Saturday, September 11, 2010

Mania - August 22, 2010

If you saw me in the kitchen today, you might think I'm a little manic. Well, if you know me, you understand that that description isn't that farfetched. (I like to refer to it as "efficiency" instead.) In 5 hours this afternoon, I cooked five dishes plus made two batches of buttercream frosting to practice piping the image for my almost 4-year old's birthday cake. I clearly don't do this every day; I tend toward cooking frenzies on Sundays to get a head start on the week. This minimizes week night dinner chaos and allows more fun time to build forts and do puzzles in the play room with my little pumpkins (Andrew, the almost 4-yr old, and his sweet little 16-month old sister Molly) after school.

Let's get to the food though. I'm so happy to share the recipes I use. But as a disclaimer, I must say that when it comes to cooking recipes - as opposed to baking recipes - I typically don't follow them too closely. I rarely measure, often substitute, and always adjust. And yes, I usually add some sort of vinegar. Hobbies should have some creative freedom, and I'm psyched that I've found it here.

The first dish was a cold broccoli and whole grain pasta salad as a light lunch after church. With crunchy raw veggies, fresh herbs (not dried as the recipe suggests), toothy whole wheat penne and a creamy dressing accented with a bit of tangy rice wine vinegar (of course), it was actually quite satisfying...and also made fab leftovers.

Next was carrot salad to accompany smoked baby back ribs that came courtesy of my husband, the grill master. [Aside: He's not going to want me to carry on about his skills with his "family" of grilling equipment....a 6-burner gas monster, a charcoal kettle, and the smoker that ate Manhattan. Let's just leave it that I'm hoping he doesn't leave me to join the barbecue circuit.] Back to the salad...for this dish, I trusted my second inspiration and the person who I like to imagine is my best friend: Ina Garten, a.k.a. Barefoot Contessa. I have cooked countless dishes of hers and adore the fact that while they are perfectly delicious, they are also quite simple! I don't make a lot of modifications to her recipes. Though I'll insert that I think she can be a bit heavy handed with onions and mayonnaise!

I made a blueberry tart for dessert. I don't often use puff pastry, and given how simple it is to work with (coupled with the fact that it's store bought...hello), I have no idea why. It is beautiful and produces such a gourmet looking result. The tart was topped first with a lemon zest speckled cream cheese mixture, then plump fresh blueberries, and finally a dusting of confectioner sugar. It rocked - that's it.

To prep for the week, I made turkey meatballs with marinara sauce. Since it was a new recipe that I haven't tasted, I'll refrain from chatting about it for now. I also made Oreo truffles that I'll bring to celebrate my boss's birthday at work. Those are simply a pack Oreos zapped in a food processor with 8 oz. of cream cheese and dipped in chocolate. The process is insanely easy for how scrumptious they are.  My sister-in-law gave me the scoop on how to make these little nuggets years ago, and lately it seems like they're popping up all over the place!  The secret must be out.
Food filled days are the greatest.


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