Monday, June 30, 2008

All-American Dinner

Lisa made us Pot Roast and a red white and blue fresh fruit tart for Sunday dinner. And she even taught me how to make Aunt Carolyn's famous rolls. I'm proud to say that I formed all of these myself:) Unfortunately, no recipe once again. Just showing off the fine cuisine we are dining on every day here.


out of the oven

Pot Roast, steamed broccolini, fresh rolls, potatoes and carrots

Saturday, June 28, 2008

My Own Personal Chef

This has been an amazing week so far! Our baby was born on June 18th and my sister arrived this past Wednesday to help us out a little. She has been so helpful! It's been so wonderful to have her here for so many reasons. She seems to just read my mind and do stuff that I feel too needy to ask for and cooks and cleans for us constantly. And last night was an especially rough night and she came in out room and took Ella for a few hours so we could sleep. And miraculously got her to stop crying so she could get some sleep herself. Anyway, though I don't have the recipe, I wanted to share what she made for dinner for us tonight. Tortilla soup! And hers is the best. Better than any I've ever had before. So sorry I can't share how to make it, I just wanted to show off how great I'm eating these days. And that is why I always say I learned everything I know about food from her. She's a genius.

In the pot

In my bowl topped with sour cream, fresh cilantro, avocados, cheese, and fresh lime juice!

Monday, June 16, 2008

A Father's day feast fit for a King!

Unfortunately we haven't had a baby yet, so yesterday wasn't our first official Father's day. So we didn't celebrate for real, but I still felt like we had to do something special since I made myself "A Mother's day fest fit for a Queen" on Mother's day. So yesterday, still hoping I would eventually be in too much pain to cook, Blake and I made a couple of his favorite meals together. All the recipes are already posted on this blog, so I won't bother re-writing them. But for lunch we had Puttanesca sauce, and I think it was the best I've ever made it! We made plenty of leftovers and froze it so that hopefully in the next few days we can eat good food without much effort. For dinner I made 豚のしょうが焼き(Ginger pork?) (and I used Pork instead of chicken because that's the real way to make it) because it is one that Blake requests quite often, and at the Asian Market I was able to find super thin sliced pork, which I was really excited about! And I guess for dessert we made the Blueberry Streusel Muffins again. And yes, we did eat half of the batch already. But we were good and saved the rest and froze them for another morning when we'll want something more than cereal but I'll be too tired with a baby (hopefully ... IF SHE'S EVER GOING TO BE BORN) to cook.

Happy almost Father's Day, Blake! I love you! You are going to be an amazing father, I know it:) I can tell she's already such a little daddy's girl.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Dinner Invention

I wanted to make something to go with our lovely asparagus, and my favorite way to eat asparagus is to roast it, so I had to come up with something that would be simple enough but robust enough to fit. I couldn't think of any recipes, so I decided just to experiment. After all, if I can't experiment on Blake, how would I learn, right? So here is my dinner invention. I paired it with Ina Garten's roasted asparagus recipe and some simple roasted potatoes. For the potatoes I just boiled them in salted water and when they were almost finished cooking I drained them and tossed them with oilive oil, salt and pepper, dotted them with a little butter, and put them under the broiler until they were browned and crispy on top. My favorite way to eat potatoes.

And this isn't really the best picture to show what the chicken actually looks like since I topped it with the onions I cooked it in. But you get the idea ...

Yummy Chicken
serves 2
1 large chicken breast, trimmed
4 garlic cloves, sliced thin
1 lemon, sliced thin
1/2 t crushed red pepper flakes
1 t herbes de provence
1 onion
1/4 C balsamic vinegar
3 T olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Cut the onion into medium chunks, toss into a pie plate or roasting pan with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Put in oven to start cooking.
  2. Meanwhile, slice the chicken almost all the way through horizontally into 3 pieces. Divide sliced garlic, about 3-4 lemon slices, red pepper flakes, herbes de provence, and salt and pepper, and place inside the chicken "flaps".
  3. Pull out the onions from the oven and nestle the chicken into the middle. Place some onions on top of the chicken and cover with aluminum foil. Cook for about 35-40 minutes or until the chicken is completely cooked through. Cut into 2 pieces and serve with onions on top or surrounding the chicken.

It doesn't get much better than this ...

Today we decided to go out to Amish Country and visit some farm stands for once. I've been looking forward to the fresh produce in this area since we moved here. We bought some beautiful asparagus, strawberries, tomatoes, garlic, and FARM FRESH EGGS! I was super excited about those. And since we baked some fresh homemade bread this morning (actually Blake did it this time! Yay Blake!), we decided it was definitely a sandwich day. And I had to have some fried eggs with my sandwich. Blake had turkey, tomato and cheese and I had a plain tomato sandwich with some fresh parsley. There really isn't much in this world that makes me happier than good tomatoes, good bread, and good eggs! I was in heaven.

