Monday, February 28, 2011

Pasta Primavera

We had an event at work on Friday, and we had tons of vegetables left from the crudite platters. I couldn't stand to see them go to waste, so I brought home a bag of veggies. Yesterday, we had beautiful sunny, warm weather that felt like Spring, and the weather inspired us to make a pasta primavera with the veggies.

Because we acquired the vegetables already cut up, this was a really quick meal. My husband even declared that is was "the simplest dinner ever." It was delicious too. The rich sauce balances nicely with the fresh vegetables, and a pinch of red pepper flakes adds just a big of heat.

We placed our bamboo steamer over the pasta pot, and loaded it up with the vegetables.

The whole dinner was ready in 15-20 minutes and was ready to enjoy. We chose farfalle pasta (bow ties) which seemed appropriate for Oscar night.

Pasta Primavera
serves 4

1 lb farfalle pasta
1 T butter
6 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
4 C vegetables, cut into bite size pieces
1 pint half and half
1/2 t red pepper flakes
1/4 C Parmesan cheese
salt to taste

Start the pasta water. Prepare vegetables. Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed skillet and add the garlic. Cook the garlic until soft. Add the pasta to the boiling water, and place bamboo steamer over the pot. Add vegetables and cover. Cook the vegetables until they are crisp but tender (about 5 minutes). Remove from heat and place in a mixing bowl. Once the garlic is tender, lower the heat and add cream, red pepper and Parmesan cheese. Cook over low heat, whisking regularly (to ensure the sauce doesn't break) until it thickens. The sauce and pasta should be done about the same time. Add everything to the mixing bowl and stir to combine. It's ready to serve.

Some other easy variations include adding artichoke hearts, pesto, or pureed roasted red pepper.

This week's menu:
Monday - out to eat after a prenatal appointment
Tuesday - Turkey breast stuffed with mushrooms, quinoa and broccoli
Wednesday - Fire chicken with salad
Thursday - Salmon with mustard glaze
Friday - leftovers

This post is part of My Meatless Mondays, Monday Mania at the Healthy Home Economist, Meatless Mondays at Midnight Maniac, and Menu Plan Monday at Orgjunkie.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Steak, Rosemary Potatoes and Salad

I haven't posted in more than a week - already falling short of my goal to post at least three times per week. There are two reasons for my absence: I have been craving lots of raw foods and salad, so we have resorted to eating more out-of-season foods. I figure raw vegetables is a pregnancy craving I should listen to, but it doesn't make for interesting posts. I also have been reading the Steig Larsson books. Have you read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series? I got the series as a Christmas present, but just got around to starting it last week. It is hard to put the books down, and it is good that I'm on third (and last) book because it is interfering a bit with the rest of my life.

A couple of weeks ago at the farmers' market, one of the farmers was providing cooking advice to another customer on how to cook steak. His advice turned everything I knew on its head. He suggested first cooking the steak in a cast iron pan in the oven and then searing it. He gave a convincing explanation as to why this would cook the steak more evenly and keep more juices inside. I can't remember the details now.

We had a big thick 2 pound sirloin steak, and I tried cooking it at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. When I checked it, it looked gray and hardly cooked it, so I put it in the oven for another 15 minutes. I seared it for 3 minutes on each side, and it looked nicely browned. After letting it rest, we started to slice it and found that it was well done (instead of the medium I was hoping for), but it was still nice and juicy. I would try using this method again, but cooking it only for 15 minutes in the oven. My husband thinks its crazy, but I think I'll give it one more shot and see if I can convince him.

Have you ever tried cooking a steak in the oven first followed by searing? How did it turn out?

This post is part of SuzieQTPies Scraps of Life Link-up, and...

The Girl Creative


Tidy Mom I'm Lovin It Fridays

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Second Chance for Liver and Onions

Liver and onions is one of those dishes that many people remember as something their parents MADE them eat when they were children, but I think it has really gotten a bad rap. With proper preparation and an open mind, I think you will find that it is really tasty.

I don't remember my parents ever making liver and onions when I was a child which might help me accept it as a delicacy now. I don't associate it with sitting at the table by myself until I ate three more bites. For me, that special honor was saved for any yellow squash. I hated the mushy, stringy texture (I have learned to embrace squash as an adult). But I digress, I'm writing to convince you to try liver.

I have two important tips to share with you on preparing liver that will ensure it's success. First, soak it in milk for at least 30 minutes. Second, it cooks quickly so only cook it for 2-4 minutes per side (depending on thickness). Follow those two rules and it will not be bitter or resemble old shoe leather, but a succulent treat with a rich flavor. Please see the recipe below or check out this other post for another take on it.

The liver filters toxins out of our bodies, so it's really important that it comes from an animal that is properly raised. I would suggest that you only buy liver from a farmer you are certain only pasture raises their animals.

