Crafting + Snacks + Marianne

Marianne is a great friend I have around who's always up for some crafting or keeping me company while Patrick is out of town. We're obviously doing a little catch up in this post because Patrick was last out of town at the end of July for a bachelor party.

I invited Marianne over for dinner and we each contributed to the meal. She brought over ingredients for a delicious summer favorite - caprese bites. We stacked up fresh basil, mozzarella, and tomatoes then drizzled balsamic glaze over them. I made a fruit salad - cantaloupe and blueberries tossed with finely chopped fresh mint. Then we did an orzo with sauteed artichokes, onions, and peppers. All so simple and light... just what you want for July!

Then a month went by and we decided we should meet up for an afternoon crafting session complete with snacks. Marianne brought over brownies and I had us a fruit and dip platter. I served strawberries and watermelon next to a ricotta-vanilla mixture with chocolate chips.

My craft project on this particular day was labeling our pantry OXO pop tops. I printed out what everything was on card stock then applied them to the containers with fabric tape. Marianne worked on homemade cards! 

Love the new labels! They add a nice pop of color to the pantry!
Do you have tips for pantry organization?

Homemade bow tie pasta

Patrick and I are really getting the hang of homemade pasta making. After our most recent venture Patrick exclaimed "wow I'm getting really good at this!"

Here's our post on how we do it. For a quick recap: in the food processor we combine one egg per 100 grams of flour per serving. So we typically do 2-3 eggs and the appropriate amount of flour. Once processed we pat the dough into a 1" thick rectangle/square and let it rest in the fridge for 30 minutes. Then we section it up and let the pasta maker do the work.

On this particular night I wanted to get fancy and make bow tie pasta! For the bow ties after the dough had been rolled through the roller to the desired thickness I used a paring knife to slice the sheets into 2" vertical strips then went back and made 1" x 2" rectangles. After the rectangles were done I went through and pinched the middles together to create the bow tie.

In this picture you can see that I worked on a floured 
cutting board to make the bow ties. I would work with 
one section at a time (so roll it out, cut it, pinch it, and make
the bow ties) before rolling out the next section. I kept the
 pasta dough under the bowl to prevent it from drying out while
I was working on the bow ties.

Here are my finished bow ties! I kept them spread out until 
Patrick got home from work and we cooked them.

This was made towards the end of summer and I used all sorts of fresh vegetables from the CSA. The only thing not sourced locally was the flour for the pasta and onion used in the sauce!

I wanted to keep the sauce focused on our CSA produce so I sauteed red bell pepper with an onion then added in chopped roma tomatoes. Once the tomatoes had stewed down a bit I transferred this to our blender and blended until there were no large chunks. During this time I browned the sweet italian sausage in that same pan. After it had browned I returned the tomato mixture back to the pan and finished the sauce with a touch of cream. Finally we tossed in the bow tie pasta.

Tossing in pasta
Finished product
It was a perfect night for some al fresco dining on our back porch. 

We served the pasta dish with a caprese salad. Yellow roma tomatoes topped with fresh basil, fresh mozz cubes, and a drizzle of nice balsamic.

And there was also a bottle of champagne on this particular evening! I had given it to Patrick on the day of our closing and it finally seemed like a nice night to have it. At this point we felt "settled" into the house - I mean, look, we were able to use the pasta roller - and it felt like the perfect time to celebrate a little.

If you're interested in some of our other attempts and recipes that we enjoyed, here are some quick - Spinach pasta with cherry tomatoes, Straw and hay pasta, Fettucine with wild mushrooms, and (one of our first attempts) Beet pasta and cheese ravioli.


Something new we decided to try from the CSA this year was tomatillos. I didn't know what a tomatillo looked like until we got them in our box, and I was in for a surprise when I was just expecting some tomato variant. Tomatillos have a dry paper-like husk, which is easily removed to reveal an unpleasantly sticky green fruit. However, once rinsed they are easy to chop up for your meal.

