Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Grandmommy's Chicken Noodle Soup

My grandmother, on my mum's side, is an amazing cook. Or was, I guess, since she doesn't really cook anymore. But man, when she did, was she GOOD. When cooking became too much for her and she moved into a senior living home (an old hotel) with a dining room, she passed down her recipes on these lovely index cards that weren't actually index cards, but beautiful stationary with her name engraved on the back.

When I think about those cards, I get sad. My mum doesn't writer her recipes down on cards like that. And I definitely don't...I put them on a blog. Will my grandkids get as sentimental when they read my blog as I do when I see my grandmother's scrawling handwriting on those ivory and green cards?

Sadly, we don't even have all of her recipes on these cards. There are a lot that my mum or I need get...most important, her famous fried chicken that everyone in the family raves about but that I've actually never tried since she stopped making it when people became worried about fried food and clogged arteries. Can you imagine? If I had my grandmother's recipe, I'm pretty sure I could put the Colonel out of business.

When I was younger, my grandmother would come and babysit my brother and I so our parents could go on vacation without their terrible twosome (I like to think we weren't that terrible, but they left us at home, so who knows!) I'd look forward to her breaded veal, fried up in an inch of oil on the stove to a golden brown. And her apple crisp, which remains to this day my favorite dessert, and which I believe is the absolute perfect way to use fall's massive supply of apples (I'm already getting excited for my CSA during that time). And her turkey stuffing, which my aunt still makes since she took over Thanksgiving (although I'd bet it is a bit healthier than the original), and her homemade cranberry sauce (When I was a tiny tot, my grandmother asked me which cranberry sauce I preferred, and I still haven't lived down, to this day, that I said the kind with the lines on it--she used to spend hours making homemade cranberry sauce and was, it is safe to say, not exactly pleased with her grandchild's response. She stopped making the sauce shortly thereafter.)

But my absolute favorite was her chicken noodle soup, which was served with these tiny little pastini, a pasta the size of a pen tip shaped like tiny stars, perfect for little kids because, even now, I have trouble scooping up the massive strips of pasta you get in some soups. This is one of the recipes that my mum has hidden in her Joy of Cooking cookbook written by my grandmother on her stationary and is the perfect chicken noodle soup for those days when you are feeling under the weather and just want your mum, your bed and a bowl of soup. I had my wisdom teeth removed about four years ago and, I kid you not, I survived for days purely on this soup.

I am happy to share the recipe for this soup that has such a special place in my heart with all of you. I hope everyone reading has as wonderful of memories as I do of me and my grandmother, but if yours didn't pass down a delicious chicken noodle soup, feel free to borrow pass this one off as a family recipe. I'm sure my grandmother wouldn't mind.

Grandmommy's Chicken Noodle Soup


Ingredients

2 1/2 lb. fryer chicken
1 lb. carrots
1 large onion
1 lb celery
paprika
oregano
parsley
salt and pepper
pasta (I recommend a small one like pastini or ditalini)

Directions


1. Peel the carrots; cut the carrots and celery in half. Cut the onion in half or quarters, depending on how large the onion is. Place the raw fryer chicken and cut veggies in a soup pot. Fill pot with water.


2. Add paprika, oregano, parsley salt and pepper to the water. Stir to combine.


3. Cook the soup for two to two and a half hours. The chicken will stay moist since it is cooking in water, so don't worry about overcooking. The veggies should be falling apart.



4. Strain the soup (obviously keeping the broth, since that's the base of the soup. Remove the meat from the chicken and chop the veggies. Return to the broth.


5. If you are not eating the entire thing of soup right now, this is the time to store it. If you are, add your pasta to the soup and cook until al dente. If stored, do not add the pasta until you are eating--then add pasta to the amount of soup you will be eating and cook. This ensures you don't have icky pasta.

As you may have seen from Sunday meal planning, this was one of the meals I was cooking for my dad since he is getting surgery. Thus, I  stored the soup (if five massive containers) so that some can go in the freezer (for meeee) and some my dad can cook this week. After all, it is the perfect meal for when you're not feeling great.

New England Lobster Rolls

I don't often eat lobster. Like...ever. It is, in my opinion, way too expensive! On top of that, the idea of actually killing a living critter by shoving a knife through its head rather than just buying it pre-killed is kind of icky. And by kind of I mean...don't lobsters scream when you kill them? (Ok, I'm pretty sure its not screaming but it has something to do with boiling water forcing air out or something like that but still!)

