Monday, May 30, 2011

Obligatory House Update Post

Ladies and Gentlemen.....

we have windows! And some sort of waterproofing/vapor barrier (at least that is what my experience watching Holmes on Homes and Holmes Inspection tells me that white house wrap stuff is).

The progress continues!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Helloooooo Summer

Although Summer doesn't officially start for several more weeks, the unofficial start of Summer--Memorial Day weekend-- is upon us. And we're starting things off right. First up-- iced coffee. Jason cold-brewed our first batch Friday night which means we will be having delicious iced coffee all weekend long.

Last night we took things up another notch with a very summery meal-- seared tuna with mango slaw. The mango slaw comes from SmittenKitchen and, like most recipes I get from her, is definitely a keeper. Thinly sliced mango, red pepper, cabbage and red onion tossed with a lime-rice vinegar dressing and topped with mint and toasted cashews. Um, could it get any more delicious than that?

Finally, to top it all off-- our pool opened yesterday. Nothing says summer like reading by the pool!

Mango Slaw
Adapted (barely) from SmittenKitchen

1 mango, peeled, pitted, and thinly sliced
1 medium head of Napa cabbage, halved and thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
3 limes, juiced
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 TBL olive oil
1/4 tsp chili paste
1/4 cup thinly sliced mint
1/3 cup toasted cashews, coarsely chopped

1. Toss mango, cabbage, red pepper, and red onion in a large bowl. Whisk lime juice, rice vinegar, olive oil, chili paste, and salt to taste in a separate bowl and pour over slaw.
2. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator for one hour.
3. Before serving, mix in mint and cashews.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Strawberry Week, part 3

It would be pretty impossible for me to come home with three quarts of strawberries and not make some kind of ice cream. Rather than the relatively straightforward strawberry ice cream I made last year, I decided to try something I had seen a few weeks ago on The Kitchn--strawberry cheesecake ice cream. This recipe is a take on a recipe from the fabulous David Lebovitz and is wonderful in it simplicity and its tangy cheesecake flavor. You could add in any fruit--raspberries, blueberries, cherries, even cranberries would be delicious.

Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream
Inspired by The Kitchn and adapted from David Lebovitz

8 ounces softened cream cheese
1 cup light sour cream
1 lemon, zested
1/2 cup half-and-half
2/3 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1 cup small diced strawberries

1. Cut cream cheese into small pieces. Add cream cheese, lemon zest, sour cream, sugar, half-and-half, and salt into a blender or food processor. Puree until smooth.
2. Freeze it in your ice cream maker according to instructions. About five minutes before the ice cream is complete, add in diced strawberries. 
3. Transfer to an air tight container and place in your freezer until ready to serve. 

Monday, May 23, 2011

Strawberry Week, part 2

It was easy to come up with ideas for strawberry sweet treats, but as I much as I would have liked to eat nothing but strawberry crisp, strawberry shortcake, strawberry ice cream, or even strawberry scones, I did not think that would be too good for my waist line (it has a hard enough battle given my current lack of exercise routine). So I came up with an idea for a simple spinach salad topped with strawberries, goat cheese, pecans and balsamic vinaigrette. It may sound odd to top a salad with strawberries (Jason, for one, was skeptical when I told him what we are having for dinner with our chicken kebabs tonight), but it is quite tasty (by the end of the meal he was converted). A no-recipe recipe and a healthy way to eat your summer fruit!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Strawberry Week, part 1

Did you know that May is National Strawberry Month? (If you are friends with me, you probably did know this as it is currently my favorite factoid-- I'm pretty sure that Jason has grown tired of hearing me say it!) That means that strawberries are at their peak of freshness in most of the country right now. And I, for one, couldn't be happier! Because even though you can buy strawberries from the grocery store year-round these days, I try really hard not to buy out of season produce. It's more expensive and, frankly, not as good. So I try to keep that to a minimum. Which means when fruits that I really like are in season, I tend to go a little bit nuts. This strawberry season is no different; Jason and I went to our local farmers market this weekend for the express purpose of buying in-season strawberries from Westmoreland Berry Farm. We came home with three quarts of the biggest, ripest, most beautiful strawberries you've ever seen! Three quarts is a lot of fruit and when it's good and ripe, it doesn't last too long. So I got to work on recipes that would make good use of these beauties. First up---strawberry rhubarb crisp.