Tomatillos are often used in Mexican sauces, which is how we used them in the two meals pictured below. The first is this chicken enchilada recipe that we enjoyed a lot. The second was a meal of Whitney's invention which included quinoa, black beans, sweet potatoes, a fried egg, tomatillo salsa, and sour cream (it was pretty good for a meatless dish!). In both cases we chopped up the tomatillos, briefly boiled them, and then blended them with other good stuff like onions, chiles, and garlic.

The tomatillos add a nice fruity flavor. With their sweet tartness, I would describe them as kind of in between an apple and a tomato. It's always fun to discover new produce we like with our CSA and incorporate it into our meal planning!

Homemade Chicken Nugs!

From the time I was a child until after I graduated college and met Whitney, my diet mostly consisted of a few core staples including Kraft mac and cheese, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, tacos, and a handful of tasty fast foods, chief among them chicken nuggets. Over the years Whitney has mostly weaned me off of the old diet, but I get cravings every now and then and so haven't given up the old favorites entirely (favorite suggestion when she asks for meal plan suggestions - chicken nugs!). And of course with the finest purveyor of fried chicken, Chick-Fil-A, such a short distance from work, I usually manage to sneak over there for lunch every other week when there's a gap in our leftovers.

For this meal, perhaps Whitney figured if she couldn't beat them, at least she could imitate them. There are many Chick-Fil-A imitation recipes out there which involve marinating the chicken in pickle juice and buttermilk. Since we had just finished a jar of pickles, this was the perfect opportunity to try it. After they marinated for a while in the mixture we breaded them and pan-fried them.

We were both very impressed with how well they imitated the Chick-Fil-A nuggets! I was very pleased. We made more than we could eat, so we we froze a good deal of them. We recently cooked those and they came out just as crispy and delicious as when we first made them. I'm not sure this all beats the convenience of Chick-Fil-A, but it is nice to know what exactly is in your food, even if it is a whole lot of briny pickle juice.

The ingredients

The chicken fits in the pickle jar for marinating

Tasty nuggets!

Meal Plan Monday Post - How To

We're almost to the point of wrapping up the meal plans after the "blog summer black-out" and before they resume back to their weekly Monday post. This week is a bit of meal plan organization how-to (as promised last week) and then next week is a wrap up of October. Then it'll be back to business as usual.

I'm sure you can google "how to meal plan" and get a plethora of hits for suggestions on how to meal plan complete with template weekly meal plan lists. I'm not here to add to that. Today I'm here to tell you what I do and what works for us. In my opinion this is the best mindset to have for anything - do what works for you. So I'll tell you a little about what we're doing and how we got there.

The Meal Plan ... is an email sent to Patrick and actually myself. This email contains the meal plan and varies for how long it covers. Originally the email was only being sent to Patrick but since I reference it so much throughout the week I realized how much of a hassle it was to constantly be going into the sent box folder to find the email since Patrick rarely replies to it so by emailing it to myself (and also starring it in gmail) I can access it easily. Why do I access it so much throughout the week? Because I hyperlink all the meals that I can - whether it be back to a blog post or a new recipe - and use that to cook with.

The CSA helps keep the Meal Plan on a week-long rotation. I don't like to meal plan for days past a CSA pick-up day therefore I usually meal plan on the day I submit our weekly order for the box. Our CSA has you submit your weekly order on Monday and pick up the box on Thursday. So I usually make the meal plan on Monday, do grocery shopping Tuesday or Wednesday, and then utilize that meal plan with our veggies picked up on Thursday from that day until the next Thursday. Therefore making a meal plan always overlaps with an "active" meal plan. So that means sometimes I may change the last few days of one meal plan and switch things around to accommodate the vegetables differently. The meal plan is always fluid and always up for change.