My parents used to vacation in the Northeast all the time. And my mum, who barely eats any shellfish, used to eat lobster rolls. I've heard stories about lobster rolls for years, but it was not until I moved to...New York City that I actually tried one. Yes, NYC, not Maine, not anywhere in the Northeast, but New York. Weird right? Well the "clam shack" craze has come to Manhattan. And there are a ton to choose from...Mermaid Inn (my personal fave), Luke's Lobster, Ed's Lobster Bar and numerous others. Lobster rolls are even served on trucks (red hook lobster truck, associated with Red Hook Lobster Pound, and Nauti, associated with Luke's)!

Each time I've gotten a lobster roll, however, I wonder why the heck I'm paying for it. There's nothing really difficult about the recipe...in fact, it is pretty darn easy. The only thing keeping me from making them at home is...lobster screams. 

Enter Ardmore Seafood at the Ardmore Farmer's Market. You know what they sell? Pre-cooked lobster tails. PRECOOKED, PRE-KILLED lobsters! Do you know how much this simplifies a recipe that was already pretty darn simple?

Below is the recipe I used to make my lobster rolls. If you don't have access to precooked tails, there are tons of websites dedicated to step-by-step instructions of killing and cooking those little ocean-dwellers. I recommend this one, which even has pictures to ensure you do this correctly.

Lobster rolls in Pennsylvania? Or in a small apartment in Manhattan? The very fabric of my universe has officially changed...

New England Lobster Rolls


Ingredients
(for one sandwich)

1/4 lb. cooked lobster meat
1/4 cup (or so) full-fat mayonnaise
Lemon
Sprig fresh tarragon
Sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
Hotdog bun (I used regular ones, but for a traditional roll, buy New England-style rolls--they're sliced on the top rather than the side)
Butter

Directions


1. Make your lobster salad: dice your lobster into bite size pieces. Add mayonnaise and toss. The lobster should be lightly coated in mayo, NOT completely overwhelmed by it (you want that good lobster taste!) Add diced tarragon, salt and pepper, and a squeeze of lemon juice and continue to toss.


2. Toast your hotdog bun...if you have a top-loading toaster, use that, if not, utilize your oven's broiler. When using a broiler, put the butter on before putting it in the oven...if using a toaster, smear with butter immediately upon taking out. I tried both techniques, and I prefer the broiler (just saying).


3. Put your lobster roll together by adding the lobster salad onto the buttered bun.


my very very stuffed lobster roll, take one. I had a lobster roll Saturday for dinner and also Sunday for lunch. It was a lobster extravaganza!


The second time I used a bit less mayo than the first and I think it turned out a lot better...much more lobster-y!

Monday, July 30, 2012

A Late Sunday Meal Planning


For what was supposed to be a very mellow weekend...I'm exhausted! As you may remember, I went home to dog-sit since my parents were away and she had been at camp since Tuesday. It was so cute when I picked her up...she was doing her happy feet! (yes, very similar to the movie, where in a dog gets so excited--but is not allowed to jump up on people--that they literally dance with happiness).




My dad gets surgery this week. So, as the wonderful daughter that I am, I spent the entire weekend cooking food for him. That way, he can simply pull food out of the fridge and nuke it and have a delish meal (unlike his frozen Bertolli meals which he is so fond of). It also means my mum won't have to cook for him, which will be nice for her since she is working from home for the whole week to take care of him. Although the food I cooked is not traditional summer fare (chicken noodle soup anyone?), they are absolutely delish freezer recipes and I will be posting them all soon! Look forward to the soup, roast chicken, meatballs and pulled pork recipes. Also look forward to the meals I cooked for myself, like lobster rolls and bourbon-marinated grilled pork. 




That recipe comes from my new favorite book (from the author of my favorite blog, Dinner: A Love Story. I'm already obsessed and literally laughed out loud at some points of her and her husband's experience cooking for their two daughters. It is absolutely genius for parents of young kids who want to make dinner a family occasion nightly, but is also full of great recipes for those of us who work long hours but still want to cook a delish dinner. I highly recommend getting it off Amazon here.


Also, last week I got the most amazingggg veggies from my CSA! Literally everything I could possibly ask for -- swiss chard, romaine lettuce, potatoes, sweet corn, carrots, green beans, summer squash, zucchini, cucumber, onion, green pepper, eggplant and tomatoes! I'll be doing my best to use all of these this week, but anything left over will be taking the trek down the shore so I don't waste it.


Monday: grilled steak with tomato and mozzarella salad and green beans


Tuesday: mustardy pork chop with onions and apples


Wednesday: one of my girlfriends is coming over for dinner so I need to decide on a delish fish dish to serve! I'm going between salmon with strawberry salsa, mussels meuniere or pineapple-mojito tilapia


Thursday: halibut wrapped in swiss chard with mexican tomato rice tossed with squash and zucchini


On Friday I'm heading either back home or down the shore, wherever my dad is, depending on his surgery. Hopefully down the shore--I haven't been in a couple of weeks and I miss it!



Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Wild Mushroom Ravioli with Sage Butter Sauce

Sometimes, you go on a health food kick and eat omega-3s until you think you're going to turn the same pink as your salmon. When you "splurge", it means you eat two handfuls of almonds rather than just one. 

Other times, you just want some damn pasta. 

The past month or so, I've been chugging along eating perfectly healthy food and not looking back. This past week, however, I've had a bit of stress due to work, and I'm the type of half-Italian where, when I get stressed, the only thing I want is pasta. Spaghetti with meatballs, penna a la vodka, bolognese...you name it, it would be the only thing to satisfy me.

Enter stage right...wild mushroom ravioli. One of my favorite raviolis (in a tie with red pepper ravioli and, obviously, lobster ravioli. But wild mushroom ravioli might be considered, in some circles, healthy (I'm not sure where these circles are located, but I would like to go to them immediately). Enter stage left...butter. Pure, unadulterated, delicious butter. But that would be a little too fattening, so obviously the only solution is to toss in some fresh herbs. Cause fresh herbs make everything a bit healthier right? No? Oh. Well. Good thing I already devoured this then...

Wild Mushroom Ravioli with Sage Butter Sauce



Ingredients

1 package fresh wild mushroom ravioli (or porcini ravioli)
Drizzle olive oil
Package of fresh sage
1/2 a stick of butter
Small spoonful of flour
Salt and pepper
Grated Parmesan

Directions



1. Bring a pot full of water to a boil. Cook ravioli according to package directions (it should be around five minutes or so).



2. Heat a sauce pan over medium flame. Add a drizzle of olive oil. Slowly add 1/2 a stick of butter into the pan, in pieces about 1/2 an inch thick. Stir the butter constantly so that it does not burn or begin to brown. Throw in sage--I like sage a lot, so I added about 15 leaves or so. Salt and pepper the sauce and add a small spoonful of flour, which will thicken the sauce a bit. The sauce is complete when the butter is completely melted.



3. Serve the pasta with sauce poured over. Top with grated Parmesan.


And that, my dear readers, is the way to go from a frantic ball of stress...to one sleepy woman. Add a glass of white wine (or even red--the mushroom ravioli can handle it), and you're guaranteed a night without worry.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Soy-Orange Glazed Salmon with Pineapple Salsa

It's rare that we cook something during the summer that we can't grill. The very idea of turning on an oven during the summer just seems blasphemous. The only problem with that is that my aunt has a very strict rule against eating seafood (except shrimp...sometimes) outside, because fish tends to attract bugs. And no one wants bugs around when they're trying to eat their dinner.

However, with temperatures soaring near the 95 degree mark, the idea of eating outside just sounds...icky. Can you imagine? We would all be as cooked as the food is! 

Eating inside opens up a whole new realm of food possibilities, every single one of them revolving around some type of seafood! And you all know that I will take any opportunity possible to get my family to eat seafood...and, with not being able to eat outside, my aunt was more than happy to jump on the bandwagon. 

I decided that I would stick with salmon, as most people (my family included) like salmon, where as some other fish or shellfish get mixed reviews. Since my dad was at the table, I obviously couldn't serve just plain salmon...he would be bored with it. A sweet and spicy salsa seemed like the perfect combination--and a great excuse to get some pineapple, which, for some reason, I have not eaten very much of this summer. A glaze for the salmon was needed so we could stick that puppy on the grill and have it stay moist, and suddenly a seafood meal was put together. Add a couple of sides to create a quick and wonderful meal, cooked outside, as it should be during the summer, and served around the dining room table.

Soy-Orange Glazed Salmon with Pineapple Salsa


Ingredients

4-6 oz of skin-on salmon per person (I got the pieces pre-cut to simplify the process)
Low sodium soy sauce
1 small container of orange juice
2 navel oranges
One pineapple (or a medium container of precut pineapple)
Handful of cilantro
1 habanero (or jalapeno) pepper, seeds removed
2 limes

Directions


1. Rinse the salmon and pat dry with a paper towel. Place in plastic ziplock bag. Pour soy sauce and orange juice into the bag, until the liquid covers the fish. Slice your navel oranges into 1 inch thick pieces and place on the center side (not the skin side). Place the marinating salmon into the fridge for about 30 minutes.


