Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Anne Burrell Inspired Pickled Veggie Salad Lunch

Anne Burrell put an amazing Prosciutto and Pickled Vegetables with Cheese Crisps in March's Food Network Magazine.  Looked good so I made my own way-too-modified version for this week's menu

I won't use tome as my excuse for not pickling my own veggies because Anne Burrell makes it sound pretty easy, but to be honest, I was nervous it wouldn't come out right.  Too acidic? Too sweet?  So I bought a jar of Pennsylvania Dutch garden salad mix.  It's not bad...cauliflower, celery, carrots, lima and kidney beans, and pickles.

Also, I wanted to make cheese crisps...but today when I went to blog about this recipe, I realized I left them out.  Oh well, lunch has been good all week without them.

Here's my version.  Mixed greens, can of mushroom pieces, Pennsylvania Dutch garden salad mix, artichoke hearts, prosciutto, and some cooked pasta. 

This was a perfect lunch.  I don't think I could eat it every week, but it's good to work it into the rotation.

Roasted Cauliflower Risotto

Day 3.  I went and picked up my bridesmaid dress and made it back with plenty of time to make this Roasted Cauliflower Risotto from the March Food Network Magazine.  It didn't follow the normal risotto process that I'm used to so I was a little nervous, but it came out great!

Preheat over to 475 degrees.  Put one rack towards the top and one towards the bottom.  To be prepared, toss cauliflower florets with olive oil, salt and pepper and spread on a baking sheet to roast later.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a dutch oven.  I have been longing for a big ol' dutch oven.  In the mean time, I just have this little guy from my favorite mother-in-law.  Add chopped onion and chopped cauliflower stems.

After onions are translucent, add garlic and arborio rice.  Cook for about 2 minutes.  This is a good time to throw the cauliflower in the oven, top rack.

Add 1/2 cup of dry white wine, 3 cups of chicken broth, and 2 cups of water.  Even throw in a little salt. 

Then bring to a boil, cover, and pop it in the oven, bottom rack.  As long as you have the oven open, add about a 1/4 cup of sliced almonds to the cauliflower.  Cook for about another 15 minutes.  Cauliflower and almonds should start browning and the rice should be tender.

Take the cauliflower out to cool.  To the rice, add 2 tbsp of butter, a whole lot of Parmesan cheese and a bunch of chopped parsley.  Stir until it's nice and creamy!  I tasted it and had to add a bit of salt and pepper. 

Split the risotto between two dishes and top with the roasted cauliflower and almonds.  This was sooo good.  It was really filling, too.


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Mix & Match Baked Fennel Pasta

If you read March's Food Network Magazine, you would have seen the Mix and Match Baked Pasta recipe.  I loved seeing this because I often bake different pasta concoctions...this was validation!  I tried one of their recipes that called for fennel and artichoke hearts.  Well, I had good intentions.  I must have forgotten to buy some of the ingredients, despite my shopping list, so this is my rendition.

Start off by boiling water and preparing cavatappi pasta...I love these little swirly noodles...and the ridges hold onto so much more sauce!  Heat some olive oil and sautee a sliced bulb of fennel.  By the way, I have a new love for fennel.  I detest licorice, but the taste is subtle.  The recipe also calls for artichoke hearts.  It says you can take a frozen package of hearts, thaw them, and then sautee them.  I forgot to buy these at the store so I used a can of quartered artichokes.  I don't think it was the same, but I chopped the hearts and discarded the leaves.

Then, remove the fennel and toss in some garlic and crushed red pepper flakes. 

Next, add your sauce of choice.  The recipe describes how to make a simple sauce, but short on time, a jar of chunky veggie sauce was perfect!  Second mistake...I forgot 15 ounces of ricotta cheese to make this a creamy sauce.  Ugh!  Instead, I added a couple swirls of heavy cream from last night's stir-fry pasta priavera to thicken it up.

Then, I added my sauteed fennel and artichoke hearts.

Right about this time, the pasta is just about done so drain and add right to the pot!

Last step, pour it into a baking pan and load it up with Italian cheeses.  Everything is cooked so you just need to throw it under the broiler for a minute to get the cheese nice and bubbly!

This was so good!  I really want to start mixing up my baked pasta ingredients.  I usually stick to ground turkey and mushrooms, but I want to get more creative.  This is a step in the right direction!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Stir-Fry Pasta Primavera

Monday means first recipe of the new weekly menu!  I thought about this one all day.  Maybe because we recently has awesome pasta primavera.  Maybe because I knew I'd get to play with my wok.'s the little things.  Anyway, this is a Rachel Ray recipe from her February issue on page 74.  The ingredients are simple and this took no time to make!  Perfect for one of those got-home-from-work-late dinners.