Before I started consistently emailing the meal plan I was recording it in a notebook while also simultaneously emailing Patrick. It was important for Patrick to be in the loop because if he needed to start on dinner one night then he would know what we were having and where to find the recipe. Seeing that we're all crunched for time these days you may guess that keeping up with two meal plan methods (written and email) was just too much. Email won because it's also handy to compose the meal plan as I draft in the email compose box. This allows me to change / edit the meal plan days as I am figuring it out.

Another thing I learned to do is just keep replying to the same meal plan thread! The meal plan emails started while we were dating / engaged. The current email thread started right after we were married. Take a look:

Sorry this is so big! I wanted to have it enlarged so that you could see the email grab clearly. This thread is under the subject "Meal plan for my HUSBAND!" and was originally started on 8/21/13. As you can see there are 61 messages in the thread! ... I could write another long wordy post about loving gmail too.

A few other things to point out from the email grab. Notice that the dinner proteins are varied and spread out. For this week the order of proteins was - chicken, pasta with meat sauce, pizza, shrimp, sausage, and salmon. When I'm making the meal plan I am able to come up with my dinner ideas and then switch them throughout the days according to balancing them and also the preparation of the dishes.

In sum, I highly recommend meal planning! Find what works for you. Meal planning allows you to grocery shop for more meals and reduces stress throughout the week. It also cuts out the "I don't have anything planned for dinner, let's get take out" excuse.

Think I'm about rambled out! Go meal planning!


Woo! We made it! We have been married for one whole year (plus some) annnd even ate frozen wedding cake. Before I give you a quick synopsis of frozen year old wedding cake eating, here's a recap complete with links of the twelve monthly anniversary dinners.

wedding reception remix

mixed greens with scallops, butternut orzo, truffles

spinach stuffed flank steak, gingered pear crisp

crab cakes and parmesan orzo, chocolate beet cake

salmon in puff pastry, brussels with cranberries and pecans, dulce de leche tiramisu

lasagna roll-ups, chocolate strawberry shortcakes

lemon spaghetti with seared scallops, oreo cheesecake trifles with raspberries

fish baked in parchment, carrot cake cupcakes

lobster potato salad, blueberry orange fruit salad, apricot mascarpone tart

roasted beets with greens, lemon chicken with asparagus, palmies

spaghetti and mussels, blueberry crumb cake

celebrated with a housewarming

meatloaf, summer vegetables

As you just saw we celebrated the one year anniversary with a housewarming party. At the party I surprised Patrick with a *fresh* Daisy Cakes cake in one of our wedding cake flavors. Patrick somehow thought this meant he didn't have to eat frozen wedding cake so he didn't bring up eating frozen wedding cake - let's be honest... Patrick didn't want any of this frozen cake! I, on the other hand, completely forgot about the frozen wedding cake.

Then we were going to eat it on the thirteen months anniversary dinner night but I didn't remember the cake until a few hours before dinner and apparently these frozen cakes need at least 24 hours to defrost. So on we waited until October and Patrick couldn't delay the inevitable anymore. October 10th rolls around and it was a hectic day but the cake had already been defrosting! But finally on October 13th we kissed, said "I love you, what a great wedding day we had", and ate year and two months old cake.

And it was delicious.
Protip - freeze your wedding napkins in the bag with the cake!

Thirteenth Month Menu

You may be thinking right now that we skipped the twelfth month! More on that tomorrow but for now we'll let you know that the housewarming stood in for the twelfth month.

There isn't an official recipe for this menu. It was so informal with sauteed summer vegetables and meatloaf that I wasn't sure we should pull out the china but we wanted to! I think Patrick was the one who tipped the scales in favor of the china and said "yeah, let's do it".

So here are my brief notes on the dinner.
For the meatloaf
   I followed our traditional meatloaf recipe but decided to bake them in separate patties so they could have a more exciting presentation. 
For the squash
   Sliced and sauteed in olive oil with an onion, salt and pepper.
For the green beans
   Snapped into inch pieces and then boiled in chicken stock until just tender.

