Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Salmon with Sauteed Spinach

Of all the meals I made last week, Wednesday's salmon with brown sugar and mustard glaze was my favorite. The recipe, from this month's Everyday Food, was beyond easy-- broiled salmon that is brushed with a simple glaze of shallots, whole grain mustard, red wine vinegar, and brown sugar. Originally I was going to serve this with a spinach salad but I realized when I got home from work on Wednesday that I was missing a key ingredient. So instead I decided to saute the spinach with garlic and a little olive oil instead. Yum. A healthy and delicious meal any day of the week.

Salmon with Brown Sugar Mustard Glaze
Adapted slightly from Everyday Food

2 (6 oz) fillets of salmon
1 TBL olive oil
2 TBL finely minced shallot
2 TBL red wine vinegar
2 TBL whole grain mustard
2 TBL packed brown sugar
Sauteed spinach, optional (see recipe below)

1. Heat broiler. In a small saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add shallot and cook until slightly softened, about 2-3 minutes. Add vinegar and cook until slightly evaporated. Add mustard and brown sugar; stir until sugar dissolved and glaze is warm. Remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper.
2. Place salmon fillets on foil-lined baking sheet and season with salt and pepper. Broil for about 6 minutes or until opaque throughout. As soon as the salmon comes out, brush with as much glaze as you'd like. Serve on top of sauteed spinach if using.

Sauteed Spinach with Garlic

2 TBL olive oil
3 cups baby spinach
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add spinach and stir often. Just as the spinach starts to wilt, add minced garlic and toss. Continue to stir until spinach is wilted. Serve.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Menu Monday

My posting was seriously lacking last week, I know....epic fail. I'm going to try to do better this week if for no other reason than I have a bunch of post-ready pictures of the yummy recipes I made last week!

This week I'm planning some old standbys with a new recipe or two thrown in for good measure:

Monday: Leftover pot roast with horseradish mashed potatoes from Sunday's dinner (a winter dish in honor of the dusting of snow we had Sunday morning)
Tuesday: Tomato avocado salad with cumin-lime dressing

Wednesday: A new recipe for spinach manicotti

Thursday: TBD (I hope to be attending this month's book club assuming I don't get sucked into a work event)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Makin' Biscuits

Normally Jason is in charge of breakfast but this weekend I decided to try my hand at making biscuits. Earlier in the week I had come across a recipe for angel biscuits--supposedly a foolproof way to make light and fluffy biscuits with the inclusion of baking soda, baking powder, and yeast. The best part is that the dough is supposed to rest for at least two hours and even overnight which makes it the perfect make-ahead recipe. I whipped the dough together in about 15 minutes Saturday afternoon before Jason and I headed into DC to see the Cold War Kids concert and then spent another 15 or so minutes this morning rolling the biscuits out and getting them into the oven. The result was a light biscuit with a hint of lemon-- perfect with my favorite raspberry jam. All in all a good introduction to biscuit making.

Lemon Angel Biscuits
Adapted from The Kitchn

1 1/8 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 cup low-fat milk
1/2 lemon, zested and juiced
2 1/2 cups flour
2 TBL granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt  
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, well-chilled

1. Stir yeast into 1/4 cup tepid water in a small bowl. Stir to dissolve. In a large measuring cup, measure out milk and add lemon juice. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add lemon zest. Cut the butter into small pieces and add to the flour. Use a pastry cutter or your fingers to work the butter into the dough until it resembles large crumbs.
3. Add yeast mixture and milk with lemon. Quickly stir to combine--until just moist.
4. Cover and refrigerate dough for at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.
5. Heat oven to 450. Turn the refrigerated dough onto a heavily floured surface. Knead lightly just a few times, or until the dough becomes smooth enough to pat out easily. Roll the dough to a 3/4-inch thickness and cut into rounds with a glass or a biscuit cutter.
6. Place on an ungreased baking sheet and bake for 12 minutes or until golden.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Menu Monday

Here's what we've got going on this week:

