Wednesday, July 13, 2011

WIAW and Oh How Pinteresting Wednesday, Food Edition

Last night I made another delicious recipe from my Cooking from the Farmer's Market cookbook.  As I mentioned in this post, I wasn't able to make it to the Farmer's Market on Saturday morning but the folks at Dierberg's (a local grocery store chain here in St. Louis) saved the day.  They had quite a few fruits and vegetables for sale that were locally grown and harvested including eggplant, which was the star of last night's dish, Rolled Eggplant with Sausage and Mozzarella.  This dish was easy-peasy and tasted delicious.  It could very easily be made vegetarian by omitting the sausage from the sauce.

Rolled Eggplant with Sausage and Mozzarella, modified from Cooking from the Farmer's Market cookbook

1 1/2 pounds Italian or Asian eggplant, trimmed and cut lengthwise into slices approximately 1/4 inch thick--approximately two medium sized eggplant

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper

5 ounces Italian sausage, casings removed--I browned up a pound and a half and then added the remaining sausage to our leftover tomato sauce from earlier this week to freeze and have for dinner next week!

2 cups tomato sauce--we used homemade, find the recipe here

1 cup whole-milk ricotta--as I got out the ingredients to make dinner, I discovered the ricotta (which I bought over a week ago) had gone bad.  I used 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese and 2 ounces of cream cheese instead which worked great!

4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into small pieces--if you have a Trader Joe's nearby, I recommend getting your mozzarella (and other cheeses) there.  I saved two dollars by buying the cheese for this recipe there!

4 tablespoons grated hard cheese, such as Parmesan

1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley--we used 1 teaspoon dried parsley instead

Kitchen Supplies:
Baking sheet
Pastry Brush
Frying pan
Medium bowl
9 inch baking dish

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Brush both sides of the eggplant with the 1/4 cup of olive oil and season with salt.  Place in an even layer on a baking sheet and bake until lightly browned on the bottom, about ten minutes.  Turn the slices and bake until tender, approximately six minutes.  Remove from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees.

Meanwhile, combine ricotta, mozzarella, 2 tablespoons of the Parmesan and parsley together.  Season with salt and pepper.

In a frying pan over medium-high heat, warm the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Saute the sausage until cooked through, about 3 minutes.  Note that it will take longer (about 10 minutes) if you are browning a whole package of sausage as I did.  Stir in the tomato sauce and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes.

Spread half of the sauce on the bottom of the baking dish.  Place a spoonful of the cheese mixture near the wide end of each eggplant slice, roll up, and place in dish.  Continue assembling the rolls until all eggplant slices have been filled.


Spoon the remaining sauce between the rolls and sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons Parmesan.  Bake until the sauce is bubbling, about 20 minutes.  Serve immediately.

Blogger is being weird and won't let me load photos properly--grr!

Serves: 4

As you can see, there is nothing particularly carnivorous about this dish and with all those great cheeses in each roll-up, a meat-free version might taste even better!  As per usual, I had the leftovers today which is what makes this a WIAW post.

Now onto the Oh How Pinteresting part of the post.


I, like many people, have discovered the wonder  that is Pinterest and have been pinning my heart away for several weeks now.  One of my favorite boards is my cooking board, Recipes to Make, especially right now where my creativity in the kitchen is limited to using up ingredients we already have. 

So today, here are some recipes I really hope to make in the near future (perhaps from South Bend!)

Pasta with Prosciutto, Snap Peas, Mint and Cream

Source: via Kt on Pinterest

Linguine with Sardines, Fennel and Tomato

Source: via Kt on Pinterest

Chilled Avocado Soup

Kiwi Summer Roll--new things to stuff wonton wrappers with!

Bacon Streusel Maple Cream Cheese Cupcakes

Are you on Pinterest?  If so, let me know so I can follow you!  If you'd like to check out more of my foodie pins (or home decor or any other kind for that matter) I can be found here.

Don't have Pinterest yet but want to get on board?  Leave me a message in the comments with your email address and I'll send you an invite!

What are you eating this Wednesday?  Anything in particular you are pinning pining over this Wednesday evening?

P.S. If you do not already read Jen's (Peas and Crayons) or Michelle's (The Vintage Apple) blogs, you really should.  Click on the links and head on over.  You know you want to!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

What I've Learned About Moving...So Far

With the clock ticking down on our big move and packing now underway, I thought I'd share a few things I've learned about packing and the moving process thus far.  Obviously we've got quite a bit to do before we can say goodbye to St. Louis and hello to South Bend but for now, I thought I'd share some tips we've learned along the way (it will also serve as a great record of what we did when we have to move all over again in a year or so).

