Monday, February 28, 2011

Meatless Monday - Pasta Primavera

This is the inaugural "Meatless Monday" recipe post....
please contain your excitement.   

I thought I'd try something pretty easy for my first outing, so I began scouring the internet for a Pasta Primavera recipe.  I ended up taking several, picking them apart and coming up with my own concoction. 

Here are the ingredients you'll need.


1 12 oz. package of penne pasta
(I used whole wheat, but use whatever you like)

3 yellow squash
(I wanted to use a mix of squash and zucchini, but the store was out of zucchini)

1 onion, thinly sliced

1 pt. grape tomatoes, halved

7 spears asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces

2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1 bell pepper, julienned (yellow, red, orange...whatever you like)

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tsp. Herbs de Provence (or more, to taste)

1 tsp. Italian Seasoning (or more, to taste)

1/3 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
(store was out of fresh and my plants are dead, so I used dried)

1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley

3 tbs. balsamic vinegar


freshly ground pepper

1/2 tbs. lemon juice

2 tsp. lemon zest

1 tbs. butter

1/2 cup grated Parmigiano/Reggiano cheese


1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

2. In a bowl, toss squash (zucchini), bell pepper, tomatoes and asparagus with 2 tbs. olive oil, salt, pepper, lemon juice, Herbs de Provence and Italian Seasoning. Arrange veggies on the baking sheet and roast 15 mins, stirring about 7 mins. through.

3. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add penne pasta and cook according to package directions, drain.

4. Heat remaining olive oil and butter in a large skillet. Stir in the onion and garlic and cook until tender. Mix in cooked pasta, lemon zest, basil, parsley and balsamic vinegar. Gently toss and cook until heated through. Turn off heat (you may transfer to a serving bowl at this point) and add in roasted veggies and sprinkle with Parmesan/Reggiano cheese. Adjust your seasonings at this point. I added more Herbs de Provence, Italian Seasoning, salt, pepper and dried basil. You may also want to add a little more balsamic or olive oil, depending on your taste.

5. Serve immediately in individual bowls garnished with a sprinkling of P/R cheese.

Mmmm....veggies all seasoned up and ready to hit the oven.

and here's the finished product.  We really enjoyed this meal and it has been filed away in the "keeper" category.

It really was very simple.  You can add whatever veggies you have on hand, omit the ones you don't like....just wing it.  As I said above, I really wanted zucchini, but couldn't find any, so I just added more squash. 

Hope this inspires you to go meatless, even if it's just for one meal.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Funny Friday

After a looooooong week, I thought it would be nice to start our weekends off with a little chuckle.  So.....from now on I'll be featuring "Funny Friday" where I'll share an amusing video or two with y'all.

Love this first one.  This girl KNOWS what she wants!

...and yes, I have a sick sense of humor, so I find this one cracked me up.

Hope that started your weekend off right.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Who got da baby???

It's full on King Cake season here in the Crescent City.  Mardi Gras begins in earnest this weekend, culminating in FAT TUESDAY on March 8th.  Since Mardi Gras is so late this year, it means we've been eating King Cakes now for...oh....about 8 weeks, and we still have 2 more to go.  Scale?  What scale?  I don't need no stinking scale! 
Bring on the stretchy pants.
King Cakes are bascially oversized cinnamon rolls, covered in THE most delicious blanket of creamy white, sugary frosting, then showered with crunchy yellow, purple and green sprinkles.  Some King Cakes have filling....cream cheese, lemon, apple, strawberry, pecan/praline and just about any other fruity filling you can conjure up. Sadly for my waistline, I don't think I've ever met a King Cake I didn't like.  I am THAT PERSON who looks at the King Cake and strategically places myself near the piece that has the most icing so I can dive right in at the appropriate time.  I'm not proud of it, but there it is. 
Be forewarned and stay out of my way.

Each King cake comes with a little plastic baby (symbolizing the baby Jesus) like this one stuffed inside.
King cake baby beads or cake stuffers - six

Kind of like this.
Hmmm...baking a symbol of the Baby Jesus in a pastry...creepy?
I think not.

Tradition is, if you get the baby, you have to host the next King Cake Party...or at the very least, buy the next King Cake.  Yes, some cheapos have been known to swallow the baby, or find other ways to shirk their duty, but most people proudly proclaim, "I got da baby!"...and you've gotta say it with a Yat accent.

Why do we eat King Cakes during the Carnival season?  Well, it's got everything to do with 12th Night (Epiphany).  The cake was orignally baked during 12th Night parties in honor of the three kings who came bearing gifts for the Baby Jesus.  Today we eat them because...well, they're just good.


If you're not fortunate enough to live in New Orleans, there are zillions of King Cake recipes on the internet.  Personally, I've never attempted to make one and probably never will.  Down here, you can find them at every grocery, big box store, bakery.  I ain't heatin' up da kitchen when I can just run to da corner and buy one.