2. Make your salsa--dice your pineapple and pepper into very small pieces and combine in a bowl. Mince the cilantro and add. Cut the lime in half, juice both sides, and zest a small section. Toss all together and place in the fridge as well, so the flavors have time to combine.


3. Remove your salmon from the fridge and grill. Because I had requested individual pieces, my dad use a grill pan covered in foil. If you have a big fillet you can place directly on the grill. Pour some marinade over the salmon and place the oranges on top. Cook to desired doneness--fish should flake easily with a fork. Once done, place the oranges directly on the grill for about one minute.


4. To serve, place the grilled orange on the plate, then the cooked salmon and top with salsa.


The finished plate! We served the salmon with grilled asparagus and jasmine rice--if you are a fan of jasmine rice, I highly highly recommend Rice Select's Jasmati Rice. You can find it at any major grocery store.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Sunday Meal Planning



So this weekend I successfully cemented my place as a klutz. I've always been clumsy. Not one of those constantly-falling-over clumsy people, but more along the lines of bumping-into-things-and-bouncing-off-and-two-days-later-wondering-where-that-massive-bruise-came-from? people. This weekend I took it to all new heights, however, by spraining my ankle by slipping in wet grass. I kid you not. I was doing little besides walking then suddenly...wipe out. I now have a lovely ankle brace on, need to wear sneakers (with my work clothes starting tomorrow, which is never a good look) and have a purplish-black bruise running the length of my instep. 


Man, am I cute!


The reason I'm sharing this is that it causes a bit of a conundrum with cooking. Well, not really cooking--shopping. Living in NYC, I walk...everywhere. Including to the grocery store. Now, however, I'm not exactly balanced (which is an understatement if ever I heard one, since clearly my balance isn't great ever or I wouldn't be so clumsy!) and carrying a massive bag of groceries home is pretty daunting. 


Do I order takeout every night? Make frequent food store trips on my way home? 


I've decided...to do a bit of both. Since I just injured myself yesterday, the idea of going to ANY food store (or even walking 2 blocks out of my way to get there) sounds absolutely awful. Later this week though, I need to grow some cojones and just do it. Wish me luck!


Monday: take out (sushi, obvs)


Tuesday: salmon with sweet corn puree


Wednesday: dinner with one of my girl friends for restaurant week!


Thursday: rum and apricot/peach pork (depending on what I get from my CSA)

Friday:
I'm heading home right after work  to dog sit my munchkin!  Which translates to me grabbing something on my way to the train. But it's worth it for a full weekend of just me and the bear!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Mexican Night


So Fourth of July week was my most intense meal planning yet. I had to figure out meals that would feed anywhere between six and ten people, without breaking the bank, and get it approved by both my mother and my aunt. I then had to turn my menu into a food shopping list. Talk about exhausting!

To simplify things a bit, I decided to have theme nights. Even our drinks fit the theme! On the third we had Italian night, where we made garlic bread and had fresh pasta with meatballs..and wine, of course. The Fourth was obviously American-themed, with hotdogs and hamburgers and Freddi's chili and beer. The next day was seafood night featuring soy-orange glazed grilled salmon with pineapple salsa (recipe to come). Sadly, there's no real drink that matches seafood night...so we all just had whatever we felt like (I had white wine, obviously). And Friday was Mexican night. And by Mexican night, I mean it was a Mexican FEAST. With margaritas to go around!

To prepare for the feast, I literally started chopping around 2:00 p.m. And no, you know I would never suggest you cook for hours, so don't think that is where I'm going with this story! The one problem with Mexican food is that it involves a lot of little pieces. And my hands get tired of chopping! So at 2:00 I started on my pico de gallo. A couple of hours later I moved on to chopping everything (except the corn, which had to be grilled) for the charred corn salsa. Then came the fajita veggies, which needed to be sliced. By periodically spending time chopping, the dinner came together fairly easily (emphasis on fairly)...minus my little cousin bringing a couple of unplanned friends. 

But isn't that the beauty of Mexican food? Add some more rice and beans to the stove top and its easy to stretch a meal. And stretch we did!


the accoutrement table

Our main dishes were butter steak from Drew's Market and grilled shrimp in a hawaiian style marinade. Those two made it onto the main table, which everyone sat around. The above is simply a side table that had...well, everything else on it. 

By everything else, I mean the basics...black beans, white rice, Mexican cheese and shredded lettuce along with the tortillas. Then there are the delicious bonuses...homemade pico de gallo, guacamole, charred corn salsa and fajita veggies.


hawaiian grilled shrimp 


butter steak

All of this allowed everyone to make their own Mexican meal. My mum loves putting all of this over rice, so she made a plate with rice, fajita veggies, butter steak and guac. My little cousin likes burritos, so she made a couple (her eyes were bigger than her stomach), each with different ingredients.