One, like voting in Chicago, pack early and often.  I am trying to pack two to three boxes a day so that we aren't scrambling to get everything done at the last minute.  This is especially important because J will be out of town taking the bar exam in the days before we move. 

Piles of boxes are becoming an increasingly common occurrence in our house

Two, be resourceful.  Ask your friends or your office mates for boxes.  Check Freecycle.  In our case, friends and coworkers had boxes to share and that they were happy to get rid off having just moved themselves.  I was also able to snag a few boxes that were on their way to the recycling center from work and a whole bunch of bubble wrap from four new office chairs we had delivered this week.  With any luck, we won't have to buy a single box!

My big bag of bubble wrap courtesy of some new office chairs at work!

Three, you can secure items in a box with more than just bubble wrap.  In packing so far I've used everything from newspaper (another free item thanks to a generous Walgreens employee) to bath towels to pages from old issues of The New Yorker (if you take out the staples out of the center fold, you have pretty decent size pieces of paper for wrapping things!).  This way we are able to save the good stuff (bubble wrap) for the really fragile stuff like my grandma's china and our crystal ware.

Apparently being a semi-hoarder has it benefits after all!

Four, labeling is tough.  I end up listing almost everything that is in the box in the *probably* vain hope that I'll know where things are once we get to South Bend.

I know silver sharpie can be hard to read but it is all I could find at the time!

Five, be prepared to make a few trips to Goodwill/Salvation Army.  So far we've donated around eight trash bags full of stuff (mostly clothes, an old comforter, a few books, picture frames and other odds and ends) and I know we will have more.  If I hadn't used it for at least a year or worse, at all since we moved here two years ago, into the donation pile it went.

Six, it's okay to take breaks.  There are some days I don't feel like packing at all and because we've started early (see number one), that's okay.  The plan is to pack when I feel like it and to try not to force it, at least until the final countdown has begun.

Seven, think outside the packing box.   This weekend as I sat trying to figure out how to best wrap and secure my grandmother's china, I remembered a Styrofoam cooler we had in the basement from one of our trips back from Peoria.  Seeing as there is no Trader Joe's in South Bend and we will be making semi-regular trips to Chicago to stock up on TJ supplies, I knew we needed to bring the cooler with us anyway.  Why not pack the cooler really tight with carefully wrapped china for extra protection that a plain cardboard box won't bring?!?

Eight, reward yourself with small things when you can.  Whether it's a glass of wine with dinner, a quick run for ice cream after dropping things off at Goodwill or allowing yourself to indulge in a gossip magazine one afternoon, you need to reward yourself or you will burn out long before the job is done. 

I do love me some Teen Mom :)

Nine, remember, it will all be over soon!  Enough said. 

Do you have any moving or packing tips to share?  Or how about what not-to-do's?   One of my biggest what not to do's involved not packing anything before my mom was set to arrive to help me move out freshman year.  Talk about a busy two days!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Spinach and Mushroom Ravioli with Tomato Sauce

With our big move less than three weeks away, we have begun the process of cleaning out our refrigerator and freezer.  This process is definitely going to force us to be more creative in the kitchen and will really kick our meal-planning into overdrive!

We started out with a bang with our dinner last night.  We had approximately 35 wonton wrappers left from our yummy Crab Rangoon last night and after seeing Stacy's post last week, I knew I wanted to use them to make ravioli.  But what kind?

We did not make it to the Farmer's Market on Saturday so I began by checking out the sales ads at our local grocery store.  Low and behold, they had button mushrooms on sale for a dollar a container! Mushroom ravioli it is.  After some googling around, I found another Giada recipe (seriously, that girl never lets me down) that called for mushrooms AND another ingredient we had in the freezer: frozen spinach.  I was sold.  Giada's recipe calls for egg roll wrappers but I knew I could easily substitute this for wonton wrappers.

The recipe took a little while to make but the flavors were absolutely worth it!  Who would have thought that wonton wrappers would taste like the freshest pasta imaginable once you boiled it for a few minutes?!