First, boil up some water and add salt.  Toss in some broccoli florets for about 30 seconds or just until they turn bright green.  You still want them crispy.  Don't drain them, just scoop them out and then add the fettuccine to the same boiling water.  When this is done, make sure you reserve about 3/4 cup of the starchy water for later, then drain. 

Get the wok nice and hot over high heat.  Add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil and swirl it has been so long since I've cooked with veggie oil!  Add onions.  I sliced half of a large red onion.  Once they're nice and fragrant (don't you love that smell?) add another tablespoon of veggie oil and the carrots.  I sliced 4 carrots into 1/4 inch slices.  Then, add the broccoli and garlic.  I threw in about 3 large cloves of garlic, sliced, even though Rach doesn't call for it.  Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think pasta or broccoli should ever be served without garlic...ever.  Once everything is tender (but not too tender), add the cherry tomato halves.  I added a whole pint.  Add this point add salt and pepper.

Next, add 3/4 cup of heavy cream.  Once this comes to a boil, remove the wok from the heat, add 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese and a whole lot of fresh basil. Toss, add pasta, toss some more, and you're done!

That's it!  So easy.  I wasn't sure that salt, pepper, cream and cheese would be enough to flavor this dish, but it was perfect.  I love the colors of all of the bright veggies, too.  It gets me excited for spring. 

The lighting wasn't great for this picture, but I still love the look of a colorful pasts dish in a big white bowl.

Money Money Money Muh-nay...Muh-nay!

Great news! Well, for us. This weekend, Ian and I paid off 2, yes 2, credit cards. It truly feels like a huge weight has been lifted off of our shoulders. These were just little guys, but every month it means a little more in our pockets. That means more savings and more projects here at Quaint Oaks.
For some time now, we have been talking about how we really need to start planning for our future. We feel like we are constantly struggling to make ends meet that we want to ensure ourselves comfort and security later. Like my pop-pop always said, "pay yourself first." So, we've been doing our research. I keep going back and forth between 403B, Roth IRA, 403B IRA (is that a real thing?), IRA without the Roth (is this a real thing???). I don't know why I can't wrap my head around retirement savings. Maybe I'm thinking too hard and I'm making it more difficult than it needs to be. Creative Commons--one of the most brilliant business ventures I've ever seen--put together a short video that helped me understand it a little bit better. They're slogan is, "our product is explanation." It really is just that. They make super simple videos that help to explain things. Check out their Saving for Retirement in Plain English video. Even after watching, I still don't know if I want a 403B or a Roth IRA...thank goodness Ian has a handle on this!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

A Giant Cupcake for Jessie

 This weekend I went home to New Jersey to help my sister with some wedding preparations and also celebrate her 25th birthday!  As much as we do not need to be eating birthday cake, I've had my eye on this rainbow cake from the Feminist Housewife for a few weeks now.  Time got away from me and I ended up making a giant cupcake instead...from all ready-made ingredients!  Like I've said in the past, I am not a baker so I can't be expected to make my own batter and frosting...yet.

This was so super easy.  Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Because of the shape of the mold, it needs to bake longer at a lower temperature.  I took a basic cake mix...Pillsbury French delicious!  Grease and lightly flour the inside of the Wilton Giant Cupcake mold.  Be sure to get in all of those lines and crannies.  Then, I filled both sides of the mold.  The trick is to make sure that they are both filled with about the same amount of batter.  Pop her in the oven for about 60 minutes.

I used a chopstick to test for done-ness.  It's the toothpick trick, only bigger!  Let the cake cool for 25 minutes a while...any sooner and it will stick to the mold.  The cakes will rise and have this beautiful, rounded, golden tops.  Slice 'em off!  I plopped down a layer of the most delicious whipped strawberry frosting onto the cupcake stump and placed the top up on top.  Again, more frosting.  Then I sprinkled some little colorful nonpareils.

This was kind of impromptu, but not too bad for the first time.   Next time I will cool a little longer, cut my tops off more evenly and buy the giant sprinkles that match the giant mold.  By the way, even better than the look of this tasted a-maz-ing!  I think it was the mix of the french vanilla and the whipped strawberry frosting.  So good!

