Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Summer Sweets

Here is a new take on pickles for you to try. I found this in a cooking magazine that I picked up at the St Louis airport on my way to Baltimore in April. I love pickles and I love radishes, so it seemed like a win-win to me.
Some friends of ours have a great garden and had radishes coming out of their ears last week and donated a bag full to the cause.
The magazine raves that “However peculiar pickled radishes may sound, the piquant slices are divine. eat them along or sprinkle them on burgers or hot dogs." but I am rarely convinced by magazines.
I am, however, very prone to trying new and unusual things, so away I went after those radishes with the super sharp blade of my Kyocera ceramic knife! (yes, I know, I could do this with the slicing blade of my food processor, but that’s just a lot of parts to wash afterward, and I am not a fan of doing the dishes. However, if I was going to make more than a jar or two of these at a time, I may retract that statement.

Pickled Radishes
2 cups of sliced radishes (about 8 ounces)
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
6 6-inch stems fresh dill (I used 3)
1 TB whole pink or black peppercorns (i had a 3 pepper mix that I used)

Thoroughly wash and slice the radishes and onions and place in a 1 quart jar.

In a bowl, stir together vinegar, sugar and salt until mixture dissolves. Pour mixture over radishes and onions. Add dill and peppercorns. (in retrospect, I think I would have added the dill and peppercorns FIRST so that I wasn't fighting with the fronds to keep them down while I screwed the lid on the jar.)

Cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight before serving.

So, I left the jar to marinate in my fridge for a day, and the brine progressively sucked the redness out of the radishes and turned itself a lovely shade of fuchsia, leaving the vegetables themselves pure white. After a day or so, I cautiously opened the jar and plucked a vinegary slice out and sniffed it. Yep, smells like a pickle….and, oddly enough, like a radish, too. I plopped that bad boy in my mouth, and yes, it TASTES like a pickle….and like a radish, too! I ate another, you know, to check for consistency…. and another, for the benefit of Ginny who was vicariously taste testing through my phone receiver, and then another…. and another…and I made myself close the jar. Those pungent little suckers are just darn tasty. I have yet to decide what other applications they might have, other than just the late night snack craving of a pregnant woman in her late third trimester, but I think they are a keeper. If nothing else, I’m going to start putting them on all my relish trays.
Now, if I can figure out how to CAN them so I can make a bunch at a time and save them all year…..without having to cook them, because I think that might ruin it. Anyone?

**Oh, side note. I may have mad more radishes than I was supposed to (you know, because I’m always soooo precise when it comes to things like that….damned Italian roots…) but I ended up having to make twice the amount of bring for the amount of radishes I had, just to fill one quart jar. So, I guess my point is, you may want to be prepared for that possibility if you decide to try these.

Tailgater Stromboli!

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made Stromboli for my husband since that first time I introduced him to it many, many moons ago. Usually it is a simple Italian sausage Stromboli with mozzarella and marinara. Occasionally it’s a breakfast Stromboli with scrambled eggs, sausage (or bacon) and cheese sauce).
I’m sooooo bored with Stromboli. But, at the same time, I do love it.
Well, Stromboli was up next in the batting order last night and while I was wandering the aisles at the grocery store last night looking at the piss poor selection of sausage, a brain child was born.
Brats.
We love brats….its basically sausage….and the wheels began turning.
What I came up with was a new variation on our traditional Stromboli with brats, caramelized onions, a dab of barbecue sauce and cheese. It couldn’t hurt that I have tailgating on the brain since we’re planning a trip to Arrowhead in October to see my Chiefs kick Dallas’ ass. I have no doubt we’ll be noshing on some brats that day!

Tailgater Stromboli
1 tube Pillsbury Pizza dough
1 package uncooked brats, meat removed from casings
1/3 cup barbecue sauce
1 large onion, thinly sliced
Velveeta cheese, for topping
1 egg

In just a drizzle of vegetable oil, cook the onions over medium heat sloooooowly, stirring them only occasionally, until they are lovely and golden, about 20 minutes. Set aside.
In the same pan brown the crumbled meat in a skillet and drain off every bit of grease that you can.
Mix in just enough barbecue to lightly coat the meat, about 1/3 cup, but you don’t want any excess to drip out the edges of the pastry.
Lightly spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.
Open the can of pizza dough and either roll it out gently into a large rectangle, or press it out with your fingers, being careful not to tear it.
Pile the meat onto the dough in a line down the center of the dough.Top with the caramelized onions. Then with slices of cheese. Yes, you heard me right, I said Velveeta. It’s a staple in our house and for this it melts nicely without pouring out everywhere.

