Meal Plan Monday Post

It's been a busy week in our household! We have been working feverishly to get one "new" house set up and one "old" house cleaned up! On Saturday we turned in our keys at the old house so now we can focus our energy on making this new house our very own home.

As you might can imagine things were a little up in the air some nights in the kitchen. On Monday night, for the first time, we got out a pan to make a frozen sauce for some pasta. Then realized after dinner we hadn't packed up the dish soap yet. Patrick got a free pass on the dishes that night! We had another freezer meal Tuesday night -- clean up is so easy with those! On Wednesday we had fresh pasta from Rise's new pasta pop ventures as The Rollout. Thursday was another meal in the kitchen and this time no short cuts. On Friday my mom came to help unpack boxes and be an extra set of hands! It sure was nice having her here. Here's our what we did last week and over the weekend with her here!

Meal Plan for Monday June 23 - Sunday June 29

   Monday - Frozen saucy scallops with mushroom and peas sauce (from Trader Joe's) added to pasta and a salad -- served with red wine, perfect for our Monday night showing of "The Bachelorette"
   Tuesday - Freezer meal: Chicken Parmesan Meatloaf (was Friday's post actually)
   Wednesday - The Rollout pasta pop-up dinner hosted by Rise
Here's The Rollout menu posted to Facebook

We tried the Zucchini and Squash Ravioli in an herb cream sauce (a favorite), the Agnolotti stuffed with local basil, pine nuts, lemon zest, ricotta and parmesan in a Pomadorro Sauce, and a Caesar salad. 

   Thursday - Baked chicken breasts with bbq sauce, roasted corn and fingerling potatoes
   Friday - Marinated salmon (with dijon, balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, olive oil) and roasted zucchini, beets
   Saturday - Breakfast Toast and eggs with avocado
      Dinner Pasta with squash, peas, and basil
   Sunday - Breakfast Waffles with fresh strawberries
      Dinner Fried green tomatoes salad

Chicken Parm Meatloaf

We closed on our new house about six weeks ago. Since then I had been mentally preparing for the move and what things I could do to make the transition easier. One of those things was planning a few freezer meals! I found about five recipes that I wanted to try. I don't have much experience with freezer meals besides spaghetti sauces and soups so I really had to spend some time researching.

I debated making them all separately and doubling each recipe - that way the recipe would be on the meal plan, doubled during prep, and then frozen for a future meal. I did this for one meal -- the Chicken Parmesan Meatloaf featured here. For the others I made them all in one day two weeks before Move Day when my mom was in town to assist with packing. More on that later! But for now here's Chicken Parm Meatloaf...

Chicken Parm Meatloaf served with sauteed kale
Chicken Parmesan Meatloaf from smiles and piles blog
   We doubled all ingredients for a double batch - one for now, one for later
1 lb. ground chicken
1 egg
¼ cup breadcrumbs
1 ½ tsp. Italian spice mix
2 tbsp minced garlic
½ cup onion, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
½ cup Parmesan cheese
¾ cup marinara
½ Italian-style shredded cheese

   Make your meat mixture by combining everything EXCEPT the marinara and shredded cheese. Place the loaf into a lightly greased loaf pan and pour on your marinara. [**STOP HERE if you’re planning to freeze. Baking instructions at the bottom.]

Assembling! Right before Patrick put the marinara on the loaf.
For now dish (on the left) prepared in a pyrex dish
For later dish (on the right) prepared in a freezer ready aluminum pan
   Bake at 350° for 45 minutes. Pull it out and top with your shredded cheese, then bake a few more minutes to melt cheese. Let it sit for 10 minutes before cutting, this will allow it to setup a bit and not fall apart when you take a slice from the pan.

**To make as a freezer meal, prepare as instructed EXCEPT for putting the shredded cheese on top. Save that for baking day. You can bake from frozen by putting the loaf pan on a cookie sheet and baking for one hour. Pull out to add the cheese and stick in for a few minutes to melt it then let it rest before cutting.

For the freezer meal we double wrapped in saran wrap and then wrote the directions for reheating on the lid.
It feels good to have the freezer meal ready when we are. One of the nice things about making the recipe and doubling it is we know it was tasty. I imagine we'll be taking this out soon while we are getting settled in our new house!

Do you have a favorite freezer meal??

Chinese Chicken Salad

Cabbage is not so bad as I once thought it was. In the old days I associated cabbage with either bitter, flavorless steamed cabbage or the salty mayonnaise-drenched concoction that passes for coleslaw in most restaurants. I've come to enjoy it much more in our home preparations, either sauteed, in a more interesting slaw preparation, or in this case, as a base for a salad. And this is a good thing because it comes in abundance in our summer CSA!

