Prioneer Woman's Pasta Primavera

It just so happened that I needed a recipe that utilized ham. We baked a ham for the holidays and froze some leftovers in separate portions for later. Well the other week was "later". I took one package out to thaw and used about 1/3 of the ham for potato soup. The next day I was looking around for a ham casserole or something to use up the rest of the ham. One of our favorite ham casseroles is this Eating Well Mac and Cheese. But since it's one of our favorites I made that the last time I used the ham and wanted to try something different this time.

Cue Pioneer Woman publishing this very recipe on the day that I needed it! Previously I had found a gnocchi and ham recipe but Patrick rejected it so I was still browsing around when I saw it. It's really great for using up vegetables you have or subbing in your favorite vegetables. For example I substituted a red bell pepper for the cauliflower. Read on for the recipe! And then follow the hyperlinked title to Pioneer Woman's website for step-by-step pictures!

Pioneer Woman's Pasta Primavera
   Prep Time 10 Minutes | Cook Time 15 Minutes | 6 Servings
2 Tablespoons butter
1 whole medium onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, Minced
3 whole carrots, peeled and diced
1 cup cauliflower, broken into small pieces
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup chicken broth
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper, to taste
8 whole basil leaves, chopped
3/4 cups cooked ham, diced
1 cup frozen peas
Extra Parmesan, for serving
Extra Basil, for serving
1 pound cheese or spinach tortellini

   Cook tortellini a couple of minutes less than package directions call for. Drain and set aside.
   Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and garlic and stir to cook for 1 minute. Add the carrots and cauliflower, stir, and cook 1 minute. Splash in wine and broth, then cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until the liquid reduces a bit. Stir in cream and Parmesan and stir.
   When the mixture is hot, stir in peas, ham, salt, and pepper. Allow them to heat up in the sauce. When the sauce is hot, stir in the tortellini. Check for seasonings, add more if needed, and serve with extra Parmesan and basil.

I forgot to grab tortellini when I was at the store so we used a whole wheat spiral pasta instead!

Meal Plan Monday Post

Interesting week for the meal plan last week! One evening we ate apart so nothing needed to be planned there and then Patrick was out of town for the weekend. He was in Chicago to celebrate his brother's birthday! While he was gone I fixed all my favorite dishes that he doesn't like.

Meal Plan for Monday April 21 - Sunday April 27

   Monday - Asian sweet potato orzo
   Tuesday - Theater Steak
   Wednesday - Separate
   Thursday - CSA pick up day, requested bok choy for Stir Fry
   Friday - Fish with veggies
   Saturday - Patrick in Chicago for the weekend to celebrate his brother's birthday!
   Sunday - Patrick in Chicago means Whitney makes all the things she loves that Patrick doesn't!

   Monday - Asian sweet potato orzo, first requested by Patrick a few months ago. May quickly become a favorite!
   Tuesday - Theater steak; recipe published in the newspaper.
   Wednesday - Whitney: dinner out with girlfriends; Patrick: picked up dinner at work
   Thursday - Chicken & Bok Choy Stir Fry
   Friday - Kingclip fish (looked good at the store) with sweet potato and salad
   Saturday - Pasta with chicken and artichokes
   Sunday - Imitation crab meat casserole

Worked on this week's meal plan last night and will be going to the grocery store today. Another odd week ahead; I have a wisdom teeth extraction schedule so I imagine that will severely limit what I want to eat! My mom is coming to town so Patrick will not be burdened with my care; maybe they will make me some chicken noodle soup!

Bros Brunch

What a fun way to end Duke's Alumni Weekend with the Bros Brunch! It was such a whirlwind weekend filled with lots to do. Here's a breakdown of the whole weekend and I have saved the Bros Brunch recipes in a document that's linked at the bottom! Lots of fun pictures in this post too!

   Duke's official 5-Year class party was this night. Patrick's fraternity hosted a small cookout before the event for all of the brothers to congregate and reunite. The official class party had a photo booth. The photo booth evidence is below. (Please note there is no dark blue on my body.)

   Patrick and I had a quick breakfast for our guests before heading to Duke for lunch. We offered Rise doughnuts and bananas. After the lunch the guys fraternized with their brothers in some afternoon revelry. Their fraternity invented this crazy game called "Beer Frisbee" and on alumni weekend the alumni come together to take on the active brothers.