Now, with a small knife, cut slits along the long, exposed edges of the dough, trimming off the four corners. (Save the dough you just cut off in case you tear one of the strips, you can patch it in to cover the torn spot.)
Fold one of the short edges of the dough over the end of the meat and, one strip at a time, braid the dough strips, one over the other, left, right, left, right, etc. Do this about halfway down the stromboli, then turn the pan and repeat, starting at the opposite end until all the strips are braided, and tuck the last tail into one of the holes.
Beat an egg up in a small bowl with a fork and rub it all over the braid. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until the dough is nice and golden.
***For more detailed pictures and instructions on assembling the stromboli, see my original post.

***I considered cooking the brats whole and then slicing them for the meat layer, but I was concerned that it wouldn't give me enough pieces to thoroughly cover the bottom of the stromboli. I might try it that way next time.

Enjoy! And GO CHIEFS!!!

TFF - Tolan's Pregnancy Pasta

Hello all! This is going to be my first post for Tyler Florence Fridays! I have been craving some good carbonara for ages, and when I recently bought Tyler's Dinner at My Place and found what he refers to as his wife's "Pregnancy Pasta", I thought it was kind of ironic since I'd been having cravings for that very thing! (Soooo not pregnant...don't take THAT the wrong way!) So, since then, I've been dying to try this recipe.

I know, I know, you're saying that it can't be pasta for a pregnant woman, because you're not supposed to have raw eggs when you're pregnant. Well, Tyler thought of that and made it Mommy-appropriate by cooking the eggs and milk gently and making a creamy sabayon to toss the pasta with.

I altered the recipe to suit what I had available to me. For starters, I had picked up some beautiful Sweet Basil Trennette from Pappardelle's Pasta down at the Soulard Farmer's Market and thought that would be just fabulous in this dish. It was only a half pound of pasta, so I halved the recipe for the sabayon (to 3 eggs, 1/2 cup milk, 1/2 cup cream, but I probably doubled the Parmesan...you can never have too much Parmesan.)

Also, I didn't have any peas or spinach to throw in, but I did have some beautiful red and yellow bell peppers, so I sliced them up and sauteed them just at the end of the cooking time on the bacon (yeah, I didn't have pancetta either, dammit) and garlic.

The garlic, by the way, totally makes this dish. Do not skip the garlic, do not use jarred garlic, do not pass "Go", do not collect $100.....you'll absolutely be missing out if you don't throw some nice fresh garlic slivers into the mix. (Kudos on that one, Tyler!)
Here is Tyler's recipe as it reads in his book:

Pancetta Carbonara with Fresh Baby Spinach (aka "My Wife's Pregnancy Pasta")
serves 4, time 1 hour 15 minutes

1 recipe Fresh Pasta Dough (sorry Tyler, no time for that in my kitchen!)
1/3 pound pancetta, cut into thin strips (I used bacon, because the closest pancetta is about 40 minutes from my house)
7 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

Parmesan Sabayon
6 large eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
freshly ground black pepper

3 cups baby spinach (I used 2 bell peppers)
extra virgin olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
Prepare Fresh Pasta Dough (or, in my case, boil some lovely gourmet dried pasta)Set a large pan over medium heat, add a 1-count of oil (about 1 tablespoon), and fry the pancetta, stirring occasionally, until crispy. About halfway through, add the garlic and cook until golden. Drain on a paper towel, and set aside (and saute the peppers gently in the same pan until they are just tender-crisp).

Place a large pot of salted water over high heat and bring to a boil. Drop the pasta into boiling water and cook until tender, yet firm (al dente). Drain; place pasta in a bowl.
While the pasta is cooking, make the Parmesan Sabayon. Create a double boiler with a medium saucepan and a large bowl (bowl should rest in saucepan and the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water). Bring about 1 inch of water to a simmer in the saucepan.