I was really thinking about making a pie (similar to the one I made last year) but decided that Jason and I really did not need a whole pie to ourselves. So I decided to make a couple of mini strawberry-rhubarb crisps instead since it is much easier than making mini-pies. Fruit crisps are some of the easiest things to make: simply cut up your favorite fruit, toss with a little sugar, a little cornstarch and a squeeze of lemon and top with a mixture of butter, flour and brown sugar. I like to add in oats for texture. Stick it in the oven and voila! You have a beautiful and delicious dessert-- perfect for whatever fruit happens to be in season.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp
Makes two mini-crisps that amounts to about 4 servings.

2 cups of diced strawberries
1 stalk of rhubarb, quartered lengthwise and then diced
1/2 lemon, juiced
2 TBL granulated sugar
1 TBL cornstarch
3 TBL flour
2 TBL brown sugar
2 TBL oats
3 1/2 TBL butter, diced into small pieces
pinch of salt

1. Preheat oven to 375. Spray baking dish(es) with cooking spray.
2. Mix strawberries, rhubarb, lemon juice, sugar, and cornstarch together in a small bowl. Spoon into prepared baking dish(es). Set aside.
3. In another bowl, mix flour, brown sugar, oats, and salt together. Add diced butter and mix together using a fork, pastry cutter, or your fingers. Once everything is combined and the butter is the size of small pebbles, place on top fruit.
4. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until fruit is bubbling and topping is golden brown. Serve on its own or with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

All That's Missing is a Roof

What a difference a month makes!

Our house in early April:

And in mid-May:

(shot from roughly the same vantage point as picture #1...ours is the one with the lamppost in front)

And here's a close up:

Pretty much all that's missing (structurally) is a roof!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Menu Monday

Another week, another week's worth of dinners to plan. Here is what we've got going on this week:

Monday: Chicken patty pockets

Tuesday: Asparagus and feta frittata
Wednesday: Leftover chicken patty pockets
Thursday: Linguine with shrimp,pesto and cherry tomatoes

What do you have planned for this week?

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Spring Risotto

It's hard to believe that only a year ago I was totally intimidated by the idea of risotto. Today I feel like I can safely say I've got it down pat. I barely need a recipe anymore! I just decide what kind of flavors/ingredients I want to use and I go for it.

Normally risotto is the kind of dish I reserve for the weekend since it is not necessarily quick and easy but I decided to bend my own rules a little bit given that I worked from home for a few hours on Wednesday (Jason and I left work a little early to attend a pre-construction meeting at the home site....assuming all goes as planned, we're about 90 days out from closing!). This time around I went for something springy--lots of green, lots of crunch and very fresh. Overall the risotto came together faster than I remembered and was creamy and delicious. Fennel, leek, asparagus, zucchini, chives and peas....very spring indeed.

Spring Risotto
Inspired by previous risotto recipes from Ina Garten and Smitten Kitchen

1 TBL olive oil
1 zucchini, chopped
2-3 stalks of asparagus, chopped
4 cups of low sodium chicken broth
1 cup of water
2 TBL olive oil
TBL butter
1 leek, white and light green parts chopped
1 fennel bulb, core removed and chopped
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1 cup white wine
1 cup frozen peas
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
juice of one lemon
1/3 cup chopped chives
salt and pepper