   On Saturday we all decided to dress up a bit and try a new restaurant in town - Harvest 18.

   Finally on Sunday morning the weekend culminated with our Bros Brunch. If you're interested in planning our exact brunch you can print off the menu by clicking here. You can read our posts about the drinks here and the food here. Here's a quick rundown of the menu:
Breakfast Casserole, Grits
Savory Breakfast Muffins, Mixed Berry Sour Cream Coffee Cake
Assortment of Fruit
Bloody Mary Bar | Champagne, Orange Juice, Coffee

And here are some fun pictures from brunch!

Can't have brunch without the paper!
Bloody Mary bar fun!
We shuffled around our dining room table and placed a card table next to it so we could seat all 10 of us together!
All the Duke guys -- all wonderful gentlemen, sure do love mine!
We look forward to many future Bros Brunches!

Bros Brunch: Food

Hosting meals with Whitney is always so much fun because she is a dedicated hostess and is so creative with her meal planning. You won't be surprised to hear that in addition to drinks, we also had food at our brunch! To start with, I selected our old staple the breakfast casserole. That one was nice for a meal like this because we could prep it the night before and just put it in the oven in the morning. To that we added some standard side dishes of grits and fruit (pineapple, strawberries, and grapes).

Aside from those, we selected two new recipes to try. I wanted something sweet and something savory, so we decided on savory breakfast muffins and a mixed berry sour cream coffee cake. Unfortunately there were some hiccups in our execution of each that kept them from reaching their full potential. For the muffins, I completely forgot to add the cheese, and the pancetta we used instead of the Canadian bacon didn't add much flavor, and we didn't have a bell pepper, so they came out a bit bland. For the coffee cake, the very bottom of it burned a little bit in the toaster oven, but everything above that was tasty! If you're interested in the recipes, stay tuned for our next post.

Hopefully with all the good drinks and good company people enjoyed themselves anyway. We certainly did!

The spread
Breakfast muffins
Breakfast casserole and grits
The fruit
The coffee cake. Looks beautiful from this angle!

Bros Brunch: Drinks

Last week on the meal plan post I forgot to put in Sunday! Sunday morning of Patrick's Alumni Weekend we planned to host brunch for his friends that were in town (and some that are still local)! I affectionately dubbed this the Bros Brunch menu. Tomorrow Patrick will be sharing all the food we planned for brunch but today is something even more exciting -- the drinks!

Patrick thought it would be fun to offer Bloody Marys. I worried that not everyone would be on the Bloody Mary bandwagon so I picked up a bottle of champagne to have for those folks more interested in a Mimosa. We set up everything on the kitchen ledge so that our guests could help themselves to whatever they wanted and however they wanted it.

Here's the Drinks Bar!
Off to the side of the drinks bar I had glasses set up for everyone with a "grab a glass" sign next to it. This was a stemless wine glass which I thought would be appropriate for either the Mimosa, Bloody Mary, or whatever the guest wanted to drink. Even though this glass may not be ideal for the Mimosa or Bloody Mary I heard no complaints!

From there folks had the option between the Mimosas or Bloody Marys. Here are the signs I had prepared.

Orange Juice
Vodka / Gin, Bloody Mary mix,
Celery, Lemon, Olives,
Worcestershire sauce, Hot sauce

Here's a close up of the DIY Bloody Mary section.

Patrick wanted us to make a Bloody Mary mix (the tomato juice base) but I thought that was a bit ambitious. So I picked up a nice mix from World Market. To the mix we let everyone choose if they wanted to add vodka or gin. Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, lemons, and olives were all available as add-ons to the drink. The celery sticks were used to stir and garnish.

Patrick's Bloody Mary
This drinks bar was quite do-able. Patrick and I don't host cocktail parties so I was a little unsure how everything would work out but this was perfect! Everyone was able to fix their drinks exactly how they wanted it. The options between the two drinks was nice for guests too.

Rise Welcome Breakfast

I have decided that Rise Biscuits & Donuts are my new go-to "Welcome to Durham" breakfasts for house guests. Rise is a local shop that serves fresh biscuits and donuts. The menu is always changing to accommodate fresh, seasonal ingredients but also the creative minds of the chefs! When I went in this last visit they had a donut topped with Fruity Pebbles -- talk about creativity! Rise never disappoints and who wouldn't want to wake up to donuts?!

