Monday, September 28, 2009

golden day

My cute husband celebrated his golden birthday today, so I knew I had to make it a special day for him. I decorated in gold and made him gold food all day. They were all old favorites, so I kept forgetting to take pictures, but thankfully I have all of the recipes on this blog. We started the day out with this favorite golden cinnamon rolls. After church we had golden frittata with potatoes, onions, and kielbasa. For dinner we had, per his request, golden からあげ, or Japanese fried chicken (pictured below)
and for dessert, the ever so irresistable creme brulee. Nothing quite like creme brulee. I realize he didn't get a cake, but I'm pretty sure he was ok with that.

Monday, September 21, 2009

fancy nancy

I wanted to make a fancy dinner tonight. I don't know why exactly, but I was really in the mood for something fancy. It might be in part because over the weekend I ran into a dear friend from Japan and her sweet husband and family and found out we live 20 minutes away from each other! And she's a total foodie. I'm so excited to get together with her more often and make delicious food. Mmm can't wait. That, and I feel like pasta is so often misunderstood. Pasta is such a beautiful and diverse food, but a lot of people only buy spaghetti (and don't get me wrong, I LOVE spaghetti) and pair it with a jar of tomato sauce of some kind. Not the way to enjoy pasta. Sure, in a pinch whatever works. But homemade sauce is so quick and simple and ... FANCY!

So tonight I was inspired and made a mushroom and white wine sauce with rigatoni and it was amazing. And since it was such a beautiful fall evening, I roasted some butternut and acorn squash as a side.

Creamy White Wine and Mushrooms with Rigatoni
serves 4~6
1 lb rigatoni
1 lb mushrooms (I used cremini, or baby bellas, but shiitake and plain white buttons would be great, too. If you're using white buttons, though, I reccomend using a couple varieties, just for a more complex flavor)
3 T butter
1/2 C heavy cream
4 shallots, thinly sliced
1/2 C white wine (NOT cooking wine. They always say to use a wine good enough to drink. I don't drink so I wouldn't really know what that is, but I always buy a Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris or a nice-sounding white wine;))
1/4 C very finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/4 C freshly grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a large skillet, bring 1 tablespoon of butter to medium-high heat and melt. Add the shallots with a little salt and pepper to taste, and cook, stirring often, until very soft and slightly browned. Remove to a plate.
  2. Add another tablespoon of butter to the pan and add half of the mushrooms with a little bit of salt and pepper. Cook until browned. Once they're browned and released all of their juices, transfer to the same plate as the shallots and cook the other half of the mushrooms with another tablespoon of butter and salt and pepper.
  3. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta to al dente. Drain, and set aside, reserving some of the cooking liquid.
  4. Replace all of the shallots and mushrooms back to the pan and heat through. Add the white wine and cook until completely evaporated. Add the cream and let simmer until slightly thickened and reduce the heat to low. Add 3 tablespoon of the parsley and about a 1/4 C of the cheese and stir in.
  5. Gently toss the pasta in with the mushroom mixture, adding some of the reserved pasta water to thin the sauce if needed.
  6. Serve warm with extra parsley and cheese.
Roasted Butternut and Acorn Squash
serves 8+
1 butternut squash, cut in half pole-to-pole
1 acorn squash, cut in half pole-to-pole
2 T butter, softenend
1~2 T brown sugar
salt and pepper to taste
  1. Preheat the oven to 450° F.
  2. Place the halves of the squash, cut side up, on a a parchment lined rimmed baking sheet. Spread a teaspoon of butter, sprinkle with about a teaspoon of brown sugar, and season generously with salt and pepper on each half.
  3. Bake in the oven for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes, until caramelized and cooked through. Either serve sections or scoop out with a spoon and gently smash together with a little milk or cream.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

vegetable lasagne

This was so good. Look at the picture. I don't think I need to say much else.

Except ... If you're one of those people that thinks a meal isn't a meal without meat, you are so missing out.