Our anniversary dinners have taught us a few things:
First the most important thing is who's sitting with you at the table!
And second you don't have to serve fancy things to use your nice dishes.

As a little side note some of the tomato sauce topping spilled on the place mat. I treated it with oxiclean and then spot cleaned with dish soap and a toothbrush. Don't let getting things dirty hold you back either!

Eleventh Month Menu

So these monthly anniversary dinners were a fun dinner affair for us to look forward to. When we first began this dining adventure I wasn't sure it was going to happen. We knew after the wedding that we would be moving in the spring and I thought it would be much easier to keep wedding gifts in boxes and not begin the adventure. But boy am I glad we didn't! Looking back on our monthly anniversary dinner will be a great memory for us! I'll do a recap of all of them at the end of the week. Today is the eleventh month menu and the first one in our new house! We decided to go really wild and try mussels. And like last month, click here for a menu printable.

Spaghetti and mussels with tomatoes and basil
Blueberry crumb cake
Served with Joel Gott Chardonnay (served at our wedding)

Spaghetti and mussels with tomatoes and basil from Williams-Sonoma Weeknight Fresh & Fast
Coarse kosher salt, to taste 
6 oz. whole wheat spaghetti
2 Tbs. olive oil  
1 large shallot, minced 
1/8 to 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes 
1 lb. mussels 
1/3 cup dry white wine  
1 tsp. grated lemon zest  
3/4 lb. cherry tomatoes, halved 
1/2 cup slivered fresh basil 
1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil 
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste 

   Bring a large pot three-fourths full of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta, stir well and cook until al dente, about 11 minutes. 
   Meanwhile, in a large, heavy fry pan over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the shallot and red pepper flakes and sauté until the shallot is almost tender, about 2 minutes. Add the mussels, wine and lemon zest. Cover the pan and cook until the mussel shells begin to open, about 4 minutes. 

Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring frequently, until they start to soften, about 2 minutes. Discard any mussels that do not open. 
   Drain the pasta and transfer to a warmed large shallow bowl. Pour the mussels and sauce over the pasta. Add the basil and the extra-virgin olive oil and toss to coat the pasta. Season with salt and black pepper and serve immediately.

For the streusel
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
For the cake
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature (3/4 stick)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2/3 cup sour cream
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup fresh blueberries
Confectioners' sugar for sprinkling

For the cake
   Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 9-inch round baking pan.
   Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on high speed for 4 to 5 minutes, until light. Reduce the speed to low and add the eggs 1 at a time, then add the vanilla, lemon zest, and sour cream. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture to the batter until just combined. Fold in the blueberries and stir with a spatula to be sure the batter is completely mixed.
   Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and spread it out with a knife. 

For the streusel
Combine the granulated sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a bowl. Stir in the melted butter and then the flour. Mix well and set aside.

   With your fingers, crumble the streusel topping evenly over the batter. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool completely and serve sprinkled with confectioners' sugar.

Tenth Month Menu

Patrick and I kept the monthly tradition of enjoying a monthly anniversary dinner on our china through packing and moving. Obviously with the blog not surviving through the summer the posts didn't make it up. We're catching back up with the tenth month menu - we celebrated ten months in June! This was the week before we moved so we hadn't packed all the kitchen goodies up. The dinner was a recipe from The Chew and the simple dessert was from Ina Garten. Since this was in the midst of beginning moving prep we kept the dessert extra simple as you see. If you're interested in printing the menu, click here.