Rise is quite popular. The line is out the door on most weekend mornings. For this reason I stop in the store on Friday afternoons and get the donuts. Then everyone can relax the following morning while enjoying the donuts. I try to have fresh bananas along with orange juice and coffee.

Patrick's fellow Dukies were in town for their five year reunion! For our guests I bought glazed donuts, chocolate glazed donuts, chocolate cake donuts, and donut holes with sprinkles.

Rise & Shine!

Meal Plan Monday Post

A little late for the regularly scheduled morning post but it's still Monday so the newly minted Meal Plan Monday Posts continue!

Today the meal plan is introducing the "throw together" meal. These happen every now and then (not usually three nights in a row though). The throw together meals typically happen towards the end of a meal plan when I am delaying my next grocery store visit. Once you get used to not having to go to the grocery store every few days you realize just how much of a luxury it is to not have to squeeze in grocery trips.

Recently I've also been trying to do a pantry spring cleaning of sorts. So I'm trying to use up all the random things we have in the pantry or freezer before all these yummy fresh vegetables start coming in. This means a throw together meal is probably some combination of frozen meats or frozen sauces with half boxes of pasta or grains. Patrick and I will both admit that some throw together meals are better than others.

Here was our meal plan last week!

Meal Plan for Monday April 14 - Sunday April 20

   Monday - Throw together, ground pork
   Tuesday - Throw together, chicken breasts
   Wednesday - Throw together, crab meat
   Thursday - CSA veggies (1st box of the spring season!)
   Friday - Visiting family for Easter
   Saturday - Visiting family for Easter

   Monday - Pork loaf with apricot dijon glaze, crispy potatoes, salad
   Tuesday - Italian chicken with penne
   Wednesday - Crab cakes with arugula salad
   Thursday - Spinach and Artichoke personal pizzas (made with Harris Teeter whole wheat pizza dough)
   Friday - Visiting family for Easter
   Saturday - Visiting family for Easter

This coming week we will feature Bros Weekend posts! Last weekend Patrick celebrated his 5 year reunion with fellow alumni. We had such a fun time with everyone!

Hope everyone had a nice Easter weekend!

Margherita Risotto

Patrick and I feel like we've got the technique for risotto making down. In my opinion risotto is a slightly glamorous meal to make so I like to plan it for a relaxing weekend or when we have something to celebrate. On this particular occasion my mom was in town for the weekend and I thought she would would enjoy some risotto!

Basic risotto is almost like a blank slate. You cook the arborio rice with some onion, white wine, and then slowly add chicken stock to the rice as it continues to absorb the liquid throughout the cooking process. Then when it's just about done you can throw in any sort of seasonal vegetable. We also love it served with seafood.

It was almost like we wanted to move past these risottos and add a different dimension. This margherita risotto was just what we were looking for -- there's a tomato base for this risotto! This was quite tasty and worth the experiment. Some fresh hydroponic basil and mozzarella also went into the dish. Read on for the recipe!

Margherita Risotto from Strawberry Plum blog
   Serves 4
1 small white onion, minced
1 c. arborio Rice
1 c. dry white wine
1 14 oz. can San Marzano tomatoes, crushed
2 c. chicken or vegetable broth (homemade or low-sodium), warm (keep it at a low simmer on an adjacent burner)
1 Tbsp. butter
10 large basil leaves, torn
1 medium ball fresh mozzarella, torn in bite-sized pieces
extra virgin olive oil

   Heat about 2 tsp. olive oil in a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion, lightly salt, and sauté until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the rice and toast for about a minute until the rice is dry and makes clicking noises as you stir it around the pan. Add the white wine and let the rice absorb almost all of it. Add the crushed tomatoes, let the liquid come up to a bubble, then reduce the heat to a simmer. When the rice has absorbed most of this liquid, add about a third of the warm broth. Simmer, stirring frequently, adding more broth as the rice absorbs the liquid.
   After about 20 minutes, the rice should be cooked (but not mushy!) and you are ready to finish the risotto.
   Remove from heat. Add butter and season to taste. Scatter the mozzarella and basil over the top and gently stir to combine. You want the mozzarella to melt a bit but you still want to be able to see pieces and taste its freshness. The basil will wilt a bit but retain its fresh summery flavor.
   Divide risotto between warm bowls. Drizzle with a touch of good olive oil and garnish with a couple of pretty basil leaves, if desired.

