Another Birthday Dinner


What recipes did you grow up with? Maybe it’s restaurant dishes or a certain treat that stands out. There are several for me and often those foods are associated with a specific time of year or a person. For example, apple cake or muffins are a must have in January – or any time I need something special for my dad. As Carver tells it he and his sister were virtually raised on recipes from this book. My mother-in-law sent it to us one year and I have gradually added recipes from it to our repertoire. I must admit I was fairly hesitant about the tuna recipe below – Carver has asked for it for months and I have shied away. The original recipe calls for canned tuna which is an absolute NO in my book, and I was unsure of the cream and tuna. It just seemed unappealing to me. Carver finally convinced me to make it for his mom’s birthday this year and it was perfect. It says, “You’re special,” but it isn’t showy or over-the-top. Another quirk about Carver and I is we have a different definition of Strawberry Shortcake. I am of the classic school while Carver associates the dish with angel food cake in place of the shortcake. For this dinner I decided we should stick with what Carver remembered and it turned out very well.

Ahi Tuna with Creamy Pasta

  • 2/3 pound ahi tuna steak
  • 5 ounces whole wheat pasta
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream, room temperature
  • 1 lemon – zested and juiced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  1. Cook pasta according to package instructions. Before straining reserve 1/4 cup cooking liquid.
  2. Season tuna steak with salt and pepper. Preheat grill pan over high heat. Sear tuna for 2-3 minutes on each side. Remove to a plate to rest.
  3. In a food processor, combine heavy cream, lemon and garlic. Pulse until cream thickens – it will look like sour cream and takes less than 2 minutes so be ready! Fold in capers and parsley.
  4. Add sauce to pasta and mix so pasta is coated with sauce. The cream sauce should be fairly liquid and easily incorporate with the pasta, if it doesn’t gradually add a bit of the reserved pasta water to the mix and stir until you get the desired consistency.
  5. Slice tuna and serve on top of pasta.

Carver’s Strawberry ‘Shortcake’

  • 1 1/2 cup sliced strawberries
  • 4 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 slices angel food cake, cubed
  1. Add half the sugar to strawberries, stir and set aside for at least 30 minutes. *macerate those strawberries*
  2. Before serving whip cream on high with a mixer until soft peaks form.
  3. Once you have soft peaks, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar and beat again on high until stiff peaks form.
  4. Assemble the dessert: a spoonful of berries and sauce, a dollop of whipped cream, a handful of cake cubes, a spoonful of berries and sauce, and a dollop of whipped cream

Lemons to spare


A few days ago our friends brought us gigantic lemons from their trees. Softball-sized lemons. So many lemons I couldn’t decide how to use them all. Tonight I managed to use three of them between dinner and dessert and we loved every bit of them.
For dinner I made chicken with capers and green beans. It was delicious and I have leftovers for one dinner maybe when Carver is out bowling. The perfect chicken cutlet, a dash of sauce and about a cup of green beans. Easy.
For dessert I decided a simple lemon cookie would be nice. I had never made lemon cookies before but I knew what I wanted. I wanted a sugar cookie that was not super buttery or sweet. I worked it by adding lemon zest, lemon juice, ricotta cheese, applesauce and whole wheat flour. Tomorrow I will share the what and the how of these little treats.
Carver urged me to bake up a few for QA. He is so thoughtful; didn’t want me to waste my time writing about them if they were no good. Nice try honey- I know you just wanted warm cookies before bed.
Anyways tomorrow we are trying out a newish lunch concept for the blog. It’s going to last the next four days. Then who knows maybe I will win him over with the ploughman’s lunch. A healthy take on it anyways.
Have a good night all. See you in the morning

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how about a pork chop?


I have tried to write this post two three four times now – thanks WordPress. I think I have finally forced them to let me share an update with you all.

It has been busy around here. I know I say this often but it’s true. Busy is my baseline and I have yet to master my schedule given my current state of busy. I’m getting there though.

Since the last time we chatted a few things have changed. I finished and submitted my applications for internship spots. Only 30 odd days until I find out where I got placed. Carver and I mailed all of our wedding invitations (we have even received a good number of RSVPs) with minimal loss of sanity. We had our wedding tasting. And we also are licensed to wed (!!), possibly the most surreal and obscure moment of the past weekend…

Now that those major milestones are behind us, I have decided there are no more excuses for my lack of exercise. It’s time. No more hiking here, cardio at the gym another day. Solid exercise. My muscles need it. My mind needs it. So hold me accountable. I’ll share with you my progress and the torture.

Recently there my kitchen has been very dirty. A result of lots of cooking and baking. What have I been making you ask? Oh well a variety of things really. Bread, brownies, Cranberry Muffins, Chocolate chip cookies with bacon, a frittata, soup, pizza, peanut butter and the list goes on…

    

I looked in my freezer this morning for our dinner protein and shockingly found no chicken! Pork chops it is then. I also happened to have one nice lemon left and a giant box of spinach and the heel of a loaf of bread. Dinner was impromptu and improvised but delicious. Think Manhattan Chicken with pork.