Vegetable Lasagne
makes 1 9x13 pan
1 package no-boil lasagne noodles (I like Barilla)
1 9 oz bag of baby spinach leaves
1 lb mushrooms, sliced (I used white button, but cremini or shiitake would be delicious, too. Use a variety!)
4 T butter
4 T flour
4 C milk (I used 2 C 1% and 2 C whole)
1/2 onion, minced
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
2 C grated mozzarella cheese
1~2 C freshly grated parmesan or pecorino romano cheese
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  2. In a large skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium-high heat. Add half of the mushrooms and season gently with salt and pepper. Cook, tossing once in a while, until juices are released and evaporated and the mushrooms are browned. Transfer to a plate and repeat with the second half. (You never want to crowd mushrooms or they won't brown properly)
  3. In a large saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat and add the onion with a little salt and pepper. Cook the onion until softened but not browned. Add the flour and stir until there are no more dry spots left and flour is cooked and slightly golden.
  4. Add 1/2 C of the milk, and whisk vigorously until no lumps remain. Continue to repeat with the addition of milk in small portions until all the milk is used up and the sauce can coat the back of a spoon.
  5. Add the spinach to the sauce and stir gently until spinach is wilted. Take the pan off the heat.
  6. In a 9x13-inch lasagna pan, pour a little bit of the sauce and layer 3 lasagna noodles on top. Top with 1/3 of the mushrooms, 1/2 C of sauce, 1/2 C of mozarella, and a couple tablespoons of parmesan. Add noodles and repeat. On the top layer, use 1/2 C of sauce, 1/2 C of mozarella, and the remaining parmesan.
  7. Cover with foil and bake 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake under the broiler for 5~10 minutes until the cheese is golden and bubbly. Let cool for 15 minutes before serving.
And here's a cute picture of my sweetie enjoying her serving

homemade granola bars

I made granola bars last week, but they just couldn't hold themselves together! It was a mess in my hand. They were so tasty, though, and super filling, so I thought I needed to try again, with some minor adjustments. So now it's not quite as healthy as the original, but still really not that bad. And you really only need a little square to be satisfied, and it's all homemade, so I don't feel too bad about feeding this to my family:) If you can make rice krispie treats, you can make these.

Home made granola bars
makes about 2.5 dozen, depending on how you cut them
4 C rolled oats (not quick cooking oats)
1 C shredded coconut
1.5 C chopped nuts of any kind (I did slivered almonds because they were on sale)
1 C ground flaxseeds or wheatgerm (I did a combination of both)
1/2 C sesame seeds
2 C chopped (or small) dried fruit (I used golden raisins and craisins, but last time I did dried apricots and those were really good, too)

2 T butter
1 (10 oz) package mini marshmallows

prepared materials:
1 9x13 inch baking pan, greased and lined with parchment or wax paper, and greased again
  1. Preheat over to 350°F. In a large baking sheet, toss the oats, coconut, nuts, flaxseeds or wheatgerm, and sesame seeds together. Place in the oven and toast until fragrant and very slightly browned, about 10~12 minutes, tossing a few times during baking.
  2. In a large pot, melt the butter. Add the marshmallows, and stir until completely melted. Working quickly, add all of the other ingredients (including the dried fruit) and stir gently until thoroughly encorporated.
  3. Immediately pour the ingredients into the prepared baking pan, and using a lightly greased spatula, press down firmly until you have an even, flat surface. Let cool completely.
  4. Once cooled, flip the whole pan over onto a large cutting board, and cut to desired size. Store in an airtight container for up to a week.

good ol' sunday dinner repeat

For dinner on Sunday, I made a roasted chicken with root vegetables and my favorite bread. Even my little sweetie couldn't wait for dinner.
The only difference was that this time I only brushed about 2 tablespoons of melted butter on top of the chicken and seasoned it with salt and pepper. it was amazing! (And please ignore the fact that for some reason ... probably my pregnant brain ... I roasted the chicken upside down)

Saturday, September 12, 2009


I feel like a flake. It must be because I'm pregnant because when I'm about to sit down to eat after spending quite a bit of time at the cutting board or stove, the last thing I'm thinking about is, "oh wait a second, I have to take a picture!" Pretty much the only thing I'm thinking is, "FINALLY". So my poor camera has been a little neglected, which is why I haven't posted in a while. And the saddest part is I've actually been making good food! So I know food posts without pictures are way lame, but I still think my readers deserve to know the joys of simple delicious food, so I will share anyway. Both of them are just additions to my old favorites anyway.