Whitney picked up this recipe from Cook's Country, and there's an official video of their prep here. It combines a bunch of my favorite Asian flavors with some chicken to make a nice hearty salad. As long as we have recipes like this, I don't mind having cabbage all season long!

Cook's Country Chinese Chicken Salad from a beautiful mess blog
   This seems to serve 4; we halved the recipe
2 large oranges
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon Asian chili-garlic sauce
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
4 (6-8 ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed
2 romaine lettuce hearts, sliced thin
1/2 small head napa cabbage, cored and shredded (6 cups)
2 red bell peppers, cut into matchsticks
   We substituted Chinese cabbage from our CSA for the romaine and napa cabbage
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves (we omitted)
1 cup salted dry-roasted peanuts, chopped
6 scallions, sliced thin

   Segment the oranges and transfer the segments to a small bowl. Set aside for garnishing the salad. Squeeze the juice from the orange membranes into a second bowl (juice should measure 1/4 cup). Or, if you're lazy like me, you can just measure out 1/4 cup of store-bought orange juice.
   Combine the orange juice, vinegar, soy sauce, ginger, sugar, and chili-garlic sauce in a bowl. Transfer 1/2 cup of the orange juice mixture to a 12-inch skillet. Slowly whisk vegetable oil and sesame oil into the remaining orange juice mixture to make the vinaigrette. Set aside.
   Bring the orange juice mixture in the skillet to a boil. Add the chicken, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until the meat registers 160 degrees (about 10-15 minutes), flipping halfway through cooking. Transfer the chicken to a plate and let rest for 5-10 minutes.
   Meanwhile, boil the pan juices until reduced to 1/4 cup. This will only take about 1-3 minutes. Set aside. Shred the chicken into bite size pieces, transfer to a medium bowl, and toss with the reduced sauce, any accumulated juices, and 2 tablespoons of the vinaigrette. Let sit for 10 minutes.
   Toss the romaine, cabbage, bell peppers, cilantro, peanuts, and scallions with the remaining vinaigrette in a large bowl. Transfer to a serving platter and top with the chicken and oranges.

Shrimp and Creamed Corn Dish

Here is a wonderful, fresh summer dish that can be enjoyed on hot evenings. Now's a great time to take advantage of fresh corn which is exactly what we did for this dish. We made this dish a few weeks ago when we were coming in from our Memorial Day weekend beach trip. We arrived into town Monday afternoon and after unloading the car we went straight to the grocery store. Since we were away Friday through Monday I didn't have much in the kitchen.

Most of our throw together meals involve putting things together from the pantry and fridge/freezer. This throw together was a little different -- whatever looked for dinner at the store went into the cart! Local corn was just starting to appear in our stores so we grabbed some corn and decided to make a deconstructed seafood corn chowder of some type. Once we were home it evolved into creamed corn with sauteed shrimp and roasted broccoli. Here's what we did...


   For the shrimp
Patrick did a simple saute with butter, lemon, and garlic. 

   For the broccoli
We had a broccoli steam in the bag on hand in the freezer. After steaming I tossed in olive and seasonings and put in the toaster to roast for about 5 minutes so it would have a bit more texture.

   For the corn
Alton Brown's Creamed Corn from Food Network
1/2 onion, diced
1 tablespoon butter
2 pinches kosher salt
8 ears fresh corn
1 sprig fresh rosemary, bruised
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon turmeric (we omitted)
2 tablespoons yellow cornmeal
1 cup heavy cream
Fresh ground black pepper
   We halved everything
   In a saucepan over medium heat, sweat the onion in butter and salt until translucent.
   In a large mixing bowl, place a paper bowl in the middle of the bowl. Resting the cob on the bowl in a vertical position remove only the tops of the kernel with a knife, using long smooth downward strokes and rotating the cob as you go. After the cob has been stripped, use the dull backside of your knife to scrape any remaining pulp and milk off the cob.
   Add the corn and pulp mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium high until the juice from the corn has tightened. Add the rosemary. Sprinkle the corn with the sugar and turmeric. Stir constantly for about 2 minutes. Sprinkle the cornmeal onto the corn, using a whisk to combine well. Add the heavy cream and cook until the corn has softened, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the rosemary. Season with freshly ground black pepper.

After mixing it all together!!

Use your egg separator properly...

Patrick and I purchased an egg separator a looong time ago. I imagine we bought it when Crate and Barrel moved to Southpoint (sometime in 2011). It's this egg separator from C&B -- nothing fancy, gets the job done okay. Or so we thought.