Monday: NY Strip Steak with cheese grits and roasted tomatoes and shallots
Tuesday: Brown-sugar glazed salmon with a spinach salad
Wednesday: Spinach and zucchini frittata
Thursday: TBD-- going to Baltimore for work that day so it will depend on what time I get home
Friday: dinner out somewhere

What's on your menu this week?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Last Monday Jason and I had a meeting with our soon-to-be-built townhouse community's sales staff to walk through (and make decisions about) the 500 different design options we could chose from. I worked from home the rest of the day so that I wouldn't have to take as much time off. Another perk was that I was able to get an earlier start on dinner than usual so I decided to make something that would normally be reserved for Sunday nights (when I have more time to make slow-cooking or more labor intensive recipes): chicken tortilla soup. In addition to sounding easy and delicious,  it made use of some ingredients I had leftover from the previous week--namely yellow pepper, corn tortillas and sour cream (I had made Jason's favorite fish tacos a few days before). The dish was as easy and good as it sounded-- a welcome addition to my recipe repertoire.

Chicken Tortilla Soup
Adapted slightly from Pioneer Woman Cooks

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 TBL olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1/2 green pepper, diced
1/2 yellow pepper, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (10 oz.) can Rotel tomatoes and green chiles
32 oz chicken stock
3 TBL tomato paste
2 1/2 cups hot water
1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained
3 TBL cornmeal
5 whole corn tortilla, cut into strips
1 avocado, diced
sour cream (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 375. Mix cumin, chili pepper, garlic powder and salt. Drizzle 1 TBL olive oil on chicken breasts then sprinkle small amount of spice mix on both sides.Place chicken on a sheet pan and bake 20-25 minutes or until done. Use two forks to shred chicken and set aside.
2. Heat remaining olive oil in a pot over medium heat. Add onions, yellow and green pepper, and garlic. Cook for 2-3 minutes until beginning to soften. Add remaining spice mix and stir to combine. Stir in shredded chicken.
3. Add Rotel, chicken stock, tomato paste, water, and black beans. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer for about 30 minutes, uncovered.
4. Mix cornmeal with a small amount of water to make a paste. Stir into the soup. Simmer for another 20-30 minutes. Check seasonings. Turn off heat and cover. Let sit for about 10 minutes. Stir in tortilla strips and let sit (covered) for about 5 more minutes.
5. Ladle into bowls. Top with diced avocado and sour cream (if using). Serve!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Beef and Broccoli

I was going to blog about the chicken tortilla soup I made on Monday but I decided to postpone that to tell you about the AWESOME beef and broccoli I made tonight instead. This recipe (which is actually a mash up of two similar recipes--one from this month's issue of Cooking Light and the other from Pioneer Woman Cooks) is flavorful, fairly healthy, and incredibly quick. It makes a great weeknight meal. Give it a try!

Beef and Broccoli
Adapted from Cooking Light and Pioneer Woman Cooks

1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
2 TBL brown sugar
3 TBL rice wine vinegar
2 TBL cornstarch
1 TBL minced ginger 
1 lb flank steak, thinly sliced against the grain
5 green onions, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 TBL vegetable oil
4 cups broccoli florets
1/4 cup water
Cooked rice

1. In a large bowl mix together soy sauce, brown sugar, vinegar, cornstarch, and ginger. Add sliced meat to sauce and toss.
2. Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet (I used my cast iron pan) over medium-high heat. Add meat to the pan, trying to leave most of the marinade in the bowl. Add green onions to the meat. Cook for 1 minute or so before touching the pan. Then stir meat for a minute or two until browned. Remove from pan and set aside.
3. Add broccoli florets and 1/4 cup water. Cook, stirring often, for about 2 minutes until water is evaporated and broccoli is a bright green. Add meat and remaining marinate into the pan. Cook, stirring often, until meat is cooked through and sauce is thick. Serve with rice.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Menu Monday

I'm excited about this week's menu-- there are a number of new (and yummy sounding) recipes I'm going to give a try.