Combine eggs, milk, and cream in the bowl. Set bowl over saucepan and vigorously mix with an immersion blender for 7 to 8 minutes (I wanted to take a picture, but do you have any idea how hard it is to hold a running immersion blender steady and take a picture at the same time?), until it just starts to thicken. (It should be frothy, thick, and creamy when done.) Add the 1/2 cup Parmesan and pepper and mix once more to combine. Pour the sabayon over the noodles and mix gently with tongs so the pasta is coated in the sauce. Portion pasta among bowls. Top with a spoonful of crispy pancetta and garlic and a small handful of baby spinach (or the sauteed bell peppers). Finish with a drizzle of oil, a few turns of freshly ground pepper, and grated Parmesan.


(You'll have to pardon my little precision sliced pieces of bacon here, I have a pair of Kitchen Aid Sheartoku shears that I adore and use for everything and I couldn't resist using them to cut the bacon up snice tey were already ditry from snipping the basil. Hey, they're my shears, I can rationalize it any way I want to!)

Monday, May 18, 2009

A Whirlwind of a Weekend

As planned, Ginny came out to visit this weekend, and once again, even though I threatened, I didn’t get any pictures of us. Grrr.
This “girls” weekend was meant to be a relatively short, sedate weekend, just centered around a cooking class we had signed up for in St Louis. However, true to form, our plans rapidly spun out of control as we began adding activities to the agenda, even adding an entire day to the visit. Here’s a recap of some of the fun!

Magnolia’s You all know I live in Podunk, USA. As a foodie, that can be like living hell more than just occasionally. Recently, a new restaurant opened in the town where I work, and I have been uber pleased to have them here. Naturally, I had to take Ginny for breakfast on Friday to share the love. Named “Magnolia’s”, it resides in the building adjoining a defunct church, and has been completely redesigned by its new owners, including textured walls, arched ceilings, and a great new relaxed atmosphere, both inviting and elegant. I’ve been there several times since they opened with various friends. For breakfast Friday, I had the Eggs Benedict, which is by far the best I’ve ever had, with honey ham instead of Canadian bacon, and a luxurious hollandaise sauce. From there, we drove up to Springfield for just a little bit of shopping, lunch at the Mongolian Barbecue, and the Angels and Demons matinee. (by the way, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, but I have no doubt that there will be a lot of critiquing by people who have read the book. There were definitely some obvious discrepancies between the two and a lot had to be cut out in order to keep it down to only two plus hours.) After the show was over, we had to beat feet outta town, as a very nasty storm front was coming through, and we basically raced it the whole way back to Podunk to pick Little Man up from the MIL’s.

Even though we had quite a full day on Friday, Saturday was really the meat of the weekend, with a trip to St Louis in store for us. The day started with a trip to the Soulard Farmer’s Market, where we picked up some lovely cherries, avocados, gourmet pasta from Pappardelle’s, and some gorgeous basil plants to supplement my garden.
After the farmer’s market, we headed straight over to Maplewood to pick up a few things at Penzey’s Spices, including some really pungent Vietnamese Cinnamon, some English Prime Rib Rub (the reason for the visit), and a few other tasty items.

Beer and the Bottleworks
We headed from Penzey’s around the corner, and signed up for a tour at the Schlafly Bottleworks. If you aren’t familiar with Schlafly’s beer, well, frankly you are just missing out. They have a number of regular brews, including Gin’s favorite, the Dry Hopped APA, and mine, the Oatmeal Stout, as well as some seasonal beers, including a hard cherry cider, which was fantastic.
There was quite a demand for the tour that day, so even though we arrived in plenty of time for the 3 o’clock run, we couldn’t fit in the group, so we signed up for the 4 o’clock and had “lunch” in the restaurant while we were waiting. The menu there is absolutely phenomenal, and we started with a flight of beers each, and then sampled a few other items from the menu to share. Here are a few shots for you to drool over.
Flight of Schlafly's beers, including a sample of the Hard Cherry Cider.
Beer Biscuit Basket with Blue Cream Cheese and Cheddar Chive Butter
White Cheddar Soup, made with the Dry Hopped APA
Three gran blend with Quinoa, Barley, and I believe, Hops! Or maybe it was malt....
Beer Brined Chicken Sandwich
Once we were finished, it was time to see the Bottleworks itself. Our enthusiastic tour guide was Stuart, who was as witty as he was charming, not to mention just being a font of information about all things beer-related. We had quite the entertaining group for the tour, and at the end, we all hung out in the tasting room for some free beer. I had never tried the No. 15 brew, so that was one I really enjoyed.
If it wasn't so dark, you could see how cute Stuart is! Hi Stuart!
Tanks, Tanks, and more Tanks!
After drinking more than our fair share, between lunch and the tour, we headed to the gift shop to pick up a 6-pack of Coffee Stout to try at home, and headed off to the Kitchen Conservatory for our cooking class.
(Sorry I didn’t mention more of the technical details of the tour, Stuart, it really was great, but there’s been a lot of beer under the bridge since then!)