You can also order them from a local bakery and have them shipped to you.  My personal favorite is Manny Randazzo's....and no, I'm not affiliated with them in any way.  I'm not even getting any freebies for this advertisement.

So, put on your purple, green and gold, order (or bake) a King Cake, invite over some friends and have Mardi Gras wherever you are!

Now...who got da baby????

Monday, February 21, 2011

I introduce you to Meatless Monday!

Where's the beef? 
Well, on Mondays you won't be finding it here my friends.

In an effort to get my family healthier, we are now going to observe Meatless Monday.  I've heard chatter about this and thought I would do a little research.   I had no clue it was such a big movement.  Why go meatless?  Well the benefits are too numerous for me to mention here, but my big motivation is health.  We are not vegetarians or vegans, and never will be.  I think we eat a pretty healthy diet, but we are definitely carnivores, especially my husband.  And well, without getting too "green" here, it just feels environmentally responsible to try this. 

So, henceforth, on Mondays I will share a new meatless recipe with you.  This is especially challenging for me, since I also try to limit carbs, but it's doable. 

I work full time, and go to the gym for an hour after work, so I don't have time to cook complex gourmet meals.  Don't expect recipes that require 30 ingredients and 4 hours to cook.  These will be simple...pasta, beans, sometimes just salad.  I will  occasionally include seafood (I live in South Louisiana... give me a break... and I MUST do my part to promote the safety of Gulf Seafood)...heck, some weeks I may only be able to muster a grilled cheese sandwich.  This is real life folks.   Tonight's recipe will be featured next Monday.

I invite you to join me, or at least give it some thought.  It's one day a week.  Think of it as an adventure.   A chance to broaden your horizons, try new recipes, expose your tastebuds to something new, and maybe make yourself a little healthier in the process. 

You'll also be making cows just a little happier.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I got a fever....

Butterly Iris

and the cure's got nothing to do with "more cowbell". 

I Got A Fever - Christopher Walken - Saturday Night Live Sheer T-shirt

 I think I'm catching a bad case of Spring Fever.  Yes, everything is still brown and dead, but finally.....after such a cold, dreary winter (and y'all know how much I hate being cold), we've had a few nice days with temperatures flirting near 70 degrees.


This weekend is supposed to be sunny and in the low 70's, so you know I'm itching to start digging in the garden again.  Patience has never been a virtue I've mastered.  I can't wait to pull up dead stuff and breathe some life into what currently looks like a barren wasteland.

Canna Lily
I snapped these pictures in my backyard last spring.  Believe me, it looks NOTHING like this right now, but a girl can dream, can't she?  


So, just in case you too are suffering from Spring Fever, I thought I'd share a little bit of my medicine.

Canna Lily

Now, if we can just get through February....

Monday, February 14, 2011

Love is in the air....

Long ago, hubby and I decided to skip the madness of restaurant reservations and long stemmed roses and just celebrate Valentine's Day in our own way.  I'm more a "tray of bedding plants" kind of girl than long stemmed roses anyway.

So, for the last few years, we've stayed home and whipped up our own meal.  We decided to celebrate this past Saturday night, since I knew I wouldn't have it in me to whip up this meal after a long day's work on Monday.

What Valentine's meal would be complete without chocolate covered strawberries??

I wanted something a little different this year, so I opted for Chocolate/Kahlua Dipped Strawberries.  You can use any liqueur you like (the recipe calls for orange flavored liqueur), but I thought Kahlua would give the chocolate just a little extra zing without taking over the flavor. 
Next time, I might add just a little more...ahem..."zing".

6 oz. sweet chocolate
2-3 tbsp. heavy cream
2 tsp. orange flavored liqueur
1 tbsp. softened, unsalted butter
1 1/2 pt. strawberries, with stems attached

In top of a double boiler, set over hot water stirring to melt the chocolate. Add 2 tablespoons of the cream, the liqueur, and the butter and heat the mixture, stirring until smooth. Dip the strawberries in chocolate. Place on a wax paper lined dish and place in refrigerator until ready to serve.

Man cannot live on chocolate alone (woman definitely can!!) and I know the way to my man's heart is through beef, so I decided to pan sear some rib eyes. 

I'm sure you're asking yourself, "Why three rib eyes for a romantic dinner for two?".  Well, that would be because we shared our dinner with our 24 year old daughter, who moved back home to go to law school and is in a long distance relationship so she didn't get to spend Valentine's Day with her boyfriend....whew...that's a mouthful....hence the three steaks.  She served as my sous chef on this meal and it wouldn't have been nearly as easy, or fun, without her. 

 I love the simplicity of it and the way it allows the flavor of the beef to shine.

Rub on a little oil, salt and pepper, then throw the steaks in your pre-heated cast iron skillet. 

Place the seasoned side down and repeat on the flip side.  Sear them on each side for 30 seconds"ish" and then put the hot pan back in the 500 degree oven.

Make sure they get that beautiful crust.

...and always make sure you have your "vacuum cleaner" ready for spills.