Roasted beets with goat cheese salad
Ina Garten's Palmiers

Lemon Butter Chicken with Asparagus from The Chew
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 egg
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 lemon, juiced
1 stick butter
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 pound prosciutto
1/4 pound sliced provolone
1 bunch asparagus, cut in 1-inch pieces
olive oil
salt and pepper

   Preheat oven to 375°F.
   Season the flour with garlic powder, salt and pepper. Whisk the egg in a shallow dish. Coat the chicken in flour, dip in Egg and then dredge in flour again shaking off excess.
   Heat large non-stick skillet over medium with 1/4-inch oil. Add the chicken breast and allow to cook for 2-3 minutes per side until golden. Remove chicken to a paper towel lined plate. Wipe out excess oil from pan with a paper towel and return pan to heat. Deglaze with wine, scraping up brown bits and reduce by half. Add butter and allow to melt. Stir in the juice of lemon. Adjust seasoning to taste. Return chicken to the pan and baste with sauce. Reserve remaining sauce in pan.
   Line baking sheet with foil and spray with non-stick cooking spray. Remove the pieces of chicken from the sauce to the baking sheet, reserving the sauce in the pan. Top each piece of chicken with prosciutto and provolone. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and cheese is melted.
   Meanwhile, steam asparagus in a steamer basket over boiling water for 2-3 minutes. Transfer to an ice bath to shock. Strain out asparagus and season with salt and pepper. Transfer steamed asparagus to the reserved lemon butter sauce and toss to coat.
   Slice up the chicken and platter with the asparagus and remaining sauce. Sprinkle with parsley to garnish, optional.

The roasted beets and goat cheese salad was an easy throw-together. We roasted the beets (wrapped in foil with olive oil, salt and pepper) in a 375F oven for 45 minutes or until tender when pierced with a fork.

Ina Garten’s PalmiersIngredients
1 c granulated sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1 sheet puff pastry, defrosted

   Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Combine the sugar and kosher salt. Pour 1/2 cup of the sugar/salt mixture on a flat surface such as wooden board or marble. Unfold each sheet of puff pastry onto the sugar and pour 1/4 cup of the sugar mixture on top, spreading it evenly on the puff pastry. This is not about sprinkling, it's about an even covering of sugar. With a rolling pin, roll the dough until it's 13 by 13-inches square and the sugar is pressed into the puff pastry on top and bottom. Fold the sides of the square towards the center so they go halfway to the middle. Fold them again so the two folds meet exactly at the middle of the dough. Then fold 1 half over the other half as though closing a book. You will have 6 layers. Slice the dough into 3/8-inch slices and place the slices, cut side up, on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.
   Bake the cookies for 6 minutes until caramelized and brown on the bottom, then turn with a spatula and bake another 3 to 5 minutes, until caramelized on the other side. Transfer to a baking rack to cool.

It was important for us to follow through with this monthly tradition for the first year even though the boxes were getting packed up and things were getting a bit hectic. It's always worth it to take the extra time to center ourselves and spend some relaxing together.

Meal Plan Monday Post - September

Here is the meal plan for September! I'm thinking next week before I do all of October and get back to weekly meal plans I'll do a post about how I keep this organized. For the most part I plan it out for a week. Our CSA box is distributed weekly so I'll usually sit down when we turn in our orders and then make the meal plan for the next week with the veggies I choose and then can go to the grocery store to fill in the items we'll need for the meals. A lot of times I'll change around the last few meals in one week to accommodate the new veggies therefore meal planning is always fluid and changing which is very beneficial.

Meal Plan for September

   Monday 9/1 - Labor Day Dinner Cookout Potluck at Jessica and Corey's!
      Bring Pioneer Woman's Mexican pasta salad
   Tuesday 9/2 - Homemade pizza
   Wednesday 9/3 - Chicken adobo
   Thursday 9/4 - Tilapia, tomato pie

   Friday 9/5 - Surf & Turf: steak and shrimp, fried okra, roasted fingerling potatoes

   Saturday 9/6 - Breakfast Hash browns (from leftover potatoes), bacon and eggs

      Lunch & Matinee: Sushi and Guardians of the Galaxy
   Sunday 9/7 - Breakfast pancakes
      Dinner Mexican enchiladas with tomatillos salsa

   Monday 9/8 - Eggplant parm with spaghetti
   Tuesday 9/9 - Garlic roasted salmon and brussels
   Wednesday 9/10 - Mini meatloafs, green beans, squash
      Thirteenth Month Anniversary Dinner Celebration

Had a quick trip home this weekend. Mom sent back some Chinese okra!