A large plate of liver on a bed of sauteed onions.

We served our liver and onions with some salad and quinoa.

Liver and Onions

1/4- 1 C milk
1 lb beef liver, cut into 1/4 inch thick slices
2 T coconut oil
2 T butter
2 onions, sliced
1/4 C flour
salt and pepper

Rinse the liver and place it in a shallow bowl. Add enough milk to cover it and let soak while preparing the rest of the dinner (at least 30 minutes). Heat a cast iron skillet and add 1 T of coconut oil and the onions. Cook until they are soft and add 1 T butter. Once the butter is melted, remove the onions to a plate.

Mix the flour and salt and pepper in a shallow bowl or plate. Remove a piece of liver from the milk and shake dry. Dredge the slices of liver in the flour mixture. Place the cast iron pan over medium heat, add the coconut oil, and add the slices of liver. Cook only 2-4 minutes per side (we like it still pink in the middle). Remove to a platter and serve.

This post is part of Real Food Wednesday at Kelly the Kitchen Kop, Works-for-me-Wednesday, Let's Do Brunch, Full Plate Thursdays, Pennywise Platter Thursdays, Alphabe-Thursdays, and...

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day Smashed Potatoes

Happy Valentine's Day.

We usually don't go out to dinner on Valentine's Day. In New York City, Valentine's dinners are an expensive affair. Most restaurants offer a special prix fixe menu that is significantly more expensive than their regular menu, and reservations need to be made weeks in advance. We avoid all the hype by choosing to go out for a special breakfast instead and make a nice dinner at home.

We went out for our special Valentine's Day breakfast yesterday at Prime Meats. It's close to home and they use produce, meats and dairy from local farms, so it's a treat we can feel good about.

For dinner, we continued our efforts to clean out the freezer. We enjoyed some pork tenderloin encrusted with rosemary, garlic and kosher salt, caramelized onions, smashed potatoes and coleslaw. I liked the coleslaw so much last week. I just couldn't resist requesting another batch this week. Last week we used the food processor, and this week it was just roughly chopped up by hand - either way it is delicious. But I thought the real star of the meal were the smashed potatoes. See below for directions.

Smashed Potatoes
New Potatoes
Olive Oil
Coarse Salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Bake the potatoes until softened (40-60 minutes). Place each potato on a cutting board or large plate and use a small plate to smash them flat. Place the smashed potatoes on lightly oiled baking sheet. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with coarse salt. Bake until they are beginning to crisp around the edges (about 15 minutes per side).

The potatoes are crispy on the outside and soft and creamy on the inside. They are delicious the next day too. Mmm, enjoy.

Plan for the week:
Monday - Leftovers and a special dessert
Tuesday - Liver and Onions
Wednesday - Salmon and Acorn Squash
Thursday - Out to eat
Friday - Homemade pizza

This post is part of Monday Mania at the Healthy Home Economist, Mouthwatering Mondays, Menu Plan Monday, Tempt My Tummy Tuesday, Tuesday Twister, Tasty Tuesday, Tasty Tuesday at For the Love of Blogs, Tuesday Night Supper Club, Delectable Tuesday, and Hearth and Soul Hop Recipe Exchange.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Simple Supper of Salmon and Brussels Sprouts

I got home from work to find a lovely surprise - dinner was minutes away from being ready. We are still in the midst of cleaning out the freezer, so we had some salmon from the freezer and some brussels sprouts from the farmers' market. My husband went for something simple - put a little coconut oil in a 11 x 13 glass pan and added the salmon and brussels sprouts and cooked them for about 25 minutes. I don't want to look a gift horse in the mouth, but the salmon was a little dry. I didn't dare bring this up, but when he mentioned it - I had to agree.

With a small adjustment, this is a great easy meal perfect for the end of a busy day.

Salmon and Brussels Sprouts
1 T coconut oil
2 pieces of salmon
1 lb brussels sprouts, cut in half
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Coat the bottom of an 11 x 13 pan with coconut oil, and add the brussels sprouts. Cook for 10 minutes. Stir the brussels sprouts and add the salmon. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook for 15 more minutes or until done.

This post is part of Pennywise Platter Thursdays, Foodie Friday, Mom Trends, I'm Lovin It Friday, Suzie QT Pies, Food on Fridays, Frugal Friday, and ...

I am a Food RENEGADE!

Monday, February 7, 2011


I was inspired by Laura over at Cooking in Kenzo and her efforts to eat entirely out of her freezer, fridge and pantry. I decided it was time for us to undertake a similar effort. Now she has an enviable situation of being the proud owner of a chest freezer, and I can only dream of such food storage capacity, but it's still time to clean out some leftovers before they become freezer burned.

