Thursday, March 31, 2011

Pasta with Sage Pesto, Butternut Squash and White Beans

Spring is here (that is if you don't count all the snow we had yesterday...) and my sage plant is HUGE!  I was so inspired that I decided to whip up a batch of Sage and Walnut Pesto.

Pasta with Sage Pesto, Butternut Squash and White Beans

This recipe is beyond simple.  For the pesto combine 1 c. toasted walnuts, 1/3 c. parsley, 2 springs of sage leaves, 1/3 c. Parmesan cheese, and 1/3 c. olive oil, dump it all in your food processor and process away!  Once done, adjust the salt and pepper as needed.  I found that mine was a bit thick, so I added some veggie stock, gave the processor another whirl and was left with pure herby heaven.
So to make the pasta, steam some butternut squash until tender, nuke some white beans until warm and cook some pasta (I used bow ties). Dump it all together in a big bowl, stir and serve.  Simple and delicious!
However, there was a lot of movement in the kitchen, so poor Oliver and Matilda were banished to the other side of the baby gate..
What recipes has spring inspired you to make?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Mushroom Pasta

Can someone please explain to me how cheese, mushrooms and pasta are not aphrodisiacs?  I mean really, something this delicious is bound to make you a little hot under the collar.  Or is that just me?

Anyways, way back a million years ago when Seth and I were young and just starting to date, I made this dish for him.  It was a knock out then and still is now.

Shiitake Angel Hair Pasta
Yikes, that picture is a bit yellow...
6 oz. angel hair pasta
6 oz. shiitake mushrooms, sliced (any mixture of mushrooms will work)
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 onion, chopped
1/4 c. dry, white wine
1 tbs. olive oil
1/4 c. chicken broth
1/2 c. heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste
2 tbs. parmesan cheese
2 tbs. fresh, chopped parsley

Saute onion and garlic over medium heat until translucent and aromatic, add mushrooms and saute until the start to brown, add stock and wine and cook until mixture is reduced by 1/2.  Add cream and reduce to desired thickness.  Adjust seasoning.
Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salty water.
Drain pasta and toss with sauce, top with parmesan and parsley

Shoes, Shoes, Shoes

You know what I'm talking about, right?

Scary right?  But really, I do have a little bit of a problem when it comes to shoes.  I just love them.  But that also means that lately, my little closet has been looking like this...
Yes, I do need to laundry

more shoes
Yes, more shoes
And this isn't counting the ones that live in my car...  Like I said, I have a problem and its starting to effect my marriage.  See, Seth is a bit of a neat freak and I think the sight of my closet is giving him a bit of a tick.  But luckily this one was a quick and easy fix.

We made a quick stop by Lowes picked up some shelf hangers and a big old piece of wood and in no time at all, we had this...
Twice as much shoe storage
Nice and Neat
The overall picture
I am so excited about all this shoe storage space, I just might have to go buy another pair...

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Cheese and Ale Soup

Seth went to Moravian College in Bethlehem, PA.  Whenever I would come to visit, Seth and I would head over to Brew Works for some awesome beer and food.  One of our favorite items on the menu is their Beer and Cheddar Soup.  It is freaking amazing!  Being faced with some cold weather over the weekend, we decided to whip up our own batch.

Cheese and Ale Soup

3 tbs. butter
1 large onion, diced
1/3 c. flour
2 tbs. dried mustard
3 c. vegetable stock
2 1/2 c. sharp cheddar, shredded
12 oz. ale (we used a pale ale and it was a bit too pale, but I think a nice brown ale would be yummy!)
pepper to taste
chives for garnish

Melt the butter in your favorite soup pot, add the onions and saute until translucent
Add the flour and mustard, stirring to coat, cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly
Slowly add in the broth, simmer for 10ish minutes or until thickened and bubbly
Add the beer and cheese, simmer for 5 minutes
In batches, process the soup in a blender until smooth, return to pot
Heat for a few more minutes and adjust seasoning, garnish with chives

This soup is great with some hearty pumpernickel break and a nice green salad.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Proud Mama

Part of the joy of gardening, for me, is starting my own seeds.  There is nothing more optimistic than watching little baby green things emerge.  And that proud mama feeling just gets bigger as those little green things sprout their first true leaves, go on to support themselves, and blossom over and over again.  Its enough to bring a tear to your eye...

But really, starting seeds is super easy and it saves you a ton of money.  Especially if you have grand garden plans...

