Friday Fun! March 16, 2012

Happy Friday again everyone!  I’m back for another edition of Friday Fun.  I’ll tell you what’s not so fun is that I am starting to write this at 2:50am.  Why, you ask?  Well, for some reason I m having a bout of insomnia tonight, and just as I was starting to wind down, The Bug decided to have a bit of a crying fit.  Well, he settled down, sort of, but now I can’t wind myself back down.  I’m sure staring at the glow of the computer screen is going to do wonders for helping to get me off to dreamland, but c’est la vie.  Gotta use the time somehow, especially since I’ll probably crash when The Bug goes down for his nap tomorrow, umm, I mean later today.  I’m sure I won’t finish this before I try to go to sleep, but at least I’ll get a start.

Last weekend, The Hubby and I got a date night, which was wonderful.  I’m actually hoping to do a little post about it, because we had yet another fabulous meal at The Frog & The Peach, in New Brunswick, NJ.  Every one in a while, we like to go out to somewhere REALLY good.  A lot of the time we try new places, but when we want a good meal with good service and a good atmosphere, without the wildcard aspect of trying a new place, we go to The Frog.

This weekend I am so excited for a Girls’ Night on Saturday with two good friends, Amy and Bethie, and Amy’s future sister-in-law, Megan.  Of course this has nothing to do with St. Patrick’s Day, but we bought a Groupon for a Four-Course Chocolate Supper Club dinner at the Chocolate Lovers Club in Princeton, “celebrating cuisine from chocolate-producing countries,” and supposedly includes virgin choctails, three appetizers, four tasting-size entrees, dessert, a cooking demo, and a chocolate tasting.  We will be experiencing A Taste of Hawaii.  OMG!!!!  I also think I will be picking up a bottle of Cupcake Red Velvet to bring along, because it sounds like the perfect pairing to me.

And Sunday I’ll be heading to a birthday party for The Half-Baked Housewife‘s little guy.  She has a huge family and tons of friends, so parties at her house are always such happy chaos.

OK, I think I can go to sleep now.

Apple cheddar and almond salad with balsamic maple dijon vinaigretteSo I am back, and having a salad for lunch inspired The Fountain Avenue Kitchen’s Apple Pecan Spring Greens with Maple Dijon Vinaigrette.  I only had romaine and cheddar, though I would much prefer spring greens and blue cheese.  Also, I used almonds instead of pecans, and left out the raw onion (yuck!).  Plus I fudged the dressing a little because I was only making a little for myself, and I used balsamic instead of apple cider vinegar, because I LOVE balsamic.  I also realized I forgot the dried cranberries.  Bummer!  But it was so tasty!

This week I also received several blogger awards from some of my new bloggie friends.  I am so honored, but it has been a busy week with attempting, unsuccessfully, to potty train The Bug, getting my Improv Cooking Challenge post completed, and pulling together my package for my Foodie Penpal, Jessica, that I haven’t had a chance to share the love.  So since the Oscars, Grammys, and Emmys are always on Sundays, I am thinking I will be doing a Sunday Awards Show post, so that I can highlight the lovely ladies who nominated me, and tell you all about some other awesome bloggers.

The Bug Planting SeedsThe Bug and I planted herbs this week from Growums.  Let’s see if my Black Thumb of Death rears its ugly head again.  Oh, and my random adorable Bug tidbit of the week is that when you ask him where something is, he points, and says “Right right there.”  Oh, and on the way home from pre-school the other day, he fell asleep in the car.  Usually he asks to read The Very Hungry Caterpillar when we get home, but since he was out cold, I just carried him up to his bed.  As I was laying down, he goes, “Hungry Caterpilaaaaa..zzzzzzzzzz” as he fell back to sleep.  So cute!  And one more thing – apparently at pre-school he is counting EVERYTHING.  He has no interest in letters, but he is all over the numbers.  Clearly the offspring of two engineers.