We never found it the most intuitive thing to use. It was hard to hold. Sometimes I would try to hook my thumb through the hole on the handle but that never seemed to work. If we were both in the kitchen then the other would hold it while the egg was cracked.

We recently made homemade vanilla ice cream to take to the beach with us. I was tasked with separating out all 8 eight eggs yolks. I hesitated a bit after I grabbed the egg separator and thought do I really want to use this thing for 8 yolks?! So I started out by resting the separator in the bottom of the bowl but this only worked for the first egg.

Then a miracle happened. I somehow figured out that you could rest the separator on the side of the bowl! I showed Patrick when he got home from work; you can imagine how amazed we were!

Life changing, I tell ya.

Meal Plan Monday Post

I think I may have cooked the most Southern thing I have ever cooked last week. Fried chicken nuggets soaked in a buttermilk - pickle juice brine! Whoa. We'll have all the juicy details at some point on the blog.

This was move weekend for us so things were a bit up in the air throughout the weekend. I made a point to not pack cooking gear through the week so that we could maintain our weekly meal plans. I had a few freezer meals for us to reheat at the new house set up as well.

One of my least favorite things about moving is the inevitable week of take-out! I usually end up feeling all out of whack and can't wait to get back to cooking. This is one of the reasons why I made the freezer meals.

Meal Plan for Monday June 16 - Sunday June 22

   Monday - Pasta with roasted red pepper alfredo sauce and wilted spinach
   Tuesday - Chicken nuggets with roasted green beans
   Wednesday - Salmon cakes with macaroni and cheese
   Thursday - Risotto with beets and chard
   Friday - With the kitchen all packed up we went to City Beverage
   Saturday - Breakfast English muffins with cheese and sausage
      Lunch Leftover risotto
      Dinner Randy's Pizza
   Sunday - Breakfast Dunkin' Donuts
      Lunch Pulcinella's pizza
      Dinner Chicken pasta freezer meal

Outdoor picnics

There's a slight theme to the posts this week -- two months delay! My apologies for these delays. Back at the end of April Patrick took a solo trip to visit his family. I took the opportunity to make some fancy ramen for myself and plan a few dates with some of my favorite gal pals. I made all my favorite things that Patrick doesn't like while he was away and served them to said gal pals a la outdoor dining. Here are some of the details:

On Saturday Marianne came over in the afternoon for our Garden Date! I made us a pasta dish (with yucky artichokes according to Patrick) and a bountiful side salad. The pasta dish featured grilled artichokes (packed in oil), baked chicken, and whole wheat penne.

Here are the fruits of our [garden] labor:

We planted some flowers and herbs. I had already started the lettuce on the table (we had a great spring crop of mixed greens lettuce and arugula). I planted begonias and some colorful flower Marianne picked out and shared with me (can't remember the name). I'm happy to report that all the flowers are thriving!  The herbs I planted are thyme, sage, basil, and lavender. Unfortunately I can't report that all the herbs are thriving; we lost the lavender somewhere along the way. It was my "experiment" plant this season.

Then on Sunday Stephanie came over for an evening dinner and a move date. We enjoyed Easy Crab Casserole with steamed broccoli and casserole. This recipe is one of my childhood favorites; Patrick doesn't like imitation crabmeat while it's one of my guilty pleasure. My mom emailed me the recipe for the casserole (below):

Easy Crab Casserole
   From a Melrose Women's Cookbook; Marie Cooke's recipe
1/2 lb crackers (I use saltines)
2 sticks butter
1/4 cup ketchup
2 cups boiling water
3 Tbsp mustard
1&1/2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
pepper to taste
several dashes Tobasco (I never used this)
2 cans or 1 lb crab meat (I used imitation crab)

Crumble crackers. Add boiling water. Have butter melted and add to crab meat. Fold crab mixture into crackers. Add other ingredients. Mix well. Bake in buttered casserole dish at 400 degrees for 20 min.

After dinner we watched "August: Osage County" and both agreed it was only okay.

Homemade Hot Pockets

I'm not sure how Whitney came across this recipe for chicken and kale hand pies from Martha Stewart, but I'm glad she did. This is the most delicious thing I've ever had with kale. That's not so much a statement about how the kale was prepared (although it might hint at my mild distaste for it in general) as it is the wonderful cheesy pie crust and filling it was mixed with. This dish is pretty much a chicken pot pie (already a favorite), but with two things that make it ten times better. First is the addition of cheese to the crust, because cheese makes everything better. More importantly is the form factor; I loved having the filling wrapped into the crust, which made it easy to eat and provided plenty of crust per bite (and the crust stayed crisp and flaky as it wasn't soaked in the filling).