   Wednesday 9/17 - Hungry Jack casserole
   Thursday 9/18 - Salmon with green beans, acorn squash
   Friday 9/19 - Game night with neighbors | Make lasagna
   Saturday 9/20 - DPAC Matinee, Dirty Dancing
      Enjoyed lunch downtown at The Pit

      Dinner BLT sandwiches with roasted sweet potatoes
   Sunday 9/21 - Brunch Patrick's cheesy egg grits
      Dinner Clam chowder

   Monday 9/22 - Homemade pizza
   Tuesday 9/23 - Salad with roasted delicata squash
   Wednesday 9/24 - Quinoa with spinach topped with roasted veggies (brocc, mushrooms, onions, peppers)
   Thursday 9/25 - Chicken with tomatoes and spinach, rice, fried okra
   Friday 9/26 - Mushroom farfalle
   Saturday 9/27 - Out of town
   Sunday 9/28 - Salmon cakes, green beans

   Monday 9/29 - Homemade spinach pasta with sweet Italian sausage, mushrooms, onions, fresh tomato sauce
   Tuesday 9/30 - Pork tenderloin, butternut squash

September was a great month to transition from the last of summer produce into fall. I couldn't wait for some kale to show up in the CSA!

All this week on the blog is a catch up of our anniversary dinners - stay tuned!

Fun with DPAC

Way back in early 2013, Whitney and I learned that Book of Mormon was coming to the Durham Performing Arts Center (DPAC). We were very interested in seeing it but knew it would sell out quickly, so we thought what better way to guarantee ourselves some seats than to buy season tickets? Of course, our reasoning was not quite so shallow; we have always enjoyed shows at DPAC and the rest of the season looked fun too. It also gave us a regular excuse to have a date in downtown Durham, so we thought it was a good idea all around and bought us some season seats.

There were so many popular Durham restaurants that we hadn't been to yet that we decided we would try a new place before each show. For this post, I'll do my best to describe our experiences with the shows and restaurants, although some time has passed and I may not remember perfectly.

Show: Ghost
Restaurant: Pop's
Pop's Trattoria is an Italian restaurant in an attractive red brick building on Main Street. Maybe it was because we went at a busy time, but we didn't have a great experience. The dining room was crowded, loud, and smoky, and service was slow. The food was decent, but wasn't easy to enjoy with the atmosphere and worrying about getting to the show on time. I liked the show though. I was familiar with the movie and felt they adapted it well to the stage with good music and cool special effects.

Show: How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
Restaurant: L'Uva Enoteca
L'Uva is in the American Tobacco Campus, and our first experience with it was during our Taste Carolina Durham food tour. It's also an Italian restaurant, and had a nice upscale feel to it. I really enjoyed my food and wine there. The Grinch was unsurprisingly kid-targeted, but it was cute and good for getting into the Christmas spirit.

Show: Once
Restaurant: Local 22
Local 22 is a bit west of downtown and appears to have been reincarnated from a former Italian restaurant to take advantage of the popularity of farm-to-table. It happened to be restaurant week when we went, which means we were able to try a sampling of dishes from a prix fixe menu. It's been a while, but I don't think the food stood out as good or bad. Once, on the other hand, was probably our least favorite show of the season.

Show: Book of Mormon
Restaurant: Mateo Tapas
This was a special night for us, as it was Valentine's Day and the week of our six month wedding anniversary (and a crazy snowstorm!). We recognized this far in advance and planned to spend the night at the King's Daughters Inn, the B&B where we spent our wedding weekend in downtown Durham (and conveniently walkable to DPAC!). To make things all the more special, KDI was having a champagne tasting event for Valentine's Day, so we were able to enjoy that before walking over to the show, and avoid the hassle of finding restaurant reservations that night. Book of Mormon was a great show. Afterward we were able to grab some bar seating to try Mateo Tapas. It perhaps wasn't our favorite style of food (Spanish tapas), but the dishes were interesting and we had a great time.

