Tuesday, June 30, 2009

What's cookin' today:

Lunch: Mediterranean Pepper Salad ala Smitten Kitchen

(We've already eaten half of this today. It's SO SO GOOD OH MY GOODNESS).

Dinner: Green Enchiladas ala Secret Agent Josephine

(Smells good so far. Gotta love Crock Pot cooking!)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Pasta primavera (puttanesca style!)

Have you ever seen that movie A Series of Unfortunate Events? In the movie at one point the kids have to make dinner for their evil uncle (played by Jim Carrey) and they make something they call "pasta puttanesca" which the oldest sister defines as a pasta dish that you make with whatever ingredients are available. Wikipedia, however, defines pasta alla puttanesca as "whore's pasta" and as it turns out it originally WAS a dish made from whatever was lying around but now there's a specific recipe for it, blah, blah, blah. Check out the link here. (And by the way I can't wait to answer the question, "Mom, what's for dinner?!" with the response, "WHORE'S PASTA!" ha ha!)

I bring all this up because sometimes I make a dish that in my head I call "pasta puttanesca" and define it as making a pasta dish with whatever I can find! Usually, though, my dish looks a lot more like pasta primavera because I make it with whatever vegetables I can find in my fridge and freezer.

Last night I made this dish for John and it turned out great!

First I salted and boiled the water for the pasta and got that going (did you know that adding salt to the water makes it boil faster? Something about it changes the molecular structure of the water. I got a B in chemistry in high school so that's the best explanation I can give you. It DOES work!). I used farfalle (bow tie) pasta. Penne or any other short pasta works great for this. While the pasta was going I heated a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan with a lid. Then I added two small diced onions, carrots, a bag of frozen broccoli, and frozen mushrooms and let this cook for a while over med-high heat. After the veggies had defrosted and the carrots had softened a bit I added fresh tomatoes, garlic salt, ground black pepper, and stirred. Let this cook until the tomatoes are warm.

At the very end I added some chicken breast I had in the fridge (left over from a Crock Pot experiment I'll tell you about one day) plus more olive oil. After this was all heated, the pasta was done! I drained the pasta, returned it to the pot, then added the veggies. A few dashes of parm and we were ready to go!

And then? We chowed down. YUM.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

I think I can handle fro-yo, so long as it's blended with ice cream

Let me just start this by saying that I HATE FROZEN YOGURT. I figure that if I'm going to eat ice cream I may as well just eat ice cream. I compromise and usually get "light" ice cream, but lately? The only frozen treat I allow myself are Weight Watchers Giant Cookies and Cream bars. More on those another time.

Yesterday in a complete stupor I accidentally put a carton of Dreyer's Slow Churned Yogurt Blend ice cream in my cart. I actually meant to put the No Sugar Added vanilla in my cart but since Sydney had completely worn me out all day yesterday and the night before ... like I said, STUPOR. I realized my mistake by the time I got to the checkout but I didn't care. This had basically the same nutritional info as the reduced sugar, just ten more calories per serving (come to think of it, I didn't check serving sizes to compare. I wonder...). I figured I'd give it a shot with my balsamic strawberries. Anyway, for a 1/2 cup serving it's two Weight Watchers points ... not too bad! I had about a cup serving last night I think (two scoops). It tasted good to me ... it definitely had that yogurt-y flavor in there but it was very mild and as far as texture goes it wasn't as rock-hard as the no sugar added vanilla (I hate that).

Thumbs up! The rest of the container is in trouble at this house!

Strawberries with balsamic vinegar

Strawberries are in season right now, and at Costco they have these HUGE 5-lb containers of strawberries for about $6. Needless to say, I always have to buy one when I'm there. My intentions are always the best ... I tell myself that I'm going to have fresh strawberries until they're coming out my ears because they're good for me and they're not a lot of WW points. HA!

Yesterday I picked up a new container, thinking that the strawberries in my fridge from last time had probably gone bad. When I got home and went to exchange the old for the new, I found that my "old" container of strawberries was still in good shape and suddenly? I've got TEN pounds of strawberries!

Luckily a blogger buddy of mine recently posted that she'd put balsamic vinegar on her strawberries as a way to flavor and preserve them. HUH? I was just as confused as I was intrigued by this. Don't get me wrong, I love strawberries and I ALSO love balsamic vinegar. The combination just seemed to weird to be good. I googled a recipe (sure enough it's the Italian way to eat strawberries! Mangia! I'm an uncultured redneck!) and used this one as a template for my own little experiment. Hey! I had strawberries to burn and if I didn't end up liking it what did I have to lose?

First I hulled and cut up the strawberries and then gave them a quick rinse. I set aside a smaller bowl to make balsamic strawberries and just sprinkled sugar over the rest in another container to preserve them for later. Then to my bowl I added an easy tablespoon of the balsamic vinegar (I was scared!) and a tablespoon of sugar. The recipe also called for pepper, which I omitted. Then I left the covered bowl on the counter until I could get around to dessert later (it took three hours).
Later when Sydney was sleeping and after I'd eaten my dinner, I spaded a few scoops of ice cream into the bowl and took a tentative bite.

I was pleasantly surprised! I was expecting the sharp taste of vinegar, but instead the strawberries just tasted flat out DELICIOUS! They weren't too sweet or too bitter ... perfection. The marination was the key: the vinegar absorbed into the berries and married the sugar beautifully. I will probably be making this again tonight for my husband when he gets home from his trip (and then making it again and again all summer long!).

Must-have kitchen tool: Ice cream spade

If you're like me, you LOVE ice cream. Especially when pregnant. When my husband and I first got married it was soon decided (by me) that if I was going to do most of the cooking, he was going to be responsible for making the coffee and scooping the ice cream. He did all right with the coffee-making (despite making an unholy mess every time he did it, ha!) but the ice cream scooping? The man turned out to be a complete WIMP! I have never heard so much whining about ice cream IN MY LIFE! You'd think a man who can bench press more than 200 pounds wouldn't have trouble with a tub of ice cream, but you'd be WRONG. He struggled terribly with the cheap traditional scoops we'd received as wedding gifts. And he WHINED.

Lucky for him I found this little beauty at TJ Maxx Homegoods: a KitchenAid ice cream spade. This spade is much like the scoop of my childhood (my mother is ice cream's #1 fan and has been known to take out an entire half gallon container BY HERSELF in two sittings. I am NOT exaggerating. Anyway, she has one of those old-school all-metal spades like they have at Coldstone or Marble Slab and it's the way we scooped ice cream every night at my house for my ENTIRE LIFE) only better! It slices through ice cream like butter, and has a very comfortable handle. I will never "scoop" ice cream again!

I used our spade for the first time in a long time (thanks to Weight Watchers I'm not eating so much ice cream anymore. Sigh) and I was reminded of how awesome it is! Hopefully I can find an ice cream that won't cost me too many points so it can go back on duty this summer!