Blake says this isn't the most appealing picture but I think it looks so good! I'm salivating just looking at it and I'm not even hungry anymore! But maybe it's weird that I like eggs so much ...

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Lillian's Birthday Dinner

I don't pretend to be a chef, but it's become tradition for me to cook Lillian something that she wants for her birthday dinner. Its never as good as when she cooks but she is always kind and humors me. Anyhow, these are recipes that we got from some of her cook books.

Chicken Pad Thai
Serves 4
here it is only I didn't use fish sauce, which would have made it better I'm sure. I only used soy sauce and omitted the fish sauce. Also we only had the skinny rice noodles which were good too.

8 oz. dried rice noodles, about 1/8 inch wide
3/4 warm water
1/4 cup fish sauce
juice from 2 limes
1/4 dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 rotisserie chicken, no skin, shredded
4 garlic cloves
1/4 cup bean sprouts
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  1. Cover rice noodles in hot water for 20 min until soft. Drain and set aside. Then wisk the warm water, fish sauce, lime juice and sugar together in bowl until sugar is dissolved.
  2. Heat oil on high until smoking, then add the chicken and the garlic and cook until lightly browned and fragrant, about 2 mins. Add noodles and fish sauce mixture and cook until noodles are coated, about 3 mins. Scatter bean sprouts and cilantro and continue to cook for another 3 mins or so. I also put some scallions on top.

Easy Fresh Strawberry Tart
serves 4
1 9 1/2 by 9 inch puff pastry, thawed overnight in refrigerator
2 teaspoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup strawberry jelly, plus 2 tablespoons
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups fresh berries
  1. Adjust over rack to upper middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Unfold thawed pastry onto baking sheet and prepare pastry shell by wetting and folding the edges in 1/2 inch on all sides. Score the folded edges with a sharp knife. Poke holes in the dough to keep it from puffing up in the center.
  2. Combine cinnamon and sugar and sprinkle over the inside of the tart shell. Transfer to oven and bake until pastry and sugar are golden brown, 15 to 22 minutes. Transfer to wire rack to cool for about an hour.
  3. While crust is baking, stir softened cream cheese, 2 tablespoons jelly and vanilla in bowl until smooth and refrigerate until ready to use.
  4. Spread cream cheese mixture over the inside of cooled tart shell. Place remaining jelly in large microwave safe bowl and microwave until jelly melts, about 30 seconds. Add berries to bowl and toss until coated with jelly. Spoon berries over the cream cheese mixture and refrigerate until jelly is set, at least 1 hour, and up to 4 hours. let sit at room temp. for 30 minutes and serve it up.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Birthday Lunch

Today is my birthday and I'm basically just bored at home. Blake told me to do whatever I wanted and take naps and watch movies, but I feel so lazy! It's not like I do much on normal days anyway ... so I've been working on a sewing project a little, but I get tired of hunching over a sewing machine. I decided to take a break and make myself lunch that'll help me get motivated to do something again. I made myself a sandwich with homemade wheat bread (Lisa, I used the normal "white bread" recipe but used 1 C wheat flour and 1 C bread flour and it really is yummy. You should try it sometimes), campari tomatoes, thin slices of cucumber, turkey breast, colby jack cheese, Kewpie Mayonnaise, dijon mustard, and butter. I think that covers it. It was really yummy and I feel better! I finished my lunch off with left over frozen yogurt from last night. I think I can get back to my sewing now:)

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Frozen Yogurt Improvement

So I thought I had it right last time, but this time it was even better! And less fat, even. So I am a happy girl today. I'm just scared I'm going to eat the whole container tonight ...

This time I used low fat yogurt. I tried this about a week ago with fat free yogurt from Target (Archer Farms) and I don't recommend this. I used Dannon again today, and it made SUCH a difference. I don't think it was the fat content, either. I really think it was the quality of the yogurt. So again I emphasize, use good quality yogurt. It's worth the extra money. The Archer Farms yogurt didn't drain and tasted slightly metallic for some reason. But the Dannon was very creamy and let go of probably a whole cup of water, which made the strained product SUPER thick and creamy. I also added cool whip this time because it occurred to me that cool whip is always availabe in the frozen food isle and is very fluffy even frozen. And this way I could avoid the icy texture that frozen yogurt gets after a little while. It worked out really well because it made the consistency nice and light, sweetened it a little for me, made it extra creamy without adding too much fat, and helped the yogurt to hold a soft texture even after being in the freezer for a while.

