Monday, September 28, 2009

Menu for the Week

Monday- Chicken Potpie, Salad with Strawberry Vinaigrette (Thanks, Holly!)
Tuesday- Pecan Crusted Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Brussels Sprouts, Wild Green Salad with Goat Cheese Crumbles
Wednesday- Mark fends for himself- I'm off to watch Top Chef with a friend!
Thursday- Food For Thought Event!
Friday- Dinner with Friends


Gotta mention that I signed up at Food52. A competition/sharing venue for people exactly like me! They are creating a cookbook out of recipes submitted throughout the year. Each week brings another recipe competition.

Haven't had time to really get into it... but I'll keep you posted.

Fellow cooks and concoctioneers, take a peek:

Raucous Bacchus, yo!

Saturday night, after the shower (and, for Mark, the UTvUTEP game) we headed downtown to Arthouse at the Jones Center's Raucous Bacchus TOGA PARTY! (No, we didn't wear togas- but, little did we know, we wouldn't have been out of place with a helmet and an bed sheet draped asymmetrically across our shoulders...)

Our friends, Sean and Ruth, joined us for a Roman-style banquet complete with on-table kegs and appropriately toga-ed servers. The food was delicious, and the recreation of Rome was an interesting experience to say the least. The event was catered by Fete Accompli... and I will be searching for a recipe to mimic their Beef Tenderloin with Truffled Tomato Sauce. Truffled Tomato Sauce? Yes, it is good.

And, Mark and I 'competed' in our first ever live auction... and successfully bid on a trip to Miami during its Art Basel event this December. Quite exciting! (And, the good thing is, after all the red wine and table-tapped beer, we still remembered that we won!)

Plus, our contributions help Arthouse close the gap on their reconstruction fundraising goal. It's an amazing art venue, that will, once re-construction is complete, be a beacon for contemporary art in Austin. We're happy to be a part of it!

September Showers Bring November Babies

Okay, so there's no real logic to this post title. In fact, it's just darn silly.

But I am so excited to share about Liz's baby shower!

Event: Cute as a Bug, Busy as a Bee Baby Shower Brunch

Hosts: Me, Romy, Jennifer, Kasey, Holly, and Summer

Invites: (See previous post) One guest re-used the invite's paper and ribbon band on her card to Liz. Too cute!

Decor: Butterfly Madness in Pink, Chocolate, Lavender, and White (See previous post)
I also had a ball arranging daisies and mums. Mark and H picked up a ton of flowers and I got creative with these otherwise plain jane floral staples. The hostesses went in together and bought a pack 'n play, which held (most of) the gifts. Fun dragonflies flitted from the ceiling in the living room, over our, quite difficult, guessing game. Tables were decked out in hot pink and chocolate fabric table runners. Strands of white butterflies dangled from the ceiling, with mylar sequins catching the light. Giant tissue paper poms were festive and fun. 

Brunch Buffet
Mini Quiches- Romy
Pasta Salad- Romy
Turkey and BLT Wraps- Jennifer
Fruit Plate- Jennifer
Hatch Chile Breakfast Casserole- Kasey
Spinach Salad with Strawberry Vinaigrette-Holly
Mini-Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing- Holly
Mimosas, Mint Iced Tea, and Coffee

Project Porkchop

Whew- what a busy weekend! I've got a lot of blogging to do... and, unfortunately, the little one has decided that one nap is sufficient. So I've got about two hours to attend to all my business, get everything organized, put away, and ready for this afternoon.

And.... GO!

Thursday night, my friend, Erin S., my sister, Shannon, and I gathered to watch Project Runway. While the season has been kinda disappointing so far (a result of the switch to Lifetime?) it's always fun to get together and ooh-and-eh (yes, eh) over the designers' creations.

We chowed down on some yummy pork chops- dressed up even fancier than Tim Gunn.

