Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Chickpea & Feta Pasta

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Over the long weekend I spent quite a bit of time on Pinterest which, by the way, has suddenly exploded with the holidays. Of course, there are always the die-hard Christmas fans that continuously pin various Christmas stuff all year round, but this past weekend everyone came out in droves to pin all kinds of Christmas crafts, decorating and cooking ideas. Even your's truly, who swore she would never start a Christmas board, got in on the action. I can't help it! My tree went up the day after Thanksgiving, I played Christmas music all day today and I think I've gained a few pounds just gazing at photos of dark chocolate gingersnaps, cranberry handpies and chocolate hazelnut mini pies. Oh yeah. All three of those bad boys are going on my "must make for the holidays" list.

None of this really has anything to do with chickpeas and feta except that the decadence of the season has me looking for some alternative dinner options that don't include butter, cream and loads of cheese. I love that stuff, but my thighs don't so I would love to get to the new year without a lot of extra holiday baggage parked permanently on my hips.

Don't get me wrong, I don't plan to go cold turkey on all the rich and yummy stuff, but I do plan to break it up with some lighter options in between. It's all about balance, people! - I say that like I have no trouble balancing the healthy with the not so healthy, which is kind of a lie. I am the worst at it. - Anyway...

One lighter option is this Chickpea & Feta Pasta, which is so simple there really isn't a recipe. I love dinners that utilize whatever is on hand and are delivered to the table within thirty minutes. For this particular variation I toss pasta with some olive oil and lemon juice and then add in some chickpeas, sun dried tomatoes, feta and parsley  Season with salt and pepper and you get a light and tasty supper. I figure that the time and calories I save enjoying this justifies the time and calories I will use making and enjoying various calorie-laden holiday meals and desserts. In my mind that's a good balance to strike.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Turkey Quesadillas

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Tired of turkey yet?

I have challenged myself to use up all the leftover turkey this year and even after turkey sandwiches, burritos and quesadillas I still have leftovers in my fridge. I think the turkey keeps multiplying because every time I think I'm getting close to using it all up I turn around and more appears. At times like these volume is important and a great way to get rid of some of those leftovers is in quesadillas. Admittedly, mine aren't very fancy. After weeks of using up creative juices planning my Thanksgiving dinner it now appears that my innovative thinking has taken a little vacation. 

These are just plain ol' quesadillas with turkey and cheese. Cooked for a few minutes in a grill pan and served with a side of salsa. I enjoyed mine while drinking some wine and playing Wii Sports. I love "exercising" with a glass of wine nearby.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Mini Turkey Sandwiches

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Today, in between checking out the deals on Amazon, I put together some cute sandwiches.

I love cute food.

Especially cute food that uses up all kinds of Thanksgiving leftovers like turkey (that took a long overnight soak in this brine), homemade cranberry sauce, arugula leftover from this salad, and dinner rolls. Add a little bit of pepperjack cheese and a smear of dijon and you get the cutest and tastiest little sandwiches ever.

My Thanksgiving was a great one - full of good food, great family, mimosas, laughter and love. I hope you had a wonderful holiday, too.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving Starters

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I think the best part of Thanksgiving are the appetizers. What's better than having a "a bit of this and a taste of that" over the course of the day only to sit down when it's time for the real meal and realize you are completely full and can't possibly eat any more?

There's so much hoopla about turkey, potatoes and stuffing when the real heroes of the day are the bite-sized treats that are served all day so folks can ruin their appetite waiting in anticipation for what they think is the big show.

By the time I'm dishing up some turkey and potatoes I'm really just interested in a taste so I know what leftovers I'll want adorning my plate the next day, otherwise known as the day after the day I ate too many appetizers, also known as my real Thanksgiving.