To start, get you some seeds.  Sure you can just run out to Target or your local home and garden store and get some seeds, and they'll most likely work just fine.  But if you really want to be a proud mama, you got to start with the Park Seed Catalog in December.  I spend every Christmas obsessing over which seeds to buy.  Sad life, I know.  I generally put my order in by the middle of January so I can be sure to start my seeds by mid-February.  Yes, you are behind the curve, but face it, you'll never be a good plant mother like me.

Next, find a home for your seeds.  For the past several years, I have used this...
Its cheap, easy and I've had some pretty good success with it.  To get your greenhouse ready to go, start by following the directions, which involve something like dumping a million cups of warm water of the little soil cups and letting them get puffed up.  They'll look like this when they're ready...
nice and fat and ready for some seeds
Each seed packet will tell you exactly how to plant your seeds.  Some need light to germinate, others want dark, etc.  Just follow the directions and you'll be a-okay.

I generally plant 2 seeds per pot, which can be tricky if your seeds are teensy...
But just dump in the soil, as directed...

To make sure that I know which seeds are which, once they are planted, I make a seed map for myself...
Once you have your seeds in and organized, pop the top on...
And find a safe place for your seed babies.  Mine used to go in the kitchen window, but Ava likes to knock them over.  That will break a proud mama's heart real fast.  So this year they are going in a closet with a florescent light on them...
And in just about a week or so, you'll have this...

Oh, I'm just so proud.  They're growing so fast and strong, brings a tear to my eye...

Once you get to this stage, just make sure to keep 'em moist with plenty of light and pretty soon you'll have some big, strong plants of your own to be ohhhhh and ahhhh over.

Anyone else strangely, seedling obsessed?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Saturday Night Spread

You know those nights where you are starving, but you have no idea what you want and you don't want to mess with a restaurant and you really just don't know what to do?  When we have those nights, our solution is to run to the Fresh Market, but a bunch of yummys, open a bottle of red wine and feast.
Our lovely spread included Dubliner cheese, a smoked gouda, homemade quince paste (thanks sister!), dolmas, carrots, olives, sourdough, cinnamon almonds, grapes and homemade hummus.  This dinner is so great!  I certainly recommend it.

This dinner was also a success because I made the hummus and it was so freakin good and easy to make.  I don't think we'll ever go with the store bought stuff again.


1 can of chickpeas
juice of 1 lemon
1/3 c. tahini
1/4 c. olive oil (plus more for drizzling)
garlic (as much, or as little, as you like)
paprika and pine nuts for garnish

Dump the chickpeas, lemon juice, tahini, olive oil and garlic in your food processor.  Blend until smooth. Garnish with paprika, pine nuts and olive oil.


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Gado Gado

So y'all know how I'm kinda spacy sometimes?  Well, I made this beautiful dinner and had the camera out to take a picture and then forgot.  Let's just pretend that dinner was so awesome (and it was!) that I couldn't possibly focus on taking a picture...  So without further ado- GADO GADO!

Gado Gado
from The Vegetarian Feast
"An interesting, exotic Indonesian salad, gado-gado is not for people with aversions to peanut butter or ginger.  The textures here are wonderful: crunchy peanuts, in a creamy pungent sauce."

1/2 onion, chopped fine
3 cloves garlic, minced or put through a press
1/2 c. raw peanuts
1 1/2  tbs. peanut or safflower oil
1/2 c. boiling water
1 c. crunchy peanut butter
1 1/2 tbs. honey
1/2 tsp. tabasco (I used WAY more- I like things with a kick)
juice and rind of 1 lemon
2 tbs. freshly grated ginger root
2 tbs. grated coconut
1 1/2 c.  milk

In a wok, large skillet or 2-quart sauce pan, saute onion, garlic and peanuts in the oil until the peanuts are lightly browned.  Stir in all the other ingredients except the milk and cook over a medium flame, continuing to stir, until the peanut butter has melted and blended in with the other ingredients.

When the sauce is bubbling gently, carefully stir in the milk.  Blend well and cook for about 5 minutes over low heat.

One of the best things about this sauce is that is totally versatile.  Traditionally, it is served over a rice and veggie salad.  I tend to serve mine over some stir fried veggies and tofu, but certainly, you could use meat as well.  Enjoy!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Black Bean Croquettes and Fried Plantains- A Very Sexy Meal?

For honeymoon 1, Seth and I spent a few days in lovely Asheville, NC and enjoyed one of our favorite restaurants- Salsa's.  A must have on the menu is their fried plantains.  They are oh-so good!  And then on honeymoon 2, we enjoyed fried plantains made just for us by the cutest man on the face of the planet- Miguel.  Suffice it to say that fried plantains have a special connotation in our mind (wink wink).

