Sunday, February 27, 2011

Greek Style Meatballs, Homemade Pita, Lemon Dill Hummus, and Cucumber Yogurt Dipping Sauce

Since Chuck moved out, we've been doing alternating Sunday "family dinners" (a la The Jersey Shore). So far we've avoided chicken parm and sausage n' peppers, focusing on more interesting, yet equally comforting culinary endeavors. We also avoid Ron Ron Juice, leopard print, and fist pumping, mostly. Mostly.

A couple weeks ago, Tony made a great slow-cooker chicken curry. This week, I tackled a Greek/Middle Eastern meal: feta and dill meatballs, lemon dill hummus, homemade pita bread, and a cucumber yogurt sauce. All parts of the meal came out really awesome...Here's how I did it:

I used this feta meatball recipe from The Other Martha, but made it my own by substituting the oregano with a generous handful of fresh dill, some minced parsley and a sprinkling of lemon zest. Plus, since ground pork was conspicuously absent from 2 of my local grocery haunts, I ended up using half ground chuck (not to be confused with Chuck) and half ground turkey. Despite my liberal mutilation of the recipe, they came out pretty awesome. Dipped them in the sauce recommended by The Other Martha, to which I also threw in some fresh dill.

The hummus was basically my usual recipe, care of Ina Garten, with extra lemon juice and zest, as well as, you guessed it, more fresh dill.

I made the pita by thinly rolling out the extra dough from my whey bread, using this technique from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. Soooo easy and soooo good. I loved watching the little pitas poof in the oven. Delicious!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Homemade Bread Made with Whey

After making cheese last weekend, we ended up with several quarts of whey, which is the milky by-product of cheesemaking. It's protein and vitaman rich, so it seemed a little silly to just throw it out. A quick Google search let us know that you can substitute whey for water in bread making, so we decided to give it a try.
We used the whey in place of the 3 cups of water in the master recipe from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. The bread came out really tasty, with a slightly sour tang. Good use of this by-product! I froze some of it, as the internets also told me I could use whey to cook beans, or to replace stock or water in soup recipes, among other uses.

Stenciled Onesies!

So... pretty much every woman I know is pregnant right now. I exaggerate, somewhat, but seriously, I know at least 6 pregnant women right now. The baby boom has arrived. And babies necessitate some hand-crafted goods.As a start, Chuckie and I decided to try our hand at painting some little onesies with fabric paint using stencils. This method worked out great so far! Check them out. Freakin' cute.
I think my favorite thus far is the bee onesie, in honor of my brother, the proud keeper of his own personal apiary.

Homemade Mozzarella and Ricotta!

We had a Yankee swap/White Elephant gift exchange this past Christmas. The gift I threw into the mix was a make-your-own-cheese kit from the New England Cheese Making Supply Company. Secretly (or not so secretly, as it were), I wanted to get my own gift back at the end of the day. While I didn't win it back in the swap, Tim ended up with it and promptly handed it to me (yessssss!).

I finally put the kit to use this past weekend. The Real Martha was in town, so we busted out the kit, bought a couple gallons of whole milk and had at it. We made a ricotta, which is ridiculously easy, and mozzarella, which is only slightly more complicated. Both turned out really great, although the mozzarella ended up with a bit too much salt (due to a typo in the written directions in our kit) and wasn't quite as stretchy as it looked like it should be. But the flavor was great anyway. We used both cheeses that night in some lag roll-ups (which were a hit here a couple weeks ago), a riff off of this Boobs McGee, I mean, Giada De Laurentis, recipe. Yum. Can't wait to make more cheese! Anyone wanna join me?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Knitting: My First Scarf

The Real Martha always seemed fairly proud of me as I accomplished various goals in life... graduating high school, college, law school, etc. But I knew deep down inside she would never see me as a complete person until I learned how to knit. Thus, my quest to learning the old-lady art of knitting. Bam, Martha, check out this scarf. What's up now? ;-)

On a whim a few weeks ago I signed up for the Crash Course in Knitting at Stitch DC, a local yarn shop. The Crash Course gave me the very basics of knitting and set me on my way to making a big scarf using the garter stitch. Marie at Stitch DC is super patient and easy to learn from... plus the yarn at Stitch DC is to die for. I ended up using this beautiful merino wool yarn from Lorna's Laces in a variegated yellow, teal and grass green called "Daffodil."With some phone support from The Real Martha, some troubleshooting help from Ms. O'Brien, and a little help from the Lion Brand Yarn website (which has great step-by-step directions and videos, although you have to give your email address to access them), I was able to pull this big scarf together in a couple weeks with enough time to wear it a couple times before winter is (hopefully) over.

Next project: baby hats and learning to knit in the round!

Happy Blogiversary! Pumpkin Brioche, Meh.