Dough coming together

Ready to chill

Prepping the filling

Master hand pie craftsman at work

Ready to bake

Perfectly done hand pie

Martha Stewart's Chicken & Kale Hand Pies with Cheddar Crust
Flaky Pie Dough, recipe doubled and 1 cup shredded cheddar added with flour, or store-bought
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 leek (white and light-green parts only), halved lengthwise, cut crosswise 1/4 inch thick, and rinsed well
1 small bunch black (Tuscan) kale, tough stems removed, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, leaves
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup cooked chicken, torn into bite-size pieces (about 5 ounces)
1 large egg, lightly beaten

   Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Divide dough in half. On a floured sheet of parchment paper, roll out one half to a 14-inch round. With a knife or biscuit cutter, cut out six 4 1/4-inch circles (rerolling dough once if necessary) and transfer, on parchment, to a baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough, cutting out six (larger) 4 1/2-inch rounds. Chill rounds on sheet until ready to use.
   In a large skillet, melt butter over medium-high. Add leek and cook, stirring, until soft, 3 minutes. Add kale and thyme, season with salt and pepper, and cook until kale wilts, 3 minutes. Sprinkle flour over mixture and stir to combine. Add broth and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring often, until mixture thickens, 2 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl, season with salt and pepper, and stir in chicken. Let cool slightly.
   Place a heaping 1/4 cup chicken mixture on each of the smaller dough rounds, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Brush edges with egg and top with larger dough rounds; using fingers, press edges firmly to seal. Cut a small vent in each pie. Bake until browned and crisp, 30 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through. Let cool slightly on sheets on a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Martha Stewart's Flake Pie Dough
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 cup ice water

   In a food processor, pulse flour and salt to combine. Add butter; pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal, with a few pea-size pieces of butter remaining. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons ice water; pulse until dough is crumbly but holds together when squeezed (if necessary, add up to 2 tablespoons more water, 1 tablespoon at a time). Form dough into a 1-inch-thick rectangle, wrap tightly in plastic, and refrigerate until firm, 1 hour (or up to 3 days).

Celebratory Chocolate Cake

We have exciting news to share today! The next time you have exciting news to celebrate make this featured chocolate cake! This chocolate cake was made almost two months ago. We've had to keep our exciting news under wraps a little bit but now it feels right to share it on the blog.

Two months ago we had our friends Romin and Mimi over for dinner and we all had something to celebrate! It just so happened that for Patrick's birthday in March they had given him a bottle of champagne (along with some other foodie goodies). When folks give us wine or champagne we like to save it and then hopefully share it with them. On this particular night it was fitting for us to have some bubbles!

Romin and Mimi were celebrating his medical school culmination and acceptance to an intern program!
We were celebrating an accepted offer on a house!
Woo hoo's all around!

For dinner we served Chicken Tetrazzini casserole and a mixed greens salad. Romin and Mimi provided the bread.

Chicken tetrazzini is a great casserole for serving to company in my opinion. It's filling and, like all casseroles, has everything you need in one dish - pasta, veggies (peas), and protein (chicken)! Plus all the prep work is in the beginning and while it is baking you can clean the kitchen and everything will look nice by the time company arrives.

Mimi put this picture on facebook of the dinner and the champagne!

Earlier in the week while I was planning the dinner I decided I wanted to make an actual cake! I found this Martha Stewart recipe and we all loved it.

Martha Stewart's Velvet Cocoa Cake with Instant Buttercream from
   Prep Time 35 minutes | Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes | Serves 12
   For the Cake
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pans
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light-brown sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
   For the Buttercream
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 jars (7.5 ounces each) marshmallow cream
2/3 cup cocoa powder
2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips, melted and cooled
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

   Make the cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and lightly flour two 9-inch round cake pans. In a bowl, whisk flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.
   In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugars until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until well incorporated. Beat in vanilla.
   Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in three additions, alternating with buttermilk and beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Scrape bowl as needed.
   Pour batter into pans. Bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool in pans 10 minutes before inverting cakes onto rack to cool completely.
   Make the buttercream: In mixing bowl, beat butter and marshmallow cream until fluffy. Beat in cocoa, chocolate, vanilla, and 1 tablespoon water. If too thin, refrigerate about 5 minutes.
   Place one layer on platter. Spread top with 1 cup buttercream. Place second layer on top. Frost entire cake with remaining buttercream.

We had some cake leftover so I sent it with Patrick to work.

His coworkers approve...

It's been an exciting two months. Here's a catch up to present day on those April celebrations: Romin is officially Dr. Romin! And six weeks ago we closed on the house. 