I seasoned both sides of the pork with salt, pepper and Mrs. Dash; preheated the skillet with a touch of olive oil and some nonstick spray. I seared the chop for 3 minutes on either side over medium-high heat. Then I removed the chops from the pan and set them on a plate to rest. I added to the pan a bit more oil (about 2 teaspoons) and more spray then 2 cloves of minced garlic and 1 teaspoon of butter; I stirred this together with a wooden spoon and added in 2 cups of baby spinach. I seasoned the spinach with the juice of half a lemon and the zest of half a lemon, salt and pepper; being careful to keep the spinach moving in the pan. Next I replaced the pork chops in the pan – now that they had a beautiful green bed to rest on. I grated fresh parmesan over the chops and put a lid on the skillet. The two pork chops were about 1-1.5 inches in thickness so they needed about 5 minutes of steam time to be cooked through. Just before serving I removed the lid and hit the pork/spinach with the zest and juice from the remaining half of the lemon and a little more salt and pepper. We enjoyed our dinner with a couple thin slices of whole grain bread which was left in the fridge.

    


Thanksgiving


How was your Thanksgiving?? Ours was pretty good. My work scheduled enabled me to have an extended break which was nice. By Sunday though I desperately needed to get out of the house. I spent most of Thursday cooking which was nice. We managed to do just enough so it felt like Turkey Day but not so much that it was overwhelming. On our menu:

  • Sausage Stuffing with Fruit
  • Roasted Brussels Sprouts
  • Apple Crumb Pie
  • Turkey Breast – nothing too special here just herb butter (rosemary & thyme) and lots of basting (every 10 minutes for the last 45 minutes). 5 pounds went for about 2.25 hours total (30 minutes at 425 and the remaining at 350).
  • Gravy – store bought (trader joe’s)
  • Mashed Potatoes – done by my mother in law; basically your standard recipe but we added in some garlic-parmesan olive oil
  • Pumpkin Chocolate Tart – made by my mother in law and we adapted it from these two #1 and #2

We really enjoyed each of these treats. Some were proven to be excellent breakfast choices while others delicious standalone lunches.

Carver and I really enjoy the turkey-stuffing combo. In fact we often have it outside of that fourth Thursday of November. I think it is safe to say that we will make it again in our new house this January.

Meanwhile enjoy some other photos of our holiday.

           

      


Cornmeal Cake with Apricot Jam


This is something I adapted from Orangette, which was adapted from Fresh from the Farmer’s Market. It’s a delicious indulgence, very easy to make, and perfect for a special occasion.

Cornmeal Cake with Apricot Jam

1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour, sifted

6 tablespoons fine yellow cornmeal

2 teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

½ cup milk, non-fat

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

¼ cup unsweetened applesauce

1 cup granulated sugar

½ cup egg substitute

Zest of one lemon

Non-stick cooking spray, preferably the kind for baking

½ cup good-quality jam, preferably apricot

8 tablespoons light whipped cream, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350º F. Spray the bottom and sides of a 9” round cake pan with cooking spray. In a bowl, whisk together the sifted flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt; set aside. Combine the milk and vanilla extract in a cup; set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, beat the butter until creamy. Add the sugar gradually, until smooth and fully incorporated; be sure to scrape down the bowl with a spatula to ensure you’ve gotten it all. Add the egg substitute ¼ cup at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the lemon zest, and beat to incorporate. Add the flour mixture in three batches, alternating with the milk mixture, beating on low speed until just combined. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan; before putting in the oven tap the pan on a hard surface to settle the batter. Bake the cake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool for 15-20 minutes in the pan, then invert it onto a plate, and turn it topside up onto a rack. Cool the cake to room temperature.

When you are ready to serve the cake, spoon the jam into a small saucepan, and warm it over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until it loosens to the consistency of a sauce and bubbles gently. To serve, cut the cake into wedges, drizzle a bit (approximately 1 tablespoon) of warm jam over the top, and dollop (approximately 1 tablespoon) with whipped cream.

Yield: 8 generous servings


The Birthday Cake


Last week I attempted something I had never done before – a birthday cake, entirely from scratch. I was very pleased with the results, and of course started out with a Martha Stewart recipe. I made my typical substitutions to decrease the calories and fat while increasing the fiber content. I decided to make a lemon/raspberry birthday cake. The cake was moist and delicious, and people seemed to enjoy it. This isn’t the type of thing you can whip up in one day, but is a very nice option for a special occasion.

1-2-3-4 Lemon Cake with Lemon Frosting

Preheat the oven to 350 with two racks centered. Line two 8″ x 2″ cake pans with parchment paper and then spray with non-stick cooking spray. In a large bowl, sift together 2c all-purpose flour, 1c whole wheat flour, 1T baking powder, 1t baking soda, and 1/2t salt; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream 1 stick unsalted butter (room temperature) on low-speed to soften, then raise speed to medium and add 1/2c unsweetened applesauce, beat until light and fluffy. Keep beating while gradually adding 2c granulated sugar; beat until fluffy. Gradually pour in 2 eggs and 2/3c egg white substitute; scrape down the sides and beat for another 2 minutes. With the mixer on low-speed, alternate adding in the flour mix and low-fat buttermilk (1 1/4c in total). Beat in 1 1/2t vanilla extract and the zest of 2 lemons. Divide batter evenly between the two pans.  I tap the pans on the counter a few times to get all the air bubbles out.