Event: Project Porkchop

Parmesan Porkchops
Spicy Sweet Potato and Russet Wedges
Steamed Green Beans

Garlic Parmesan Pork Chops (Should be called Pork Chops with a Garlic Parmesan Cream Sauce)
6 1/2 inch thick boneless pork loin chops
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/4 c milk
2 tbsp dijon mustard
1 c italian seasoned breadcrumbs
1/4 c butter or margarine, divided
1 1/2 tsp jarred minced garlic
3/4 c whipping cream
1/3 c white wine
1/2 c grated parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375.
Sprinkle pork chops with salt and pepper on both sides. In a small bowl, stir together milk and mustard. Dip pork chops in milk mixture; dredge in breadcrumbs. Place on broiler pan. (Or foil-covered roasting pan- note: with this method, you'll get one pretty side and one gnarly looking side. Which doesn't really matter, because you're gonna drizzle the the pork chops with sauce anyway!)
Bake at 375 for 25-30 minutes, until cooked through and golden brown.
Meanwhile, melt 1 tbsp butter in a small saucepan over medium high heat. Add garlic and saute 2-3 minutes. Stir in wine. Add cream and cheese and reduce heat to low. Simmer 3-4 minutes. Do not boil. Whisk in remaining 3 tbsp butter until melted and combined in sauce. Ladle generously over chops... or all over plate!

Spicy Sweet Potato and Russet Wedges
2 Sweet Potatoes
2 Russet Potatoes
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3/4 tbsp chili powder
3/4 tbsp paprika
1/2 tbsp kosher salt
1/2 tbsp garlic powder
1/2 tbsp black pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne (or more, for kick!)
Preheat oven to 375 (if serving with pork chops, start potatoes 15 mins before pork)
Cut all potatoes into 1/4 inch thick wedges. Combine all remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Add potatoes and turn to coat. Pour potatoes onto a foil covered baking sheet. 
Bake for 45 minutes, turning every 15 minutes to cook evenly.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Ribeyes and Raviolis

No, not together, silly!  (Well, actually, that could be a tasty combination.... Hmmm...)

Sunday night's southwestern inspired steak dinner was delicious. Mark has perfected his meat-searing technique and I am reaping all the benefits.

Event I: Sunday Dinner with the Hubby and HBO
(Curbed is back! Bored to Death is funny! And we've got Mad Men and Entourage to boot! What are we going to do with all this tv? Why is everything good on Sunday night???)

Grilled Ribeye Steaks
Black Beans
Rajas con queso asadero

Ribeye Steaks
Black Pepper
Coarse Sea Salt
1 can black beans
2 tbsp sour cream
1 tbsp olive oil
3 Hatch chiles
1/2 cup monterrey jack cheese

For the Steaks:
Take meat out of refrigerator 30 minutes before grilling. Heat grill on high to about 450 degrees... or higher for a seared-medium rare or rare. Rub with fresh ground black pepper and coarse sea salt just before grilling. Grill 6 mins a side or until desired doneness. Allow to rest 5-10 minutes before serving.

For the Black Beans:
Heat canned beans on low until warm. Stir in 2 tbsp sour cream. Cover and keep warm until serving. 

For the Rajas con queso asadero:
Option 1: Cut peppers into long strips. Toss in olive oil and wrap in foil. Grill 15 minutes or until soft. Open package and sprinkle with cheese. Place back on grill for 2-3 more minutes, or until cheese is melted. 
Option 2: Cut peppers into long strips. Over medium-high, Heat oil in a small skillet (cast iron works well). Add peppers and saute until soft, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with cheese and continue to cook until cheese is melted. 

Event II: Yummy Fall Dinner for Two

Ravioli with Apples and Walnuts (from Real Simple Magazine)
Spinach Salad with Homemade Catalina Dressing

Ravioli Ingredients:
1 pkg store-bought ravioli, fresh or frozen
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 c walnut halves, roughly chopped
1 apple (they suggest gala or braeburn, I used honeycrisp), cut into matchsticks
1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley (I realized I forgot this, so I used celery leaves instead)
2 tbsp butter (my addition... I felt it would be too dry without a little butter)
1/4 c parmesan reggiano, grated
Kosher salt
Black Pepper

Cook ravioli according to package directions.

In large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add walnuts and cook 4-5 minutes, or until toasted. Add apples and parsley. Stir to combine. Add butter and stir gently until melted. Sprinkle with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. Serve sauce on top of ravioli. Sprinkle with parmesan and more black pepper.