Here we are on our front steps! More details and pictures to come in the following weeks. No promises on a timeline ... I'll try to get some things up within two months!

Quick lunch

In the spring Patrick and I had a string of warm, relaxing weekends together where we didn't have much planned. Even though the weekends are relaxing they do require a bit more thought in the meal planning department! Now instead of two meals for two days (ie, Saturday & Sunday dinner) I now have to plan 4-6 meals -- breakfast, lunch, and dinner for both days! Typically weekday breakfasts are unaccounted for in the meal plan because we are grabbing easy prep breakfasts like English muffins or bagels, cereal, eggs and toast, or oatmeal. And then lunches are mainly leftovers or sandwiches. Patrick has lunch provided a lot too with work meetings.

With these weekends where we don't have any major activities planned I usually plan to buy a hodge podge of fruits and snackier meal items (think hummus and cheese & crackers) then we can put together lunch plates to our liking that don't require much prep.

Here is the breakdown for this lunch plate!

Fresh blueberries
   Hard to pass up fresh, seasonal blueberries at the store.

Prosciutto mozzarella panino with rosemary crackers
   Patrick always requests summer sausage for our weekend lunches. I need to remind myself to stock up on the Hillshire Farms sausages during the holidays (always see them in a mall kiosk) because I can not find summer sausage at our grocery store! This prosciutto mozzarella panino was recommended by the deli guy. We warmed it on the crackers in the toaster to melt the cheese.
   We had this another night with some nuts while we were watching Netflix.
   In other news, last week I found summer sausage at World Market! Patrick has been hoarded his summer sausage since then.

Chicken salad
   Chicken salad is always a no-brainer after a rotisserie chicken dinner. When I'm meal planning and see that  a rotisserie chicken dinner fits (or we're baking a whole chicken) I will plan the meal later in the week so that we can use the leftover chicken in chicken salad!

French loaf bread
   I had purchased the french loaf to go with a pasta dish earlier in the week. It rounded out our quick lunch here quite nicely.

What are some of your go-to quick weekend lunches at home?

Meal Plan Monday Post

This has been a week full of impromptu dinner plans and then utilizing CSA veggies. You may recall from the last meal plan that we were coming back from the beach at the beginning of the week. On Monday we just didn't quite have things together so we had Chinese take-out. Then Wednesday and Thursday we had back to back dinner dates with friends -- all planned fairly quickly. We didn't order a full box the week prior since we knew we would be out of town at the beach and since our CSA pick up day is Thursday we were able to do these dinner dates without fresh vegetables spoiling. So we picked up our new CSA box Thursday and were able to start cooking again with all of our fresh vegetables for the weekend.

Meal Plan for Monday June 9 - Sunday June 15

   Monday - Chinese take-out
   Tuesday - 10th Month Anniversary Dinner!
   Wednesday - Met a friend for Mexican
   Thursday - Dinner & a movie double date ... Patrick's favorite sushi restaurant in Durham (Sake Bomb) and catching 22 Jump Street
   Friday - Mahi mahi with pesto, roasted adirodack blue potatoes, summer squash
   Saturday - Ham and cheese quiche for breakfast
      Chicken salad and cucumbers for lunch
      Crockpot Bbq pork ribs with slaw and cornbread for dinner
   Sunday - Quiche leftover for breakfast
      Grilled pimento cheese and ham sandwiches for lunch
      Pan fried black drum fish, roasted potatoes, and kale for dinner

CSA boxes

We are loving our CSA boxes! This is our fourth season with the Brinkley Farms CSA. We've mentioned this program before on the blog -- and I'll link some past posts below -- but here's a refresher:

 - CSA stands for "Community Sponsored (or Supported) Agriculture" which means we, the community, invest in a farm at the beginning of their season to help them, the agriculture / farm, have cash flow to get produce planted and then receive said produce throughout their growing season. All CSAs vary as to how they are set up and what they produce.
 - Our CSA delivers a wide array of vegetable produce, eggs, pork products, and some flours
 - Our CSA is on a weekly delivery; Patrick picks up our box every Thursday
 - Our CSA allows you to select what produce you want (some deliver pre-selected boxes)

Here's our first box of the season

Eggs, kale, sweet potatoes, pork ribs, mixed lettuce, and spring onions
Here's our most recent box

Beets, fingerling potatoes, lots of squash and zucchini
(we doubled up on the squash and zucchini to share with friends)
As promised in the intro here are some links to past blog posts about the CSA. The posts either talk about the program itself, show us experimenting with new vegetables, or how we meal plan with the vegetables.