Girls Night out: Napa
The main purpose of this visit was a cooking class Ginny and I decided to sign up for. We’d been to a class at the Kitchen Conservatory in February and couldn’t wait to go back. We’ve decided that we are going to make these classes a regular part of every visit she makes out here. This class was actually a demo (versus hands-on), so we all got to sit back and relax while Chef Christie prepared some lovely treats for us and we enjoyed a few classes of wine (are you sensing a theme for our day out). On the menu was a Blue Cheese en Croute,
Crab Tart on arugula salad,
Apple and Rhubarb stuffed pork loin,
and shortcake biscuits with macerated berries and white chocolate cream for dessert.
Everything was delicious, but we quickly discovered that eating a late lunch at Schlafly’s was a mistake. We were so full after the class, I don’t know how we made it home without falling asleep.
The same chef (and wine director) that put on the last class we went to will be back at the end of July for another round, and we have already decided that attendance is a must! So, you’ll be getting another review in July.
The last day of Ginny’s visit, we spent more time relaxing than the others, but still managed to whip up a lovely meal of Pesto Marinated Flank Steak paired with a wonderful fresh pasta Gin brought out with her which we tossed with sautéed broccoli rabe and three peppers, and a sauce I picked up at the Hill in St Louis (our own version of Little Italy) that was actually a red pepper and pine nut bruschetta topping, but it went along famously with the pasta and peppers. What do you think? Doesn’t it look amazing?
So, that’s it, I know it was a painfully long post, so thanks for bearing with me. I hope to be back to my regularly scheduled blog-nonsense later this week.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Trifecta, and I'm not talking about horses

I'm sure you've all been seeing the same commercials as I have for KFC's new Grilled Chicken. It looks tasty, no? I've been thinking so, anyway. The closest KFC to me, however, is 20 minutes away from my office, which takes an entire lunch hour, round-trip, so we rarely go.
BUT. Today is my Friday, and I've been wanting to Redbox a particular movie for Ginny and I to watch, and the only local copy is in the same town as aforementioned KFC. So, naturally, being the beautiful "Friday" that it is, that called for a lunch time road trip.
Walking into KFC, I was a bit concerned about the number of people flocked around the door. After all, I am on a schedule here. I am promptly accosted by (albeit, quite nicely) a woman with a clipboard.
"I apologize for blocking the door, we're doing a taste test today of a new product and we were wondering if you'd like to participate."
A la Jerry McGuire, I'm thinking, "You had me at hello". Taste test? New Product? You're speaking my language.
"The tasting and corresponding survey will take about 10 minutes to complete, and when you are done, we will give you $10 in KFC Coupons to use today or during another visit."
You're gong to give me money? Cuz, yeah, I was here to buy anyway, so that works for me. Where do I sign?
So, I sit down, and they are clearly taking this quite seriously. They even presented me with a Saltine and a glass of water and asked that I take a bite and a sip to cleanse my palate.
I fill out the first part of my survey (the "pre-taste" section) regarding the "concept" sheet they showed me, and other facts about the yet unseen sample. At this point, I am presented with my sample....a FULL SIZE sandwich, which I am told I can eat as little or as much of as I want, and either discard or take the rest with me. Free food? Ok, we're officially hit the trifecta. I was expecting a little condiment cup with a bite size portion of the product to test.
I wanted to snap a picture of the sandwich, but didn't get the chance, and I couldn't find one online anywhere, so I guess you'll just have to settle for a description.
The new Honey BBQ Crunch Chicken Sandwich consists of a sesame seed bun with a breaded boneless chicken breast (Original Recipe, I presume) topped with the Honey BBQ Chicken topping, which is a pulled chicken and barbeque sauce mixture. The sauce was a touch tangy for my personal tastes, but overall the sandwich was tasty, and I brought the rest of mine back to work with me to eat.
But back to my purpose for the visit. The new KFC GRILLED chicken.
I was pleased with my selection. I got the 10 piece grilled chicken meal with 2 large sides and 4 biscuits (no, I'm not eating this all for lunch, its going home with me for supper tonight) for $16.99, $10 of which was paid for with my new KFC money, courtesy of the taste test. And the verdict on the chicken? Quite yummy! I know, I can grill chicken on my own perfectly well, but this was moist and tender, and employs the famous KFC herbs and spices throughout. I will definitely order it again (well, next time I get to a KFC, which isn't often, anyway).
So there you go, the Trifecta of food fun (in my personal opinion) and some delish grilled chicken...now, I'm full....I need a nap.....

