Pesto Pizza

Whitney got the idea for this one while looking for a way to use the arugula from the week's CSA box, and came across this recipe for arugula pizza. We mostly followed their formula. We prebaked the Pillsbury crust per the instructions on the can, then added pesto, tomato slices, goat cheese, green onions (CSA!), and prosciutto (Whitney's side only), then baked until the crust was brown and threw the arugula on top. The pesto was homemade with basil, olive oil, garlic, and almonds.

The result impressed us both - it was very delicious! The arugula went well with it, but wasn't really manageable the way we dumped it on top. Perhaps we could have shredded it or tried to wilt it. The Pillsbury thin crust was very good.

Ready for the oven!
It's almost as if someone just threw some arugula on a pizza.

Ranch Pork Chops

Hidden Valley Ranch had a successful commercial! They advertised making these super easy ranch pork chops and I made them the next night. Really you just sprinkle pork chops with the dry ranch dressing mix and bake them. However I still found the recipe on their website (find it here!) to make sure there weren't any secrets stuck in there.

For the pork chops
1 packet (1 ounce) Hidden Valley® Original Ranch® Salad Dressing & Seasoning Mix
Salt and freshly ground black pepper*
6 pork loin rib chops about 1-inch thick*
Dash of paprika (optional) 
  **A few notes here: I did not include extra salt and pepper; figured the dressing mix had plenty of flavor! I also used thin sliced pork chops.

Preheat the oven to 450ºF. Liberally sprinkle the porkchops on both sides with the dressing mix.
Arrange the chops on a baking sheet or try with a rack. Bake the pork chops for 20 minutes, turning once until browned or an internal temperature of 160ºF is reached. Serve immediately.
  **Obviously with our thin sliced pork chops we adjusted the cooking time dramatically. I can't remember exactly how long they took now though.

Served with sauteed squash
Our first batch of squash from the CSA! We love squash. I could probably get our whole allotment of CSA goods in squash for a week. This is our simple sauteed squash that we do a lot--sauteed squash and onions with some seasonings in evoo.

And here's the dinner! File this away in your 30-minute meal folder.

Birthday Blowout Cookout Celebration!!!

It's birthday month!! And on the last weekend in May we celebrated with a party that's now three years in the making. And each year it's gotten a little bigger and a little better! We asked that everyone bring a small contribution of food or drinks. Look what we got!

Our guests went above and beyond the call of cookout potluck duty. They brought all sorts of yummy cookout goodies. I was definitely impressed. :-) There was fruit, potato salads, pasta salads, bean dips, chips, carrots and ranch, lettuce wraps, and vegetable medleys... And I haven't even mentioned what was on the grill! Roasted corn, burgers, hot dogs, brats, steaks, marinated chicken breasts, and skewers were grilled until our tummies were content. 

Then when we thought we couldn't eat anymore... there was birthday cake!

Patrick decorated both a chocolate cake and vanilla cake with the secret buttercream recipe.

They've gotten older but not much better at blowing out candles!

We want some more!

I've written before that this blog is just as much for us as it is for you. For us it kind of serves as a record of what we've eaten and cooked with some notes. This way the next time we're craving a dish we can look back in the archives and make it again! Before the blog was consistent we ran into this problem quite a few times. We wanted to make something again but couldn't remember how we made it or where we found the recipe!

Here are a few recipes we've cooked this past month! Have you tried any of them?! If so let us know!

Bolognese Sauce: Originally from Patrick's sister. We actually cook this every other month or so. This past pot included some of our veggies from our CSA box--fresh carrots and small celery. The small celery affected the texture of the sauce a bit but this was a fun experiment with our veggies.

carrots and small celery

Lemon Spaghetti with Scallops: A light dish perfect for hot summer evenings. The citrus flavor is bright but not overwhelming.

Sausage and Rigatoni Fake-Bake: A Rachael Ray adaption. Each time we make this it's a little different; this is another we make quite often. Mushrooms and onions are wonderful additions. And this last time we ordered sweet Italian sausage from our CSA to use in the recipe. mmm! fresh and local!