More about CSA
   First Ever Box | Find a CSA near you
Vegetables we tried for the first time because of the CSA 
   Without a CSA I'm sure at some point we would've picked these up at a farmers market but this is another reason we like the CSA - convenience!
   Swiss Chard | Kale | Fennel | White Sweet Potatoes | Pumpkins | Various Winter Squash
Other posts
   Meal planning | Pancake recipe

Spinach pasta with cherry tomatoes

In a continuation of our unofficial series on homemade pasta dishes, today we're presenting a spinach fettucine. Making pasta in the food processor is so easy, and also makes it really easy to add mix-ins. This time we just added some cooked spinach to the flour and egg. The hardest part of these veggie pastas is getting the water out of the vegetable before adding it to the pasta. When the vegetable has too much water, you have to add a lot of flour to compensate and you dilute the tasty fresh egg flavor, and cause yourself a lot of frustration because it seems like no matter how much flour you add, the dough is still sticky! I always find wringing spinach to be tedious but some extra effort on that front definitely would have helped this time around. In the end though we had some delicious spinach pasta tossed with some onions, tomato, and sauce.

Homemade spinach pasta
Blanch some spinach and wring it dry. Pulse flour and spinach in food processor. Add eggs. Add more flour (because you didn't dry the spinach enough) until the mixture resembles a ball of dough. Roll out and cut into fettucine.

For the sauce
Saute 1 medium onion in olive oil until softened, add 2 cloves garlic and saute until fragrant, then add halved cherry tomatoes and a few more tablespoons of olive oil with salt and pepper. Simmer over medium heat for 10-15 minutes until tomatoes soften. Add in 2 tbsp butter and sliced spring onions, finish with 1 cup cream.

Served with delicious French loaf

Egg Salad

Last week one evening for dinner Patrick and I made a large entree salad. It was a really nice chef's salad - if you will. We tossed red oakleaf lettuce in a balsamic vinegar and topped it with chicken, avocado, hard-boiled eggs, bacon bits, and a bit of shredded cheddar cheese. I was going to blog it but it looked like an unappetizing thrown together mess despite its deliciousness!

The salad intro here is to set up what we did with the leftover hard-boiled eggs! I had been upstairs working on the computer and had about 20 more minutes left to finish so I asked Patrick if he could start boiling the eggs for the salad then we could assemble everything together.

Had I been in charge of this I would have made three eggs tops for the salad... I came downstairs to find six eggs hard-boiled!! Patrick informs me that hard-boiled eggs are his favorite and that I never make them for him so he took it upon himself to make extra.

How many times do you think Patrick has told me that they are his favorite and would like me to have them on hand? Zero. I'm not a mind-reader wife!! In the future I will hard-boil more eggs.

With three of the leftover eggs (we used two for the salad and then he ate one for breakfast the following day) I whipped together a quick egg salad to put on toast for breakfast. Here's what I did:

Egg Salad
Rough chop 3 hard-boiled eggs and mix in a dollop of mayo (about 1 tbsp), a smidge of dijon mustard (about 1 tsp or more), dash of lemon juice (about 1 tsp), sprinkle of Parisian seasoning mix (has chives and dill), and salt and pepper to taste. For a smooth consistency mash with a potato masher. For a chunkier consistency just use a fork which is what I did.

It seems like every time we hard-boil eggs we google "how-to" and try something a little different. Well Patrick had great success last week and I'm including it here so we can remember the method and share it with yall!

To a medium pot he added the eggs and covered with water. He brought the water to a boil and let simmer at a low boil for 11 minutes. Then he removed the pot from the stove and added cold water + ice to the pot. Once the eggs were cool enough to handle we peeled them.

Do you have a super successful method for hard-boiled eggs? Or a favorite egg salad recipe? If so, please share!

Ninth Month Menu

Last month for our Ninth Month anniversary meal I thought it would be a fun change of pace to go on a picnic. I would make one exception to have this monthly anniversary meal on our fine china since it was such a nice weekend and we would still be commemorating the monthly anniversary. Fate would just so have it that the picnic spot would fail and we would return home to have a picnic on our fine china! I'll include our recipes first and then the failed picnic story below!