Show: Evita
Restaurant: Pompieri Pizza
There are so many good pizza options (except for deep dish...) in the triangle that a pizza place really has to be great to stand out. Pompieri was not such a place. They espouse the authenticity of their Neapolitan pizza, and I did enjoy the thin crispy crust, but was not "wowed". They did like their menu of topping options, so would be interested in going back to try some more. Evita had some good music and was performed well, but I wasn't familiar with it and had trouble following the story, especially because of the operatic style where all the dialogue was sung.

Show: Wizard of Oz
Restaurant: 58Fifty Bistro
58Fifty opened up in a development in south Durham near us, so we tried it out on our way to Wizard of Oz. It's a casual bistro with a good menu and beer selection. I enjoyed our experience there. Wizard of Oz was well-done and was one of our favorites of the season.

Show: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
Restaurant: Nana's
Nana's is probably the oldest restaurant on this list, going back to 1992, and is well-known as a somewhat fancy Durham restaurant. We were adventurous and decided to try the tasting menu, which had a lot of things that we might not otherwise order, including foie gras. It was fun to try some unfamiliar foods, although we might need to go another time to try some more standard fare. Joseph is a favorite musical of mine, so I really enjoyed the show.

We had so many fun experiences that we decided to get season tickets again for this season! This year we're doing Saturday matinees so our plan is to try a brunch spot before each show. We'll let you know how it goes!

Summer Pasta Puttanesca

This pasta recipe was featured on America's Test Kitchen and I knew it would be something to make when my mom visited. It's got olives and capers in it - she loves olives. Patrick is only a so-so fan of olives which is why I waited to make it. The olives and capers add a nice punch to the dish but don't overwhelm it so Patrick approved!

ATK Summer Pasta Puttanesca

Blend 1 ½ lbs cherry or grape tomatoes in the blender, mix until coarsely chopped. Do not over process. Put the tomatoes into a strainer and drain for 5 minutes into a large bowl; reserve juices.

Meanwhile boil 1 lb pound of small tubular pasta in salted water.

While the pasta boils, make the rest of the sauce.
  Combine 2 tbsp olive oil, 4 cloves of crushed garlic, 1 tbsp anchovy paste, ¼ tsp red pepper flakes and ¼ tsp dried oregano. Place into a medium skillet over medium heat and warm for just a few minutes. Then add reserved tomato juice to skillet and reduce.
  Chop 3 tbsp capers, rinsed and ⅓ cup kalamata olives. Add to reduced tomato juice sauce along with chopped tomatoes. Warm everything through (2-3 minutes). Finish with ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley.

Drain pasta; reserve pasta water.

Add sauce to pasta and loosen with pasta water.

Did you read this closely and see what we used for the first time ever? Anchovy paste!
Have you used anchovy paste before?

Nacho demonstrating how to tie pant strings
Step 1 - grab strings
Step 2 - bring them together
Step 3 - nevermind ... just bite them!

Zucchini Chocolate Chip Muffins

I made these a few weeks ago with the last zucchini coming in for the season. I tried a new recipe because I wanted something a bit healthier than this one I typically make. This recipe calls for either molasses or honey; I used molasses this time but next time I'd like to try honey to remove some of the sugar. However the molasses flavor in the muffin was delicious! This was a great way to use up some zucchini. I was even able to freeze half of them to pop in the toaster when I'm in a rush some mornings.