First of all, my salsa. I have it listed as avocado salsa, but I often make it without the avocados, and it's still the best salsa ever. Tonight, I was in the mood for chips and salsa, but since it was dinner time, I thought I'd heft it up a bit. My sister said she made my salsa once with corn and black beans, so I tried that, and it was amazing! You know those meals that you almost regret eating so much but then you remember that it's actually mostly good for you? Well, this was one of those meals. Add 1 can of black beans (drained and rinsed), and 1 can of corn (drained). We were planning on using fresh corn from our neighbor's garden, but we were a couple weeks too late. But if you have access to fresh corn, cut it off the cob and sauté it until a little caramelized, and you won't believe the joy you'll experience.

And going back almost a whole week, I made panzanella for our church Labor Day picnic. It was a total hit! I know this is pathetic, but whenever we have potluck type meals, I am constantly checking to see how much of my contribution is gone. And if I leave before it's all gone, I get a little sad. So this time was a success. And the variations I made were a bit bigger this round. I tossed the stale bread cubes with a couple tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and a couple of table spoons of melted butter and salt and most important, a clove of grated garlic. Then put them in a single layer on a baking sheet and put them under the broiler for about 2~3 minutes, until crispy and golden. The darkness depends on your broiler, so keep a good eye on them! And then I added 3 colored bell peppers (yellow, orange, and purple) to the salad along with capers and 1 seeded hot house cucumber, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/2 inch pieces. I think calamata olives would be great, too. Mmm! Anyway, this is a fantastic recipe, you should try it out.

Next time I promise I'll bring my camera to the dinner table! Until then, happy cooking, friends!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

my lazy panzanella

I feel like these tomatoes (and Blake cleaning the kitchen for me) have reawakened my love for food. I've been in the kitchen all day today. I made homemade granola bars and soup and for breakfast we had pancakes and eggs and hashbrowns. Love love love! But my favorite was what I had for dinner. We were over at our daughter's friend's 1st birthday party until just about dinner time, so we rushed home, full of cake and ice cream, and I had to think of something quick. So I made a lazy panzanella. And I am so in love! Ahhhh, I wish I could eat tomatoes like this year round.

Ok, I know I sound like a broken record here, but if you think you don't like raw onions, you don't know what you're missing. You need to soak them. Slice them super thin, and soak them in water for a good 30 minutes, changing the water once or twice. This salad is not as good without that juicy crunch of the onions, but they'll be overpowering and not as enjoyable if you don't soak them. So please, my friends, SOAK!

And basically, I just used my tomato and onion recipe that I posted yesterday, and added about a cup of cubed day-old bread. Toasted cubed bread would be better, of course, but I wanted something super duper quick. And it was divine. You might think I'm crazy for adding stale bread to my salad, but you have to try it. It's a beautiful thing those genius Italians came up with. Genius.

quick lunch

This is one of my new favorite soups. I got the idea watching Everyday Food last weekend, and loved the recipe when I followed it exactly, but I decided it needed a little more heft, so I added a few of my favorite things and used cannellini beans instead of chickpeas. I liked the texture a little better for soup. And last night, I poached a chicken and made homemade chicken broth, so it was perfect timing to have this for lunch today. Making your own broth is so easy, and it will last pretty much indefinitely in your freezer, so it's really worth it. But of course, if you don't have homemade broth or stock, use the packaged stuff. My favorite brand is Pacific. And use the low-sodium stuff. If you love soup, you're going to love this one. It's super simple and fast, and tastes like you've been cooking all day.