Lola, a/k/a Hoover
I like to make a little herbed butter to dot on the steaks immediately after they come out of the oven.  Just soften a stick of salted butter and add whatever herbs you like.  I think this time around I used garlic, tarragon, basil and pepper.  Mix it all up and then roll it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it until ready to use. 
P.S., the leftover butter is great on grilled cheese sandwiches. 

As soon as the steaks come out, put on the pats of butter and let them rest for a minute or so to allow the juices to redistrubute.

I served this with Creamed Spinach.  I opted not to go with a starch since we were saving our carbs for the dessert course.

Crack open your favorite bottle of red wine and enjoy. 
Happy "low stress" Valentine's Day!!

The "sous chef" snapped this picture unbeknownst to us.  I kind of like it.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Sweet Beer Bread...mmmmm

I have never in my life made bread...well banana bread and stuff like that, but not "eat it with your dinner" kind of bread.  The thought of yeast and rising and all of that chemistry stuff always makes me just head to the bakery department of my local grocery store. 

This past Saturday, since I was already resigning myself to a day of kitchen slavery with the Beef Bourguignon recipe (see previous post), I thought I'd try my hand at bread.  Some friends have been raving over this recipe, so I thought I'd give it a try.

Sweet Beer Bread
3 cups self rising flour

3 TBS sugar
1 12 oz. beer at room temp.
4 TBS butter, melted

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. When oven is hot, quickly mix flour and sugar together, adding warm beer and stirring just until mixed. Pour bread dough into buttered bread pan, 9 x 5 x 3. Pour melted butter over top of loaf. Bake at 375 for 40 to 50 minutes. Let bread cool about 1 hour before cutting.

It also cuts well after cooling all the way but does not taste quite as good.

This is good with white sugar or brown sugar. You can also add chives, cheese, dill, raisins, nuts, cinnamon, extra sugar...whatever you want. 

You can also use plain all purpose flour, and add 1 tablespoon baking powder, and 1 teaspoon of salt to help it rise.

I love that you only need these few ingredients.  As you can see, I used Abita Amber beer, but you can use whatever you have on hand.

I tried mixing it by hand, but found it much easier to use my KitchenAid mixer.  Then I just plopped it in the buttered pan, poured the melted butter on top, threw it in the oven and....

Voila!!  I made two loaves to go with dinner, and 6 of us ate all but about half the second loaf...oink, oink. 
The next morning, I heated it in the microwave, slathered on some butter and strawberry preserves and wolfed it down again.

Don't think of this as a "beer" tasting bread.  I don't like beer at all...I know...blasphemy...but this is delicious.  It's more a cross between bread and cornbread and couldn't be easier to make.

Give it a try..and if you have any leftovers, give me a call.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Shannon & Ina tackle Beef Bourguignon, a la Julie & Julia!

Ever since watching Julie & Julia forever ago, I have been itching to try my hand at Beef Bourguignon.  Despite the fact that I was still in the throes of the villains that had invaded my bronchial section, I decided to make this dish on Saturday.  The girls and their boyfriends were all in town, so it was a perfect opportunity to experiment on my subjects. 

I looked at Julia Childs' recipe, but it had sooooo many steps, so I set out to find a simpler one.  Anyone who knows me, knows I'm all about short cuts.

I immediately thought of my "girl chef crush", Ina Garten.  Sure enough, google and I found Ina Garten's Beef Bourguignon recipe, so I ran with it!

Gotta start with carrots and onions

 Make sure you cut your meat into 1" cubes, no larger.

Give the meat a good sear.

Now these are the stars of the show.  You don't have to spend a fortune on your wine.  Any decent bottle of Pinot Noir
(or whatever red you like) will do. 

The veggies after hanging out a while and cooking down.

Add the meat and bacon back in with the veggies,
then add your Cognac. 
 I confess, I did not "stand back and ignite" because I was afraid of burning down the house.  Someday I'll work up the nerve to do that. 
I just let the alcohol burn off a while, then I added the bottle...
yes, the entire bottle...of Pinot Noir.

I also added a bit of Herbes de Provence, along with the thyme called for in the recipe.  I can never follow a recipe as written...sorry.  Then you just pop it in the oven.  I followed the recipe as to cooking times, then (because I had read a few reviews that said it needed to cook longer) I cranked the oven up to 350, and let it sit in there for however long it took for the oven to reach temperature.

...and this is what it looked like when it came out!

After adding the butter/flour, pearl onions and mushrooms, I let it simmer for about an hour until the rest of my meal was completed. 
Adjust your cooking time to suit your needs.

..and voila..this is the finished product.  I opted to put it over whole wheat egg noodles, but you could use mashed potatoes, rice, bread, an old tennis shoe...whatever you like.  It was reeeeaaaaallly good. 
Disclaimer:  I have never had Beef Bourguignon in my life, so for all I know it wasn't good at all, but we sure did like it.  

Tomorrow, I'll post the recipe for the bread we used to sop it up!  You do NOT want to miss that!