Thai Turkey Chili

In the past few months you may have noticed a few meals with ground turkey popping up. There was one in the winter for turkey chili and just recently there were turkey burgers. After the turkey chili recipe was posted one of my hometown friends passed along this Thai Turkey Chili recipe. The flavor profile of the chili sounded delicious and I couldn't wait for us to try it.

I only had one small hiccup with getting this into the meal plan rotation. Whenever I wanted this chili I would need to plan an additional meal with ground turkey for that week! You see, we have some ground turkey in the freezer from Costco. And before we froze it we didn't quite realize how big the packaging was (almost 1.5 pounds)! Unfortunately since it's already frozen we can't refreeze them in smaller portions. So this means we have to thaw the turkey, cook all the turkey, and then save half of the browned ground turkey to be used in the following days! Whew! So much work for turkey!

For this particular Thai Turkey Chili to happen we made the turkey burgers mentioned above. With the thawed ground turkey, I put half into burger patties and then browned the second half to make the chili later in the week (just 2-3 days later). It all worked out but next time we have meat from Costco we will be more conscious of portion size before we put it in the freezer.

Without more discussion, here is the recipe!

Thai Turkey Chili from TODAY show and Chirstine Riccitelli
   Serves 6
20 oz package extra lean (99%) ground turkey breast
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons minced ginger
1 tablespoon cumin*
1 tablespoon chili powder* We used a Mexican spice blend which had cumin and chili powder in it
1/2 teaspoon red hot pepper flakes
1 cup chopped green onions
2 cups shredded carrots
2 red bell peppers, chopped
1/3 cup soy sauce, reduced-sodium
1 - 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 - 15 1/2 oz can black beans, drained & rinsed
3 tablespoons peanut butter
1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped

   In a large 4-6 quart size pot, cook turkey, garlic and ginger until turkey is no longer pink, stirring constantly to break up turkey. Once fully cooked, drain the liquid.
   Stir in cumin, chili powder and red pepper flakes. Then, add the remaining ingredients (except peanut butter and cilantro). Mix well and bring to a boil over high heat.
   Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 20-30 minutes until vegetables are tender.
   Now, stir in peanut butter and cilantro.
   Spoon into bowls and serve hot.

We really enjoyed the chili! A nice plus is it was ready in less than an hour from start to finish (no long simmering required). Thanks for sharing the recipe with us Elizabeth!

Ricotta Pancakes with Cornmeal

Last month we blogged about using ricotta. We occasionally buy ricotta for savory Italian pasta dishes and then end up throwing the other half of the container out because it goes bad. But not anymore! After some googling I stumbled upon all sorts of yummy breakfast recipes with ricotta so now we use the second half of the ricotta for brunch.

We had previously tried ricotta pancakes and knew they were delicious. That first recipe for ricotta pancakes was found online. This one today is from a cookbook we received as a wedding gift! I particularly enjoyed this ricotta pancake variation because it had cornmeal in it which added a bit to the savory flavor.

We actually made these pancakes for Valentine's Day which explains the extra dollop of whipped cream -- gotta be a little extra sweet on the holiday! Since we did so many wedding posts in February this one got forgotten but here it is now. Read on for the recipe.

Ricotta Silver Dollars from Sarah Copeland's The Newlywed Cookbook
1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal or polenta
1/2 tsp fine sea salt or iodized salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup whole-milk ricotta
2 large eggs, separated
pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
punch of finely grated lemon zest
1 tbsp sugar
melted unsalted butter, for the pan

   Whisk together flour, cornmeal, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, ricotta, egg yolks, nutmeg, and lemon zest. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and whisk in the wet ingredients until just incorporated.
   Beat the egg whites and sugar with an electric mixer. Gently fold the egg whites into the batter with a spatula or whisk until evenly incorporated, but don't overmix, which can deflate the egg whites.
  Heat a cast-iron or nonstick griddle or heavy frying pan over medium-high heat until a drop of water sizzles when splashed on the pan. Brush the griddle lightly with melted butter. Pour 1/4 of batter per pancake onto the griddle, leaving about 2 inches between pancakes. When little bubbles form all over the surface of the batter, after 1 to 2 minutes, gently life and flip the pancakes with a flexible spatula. Cook on the other side until the pancakes are golden brown around the edges, about 2 minutes. Repeat, adding more butter to the pan as needed.
   Serve immediately with sliced nectarines and their syrup.