My eyes also happen to be a little large for MY stomach too. Or I just felt like I made everything, so I was damn well going to try it. Probably a bit of both, methinks. I actually didn't end up eating the tortilla on the bottom (I couldn't actually WRAP everything into a burrito so I just started from the top and ate down and by the time I got to the bottom I was full). I was so distracted by everything I didn't even eat any steak or shrimp! But I'm sure I'll get it next time.

For those feeding a large group of people, I highly recommend serving buffet style. With meals like this, everyone gets to take exactly what they want from lots of options, so no one complains. This is also an excellent way to feed children--because they get to choose their own meal, they're more apt to eat what they choose. No, I'm not a parent, but I'm young enough to remember being an annoying little tot who only wanted to eat certain foods--and when my mom let me choose our dinner, I would clean my plate. And potentially ask for seconds. My brother would be next to be chowing down on whatever was put it front of him...boys!

If you made a theme night for your family, what would be your cuisine of choice?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Cadillac Margarita

Last post was the classic summer appetizer, guacamole, so it is only fitting that I follow that up with a post for the classic summer drink, the margarita. Many people think that the margarita is a hard drink to make...and no, I'm not talking about the kind where you add tequila to a pre-made puke green mix. Ew. For all of you who do use that mix...stop. This recipe is JUST as simple (ok, it has ONE more ingredient...but only one!) and tastes a hell of a lot better.

What is essential to creating a good margarita is balance. One of my mum's favorite drinks is a Cadillac margarita--basically a margarita with Grand Marnier floating on top of it. So a couple of years ago, my brother bought all the ingredients to make the perfect margarita, mixed and shook those puppies up, served them...and was met with a couple of coughs, his little sister (moi) saying how awful they were, and his considerably nicer mother simply putting hers aside and never touching it after that first taste.

The mistake he made was simple...he just kinda threw the right ingredients into the shaker, but in the wrong ratio. And man, let me tell you, I still have nightmares about that margarita. So please, pleaseeee I beg you, follow this recipe, which will give you a delicious margarita with a kick of tequila that won't have you spitting up your drink. Pinky promise!

On another note, can you guys tell that I'm leading up to my Mexican Night post? The full post on that lovely meal is to come, but I'm slowly unveiling the recipes that went into it. 

Cadillac Margarita


Ingredients

3 oz. tequila 
3 oz. triple sec
1.5 oz. lime juice
Lime
Grand Marnier

*of note, one jigger (the top of your standard cocktail shaker) is 1.5 oz. So 2 jiggers of tequila and triple sec, one of lime

Directions

1. Place ice in a cocktail shaker. Add all of the ingredients. Shake well.

2. If you'd like a salt rim, simply get your finger wet (or a wet paper towel if this isn't your drink) and rub it around the rim of the glass. Add iodized salt to a plate and rub the rim of the glass into it.

3. Pour the margarita and ice into the salted glass. Add a quarter lime as a garnish. Pour Grand Marnier on top, to taste. DO NOT MIX!

If you'd prefer just a classic margarita, simply leave out the Grand Marnier floater.

Enjoy (if you're 21 and older only please!)

Monday, July 16, 2012

Best Summer Appetizer Recipe

Almost every weekend during the summer, I bail out of the big city and head down to my aunt's house on the jersey shore. And, just to clarify, I'm not talking MTV's "The Jersey Shore"-style shore. I wouldn't even think my aunt's town is in the same state as Seaside Heights but...it is.

Anyway, days flow differently down the shore. While I'm in the city, I'm up around 7:30 a.m. when the sun shines through my massive wall of windows (not that I'm complaining, the reason I have a wall of windows is because my apartment also has a balcony--yes, A BALCONY--in the middle of the city. and yes, it is todiefor.) Maybe for breakfast I grab a bowl of steel cut oats or just a Nature Valley granola bar. I'll eat lunch, if I remember, around 2:00 p.m. or sometimes even later, pushing dinner back to 9:00 or so.

Not so down the shore. While at the beach, I may or may not wake up by 9:00 a.m. (yes, I realize that is STILL not very late, but for someone who considers a late wake up to be 7:30, it really is). For lunch, my parents and I head to this wonderfully cold bar a town over and order bar pies and eggplant rollatini around noon. The rest of the afternoon is spent at the beach where, after a few lunch time beers, it is the perfect location for a nap.

