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Steakhouse Dinner in 15 Minutes?

Thursday, June 30, 2011
Think it's possible to have a steak dinner in 15 minutes?  Well, it is.  To accomplish this feat, there are a couple of key ingredients.

First, purchase a steak that's relatively thin.  We bought 2 t-bone steaks that were about an inch thick.  Next let me introduce you to Steam n' Mash potatoes.

Photo Courtesy of Ore-Ida

You can find these in the freezer section at the grocery store, and they're great.  All it is are cubes of real potatoes (real potatoes!) that have probably been parboiled and salt.  Yes, there is some ingredient that I can't spell in there as well, but it's just to keep the potatoes from turning brown.  Usually I try to stay away from ingredients like this, but you can only ask for so much and I'm not peeling and boiling potatoes on a Tuesday night.

To pull the meal together, preheat a cast iron skillet on high.  While that's preheating, pop the potatoes in the microwave.  Once the skillet is hot (it will be slightly smoky), add some oil, season the steaks with salt and pepper and throw them on the skillet.  You'll only need to cook each one for about 2 minutes per side (which will be rare... adjust accordingly).  At this point the steaks and potatoes are cooking, so chop up some lettuce and whatever other veggies you have in the fridge and top with your fave dressing (I used leftover herb vinaigrette from the other night).  Once the potatoes are finished cooking (10 minutes!), follow the directions on the bag to prepare them.  Then plate it all up, and you've got dinner!

Not my best picture... Andy was hungry so I hurried!

I think it took me longer to write this than it did to make dinner!

Blogging on the Go?!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Today got away from me! I didn't have a post planned and didn't go straight home after work to brainstorm. Instead, I came to Westwood to meet Andy for dinner. While I've enjoyed all the meal planning and cooking, I'm excited for someone else to take care of dinner!

Weekend Recap

Tuesday, June 28, 2011
So remember when I decided how to dress now that summer is officially here?  Well, this weekend I actually did my favorite summer things!

To kick off the weekend, Adriana had a Brisket Tacos - Take 2 party.  I was happy to be around for Take 2 because I missed the first one. 

See Adriana had dotted her i's and crossed her t's... the brisket was in the slow cooker and Jenny, the housekeeper, was coming over to tidy up while Adriana was working away.  Well, Adriana came home not only to a sparkling apartment but also to an unplugged slow cooker.  That was Take 1. 

Take 2 was a success even if the slow cooker she borrowed from me decided to stop cooking after 1 hour!  Thankfully she had backup and everything was delicious.  Must get that recipe!!  Another recipe I need is the prosciutto, mango and ricotta bruschetta that Stacy made. 

Weaver and I started Saturday off with a little exercise.  We took Finn (Hugh's golden retriever who I lovingly call Finny-Foo-Foo) with us.  It took him a bit to warm up to the idea that we were walking, not sniffing but all in all, a perfect start to the morning.  As we approached the building, Stacy was waiting out front for me to go to the Farmer's Market.

I wish I had taken more pictures.  I always forget that the iPhone 4 takes such great shots.  They have everything... flowers, honey, veggies, fruit, sausages, fresh eggs and chicken, coffee and espresso!  Stacy and I walked out of the market twice only to turn around for more.  I picked up some corn for the Summer Salad and some of these beautiful flowers.

Particularly precious was the turf mat with hula-hoops and the little girls giving it a whirl!  All of this before 10am!  The rest of the weekend consisted of chores around the apartment, some projects that have been lingering on my to-do list (still working on styling those bookshelves!).  We wrapped up the weekend with a birthday celebration for Karen (my MIL) at Jenny & Chris' house-- great way to top off a fabulous summer weekend.