Spinach Salad with Homemade Catalina Dressing:
3 cups fresh baby spinach
1/2 cup cherry or grape tomatoes
1 tbsp ketchup
2 tbsp  whole grain mustard
2 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup shredded colby jack cheese or cheddar

Divide spinach and tomatoes into serving bowls. In a small bowl, whisk together ketchup, mustard, lime juice, vinegar, and oil. Drizzle over spinach and tomatoes; sprinkle with cheese. 

Door Couture

Just a quick post before we head out for the day...

A friend shared this site with me, and, I must say, I am now enamored with L.A.-based party planning company, Door Couture.

Interior designer, Catherine Dunne, and event planner, Tanis McGregor have created an enviable business plan. They create elegant events, with themes that flow beautifully from invitation to decor to menu. Their show-stopping front door designs are whimsical and creative. AND these ladies are so generous that they SHARE instructions on how to create your very own door vignettes.

I hope you enjoy their inventiveness as much as I do!

And Door Couture, if you're looking to open an Austin office...

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Menu for the Week

Using a few of those Real Simple recipes... with some old faves:

Sunday- Grilled Rib-Eyes, 'Rajas &Queso Asadero', Black Beans
Monday- Ravioli with Apples and Walnuts, Spinach Salad
Tuesday- Chicken Piccata with Spaghetti Squash and Mixed Green Salad
Wednesday- Parmesan Pork Chops, Green Beans
Thursday- Chicken Posole
Friday- Hmmmm... Order in!
Saturday- Liz's Shower & Raucous Bacchus!

Look at me, posting links within my own blog... ha!

Great Balls of Flour!

Or I could have called this post: "Cake Balls of Desire"?

My lovely friend, Mollie, brought us cake balls from the Big D. (They've got everything up there in the big city!)

I wasn't sure what to expect. Mollie had described them to me before... but I wasn't prepared for their truffle-like daintiness or their dense fudge-like center.

All I know is that it will be a blessing and a curse when these confections migrate down the I35 corridor...

Miga Morning

On Sunday mornings we usually head to our favorite breakfast spot, Kerbey Lane. But this weekend, our good friends David and Mollie were staying with us. And, while H sleeps pretty well these days, it's kind of difficult to sleep past 7:30 at our house. His wake-up and eat routine can be pretty loud... To give them a few extra z's, we took him on a walk around the neighborhood. (And along the way, I picked some wild (and not-so-wild)flowers for the table.)

We've found that the best way to say, "Thanks for coming, and sorry about the noise..." is to make a big ole brunch.

And, because more is always merrier, we invited some mutual friends, Ashley, Travis, and Baby Lily, to join in the miga madness.

OH! I have to mention the pancakes!! I thought this would be the perfect time to try... Batter Blaster! This organic pancake batter is quite the conundrum. It comes in a can that would normally house whipped cream... or cheese whiz (sp? do I need more z's?)  Consensus: While the batter is quite tasty, the pancakes were pretty gnarly looking.

Event: Miga Morning

Migas with Hatch Chiles, Quatro Quesos, and Salsa Fresca
Garlicky Potatoes
Peppered Bacon
Batter Blaster Pancakes
Mixed Berries and Melon (Thanks, Ashley!)

Mark's Now-Not-So-Secret Migas with Hatch Chiles, Quatro Quesos, and Salsa Fresca (for 6)
1 package thick-sliced peppered bacon
3 Hatch Chiles, chopped (for a little less kick, you may also use Anaheims or bell peppers)
1 fresh jalapeno, chopped
2 white onions, chopped
3 roma tomatoes, chopped
12 large eggs, whisked until combined, in a large bowl
1 c mexican blend cheese (quatro quesos!) plus more for tacos
4 corn tortillas, cut into 1/2 inch strips
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
12 tortillas (flour, wheat, or corn)

Saute bacon until done, reserve and keep warm until serving. Drain off all but 2 tbsps bacon grease. Return pan to stove. Add chiles, jalapeno, and onions and cook over medium heat until soft. Add tomatoes and cook 2 minutes more. Add eggs and tortilla strips. Cook, stirring gently, until eggs are cooked to your liking. Remove from heat and gently fold in cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste, or allow guests to add their own. Serve with tortillas, extra cheese, and salsa fresca. (below)

Salsa Fresca (adapted from Tyler Florence's Dinner at My Place) (about 4 cups- will keep in fridge for 4 days)
1 28oz can whole san marzano tomatoes, drained
1 small onion, chopped
1 jalapeno
juice of 1 lime
1/4 c cilantro, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

Place all ingredients in food processor, or in bowl if using immersion blender. Blend until smooth. Serve with tacos, fajitas, or your favorite chips. 