At Shop Rite I picked up a 5 lb box of Whole Wheat Matzoh.  I’m not Jewish and I have a wheat allergy, so don’t eat too many things like that.  But I thought I might be able to come up with some creative recipes.  And it was free.  And bonus, the only ingredients are whole wheat flour and water, so it’ll make a great whole grain, sugar/salt/preservative-free snack for The Bug.  Any other ideas what I can do with it?

The Bug and his car

Some things I came across this week:

  • In the early stages of tonight’s insomnia, I found this article about food bloggers posting recipes using “real food” versus packaged items and junk food to create visually appealing, drool-inducing recipes that don’t do wonders for the health of the nation.  I am all about balance and moderation.  So while I do try to focus on wholesome, nutritious, “real” food, I do think there is room in life for a little fun, like these Lucky Charms Cupcakes.  That being said, though, so far I think the most popular recipe on my blog is my Spaghetti Squash with Spicy Sausage Tomato Cream Sauce.
  • The Lean Green Bean put together a list of 60 Blogs You Should Be Reading.  There are a lot on there that I already read, and some that I have to add to my list.
  • Every year for Christmas, I make my dad Snickerdoodles.  He even says I now make them better than my grandma used to.  And The Hubby loves molasses gingersnaps.  These Snickercrinkles are like a combo of the two – I have to try them!
  • Ann at Sumptuous Spoonfuls had me hooked with this Double Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Banana Bread.  I mean, it has Nutella, and it is chock full of healthy things like flax, whole wheat flour, yogurt and applesauce.
  • Brown Sugar Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Brown Sugar Frosting and Snickers Cake – ’nuff said!
  • OK, I am not all about dessert.  I am always looking for some new vegetarian ideas for Meatless Mondays and Lent Fridays.  This week I found BBQ Chickpea Burgers and Black Bean Spaghetti Stir Fry.  I am very interested to try black bean pasta after my first venture into gluten-free pasta with brown rice spaghetti last week.  And I thing this Springtime Jasmine Rice Salad sounds amazing, with two of my favorites – asparagus and mushrooms – but I think I may have to add shrimp or chicken for The Hubby to consider it a meal.
  • How cute are these?!?!

I could go on, but I have towels to fold.  Ugh!

Remember, f you like what you see here, I’d love for you to subscribe to updates by email, “Like” me on Facebook, or follow me on Twitter.  And tell your friends…

And here is the weekly question:

What are your plans for the weekend?  Cooking up anything special?

Enjoy!

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Oscar Night Dinner for My Four Leading Men – Crockpot Beef Pot Roast with Mushrooms “Sorta-coto”

It’s the same thing every year.  I always want to watch the Oscars to see all of the fabulous dresses and hairstyles, and the incredible jewelry, and my current celebrity crush (right now, I’ll take the Ryans – Gosling and Reynolds) in a tux.   In college, actually, for pretty much any awards show, we would always get all of our friends together, maybe make a big pot of spaghetti, and just ogle over or make fun of famous people all night.  My friend and former college roomie, The Half-Baked Housewife, is a total awards show junkie.  This year, she even live blogged during the Oscars (I paid more attention to that than the actual show).

But I was never really into watching the actual awards.  I have always been more of a “movie” person than a “film” person, and, more often than not, it is the “films” that are nominated for the big awards.  So I don’t usually have much of a vested interest (except this year I did see and LOVE Moneyball, so was pulling for the movie, Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill to win). And the mediocre hosts and long speeches and boring tributes – not worth four hours of my time.  I think the best thing to happen to the Oscars was E! starting to televise the red carpet.  And even better, now I just have to watch Fashion Police, and I get the full recap of the only parts I am interested in.

So instead of a throwing an Oscar party, and making all of the fabulous dishes that I saw posted on a ton of other blogs, I thought it would be nice to make a good meal for the four leading men in my life: The Bug, The Hubby, Dad, and Grandpa.