So in the spirit of ruining appetites I offer up some favorite starters... oh, and Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Monday Photos: A Dinner Party

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I had some family over for dinner recently and I am considering renting them out as party guests for hire because they have amazing dinner guest skills. Not only are they the nicest people ever, but they appropriately ooh and ahh over everything they're served. I think there might be some money in putting them out on the party circuit because don't we all want an adoring audience when we make a meal?

I jest.

I want them to just ooh and ahh over my cooking.

Speaking of cooking, let's talk about the food, shall we?

First up: Bacon-Wrapped Filet Mignon with a Peppercorn Sauce
I seared and cooked the filet in a pan and then made the sauce using this recipe.

On the side: Roasted Red Potatoes and Brussels Sprouts

 On the Other Side: Tomato & Pickled Beet Salad
I didn't take a picture with the salad on the plate, but open the link to check it out.

For Dessert: Creme Brulee
I used this recipe.

This menu was pretty challenging for me, but I managed to pull it off. Thankfully, my guests pitched in at the end to help pull it all together. The most stressful part of cooking a big meal is the last ten minutes hoping that all the components are ready to serve at the same time. My inner chef definitely came out and I am grateful that my guests understood even though I ordered them around like line cooks. It's all part of the experience, right?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Beans & Toast


In my house beans & toast is also known as "what I eat after I've screwed up everything else". 

Last weekend I set out to make chocolate swirl buns -- they're just like cinnamon buns except you roll them up with chocolate, butter and sugar instead of just cinnamon and butter. I planned to freeze them and bring them out over Thanksgiving just so I could impress my two visiting nephews. What preteen boy would turn away a warm, gooey, chocolaty sweet? I thought I had a winner and was already practicing my acceptance speech for my soon to be awarded "Aunt of the Year" trophy. I thought the chocolate swirl buns would be talked about for years to come.

Not so much.

Something went terribly wrong in the kitchen and those buns refused to rise. After all the kneading, rolling and cajoling I ended up with 12 flat discs made of dough and chocolate. I went as far as baking them hoping and praying they would magically puff up in the oven, but they didn't. They tasted like rope coils glued together with chocolate. So the buns went in the trash along with my dreams of Aunt Sainthood.

In an effort to redeem myself and salvage my tattered ego I decided to make pizza dough and was very excited to find a recipe for dough that didn't require yeast. Ever the optimist I set aside my chocolate swirl bun defeat and geared up for round two and this time I was going to win.

But I didn't really win.

Have you ever done something that you know in your heart isn't that great, but you want so much to believe that it is? Like the time I decided to cut my own bangs and ended up with a 1/2 inch fringe way above my eyebrows. In my heart I knew I looked like a freak, but I really went out of my way to convince others that I thought they were great -- "No, I meant to cut them this short. I think they look really cool!" --after which I would go home and cry into my pillow.

That's kind of how I felt about the pizza dough. After all the effort to make it I can only describe the results as "meh". It wasn't the worst crust ever, but it was kind of like cardboard. Think frozen pizza or school lunch. However, I was so in need of a kitchen win that I almost convinced myself to blog about it, but would you believe that all the photos I took came out blurry and unfocused? It must have been some kind of divine intervention from the kitchen gods. 

So now the pizza photos are in their rightful place on the cutting room floor and the buns have a new home in the trash can, which brings me back to the beans & toast.

I eat this a lot more than I like to admit, but gosh darnit it's so good.

It's especially good when you're feeling a little down in the dumps after destroying your kitchen and having no delightfully wonderful baked goods to show for it.

It always comes out right -- just toast some bread, heat up some beans and fry an egg.

Voila... instant savory comfort food for the soul.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Monday Photos: Take the High Road

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There are two ways to get to Taos, NM from Albuquerque: The highway or the high road.

The highway will most likely get you there sooner, but the high road offers amazing scenery, little towns and roadside access to artisan shops and galleries all for the small price of some extra time.

Take the high road.

It's better.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Twice Baked Potatoes

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Bake. Scoop. Mix. Stuff. Bake.

It really doesn't get any easier than that.