1. In a large saucepan, heat 1 TBL of olive oil. Add zucchini and cook for 3-5 minutes until it starts to soften. Add asparagus and cook for another 2 minutes. Remove to a plate.
2. Add chicken stock and water to same saucepan and bring to a low simmer.
3. Meanwhile, heat 2 TBL of olive oil and butter in a large pan or dutch oven. Add chopped fennel and leeks. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until soft, about 5-7 minutes. Add arborio rice. Stir constantly until rice is coated with the fat and vegetables--about 2 minutes.
4. Add wine. Cook, stirring constantly, until rice has absorbed almost all of the liquid.
5. Add chicken stock, two ladles at a time, stirring rice almost constantly until almost all of the liquid has been absorbed. Repeat until rice is thick and creamy (it should take most of the stock)-- about 15-20 minutes total.
6. When rice is almost done, add frozen peas. When rice is done and peas are warmed through, add zucchini and asparagus and stir.
7.  Remove risotto from heat. Add in Parmesan cheese, chives, and lemon juice. Check for seasonings and serve.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Roasted Salmon

It's Cinco de Mayo which means I am blogging about....salmon? Well, yes. Yes I am.

Monday I made roasted salmon with dill yogurt sauce which is one of our favorite spring/summer meals. In fact, I'm surprised I haven't blogged about it before. It is one of those great recipes that is easy enough for a weeknight by polished enough for entertaining. Pair it with roasted fresh (and local!) asparagus, and it is a great way to start (or finish) the week....happy (almost) Friday!

Roasted Salmon with Dill Yogurt Sauce
Adapted from Everyday Food

2 6-ounce fillets of salmon
1 cup of plain yogurt
3 TBL chopped fresh dill 
1 1/2 TBL chopped fresh chives
1 teaspoon lemon zest
Salt and Pepper

1. In a small bowl combine yogurt, dill, chives, and lemon zest. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and place salmon fillets (skin side down) on top of it.
3. Generously top with yogurt sauce and bake for 15 minutes or until salmon is cooked through.Serve.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Menu Monday

Menu Monday is back! Here is what I've got planned for this week:

Monday: Salmon with a dill yogurt sauce and roasted asparagus
Tuesday: Thai beef salad (and oldie but goodie)

Wednesday: Spring veggie risotto
Thursday: leftover risotto
Friday: dinner out?

Hope you have a good week!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Key Lime Pie Redux

Another year, another key lime pie for my father-in-law's birthday! It's been such a hit I think it will be an annual event :)

Same recipe with a couple of tweaks-- 1) less sugar in the crust (2 TBL...down from 1/4 cup) and 2) served with whipped cream on the side instead of topped. (I actually broke out the food processor this year so the crust looks as it should!) Next time I make it I might use my fluted tart pan instead.

A good spring/summer treat if you are looking for a quick and easy crowdpleaser!

Since I've Been Gone

You may have noticed I took a little blogging break.... we've had a lot going on at work and on the weekends lately and blogging has just taken the back burner. But I'm back and excited to share what's been going on since I've been gone.

First and perhaps most exciting:

Our house is starting to look like a house! We took Jason's parents by the model yesterday and were pleasantly surprised to see how much progress had taken place in the last few weeks. We have a pre-construction meeting this week (a misnomer given that construction has clearly begun) and I'm hoping we'll get an update on when it will be complete.

I've also spent the last couple of weeks having a bit of a reading renaissance. I've always been a big reader but haven't really felt like I've had the time to devote to reading these last several years. But over the last three weeks or so I've devoured three books...all of which I'd happily recommend.

1) Bossypants by Tina Fey It's a quick read and incredibly funny. I mean, come's Tina Fey! What do you expect?

2) The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman A collection of vignettes describing life at floundering English language newspaper in Rome and the quirky characters who work there. In some ways it is more an interconnecting collection of short stories than a novel. Engrossing and at times heartbreaking.

3) A Visit From the Goon Squad by Susan Egan. This Pulitzer Prize winning book is this month's book club pick. It was interesting that I read it immediately after The Imperfectionists as they are structured very similarly. Like that book, A Visit from the Goon Squad is a collection of vignettes (told in the first, second, and third person depending on the chapter--one is even told completely through powerpoint!) that looks at the lives of a number of music-loving people who have crossed paths with one another over the course of a number of decades--both past, present, and future. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I'm now on the look out for other good books--any suggestions?