Friday, July 24, 2009

Donations for a Friend

As regular readers will know, about a year ago I became friends with a group of women from a cooking board we all frequent. In that time we've met up for dinner at local restaurants and also hosted a few ladies lunches at our homes. In that time we've all gotten to know each other beyond just our mutual love of cooking and managed to become good friends.

As I mentioned in my last ladies lunch post, my friend Brooke was on bedrest for her triplet pregnancy. She ended up delivering her babies on June 27 after only 25 weeks and 5 days of gestation, a far cry from full term even for multiples. The babies are all doing great, but they will be in the NICU (neonatal intensive care) until at least October. For more information about the triplets progress please visit their baby blog.

Brooke and her husband, Joe, are wonderful, caring, sweet people. I feel very blessed to have met Brooke and to call her my friend. I feel horrible that they have dealt with so much adversity when it comes to getting, then staying, pregnant. And now that the babies are here there's a whole new crop of worries to contend with.

As you can imagine, triplets are expensive. The girls on our cooking board have gotten together and started a donation project. We will be accepting donations via PayPal and one of the other girls on the board has set up a Chip In page where you can see how many people have donated and how much money has been raised so far. The link will live in my toolbar on the righthand side of the page. If you are able, please click on it and donate what you can. Every little bit helps, even $5. The ladies and I will be getting together on Aug. 9 and I'm planning to give Brooke the first donation check that day.

Even if you can't donate, please continue to keep Brooke, Joe and the babies in your thoughts and prayers. Even though the babies have had a pretty good 4 weeks so far, things can change at any moment.
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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Florentine Turkey Meatballs

The last time I made Florentine turkey meatballs I froze some of the leftovers. I wanted to clean out the freezer and make a quick dinner recently so I defrosted the meatballs, made a cheese sauce and served the lot over egg noodles.

I love easy dinners. The cheese sauce (basically a white sauce like for mac & cheese only I used pecorino instead of cheddar) was ready in the time it took to boil the water and cook the noodles.
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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Curry Chicken Salad

We rarely have sandwiches for dinner even though they're easy and light, especially in the summer. SP asked me to try making curry chicken salad. I didn't use a real recipe, just borrowed from various recipes I found online, but the result was sensational.

I was really proud of this meal. I poached the chicken breasts (about 1 1/4lbs) in water with cut up celery, onion and peppercorns. I kept the water at barely a simmer and cooked the breasts for exactly 30 minutes. They were moist and tender - perfect for chicken salad. Everything else I pretty much eyeballed to taste. I quartered red grapes, chopped walnuts, finely minced a few scallions, and diced a rib of celery. That all went into a bowl with the chicken, salt and pepper and was tossed with lemon juice (about half a lemon), a few tablespoons sour cream and maybe 1/2 cup of mayo. Once everything was well mixed I added the curry powder. I started with a very small amount, mixed it in, then tasted. Less is definitely more when it comes to curry powder in chicken salad and I think I got the perfect balance.

We made sandwiches using leftover hamburger rolls and I served chips alongside. An easy, delicious meal.
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Monday, July 20, 2009

Pesto Pasta with Peas

As you can see from my garden post, the basil plant is thriving. I wanted to use up some of the leaves so I made pesto. In order to make it more healthy I tossed in some frozen peas:

We had a loaf of ciabatta in the freezer. Garlic gives me serious heartburn these days so I try to avoid it if I can, so I just toasted and buttered the bread:

Simple and summery.
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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Peaches with Vanilla Ice Cream

I bought a basket of peaches at the farmer's market just so we could have peaches with vanilla ice cream:

I peeled and diced a few peaches before cooking them with butter, brown sugar and OJ. Once the sauce got nice and thick I poured it over scoops of creamy ice cream. Delicious and so summery.
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Cookout Leftovers

We had some leftovers from our Fourth cookout for dinner later that weekend:

Just as delicious as the first time, but so much easier to put together.
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Saturday, July 18, 2009


As promised, here are more recent photos of my garden. As you can see, it exploded with all the rain we had. Nothing is ripe yet, although I've been using the basil and parsley in cooking. Unfortunately the cilantro started out thriving but it was growing so fast that it started flowering and now I think it's dead. Here's the whole gang (minus the lemon tree and strawberry plant):

The cherry pepper plant, with a few peppers starting to grow:

The parsley has really flourished:

Here's a line-up of cherry tomatoes:

... the luscious basil:

My biggest tomato, although still far from ripe:

The strawberry plant (still no strawberries and everyone tells me they're out of season, but I'm holding out hope regardless):

And the lemon tree, starting to flower:

I'm really hopeful that we'll get a lemon before the weather turns.
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Friday, July 17, 2009

Sunday Breakfast

We bought fresh breakfast sausage at the farmer's market during one of our trips so I decided to make a hearty Sunday breakfast the day after the Fourth.