Weekly Meals Round-Up

Monday, June 27, 2011
Now that a new week is beginning, I have a few thoughts about the weekly meal plans and a round up of last week's meal plans (if you know me, you know I love a good bullet point list):
  • I still need to post a few recipes.  I'll take care of that below, for the most part.
  • I think I'm going to start posting the weekly meal plan the week after I make it.  It's hard to do it "real-time" because I think of things along the way.  I'd like to include those little thoughts at the beginning of the week.
  • I enjoy posting the recipes and pictures, but I don't want this to become a food blog.  The plan will be to still post the recipes and pictures but have them more scattered with other posts.
  • It sure was nice not having to ask once "what do you want to do for dinner!"
  • Any other thoughts?  Let me know!
Moving on.  Thursday night, I made Turkey Meatballs served over Pea Pesto and Pasta.  It actually turned out pretty delicious!

A while ago, Stacy made Giada's Pea Pesto Crostini, and I've been craving them ever since.  When I saw a recipe for Turkey Meatballs with Mint Pesto and Fava, as I was flipping through Martha Stewart's Dinner at Home, I thought Giada's Pea Pesto would be a great substitute for the Mint and Fava Bean Pesto.  Done. 

Remember that bread from the Eggs Diablo?  Well, it's probably stale by now so throw it in the food processor and make some bread crumbs!  Or just use breadcrumbs from the store.  Whatever you like.  

Is there a way to take a good picture of raw turkey?  Gross.  I tried at least.

Turkey and Pancetta Meatballs
Adapted from Martha Stewart's Dinner at Home

1 pound ground turkey
1 ounce thinly sliced pancetta, finely chopped - I used bacon because I already had some
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
3/4 cup fresh fine bread crumbs
Course salt and freshly ground pepper
1 large whole egg + 1 large egg yolk
1 Tbs finely chopped fresh sage - I used basil because that's what I had... see a theme?
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
Olive oil, for frying

Combine all of the ingredients except the olive oil.  Can you tell from my picture above that I forgot the lemon zest?  I did but it was still delicious.  Form the mixture into meatballs.  Martha says 1" in diameter.  Mine were a little bigger.  At this point, I put them into the fridge until I was ready to cook.  I also put 1/2 of them in the freezer to save for later.

Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet, cast iron works great for this.  Fry the meatballs until browned and cooked through. 

Does this look unappetizing?  I couldn't decide whether or not to post this picture, because the meal was so tasty and I just don't think the picture does it any justice!

Turkey Meatballs with Pea Pesto and Pasta

After you've got the turkey meatballs in the skillet, bring a pot of water up to a boil.  If it's anything like our apartment stove, it will take a while.  When the turkey meatballs are finished, keep them warm in the oven set on the lowest temperature.  While the pasta is cooking, make the pea pesto according to Giada's recipe (just the pesto, no crostinis this time).  I did thin out the pesto with some of the pasta water.  After the pesto is the desired consistency, you might have to warm it up a bit if the pasta water wasn't enough.

Moving on to the next meal.  We saved the Herb Marinated Chicken and Summer Salad for Saturday, so Andy could grill the chicken.  We only have a charcoal grill at the apartment, and it's unlikely that we'll fire that up on a school night.  I can tell, this meal is going into the summer rotation. It's fresh, seasonal and most importantly delicious.

Herb-Marinated Chicken
Adapted from Fresh Every Day Sara Foster with Carolynn Carreno

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 1 1/2 lbs)
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs chopped fresh herbs (such as parsley, rosemary, thyme, tarragon, sage, marjoram, oregano, basil, chives) - I used oregano, tarragon and basil.
1 shallot, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 lemon, thinly sliced
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Mix together all of the ingredients except the chicken and lemon.  Pour mixture over chicken breasts and the top with lemon slices.  Marinate for a few hours or overnight.  I marinated this early in the week, so I skipped the lemons planning to add them later.  I don't think you're supposed to keep a high acidic marinade on meat for a while.  I froze the marinated meat until the night before we grilled.