Spinach and Mushroom Ravioli with Tomato Sauce, modified from Every Day Italian by Giada de Laurentiis

For the ravioli
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons for boiling water (will keep the ravioli from sticking)
6 ounces button mushrooms, sliced
(1) 10 ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1/4 cup Marscapone cheese
1/3 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
12 wonton wrappers
2 large eggs, beaten with 1 teaspoon of water
1/2 cup mushroom (cremini, shittake)--we used Baby Bella mushrooms, finely diced
2 cups homemade tomato sauce (you can of course use store bought but homemade tastes better)
Salt and pepper for seasoning

For the tomato sauce
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 celery rib, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped--I used five baby carrots because we never seem to use up a bag of carrots before it goes bad but we don't have that problem with baby carrots!
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 (28 ounce) cans of crushed tomatoes
2 dried bay leaves

Kitchen Supplies:
Large stockpot
Cutting board
Large skillet
Food processor 
Medium stockpot (for pasta)
Ramekin for egg wash
Pastry brush
Fork, for crimping edges 
Serving dish
Aluminum foil
Spider strainer

In a large stockpot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add garlic and onions and saute until soft and translucent, about six minutes.  Add carrot and celery; season with salt and pepper.  Saute for another six to eight minutes until the vegetables are tender.  Add tomatoes and bay leaves and reduce heat to low, allowing to simmer uncovered for one hour.

While you wait, chop up the mushrooms and thaw and drain the spinach.  You can also get your egg wash and other supplies ready for the next step--mise en place is very helpful in this recipe since you have quite a bit of assembling and cooking to do.

You will also want to give yourself some time to bring a medium stockpot of salted water to boil.

When there is approximately 25 minutes of cook time remaining (you could do this earlier if you want but we watched an episode of Weeds in between steps), heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  When the oil is almost smoking, add the sliced mushrooms and season with salt and pepper.  Cook until all the liquid has evaporated from the mushrooms, about six minutes.  Add spinach and cook for an additional two minutes.

Remove from heat and pour contents into a food processor.  Pulse until you get a course texture.  Remove from base and carefully remove blade.  Stir in mascapone and Parmesan cheeses.  Giada recommends pouring contents into a bowl but because we already had quite a few dishes dirty, I mixed it in the food processor bowl without problems.

Line up 6 wonton wrappers (you will use two for each ravioli) and brush with a light coat of egg wash.  Place a heaping tablespoon of mixture on three of the six ravioli.  Place the other ravioli, egg wash side down (the wash helps the ravioli stick together and prevents them from coming apart in the boiling water) on top of the mixture.  Press the two wrappers together, starting in the middle and working your way to the edges.  I tried to create a seal around the mixture to again prevent them from falling apart and this seemed to work great!  Crimp edges with the edge of the fork or if you have one (we didn't) a fluted ravioli cutter.

Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the boiling water (avoiding sticky ravioli is the name of the game!) and then carefully place the ravioli in the water using a spider strainer or similar kitchen utensil.  You will only want to cook three or four ravioli at a time to prevent them from clumping or sticking to the bottom of the pan and ripping when you remove them.  Cook for three to four minutes; remove with spider strainer and place in a serving dish, covering with aluminum foil to keep warm.  Continue with the process until you use up all of the wonton wrappers and/or filling.  We double the recipe because we had more wontons than the recipe made but still ended up with extra filling! 

The ravioli did stick together once we took them out of the water and put them in the serving dish.  I would recommend you serve up each guest as the ravioli come out of the water and cover each dish with foil.  You will use more foil but the presentation will be much better.

Giada's recipe also calls for you to blend the tomato sauce once finished cooking.  Because I had chopped the vegetables finely and the chopped tomatoes were likewise fine, we skipped this step (can you tell we were trying to avoid extra cleanup?).

While the last batch of ravioli cooks, heat remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil in the large skillet (the one you cooked the mushrooms in will work great).  Add 1/2 cup of specialty mushrooms (Baby Bella, Shiitake, Cremini) and saute for three minutes.

Top each bowl with some of the tomato sauce and a tablespoon or so of the chopped mushrooms plus some Parmesan cheese for garnish.

Taken with J's new iPhone--it is sad that his phone takes better pictures than my camera.  Time for a new camera!
Serves: 4

This recipe makes six cups of tomato sauce.  You will use approximately two cups in the recipe.  The rest can be refrigerated or frozen to use later.  We are using it in our Eggplant-Sausage Roll-ups later this week!

Are you a fan of mise en place?  Have you ever made homemade ravioli?  Now that I know how easy it is, we will be making all kinds of ravioli and tortellini at home.  Is there anything a wonton wrapper can't make better?!?