Seared Tuna: Simple seafood. This is so easy and so quick. We've done this a couple times too. We alternate the accompanying side dishes; this last time we had it with shelled edamame (found in the freezer section) and brown rice.

Tortellini Salad with Roasted Vegetables

For stuffed pastas like ravioli and tortellini, Whitney and I like to buy the pre-made refrigerated varieties and build dishes around them, which was my inspiration for this dish. This one was very easy to throw together on my own. I roasted cherry tomatoes, asparagus, and a chopped red onion in olive oil, salt, and pepper on a foil-covered baking sheet at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, which was enough to cook them a bit but still retain good texture. We then were able to build our own salads with the roasted veggies, cooked cheese tortellini, homemade vinaigrette, and fresh parmesan on some mixed lettuce (fresh herbs also an option - forgot to do that this time!).

Much easier than sautéing all these vegetables!
I love colorful dishes.

Your Initial Potluck

 Who knew potlucks would become a weekly thing?? Well they have and it's wonderful! However it's becoming harder and harder to think of new ideas. Fear not, this potluck theme was for the creative at heart. The theme: bring a dish that either (1) the name of your dish starts with your first initial or (2) the main ingredient in your dish starts with your first initial. You may also defer to your last initial. Some of us even incorporated both initials!

Here's the feast! Can you figure out who brought what?! From the top left of the table to the bottom right: teriyaki chicken skewers, roast beef pitas, macaroni and cheese, penne pasta with pancetta sauce, noodles, whole wheat pasta with pesto, tilapia. And we had two (!) desserts this potluck.
 And now without further ado... here's our very own food alphabet!

Hot Pasta Holly P.
She also utilized her last initial quite a bit. The official title of the dish was "Penne Pasta with a Pancetta Marinara Sauce and Parmesean Cheese"
Boil penne pasta. Heat up marinara sauce and add Pancetta. Pour marinara over penne and serve with parmeasean cheese.

Mac n Cheese Mimi
Start with one Kraft macncheese box. Cook everything according to the instructions on the box and then add some of the following:
Pieces of cheddar cheese, Ranch dressing, Worcestershire sauce, Mustard

Noodles Natalie
This is officially called Egg-Topped Soba Noodles with Asparagus and Prosciutto and can be found on the Epicurious website here.

 Roast Beef Romin B. Pitas
For the red bean puree, I cooked kidney beans for a few minutes, mashed them, added tomato paste, olive oil, salt, the juice of half of a lime and some barbecue sauce, and let cook for about 10 minutes. Fill the pita with deli roast beef, a slather of the puree and red bell peppers (sliced and sauteed for about 10 minutes).

 Teriyaki Tim
Marinated chicken breast pieces in teriyaki sauce. Add this to skewers with pineapple (sprinkled with brown sugar), red onion, and pepper pieces. Grill until done.

Tilapia Tilden 
Onto the tilapia fillet, sprinkle on a little garlic salt, lowry seasoning salt, and crushed red peppers, and a generous amount of old bay. Place 2 patties of butter on top of each filet. Bake at 350 for 20 mins.

Whole Wheat pasta Whitney with Pesto Patrick
Cut up 4 strips of bacon into bite size pieces. Saute this in a large skillet pan. Once the bacon has rendered some fat add in 1/2 minced onion. Meanwhile heat a pot of water; once boiling add some salt and boil the pasta according to pasta directions. After the onion has softened add in 1 pint of English peas. Cook until tender (~7 minutes). Once the pasta is done, drain and return to the pot. Once the peas are tender add this bacon mixture to the pasta pot. Then add pesto and cream. We used about 1/4 cup of homemade pasta and a small carton of cream. Mix and let pasta sit for about 5 minutes on very low heat to let flavors incorporate. For the homemade pesto we used a handful of basil, a head of roasted garlic gloves, shaved parmesan, almonds, and evoo mixed in a small blender.

