Sunday, December 30, 2007

Spaghetti Carbonara

Two of my favorite Christmas gifts were a Calphalon 7-inch Santoku knife and an All-Clad 5-quart stainless steel saute pan. I've been dying to use both, but with all the craziness of the holidays I didn't have a chance to make a real dinner until Sunday. And what did I choose as my first meal - spaghetti carbonara, of course.

I used the new knife to cut the bacon into lardons and the onion into slices. You know a knife is sharp when you don't even have to use a slicing motion; just apply downward pressure and the knife does all the work. Fantastic. And the large surface area in the pan was perfect for cooking the bacon and onions, as well as tossing the pasta with the sauce.
Pin It!


Sunday morning we had only 5 eggs and I needed 4 for dinner that night, so we had pancakes:

As usual, I made mine with chocolate chips.
Pin It!

Family Christmas Party

My mother's family came for our annual post-Christmas gathering on Friday and my mom cooked another turkey dinner for the occasion. My plate, from the bottom left - turkey, candy cane breadstick, mashed potatoes, stuffing, green beans, cranberry sauce and a yam in the middle:

Everything was delectable, even better than Thanksgiving dinner. This is one of my all-time favorite meals. I just love all the components together.

While we exchanged gifts we noshed on some cheese and crackers:

... as well as some olives and mozzarella balls marinated with spices and sundried tomatoes:

The turkey after it came out of the oven all golden-brown and delicious:

... and after my stepfather carved it. For longhairman - we ate some of the skin but most people preferred just the meat:

Everyone was very hungry by the time dinner was ready so I didn't take pictures of the individual serving pieces except for the candy cane breadsticks:

I love these things. The recipe is so easy - take refrigerated breadsticks and twist to shape into a candy cane. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with Parmesan and dried dill. Bake for about 15 minutes at 350 and you're done.

A friend of my mom's gave her two traditional Italian desserts:

... and we also had pumpkin pie:

Pin It!


I didn't feel much like cooking after the craziness of the holidays, so SP suggested Reubens. I picked up corned beef, rye bread and coleslaw from the supermarket and assembled the sandwiches when SP got home from work.

I made mine by toasting the rye bread and slathering a thick coat of Russian dressing (made by combining ketchup, mayo and relish) on both pieces of bread, then layering the corned beef and coleslaw on top:

I also cooked up some fries on my pizza stone:

They were perfectly crisp and I kept it simple - just salt, pepper and a touch of oil. I think next time I'll leave off the oil and they'll be even better.

For SP's sandwich I didn't toast the bread before layering the corned beef, coleslaw and Russian dressing. He had his open-faced, topped with four slices of Swiss cheese. He ran the sandwich under the broiler to melt the cheese and ate his with a knife and fork:

Pin It!


The day after Christmas SP had to work and I spent the day with my mother, so we wanted another simple dinner - pizza:

This time with a few sliced mushrooms leftover from Christmas Eve.
Pin It!

Christmas Dinner

My stepgrandmother has been making the same Christmas dinner since I was a child and this year was no exception.

All the usual suspects were present and accounted for, including the roast filet with garlic:

... green beans with toasted almonds:

... whipped potatoes:

... salad (with luscious chunks of creamy avocado):

... Yorkshire pudding:

... and garlic bread:

For dessert we had coffee and Christmas cookies:

Pin It!

Christmas Morning Breakfast

We always have SP's mother over for breakfast Christmas morning. I always try to make something special for the occasion, but this year she had a special request - scrambled eggs, bacon and toast.

I cooked the eggs low and slow so they would stay creamy and lucious:

For the bacon, I covered a sheet pan with foil and then parchment paper before adding the bacon. I cooked it in a 400-degree oven for about 15 minutes until it was crispy. I also made potato cake/hash browns using shredded potato seasoned with salt and pepper. I made them into little cakes that I lightly fried in veg oil until they were crispy:

Pin It!

Christmas Eve

Since we do a lot of running around on Christmas Day, SP and I like to spend a quiet evening at home on Christmas Eve. We like to have some kind of seafood for dinner and this year was no exception. I fried up some calamari rings and served it with some of the leftover marinara from Sunday's pizza:

I tossed the rings in flour seasoned with salt and pepper and fried them in hot vegetable oil. Unfortunately I forgot the lessons of last year and crowded the pan, which meant the calamari didn't get that nice golden brown color. They were still good though, especially tossed with the red pepper flakes and chopped parsley.

SP mentioned a recipe from his childhood for Steak Diane and asked me to make that for Christmas Eve. The recipe calls for filet mignon, but after searching three supermarkets we gave up on finding any (it's a rather popular cut of meat for this season). SP bought a few pieces of sirloin and I made the dish using Emeril's recipe:

SP also asked for baked potatoes, which we had with butter and sour cream, and I rounded out the meal with creamed spinach made with frozen chopped spinach, heavy cream, salt, pepper and a little nutmeg.
Pin It!