Summer Herb Vinaigrette
Adapted from Fresh Every Day Sara Foster with Carolynn Carreno
Makes 1 1/4 cups

1/3 cup red wine vinegar
2 tsp Dijon mustard
grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 - 3 fresh basil leaves, cut into thin strips
2 Tbs chopped fresh oregano leaves
2 Tbs chopped fresh flat leaf parsley - I used tarragon
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Mix together the ingredients in a jar until ready to dress the salad.  I halved the recipe since I only wanted to make enough for the salad below.  I still had a bit leftover, but it will be delicious on a green salad this week.

Fresh Mozzarella Salad with Avocado, Roasted Corn, and Grape Tomatoes
Adapted from Fresh Every Day Sara Foster with Carolynn Carreno

4 ears sweet corn
1/2 pound fresh mozzarella
2 ripe avocados
1/2 pint grape tomatoes - I used a pint
8 - 10 basil leaves, cut into thin slices
1/2 cup Summer Herb Vinaigrette

While I assembled the salad, Andy grilled the corn.  In the summer, I love grilled corn!  We remove the husks, coat it in a little olive oil and then stick it right on the grill.  It doesn't take long to cook.  If you don't want to grill it, you can roast it in the oven.  Dice the mozzarella, cube the avocados and half the grape tomatoes.  Mix in the corn and basil leaves, toss with the vinaigrette and enjoy!

Jump Start the 5-a-Day

Friday, June 24, 2011
If I have any chance of getting in 5 fruits and veggies a day, I needed to figure out a way to incorporate some into my breakfast.  As with most of my ideas, I try to get Andy on board because then it means I might actually follow through for more than a week.

A few weeks ago, I started making smoothies for us in the morning.  The recipe was trial and error, but I settled on the proportions that taste good to us.  By the time we get to work, we've already checked off two fruits and veggies for the day.

Smoothies - Makes 2
300 grams (2 cups) frozen, unsweetened fruit
1 banana
3 spinach ice cubes* (update) or 160g Frozen Chopped Spinach... much easier than making your own!
227 grams (1 cup) Greek yogurt (so much protein!)
20 grams (1 Tbs) honey

Combine ingredients in a blender, add water to get it going (I usually add up to the 2 1/2 cup mark) and blend away until creamy and smooth.

I included the weights of most of the ingredients because that's how I make these and think it's far easier than dirtying up lots of measuring utensils.  Just put the blender pitcher on the scale, tare, add an ingredient, tare, etc.  But I included approximate volumes for those that haven't seen the food scale light yet.

*What are spinach ice cubes you ask?  Well, this is my way of getting the spinach into the smoothie with as little of a trace as possible (and it makes things quicker in the mornings).  To make, take one 16oz tub of baby spinach, put a few handfuls of it into the blender, add a little water to get things moving and then blend away, adding the rest of the spinach until everything's liquefied.  Poor the concoction into an ice cube tray and put it in the freezer.  I store the frozen cubes in a plastic bag until I'm ready for them.

Birth Month Pennants

Thursday, June 23, 2011
Before sweet Anne Harrison was born, I was thinking about ways to commemorate her first year and document how much she would change over that year.  I had seen my fair share of the handwritten signs in sharpie on white computer paper-- 1 month-- and thought that there must be a cuter way!  Inspired by Nicole at Making it Lovely and John and Sherry at Young House Love, I decided to make birth month pennants.

While it's easy and fun for me to make the pennants, it's really up to the parents to see this to fruition.  I'm so happy that Anne is keeping up with Anne Harrison's monthly birthdays. I can't wait to see all 12 months together.

I love seeing the monthly pictures of Anne Harrison so much that I decided these pennants are a good thing.  So I made a new design just for precious Penny Singleton!

Penny arrived yesterday, and I just can't wait to meet her.  I'm also look forward to seeing Penny and her monthly photos.  No pressure, Joanna!

As I'm looking back at these photos, it's a good reminder that I need to continue to work on the photography of my projects.

Eggs Diablo

Wednesday, June 22, 2011
When Andy and I made a trip to Jackson last summer to meet with Edward, our priest who married us, Alicen and EJ were kind enough to host us for the weekend.  Everything they made that weekend was perfect and since then I've been single-white-femaling them (as Sticky so kindly pointed out!).  Eggs Diablo was one of those things.