Ravioli Richard
For the Chocolate Pasta:
1.75 c all purpose flour, 0.25 c baking cocoa, 2 eggs, 4 tbsp water (can vary).
Mix ingredients into a pasta dough ball and let the dough rest for at least 30 min. Roll out the dough using a pasta roller.
For the Filling:
Peanut butter, semi-sweet chocolate chips.
Place filling on pasta sheet and cover with another pasta sheet to seal in the filling. Use a cookie cutter to cut the ravioli. Boil the ravioli for about 2 to 3 minutes.
For the Sauce:
Semi-sweet chocolate chips, vanilla extract, vanilla soy milk, chopped banana.
Melt in a double boiler until the sauce is runny. Top ravioli with toasted chopped peanuts.

Rhubarb strawberry crisp Ruth
Tim's mom, Ruth, was in town visiting for a week in May so of course she was invited to our potluck! She treated us to a fabulous Rhubarb Strawberry Crisp--a Paula Deen recipe found here.
And some homemade whipped cream!!

Baked Pasta with Fennel and Artichoke

Patrick and I decided to give fennel another go. We used part of our CSA allotment for two small fennels. I found this recipe from Food Network to try. Neither one of us were too impressed with the recipe. I'm including it because in the future we'll probably try it again with some other veggies. The fresh mozzarella was certainly a treat and a delicious bite in the casserole. Here's the recipe with a few of our notes and how we changed things. 

Baked Pasta with Fennel and Artichoke
Kosher salt
1 pound cavatappi substituted fusilli 
2 tablespoons extra-virigin olive oil, plus more for brushing
4 cloves garlic, sliced
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1 28-ounce can plum tomatoes
1 15-ounce can plum tomatoes used just one large 35 oz can tomatoes
4 large sprigs basil
1 cup fresh ricotta cheese
1 1/2 cups chopped frozen artichoke hearts, thawed used canned
1 1/2 cups sliced fennel, sauteed note the fennel should be sauteed before you begin the recipe
3 cups cubed fresh mozzarella cheese
1 cup freshly grated pecorino cheese or parmesan 

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta until very al dente, 2 to 3 minutes less than the label directs; drain.

We sauteed the fennel and then continued using the same pan with the fennel removed. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until the garlic is golden. Crush the plum tomatoes into the skillet with your hands (don't get tomato sauce all over Patrick...oops); rinse out each can with 1/2 cup water and add the water to the skillet. Add the basil; simmer, uncovered, until the sauce is thickened, about 15 minutes. Discard the basil (we sliced the basil and left it in the sauce); season the sauce with salt. (Alternatively, heat 4 cups prepared tomato sauce.)

Stir the ricotta into the sauce, then add the artichoke hearts and fennel.

Brush a 3-to-4-quart baking dish with olive oil. Toss the cooked pasta with the sauce and half of each cheese. Spread in the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the pasta. Bake, uncovered, until browned, about 15 minutes. Let rest 15 minutes before serving.

"Chopped" Inspiration / Ingredient POTLUCK!

We've got some budding foodies in our midst. And by that I mean some of us love to watch Food Network and pretend we're professionals! As I mentioned previously our Secret Ingredient: Alcohol Potluck was a spinoff from Food Network's Iron Chef. Well tonight's potluck was from Chopped. Have you seen it? Here's the little promo ad.

Don't let the video fool you; we weren't in a competition and my kitchen didn't burn down by chefs crazily cooking things right before the potluck. Our inspiration is from the basket on Chopped. The video here doesn't do much justice for the creative aspect on the show. Did you see the baskets the chefs open? Well in those baskets are 3-5 random ingredients that they must use in preparing their dish. The ingredients can be a little wacky.

The previous potluck week we had filled a bowl with random ingredients. Everyone then picked out 5 ingredients. Your dish had to feature at least three of these ingredients.

The feast! Match up the dish with their descriptions and photos below...
Romin's Ingredients: something from a tree, orange, onion, "leafy" green, grain
Boiled rice in salted water until all the water was absorbed. Repeat 2 additional times. For the final cook, I switched to half and half, again till the liquid was essentially gone. In the meanwhile, I separately sauteed onions until translucent, added mushrooms, then almonds and finally some chopped spinach until heated through. Once the rice was finished, I combined all the ingredients, added a generous amount of parmesan cheese and some lemon juice to lighten it up.