French Toast

Christmas Eve morning was hectic. We hadn't canned the sauce yet and we still had more cookies to make, so breakfast needed to be even simpler than breakfast sandwiches. We had milk, eggs and bread so I made some French toast:

I mix a few eggs with some milk and a little cinnamon. This time I snuck in some nutmeg as well. A quick cook in some butter on the griddle pan and breakfast was served. They were so good I ate mine without any syrup, just a sprinkling of cinnamon sugar.
Pin It!


The Sunday before Christmas, the same day we made the cookies, peppermint bark and BBQ sauce, we were way too tired for a complicated dinner so I made plain pizza:

SP mixed up a quick sauce using tomatoes, oil, oregano, salt and pepper. A little shredded mozzarella cheese and a quick trip to the oven and dinner was served.
Pin It!

Homemade Gifts

For Christmas this year we decided to do mostly homemade gifts for family and friends. My college roommate L and her boyfriend D came over for a visit and they helped us tremendously. We couldn't have done it without you guys!!

This year marked the return of the Jam Thumbprint Cookies that were so popular a few years ago:

A shortbread dough is rolled into tiny balls, dipped in egg and then in coconut. The balls are pressed flat with your thumb to make an indentation perfect for holding a dab of jam or preserves. We made ours using all homemade jams/preserves we've received over the years - blueberry, concord grape, raspberry and apricot.

We also experimented with peppermint bark:

The recipe was simple - melt chocolate and spread onto a baking sheet. Pop into the fridge to cool while you melt white chocolate and mix it with crushed candy canes. You can also add peppermint extract, but we couldn't find it in the store. Spread the white chocolate over the regular chocolate and allow to cool for a few hours in the fridge. Break into pieces.

But the real excitement was the BBQ sauce SP made:

We got the recipe from a grilling/smoking cookbook and added a few additional spices. It's tangy and just slightly spicy, with a really good kick from the vinegar. He made a few huge batches and then we canned them in jars (like my mom and I do for the tomatoes) so people could enjoy it over the summer if they wanted to wait that long.

Jam Thumbprint Cookies
Ina Garten

3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
7 ounces sweetened flaked coconut
Raspberry, apricot or any jam you like

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until they are just combined and then add the vanilla. Separately, sift together the flour and salt. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture to the creamed butter and sugar. Mix until the dough starts to come together. Dump on a floured board and roll together into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.

Roll the dough into 1 1/4-inch balls. (If you have a scale they should each weigh 1 ounce.) Dip each ball into the egg wash and then roll it in coconut. Place the balls on an ungreased cookie sheet and press a light indentation into the top of each with your finger. Drop 1/4 teaspoon of jam into each indentation. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the coconut is a golden brown. Cool and serve.

Makes approximately 32 cookies.
Pin It!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Breakfast Sandwich

On Saturday morning I made us breakfast sandwiches, which I'm sure you've noticed have become our staple quick and easy weekend breakfast treat.

As usual I had mine with scrambled eggs topped with cheddar cheese and bacon on a toasted and buttered English muffin. I do love a good, tangy cheddar.
Pin It!

Beefy Mac & Cheese

I apologize for what will be sporadic posting for the next few days. This time between Christmas and New Year's is very hectic in my family.

I made beefy mac & cheese last week. I think it was Thursday's dinner. This is why I can't go too long without posting. Anyway, it was basically my usual mac & cheese recipe only with beef added:

I cooked some onions, garlic and half a green pepper in a little oil, then added the beef (which was actually some leftover meatloaf mix so it was beef, pork and veal). Once that was cooked I seasoned it with salt, pepper and a heaping tablespoon of Dijon mustard. The sauce was made with butter, flour, milk, salt, pepper and paprika. I added about 3 cups of shredded cheddar cheese and then mixed in the cooked pasta and the beef mixture. It all went into a greased baking dish and was sprinkled with bread crumbs cooked in butter. It cooked in a 350-degree oven for about 30 minutes until it was bubbly and delicious.
Pin It!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Skillet Chicken, Broccoli, Ziti

A few weeks ago I saw an episode of America's Test Kitchen where they made one-skillet dinners. Both looked really tasty so I printed the recipes figuring they'd be perfect for a weeknight. SP bought a ton of broccoli for our Sunday dinner so we had plenty leftover. We also had chicken thighs in the freezer, so it was time to try Skillet Chicken, Broccoli and Ziti.

This was a very simple meal to make and I absolutely loved that everything was cooked in the same pot. And the flavor was fantastic. The only changes I made were to leave out the sundried tomatoes because SP isn't a fan and sub Pecorino for the Asiago.

Since ATK is a paid site, here's the recipe (with my changes in parentheses).

Skillet Chicken, Broccoli, Ziti, and Asiago (Pecorino) Cheese
America's Test Kitchen

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or thighs) cut into 1-inch squares
salt and ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, minced (about 1 cup)
3 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
8 ounces ziti
2 3/4 cups water
1 2/3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
12 ounces broccoli florets (4 cups)
1/4 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, rinsed and chopped coarse (I left these out)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup grated Asiago (pecorino) cheese, plus extra for serving
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (1/2 a lemon)

1. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet (I used a large, stainless steel pot) over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add the chicken in a single layer and cook for 1 minute without stirring. Stir the chicken and continue to cook until most, but not all, of the pink color has disappeared and the chicken is lightly browned around the edges, 1 to 2 minutes longer. Transfer the chicken to a clean bowl and set aside.

2. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil, onion, and 1/2 teaspoon salt to the skillet. Return the skillet to medium-high heat and cook, stirring often, until the onion is softened, 2 to 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, oregano, and pepper flakes, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

3. Add the ziti, 2 cups of the water, and the broth. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook until the liquid is very thick and syrupy and almost completely absorbed, 12to 15 minutes.

4. Add the broccoli, sun-dried tomatoes, and the remaining 3/4 cup water. Cover, reduce the heat to medium, and cook until the broccoli turns bright green and is almost tender, 5 minutes.

5. Uncover and return the heat to high. Stir in the cream, Asiago, and reserved chicken with any accumulated juices and continue to simmer, uncovered, until the sauce is thickened and the chicken is cooked and heated through, 1 to 2 minutes. Off the heat, stir in the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve, passing more grated Asiago at the table, if desired.
Pin It!

Turkey Dinner

On Sunday we were both in the mood for a homey, comforting meal so we defrosted the turkey breast we got during the Thanksgiving promotion at our supermarket. I roasted it in a 350-degree oven for about 2 hours, seasoned only with salt, pepper and butter. It came out perfect - moist, juicy and full of savory turkey flavor. Finally, no undertone of sweetness. I'm keeping it simple from now on.

I served it with mashed potatoes made only with Plugra, salt and pepper, steamed broccoli and cranberry sauce. SP felt like making biscuits so he threw these together while the turkey finished cooking. We loved the flavor but thought the biscuits were way too small. SP is now on a mission to create the perfect biscuit. I'll keep you posted.
Pin It!

Duvet Cat

Over the weekend I changed the cover on our duvet and, of course, the cat didn't miss a chance to snuggle up in its warmth:

"Oh no, she found me!" He always reaches out one paw as if to say, "Please, go away. Shoo!"

By this point he was starting to get annoyed so I let him enjoy it a little while longer:

... at least until we needed to remake the bed.

Pin It!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Eggplant Parmesan

Yesterday my mom and I embarked on our annual Christmas shopping extravaganza. When I got home SP had started dinner - eggplant Parmesan.

He enlisted my help in breading and frying the eggplant, which came out a nice, golden-brown color. They looked so good it was hard not to just start dipping the slices into the rich tomato sauce he'd made.

We had a ton of eggplant so we filled one casserole dish with a layer of tomato sauce and eggplant topped with grated Pecorino and shredded mozzarella. It came out of the oven all bubbly and brown around the edges:

... and was so good we ate the whole thing for dinner last night. The rest of the eggplant and sauce went into another casserole dish, this time layered like a lasagna with sauce, eggplant, cheese, sauce, eggplant, cheese. We'll have that for dinner Monday night.
Pin It!

Pizza Friday

SP asked me to make Hawaiian pizza this week:

... topped with green pepper, onion, ham and pineapple. I cooked the peppers and onion before adding them to the pizza. I was skeptical of the pineapple and tomato sauce combo, but it actually worked out pretty well. SP said the peppers and onions weren't necessary, but I thought they added a nice touch. I'd definitely make this again.
Pin It!

Pork Chops, Creamy Pasta, Zucchini

On Thursday we had breaded pork chops, creamy pasta and steamed zucchini:

I did the chops the same way I have for the past few weeks - a quick dip in egg and then bread crumbs before being fried in a little olive oil. Taking a page from the creamy broccoli we had at C & T's house last weekend, I made a sauce for the pasta using butter, some chopped onion, garlic and milk thickened with flour. I seasoned it with salt and pepper and added copious amounts of grated Pecorino for flavor. It was fantastic, in a cheesy way that mirrored mac & cheese. The zucchini was steamed with garlic and tossed with a little salt, pepper and oil. Very satisfying, as always.
Pin It!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Meatloaf, Potatoes, Green Beans

Sometimes I have to admit that Rachael Ray has some good ideas. Take her mini meatloaf muffins. Brilliant. I wanted to make meatloaf for dinner but I also wanted to exercise when I got home. With the meatloaf muffins I can still have dinner on the table in about 30 minutes. I rounded out the meal with mashed potatoes and steamed green beans:

For the meatloaf I mixed a little more than a pound of meatloaf mix (beef, pork and veal) with one beaten egg, some ketchup, diced onion, about a cup of bread crumbs, Worchestershire sauce, salt, pepper and some medium-heat salsa. Once everything was combined the mixture went into muffin tins that I'd greased with oil. I spread some more ketchup on top of each muffin and put them into a 450-degree oven for about 30 minutes until they were browned and crispy.

I cooked the potatoes with a few crushed garlic cloves and then mashed them with Plugra. I love that sinfully rich and buttery. Yum! A splash of milk, salt and pepper made them even better. The green beans I just steamed until they were crisp tender. A very comforting meal.
Pin It!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Christmas Tree

I tried to take some more pictures of the tree. I think these came out better then the previous ones.

Pin It!