Also, did you know that, according to InterCourses, black beans are an aphrodisiac.  Apparently back in the day nuns weren't allowed to eat them because they were thought to increase fertility (not that we're looking to do that...).  So with that all said, I present you with a questionably sexy meal- black bean croquettes and fried plantains!
Yes, I need to work on my food photography skills...
Black Bean Croquettes
From Eating Well

2 cans of black beans, rinsed and drained
1 tsp. cumin
1 c. corn kearnls
1/4 c. plus 1/3 c. bread crumbs
2 c. chopped tomatoes
2 scallions, sliced
1/4 c. chopped cilantro
1 tsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tbs. olive oil
1 avocado, diced

1. Preheat over to 425, spray a baking sheet with cooking spray
2. Mash black beans and cumin with a fork until no whole beans remain.  Stir in 1/4 c. breadcrumbs.  In a separate bowl combine tomatoes, scallions, cilantro, 1/2 tsp. chili powder and salt.  Stir 1 c. of the tomato mixture into the black bean mixture.
3. Mix 1/3 c. of breadcrumbs, olive oil and 1/2 tsp of chili powder.  Form the black bean mixture into 8 balls and coat with the breadcrumbs.  Place on the baking sheet.
4.  Bake for 20 minutes or until brown.   Add the avocado to the remaining tomato mixture and serve along side the croquettes.

Fried Plantains
1.  Coat a skillet with oil and heat over medium high heat.
2. Slice 2 plantains.
3. Place plantain slices in the skillet, being careful not to crowd the pan.  Turn slices over after about 3 minutes or until browned.  Repeat until both sides of the plantain are nice and brown.  Drain on paper towels.
4.  Serve with guacamole.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Human Race

I don't think I have ever mentioned it here, but I actually run a bit.  Sometimes more, sometimes less, but pretty consistently for the last 4 years, I have been running in some shape or form. I have participated in two 5ks and will be doing my third at the end of the month!

For the last 17 years, the Volunteer Center of Greensboro has held a 5k walk/run event to raise money for local charities.  One of the sweetest things about this event is that the participants can decide which charity they want to raise money for.  As many of you know, animal rescue is near and dear to my heart and Guilford County is lucky enough to have an amazing shelter.  While still a far cry from a no kill shelter, the GCAS has a 97% success rate with dogs and a 78% success rate with cats.  The shelter has gained a lot of publicity in the last few years after taking in some terribly abused animals (including Susie, who sparked Susie's Law, which makes animal abuse a much worse crime in NC).  I am terribly excited to be running in support of our wonderful shelter.

Want to run with me?  Register here.  Not so much of a runner, but want to make a donation?  Make one here.

Anyone else ever run or walked for a charity?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

How Does Your Garden Grow? Part 3

Friends, I am sorry for all the yard/garden heavy posts, but with daffodils and bradford pears in bloom all around me, I just can't help myself.  But I promise after this post and 1 or 2 more, I will get off the gardening for a while... maybe... no promises.

More importantly, it is finally time for me to share my plans for our butterfly/ hummingbird garden.  Having done a bit of research, it seems that hummingbirds are really the most flaming of little birds.  They love red and they love gaudy.  As I do not love red or gaudy, this presented a bit of a challenge...

Already in the space, we have a butterfly bush (there used to be two, but Oliver decided that one of them looked like an awfully fun chew toy), herbs (rosemary, sage, oregano and thyme), a knockout rose bush, and agastache rupestris.  To that, we will be adding...

Bee Balm
Rose Moss
And darling sister #2 gifted us with a lovely hummingbird feeder for a our wedding, which will be displayed right in the middle of this madness.  I certainly think we have accomplished a gaudy, yet fun display and I am terribly excited to see if we actually attract any hummingbirds.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Stinky Love: Compost

Not too many bloggers are willing to openly declare their love for compost, but I am happy to say that I sure do love me some good compost.

Some good reasons to embrace composting...
  • You'll feel good about yourself- no more guilt over throwing away banana peels, grass clipping and coffee grinds
  • You get some serious street cred with the hippie folk.  But really, green is a good thing and if you're like me and you work in a very professional office setting, you can get lots of interesting reactions when talking about your compost
  • You have somewhere to throw worms!  It seems every time it rains, tons of worms crawl onto my drive way and then miss the message that the rain ain't gonna last and end up turning into little bits of fried worm... ewwww.  Instead, I can just scoop those little buggars up and throw them in the ole compost pile
  • Your garden will thank you- adding compost will help keep your plans nice and healthy
  • There is nothing more fun than watching Seth turn the compost pile.  I'm too short to reach over the sides of our pile...