My husband made up a delicious batch of jambalaya out of our leftovers. We have both worked at restaurants in the past while we looked for "real" jobs- I usually worked in the front of house and he usually worked in the kitchen. At one restaurant, he made big batches of jambalaya in a convection oven. They threw all the ingredients in raw and cooked it all together. This time around he made it in a dutch oven. We didn't really have enough rice in the cupboard, so he supplemented it with some wild rice we had on hand. It turned out really well, but think of this recipe more as inspiration for cleaning out your own fridge.

2 T coconut oil
1/2 lb andouille sausage, sliced
1 lb chicken, cut into chunks
1 red, yellow, and green pepper, roughly chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
pinch of saffron
1 t salt
1 t garlic powder
1 t black pepper
1/2 t cayenne
1 t oregano
1 t thyme
1 C Basmati rice
1 C wild rice
2 C water

Combine the oil, sausage, chicken, vegetables and spices and cook until the vegetables soften. Add the rice and cook for a few minutes. Add the water and simmer covered for 45 minutes. Enjoy!

This post is part of Hearth and Soul Blog Hop, Dr. Laura's Tasty Tuesday, Tuesday Night Supper Club, Tuesdays at the Table, Tasty Tuesday, Made from Scratch Tuesdays, Works-for-me-Wednesday, Frugal Fridays, and...

Pulled Beef Sandwiches and Coleslaw

When the weather began to cool off here in New York City, we embraced all the dishes we avoided during our hot summer weather. We began baking, roasting and generally using our oven. We decided it would be great to make a nice big roast, and settled on a beef roast. We made a mixture of vinegar, maple syrup, seasonings, cilantro, garlic and onions. Right before we dumped it over the roast, my husband happened to taste it and found out that it was screaming hot. I guess some extra cayenne slipped in while he was measuring a spoonful. Luckily we caught this because I think it was hot enough to ruin our 8 lb. roast. We didn't want to waste the vegetables, so we drained off the liquid, rinsed the vegetables, and began again.

The first night we ate the meat over egg noodles with vegetables. The next day we pulled the meat apart, and made open faced sandwiches. The meat was definitely more flavorful the second day. We still had lots left over, so we stuck it in the freezer. This week we are embarking on a eat-up the fridge and freezer week and decided to start with the pulled beef. We served it with some coleslaw and Bubbies pickles in honor of the Super Bowl. The pickles are delicious fermented pickles and taste just like homemade.

We had some shredded cheddar cheese and sliced pickles on the pulled beef sandwiches. They were the tasty, but the coleslaw really hit the spot. I could have just eaten coleslaw for dinner.

1/2 head of cabbage
1/8 of onion
2 carrots
2 ribs of celery
1/2 C mayonnaise
1 t Dijon mustard
2 T apple cider vinegar
1/2 t salt

Shred the cabbage, onions, carrots and celery (we used a food processor to do this). Add to a large mixing bowl and combine with the rest of the ingredients. Let sit in the fridge for at least an hour to let flavors combine.

Most coleslaw recipes call for celery salt, but I never have that on-hand, so we use actual celery instead.

Meal plan for the week:
The goal this week is to eat up the freezer and fridge contents supplemented with just a few farmers market staples.
Monday - Jambalaya
Tuesday - Hamburgers and coleslaw
Wednesday- Salmon and brussel sprouts
Thursday - Pork tenderloin rubbed with rosemary and mustard, sauerkraut and squash
Friday - Homemade pizza
Saturday - out to dinner with friends.

This post is part of Monday Mania at the Healthy Home Economist and Menu Plan Monday at I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Weekend Breakfasts

I have fond memories of weekend breakfasts growing up. During the week we would generally eat some cold cereal with milk, but on weekends we would go all out. Without the pressure of having to get out the door to catch the school bus, we would spend time making all sorts of breakfast treats. My brother and I were in charge of the cooking, and if we were lucky Mom and Dad were in charge of clean-up. We made waffles, crepes, pancakes or French toast most weekends. We would top these with maple syrup or yogurt and fruit, and often have a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice on the side.

Fast forward to married life, and I still love weekend breakfasts. My husband doesn't have much of a sweet tooth, so now we tend to have egg based dishes such as frittatas or omelettes with a side of potatoes or bacon. Recently I have been craving French toast, but my husband will not eat it, so last weekend we decided to each make our own breakfasts.

I chose French toast served with blueberries and whipped cream and a glass of orange juice with seltzer. The blueberries were picked by my mother-in-law last summer and have been waiting in the freezer for a winter day to shine. I let them defrost and simply mashed them a bit with a fork. It was a delicious treat.

My husband chose scrambled eggs with ketchup, fried mashed potatoes, andouille sausage, and bread and butter.

As I write this, I'm realizing just how many of my pregnancy cravings are linked to foods with fond childhood memories. I wonder if that is a general phenomenon?

What are your family favorite breakfast traditions?

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