But, by far, our biggest tradition...is happy hour. At exactly 5:00 p.m., my dad makes my aunt her drink (Grey Goose martini with a twist), appetizers are made so that no one gets plowed drinking what is essentially straight vodka, and the whole family sits on the porch for a couple of hours, watching the mass exodus of day trippers leaving the beach.

We have a variety of appetizers that we serve at this time. When we're feeling lazy, it is simply a couple of kinds of cheeses, stone ground wheat crackers and some grapes. If we're feeling fancy, it might be bruschetta. But, by far, the most requested appetizer is guacamole. Because, let's be honest, its just so damn delicious. And it's also pretty darn quick and easy to make.

Guac used to be solely the realm of my brother's girlfriend. For good reason--her guac is amazing. Sadly, the two of them have gotten extremely busy with races (his), work events (hers), travel (both) and weddings. Luckily, I've watched her make guac for years, and am pretty darn good at copy-catting recipes. So, while this isn't my own recipe, it is a damn good one that I highly recommend you make...immediately. Seriously. Go now.

Guacamole


Ingredients

2 Haas avocados (these should be a bit soft, but not mushy)
1 Jersey tomato
1/4 red onion
1 lime

Chips, for serving

Directions

1. Over a bowl, dice the avocado (the easiest way to do this is to halve the avocado, remove the bit, and slice vertically and horizontally while still in the shell. Then use a spoon to remove the already diced pieces).

2. Chop the tomato and red onion and mix it into the avocado. Continue mixing until the guac is at your texture--my family likes it with, as you can see, big chunks of avocado, but if you keep mixing it will become a more creamy texture.

3. Cut the lime in half and squeeze the juice over the guac. Toss quickly. Serve with chips--I recommend blue corn tortilla or whole wheat Tostitos.



Thursday, July 12, 2012

Grilled Summer Zucchini Salad

This morning, I saw the best quote ever on Pinterest... 

Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit
Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad

As you may have guessed from my many posts on tomatoes (tomato-based summer sides anyone?), or my roasted tomatoes post, which waxed philosophical on my love of that particular fruit/vegetable, I use tomatoes in...a lot of my dishes. Mostly every side I make, actually. 

So recently, I purchased Williams Sonoma cookbook (on discount off Amazon, obviously) called Cooking From the Farmer's Market. I also borrowed my cousin's book The Essential Vegetarian. My goal in reading these was to get more ideas for side dishes that do not rely on tomatoes--and if I learned new vegetarian main courses in the process of reading, even better.

This past week, I put a new recipe to the test. The original was actually called Zucchini Carpaccio and called for raw zucchini. I, sadly, am not a huge fan of raw zucchini. Nor is my family, so I doubt I could have gotten any of them to swallow a few bites, except maybe for my parents who would do it just to make their daughter happy (say it together folks, awwww.) So, being the expert food blogger that I am (which in my mind is the equivalent of being a restaurant chef. I never said I was sane people! Just kiddingggg), I decided to tweak the recipe some. 

The best part: the recipe remains extremely simple, which is the perfect thing for a hot summer night. The result was delicious and the entire salad was gobbled up...mostly by my brother's girlfriend, because I made this on the Fourth of July and she doesn't eat burgers or hotdogs. Basically, she had only a couple of options, but I'll take it as a compliment nonetheless. Thanks girl!

Grilled Summer Zucchini Salad


Ingredients:

2 zucchinis
2 summer squash
block of Parmesan cheese (or Pecorino Romano)
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Directions:

1. Slice the zucchinis and summer squash vertically into thin strips. Brush olive oil on both sides of all strips. Salt and pepper both sides. Grill until softened.

2. Once the zucchini is grilled, allow to cool. Since we were on a tight time frame, I actually stuck the entire tray in the refrigerator to bring the temperature down. It is ESSENTIAL for the zucchini to cool.

3. Once cooled, slice strips off the block of Parmesan cheese. If the zucchini is too warm, the cheese will melt, which is...gross.




Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Our Fourth of July Picnic

the picnic spread

Quite a bit of food we had for the Fourth of July, no?

Independence Day has always been one of my favorite holidays. No, not cause I'm a history buff (although, if I do say so myself, I kind of am.) And no, we didn't get any presents for it which makes it surprising I was such a fan as a kid because, let's be honest, most kids are fans of the holidays with gifts (e.g. Christmas presents, Easter baskets, etc.) 

But I mean, COME ON. You know what Fourth of July has? Fireworks! And the beach! And FIREWORKS! And burgers, hotdogs, apple pie! Need I continue? It's the perfect holiday for kids. 