Friday, July 8, 2011

Friday's Fancies: Lunch Date with Lauren

Another Friday is upon us (already!) which means it's time to link up with {av} at Long Distance Loving for Friday's Fancies.  It's been a few weeks since I've been on Polyvore to create a weekly outfit and it is good to be back--I've really missed creating and sharing weekly outfits with you all! 

Thanks to a half day off at work, today I am having lunch at Winslow's Home with Lauren of Clever Betty and this outfit would be just perfect for the occasion.

Lunch Date

Now that summer is in full swing, a fun, flirty dress would be perfect for a day like today, especially if we sit out on their patio for lunch.

Bright wedges add a bit more color to the ensemble and compliment the dress colors.  Comfort is important, however, as I plan on walking to our lunch date since we live nearby.

Dangling earrings would be too formal for a casual lunch date.  These sunny and retro stud  earrings help keep it light and playful.

A thick and chunky bracelet pairs well with the sun dress and sunburst earrings adding to   the vintage vibe.

And to round it all out, a large gray purse with gold accents for corralling money, phone, sunglasses, a bottle of water and a book in case I want to stop by the park and read a bit on my way back home.

We also have a family barbeque to attend with my cousin and her family tonight and this outfit would definitely do double-duty and work for both occasions!

What are your plans this weekend?  Any lunch dates on the horizon?  Happy Friday everyone!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Recipes: Jen's Crab Rangoon and Chocolate and Cheese Danishes

With all of the traveling we've been doing lately, I haven't spent much time in the kitchen in the last week; however, I did try Jen of Peas and Crayons (aka Woods' future mother-in-law because he and Madison are dating) Crab Rangoon last night and even managed to take some pictures.

You can find the full recipe here but here's what our dinner preparation looked like last night:

J lining the muffin tins

We made six open faced (pictured above) and six closed, dumpling style ones to see which way we liked better.  The open-faced variety looked prettier and were more crispy but the dumpling style ones stayed warmer longer.  We'd love to make open-faced ones for a party since the presentation is so lovely--we will just have to make sure they get eaten quickly.  Somehow I don't think that will be a problem! 

We used crab (or Krab if you want to get technical) because we also made California rolls to accompany the rangoons.   The best part was that I was able to pack a few boxes up while I made dinner, first while the rice soaked and then while it simmered away on the stove.  Woods even got in on the action.

The picture's a little grainy because I had to take it quickly from my iPhone.  Woods is notorious for running away before I can snap a picture of him (case in point: he jumped out of the box as soon as he realized what I was doing).

As I got out the cream cheese last night, I realized I hadn't shared the recipe for the cheese and chocolate danishes we had on our date night last week.  The recipe is so easy and tasty I couldn't not post it here.  I halved Giada's original recipe and made a few substitutions so that I could use what I had on hand instead of buying more ingredients at the store.  The results really got my wheels turning as to what else I could stuff inside danishes--they were that easy and that good!

Chocolate and Cheese Danishes, modified from Giada at Home

1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed in the refrigerator for 4 hours or on the counter for 40 minutes
2 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese, room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla yogurt--we used whole milk vanilla yogurt from Trader Joe's but fat-free would also work
1/2 tablespoon all purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup chocolate chips
1 egg, beaten

Kitchen Supplies:
Cutting board
Sheet pan
Small bowl
Pastry Brush
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Spray sheet pan with cooking spray and set aside.

In a small bowl, stir together cream cheese, yogurt, flour, sugar and salt, mixing until smooth.  Fold in the chocolate chips and set aside.

Unfold the puff pastry and cut into fours.  Spoon 2 to 3 tablespoons of the mixture into the center of each piece of pastry.  Fold one corner of the pastry diagonally over the mixture, leaving yourself a one inch border around the opposite edge.  Brush the egg wash over the folded part of the pastry.  Take the point of the triangle shape you made and fold it on top of the danish for an open-ended danish and a crisp look.  Bake in the oven for 15 minutes until golden and puffy.  Remove from oven and cool for five minutes before serving.

Serves: 4

We waited a bit longer than five minutes to eat them since we had dinner reservations before the concert.  However, they were just as good a few hours later with a glass of crisp white wine! 

Have you ever tried to make danishes?  What about sushi?  They both are definitely way easier than they look!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

What a Week!