Garlicky Potatoes (for 6 or more)
6 russet baking potatoes
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 stick butter
3 tbsp olive oil
kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper

Bake potatoes in oven or microwave. Chop into 1 1/2 inch square chunks. Melt butter and oil in large skillet or saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and saute until golden. Add potatoes. Cook 20 minutes, stirring until potatoes are golden and falling apart. Add kosher salt and pepper to taste. 

Alternate Game Plan

Saturday was a jam-packed fun day with activities that ranged from landscaping our whole front yard to wrangling our one-year-old at HLH#2's western themed birthday party. But, by the end of the day, I was excited that my evening would consist of hanging out my good friend Erin, while Mark watched the big UT v. TT game with the guys.

I made some tasty (burnt orange) pumpkin soup to honor the Horns. And E brought tasty brownies to round out the evening.

Hook 'em!

Event: Alternate Game Plan

Pumpkin Soup with Parmesan Crustinis
Chocolate Brownies
Columbia Crest Cab Blend

Zesty Pumpkin Soup with Parmesan Crustinis (for 4)
1/2 stick butter
1 c chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/8 tsp ground red pepper (cayenne)
3 c chicken broth
1 16oz can pumpkin puree
1 c half and half or cream
sour cream and black pepper for garnish

for crustinis:
1 baguette
1/4 c shredded parmesan reggiano
1/8 tsp cayenne

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Saute onion and garlic until soft. Add curry powder, salt, coriander, and red pepper. Cook 1 min, then add broth. Boil gently (med-hi), uncovered 10-15 mins.

While broth is boiling, slice baguette into 1/2 inch pieces. Lay on baking sheet covered in foil. Sprinkly each piece of bread with 1 tbsp parmesan and a dusting of ground red pepper. Place in pre-heated oven and bake for 10-15 minutes or until cheese is melted and toasts are golden brown.

Stir in pumpkin and half and half (cream.) Mix until pumpkin dissolves and soup is heated through. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of fresh ground black pepper... and crustinis!

Red Hot Red Dot!

For our anniversary each year, Mark and I seek out an artwork to add to our "collection." It's a fun process... visiting galleries, doing a bit of traveling, and researching artists in search of something that 1) works with our decor 2) strikes both our interests and 3) is reasonably priced!

And for the past three years we've been able to find something that fits all three criteria at Women & Their Work Gallery's Red Hot Red Dot event. The gallery collects donated work from local artists (men and women for this show) and sets a price (not to exceed $500.) The array of work is spectacular. From the well known to the obscure, there is such a variety of styles, sizes, subject matter, media. Also, the event is a great night out... good food, fun people, and a silent auction. (Which I have decided I have no "talent" for.)

We found two prints by artist Shepard Fairey, of OBEYGiant/Obama Poster fame. I'm really excited for them to come home with us... they'll be on view at W&TW for the next month or so.

Also, we were caught by the A-AS's Out and About social columnist, Michael Barnes.... so here we are on his blog. Pretty funny!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Make it Real(ly) Simple

The cover article in October's  Real Simple Magazine aligns perfectly with my weekly menu theory: Plan what you're going to eat all week and go shopping once! In their latest issue, they provide menus and recipes for a whole month. They also come with neat shopping lists.While I won't be strictly following their weekly menus, I am very excited about the two cover dishes: Chicken Posole and Ravioli with Apples and Walnuts. Next week's Menu for the Week newbies? I think so!

This issue also digs into one of my least favorite activities... LAUNDRY! Now, if our dryer would do its job, I could put all their good tips to use...