I remember back in the day, my uncle owned a boat, the Trio. On the Fourth, we would all trek to the boat and go out on the water and watch the fireworks from the other side. It was such a different perspective than sitting on the beach. And we always had front row seats! 

This year, we had tons of food. And, like Memorial Day, Independence Day is a day to splurge. So that food included hotdogs and hamburgers. And not just hotdogs and hamburgers, but chili cheese dogs! And bacon wrapped hotdogs! And burgers with sauteed onions and chili! If anyone at the table was on a diet, they were out of luck.

Well...ok that's not quite true. Although we had all that, we also had multiple salads and veggie sides. But still, who cares about those (I do, for one, so look for those posts coming this week). 

I hope everyone else had a fabulous Fourth of July with their families, friends and fireworks!

the grill...on fire (bacon fat, whoopsies!)


Monday, July 9, 2012

Freddi's Famous Italian Chili: A Family Tradition

As you may have seen yesterday, I asked my wonderful mother to guest blog about her famous chili recipe--the one that remains a frequent request from myself, family and even, years later, high school friends! Enjoy!

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It’s a well known and fairly obvious fact that I am at my happiest when my family is around—and by family, I mean anyone that I care about.  When my kids were young, family included many of their good friends….and it still does. (I love you guys!!)  I still get so happy when my kids have their best friends around.  Must be the Italian in me!

In high school, I was the mom who welcomed all of their friends into my heart and my home, and was the one who treated them like my own (love, hugs and as they will tell you- lectures, as needed).  I loved that they all called me “Mom” or “Mama O’B”.  Since numerous kids were always around, I quickly learned how much growing kids liked to eat (especially the boys!).  I always kept my pantry stocked with their favorite foods and my kids knew that their friends were always welcome…which often translated to no advance notice of eight kids packed around the table! 

Like a lot of families, many of our traditions are centered around food. I always felt that traditions were so important to keeping a family close—Thanksgiving dinner anyone? 
One of the traditions in our house is my Italian chili.  It’s kind of funny to call a food a tradition, but somehow “all my kids” made it one.  I get requests for it; there are specials days dedicated to it; it’s expected to be in my freezer at all times.  

The week of Halloween, I would happily make a pot of chili in anticipation of the kids all stopping by at some point.  They knew that the chili would be simmering on the stove - and sooner or later, all those trick or treating kids ended up at my house to hang out and eat and swap candy.  Then there was Super Bowl Sunday - again, it was a tradition for the kids to come for chili and nachos and stay for the game.  What a great winter night for me!  After high school, they all went on to college, but the chili tradition didn’t die. I still remember one of my son’s best friends (one of “my boys”) who asked for my chili recipe long ago calling me from Syracuse to tell me that he had made a version of it (aww). It made me both happy and sad at the same time.

Even now, I always have chili in the freezer, so any request for Mom’s chili is quickly satisfied.  Like Super Bowl Sunday and Halloween, the Fourth of July is another day where chili is a tradition…specifically, chili cheese Thumann’s hot dogs (and now they top their burgers with chili - isn’t that odd?) (Andie's note: by odd, I believe she means DELICIOUS! Just to clarify...) Since chili is so important to our family, it’s not really a surprise that Andie asked me to guest blog about it.

There are numerous ways to serve the chili--here are some of our favorites:
  • The kids loved making simple nachos and then scooping the chili on top as they eat it. Our favorite nachos use Doritos rather than tortilla chips--simply layer a cookie sheet with Doritos, and top with grated Monterey Jack cheese (plain or spicy).  We always did this for Halloween and Super Bowl Sunday.
  • As I said, our Fourth of July holiday always includes chili cheese dogs and chili cheese burgers. Just cook your hotdogs/burgers as normal, top with delicious chili and prepare to get messy!
  • For a cold, snowy day, serve the chili in a bowl covered with corn bread. Simply scoop some chili in a bowl then cover with Jiffy Corn bread dough (just follow the directions on the box). Or make the corn bread in muffin pans and serve with the chili.
  • Or, to be simple, just serve with hot crusty Italian bread. Yum!

Freddi's Famous Italian Chili


Ingredients: 
please note, these are best guesses, as my mum doesn't use anything to actually measure

1 lb ground beef (I use Angus)
1 large can of store brand red kidney beans, drained of some of the liquid (You can also use a mix of light red and dark red or light red, cannellini and black beans)
1 large onion, chopped
1 large green pepper, diced
Bunch of mushrooms, diced
Olive oil
Oregano (I guess I use 3 TB or so)
Basil (guess 2 TB)
Garlic powder (guess 2 TB)
Salt, Pepper
Chili Powder (at least 4 TB)
Cayenne Pepper (at least 1 TB)
1 16oz or so can of Italian stewed tomatoes, drain some of the liquid

Directions


1. Brown the ground beef in an iron skillet. 


2. Once cooked, drain most of fat off.


3. In same pan, brown the chopped onion. 


4. While browning beef pour olive oil in the bottom of a large pot, add the can of chili beans, and the browned beef.


5. Add all the spices and the onion and the green pepper and can of stewed tomatoes. Stir gently. Simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.


