Saturday, March 30, 2013

easter weekend

Since moving from NY to SF, I have had to forfeit spending Easter Sunday with my family. Of all the holidays at home, this is definitely the most low key considering my loud Italian family.

When I was a kid we spent Easter with my dads side of the family, and it was a full-on Italian affair. My Aunt Rose makes the best lasagna you.will.ever.have. I am still trying to perfect her secret, but one is she puts mini meatballs (read: the size of a penny) into the dish. Its really amazing. And don't worry, we are going to break down the meatball recipe below.

For me though, holidays have always been the time to enjoy food with my family, hang out with my cousins, and play games. To this day, we always play a game at every family gathering. Our most recent fave is a game called left, right, center, which is the perfect formula for us: allows us to bet, uses dice and is easy for anyone to play, and as many people can play as possible. Everyone starts the game with $3, you roll as many die as you have dollars, and your roll determines where your money goes. Whoever is left with the one dollar at the end gets all the money in the middle, and you can imagine it gets pretty competitive. We have played with the idea of using $5 bills instead of 1's, but my brother declared he would have no problem "stabbing anyone in our family to win" so we decided we should keep it limited.  My family likes to bet, as you can see.

That probably tells you a lot of where I come from...maybe a little too much...?

Aunt Rose's Meatballs
one pound of chop meat (85/15)
3-4 garlic cloves, minced finely (we like a LOT of garlic--you can definitely cut this back to 2)
breadcrumbs-about 1/2 cup
one egg
fresh parsley, chopped fine--about 3 tablespoons
about 1/2 cup of grated pecorino romano (grate it fresh)
salt and pepper to taste
a small amount of water (you will add as you go)
olive oil for the pan

(Keep in mind this is largely based on the feel or consistency of the meatballs, so it takes practice. My grandmother has patiently walked me through these a few times, and I am finally getting the hang of it...)
  • combine all ingredients above into a decently sized bowl. 
  • add a small amount of water at a time--like a tablespoon, and mix it until they feel slightly sticky but don't stick to your hands. you may need to add more breadcrumbs, you may need to add more water.
  • once you have that perfect consistency, preheat your pan and coat in olive oil.
  • start forming your meatballs, and they should be no larger than a penny. collect them in the bottom of the bowl, and once the pan is heated, add the meatballs and brown on all sides.
  • If you are making a sauce (which I did not in this instance) you can slightly undercook them (maybe 2-3 mins per side) and finish in the sauce so they are still chewy inside. If you are eating as is, cook through on all sides for about 4 mins.
These really come out AMAZING and they are like a mini snack. Enjoy!

Friday, March 29, 2013

some pre-easter fun!

Some pics below of my apartment decorated for Easter! This year I am spending it with a good friend and her family, and it is my boyfriends first time celebrating. I can't wait to give him his first Easter basket!

some easter decals from target, spring oreos (my favorite oreos!),
 a collection of easter cards from over the years, easter blocks

Thursday, March 28, 2013

mid-week chicken dinner

I've been pretty swamped this week so I haven't had time to cook. Last night I wandered around Trader Joe's to see what looked good and ended up with brussel sprouts, garlic, bacon and chicken breasts.

I love quick and easy meals that can be made in one pan, and can be switched up based on what you have on hand. Also--bacon makes everything better.

serves 2

Roasted chicken, brussel sprouts and bacon:
2 chicken breasts, seasoned with sea salt and pepper
one 8 ounce bag of brussel sprouts, halved
3 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed, not minced
5 strips of bacon, cut into about one-inch pieces
salt and pepper for additional seasoning
olive oil for the pan

pre-heat oven to 350

  • pre-heat your pan (I used my cast iron skillet because it can go from stovetop to oven) and coat in olive oil
  • drop the brussel sprouts in there and season with salt and pepper--let them cook for a bit on their own
  • add the seasoned chicken breasts, let them grill on both sides until they have a bit of color, also add the bacon
  • add the garlic cloves and put the entire pan in the oven and let it roast until the chicken is completely cooked through (I use a meat thermometer and just check it every so often--nothing worse than overcooked chicken!)
  • plate with a squeeze of lemon juice on the brussel sprouts, and parsley on top of the chicken
finished product below--so easy and you can sub any veggie you want!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

lazy sunday

Yesterday was a cooking marathon with some good friends. Not only did we make thai-style lettuce wraps, homemade spaghetti and homemade fried eggplant "sandwiches", but we also talked endlessly about recipes, cooking, food, and watched the food network all day. Basically, it was my dream day, but today I was exhausted!

(ps--more homemade pasta pics and recipe to come soon--my next conquest is tortellini.)

Today I needed some serious downtime, so I slept in, caught "Clueless" on TV, did about a billion loads of laundry and cleaned my apartment. Then I went for a walk and stocked up on some essentials for the week at Trader Joe's (read: wine).  It all rounded out with a relaxing afternoon nap on the couch, which is my favorite thing to do on a weekend.

a few highlight photos below from the weekend:

a unique wine cork

pasta and eggplant yumminess

Saturday, March 23, 2013

most recent craving: quick and creamy mac n cheese

Two nights ago I came home from a long work day and just needed something delicious and comforting. I am not above a box of mac n cheese as long as I can add my own spin to it (my go to fave is to add a dollop of sour cream and lots of fresh pepper.)  

I was out of the boxed stuff but did have elbow macaroni, some leftover Trader Joe's three cheese blend, goat cheese and skim milk. And who doesn't have butter and flour on hand at all times? The below recipe was made on the fly, and the cheese, type of milk and even seasonings can be altered to your tastes.

serves 4

quick and creamy mac n cheese

1/2 box of elbow macaroni (or any of your favorite pasta)
4 tablespoons of butter
a few tablespoons of flour
1/2 cup skim milk (you can use full-fat milk, or heavy cream, but you still get a really creamy mac and save some calories.)
a few handfuls of three cheese blend, shredded--I used mozzarella, monterey jack and cheddar, but switch it up
2 tablespoons of goat cheese, softened
fresh parsley

(You will notice some of my measurements are not exact, but I am more about tasting as I go and adjusting.)

  • put up a pot of water to start boiling--add a generous amount of sea salt once boiled and add pasta.
  • drop the butter in a preheated saucepan and allow it to start melting. Add your flour until you form a rue (it should thicken into a paste like substance, and not get too dark in color.) You want the raw flour taste to cook out, and you can feel free to add more butter or flour until it forms into that paste.
  • remove from the heat, add your milk and whisk quickly--you want to infuse the milk with your rue and really get it nice and thick. Once it is fully incorporated, add salt, pepper, a pinch of nutmeg and parsley. I used fresh because I always keep it on hand and freeze the excess, but dried works fine too.
  • bring the pot back to the stove and keep it on a very low heat. Add your cheeses and stir (probably want to switch to a spoon from the whisk at this point.) Once the cheese is melted, keep it on low heat, stirring occasionally, until your pasta is ready.
  • drain the pasta, and add to the pot with your sauce. Mix together and serve. 

It comes out so creamy because I avoid baking it, and make an extra thick sauce with my rue.

tip: when reheating, put the leftovers in a bowl, with a bit of milk or cream, and zap for about 20 seconds. Take it out and stir and then put it back in for another 1-2 minutes and it will keep its creaminess the next day.

quick and creamy mac and cheese: finished product