Check it:

-Monday: Chicken tortilla soup (from Pioneer Woman Cooks)
-Tuesday: leftover soup
-Wednesday: Beef with broccoli (from Cooking Light)
-Thursday: Pasta puttanesca (from SmittenKitchen/Ellie Krieger)
-Friday: leftovers

What's on your menu this week?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Decisions, Decisions

One of the downsides of buying new construction is all the decision-making that comes with it. Less than a week after making one of the biggest decisions of our (relatively young) lives—to buy this yet-to-be-built house—we were immediately bombarded with requests for meetings to discuss our options. Options for financing (do we go through the preferred lender and be guaranteed to save a few bucks or do we use the mortgage broker we know and trust and who might help us save more over the longer term); structural options (do we want a deck, a study, a third full bathroom, an open kitchen, etc); home  options (what color hardwood, what color carpet, what kind of fixtures, etc)….the list goes on. 

Earlier this week we had a meeting to discuss our “home technology” wiring options. Our builder works with a vendor to pre-wire things like cable/data outlets, home theater systems, whole-house audio, and security systems. We met with the vendor to walk through our options and tell them what we wanted/didn’t want and to give them a general idea of where we wanted the cable/data outlets that come standard located throughout the house.  It was a pretty quick conversation that ended with us saying “no thanks” to most of it. The one thing we did let ourselves be upsold on was the security system—no installation fee, a fairly low/reasonable monthly monitoring cost, and guaranteed reduction in homeowners insurance—it made just seemed to make sense (particularly to someone like me who has watched too many crime dramas to not to be a little paranoid about personal security).

One set of decisions down…a million more to go.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Mardi Gras Gumbo

(Note: this post was supposed to go up yesterday but was delayed due to network connectivity issues)

For this year's Mardi Gras I decided to get into the spirit of things and give gumbo a try. For those of you not familiar with this dish, gumbo is a stew that originated in Southern Louisiana and consists of meat and/or shellfish, okra, and the "holy trinity" of Cajun cooking-- green pepper, celery and onion. I got the idea from the most random of places--from watching Martha Stewart make it on Conan (hilarious segment, by the way-- Martha gets sauced on Sazeracs--check it out here: http://teamcoco.com/content/martha-stewart-makes-epic-entrance).

Martha's recipe looked a little too tomato-y so I decided to go with one from Paula Deen (also because no one cooks Southern food better than Southerners). Paula's original recipe made 8-10 servings so I cut it down quite a bit (though not exactly halving everything-- if you want to recipe for the full amount I'd recommend checking out foodnetwork.com). Although time consuming (I actually made it on Sunday and we ate the leftovers last night in honor of Mardi Gras), it was not that difficult to make. Which is a good thing since I have a feeling gumbo will now be in regular rotation at our house--it was that good. Laissez les bon temps rouler!

Adapted from Paula Deen

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite size pieces
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 links andouille sausage, cut into 1/4 inch slices
1/4 cup flour
4 TBL butter
1 small yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 green pepper, seeded and chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
3 TBL Worcestershire sauce
2 cups hot water
2 beef bouillon cubes
1 (14 ounce) can stewed tomatoes with juice
1 cup frozen sliced okra
2 green onion, sliced
1/4 pound cooked small shrimp, peeled and deveined
Rice (optional)

1. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Cook the chicken until browned on both sides and remove. Add sausage and cook until browned, remove.
2. Sprinkle the flour over the oil and add 2 TBL butter and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until brown. Remove from heat and let roux cool. (This is the perfect time to chop the rest of your veggies)
3. Return the Dutch oven to low heat and melt the remaining butter. Add onion, garlic, pepper, and celery and cook for about 8-10 minutes. Add Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, for another 5 minutes or so.
4. Add hot water and bouillon cubes, whisking constantly. Add chicken and sausage. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
5. Add tomatoes and okra. Cover and simmer for another 30-45 minutes.
6. Just before serving add the green onions and shrimp. Serve over rice or by itself (like soup).