Zucchini Chocolate Chip Muffins from King Arthur Flour

2 large eggs
1/3 cup molasses or honey I used honey
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour or Premium Whole Wheat Flour
   I used 1 cup whole wheat flour and 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups shredded, unpeeled zucchini (about 1 small/medium zucchini)
1 cup chocolate chips
3/4 cup chopped walnuts, optional

   Preheat the oven to 350°F; lightly grease a 9" x 5" loaf pan. I made muffins
   In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs, molasses or honey, oil, sugar, and vanilla until smooth. Add the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon, mixing until well combined. Stir in the zucchini, chocolate chips, and nuts. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
   Bake the bread for 55 to 60 minutes (muffins took about 35 minutes), until the loaf tests done (a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center will come out clean, save for perhaps a smear of chocolate).
   Remove the bread from the oven, and let it cool for 10 to 15 minutes before turning it out of the pan onto a rack. Cool completely before slicing; store well-wrapped, at room temperature.
Yield: one 9" x 5" loaf. (I made 14 muffins)

Easy Salmon with roasted tomatoes

This had to be one of the easiest meals we've "thrown together" in awhile ... this isn't one of our typical "throw together" meals because there was a bit more forethought with planning (had to get the salmon fresh). But I literally "threw" the salmon on a baking dish as well as the tomatoes, topped the salmon with herbs and the tomatoes with parmesan, then while they were in the oven roasting we made couscous. All done in 20ish minutes.

And it was super yummy! And healthy! Should've added a salad for some greens.

Here are some more details:

Preheat oven to 400F.
For the salmon, rub with olive oil, salt, pepper, and any other seasonings of your choice. I think we used a lemon pepper seasoning on this particular night.
For the tomatoes, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper, and freshly grated parmesan.
I actually used one baking sheet for this (salmon on one half and tomatoes on the other). Cook them both in the oven for 15-20 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook couscous according to package directions.
Serve tomatoes and salmon atop couscous.

Dupree ... proud of himself for helping make the bed.

Meal Plan Monday Post - August

Catching you up to "in real life" on the meal plans - will do August this week, September next, and then we'll be in October! August was apparently pretty hectic looking back at my meal plan organizer. It looks like we winged the first half of the month since I don't have anything recorded until August 19th. I'm not too surprised since we would've been getting a lot of good produce from our CSA box. I would just pick up some protein / meats from the grocery store and pair that with some vegetables. And oh yeah there would've been a one year anniversary celebration! We also hosted a small housewarming party - more details on that to come later. So here's August!

Meal Plan for August

   Tuesday 8/19 - Dinner with TJ & Artie in Durham
      Bulls game and dinner afterwards at Mellow Mushroom

   Wednesday 8/20 - Slow cooker beef stroganoff
   Thursday 8/21 - Soba noodles with spinach and peanut sauce, spring rolls
   Friday 8/22 - Scallops with risotto
   Saturday 8/23 - Brunch Savory crepes

      Dinner Sloppy joes
   Sunday 8/24 - Breakfast Baked oatmeal
      Dinner Crab cakes, arugula salad

   Monday 8/25 - Carla Hall's seared tuna sandwich
   Tuesday 8/26 - Pork chops with macaroni and cheese, applesauce
   Wednesday 8/27 - Nacho night
   Thursday 8/28 - Orzo with sweet potato and caramelized veggies
   Friday 8/29 - Host neighbors for dinner
      Baked chicken with peach-basil salsa, couscous, salad
   Saturday 8/30 - Breakfast Chocolate chip pancakes
      Lunch Snack-y
      Dinner Dinner Double Date with The Williamses at Glenwood Grille
   Sunday 8/31 - Breakfast Hosted brunch for Romin and Mimi
         Cinnamon rolls, scrambled eggs, bacon, grits, fruit

      Lunch Durham Food Truck Rodeo
      Dinner Snack-y

Friday 8/29 was bring home kitties day!

Labor Day Weekend sure was keeping us busy!
What are some of your favorite things to eat in August?!

Pardon the cell phone pics!