Thursday, September 17, 2009

This Just In...

our mail. As I said in my invite post, how fun is it to receive a cleverly or beautifully packaged note in your mailbox? We just got this fabulously fun poster-sized invitation to our friend Lindsey's 30th birthday party. I LOVE IT! I'll have to find out their source and share...

(I used the dime for scale.)

Meatball Goodness

Rachel Ray's Gorgonzola Meatballs with Tomato Bay Cream  are so hearty, so delicious, so balanced in flavor. Quick to make, (duh, 30 Minute Meals) they are perfect for any night of the week. I served them with Spinach Mashed Potatoes... Just thaw and drain a package of frozen, chopped spinach (RR says this is one of the best deals at the grocery) and mix it into your regular mashed potato recipe. The potato-spinach mixture gets another flavor boost from the tomato sauce. One of those meals where a divided plate just wouldn't do...

Tip: Watery spinach will kill this dish. To really get all the moisture out of the spinach, place it in the center of a clean dishtowel. Twist the ends of the towel to make a little bundle and squeeze over the sink.

While we're on the subject of mashed potatoes, let's talk about butter. My absolute favorite brand is Kerrygold. Not only is it wrapped in gold foil, the stuff actually tastes like gold. Perfectly creamy,  perfectly salty, it elevates any dish to the top platform. Don't feel like spending 5 dollars on butter? Okay, but at least try it once. You'll never say "Parkay" again!

Sandwich (im)Perfection

This sandwich is sooo messy, but it is pure heaven between two slices of charred bread.
I'm not really sure what to do about posting recipes that I get from a source... I'll have to ask Mark. So maybe I'll just describe it and post a link... it's from Cooking Light Magazine.

Event: Sandwich Night at Home with the Hubby
Menu: Chipotle-Pulled Pork Sanwiches, Color Slaw, Tecate

Chipotle Pulled-Pork Sandwiches
Pork tenderloin, simmered in barbeque sauce and canned diced tomatoes, with an added kick from chopped chipotle peppers. Sauteed onions, with the savory goodness of thyme. Sliced dill pickles and gooey provolone. Layer it all on a sliced kaiser roll (or HEB's three-seed multi-grain bread, as I did this time) and give it a good press on a hot griddle. 

I served it with Color Slaw... and Tecate. 

Color Slaw:
1 bag rainbow slaw (a mix of julienned broccoli, cabbage, carrots, etc)
1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 c rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp ground dry mustard
2 tsp celery seed
2 tsp toasted sesame seed
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. Cover, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Serve with your favorite BBQ or sandwich.

MNO Bookclub

Last night the playgroup moms got together for our first official MNO (Mom's Night Out- brilliantly coined by Sarah) Bookclub Meeting. I was proud of us for all for reading (most of) the book, but I was even more proud of the delicious spread we created for ourselves...

Event: MNO Bookclub at Erinn's In-Laws' House

Mexican Shrimp Dip with Chips- Julia
Pasta Salad with Tomatoes and Mozzerella- Kristen
Black Bean and Corn Salsa- Erinn
Chicken Satay Skewers with Peanut Sauce- Sarah
Goat Cheese Tart with Herbs, Tomatoes, Chives, and Mixed Greens- Me
Sweet Yummies from Russell's Bakery- Jeanette
Lemon Bars- Erinn

(Playgroup moms: If any of you want to post a comment with your recipe/source for your dish, that would be awesome!)

Goat Cheese Tart with Tomatoes, Chives, and Mixed Greens

Refrigerated pie crust or homemade pastry dough
10 ounces goat cheese
1 16oz container cottage cheese
1 stick butter, softened
3 egg yolks
1 tbsp mixed chopped fresh herbs (I used oregano, thyme, basil)
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