My Four Leading Men

And when you are cooking for four generations of men, what better to make than good, old fashioned meat and potatoes.

Meat and potatoes

Let’s just say they were all quite satisfied, including The Bug.

The Bug digging in to Pot Roast with Mushrooms

My inspiration came from Giada DeLaurentiis’ cookbook “Giada’s Family Dinners”, and her recipe for Stracoto with Porcini Mushrooms.  I have made this recipe several times, and it has always been a hit.  But I wanted to change up a few things.  Giada braises her roast, and I wanted to make it in the crock pot (I used my 5 quart one).  She uses chuck roast, and I happened to have an eye round roast in the freezer (next time I would probably use a chuck or something else with a little more fat, to make it even more tender).  Also, her gravy is made from pureeing everything that is left in the pot after removing the meat.  I wanted chunks of mushrooms and a little thinner gravy.  I also wanted to cook some carrots with the roast because there is nothing like carrots soaked with all of those wonderful beef juices, and they are one of The Bug’s favorite veggies.  I did sear the meat, like she did, because I love the flavor it gives.  But I bet you could just chuck everything into your slow cooker, and it would be delicious.  Alternatively, if you don’t want to use the crock pot, you can follow Giada’s braising instructions.

Pot Roast with Mushrooms on plate

The flavors were perfect, but if I made it again, I would use a bigger piece of meat to have more leftovers (there was plenty of sauce, so no need to increase that).  However, I did manage to re-purpose what was leftover for a few lunches.  On Monday, The Bug had a repeat plate of what he had for dinner Sunday night, and devoured it just as happily.  Then today for lunch, Bill stuffed some of the leftover meat and gravy with some cheese into a pita, and I had a salad topped with the leftover mushrooms (oh, how I love mushrooms), a fried egg, parmesan cheese, and balsamic vinegar.  Yum!

Salad with leftover mushrooms from pot roast

Did you have an Oscars party?  What were some of your favorite dresses?

Crockpot Beef Pot Roast with Mushroom Sauce “Sorta-coto” (serves 4, but you can easily use a bigger piece of beef)

IngredientsPot Roast with Mushrooms in serving bowl

1 (2-pound or bigger) beef eye round roast (or another type of beef roast, such as chuck)

2 T. olive oil

1/4 cup cornstarch

1 t. salt

freshly ground black pepper

1 cup beef broth/stock

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

2T. tomato paste

1 medium or 1/2 of a large onion, quartered

3 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled

1 cup dry red wine (I used a Merlot)

10 oz. cremini or white button mushrooms, quartered

1 cup baby carrots, or whole carrots, peeled and cut into “fingers”

1 large sprig of fresh rosemary

Directions

1.  Heat the olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat.Pot Roast With Mushrooms in Crock Pot before cooking

2.  Combine the corn starch, salt, and pepper in a shallow dish.

3.  Roll the meat around in the cornstarch mixture until it is coated on all sides.  Set aside the remaining cornstarch mixture.

4.  Sear the meat in the pan for 2-3 minutes on each side, until it is nice and browned.

5. While the meat is searing, add the reserved cornstarch mixture, broth, balsamic vinegar, and tomato paste to the slow cooker, and stir to dissolve.

6.  Remove the meat from the pan, and put it in the slow cooker.Pot Roast with Mushrooms in Crock Pot after cooking

7.  Reduce the heat to low and pour the wine into the pan.  Scrape up any of the brown bits with a wooden spoon, and pour everything into the crockpot.

8.  Arrange the onion, garlic, mushrooms, carrots, and rosemary around the roast.

9.  Cook on low for 6-8 hours, or until the meat is cooked through.

10.  Remove the meat, carrots, and mushrooms from the slow cooker.  Ladle out or strain the liquid from the crockpot, and serve on the side as a gravy.

11.  Enjoy!

Pot Roast with Mushrooms close up

This recipe was shared with:

BSI (Blogger Secret Ingredient) – Beef at My Bizzy Kitchen.