So this past week was my 2-year blogiversary... two years of trying new recipes, crafting like crazy, and sharing the results with friends.
My first blog post back in February of 2009 was the lovely braided challah from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, so, to celebrate, I thought I'd make another sweet bread recipe from their newer book, Healthy Breads in Five Minutes a Day: pumpkin brioche.

Sadly, although I have nothing but raves for the challah, the pumpkin brioche only gets a "meh" from me. My issue with the bread is not with the flavor, but with the texture. It is a yeast bread, so I was expecting it to be fairly light, but it came out pretty dense- not much different than a pumpkin quick bread. When I made french toast with it the next day, it was almost overwhelmingly heavy. Oh well!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Warm Orzo Salad with Beets, Feta, Spinach and Pine Nuts

Dudes... so I went into tonight's dinner with fairly low expectations, but ultimately I was blown away. It's so good! Even Tim, who merely tolerates beets, really liked it.
I combed the internets for a recipe to use up some ingredients I had in the fridge: beets on their last leg, a ginormous block of feta that needed to be whittled down. I found this recipe for a warm orzo salad with beets, feta and pine nuts on The Parsley Thief, via Foodgawker, and thought it might be a decent way to go, with a few substitutions (namely frozen spinach for beet greens, which didn't come attached to my beets).

Wow, this salad came out great... crazy florescent color (you cook the orzo- or "orzu," as Tim calls it- in the water leftover from boiling the beets), a little sweet, a little salty, earthy, garlicky. Pretty healthy, too!

Monday, February 7, 2011

BBQ Pulled Pork Pizza with Caramelized Onions and Blue Cheese

We had a plethora of delicious, artery-clogging treats at our Super Bowl party yesterday... so maybe the 21 lbs of slow-cooked BBQ pork shoulder was overkill?
We had a bunch of said pulled pork leftover, so Tim and I took a hint from a couple online recipes and made BBQ pulled pork pizzas with caramelized onions, blue cheese, mozzarella, and topped with some cilantro. Pretty good!
We may have overloaded the pizza with tasty, tasty meat, as it was a little floppy in the center, but otherwise pretty damn good.

Super Bowl!

We had some folks over to watch the Super Bowl (followed by Glee's Thriller episode) last night... and by "some folks" I mean about 40 people. So there had to be a TON of food, particularly in the unhealthy and dip categories...

I went with some tried-and-true favorites:

- slow-cooked pulled pork sliders with kohlrabi/carrot slaw... a favorite with the boys
- black bean and sweet potato chili with all the fixings... a hearty veggie option
- roasted jalapeno popper dip... cheesy, creamy, spicy and AWESOME
- mocha cookies with white chocolate chips... my new favorite cookie
- pepperoni pizza rolls... Tim's childhood favorite/Hot Pocket substitute

But, I also tried a new recipe: chocolate-covered peanut butter and pretzel truffles. They were a BIG hit, especially for something that only has 3 ingredients... here's a shot of the inside, thanks to Chuck, who, along with Colleen, dug into dessert before they had even tried the dinner dishes:

Finally, my girls provided some seriously tasty dishes:

- Colleen made this awesome Greek/Middle Eastern version of a 7-layer dip. So good. Salty, fresh, creamy, hummus-y(?):- Chuck made "Heart Attack on a Plate," which is a layer of cream cheese, covered with a layer of chili, topped with a thick layer of shredded cheddar, then heated until creamy and totally addictive:- Chuck also made a delicious traditional 7-layer dip, based on this Rachael Ray recipe. Forgot to take a photo in my cream cheese dip-induced coma.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Rosemary Rack of Lamb and Carrot/Cranberry Salad

Pulled together this quick meal amidst preparation for the Super Bowl... loosely based on these two recipes, the rack of lamb was quickly defrosted, rubbed with minced rosemary, thyme and garlic, then quickly seared in a cast iron pan and thrown in a super hot oven for 15 minutes.
This carrot, dried cranberry and toasted almond salad brightened up the rainy day... so good. I juilienned the carrots rather than using shredded carrots, because I like the crunch, and I used thinly sliced scallions instead of red onion. I also threw the carrots salad over some leftover arugula. The lemony dressing dripped down on the arugula and it was awesome. This might be my new go-to salad!

Arugula Pesto

One of the veggies that keeps coming through the CSA despite super cold temperatures is arugula. We've been eating a lot of it recently, and I was looking for a different way to use it.

Simply Recipes had a recipe for arugula pesto with walnuts, and I had some 3-cheese tortellini from Costco, so we gave it a try. Pretty good! Not as sweet as your typical basil pesto-it has the peppery bite of arugula. I really liked the garlic roasting methodology (in the skillet!), too. I think I'll take advantage of that for other recipes calling for roasted garlic.

The pesto was tasty on the tortellini, and also tasty mixed with some mayo on chicken sandwiches the next day. Mmm.