Lobster potato salad
Pimento cheese sandwiches
Blueberry orange fruit salad
Apricot mascarpone tart
served with Seaglass Chardonnay

Ina Garten's Lobster potato salad
1 1/2 lbs unpeeled small Yukon Gold potatoes
Kosher salt
3 tbsp Champagne vinegar
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1 extra-large egg yolk, at room temperature (optional)
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 c good olive oil
1/4 c dry white wine
3 tbsp drained capers
1 c thinly sliced scallions
1/2 c diced celery
1/2 c diced red onion
1 1/2 lb cooked lobster meat, diced
1 lemon
3 tbsp chopped fresh tarragon  
   Place the potatoes in a large pot and cover with water by 1 inch. Add 1 tablespoon salt and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 15 to 25 minutes, depending on the size of the potatoes, until just tender. (I use a small bamboo skewer to test them.) Drain in a colander, cover the colander with a clean kitchen towel, and allow the potatoes to steam for 5 to 10 minutes. Cut them in quarters or halves, depending on their size, and place them in a large bowl.
   Meanwhile, whisk together the vinegar, mustard, garlic, egg yolk, 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. While whisking, slowly pour in the olive oil, making an emulsion. Stir in the wine and capers. While the potatoes are still very warm, pour half the vinaigrette on the potatoes and toss them gently, allowing them to soak up the vinaigrette. Stir in the scallions, celery, red onion and lobster and add enough vinaigrette to moisten. Reserve any remaining vinaigrette. Add the zest and juice of the lemon, the tarragon, 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper and toss carefully. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour to allow the flavors to blend. Taste for seasonings and add more vinaigrette, if necessary. Serve at room temperature.

Apricot mascarpone tart
For two 8 inch tarts or one 9 x 13 pan of bars (we made bars and cut the recipe in half)
   For the topping
1 1/2 lbs pitted apricots
1 1/2 c sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
1 orange peel
3 c dry white wine
   For the filling
1 lb mascarpone
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 cup reduced apricot liquid
   For the tart
2 c all-purpose flour
8 oz unsalted butter, room temp
1/2 c powdered sugar
pinch of salt
Pre Heat oven to 350F
   For the crust, work together the flour, butter, powdered sugar and salt until it forms a dough (I needed to add a little water to make the dough come together). If making tarts, divide the dough in half. Sprinkle your work area with flour and roll out each ball of dough to about 1/4 thick and 10 inches wide. Lay each dough over a fluted tart pan and press the dough in.  Add a piece of parchment to the bottom of each tart pan on top of the dough, and add pie weights or dried beans to keep everything in place. Bake at 350F for 15 minutes, remove the parchment and weights, and bake for another 10 minutes until lightly golden brown.  Remove and cool.
   If making bars, spread the dough on the bottom of a greased 9×13″ baking dish lined with parchment folded over the sides (this is for easy bar removal) and pat down so it’s evenly distributed. Bake at 350F for 20-25 minutes, until lightly golden brown, remove, and cool.
   Combine apricots, sugar, cinnamon, orange peel and wine in a pot over medium-high heat. When mixture boils, reduce to simmer and cook for 45 to 50 minutes, until liquid has turned to syrup and the fruit is completely tender.  You should be able to cut and bite through it without much effort.  If it needs more time, cook it for another 5 minutes and test it again. Set aside a half cup of the liquid, and set aside the fruit until it cools to room temp (you don’t want it to melt the cheese when you combine everything).
   Whip the mascarpone with vanilla, sugar and liquid.  Spread over the shortbread crust. Top with apricots in a pretty pattern.  Brush with left over syrup to make it glisten.
   If you’re making this ahead, store it in the fridge and take it out about 20 minutes before serving to take the chill off.

Still smiling after our failed picnic! We're back home here and just finished setting up our outdoor table and chairs.

We had picnicked before at the Vineyards at Southpoint and loved it. The vineyard is a short drive away and gives us the opportunity to relax and leave behind all the major commotion of Durham. The vineyard is nestled in a lovely greenscape complete with grapevines, a pond that has a fountain, and lots of picnic tables. It was the perfect spot for an anniversary picnic! 

As you can see I planned us a nicer-than-average picnic for the special occasion. 
From top to bottom: Fruit salad, Apricot mascarpone tart, Pimento cheese sandwiches, Lobster potato salad

And then packed it all up

Well we get to the vineyard and it's closed for the season! I had looked them up before we left to verify their hours and it said open. It seems like the closing was very recent. They had an announcement on their facebook page that the winemakers have decided to focus on family even though the vineyard was doing well. Hopefully someone will open it back up! 

In the meantime we drove around to nearby parks to find a suitable replacement but I was being a bit picky and didn't want to settle for the sub par tables next to soccer fields (anniversary picnic, remember?!). We finally decided to go home, set up our outdoor dining set, and make a fancy picnic at home. Here's our tablescape complete with fine china and picnic food!

Even though I missed the winery picnic, it was nice to use our fine china and continue the monthly anniversary dinners!