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Beef and Noodles

This recipe is yet another in my long list of "husband-friendly" foods. In my former life, I worked at a bar/restaurant and one of the weekly lunch specials was beef and noodles. Since moving to Illinois, there are two old favorites from back then that I have yet to find on a local restaurant menu; Open Faced Hot Roast Beef Sandwiches, and Beef and Noodles. I wish I could say I had the recipe for the version we served at my former place of employment (because they were soooo darn tasty!), but this one will have to do. And it does! Another easy weeknight meal with only a few ingredients and minimum effort.

I am submitting this for my entry to Presto Pasta Nights this week. Check out the roundup on Friday over at Family, Friends & Food.

Beef and Noodles

1 beef roast (I prefer Sirloin roast) about 3 pounds

1 package Reames egg noodles

salt and pepper

Liberally salt and pepper the roast and place it in the crock pot.Fill with water, almost to the top of the roast.

Let cook on LOW about 8 hours, or until it falls apart like this:Then remove the beef to a plate and pour all the cooking juices into a large pot or dutch oven. Bring it to a boil. When boiling, add the noodles, and cook until tender. Do not let all the liquid cook out of it. If it starts to get too thick, add some water or beef stock.Meanwhile, shred the beef into small chunks, removing any leftover stringy bits or fat. Add the beef back into the pot.

Stir together and heat through. Serve with buttered bread and you'll have one happy man at your table.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Things that make me happy...part 2

On the Lighter Side of Chicken Parmesan

As many of you know, I am a shameless planner, list maker, and organizer (though you'd never know it to look at my house), and I generally plan all of our meals for the week on Saturday, with a trip to the grocery on Sunday to stock up. I was a day behind schedule this week because I chose to clean my carpets this weekend and work in my garden instead of worry about the food I'd be putting on the table for the next week.

After a quick trip to the store after work last night, I now have a fridge and freezer, stocked and prepared for the week (and part of the weekend - more on that to come).

On the menu last night? Chicken Parmesan.

This dish definitely makes the hubs' Top Ten list of dishes he looks forward to seeing on the menu. Easy to make, and even though its not terribly figure-friendly, I definitely don't mind eating it, either.

HOWEVER.

I did really well with our Biggest Loser Challenge at work over the last 15 or so weeks, and had officially dropped 12 pounds by the time I left for Baltimore a couple of weeks ago. Unfortunately, I fell off the wagon when I got back from that trip, and apparently, landed on my ass....hard.

So, back on the wagon this week again, I decided that I could still make Chicken Parmesan for the hubs last night without depriving myself by going a little lighter.

I started by breading three of the four chicken breasts that I had pounded out, and dredging the fourth only slightly in flour to help the outside crisp a bit.
(imagine a lovely picture here of all four pieces of chicken, some breaded, one not. You know, but not blurred like the inebriated vision of a college student, because that's what the picture I took looks like, and I wasn't even drinking!)