We had this for breakfast one morning, and it was delicious!  This isn't the recipe that they used, but I was inspired by that meal.

Quick Tomato Sauce
America's Test Kitchen
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup grated onion, from 1 medium onion (if you don't want to measure, it was about 1/2 of the onion I used)
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano (I used fresh from my garden!)
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes 
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  •  Ground black pepper 
  • Table salt
Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the grated onion.  Saute the onion until all the liquid has evaporated and it starts to brown.  Then add minced garlic and saute for about 30 seconds.  Pour tomatoes into saucepan and add sugar and oregano if using dried.  Bring to a boil and then simmer until it thickens up.  At the end, season with salt and pepper and add olive oil, fresh oregano and basil.


Eggs Diablo
  • Tomato Sauce
  • Eggs
  • Italian Bread
  • Butter (if you want to butter your bread)
  • Parmesan Cheese, shredded
  • Fresh basil

Toast about 4 pieces of bread.  I used Italian bread from the grocery store bakery.  Set aside.  

Preheat broiler.  Pour tomato sauce (note 1) into a broiler proof frying pan (note 2).  Make 4 little wells and crack an egg into each well.  Place pan in oven and broil until eggs are set.  It doesn't take long at all, just about 3-5 minutes depending on how you like your eggs and how powerful your broiler is.  Remove pan from oven, sprinkle eggs with shredded parmesan cheese and fresh basil.

Serve eggs and tomato sauce over toasted bread.  And if you're Andy, enjoy some steak with your Eggs Diablo (thanks Mom for sending us back to DC with a goodie bag even if it was the reason I was stopped and searched at security).


Note 1 - If you don't want to make tomato sauce, use your favorite bottled marinara sauce.
Note 2 - I used our cast iron skillet.  I don't think you're supposed to use that with acidic ingredients such as tomatoes, but it's what worked best for me.  I coated it with olive oil. 
Note 3 - As the commenter pointed out, Eggs Diablo is supposed to be spicy.  Andy and I aren't too keen on very spicy food, but add red pepper to your liking to spice it up! (EDIT)

    Summer is Officially Here!

    Tuesday, June 21, 2011
    Summer is officially here and that means trips to the farmers' market and dinners on the rooftop deck.  I put together a few outfits that I would love to wear for both occasions.

    Top || Boden USA Brenton Top
    Jeans || JCrew Cropped Matchstick Jean
    Sandal || Tory Burch Emmy Thong Sandal
    Necklace || Avant et Apr├Ęs Yellow and Blue Torsade Necklace
    Bracelet || Elizabeth Cole Wide Braided Chain Bracelet

    Dress || Forever21 Colorful Surplice Maxi Dress || Found via MStetson Design Blog
    Shoes || Kate Spade Isabella
    Earrings || Kyler Amherst Pendant Earrings
    Bracelet || Kendra Scott Abena Cuff Bracelet in Pink
    Carafe || West Elm Lucie Carafe
    Glasses || West Elm Dimpled Drinkware

    Weekend Recap

    Monday, June 20, 2011
    Since we were on vacation last week but returned to DC on Thursday night, we had a 3 day weekend!  Then we packed so much into Friday that I felt like Saturday and Sunday were bonus days.  But the sad thing is, I didn't take any pictures.  Most of that is because our outings were at places where photos weren't appropriate, or just not allowed!

    On Friday morning, we gathered just the bare essentials and headed out to watch the US Open which was at Congressional Country Club.  I've watched my fair share of golf on TV, but this was my first experience at a golf tournament.  I approve!  Who can complain about being outside on a beautiful day and eating hot dogs?  Oh, and watching golf.  We trekked around the course a bit but did spend some time perched up on this hill (in the background, in front of the grandstands) where we could see the players play the 10th hole and finish up the 18th.

