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Archive for March, 2009

pasta experimentation

I was trying to come up with dinner the other night. I had pasta so I went with that. I am trying to eat veggies so I threw them in to cook with the pasta.

What to do for sauce? I decided to chop some garlic and onion and saute them in a little butter. I threw in some tomato paste, a little vermouth, and chicken stock (a little bit like the vodka sauce I’ve made before). I cooked the sauce down and tossed in some leftover chicken.

A little salt and pepper and I was done. It was good but missing something. Dinner had complex carbs, lean protein, vegetables, and even alcohol but no soul. Maybe a little heat? Some red pepper flakes? I did like the vermouth and would do that again.

quick dinner

quick dinner

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The NY Times challenged 2 food writers to do a dinner party face off for 8 under $50. They also had Frank Bruni review them.

I thought this was an interesting topic. Just a week ago, I went to a dinner party with friends, the same ones that I did Spanish night with. It was a tasting night so everyone brought something to try. The host did 4 seasons of ravioli, 4 different types with different sauces to represent spring, summer, fall, and winter. Someone did 3 different salsas. My sister Laura made ribs with a classic BBQ sauce (my favorite), a peanutbutter sauce, and braised in wine. Pat brought a selection of beers. My sister Elizabeth made various cookies with peanutbutter. I didn’t have time to make anything so I brought different chocolate bars and a set of truffles from Vosges.

I am sure we all spent over $50 on our contributions. Maybe the next time we should try some of the things the writers did and limit ourselves.

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Beans!

I saw this article in the NYTimes: Bean CounterCulture about Rancho Gordo beans.

I love the Rancho Gordo Beans. I’ve used them since reading about them on The Wednesday Chef and Orangette. They are heirloom beans (Pat calls them my antique or old beans but he’s pretty on board with them after I made Rick Bayless’s cowboy beans) which is sort of cool that they are unusual types. The most important thing is that they taste great.

On my wishlist is Steve Sando’s, the owner, new book Heirloom Beans: Great Recipes for Dips and Spreads, Soups and Stews, Salads and Salsas, and Much More from Rancho Gordo. There are also recipes on the website. I’ve looked through them but I haven’t made any yet.

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fabulous end to the day

My mother asked my sister Laura and I to speak at career day where she teaches. We agreed to and it was fun. It’s actually the same high school that I attended and where I met Pat.

I described being a chemist in the same room where Pat and I flirted during physics. Very surreal.

Laura, my mom, and I went out to lunch. I gave Laura a ride back to her apartment. We both live in Chicago, but she is much closer to lake Michigan. We took advantage of the lake shore path and ran a couple miles (we are doing a half-marathon in August!).

A perfect day. What could possibly make it better?

Making home-made pasta into lasagna!

Laura made the dough using the recipe book that came with her Kitchen Aid mixer. I rolled the dough out into sheets.

beautifully rolled out sheets of pasta

beautifully rolled out sheets of pasta

She cooked the sweet Italian sausage in a little olive oil while prepping the ricotta and mozzarella cheese.

ricotta filling

ricotta filling

delicious sweet Italian sausage

sweet Italian sausage

Delicious!

perfect lasagna

perfect lasagna

(I took the pictures with my cell so they are a little blurry….)

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coconut cake

Still stress baking, I was inspired by the beautiful coconut cake made by the food librarian to make coconut cupcakes. The coconut cake, a beautiful chiffon with coconut milk, is from Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes and seven minute frosting from Maratha Stewart with coconut on top.

I took the food librarian suggestion use the 7 minute frosting instead of the cream cheese frosting.

This was the first time I made 7 minute frosting. It took longer than I thought for the egg whites to form soft peaks. But I thought it tasted pretty good (next time I will cut back on the sugar and looked nice.

soft peaks

soft peaks

I made some mini cupcakes.

mini cupcakes

mini cupcakes

I also made regular cupcakes.

regular cupcakes

regular cupcakes

A few of them stuck to the pan so I stacked the tops like a layer cake.

mini cake

mini cake

It was delicious.

delicious

delicious

It has a great delicate crumb. The frosting is great but a little sweet.

delicious in cupcake form too

delicious in cupcake form too

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I made cheeseburgers again. The burgers themselves stayed the same but I used lettuce instead of a bun. No Atkins-esque anti-carb feelings. The bun is just my least favorite part of a cheeseburger or hot dog.

cheeseburger animal style

cheeseburger animal style

It’s also a nice to change things up. Pat however is anti-lettuce and pro-carb so his cheeseburger was traditional.

pro-carb cheeseburger

pro-carb cheeseburger

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The Obamas are putting in a garden at the White House to eat local, organic produce following the Roosevelts who had a victory garden, the Clintons with a rooftop garden, and the Bushes who sourced food locally.

I want to be one of those people who grow their own food and plan dinner on what fresh food looks good thay day. I am not. I do shop at farmer’s markets and have tried growing herbs in window sills.

Here’s what really happens: I either neglect my plants and they die or the cat eats them and they die. I find great food at the farmer’s market and then don’t have other ingredients to make something with and either run to the store or it live in the fridge until it rots.

I keep on trying though because I do care about what I eat and how affects the environment. Maybe if I had a staff or elementary school to help garden…

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