Meal Plan Monday Post

Last week we launched Meal Plan Monday posts! And so far I'm staying committed to the weekly post.

We had a great weekend with Patrick's fellow Duke grads in town. They celebrated their 5 year reunion! Duke's Alumni Weekend gave us a bit of a break from meal planning for the weekend which was nice. Read on for the meal plan...

Meal Plan for Monday April 7 - Sunday April 13

   Monday - Pasta with creamy avocado sauce and cherry tomatoes
   Tuesday - Sloppy joe's
   Wednesday - Dinner & DPAC Date Night
   Thursday - *Eighth Month Menu*
   Friday - Patrick's 5 year alumni weekend festivities commence
   Saturday - Alumni weekend

   Monday - Pasta with creamy avocado sauce and cherry tomatoes
   Tuesday - Sloppy joe's
   Wednesday - Dinner at 58 Fifty Bistro & Martini Bar
        Wizard of Oz at DPAC
   Thursday - Baked fish in parchment, beets and arugula salad; carrot cake cupcake
   Friday - Duke reunion party
   Saturday - Dinner at Harvest 18 with Patrick's fellow 5 year Duke reunion guys

A few pics to share:

In honor of our upcoming Wizard of Oz show at DPAC we completed an Oz puzzle a few weeks ago.

All 1000 pieces!
We started the puzzle when my mom visisted a few weekends ago. It took us 3-4 days to complete it.

Sneak peek photo of our baked fish in parchment for our anniversary dinner! Check back to the blog for that post.

Our CSA starts this week so we're excited to get some fresh, spring vegetables incorporated into our meal plans!

Have a great week everyone!

Clinton Kelly's Braised Chicken

More yummy recipes from ABC's The Chew! If you haven't tuned into this daytime foodie show then you really need to! Or maybe not... cause then you're going to have a whole pile of new recipes you're going to want to try! Today I'm sharing Clinton Kelly's Braised Chicken with White Beans and Spinach. Visit the website (hyperlinked in the title) and you can see a video of Clinton making the dish.

Clinton Kelly's Braised Chicken with White Beans & Spinach from ABC's The Chew
   Time 60 min | Servings 4
8 skinless chicken thighs
Extra virgin olive oil
Unsalted butter
1 onion, thinly sliced
6 garlic cloves, smashed
1 medium rosemary sprig, leaves finely chopped
1/2 cup white wine
2 cups chicken stock
14 ounce can cannellini beans, drained & rinsed
3 cups fresh spinach
1 lemon, strips of zest & juice
3 ounces prosciutto slices, thinly sliced into ribbons; optional
Parsley, to garnish
Salt & freshly Cracked Black Pepper

   Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high with a few tablespoons of olive oil. Season chicken liberally with salt and pepper on both sides. Add to the pan and sear until golden, about 3-4 minutes per side. Remove chicken to a plate.
   Add a few tablespoons of butter and allow to melt. Stir in onions, season with salt and cook until softened, about 3-4 minutes. Toss in rosemary and garlic and cook just until fragrant. Deglaze pan with white wine. Return chicken to the pan along with the stock. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook for 20-25 minutes until chicken is cooked and tender.
   Remove chicken to a plate. Stir in beans and spinach, cover and cook for 5 more minutes to infuse flavors.
   Serve warm with a drizzle of olive oil, parsley, lemon juice and top with prosciutto.

I changed up a few things to "make it my own". One of the biggest differences was the prosciutto. I can find it more easily diced (rather than in thin slices) so I added the diced prosciutto to the pan right before the onions to let the fat render out a bit and add that flavor the dish.