Hearty Cannelini Bean and Pasta Soup
Serves 4~6
1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed (or you could use chickpeas if you like)
1 C elbow macaroni or other small shaped pasta
1 C cooked shredded or chopped chicken, white or dark meat
3 small or 1 large yukon gold potato, peeled and diced small
4 C chicken broth or stock
2 C water
salt and pepper to taste

To serve:
finely grated parmesan cheese (I used Pecorino Romano in the picture)
chopped fresh parsley
  1. In a large pot, bring the chicken broth and water to a boil. Add the potatoes and cook for 2~3 minutes, until slightly cooked through. Add the pasta and cook for another 5 minutes, until slightly firm.
  2. Add the chicken and beans and let simmer for another minute until heated through. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Serve with cheese and parsley.
This recipe freezes really well, but because the pasta will just keep absorbing the liquid it doesn't refrigerate really well. So if you have leftovers, place individual portions in freezer-safe containers and place in the freezer.

Friday, September 4, 2009

i. love. tomatoes.

I planted tomatoes this Summer in the hopes of eating a TON of tomatoes from June to September. Ahhhh, the dreams of fresh tomato pasta, caprese salad, tomato sandwiches, fresh salsa, and onion and tomato salad. Alas, my little seeds grew to be super tall, but never grew a single fruit! Can you believe that? It's really sad. Well, I've been hesitant to buy any tomatoes because I kept hoping my plant would bear fruit, but it still hasn't, so I finally decided I need some this week. We were at Meijer, my favorite grocery store around here, and I was so excited to find they had a clearance tomato section! And it was crazy. A pint of grape tomatoes for $.75, and they weren't wrinkly! And then they had these "kumato" tomatoes (never heard of them before), which are a deep, rich red--almost a purple-y brown. Gorgeous. And they were $1! So I bought some and as soon as I got home, I made the salad I've been dreaming of all these months. And on Monday, I'm taking panzanella to our church Labor Day celebration. Can not wait!

Onion and Tomato Salad
serves ... 1?
3~4 small tomatoes or 1~2 large tomatoes, cut into wedges
1/4 red onion, super thinly sliced and soaked in water for 30 minutes or rinsed well for about 5
1 T flat leaf parsley, chopped fine*
2 T red wine vinegar
2 t extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

*feel free to use other fresh herbs, like of course, BASIL! I just picked my basil plant clean the other day, so I used parsley, and it was beautiful.
  1. Toss all ingredients in a bowl and enjoy!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

quick and fancy comfort food

Last night we had this mushroom ravioli for dinner. I've never made it before, I got the idea from Martha Stewart but had to change a few things. I couldn't find tortellini at Target, so I bought ravioli, and I made the sauce with white wine and milk instead of water. Much improved, I think. And white buttons are so much cheaper than shiitake mushrooms, so I used them instead. Though if you have fresh shiitake at your market, and they don't cost 5 times as much, you really should try them. They are amazing. So you really should try this. It took me probably a total of 25 minutes to make, maybe less. And it was such a nice meal! And Ella LOVED the ravioli, and surprisingly even the mushrooms. I love meals like that.

Ravioli with White Wine Mushroom Sauce
serves 4
1 (26 oz) bag of frozen cheese ravioli
1 lb white button mushrooms
4 cloves garlic, sliced thin
1/4 C white wine
1/4 C whole milk
2~3 T flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 T cold butter
2 t olive oil
  1. Cook pasta according to package directions, or until pasta floats to the top of the water, should take less than 5 minutes. Drain.
  2. In a deep skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Cook mushrooms and garlic, season with salt and pepper, and cook until mushrooms release all their juices and start to brown. Add white wine and cook until completely evaporated. Add milk and butter and cook until slightly thickened.
  3. Put the cooked pasta back into the pot it was cooked in and add the mushroom mixture. Toss all together with the parsley and cheese until evenly distributed. Serve warm.