In separate pans, I fried Matt's chicken, and sauteed mine until it was golden and lovely, and almost cooked through.
After topping all of the chicken with marinara, I piled them high with shredded mozzarella, except mine, which I piled high with fresh baby spinach and then topped lightly with mozzarella.
Putting lids on both pans, I popped them in the oven to help the cheese along in the melting process, and voila! A little bit of lovely pasta on the side with fresh shaved parmesan, and its a dish worthy of a queen....and hopefully it will leave my wounded butt in peace.
In the queue for tonight? Beef and Noodles. Stay tuned!

Friday, May 8, 2009

GIRLS' NIGHT OUT: NAPA WINE CELLAR

Yes, it is that time again! My girl Ginny is coming for a visit, which can mean a lot of things, depending on the visit, but one thing that is always present, is FOOD. Last time she came out, we attended a cooking class called STEER ME TO THE BEST STEAK, and it was woooooonderful.

This time, we'll be going back to the same place as last time, but for a different genre of cooking, if you will. Here is the class description:

GIRLS' NIGHT OUT: NAPA WINE CELLAR "Christie creates a unique evening for the girls, with a menu from her favorite part of the country, and all paired with Napa wines. Enjoy Humboldt Fog blue cheese en croute with fig-walnut compote, roasted garlic-crab tart on wilted arugula, apple-rhubarb-stuffed pork roast with white wine-glazed shallots, plus buttermilk shortcakes with macerated berries and ricotta cream."

You may notice a theme starting with these classes, as they both have heavily involved wine....well, food just isn't food, unless you have wine to go with it. Last time, there were a couple of other stops we wanted to make while we were in St Louis, but didn't have time. So this time, we'll be tacking a couple of other tidbits to the menu!

The Schlafly Brewery is located in St Louis and conducts hourly tours of their facilities on Saturdays (they have a delicious Oatmeal Stout) and also has a restaurant on site. And just around the corner from the brewery? Penzey's spices. Mmmmm.... where I plan to pick up a package of their Prime Rib Rub, which, among other things, is absolutely fabulous in a Bloody Mary (one of my all time favorite cocktails).

So, all of this will be taking place next Saturday, and I can't wait to fill you all in!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Hey, Mango!

Hey, Mango!
Yesterday was Cinco de Mayo, of course, and as always, we held a small celebration at my office. If you know anything about where I work, you know that any occasion is an excuse for us to have food and Cinco de Mayo is no exception. There was the usual food table, along with a few games, like “guess how many jalapenos are in this jar” and blindfolded ”build the best taco” competitions.
When I bring food to work, I do generally try to at least keep it in the common realm so that people will try it instead of just turning up their noses, and my Mango Salsa worked out nicely. An empty bowl or tray at the end of the day is a very good sign.

2 mangoes, diced
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 small red onion, finely diced
4 tomatoes, diced
2 fresh jalapenos, minced

Mix all of the ingredients together with a little salt and pepper and you have this luscious concoction:

Stuffed Shells, Revisited for Presto Pasta Night!

This is hardly the first time I have made stuffed shells…..heck, its not even the first time I’ve blogged about it! But, that was before I found Presto Pasta Nights, so since I served this dish for my husband again last night, I thought it merited another look. I even took new pictures!

Check this out on Presto Pasta Nights over at Teczsape this Friday!

World's Easiest Stuffed Shells
1 1/4 pounds Italian sausage
1 8 ounce package cream cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1 egg
24 - 30 jumbo shells
1 jar pasta sauce
2 cups shredded mozzarella
Brown the Italian sausage in a skillet and drain off the fat.
Take off the heat and add the cream cheese, stirring until all the meat is coated.
Mix in the Parmesan cheese.
Add the egg and mix well. (all of this can be done a day or two ahead if you are pressed for time in the evenings like I am)
Preheat oven to 350.
While the meat is browning, cook the shells in boiling water until just pliable. DO NOT cook all the way through, as these will continue to cook in the oven.
Pour a thin layer of pasta sauce in the bottom of your baking dish (9x13, round casserole, whatever you have in that size range. I've also used 2 pie plates in a pinch).
Drain the shells and allow to cool just enough so they can be handled.
Using a spoon, scoop the meat mixture into the shells. They do not need to be super-full, a good spoon full will do. Place the filled shells on the pasta sauce and repeat until all shells and meat are used. Drizzle the rest of the pasta sauce over the shells and top with the mozzarella. Cover the dish with foil and bake about 30 minutes or until bubbly.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Corn Salsa and DANGER! (Danger MOUSE, that is)