Low Fat Plain Frozen Yogurt
Makes about 1 quart
1 quart good quality low fat plain yogurt
1 C cool whip
juice of 1/2 a lemon
5 T granulated sugar

fresh fruit to serve
  1. In a fine mesh colander lined with 3 coffee filters (staggered to fill the whole colander) and resting over a bowl, place the yogurt and let it drain in the fridge for at least 4 hours. There should be about 3/4 to 1 C of water in the bottom of the bowl when you are finished. You can discard this excess water.
  2. Once the yogurt is drained, place the yogurt in a bowl, whisk the yogurt with the lemon juice and sugar until thoroughly combined. Fold in the cool whip.
  3. Prepare according to the ice cream machine manufacturer's directions.
  4. Place in an air tight container with plastic wrap or wax paper flush against the surface and freeze for 4 hours or so. Serve with fresh fruit.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Another Pantry Dinner

Puttanesca Sauce is one of my favorite dishes ever since my sister made it for me once. And then I read "A Series of Unfortunate Events" and the kids make it in the first book, and it made me love it all over again. The problem is Blake is really weary of tart, savory food. I was nervous enough to get him to try to Kalamata olives (because normal black olives just don't do in this dish ...), let alone the capers and anchovies. So I had to make my own little changes. And surprisingly, he loved the Kalamata olives! So maybe next time I will try to sneak the capers and work my way to the anchovies. They really do add a diferent depth to the dish that I think we're missing out on. It may be a depth, though, that turns him away from it so I'll be careful;)

Pasta Puttanesca
serves 6
1 lb pasta (use long, thin pasta such as spaghetti or linguine)

3 T olive oil
5 garlic cloves, minced
1-1/2 t crushed red pepper flakes
3 (14.5 oz) cans diced tomatoes (I used "petite diced" onces because I think the texture blends a little better, but of course normal ones work great, too)
1/2 C Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped medium
1/4 C small black olives, chopped medium
1/4 C minced fresh parsley
salt and pepper to taste
juice of 1/2 lemon
zest of 1 lemon
  1. Boil pasta to al dente. Drain and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, cook the oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes on medium heat, stirring constantly, until garlic is fragrant but not browned. About 2 minutes.
  3. Stir in tomatoes with ther juice and simmer until thickened, about 10-15 minutes.
  4. Stir in olives, parsley, lemon zest and juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Toss in pasta. Add a little reserved pasta water to loosen sauce if needed.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


I forgot to take a picture of dinner last night, so I figured I would do it with my leftovers. When I was in high school my sister would always make Bolognese sauce from scratch and taught me how. It's a long, laborious, all-day process so she would always make a whole bunch and freeze half of it. And with that sauce she would make lasagna Bolognese, which is in my opinion, the superior lasagna. Most Americans make lasagna Romana, which uses ricotta cheese or even cottage cheese in between layers of tomato or meat sauce. Lasagna Bolognese, instead, has a meaty, flavorful Bolognese sauce and a creamy Béchamel sauce for every other layer. And lots of gooey mozzarella cheese (not cheddar--too greasy and to strong). The first time Lisa made it for me, I felt like I was in Japan again, eating at a quality Italian restaurant all over again. Happy memories. Anyway, a couple years ago, Lisa discovered a quick and easy way to make the Bolognese sauce that doesn't take all day. So now it is a much more convenient meal, but still delicious:) And I make the Béchamel out of low-fat milk instead of whole milk, and I don't really notice too much of a difference because it still comes out creamy and with the cheese, it's just right. So there's my story about the perfect lasagna.

Oh, and you'll have left over Bolognese sauce for another pasta day:)

Lasagna Bolognese
makes a 9x 13 pan
1 box no-boil lasagna noodles (I use Barilla brand)
2-1/2 C Mozzarella & Parmesan cheese

for the Bolognese sauce:
2 cans crushed tomatoes
1 medium yellow onion, chopped fine (
I use my food processor)
equal amount of carrots, chopped fine
1~2 stalks celery, chopped fine
4-5 cloves of garlic, minced (optional)
vegetable or olive oil
1 lb lean ground beef
1/2 C red wine (optional)

for the Béchamel:
3 T butter
3 T flour
3 C milk
1/4 onion, chopped fine
salt & pepper to taste
1/8 t grated nutmeg (optional)
  1. For the Bolognese: In a large pot, cook onions, garlic, celery and carrots on medium-high heat until soft and slightly browned, stirring constantly. Once cooked, add beef, breaking up as you go. Cook through. Add red wine, if using, and cook until completely evaporated. Add the crushed tomatoes, and cook, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened.
  2. For the Béchamel: In a medium pot, melt butter and cook onions until soft. Add flour and stir constantly. Add milk gradually and stir quickly and make sure no lumps form. Add salt and pepper and nutmeg and combine. Keep cooking until sauce thickens. Set aside.
  3. In a 9x13 inch pan, pour a layer of Bolognese sauce on the bottom. Layer with 3 pieces of lasagna noodles. Top with Béchamel and generous amount of cheese. Place 3 more pieces of noodles. Repeat until no noodles are left. I put a combination of Bolognese & Bechamel with left over cheese on the top layer (because Blake insists that we have Bolognese on top).
  4. Bake at 375° for 50-60 minutes. Pull out of the oven and let cool for 15 minutes before serving.