In addition to the sausages (which were amazing...much better then anything from the supermarket) I scrambled some eggs and cooked up breakfast potatoes with a little onion.
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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Fourth of July Cookout

For the Fourth of July we had my stepbrother and his wife over for a cookout. We had invited another couple but unfortunately the wife was very sick with bronchitis and they couldn't make it. We had a ton of food and it was all delicious. My plate with a burger and helpings of both salads:

After eating this tri-colore salad at one of my ladies lunches I knew I had to make it.

I couldn't stop eating it. Delicious and healthy. My stepbrother made a tomato and red onion salad with mozzarella and a balsamic vinegar dressing:

In my opinion you can't go wrong with mozzarella and tomato. I also grilled some corn, although this time we tried something different. Usually I grill the corn straight on the grates (no foil wrapping) but SP saw grilled corn in one of my food magazines and liked the idea of wrapping it up with butter and salt beforehand.

Unfortunately it takes a lot longer to cook like that, so we took it off the grill before it got nice char marks. I'm going back to my old method. For dessert my sister-in-law brought a boxed cake mix for chocolate lava cakes. We whipped these up after dinner and had them with vanilla ice cream:

The cakes were small but sinfully rich. A great ending to a great meal.
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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Pizza Pockets

The last time I made these pizza pockets SP was less than thrilled. He thought they were good but he was expecting something more like Totino's Pizza Rolls, which are cheese and sauce inside the dough. I had taken some dough out of the freezer on a Friday but we ended up going out instead. I needed to find another use for it - perfect time to try making the kind of pizza pockets SP was expecting.

They don't look that great but that's because I was winging it, not following a recipe. The sauce leaked out of a few of the rolls, but the flavor was still very good. I think with a little more tweaking I'll get it right.

Pizza Pockets
Modified heavily from Giada De Laurentiis

1 ball pizza dough
All-purpose flour, for rolling out pizza dough
8 oz opepperoni, diced (or to taste)
8 oz shredded mozzarella cheese (or to taste)
1 cup marinara or pizza sauce (or to taste)
1 egg, beaten (for egg wash)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Roll out the pizza dough on a lightly floured surface to a thin 20 by 12-inch rectangle. Cut the rectangle in half lengthwise. Then cut each half into 8 equal rectangles.

Mix pepperoni, shredded cheese and sauce together in a bowl. Start by adding a little sauce and adjusting if it looks too dry.

Spoon topping onto one side of each of the rectangles. Using a pastry brush, brush the edges of the rectangle with egg wash. Close the rectangle of pizza dough over the topping. Use a fork to seal and crimp the edges. Really make sure the edges are sealed or the pockets might explode.

Place the pizza pockets onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Brush the top of each pizza pocket with egg wash and cut a small slit in each pocket for steam to escape. Bake until golden, about 15 to 17 minutes.
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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Shrimp and Grits

My friend Amy recently posted this recipe for shrimp and grits that looked so delicious I knew I needed to make it as soon as possible. I had some frozen shrimp in the freezer and I've always wanted to try making grits at home, so it seemed perfect.

The grits could not have been simpler to make. I cooked them in chicken broth for added flavor and they were amazing. Grits in five minutes...what have I been missing all my life!?

We really enjoyed this meal, but next time I might try a different version. This was pretty light (no heavy cream like most versions) but it lacked the oomph we were looking for. It was also very saucy, which probably diluted the flavors. Next time I wouldn't add the cup of chicken stock at the end. Amy recommended another version and it's in the back of my mind for a special occasion (or the next time we buy shrimp).
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Monday, July 13, 2009

Swedish Meatballs a la IKEA

A few weekends ago we took a road trip out to a baby store that we'd heard had a great selection of furniture. On the way we passed IKEA and made a mental note to stop on the way back to check out their baby stuff. By the time we finished at the furniture store we were famished, so before we browsed we decided to grab a bite to eat at the IKEA cafeteria. In all the years we've been going to IKEA we've never once eaten there. I've always wanted to try their Swedish meatballs so we got a plate of those to share. I don't know if it was hunger or what, but the entire meal was delicious. We bought a jar of their lingonberry jam so I could try replicating the meal at home. I think I did a pretty good job:

In addition to the Swedish meatballs and brown gravy (made using my usual recipe), I whipped up some mashed potatoes. Before eating this meal at IKEA I wouldn't have paired the gravy with the jam but in this case it really works. This meal truly hit the spot.
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Breaded Chicken with Arugula, Tomato and Red Onion Salad

I wanted to do something different with chicken so I decided to try making a dish I've seen on a few menus but never ordered - chicken (or veal) with a salad made with arugula, tomato and red onion:

Initially I was going to use store-bought bread crumbs but then I saw we had a few slices of bread leftover from the previous week so I made fresh bread crumbs instead. The difference was huge and now SP says I have to make any breaded meat using fresh bread crumbs. They got nice and toasty in the oil and had a satisfying crunch when we bit into the chicken. I just pulsed some torn bread in my mini food processor and seasoned them with dry Italian seasoning. Easy and delicious.

After a shallow fry I topped the hot chicken with the arugula tossed with tomatoes and red onion that I'd marinated in lemon juice and olive oil.
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Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Family Cookout

This summer we're trying to make an effort to have family over for dinner as often as our schedules will allow. We invited SP's sister, her husband and their two sons over for a cookout and, surprisingly, the weather actually cooperated.

I grilled up some cheeseburgers and hot dogs and made my potato salad. We also boiled some corn that was nice and sweet. I'm still amazed that the corn has been pretty decent. A delicious meal, although I ate way too much and paid for it later with stretching pain above my belly button. My eyes are definitely bigger then my stomach these days.
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Monday, July 06, 2009

Breakfast for Dinner

SP had to work late one night and I didn't have much energy to cook dinner, so I threw together a breakfast for dinner using the rest of the deli ham.

Scrambled eggs, breakfast potatoes and sliced tomato rounded out the plate.
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Sunday, July 05, 2009

Lasagna and Arugula Salad

In addition to the roast chicken SP made when I got home from my work conference he also made a huge lasagna for dinner later in the week. The night we decided to eat it I cut us both large chunks of the pasta, meat sauce and cheese:

SP knows I love cheese and he added plenty to this lasagna. It was utterly delicious, with a great tomato sauce (he's a wiz at tomato sauce) and lots of cheesy goodness. To cut the richness of the lasagna I made a quick arugula salad with shaved pecorino cheese, red wine vinegar and oil:

I love when SP cooks. We were able to each take a portion for lunch the next day and then freeze four more portions for another time.
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Saturday, July 04, 2009

Pasta with Chicken and Broccoli

I wanted to use up the leftover roast chicken and broccoli for dinner without having the exact same meal. I decided to make a stovetop mac & cheese and diced the leftover chicken and broccoli to toss with the pasta:

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Friday, July 03, 2009

Day Off Brunch

I had off from work the Monday after my conference so I took the opportunity to sleep in. By the time I woke up it was that strange time between breakfast and lunch. I didn't know what to have so I scrounged around in the fridge to see what looked good. I found some deli ham and decided to make a big breakfast platter for myself.

Since I'm pregnant I need to heat all lunchmeat until steaming. This means I don't eat lunchmeat sandwiches these days (who wants to eat a steaming turkey sandwich? Not me.) I was really excited to have the ham, so I sliced it into threads and cooked it in a pan until it started to brown around the edges. I also cooked up some breakfast potatoes with onion and scrambled eggs. I rounded out the plate with sliced tomato. A delicious and filling brunch.
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Thursday, July 02, 2009

Roast Chicken Dinner

The day I came home from my work conference SP was hard at work in the kitchen. He had a chicken roasting in the oven (it smelled heavenly) and he whipped up some mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli to go with it:

The chicken was moist and tender, the potatoes fluffy and creamy and the broccoli perfectly cooked. There's nothing like a homecooked meal when you've been away for five days, especially when you don't have to cook it!
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Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Chicken Parmesan

SP loved the chicken parmesan I made a few weeks ago so when I didn't know what to make for dinner one night with the chicken I'd defrosted I threw this together.

It's a simple meal and I love that SP thinks it's the best thing I've ever made.
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