    Photo by Getty Images - Borrowed from Golf Week

    We timed our departure from the tournament perfectly.  When we arrived home (after a bit of planes, trains and automobiles... although it was buses, metros and automobiles), we'd only missed about 2 holes as the skies briefly opened up and delayed everything a bit!  At that point, we were home, resting on the sofa because we had plans for that evening.

    I've been wanting to try the Columbia Room at the Passenger.  It's a speak easy type of place that focuses on handcrafted cocktails. 

    Photo by Jim Webb - Borrowed from Bon Appetit
    It books up far in advance, so when I made these reservations, I didn't realize that it was the same day as the US Open... oops!  But we rallied and had a great time.  Andy and I met up with Ben and Kate and two of their friends Jared and Rachel.  The Columbia Room is limited to 10 people, so it's quite intimate and small (hence the no pictures... I was a bit intimidated!).  Each reservation is for the tasting menu which is over the course of about an hour and a half.  The bartender, Derek Brown, started our evening off with two seasonal cocktails.  The first one consisted of a rhubarb compote, Campari and topped with champagne.  Delicious!  Then he made our second cocktail which was a strawberry puree, tequila, Cointreau and finished with a basil leaf-- of course I loved this one.  I was a bit nervous going into the night as I'm not very adventurous when it comes to eating and drinking, but after being pleasantly surprised by the first two cocktails, I said "surprise me!" as my order for my third and final cocktail.  Anything with artichoke liquor would qualify as a surprise.  

    Photo from Wikipedia
    The Getaway was made from Cynar and dark rum (the recipe is featured at the Bon Appetit link above) and was quite delicious.  What are you supposed to do after finishing up a tasting menu at a place that serves the "the best martini in America" according to GQ?  Go to Hill Country BBQ for some TX BBQ and live music, of course.

    Photo courtesy of Ruthie & the Wranglers
    All of that was just Friday!!  The remainder of the weekend was much more typical... Andy golfing, me lurking around the apartment crafting and cleaning.  We wrapped up the weekend with a great father's day dinner at Bob & Karen's.  I hope all of the dads out there had a great day!!

    Weekly Meal Planning

    Sunday, June 19, 2011
    I love to cook.  I don't think that will come as a surprise to anyone.  What I don't love is trying to figure out what I want for dinner while driving home from work, then going to the grocery store, finally getting home and cooking.  Nope, that's no good (have you been around me when I'm hungry?? enough said).  So I have been trying to meal plan for the week, do my grocery shopping on the weekend and then I'm ready.  I decided to share this with y'all because maybe someone else has the same problem that I have-- always asking "what's for dinner?".

    A few things to note... Hopefully this will be a somewhat weekly post.  I'll try to keep the archives organized, so you (and me!) can look back through them if you need some ideas.  I'll post all of my weekly meal plans in this Picasa album.  I'll include the list that I publish on the blog and a copy where the shopping list areas are blank.  I'll also post the recipes and will link to those on the Recipes Page.  Still trying to figure out the best way to do this, so for a while it will be a work in process.  Also, you'll note that I have 4 days of meals planned... that is what works for Andy and me. The other three nights we either have separate plans or go out.  Each meal is supposed to feed 4 (so the recipe says... I'll note accordingly in the recipes if I feel differently).  That means that we have leftovers for another night or for lunch.  You'll notice that I've organized the meal plan into staples and weekly shopping.  Circled items are what's needed for that week.  Fairly self-explanatory, right?  And sometimes, I'll post recipes that are made just from staples for those nights when I'm running behind, tired or just don't really want to cook.

    Without further ado...

    My plan of attack would be to shop on the weekend (usually Sunday for me).  Marinate the chicken and the flank steak.  Definitely pop the flank steak in the freezer and, depending on when I plan to cook it, maybe the chicken as well.  If I have some extra time, I would try to make the tomato sauce, but it's not necessary as it can easily be done after work.  Everything else should be doable after work.

    My goal is to have healthy, home cooked meals most nights of the week.  Hopefully I'll get into a rhythm with this and someone else out there will also enjoy it (let me know if you do!).  