Holly's Ingredients: beans, honey, something you peel
Barbecued Orange and Honey Baked Beans
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4-1/5 cup barbecue sauce
2 tbsp of honey
1 peeled and sliced orange
orange zest
32 oz can of beans (For the potluck I used a 55 oz can and increased all other portions)
   Saute onion in oil until just tender. Stir in barbecue sauce, honey and zest. In casseroel dish, combine baked beans and onion mix, stir well. Bake at 350 for 40 mins, stir occasionally. Stir in orange slices and place back in oven for 5 mins longer.

Tilden's Ingredients: basil, breadcrumbs, cream, egg, stock
Cook 1lb fettuccine - al dente
Added 1 egg, 1/2 cup cream, and fresh basil to 1 container of alfredo sauce. Brought to slow boil and stirred regularly for 5 minutes. Mix and eat.

Tim's Ingredients: tuna, beef, wafers
Basic tuna pasta salad with tuna, celery, mayonnaise, and some wafer crackers for crunch.

Whitney's Ingredients: rice, dairy, something yellow/orange
Combined rice, cream of mushroom and chicken soup, sauteed yellow bell peppers, broccoli, onion, and cheese in a casserole dish. Baked for 20 minutes in a 350F oven.

Patrick's Ingredients: something red, eggplant, apple, peaches, "you pick"
Most experimental "chopped" dish. Sliced the eggplant very thin lengthwise, roasted it, then used it to wrap up a peach-apple salsa.

Ryan's Ingredients: nut, cheese, fish, maple syrup, something from the ground
Pecan-crusted fish with maple syrup served with couscous.

Natalie's Ingredients: habanero, citrus, "you pick", berry, cinnamon
1 habanero pepper (recipe called for three, but I think one would be enough)
2 tablespoons sugar, plus 1 cup
24 ounces cream cheese
Pinch of salt
4 eggs
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 lime, zested
1 very juicy or 2 less juicy limes, juiced
1 lime sliced thinly, for garnish
1whole habenero, for garnish
1 pre-made pie crust
   Set oven to broil and roast the habaneros - rotating ever few minutes. Remove habaneros from oven and set them to steam under a towel. When they are cool enough to handle, put on plastic gloves (didn't do this, but I would definitely recommend it). Peel and deseed habanero, then mix with the 2 tablespoons of sugar until a coarse paste results.
   Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cream the cream cheese, then add remaining sugar and salt. Beat in the
eggs 1 at a time until incorporated. Add the cream and blend. Beat the zest and lime juice into this mixture. Add the habanero paste last and beat until well mixed. Pour into the crust, then gently tap the pan to level the filling. Sprinkle cinnamon on top. Bake for approximately 1 hour or until the cheesecake pulls away from
the edge of the pan. Remove from the oven and allow to set for 20 minutes. Wrap and keep in the refrigerator overnight, or if rushed, place in the freezer for 2 to 3 hours.
   whoo spicy!

Salad Equation

 What do you get when you add together...

Crisp romaine lettuce, from our CSA (+)

Delightful fresh veggies: tomatoes from the Durham Farmers Market
red onions, boiled eggs, and mushrooms (+)

Patrick's own balsamic vinegar concoction (=)

A salad dinner entrée perfect for any summer night.

MOM Dish Potluck

It was Mother's Day and we decided to celebrate / honor our mothers with the potluck theme. We cooked one of two dishes: (1) your favorite dish that your mom cooks or (2) a favorite dish that your mom enjoys. These dishes were a lot of fun and a great way to feel connected to your mom even if she was far away on the day! For some reason I forgot to take a picture of the buffet line. :-( My potluck photo capturing is waning.

Watercress Salad by Richard
The beef was marinated for a couple of hours in a mixture of fish sauce, lime zest, lime juice, and sugar. The marinated beef was then cooked in a pan with sliced onions and garlic. Then, the cooked beef was placed over a bed of watercress (trimmed of stems), sliced tomatoes, and boiled eggs. The remainder of the cooking liquid was poured over the dish to finish.