For Topping:
1 1/2c cherry or grape tomatoes
1/4c fresh chives, snipped in 1/2inch pieces
1/2c mixed greens
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsps white wine vinegar
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350degrees.
If using homemade dough: On a lightly floured surface and rolling pin, roll out into approximately 14 inch circle. If using store-bought, unwrap and carefully unroll.
Lay dough over a 9-11 inch pie pan. Press gently to cover pan with dough. Cover crust with aluminum foil and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake crust for 10minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl stir together filling ingredients, goat cheese through cayenne, until thoroughly combined. 
Remove pie crust from oven. Remove foil and weights from crust. Fill hot crust with cheese mixture and use spatula to smooth top. 
Bake approximately 25 minutes on center rack, or until golden and firm. (Note: If tart is not golden brown on top, but is cooked through, turn oven to a low broil and move tart to top rack. Watch closely and remove when golden.) 
To make topping: Slice tomatoes in half. In a small bowl, combine tomatoes, chives, oil, vinegar, and pepper. Pour tomato mixture on top of warm tart. Sprinkle with mixed greens. Slice and serve warm... or cold the next morning!

While our book discussion was the main purpose for the evening, we also celebrated our playgroup's second generation with a little guessing game. One of the mommies is pregnant with her second little one, and they just found out the sex! So, last night we each dressed in pink or blue based on our guess about the baby's gender. All but one of us dressed in blue... and she's having a BOY! Congrats, J&W!!!

Oh yeah, the book.... :)
We read Parenting with Love and Logic, by Foster Cline and Jim Fay. Our consensus: While the book is based on an important concept, (that children follow by example, and learn the most from natural consequences,) the anecdotes and scripts provided in the book are rather off-putting and unnatural.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Baby Shower!

We're a week and a half away from Liz's Baby Shower, and I'm excited about the way things are turning out!
My idea for the decor is taken from the lobby at Neiman Marcus. You know, those fabulous white butterflies fluttering about as you go up the escalator, blinding you to the amount of money you just spent on a pair of shoes. (Apparently they have the opposite effect on me... I can never seem to part with my money in that store.) 
Well, I used butterfly die-cuts and shiny mylar sequins to create the same effect in my dining room. Only three strands hanging so far, but I can tell it's going to be something special!
Also, I created some giant poufy pom poms to hang on the front and back porch. Thanks to CasaSugar for the instructions. Mine don't look as professional as I'd like yet... but I'm working on it!
I can't wait to bring it all together! I hope Liz loves it!

Monday, September 14, 2009

You are invited...

I've been in love with paper since I was a young girl. I used to set up movie theaters in the basement and create tiny paper tickets for my family members and stuffed animals. I was obsessed with making books about various species... there was a bird book, a dog book, a zoo animal book. (Man, I wish I still had them!) Lists, menus, cards, valentines, calendars. You name it, I made it.
While everyone else was ordering their college graduation announcements from the CO-OP, I was busy formatting and aligning in MS Word. These announcements were my first foray into the world widespread distribution of personalized paper goods. From there, I went on to create our wedding invitation. It was truly a labor of love... and an exercise in mass production. Since then, I have designed and produced invitations for 5 weddings, announcements for two babies, invites and other printed items for two baby showers, and stationery for countless other events. I've also been working on a line of children's calling cards. 
I love receiving cards and invitations in the mail... and I absolutely love sending them. How exciting is it to find a pink envelope addressed in calligraphy, amongst the bills and val-u-pak coupons. (Although, I know some ladies who get pretty darn excited about those too... wink, wink.) 
So why don't I start my own stationery business? Good question. Maybe writing this blog will lead to something, help me figure out if making paper prettiness is really where I'm headed. But, until then, here are some samples of my previous works on paper. Bon appetit!

The (Somewhat) Organized Home Cook

Some helpful resources:
1. A recipe vat.
I call it a vat; you'd probably call it a filing system. Unfortunately, my system breaks down quite often... like when I put the Southwestern Chicken Soup recipe in the Beef folder. Filled with my tried and true recipes, it's my go-to place for recipes for the week. Handwritten, cut from the newspaper, ripped from a magazine, printed from the internet... all good things go here.
2. Other good resources.
Magazines: Cooking Light, Gourmet, Real Simple, Southern Living (sometimes), Food &Wine, Bon Appetit... haven't bought Food Network's new mag.
Books: Cooks Illustrated: The Best Recipe, The Joy of Cooking (my bible), Pol Martin, the list goes on... in fact... I may have to dedicate a post to my favorite cooks and cookbooks.
Internet:,, (only if I feel like placing the fate of my dinner in the hands of some stranger of unknown taste...),
2. Meals for the Week List.
This is where I look at our schedule and figure out how many meals we'll actually eat at home... and plan out the menus.
3. Grocery list.
Usually written on the back of the meals for the week list. Tip: As you shop, tear a tiny notch in the edge of the paper next to each item you put in the cart. (Mark's fabulous idea!)
4. Pantry staples and common ingredients.
The more you cook, the easier shopping will become. Every pantry should have a line-up of versatile ingredients. Monitor your supply of these ingredients and buy as much as you can when they go on sale!
Also, look for recipes with common ingredients... If a recipe calls for only part of an ingredient's package, try to find another recipe that uses the rest for later in the week.