    Eggs Diablo Recipe including Recipe for America's Test Kitchen's Quick Tomato Sauce

    Happy Father's Day!

    Happy Father's Day, Daddy!

    Thank you for being the best dad a girl could ever dream of having.  You've always been calm and cool even during those tumultuous adolescent years.

    To this day, you continue to teach me, and I love that you always have an answer to even my most random questions.  I hope one day to have just a fraction of the knowledge that you have.

    I love you, Daddy!

    Photo by Jonathan Canlas

    Beach Week Wrap-Up

    Saturday, June 18, 2011
    Nothing like 6 girls descending on Lake Maimimi as the final hurrah for beach week!

    Carley and Sarah had so much fun showing their cousins Lake Maimimi.  Look at Sarah leading the pack!


    Andy made a batch of Backporch Lemonade so that the adults could survive the adventure.  Surprisingly, I think I needed it most! 

    The little girls didn't need any help having a great time.  Dad's windsurfing board provided endless entertainment.

    It was the perfect way to wrap up the week.  Mom and Dad are such great counselors... I think we need to have Atlas Summer Camp!  Dad calmly treaded water while overseeing the surfboard activity.  He was not phased by all squealing and yelling and occasionally was the instigator of such noises when he yanked on the rope attached to the board.  Mom was back at the house preparing the parfait glasses for ice cream sundaes which was the perfect end to the play date.  When the girls started to meltdown from too much fun, the surprise that ice cream sundaes were waiting for them at the house perked them all back up!

    Bookshelf Styling

    Thursday, June 16, 2011
    For the most part, I'm happy with how the apartment has transitioned from the all girl apartment I shared with Stacy to the first home for Andy and me.   But there are a few areas that still need some special attention and the book shelves on either side of our fireplace/TV are one of those areas.  Here are some images that I'm going to use as my inspiration when I tackle this project. 

    One interesting thing I noticed when I was gathering inspiration is that apparently I really like how the folks at Carrier and Company (1 / 3 / 5) style.  I was flipping through the photos that I had saved on my computer and found #1 that I saved back in 2009.  Fast forward to the world of Pinterest and I had #3 pinned on my bookcases board.  So, of course, I had to go back to their site for more inspiration and found #5 that I just love (the pieces appear to be the same ones as in the Elle Decor Concept House).

    I'll be back with before and afters!
    1. Carrier and Company Wilton House // Photo by Ben Hoffman
    2. Lonny Mag - October/November 2009 // Page 22
    3. Carrier and Company Elle Decor Concept House // Found via Bryn Alexandra // Photo by Bryn
    4. Ruthie Sommers of Chapman Radcliff Home // Don't know the exact source of this photo as I've had it saved on my computer for 2 years.
    5. Carrier and Company New York Apartment // Photo by Peter Margonelli

    Everything's Better with Butter

    Wednesday, June 15, 2011
    I've had a hankering to make homemade butter for a while, so I decided to pass it off as a fun project to do with Carley & Sarah at the Farm.

    Ingredients - Cream and Salt

    It is surprisingly simple.  I just googled homemade butter, and there are a variety of posts.  The gist is this-- pour cream into a jar and shake until you're tired.

    Then get some help from your Kitchen Aid (or food processor or hand mixer).  


    Beat passed the cream passed the point of whipping cream until pockets of liquid form.  You'll know it's there when your little helpers start yelling "it's splashing me!!".  That's the buttermilk that has separated. 

    Then it's time to get a little dirty.  To finish making the butter, we squeezed out all of the buttermilk.  Apparently this helps to prevent spoilage. 

    That's it!  I guess I was too excited to take a picture of the final product, but it looks just like the butter you buy in the store.  Will I do it again?  Not so sure.  As much as I love butter, I just couldn't differentiate between the Land of Lakes and our own Atlas butter.  Maybe worth the effort if you plan to flavor it-- honey, thyme, etc.

    The rest of the day was filled with more indoor fun.

    Rack Rummi

    Making Tomato Tart