PS...As I was looking for giant cupcake ideas, I came across this awesome cupcake bakery in Seattle, Bake It in a Cake.  Check out some of her incredible cupcake recipes!  Chocolate pudding pie in a red velvet cupcake???  Yes please. 

Who Am I Kidding???

Maybe I will blog about crafts and DIYs in the summer and recipes during the school year?  Maybe my passion for food is in full swing?  Either way, this blog is quickly becoming a way for me to share recipes rather than creativity and progress at Quaint Oaks.

So without further's is my menu for this unnecessarily carb-loaded week.  Each recipe is from my most recent issues of Rachel Ray Everyday (again, it's that love hate thing) and Food Network Magazine.
  • Lunches - Anne Burrell Inspired Pickled Veggie Salad (March Food Network Magazine, p 57)
    • I'm going to modify this recipe to make it a little quicker, easier, and fool-proof but I think it will be something different to try. 
  • Monday - Stir Fried Pasta Primavera (Feb. Rachel Ray Everyday, p 74
    • Stir fry is supposed to be quick and easy, right? This should be a nice start-of-the-week meal. 
  • Tuesday - Mix & Match Baked Pasta (March Food Network Magazine, p 60).
    • I do this often, but I'm excited to try a new mix of ingredients.
    • This Food Network issue was awesome! It's recipes for all-things pasta.  My favorite! 
  • Wednesday - Roasted Cauliflower Risotto (March Food Network Magazine, p 77)
    • This one is if-fy.  I'm going to get my dress for my sister's wedding in 2 weeks so I may be short on cooking time.  We'll see.  I'm sure we'll have plenty of leftovers if I don't get around to this.
    • PS - Ian and I are loving roasted cauliflower lately!  The bummer is, I loved using my Pampered Chef stone for roasting veggies...but Ian broiled it and busted it.  Sorry Ian, I ratted you out.  I'm in the process of replacing it. 
  • Thursday - Sage Walnut Butter (March Food Network Magazine, p 89)
    • Love love love sage butter!  I made a similar sage recipe a few weeks ago.  Actually, now that I think about it, it's the same one! know it's good if its making another appearance! 
  • Friday - Happy Hour at Casa Toro??? 1/2 price appetizers??? Fried avocado??? 
  • Here is a shopping list...  Carb-Loaded Menu Shopping List

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Ten on Tuesday 3.22.11


It's Ten on Tuesday! I can't remember the last time I linked up. This week I think I'll do in true Kim fashion and share 10 things on my mind...

1. Happy World Water Day!

Today we had a great day at school, talking about global water issues and also having fun with some water relay and endurance games. I am proud to announce that my team won the endurance competition! Not to brag, but other teams walked an average of 115 laps with gallon jugs of water above their team proudly walked 169!!! GO BIG BLUE!

2. Closet Bravo Fan

I am so embarrassed, but I am addicted to Bravo! Real Housewives, Bethanny...I love it all. Except for Top Chef. Isn't that weird? Me, Allison, never got into Top Chef. My real weakness??? Weekend marathons! Granted, I haven't been home in over 5 weeks to catch one, but next chance I get, I just may plant myself on my couch and enjoy a few hours...even if I've seen them already.

3. Snow??? Seriously?!?

It's supposed to snow in the morning. Seriously, no joke. It was almost 80 the other day! Good thing I didn't pack away my winter clothes! PS...I know I've posted this picture many times, but I love it!

4. Blog #2

Can you guess why Ian is s excited??? We've started another blog. Find, Fix, Share is an education blog. Ian and I love to find resources and fix them to meet our needs. This blog helps us share them with our professional learning networks. You may not be a teacher, and therefore not care, but I would love some feedback. It is truly in its infancy so don't expect too much, but I'm trying to lay the foundation.

5. A Crafting Lull

I have been so busy that I have not "crafted" anything in way too long. I really need to get creative. I'd like to make a spring wreath for my door. I love this one that was featured on Inspired by Charm. Maybe after Jessie's wedding I will feel inspired by the charm of this that was cheesy.

6. Odyssey of the Mind

I have to take a moment to say how proud I am of the Odyssey teams at my school! We had some great OMers this year with truly creative solutions. We had two teams win first place and secure a spot at states! Even more exciting, 2 boys won the prestigious Renatra Fusca award for their Rube Goldberg contraption...a complex machine that grated carrots! The Renatra Fusca is something they only award if someone really stands out! Some years it is not even awarded. This year, not only did those two gentlemen win the honor, but so did an entire other team from our school for their incredibly high score! One of the highest in Odyssey history! What an incredible accomplishment for these kids. They blow me away with their creativity.