THE PANTRY BASICS (I'll probably be editing this for the next few days.)

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Canola Oil or Other Frying Oil
  • Red Wine Vinegar
  • White Wine Vinegar
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Seasoned Breadcrumbs
  • White Flour
  • White Sugar
  • Brown Sugar
  • Chicken Stock (15 oz cans or larger boxed packages... which can be re-sealed and refrigerated)
  • Beef Stock 
  • Dried Basil 
  • Dried Oregano
  • Dried Thyme
  • Ground Cayenne (Red) Pepper
  • Ground Cumin
  • Ground Cinnamon
  • Garlic Powder
  • Black Pepper (Fresh ground is best)
  • Kosher Salt
  • Table Salt (Esp. for baking)
  • Coarse Sea Salt
4. Weekly Display. 
This one is pure fun. I write our weekly menus on a cabinet door coated with chalkboard paint. (BTW...a fantastic invention!) The Henster likes to help with this part. And his daddy looks forward to seeing what's on the board for the week!

Menu for the Week

We've got a lot going on this week, but here's the plan:
Monday- Chipotle Pulled Pork Sandwiches, Homemade Baked Beans
Tuesday- Sriracha Glazed Grilled Chicken, Broccoli Slaw
Wednesday- Appetizer for Book Club- Goat Cheese Tarts with Roasted Red Bell Peppers (I think...)
Thursday- Out!
Friday- Gorgonzola Meatballs with Creamy Tomato Sauce, Mashers with Spinach and Garlic
Saturday- HLH#2's Party (one of our little Henry friends) andTailgating!

Most of these recipes are old favorites butthe Sriracha Chicken is something new. It sounds really tasty!

Pics and recipes to follow later this week.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Rainy Day Dinner

I love a dark, rainy day. And rainy days in the fall even more perfect- there's usually a college football game on tv...creating perfect background noise for an afternoon nap.
And the absolute best way to finish a day of being inside: a hearty, spicy bowl of pasta and a crisp salad.
The best scenario... you've already gone to the store to get all the ingredients, so you don't have to go out in the rain! 
Second best scenario... you've got the grocery store to yourself, because no one else wants to go out in the rain!
Tonight, I'll be sharing this menu with my husband and little one. 
Recipes are adapted from Tyler Florence's cookbook, "Dinner at My Place."

Menu: TF's Penne with Spicy Italian Sausage, Cream, Tomatoes, and Peas- Makes a veritable TON... so expect company... or leftovers. (Side note... this is a photo taken of leftovers... the dish has much more visual appeal directly after preparation!)
Bibb Lettuce with Tarragon Vinaigrette- Simple, tangy, sweet... delish!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Tiny Bouquets

One of my favorite, and most economical, ways to arrange flowers: Tiny bunches in juice glasses. They look gorgeous in a line across the bar or buffet... or in a small group on the cocktail table. This bunch of vibrant pink mums cost just four dollars! (And mums last FOREVER! You can get at least a week-and-a-half of floral fabulousness.)

Change in Format

I realized that it's hard to copy a recipe/ideas with a black background and white text. Hopefully this new template will do... until I can figure out something a little more custom.

I'm also trying to organize/format the fonts and provide labels to make things easier to find.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Cute as a bug. Busy as a bee.

I am so excited to plan and host my sister-in-law's baby shower! She is expecting a little girl at the end of November. And we'll be showering her with gifts at the end of September.
Theme: Cute as a bug. Busy as a bee.