Meal Plan Monday Post

Meal planning is becoming a bit more loose as the summer rolls around and our CSA boxes are more plentiful with a variety of produce (and not just greens like in the spring). With that in mind my grocery list is just usually some protein and odds and ends we need for recipes. I still try to plan everything out to limit my grocery trips. Most of the planning gets done when we submit the weekly CSA order; I kind of have an idea of what we'll make with each item when I order it. Here's what we did last week:

Meal Plan for Monday June 2 - Sunday June 8

   Monday - Seared tuna with sautéed bokchoy and couscous
   Tuesday - Bin 54 for Triangle Restaurant Week
   Wednesday - Entrée salad with chicken, boiled eggs, and avocado
   Thursday - Marinaded chicken with warm kale salad
   Friday to Sunday - Beach weekend for friends


There is a lovely farm stand on the side of the road on my way home. Apparently they are a rather large farm and they supply the majority of the produce at their roadside farmers market even though you only see a small acre or so strawberry patch next to the road (since only the strawberry plants are visible I thought they brought in all their other produce).

I stopped for fresh strawberries at the beginning of May just as the season was starting and just yesterday I stopped for some more strawberries here at the end of the season! If only strawberries had a longer season.

I washed up my bucket of strawberries last night and here they are!

There will be some strawberry shortcakes in the very near future! 

There will also be watermelon in our very near future. I couldn't pass one of these up to get summer officially started!

What are you doing this weekend?! Eating strawberries or watermelon?!

Cheese Ravioli

Whitney and I have been continuing to have fun with our pasta maker. This time we made a simple cheese ravioli, not quite as exciting as this one, but simple and fun to make. At some point we might want to invest in a ravioli maker which makes it much easier to make small, regular pieces, but when we're hand-cutting it's easier to dump spoonfuls of filling down and cut them out with a fluted pastry wheel.

We served the ravioli on a bed of arugula, which was probably our one decent harvest of it this year from our box. It seems like arugula is only good for one harvest before it turns to twigs and tiny leaves, whereas lettuce can sometimes let you come back a couple times.

Banana Cookies

After trying this two-ingredient (really 4) cookie you'll never look at two super overripe bananas again! I had seen this on Pinterest and thought it would be worth a shot since two overripe bananas happen more often than I'd like to admit. If Patrick liked banana bread then I may never had these cookies since I would have something to use the overripe bananas for. The two primary ingredients are the overripe bananas and oats. Then the additional ingredients are added to your liking/taste preference! For this particular batch I added pumpkin pie spice and mini chocolate chips. The pumpkin pie spice masks the banana flavor and fooled Patrick! Read on for how to make these...

Banana Cookies from the burlap bag
2 large old bananas
1 cup of  oats (quick or regular! if you use regular, we’d suggest chopping them a little so everything holds together better)
Mix those two together. Old bananas are amazing for this, but you can use fresh ones too.

Then add in what sounds yummy to you! (or nothing!) [The burlap bag] loves:
-a handful of chocolate chips
-crushed walnut pieces

Since all bananas are different sizes, the needed measurements can vary. If it seems too runny and the cookies would flatten out too much, add in more oatmeal. And make sure to not add in TOO many mix-ins as the cookies won’t hold together very well. We made 16 cookies with those measurements. We cook them at 350 degrees for 15 minutes on a GREASED cookie sheet.

What do you do with overripe bananas??

Meal Plan Monday Post

Welcome June! May sure went by in a hurry. We finished out the last two weekends of the month with back to back weddings. Weekend plans are a win-win for meal planning. I don't have to plan the meal and we know it's going to be a tasty meal!

We filled in the other days of the week with all the delicious vegetables that are now in season both at the grocery store (fresh corn on Monday) and available through our CSA farm share (zucchini, squash, and snap peas to name a few). It's nice to see the CSA boxes overflowing with summer goodness now.

Meal Plan for Monday May 26 - Sunday June 1

   Monday - Shrimp with broccoli and creamed corn
   Tuesday - Double date; dinner and a movie night
         We had dinner at Linda's on Franklin Street and then caught "The Lego Movie" at The Varsity!
   Wednesday - Fake bake
   Thursday - Mexican night (nachos with Mexican rice, beans, and baked chicken)
   Friday - Pasta with squash and snap peas (both veggies from our CSA)
   Saturday - Breakfast Hash browns with bacon and eggs
      Lunch Friday night leftovers
      Dinner Wedding
   Sunday - Breakfast - Rise donuts
      Brunch - Tried the new brunch at Piedmont with my parents complete with jazz music (!)
      Dinner - Sauteed zucchini with orzo and bolognese sauce

Hope you have a wonderful June!