6. Add the mushrooms; simmer another 15 minutes or so until the mushrooms absorb the flavors.



Cooking Notes: 
  • You can also make this in a crock pot and cook all day on low.  Just add the mushrooms at the end of the day.
  •  Everyone likes the chili best when it is frozen first before serving.  It gets thick this way.



Sunday, July 8, 2012

Sunday Meal Planning


Holy food coma Batman! I've officially returned to the city (thanks Mother Nature for letting the heat wave break before I came back!) after almost a full week at my aunt's house down the shore. I headed down on Tuesday after work with my brother, his gf and one of his friends and trekked back late last night so I could run errands and what not. But mainly, I came home so I could recuperate from the food coma that a full week with my lovely family caused.

My family absolutely loves that I've taken over cooking...and I have to be honest, I love it too. Sometimes it gets a little stressful since I'll be planning a meal for five people and then suddenly my cousins bring 2 or 3 friends, but isn't that part of the fun? I may only be 24, but I feel like I'm getting experience for my future family already!

Anyway, what this means for all of you is that, like the week after Memorial Day, there are TONS of new recipes coming your way. And, more excitingly for me (and hopefully you), my wonderful mother will be guest blogging! Even more exciting (for you) is that...my mum's FAMOUS chili recipe is what she will be blogging about! I'm already stalking her because I'm dying to see what she's going to write about. I have a feeling she will put my blogging to shame...perhaps this needs to be a frequent thing? I'd love the feedback once I do post her blog--she might become famous before me!


On to the real topic of this post--Sunday Meal Planning. As I said, I'm already in a food coma from the past week so I need a detox week. Maybe I can drop those 10 lbs. I gained (just kidding...it was only nine...ok maybe 12. It depends which scale you asked! Sheesh, get off my back gurlllsssss!)


Sunday: soy-orange glazed salmon with roasted asparagus


Monday: bacon and apple clams


Tuesday: mushroom ravioli with sage-butter sauce


Wednesday: grapefruit, avocado and crab salad


Thursday: southwestern stuffed eggplan


Heading down the shore again this weekend! Hopefully heading down on Friday...if not, I see sushi in my future...

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Yogurt-Marinated Grilled Chicken

I like grilled chicken...kind of. Ok, I'm not the biggest fan. Actually I'm not the biggest fan of chicken in general. Have you ever touched that stuff? Talk about slimeyyyy. Ick.

Also...my family is obsessed with it. And by family, I mean parents. My brothers eats pretty much anything. Like, anything. My parents will eat pretty much...nothing. They don't even like steak. It pretty much comes down to chicken or pork. Do you know how easy it is to get sick of chicken and pork? During the summer, I would kill for a leg of lamb. Or some mussels. Or fish. Anyone heard of fish around here? Nope, chicken or pork please. 

Well I am sick of it. Putting the alert out--no chicken for me. However, one of my favorite blogs, Dinner: A Love Story, has a recipe for grilled chicken that is called, I kid you not, "Grilled Chicken for People Who Hate Grilled Chicken." Well...that sounds spot on. And...it kind of was. I'm not going to be running out this week to buy chicken, even if I were to make this recipe, but I was not totally against eating half a breast. And let's be honest, when you're totally sick of something, "not totally against" can be considered a massive compliment. 

Yogurt-Marinated Grilled Chicken
adapted from this recipe


Ingredients:

Boneless chicken breasts, pounded flat* (we had 5)
2 cups plain yogurt
3 cloves minced garlic
Juice from 4 lemons
4 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 tsp sugar

Directions:

1. In a large bowl, combine the yogurt, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, sugar and hefty helpings of salt and pepper. Whisk until the combo is emulsified. Place raw chicken breasts into a ziplock bag; pour the mixture over top, making sure to mush around to ensure all chicken is coated. Marinate for 3+ hours.


2. Heat and oil your grill. Add the chicken and grill, flipping once, until cooked through.

*I had the butcher I bought the chicken from do this. If you're buying it in packs, place chicken between two pieces of plastic wrap. Using a pan (since you're not tenderizing, just flattening, dont use your meat tenderizer)