Colors: lavender, white, hot pink, chocolate brown

Decor: Neiman Marcus-esque butterflies dangling from the ceiling and springing from the flower arrangements. (Materials: fishing line and cardstock butterfly die-cuts) Fabulous dragonflies from a little boutique fluttering near the front door.

Invite: Long and lean in chocolate, lavender, and hot pink. Lainie Day and Book Antiqua fonts. Dragonflies flit about. Pearlescent lavender card stock band with pink ribbon accent. Brilliant pink envelope with fun, printed address label.

More details to come!

A Simple and Elegant Dinner for Two

Prepare chicken as early in the day as possible. Or the even the night before. Amounts of ingredients can be multiplied for larger dinners... or for leftovers!
Herb Roasted Chicken
2 split chicken breasts
1 tbsp fresh fosemary, chopped
1 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
1 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp evoo
kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper (about a tsp each)
Combine chopped herbs and garlic. Carefully separate skin (but don't detach) from flesh. Rub herb mixture under chicken skin. Place in large ziploc or covered bowl. Add evoo, salt, and pepper and turn chicken to coat. Seal bag or bowl. Allow to marinate for at least 3 hours, or overnight.
PH oven to 450degrees.
Place chicken in roasting pan, skin side up.
Bake at 450 for 30-40 minutes, until chicken is golden brown. Serve directly, or slice thinly and plate.

Haricot Verts with Lemon Butter
1 lb haricot verts or green beans
1 lemon, zested and juiced
2 tbs. butter
kosher salt

Steam beans until tender (5-7 minutes.) Meanwhile, melt butter in microwave or small saucepan. (Do not allow to turn brown.) When beans are finished, place in bowl. Sprinkle with juice of lemon and lemon zest. Stir. Add melted butter and salt to taste.

Roasted Mushrooms with Goat Cheese
12-15 white mushrooms, gently wiped with a damp cloth, stems removed
6 oz goat cheese, such as Montchevre, softened
1/2 tsp fresh thyme, or 1/4 tsp dried thyme
kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
1 tbsp melted butter (leftover from beans?)
cooking spray

Preheat to 450 (for chicken above.) In a small bowl, combine goat cheese, thyme, salt and pepper (to taste.) Gently spoon mixture into mushroom caps and place on baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Brush mushroom caps, around filling, with melted butter. Bake 15-20 minutes, until cheese is melted and slightly golden. Can be served as a side or and appetizer.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Menu for the Week and SW Chicken Soup

Monday- Outback Outback
Tuesday- Southwestern Chicken Soup (from Real Simple a few years back)
Wednesday- Herb-Roasted Chicken, Haricot Verts with Lemon, Baked Mushrooms with Goat Cheese
Thursday- Hmmm...
Friday- Max's Wine Dive

Southwestern Chicken Soup is one of the easiest, tastiest meals. It's so good, I can't resist making it in the summer. (Well, I guess Summer has officially ended now, so YAY!)

Southwestern Chicken Soup
1 12 to 16oz (or there about) can verde salsa (I like Arriba! Fire Roasted)
1 tsp cumin (optional- so you don't HAVE to buy spices... but cumin is a good one to have for mexican food)
1 store-bought roasted chicken, de-boned, shredded OR 3 ckn breasts, cooked, shredded
1 15 oz can cannellini (or great northern white) beans, drained and rinsed
3 cups chicken broth (or more, if you want it soupier...)

Toppings (any and all)
Sour Cream
Shredded Jack Cheese
Chopped Green Onion
Fresh, Chopped cilantro

Tortilla Chips or Fritos

Empty salsa into a large saucepan. Cook 2 mins over medium-high heat, then add chicken, broth, and cumin (if desired.) Bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer (low) and cook for 10 mins... or until you're ready to eat. Stir occasionally. Top each bowl with yummy things... and eat with chips.

Aus-some Evening

Mine is probably the craziest family ever... but I love 'em.
Give 'em a theme, any theme. And they'll take it to the extreme.
Here are some pics of our OUTBACK outback birthday night. No pics of the food... just the Foster's and the fools.
Even the joey had to dress up, well, wear a hat... He has no idea what he's in for!