Real Food Wednesday 2/29/12 at Kelly the Kitchen Kop.

Parmesan Balsamic-Caramelized Onion Smashed Potatoes and Sunday Dinners

When I was a kid, Sundays always went the same way.  I got dressed in my Sunday best, which, much to my displeasure, usually involved tights and patent leather Mary Janes.  Then we were off to church at 9am, followed by an Entenmann’s chocolate frosted mini-donut from the church basement and a ride across town for CCD (a.k.a. Catechism or Sunday School).

Religious education complete, the whole family then congregated at Grandma & Grandpa’s house for Sunday Dinner.  The cousins all played while the adults sat in the dining room reading the newspaper and chatting.  I was typically in the backyard losing a game of one-on-one baseball (we had a very complex set of rules in order to do this) or H-O-R-S-E to my cousin, Nathaniel.  At some point in the afternoon, I would crawl in Grandpa’s lap to read the comics.

Then we would all gather around the table for one of my Grandma’s wonderful Sunday dinners.  Sometimes it was spaghetti or chicken noodle soup, or stuffed cabbage (which I always ate without the cabbage), but more often than not, it was some sort of roast or chicken with a side of mashed potatoes.  I would have a huge pile of mashed potatoes, usually with my corn mixed into it – those were pretty much the only two vegetables I ate as a kid.  Probably too many mashed potatoes, since now I don’t really love them.  On Thanksgiving, with all of the other awesome side dishes, I don’t feel that they are worthy of any of the valuable real estate on my plate.  Then I found a recipe for Caramelized Onion Mashed Potatoes, and I was a fan again.  I’ve made them several times, and thought it was time to put my own spin on them.

Caramelized onions

During The Bug’s nap, I cooked the onions till they were all browned and caramelized, added some balsamic vinegar and water, then let them cook a little more, until they were all gooey. Then I put them in the fridge till it was time to finish up dinner, and folded them into the potatoes right at the end.

Caramelized onion mashed potatoes on my plate

They were sweet, salty, tangy, and tasty, and went perfectly with the flavors in the gravy from the crockpot roast and Lemon Parmesan Roasted Broccoli (future posts to come on these recipes – dinner was delish!).  I hope you like them, too!

Shared in:

My Bizzy Kitchen‘s Blogger Secret Ingredient: Potatoes

The Nourishing Gourmet‘s Pennywise Platter Thursday 3/1

Recipes for My BoysThursday’s Treasures

Did you have family Sunday Dinners as a kid?  Do you now?  What are some of your favorite Sunday Dinner meals?

Parmesan Balsamic-Caramelized Onion Smashed Potatoes (serves 6-8)

Adapted from Cooking Light’s Caramelized Onion Mashed Potatoes

Ingredients

1 T olive oilBowl of caramelized onion mashed potatoes

1/2 of a large or 1 medium sweet onion (Vidalia, Maui, etc.), chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)

1 T balsamic vinegar

1 T water

2 lbs white potatoes, peeled and cut into about 1 inch chunks

1 cup buttermilk

1/2 grated parmesan cheese

1 T olive oil

1/2 t salt

a few grinds of pepper

Directions

Prepare the caramelized onions (can be done ahead, and kept in the fridge):

1.  Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat, and add onions.

2.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 15-20 minutes.  You may have to lower the heat a little as they start to brown.

3.  Add balsamic vinegar and water, cover and lower heat.

4.  Cook until soft and sticky.

5.  Set aside until potatoes are ready.

Prepare the potatoes:

1.  Cover potatoes in a pot with water, and bring to a boil.

2.  Cook for about 15 minutes, or until potatoes are fork tender.  Drain.

3.  Add the buttermilk and mash with a hand potato masher.  I like to leave it a little chunky.

4.  Stir in the reserved caramelized onions, parmesan, salt, and pepper.

5.  Enjoy!

Bowl of caramelized onion mashed potatoes from top