I can't believe it's already Wednesday and that I haven't posted on here since our date night a week ago!  Time flew by this weekend which is evident by the number of things we did and people we saw over the weekend.  Here's a little breakdown of how I've spent the last week and what I've been doing since I obviously wasn't blogging!

Wednesday night
Dinner at Brasserie was amazing!  It definitely had an upscale French bistro vibe and lots of personal touches that had me drooling.  Everything from the little containers of loose salt and pepper on the tables to the typography on the menu was perfect.  I wish I could have taken photos of the decor and the meal to share with you but I was a little weary of whipping out my camera in front of all the fine patrons there.

I tried some French beer (tasted very similar to a Belgian Whit to me) and J had a German beer I had never heard of before.  We munched on some olives that had been cooked with hot oil, lemon peel and fennel seed while we waited for our main dishes to come.  I had never had hot olives before and the combination of flavors was amazing!  For the main course, J ordered the beef bourguignon which was melt in your mouth delicious.  It was served with silky smooth mashed potatoes.  In keeping with the French theme, I ordered the bouillabaisse which was incredible.  Full of shrimp (head on), pollack, clams, mussels and potatoes and a tangy-sweet broth, I ate all of it and even drank the broth, it was that good.

After that we headed to the park for some jazz and cheese and chocolate danishes.  The night started out pretty warm but we found a shady spot under a tree and our chilled white wine quickly cooled us down.  The weather cooled even more while we were there which made the evening even more enjoyable.  I definitely want to go back before we leave (weather and time permitting)!

We left for Omaha after work and due to flooding in northwestern Missouri (Rockport) and southeastern Iowa (Hamburg) a trip that normally takes us 7 to 7 1/2 hours took us 8 1/2 due to a detour.  This time we planned ahead and I packed plenty of snacks (and dinner) for us to limit our number of stops and we even picked up a few audiobooks to listen to along the way.  The drive flew by, faster than any other visit thus far.  I wish I would have discovered the greatness that is audiobooks sooner!

J studied for the bar exam Friday morning while I finished reading Middlesex (review forthcoming) before we met some friends for lunch.  After lunch, I had several appointments to gather information about graduate school that took up most of the afternoon.  We then met up with Ashlee and JY before heading to my godparents' house for the Fourth of July concert and fireworks in Memorial Park that evening.  It was a hot night weather wise but we had a great time catching up with friends and family!

My mother-in-law and I went to the Farmer's Market Saturday morning while J studied.  I was really impressed with the selection there and was happy to know we'd be able to get lots of farm-fresh produce in Omaha when we move back!  After a late brunch, we went to the driving range for a few hours before coming home and making mojitos with mint we had purchased at the Farmer's Market that morning.  Since it was such nice weather, we played ladder ball (or lawn golf depending on who you ask) for a few hours before we met up with JDP and a professor of ours from college for dinner.

Sunday morning we watched the Men's Final at Wimbledon and parts of the Casey Anthony closing arguments before I met a friend from college for coffee.  The weather that day started out dark and rainy but had cleared up enough by the afternoon for us to drive out to the lake for some drinks and a swim.  We then headed to a friend's house who lives on a golf course (so cool!) for a cook out and fireworks.  The golf course puts on a show every year which was really great and from their deck we could see lots of fireworks going off all over Omaha.  Because of that, it was a fireworks show that lasted for over an hour!

We packed up the car and headed to St. Joseph, MO for our second cookout of the trip with J's dad, step mom and her family.  We visited with them for a few hours and even went for a dip in the pool before we headed to our next stop in Kansas City to visit with J's grandpa and his mom's family.  We played croquet and met some of their neighbors for a block party cook-out.   There was so much food, including award-winning pulled pork and barbequed chicken, that J and I left there very full and happy.  We didn't stay for fireworks since we still had a 4 hour drive ahead of us but we saw plenty along our drive home.  We arrived in St. Louis at 11:30 pm tired and full but happy!

Tuesday it was back to work for me and back to studying for J and back to packing for the both of us.  I can't believe we are moving in less than a month!

Do you listen to audiobooks?  If so, do you have any recommendations for me?! How was your Fourth of July?  Did you see any fireworks or attend any cookouts? 

P.S. I'd like to wish a very happy anniversary to my grandparents who today are celebrating fifty-four years of marriage!  Grandma and Papa, thank you for your love and example all these years.  I can only hope that J and I will have the sort of marriage and be the sort of partners, parents, friends and grandparents that you have been to all of us over the years.  I love you!

My grandparents and J and and me at our wedding last year