In our family (and again, I’m talking about my in-laws) it is customary (and expected) to have dinner at the MIL’s house on your birthday. Now, I’ve managed to skate out of my obligation for this the last few years since I have a pretty strong opinion about what I will and won’t do on the one day of the year that is my own. However, my SIL hasn’t quite gotten to that point yet.
So, as is customary in MY house, I tried to put a fun spin on it and suggested to the MIL that we turn this birthday into a Cinco de Mayo style party, complete with build-your-own tacos, nachos, various salsas, Mexican-inspired décor, and, of course, margaritas.
Along with some of MEF’s Spanish Rice, I also contributed a bowl of the corn salsa that everyone loves. I wish I could claim this as my own, but I actually got the recipe from our HR director some years ago. Its so easy to make (and eat) that some people have been known to literally make themselves sick on it because they just can’t stop eating it. Hope you enjoy it as much as we did yesterday!
Corn Salsa
1 bag frozen corn
1 can black beans, rinsed
2 cans Ro-tel, tomatoes with chiles
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
Juice of one lemon and one lime
1 TB garlic powder

Drain corn, beans, and tomatoes in a colander for about 30 minutes.
Transfer to a large bowl and add remaining ingredients.
Mix well and refrigerate overnight (if you have time), or at least a couple of hours, to let the flavors marry.

Serve with tortilla chips, and take some for yourself first, because it will be gone before you get to come back for seconds!
And if you're curious, yes, SIL ended up having a very nice birthday.

While we were in Baltimore visiting my own sister, my son inadvertently became addicted to Dangermouse. Remember Dangermouse? I had forgotten all about him, but my sister hadn't, as she had a dvd set that came in very handy when Little Man became bored with the movies we brought with us. He became so addicted, that even after arriving at home, he was still asking for Dangermouse. So, I managed to find a new, sealed copy of the SERIES box set from a seller on Amazon for $13.78 (including shipping). It arrived today and I may allow him to watch it tonight....if he hasn't gotten into any more trouble at school fighting over his girlfriend with another classmate....I hear there was quite a scene this morning.....ugh. He's only FOUR.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Ahoy there, Mateys!

My son is four years old. That being said, I could not have asked for a more well-behaved child on our trip to Baltimore this past week. He was a trooper. He handled the drive to St Louis, time in the airport, the plane ride to Baltimore, a solid five days away from home, and the return trip not only with grace, but also with flair. Yes, he was such an adorable little gem of a boy, that even other passengers on the plan were commenting on how well behaved he was. Don’t get me wrong, he did have his moments over the course of the trip, but overall, we couldn’t have asked for much better. Among the other various activities we found while we were there, we spent one day at the harbor, touring the USS Constellation (a civil war ship) and the National Aquarium, where Ty got to “participate” in the dolphin show, which he is still talking about. Here are a few pictures to demonstrate the level of his cuteness.
Ty and his Auntie Anne in front of the USS Constellation. I really, REALLY wanted to post more pics of her, because we took some nice shots together, but I figured she'd kill me for showing off her beautiful pregnant belly.
Yes, that is a crab on my son's head.....but isn't it sweet?
AAaarrrghh! This wheel is hard to turn!
What NOT to do when you come across a cannon.....
Ty testing out the hammocks on the lower deck of the Constellation, making cute little fake snoring noises while Grandpa pushed him back and forth.
" Look, mommy, its NEMO!!!!"
There are no words, he was just in awe of the sharks.
"It was THIS BIG!" He spotted the crocs right away.... and knew the difference between them and the gators!

All in all, it was a fun day, with a lunch break at La Tasca, a Spanish Tapas restaurant where I introduced my family to some traditional Spanish treats.

We can't wait to see them all again in July - plus a new member of the family, my niece! Ok, sorry sister, I couldn't resist including ONE picture...and you look FABULOUS, so hush!