How Composting works in our house...

Our actual compost pile is located way back in the yard, so we keep a bucket outside the kitchen door.  This is so easy, as we can just toss our scraps into the pile
So then once the bucket gets full, Seth or I carry the bucket to the back and dump it in the big pile...
Turn it over a couple times a year and before too long you'll start getting some beautiful stuff.

Do note that there are two different approaches to composting.  The hot compost method is for those super over achievers who want their compost and they want it now.  In this method, you are required to turn the compost every couple of weeks and keep it evenly wet.  This gets the internal temperature up and causes everything to breakdown really fast.  The other method is the cold method and is better for those of us who are a little more patient.  Using this method, you dump your scraps in and you leave them.  About a year later, you are good to go.

How to start composting...
  • Start by building yourself a compost pile.  Just google something along the lines of "easy compost pile plans" and you'll get a ton of hits.  Pick the one that suits you best!  If you don't have the yard space, there are plenty of counter top composters. 
  • Layer in the good stuff- technically there are all sorts of requirements about you need this much of this and that much of that, but again, that for those overachivers.  Our compost pile is mainly composed of kitchen scraps, grass clippings, fallen leaves, the occasional torn up newspaper, etc.  Just make sure to keep items such as grease, meat, fat, and dairy products out of your heap.  They will do nothing more than attract varmits and make a really nasty smelling mess.  Although, in our case, even though our pile is clear of these items, Matilda and Oliver do occasionally try and pull out baked potato skins and other gross things...  But seeing as how Matilda and Oliver are gross dogs, I hope they are the exception here.
  • Turn your pile every so often
  • Enjoy the goodness it produces and feel exceptionally good about how thrifty and green you are!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

How Does Your Garden grow? Part 2

Window boxes!  Oh how I love window boxes, they bring a certain whimsical cottage charm to any abode.  This spring, I will be building and installing window boxes on the front of our house.  I promise a tutorial once I finally getting around to doing that...

But for now, lets focus on what will be in these darling window boxes.  I decided to try and keep them pretty simple since this is my first attempt with window boxes.

For height, we have...
Flowering Tobacco
Not only is this festive little plant supposed to smell heavenly, my husband is a cigar smoker and the thought of growing "tobacco" is pretty awesome for him. 

And to add some drama, we have these...
Celebrity Red Petunias
Normally, I am not such a big fan of petunias at all.  But we do have plans for a hummingbird garden and apparently those quick little birds just love petunias.  Especially, flashy, tacky, red one.

So there you have it- the plans for the window boxes.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Angry Shrimp

Recently, I have discovered that maybe I don't dislike shrimp.  And this recipe certainly helped continue my sway towards embracing shrimp.  Not only is it delicious, but of course, it is so easy.  You can find the recipe here or scroll down.

Bean Mixture:
1 can of white beans, drained and rinsed
2 tbs. extra virgin olive oil
3/4 c. of chicken broth
1 tbs. lemon juice
1 tbs. parsley, chopped

Coating Mixture:
1 c. flour
4 1/2 tsp. chili powder
1 tbs. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1 egg
1 c. panko bread crumbs

Shrimp Mixture:
1 lb. of shrimp
1/3 c. of olive oil
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 serrano chile, thinly sliced
1 c. whole basil leaves
1 1/2 tsp. orange zest

1. Heat the beans, 2 tbs. of olive oil, and chicken broth until boiling.  Reduce heat to keep mixture warm.
2. In a small bowl mix the flour, chili powder, 1 tbs. salt, 1 tsp. pepper.  In another bowl, beat the egg.  In a third bowl, place the panko.
3. Coat shrimp with flour, than dip in egg, than in panko.  Heat the oil and cook shrimp in a single layer for 3 minutes on each side and remove.
4. Add the garlic to the hot skillet and cook until light brown.  Add the chile and cook until soft.  Add basil and cook for 45-60 seconds.
5. Add the lemon juice and parsley to the bean mixture and season to taste.
6. Add the orange zest to the garlic mixture, combine.  Add the shrimp and coat well.
7. Spoon the bean mixture onto a plate, top with shrimp and than with the remainder of the garlic and chile mixture.