)

The measurements are intentionally loose so you can scale to your own taste.  Plus I didn't think it practical to direct you to put 1/2 a bottle of buffalo sauce on your chicken like I do.

1/2 - 1 c. cooked chicken
buffalo sauce to taste
2-3 c. butter lettuce
1 stalk organic celery (why organic?  read this about the dirty dozen)
4-6 grape tomatoes, sliced
1 scallion
chopped cilantro to taste
blue or gorganzola cheese (all I had was feta in the fridge)
blue cheese or ranch dressing

Slice or tear chicken into bite size pieces and toss with buffalo sauce.  Assemble salad layering lettuce, celery, tomatoes, chicken scallions, cilantro and dressing.

Bacon would obviously be awesome on here also.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Turkey Sausage Lasagna

Sorry it's been so long since my last post - we've been busy around here!  I've had this damn draft going for about a month.  All my free time has been spent remodeling our condo, vacations and taking advantage of what little bit of summer there was left (and if anyone caught the AH-MAZING Seahawks game last night where we kicked San Francisco's bootie, you know that summer is way the hell over for us).  Enjoy!

----------------------------------------

I vividly remember Kuen's first month of life.  So vividly.  Like, a total blur but with streaks of very clear memories.  My thoughts went something like:

"Don't you ever do this again to yourselves."

"Oh my god, we don't know what the hell we're doing."

"What is this sleep people speak of?"


 - "Sleep when the baby sleeps."
HA.  Good one, Mom. - 
Luckily, the first month is the hardest part and things gradually get easier.  For all the parents-to-be, don't let me scare you.  Not only does this very crazy month go by quickly, nature does this cruel and hilarious thing that makes you get amnesia and you gradually forget about all the terrifying parts (or if you're like me, you don't forget, you just let the instinct take over and forge ahead undeterred).  Let me be clear: we are NOT pregnant again.

Yet.

That's a big deal for me - I didn't think we'd be having one after Kuen.  But now, I'm not too sure we won't.  In fact, I'm pretty sure we want to if the powers that be allow us the chance.

I know I talk about her like she's some sort of nut (and she totally is), but if we didn't have my mom there to help us, I'm pretty sure we'd be one and done.  When I was all tapped out, she took care of the baby, Gabe took care of me.  I don't know why I thought it was that scary, maybe because it was our first time at the rodeo and everything we did seemed so unfamiliar.  

Now, I'll be the first to tell you it's her own damn fault she got roped in to helping us w/ Kuen for the first year.  She only started asking us about having kids a few WEEKS after we got married.  That being said..not sure we could've done it without her.  Well, ok, yes we would've found a way but having her there made things SO much less daunting.  She was there to make sure I gained back all the weight nursing helped me drop (and then some).  Love you, mom!

Anywho - those meals she cooked - total lifesaver.  Literally.  Being on the receiving end of such extraordinary help only makes bringing a meal to someone even less of a big deal.  We had it gooooooood.  I don't know how many times someone is in need of a home cooked meal.  Someone needs to start a meal train business.

This recipe is one of those super versatile ones that is a proverbial 'slam dunk'.  It's a crowd pleaser, comes together pretty quickly, stores well, reheats well, relatively inexpensive and very adaptable.   I love using ground turkey instead of beef to lighten it up and the no-bake pasta is like, the best invention ever.  Because who has time for boiling pasta?


 - Saute veggies & meat, combine - 


 - Layer sauce, noodles, cheese - 
 - Lather, rinse, repeat - 

 - I'm too much of an airhead to take a photo of the actual finished product that came out of the oven.
So there. -

Turkey Sausage Lasagna

Makes 9 x 13" pan (plus more for a few individual ones as well)

3 zucchini, diced
1 large onion, diced
1 carrots, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, finely diced
1 lb ground turkey
1 box no-bake lasagna sheets (I use/love Trader Joe's)
1 tsp fennel seed
2-32 oz cans store bought spaghetti sauce
32 oz cottage cheese or ricotta cheese
1/4 c. grated Parmigiano Reggiano 
2 c. shredded cheese (I use TJ's Swiss & Gruyere)
salt, pepper, oil

Preheat oven at 375 degrees.  Heat a large stock pot on medium high heat.  Drizzle 2 tbsp light oil after the pan starts to smoke.  Add diced onions and sprinkle with 1/2 tsp salt to sweat onions.  After onions become translucent, add zucchini, carrots and garlic to saute - sprinkle with additional pinch of salt and add fresh ground black pepper to season.  Saute vegetables for 5-10 minutes, until a deep golden crust forms on the bottom of the pan and the veggies are soft.  Remove the veggies and return the pan on the burner.  Drizzle another tbsp of oil in the pan and brown the ground turkey.  Make sure the pan is hot enough and the turkey has enough room to brown otherwise steaming of the meat will occur (yuck).  If you must, brown the meat in batches.  While browning, sprinkle with 1/2 tsp salt, pepper and fennel seed.  When fully cooked, add back the sauted veggies and cook for another 3-5 min.  Add spaghetti sauce and stir to combine.  Remove from heat.  

Note: Amounts of sauce and cheese are to your liking but I find the more sauce the better for the lasagna sheets.  Since you're not preboiling them, they need to hydrate from the sauce going in to the lasagna so I go super saucy on this one.  

Ladle about a cup of sauce on the bottom of the 9x13 pan. Layer on pasta sheet being careful not to overlap. Spoon over cottage or ricotta cheese and sprinkle the reggiano. Ladle on more sauce, repeat. You should end up with 3-4 layers.  Last layer sprinkle on shredded cheese and the rest of the parmigiano reggiano if you have any left. 

Let the pan sit for 10-15 min if you can to let those past sheets absorb some of the moisture.

Bake for 45 min until golden and bubbly.  Let stand for 15 minutes before serving.  


Notes: 

I use a heavy non-reactive stainless steel pot to make the sauce.  Great article about it at another blog I frequent here.

You can easily substitute the veggies for anything you like or have on hand.  Eggplant, peppers, mushrooms, yellow squash - the world is your oyster!

Sauce can be done ahead - several days in fact, the longer it sits the better it tastes.  I've even done in stages.  Saute veggies first, brown meat and stick in the fridge.  Or do both then add sauce and stick in the fridge, assemble with all cold ingredients.  So versatile!

I found disposable foil pans are very much appreciated by recipients.  There's no cleanup or guilt for keeping your pans for too long.  

This recipe is actually best if you can let it sit for a while after it gets out of the oven.  If you try to serve immediately, you'll have a hot mess on your plates (literally).  Best to let it come to room temp or serve reheated. 

 - Our sweet little munchkin at 5 weeks -