7.We Are So Lucky...

These past few weeks have been a true test of human strength. Between the revolutions in the Middle East, the crisis in Japan, and many other hardships being endured each and every day, Ian and I often remind each other of just how lucky we not live in fear, to have all that we need, to have each other. Those who are fighting for freedom, rebuilding their nation, and enduring the hardest of times are in our thoughts.

8. Dexter

Back to something more shallow...Ian and I have rediscovered our love of Dexter. That show will be the rue of us! Not only do we stay up until all hours watching all of the episodes so that we can get the next disc on Netflix, but John Lithgow's character gives me nightmares! ...seriously!

9. Yellow Wellies
(apologies for the poor picture quality)

A few years ago, my sister gave me an awesome pair of J.Crew Yellow Wellies with pink and blue laces on the sides. I absolutely loved them but never had the nerve to wear such bold fashion pieces! The other day we got a TON of much that we thought we may have a 2-hour delay. I sported these awesome boots with a pair of skinny jeans and officially became the most trendy teacher of the day!

10. Non-Stop

Ian and I love nothing more than quiet weekends at home. It has been over 5 weeks since we have even slept in our own beds on the weekends! I am usually pretty flexible about this sort of thing. Ian has really been trooper. But even I am ready for a break. Next weekend it looks like we will finally have a normal, restful weekend at Quaint Oaks. You can be sure we will be doing something to blog about!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Spicy Turkey Crock Pot Lasagna

Due to unfortunate circumstances beyond our control, I was not able to meet my goal of cooking 1 new recipe each night for 5 nights.  So over the weekend, in between some other things, I managed to cook the last two.  First, I got the crock pot lasagna going so that it had the day to cook.

I started by browning up my ground turkey.  I can't hep but add big chunks of garlic and some Italian spices when I'm cooking meat for a ziti or lasagna.  I threw in salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, oregano, rosemary, and some fennel.  I love to put fennel in ground turkey because it instantly transforms it into sausage!

Then, I mixed together 15 ounces of ricotta cheese, an Italian cheese blend, and chopped spinach.

That's it!  Time to layer.  First, I coated the bottom with some chunky veggie tomato sauce and lasagna noodles.  I had to break them in half to get them to fit nicely.  

Next, I threw in some of my meat, sauce, a little water, cheese mixture, sauce...and then another layer of noodles.  

As I got closer to the top I wasn't sure how I wanted to end it.  If I'm understanding correctly, Living Locurto's recipe says to end with the cheese mixture.  That didn't seem like a traditional lasagna to me so I threw on another layer of noodles, sauce, and then a thick layer of shredded Italian cheeses.  

And ta-da!  Isn't it lovely???  I wasn't sure the noodles would actually cook.  Then, in true slow-cooker style, I let everything cook a little longer than I was told.  After it was a little too late, I remember that noodles should not be overcooked!  They did end up a little mushy but the dinner was un-be-lievable!  

 Check out all of these layers!  Sooo filling and delicious.  This just became a go-to meal.  Thought I have to admit, I hate pre-cooking food before it goes in the slow cooker.  It kind of defeats the purpose of quickly throwing dinner together before you leave the house in the morning.  Maybe this is more of a weekend treat.

Salmon Patties

While my Spicy Turkey Crock Pot Lasagna did its thing, I whipped up salmon cakes for lunch.  Amy Locurto calls for salmon cakes with a side of mashed potatoes.  Instead, I added my potatoes to the salmon cakes...just like Nana and mommy used to do.  I also added my own special salad, inspired by a co-worker.  

I got the salad out of the way while I boiled my potatoes.  No big deal.  I just steamed some peas...not too still want them nice and firm.  Then, I shredded some carrot, thinly sliced a red onion, cut up some canned red beets, chopped salted cashews, and then dressed with olive oil, salt, and pepper.  So good!

Once the potatoes we done, I mixed together 4 pouches of salmon (first time I bought these...not bad), bread crumbs, 2 whisked eggs, sliced scallions, and parsley.  Amy says to use cilantro but lately I just haven't been a fan.  Besides, parsley makes me think of my Nana, as do poor man's crab cakes.  That's what she used to call these, except her's were made with tuna fish. 

I formed nice little round patties and threw them in a pan of piping hot olive oil.  I let them brown, flipped them, let them brown, blotted them, and done! 

Garnish with a little lemon and you have the perfect lunch...or dinner!