The result?

A classic, timeless side dish that is sure to please.

I recently made some with sour cream, spinach and cheddar and, after devouring them, I got curious about other variations to try. So, here are few other twice baked 'tater combos that look pretty darn tasty...

from Simply Recipes

from A Cozy Kitchen

from Eat.Live.Travel.Write

from First Came Fashion

from For the Love of Cooking

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Tomato & Pickled Beet Salad


Sometime after Halloween and before Thanksgiving a little switch inside me lights up and I start thinking about the holidays. The mental to-do list starts growing and ignites the panic joy of the season. Well, my switch flipped over to "on" this past weekend and now my thoughts are flooded with all things holiday.

People, Thanksgiving and Christmas are just around the corner.
It's best to start preparing now.

If you are in need of a festive, tasty holiday starter/side-dish then definitely give this one a try. Of course, the color combo makes this salad great holiday eye-candy and it's freshness is the perfect compliment to traditional, rich holiday main dishes. The sour earthiness of the beets contrast nicely with the fresh tomatoes and peppery arugula. A little drizzle of balsamic and a sprinkling of feta finishes it off. It's also easy to either make ahead or toss together quickly for those last minute holiday parties and gatherings.

Tomato & Pickled Beet Salad
Serves 4

4 tomatoes, cored and cut into wedges
1/2 cup pickled beets*
1 cup arugula
1/4 cup feta cheese
1/4 cup balsamic

*I bought a jar of pickled beet slices and cut the slices into quarters

Toss the arugula with the tomato wedges. Top them with the pickled beets and lightly toss again. If making ahead, store the arugula, tomato and beets in a sealed container until ready to serve. Before serving, top the salad off with the feta and the balsamic (go easy on the balsamic, you don't want a soggy salad. You may not need the whole 1/4 cup). Season with a few pinches of kosher salt.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Monday Photos: October Top Posts

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Check out what other people checked out on this site in October. The following posts had the most page views last month and, judging from the recipes, folks are definitely starting to crave warm and cozy comfort food. My favorite from this list? It's a tough choice, but the chorizo breakfast burritos are always a perfect start on a chilly Saturday morning.

So, scroll through and click on the links to check out the original posts.


Friday, November 2, 2012

Pasta with Sausage & Arugula


Reciting "Spring forward, Fall back" is the only way I can remember which way the clock is supposed to go when the time changes. I can hardly believe that daylight savings is ending-- one minute it was, like, June and now it's almost Thanksgiving.   

Some folks don't like this upcoming time change, but I have to admit I look forward to it -- it means I get an extra hour of sleep and it ushers in the season of snuggling up at night early to watch movies. I always feel sort of guilty watching a movie when it's still daylight out.

So, don't forget to set your clocks and, come Sunday night, if you're in the mood for a cozy dinner and movie marathon you should definitely try this recipe. It's super simple and quick to make leaving you plenty of time to curl up on the couch.

Pasta with Sausage and Arugula
source: Real Simple
Serves 4

To start you'll want to thinly slice a medium sized onion. Set those aside for a minute.

Start boiling some water for your pasta and cook it according to package directions.

While the pasta is cooking, in a seperate large pan heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Once heated toss in a 1/2 cup of panko bread crumbs, a pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper. Also add in some thyme ( I used about a teaspoon of dried). Cook until your breadcrumbs look like this...

Remove them from the pan.

Wipe out the pan quickly and return it to the heat. Heat another tablespoon of olive oil and then add in 3 Italian sausage links (casings removed) and the onions. Be sure to break up the sausage as it's cooking. After 8-10 minutes go ahead and add in about 6 cups of arugula.

You may want to add it in batches, allowing it to wilt before adding some more.

 By now the pasta should be done, so drain it after reserving a 1/2 cup of the starchy pasta water. Toss the pasta with the sausage, onions and some of the pasta water. Serve with the crispy bread crumbs sprinkled over the top.


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