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A Taste of Spring

Monday night we celebrated the end of February and the coming of Spring (hey, it's only 3 weeks away!) with a yummy salad from this month's Everyday Food. It was a winner-- light yet filling, easy, and encompassing a variety of flavors (salty, sweet, and spicy). We will definitely be making this one again soon.

Chicken Salad with Pineapple-Lime Dressing
Adapted slightly from Everyday Food

1 teaspoon lime zest
2 TBL lime juice (from 1 lime)
1 1/2 teaspoons honey
2 teaspoons minced shallot
1/2 jalapeno, minced
6 TBL olive oil
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped pineapple
3 cups baby spinach
1/3 cup toasted cashews (I used a lightly salted variety)
3/4- 1 cup cubed or shredded chicken (I bought a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store which made it nice and easy)

1. In a small bowl whisk together lime zest, lime juice, honey, shallot and jalapeno. Add oil and whisk until combined. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in pineapple.
2. In a large bowl, add spinach, cashews, and chicken. Pour dressing over top and gently toss. Serve with your favorite bread.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Space vs. Location

So where was I? Oh yeah. We bought a house!  Let's back up for a second...

Back in the fall, Jason and I decided that after the holidays were over we would start getting serious about house hunting. And we did. We went to open houses, read books, and interviewed the people who would become our mortgage broker and realtor. Most importantly, we finalized our budget and reached agreement on the following as our "non-negotiables:"
  • 3 bedrooms
  • 2 full bathrooms
  • Decent sized kitchen (bigger than the one we have today)
  • 1 car garage
  • Inside the Beltway (aka within the boundaries of I-495) and within a mile or so of a metro
In other words, we did our homework. And then the fun began-- we started looking at houses. Interestingly, the house we chose was the first we saw....but more on that in a minute.

Because we were somewhat limited in our location (which we both agreed was the most important of our non-negotiables), we looked at a  lot of older homes. Most were just not good fits--they either required more sweat equity and TLC than we felt equipped to provide or they were too small or they didn't have garages. The one older house that fit all our criteria was a 1950s era rambler that really just had no curb appeal. It was nice on the inside, in a decent location, but we couldn't get excited about it.

We ended up seriously considering two houses:

1. A new construction townhouse: 1750 square feet, 3 bedrooms/2.5 baths (with the option for a third full bathroom), two car tandem garage, roof top terrace, 4 blocks from Blue Line metro station (total commuting time approximately the same for me, slightly longer for Jason), 4 blocks to shops/restaurants, in an "in transition" area.

2. A 10 year-old townhouse: 2500 square feet, 3 bedrooms/2.5 baths, two car garage, small yard (probably the same size as the terrace on the new construction), 1.3 miles to Orange Line metro station (total commuting time twice as long for me/slightly less for Jason although would require bus/parking for both of us), walking distance to a few shops/restaurants (though not nearly as much as the other option), established neighborhood with really good schools.

Both houses were priced approximately the same. With the new construction we knew we might end up spending a bit more given the options available to us (e.g., adding the third full bathroom that would up the resale value), but the other townhouse needed a little bit of updating too (new carpet, new paint, and a kitchen that had an ugly kitchen with pinkish-gray countertops I hated). We liked aspects of both houses and didn't know what to do. We went back and forth for about a week.

Ultimately location won out over space. The ability to walk to the metro and have a commute that was not much different than what we have today...not to mention all the amenities of the area at our fingertips (or should I say footsteps?)... was just too hard to pass up. So we decided to go with the new construction. It was also nice to know that we wouldn't have to do anything to the house other than move in. And, as our realtor pointed out, moving into an area undergoing such significant development increases the chances that we might actually make some money off the house when we decide to sell it.

New construction also affords us a unique opportunity to watch our house as it's built! There is something really exciting about that. You can bet that we'll be visiting the site regularly over the next several months and documenting its progress on this blog. I hope you'll join us for this exciting ride :)