Seventh Month Menu

When Patrick and I were finalizing ceremony details for our wedding, one big decision was what time it would start! 11am - 11:30am - and 12noon were the options. At our venue we had the space from 11am-4pm. We weren't too keen on getting started right at 11am and debated quite a bit between 11:30am and 12noon. My mom felt like a noon wedding could be construed as a formal ("high noon" weddings, anyone??) wedding. We liked the sentiment that, according to some traditions, getting married on the half hour means the couple will have many blessings in their life as the minute hand is moving upwards and ascending to the heavens. And before we knew it we had set the ceremony for 11:30am!

And here we are now, on the up tick side of our first year of marriage! What fun it was to celebrate seven months together in March! I asked Patrick for anniversary dinner input and he requested one of his favorite dishes -- lemon spaghetti with seared scallops. So it's not a new recipe for the blog but still below. There was, however, a new dessert!

Lemon spaghetti with seared scallops
Table salt
1 pound spaghetti
¼ cup evoo, plus more for serving
1 medium shallot, minced
¼ cup heavy cream
2 tsps finely grated lemon zest and ¼ cup juice from 3 lemons
1 ounce finely grated Parmesan cheese (about ½ cup), plus more for servings
Ground black pepper
2 tablespoons shredded fresh basil leaves

   Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large Dutch oven over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon salt and pasta to boiling water; cook, stirring frequently, until al dente. Reserve 1¾ cups cooking water, drain pasta into colander, and set aside.
   Heat 1 tablespoon oil in now-empty Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add shallot and ½ teaspoon salt; cook until shallot is softened, about 2 minutes. Whisk 1½ cups of reserved pasta cooking water and cream into pot; bring to simmer and cook for 2 minutes. Remove pot from heat, return pasta, and stir until coated. Stir in remaining 3 tablespoons oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, cheese, and ½ teaspoon pepper.
   Cover and let pasta stand 2 minutes, tossing frequently and adjusting consistency with remaining ¼ cup reserved pasta water if necessary. Stir in basil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve, drizzling individual portions with oil and sprinkling with cheese.
Meanwhile sear scallops. Serve scallops atop lemon spaghetti.

Oreo cheesecake trifles with raspberries adapted from Curry & Comfort Blog
½ package of chocolate wafer cookies (approx. 20)
1 small box instant vanilla pudding
4 oz cream cheese, room temperature
½ cup whipped cream
Raspberries, for garnish 

   Whip cream cheese until smooth with electric mixer. Prepare pudding according to package directions and mix with cream cheese. Fold in half the whipped cream.
   Crush cookies in food processor.
   To assemble trifles, layer cookie and custard mixture alternately. Finish with whipped topping.
   Garnish with raspberries and additional cookie if desired.

Hydroponic Basil

A couple weeks ago I couldn't resist some fresh basil! As you know spring and those warmer temperatures have most definitely been flirting with us. Once warm weather hits I am all about cooking with fresh vegetables and herbs.

Harris Teeter sells two types of fresh basil (that I could see): one is packaged basil leaves and the second is a hydroponic basil plant. Hydroponic gardening is basically gardening without soil utilizing water and nutrients. You can check out the Wikipedia article. I purchased the hydroponic basil because it not only looked way fresher than the packaged but if I kept it in fresh water then it would last a couple of days or more on the the kitchen counter!

The purchase of this hydroponic basil turned into a "margherita" weekend! A margherita pizza is typically adorned with mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, and basil! We had three margherita inspired meals with the hydroponic basil. Here they are:

Margherita Risotto
   This recipe will be up on the blog soon. We've been enjoying risotto (we maybe make it once every 1-2 months) and felt it was time to venture out from our standard recipe. This was a winner!

Deep Dish Pizza topped with fresh basil
   Patrick follows this recipe that we've blogged before. And this time we added the basil before serving!

Quiche with Sundried Tomatoes and Basil
   There was a frozen pie shell in the freezer and a guest in the house so we made a quiche! We used an Italian cheese blend and sundried tomatoes for the base then added the fresh torn basil leaves and the quiche egg mixture we've used before on top.

We're ready for own fresh basil! I imagine some will be going into a planter soon. Our box of mixed green lettuces is doing well and sprouting lots of bright green leaves.

In case there was any confusion no margaritas were consumed during the weekend.

Meal Plan Monday Post

Introducing a new themed post: Meal Plan Monday!