Bake the cakes in the middle of the oven for 45 – 55 minutes, until cakes are golden brown. As usual I rotated the cakes and switched the racks (top cake to bottom and vice versa) halfway through cook time. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 15 minutes, then remove and let cool completely on wire rack.

Once the cakes had cooled completely I wrapped them (individually) in plastic wrap then in aluminum foil. I placed them in the fridge overnight, but did not stack them. At this point take out 3/4c unsalted butter; leave it to come to room temperature.

The next morning I removed the cakes from the fridge and unwrapped them about 2 hours before I intended on frosting them. I also brought the raspberry jam to room temperature. Make sure you have plenty of room for this project; I even lined the table with newspaper to make cleanup easier.

Make the frosting. Cream the butter (left out previous night) with 1/2 lb of powdered sugar (about 2c) and 1t vanilla extract; blend until well mixed. Add in zest and juice of one lemon and 4-5 drops of orange food coloring, and beat for an additional 2-3 minutes, until combined and pale-yellow in color. Set frosting aside. * As a way to decrease calories and fat, I made a half recipe (which is what I have instructed you in). The full recipe is simply doubled and will yield about 4c frosting for the cake, which will result in thicker layers of frosting on the finished product.

Now, layer the cake – You could cut the cake in half (hamburger style) and make the cake have 4 layers, but I chose the easier route which is just stacking the two cakes on top of each other. My cakes were very level so I didn’t need to trim the tops or clean them up very much. Lay out the two cakes, coat the top of one with raspberry jam – I used about 1/4c but you will need to eyeball it.

The scariest part, aside from transporting the cake is… Frosting the cake… I watched this video along with some YouTube videos several times to get a grasp on the right way to do this.

I topped the cake with 1/2 pint fresh raspberries and let it chill in the fridge until 20 minutes before serving.



sunday night dinner


We had a wonderful weekend and finished it off with a nice dinner. Carver and I had some exciting news to share with M&M so we had them over for dinner. I made a roast chicken (with vegetables), a mixed green salad, and chocolate souffles for dessert. I wanted to make a meal that screamed 50s housewife, I believe I achieved it. I used this dinner as a celebration-engagement dinner, but it could easily be used for a special date or birthday or any old Friday night. This was a very easy meal to make and completely worth the effort.

Roast Chicken Dinner

 

Start by chopping 5 carrots, 1 fennel bulb, 1 medium onion, and 2 medium baking potatoes into bite-sized pieces (about 1-inch cubes). Place vegetables in a roasting pan and season with salt, pepper, 2 garlic cloves (smashed) and 2t olive oil. Preheat oven to 450. Rinse and pat dry a 4-5lb roasting chicken. Remove the giblets and trim excess fat. Season chicken cavity with salt and pepper; stuff with 1 quartered lemon, 2 garlic cloves and 2 sprigs rosemary. Rub 2t olive oil onto chicken skin (breast side) and season with salt and pepper. Nestle chicken breast side up in the diced vegetables. Bake for 20 minutes. Lower temperature to 350 and continue cooking for 90 minutes until juices run clear. Remove pan from oven and cover with aluminum foil; let rest for 20 minutes before carving. The meat will be tender and fresh and juicy– so juicy your fiancé may pick the bird for additional morsels. Points plus value will vary based on the cut of meat. The vegetables are 1 point per cup. This recipe serves 4.

Along side the chicken and vegetables, I served a basic mixed green salad. In a large salad bowl I combined the juice of one lemon, 1/2t salt, 1/4t pepper, 1t Dijon mustard and 3T olive oil; whisked until well combined. I topped the dressing with 1/2 container of spring mix greens. I set it on the table and as we sat down we tossed the dressing with the greens so it was fresh and not soggy. The salad was an additional 1 point and the recipe served 4.

Chocolate Souffle

Preheat oven to 425. Melt 7oz bittersweet chocolate with 1/3c room temperature coffee (I do this in a microwave-safe bowl, nuking in 20 second intervals and stirring between each interval). Whisk 1/3c flour and 1c milk in a saucepan over medium-high heat; bring to a boil and boil slowly, whisking for 2 minutes. Remove the pan from heat and add 1c milk, 1T butter, 1T vanilla extract, 1/4t salt, 4 egg yolks, and the chocolate-coffee mixture; whisk until well combined. In a large bowl whisk 6 egg whites to soft peaks, add 1/2c sugar and whip to shiny peaks. Fold the chocolate mixture into the egg whites rapidly (but gently). Pour into 4 2c souffle dishes which have been sprayed generously with cooking spray. Bake at 375 for 40 minutes, or until they puff up. Dust with powdered sugar. Serves 8.