White Wine Shrimp Alfredo by Ryan
A "best guess" of this recipe:
2 T Mrs Dash (or your favorite assortment of seasonings)
2 T minced garlic
1 stick of unsalted butter
1 cup white cooking wine
1 cup heavy cream
2 cup half n half
5 cups milk
1 pkg spaghetti noodles
1 lb of shrimp
1/2 cup flour
Boil water for spaghetti. Salt the water and add some evoo if desired.
In a large skillet over medium heat, combine the butter and garlic together stirring frequently. When the butter is completely melted, add the cream, milk, and 1 cup of half n half. Add your seasonings. When the sauce starts to bubble add the cooking wine. When the sauce bubbles again, reduce the heat to low. In a separate bowl combine the flour and 2nd cup of half n half. Stir until well blended (this is the thickening agent).
Slowly add the thickening agent to the sauce, stirring constantly. You may not need all of the thickening mix to reach your desired thickness. Once you are satisfied, increase the heat to medium. As the sauce begins to bubble, add your shrimp. When the shrimp turns a good pink (2-3 minutes), reduce to low.
Combine your sauce and noodles in a serving dish.

Spaghetti Sauce by Patrick
AKA Mary Beth’s Sweet Red Wine Spaghetti Sauce (from Mom's college roommate’s grandmother)
1 Large Can Crushed Tomatoes
12 Oz. Can Tomato Paste
Juice of ½ Lemon (or 1 Tbsp. Lemon Juice)
1 Tbsp. Red Wine Vinegar
½ Cup Sugar
½ Cup Red Wine (Port or Burgundy Recommended)
1/3 Cup Oil (EVOO)
Garlic Pods, Peeled and Sliced Thin
Salt and Pepper (to taste)
Optional: Add 1 pound fried and crumbled ground beef or sausage
Add all ingredients to a Dutch oven or large pot. Then Simmer on low heat for 1½ hours. Flavors are even better the second day!

Zucchini and Almond Pasta by Natalie
1 1/2 pounds zucchini (2 to 3, depending on size), halved lenthwise and very thinly sliced
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 ounces parmesan or pecorino romano cheese, thinly sliced on a mandoline or with a peeler
1/2 cup slivered almonds, well-toasted and cooled (300F oven for 7 to 10 minutes, tossing occasionally, usually works)
1/2 pound pasta of your choice (I like the extra bite of whole wheat pasta in pasta salads), cooked, drained and cooled
5 tablespoons olive oil
Juice of one lemon
Freshly ground black pepper
Bechamel Sauce Ingredients
5 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups milk
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  In a medium saucepan, heat the butter over medium-low heat until melted. Add the flour and stir until smooth. Over medium heat, cook until the mixture turns a light, golden sandy color, about 6 to 7 minutes.
  Meanwhile, heat the milk in a separate pan until just about to boil. Add the hot milk to the butter mixture 1 cup at a time, whisking continuously until very smooth. Bring to a boil. Cook 10 minutes, stirring constantly, then remove from heat. Season with salt and nutmeg, and set aside until ready to use.
  Toss zucchini slices with one teaspoon salt in a large colander set over a bowl or in sink. Let drain 20 minutes. If they taste too salty to you, rinse and drain them again. Stir bechamel, zucchini, almonds and pasta together.

Hungry Jack Casserole by me (thanks to Patrick for cooking while I was at work)
I forgot to take a picture of my dish. But here's a complete blog entry on the casserole.
Also I loved it when my mom would buy watermelon!

Tequila Flank Steak by Tim
Secret recipe!

Momma's Strawberry Shortcake by Holly
For the Strawberries:
Slice strawberries and mix with sugar (to taste). Keep in fridge until ready to eat.
For the Whip Cream:
Mix 1 pint of whipping cream with 3 tablespoons of powdered sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla whip with electric mixer until peaks form
For the Shortcake:
Heat oven to 425. Stir 2 1/3 cups of original bisquick mix with 3 tlsp of sugar and 3 tablespoons of melted butter until soft dough forms. Drop dough by spoonfulls onto ungreased cookie sheet to make small cakes OR use a muffin pan to make shortcake in muffin shapes OR bake in a baking dish to make a whole shortcake. Bake 10-12 mins until golden.