It is my intention to include a meal plan post every Monday so that we can share a bit more about our cooking habits. I've been meal planning consistently for quite some time now and, even though creating the meal plan is a lot of work, it really pays off. There isn't any stress in the middle of week trying to figure out what to eat or continuous trips to the grocery store. My plan is to share the previous weeks "plan" and then what we did. The meal plan is always just that -- a plan. If we need to switch days around or have an impromptu event come up then we can accommodate that without feeling like everything will go wrong if we stray from the meal plan! I'm sure this post may evolve as we move forward but I thought it'd be fun to start sharing them!

Without further ado I present our first blogged meal plan!

Meal Plan for Monday March 31 - Sunday April 6

   Monday - Marinated chicken with wilted kale/brussels salad
   Tuesday - Nacho night
   Wednesday - Asian stir fry
   Thursday - Tuna noodle casserole
Readjusted meal plan
   Friday - Marinated chicken with wilted kale/brussels salad
   Saturday - Buttermilk waffles / Tuna noodle casserole
   Sunday - Broccoli and cheese soup with mixed greens salad / Seared tuna sandwich

   Monday - Pasta Primavera
      What happened? Impromptu girl's night which resulted in inviting Stephanie over for dinner. The marinated chicken was only enough for 2.
   Tuesday - Chinese take out
      What happened? Impromptu meetup with old coworkers. For nacho nights we include black beans (which were dried beans) and I forgot to rehydrate them the previous night. Also coffee meetup with coworkers ending up lasting until 8pm. Chinese take out was the quickest option for our hungry selves. This ends up bumping all planned meals to a different day.
   Wednesday - Nacho night
   Thursday - Asian stir fry
   Friday - Marinated chicken with wilted kale and quinoa
   Saturday - Buttermilk waffles / very late lunch in downtown Durham which led to a snacky dinner
   Sunday - Broccoli and cheese soup with mixed greens salad / Tuna noodle casserole

As the blog continues I will include some of my tips / tricks for planning and also how I decide what meals to plan! If it's a past blog recipe then I will hyperlink to it in the proposed section. If it's a new recipe then you can count on it being shared (hopefully sooner rather than later)!

Do you meal plan?

Birthday Danish

Happy Birthday to Patrick! One month ago today we celebrated his birthday! Unlike myself, Patrick did not put in a request for birthday breakfast. So I decided to just make him something that I know he loves -- a tasty pastry!! He always gets a danish pastry whenever we go to Guglhupf for brunch so this was my starting off point. Unlike myself again, there wasn't a federal holiday holiday for his birthday which meant there wasn't ample time to prepare his breakfast. I had to do some prep the day before!

Birthday Boy
I decided to use Ina Garten's Easy Cheese Danish recipe and wanted to add sauteed cinnamon apples to the danish (for an apple cream cheese danish) but didn't think there would be time to saute the apples and then bake the danish for 20 minutes. The breakfast had to come together and be on the table by the time Patrick showered and got dressed for his work day. He may not have requested a specific birthday breakfast but he did request not to be late for work! With that in mind I thought making the cheese danish as directed would be best and then to serve it with sauteed apples. That way I could be finishing the apples while the danish came out of the oven. And guess what?! The breakfast was ready in time! Read on for the recipe.

Ina Garten's Easy Cheese Danish from Food Network
   Makes 8 Danish
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
2 extra-large egg yolks, at room temperature
2 tablespoons ricotta cheese
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
2 sheets (1 box) frozen puff pastry, defrosted
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
   I halved everything for 4 danish

   Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
   Place the cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and cream them together on low speed until smooth. With the mixer still on low, add the egg yolks, ricotta, vanilla, salt, and lemon zest and mix until just combined. Don't whip!
   Unfold 1 sheet of puff pastry onto a lightly floured board and roll it slightly with a floured rolling pin until it's a 10 by 10-inch square. Cut the sheet into quarters with a sharp knife. Place a heaping tablespoon of cheese filling into the middle of each of the 4 squares. Brush the border of each pastry with egg wash and fold 2 opposite corners to the center, brushing and overlapping the corners of each pastry so they firmly stick together. Brush the top of the pastries with egg wash. Place the pastries on the prepared sheet pan. Repeat with the second sheet of puff pastry and refrigerate the filled Danish for 15 minutes.
   Bake the pastries for about 20 minutes, rotating the pan once during baking, until puffed and brown. Serve warm.

Some reviewers of the recipe on the Food Network said that making the cream cheese mixture the night before and chilling overnight worked really well and I agree! This was also what made breakfast in under 20 minutes possible! I served the danish with sauteed cinnamon apples.

Later that evening we celebrated Patrick's birthday with some of his friends from Duke at Acme in Carrboro. What a wonderful day to spend with my husband!

Outdoor dining: turkey burgers & ice cream

A few weekends ago we had our first glimpse of spring! It was a gorgeous Saturday afternoon filled with lots of sun and blue sky. Patrick and I took the opportunity to stretch our legs around the neighborhood trails but also to set up our patio table and enjoy some turkey burgers outdoors. Read on for our casual meal!

For the burgers: We used lean ground turkey mixed with a savory spice mix then grilled them on our grill pan. 
For the toppings: Sauteed onions and yellow bell peppers with melted provolone cheese. Everything was placed on a toasted brioche bread roll with a bit of dijon mustard.
For the side: Served with sliced fresh pineapple!

For dessert: We made homemade vanilla ice cream again! The recipe can be found from this Casual Get Together post. We were going to make cookies and cream ice cream (we had some chocolate cookies left over from a recent dessert) but then realized we'd eaten most of the cookies! Then we had to settle for vanilla ice cream.

Now that April is officially here hopefully the warm weather will be here to stay soon too!

Putting it all together

We mastered seared tuna back in 2010 and it's one of Patrick's favorite dishes. More recently we ventured into Brussels sprouts spring rolls. On this particular evening we put the two together!

This isn't a particularly lengthy post (and both of the recipes are hyperlinked in the above paragraph). Just a helpful reminder to show you how to create fun menus with recipes you already know and love! I try to loosely keep side dishes categorized by flavor profiles so that I can easily put dishes together.

For example, on this particular day it was grocery shopping day and the meal for the evening would be based around seafood. I try to plan seafood dishes on the grocery shopping day or the very next day since I like to buy from the fresh seafood counter. The seafood counter is never stocked the same and the quality of seafood can vary too. For these reasons I don't like to plan the meal in advance. I know I'll have to wing it in the store but throwing together a seafood dish is pretty easy to me. The seafood is the star and then I usually just add some simple vegetables to it. 

Back to this "particular day": the tuna medallions looked outstanding! Knowing that Patrick loves seared tuna, I selected the medallions and started figuring out what else could go with the fish. I recalled that I still had some spring roll wraps remaining from our previous experiment with spring rolls. Then I added Brussels sprouts and ginger to my cart. For these spring rolls I sauteed the Brussels sprouts and carrots (which I already had) with the ginger and some soy sauce and rice wine vinegar. At the grocery store I also picked up some frozen edamame to add a fun twist to the dinner. Finally some wild rice (from the pantry) rounded out the dish.

... After reading this post it seems that particular was my word of the day. My apologies!

Happy April Fools' Day!

Woo! April is here and hopefully spring is somewhere around the corner!

No recipe to share today. I'm afraid things may be slowing down a bit (but hopefully not too much) in the kitchen. Ever since we promised the newlyweds were back to blogging in October we've been fairly consistent with weekday postings. And for the past few months there was a new post Monday thru Friday! Hope you've enjoyed the reading.

In February we had an extra surge of posts due to my commitment to blog all things wedding. See this post with all other posts linked in it if you missed it. The wedding posts fueled us along for a bit but now my future drafted posts are dwindling.

During this time we hit our 400th post!! Thanks for all your support and a special thanks to my mom who comments on every single post! We know we have some readers out there so even if you don't post, many thanks for reading the blog and keeping up with us.

If you'd like to offer suggestions on themed posts or other things you'd like to read about on the blog just let us know! I've asked Patrick for the past few months to transition our wedding website into a more official blog. Maybe that'll happen sooner or later.

Oh, I almost forgot -- Happy April Fool's Day! In honor of this foolish day I will share with you our April Fools' Day post from 2011. It's the Instant Chocolate Cake post.

Thanks again for reading. It makes writing and continuous posting a little bit easier to get through!