Pesto is the Besto

It’s rent-check week, which also means…pantry clean-out week!

I only have a problem with pantry clean-out week if there aren’t any vegetables in the house; it’s actually a good practice, because it forces me to be creative and use up things I often pass over.

I decided to use up leftover mini sweet peppers we picked up for nacho night to make a pasta dish tonight, and the result was fabulous. Then again, I used pesto for seasoning and anything + pesto = awesome.

Pesto Pasta with Shrimp and Peppers

  • 1 oz whole wheat pasta (I used spaghetti)
  • 4 mini sweet peppers
  • 1/3 cup grape tomatoes, quartered
  • 3 oz shrimp, cooked and thawed
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp pesto
  • 1 tbsp greek yogurt
  • olive oil
  • red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper to taste

Prepare pasta according to package directions. Set aside.

In a medium skillet,  heat olive oil. Add peppers and saute over medium heat for about five minutes.

Add tomatoes, pepper and salt.

Cover and cook about five more minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Add pepper mixture to pasta and keep warm.

Toss shrimp in a bowl with a bit of olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper.

Saute over medium heat for about two minutes, just until heated.

In a small bowl, combine pesto and yogurt. Add to vegetables and pasta. Mix well, then stir in shrimp. Top with red pepper flakes.

 

Sometimes good things can come from seemingly nothing.

 

Lazy and Lovely

It’s been a long, lazy, and lovely weekend here so far at the Leahy-Dowe household. I came home Thursday night to discover that, like me, Dave had a three day weekend! We have spent the weekend thus far eating Chinese food, watching Iron Chef, going car shopping (not so successful), bumming around Cook’s Corner (wanting half the items and mercilessly making fun of the other half, like a coffee filter separator), hanging around our apartment, talking a lot, watching Nightmare Before Christmas, eating sushi and entertaining one of my co-workers (who also happens to live on my street) and her fiancee. Fun!

I haven’t seen this much of Dave in a long time, and I’m enjoying it immensely. Yesterday we decided to do a bit of thrifting (much less stressful than car shopping) and invite some friends over for a nacho night. When we’re looking for something to do, bumming around thrift stores and consignment shops is always entertaining. Unfortunately, none of the cool stuff we liked in the consignment shop would have fit in our apartment, but we did snag two new martini glasses (to replace all the ones I broke), a whiskey tumbler, and a cool new coffee mug at the thrift store.

After we got home, we headed into the kitchen for prepping. Dave worked on two different pico de gallo mixtures (one regular, one sweet one with pineapple and mandarin oranges).

 

And I started browning some Farmer’s Market beef for taco meat. Since spices are generally overflowing from our cupboard, I made the taco seasoning as opposed to buying it, and I thought it was quite good (with much less sodium than a package).

  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp garlic salt
  • 1/2 tsp minced onion
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp black pepper

 

After the meat finished browning, I stirred in all the taco seasoning with about 1/3 cup of water and turned the heat to low.

The pico de gallo and taco meat were the only things that actually required mixing; after that, Dave and I spent most of our time chopping, dicing, and shredding the sides.

I dug out my new martini glass and made a blended concoction of ice, coffee, and Bailey’s mudslide to help me prep.

 

 

I’m loving my martini glass so far–I’ve already dropped it twice and hit it against the faucet, and it hasn’t broken yet! Hopefully it’s Chel-proof.

Even though we don’t have a gas stove, Dave told me I could still roast the peppers on the burners for a lovely charred effect. (Okay, we’ve been watching quite a bit of Iron Chef).

 

It was fun to watch them dance over the burner from the little beads of water, but it did make me wish we actually had a gas stove. After our friends were over and ready to eat, we laid out the goods.

 

We had two different kinds of pico, shredded cheddar, shredded pepper jack, jalapeno slices, diced green chiles, black olives, refried beans, sweet peppers, green bell peppers, chives, salsa verde, and sour cream, all served with blue corn chips with flaxseed (my fav) and yellow corn chips.

A perfectly delicious way to end a Saturday.

 

 

Simply Stewing

Some foods are annoyingly good.

Like McDonald’s French Fries.

One of the reasons I don’t go to McDonald’s. 

Archer Farms Amaretto Cherry Gelato.

 

Seriously, how do they get it to be so incredibly creamy? 

Ina Garten’s Roasted Broccoli.

Even broccoli-haters can’t stop eating it.

And crock pot meals.

Because the amount of deliciousness put out is exponentially more than the amount of work put in.

I remember my Mom laboring over dinners some nights that we would proclaim “really good.” Then she’d throw a roast in the crock pot the next morning with a few veggies, and come dinner, we’d say “This is amazing, Mom! You’re such a great cook.”

Never fails.

Never-Fail Beef Stew

  • 1 lb beef stew meat, cut into chunks
  • 1/4 cup wheat flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 3 medium potatoes, diced
  • 4 medium carrots, sliced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 bayleaf
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 1/2 cups vegetable broth

Place meat in a slow cooker. In a small bowl, mix together flour, salt, and pepper. Pour over meat, and stir to coat. Stir in remaining ingredients. Cover and cook on low setting for 10 to 12 hours or on high setting for 4 to 6 hours.

Recipe adapted from: Slow Cooker Beef Stew

Leftover Lucky

I don’t usually like eating leftovers. Eating the same thing two or more days is just…boring…to my tastebuds.

But when I get to bring this for my lunch at work

I can’t help but feel lucky. I think French Onion soup in a bread bowl has trumped every other lunch I’ve brought to work by a long shot.

Dinner continued in the same ‘leftover’ manner. I reheated some fajita lasagna that I made last week and served it with some sauteed broccoli seasoned with cumin, lemon juice, red pepper flakes, minced garlic, salt, and pepper.

For dessert, who doesn’t love leftover birthday cake?

Definitely a lucky leftover day.

Davy’s Birthday Weekend

Dave got the cooking bug yesterday. I love when that happens. 🙂

Since he rarely has time to cook during the week (he usually works 12-16 hour days), he had an ambitious menu: roasted duck, French onion soup in homemade bread bowls, and potato chips fried in duck fat.

The duck took a four hour long trip in the oven at 300 degrees. Dave crosshatched it and turned it every hour to ensure even cooking.

 

The delicious aroma of the duck grew more and more with each passing hour.

 

 

At four hours, Dave pulled out the duck and hiked up the temperature to 425.

 

He covered the duck with a glaze made from honey, molasses, soy sauce, and Sriracha.

 

Before he cooked the duck to its finality, the bread bowls got a turn in the oven.

I distinctly remember the first bread bowl I ever ate. I was 20 and had driven down to Illinois to meet Dave’s parents for the first time. For dinner, Dave’s dad Barry served homemade split pea soup in breadbowls, and I knew this was the vehicle meant to deliver all soups. Ohsogood.

We portioned each breadbowl out to 8 oz which turned out to be the perfect size.

 

Meanwhile, the onions were caramelizing away on the stove, half sweet, half yellow.

 

I could never get sick of French Onion soup. It is definitely one of my favorites. The aroma of caramelized onions almost makes up for the burn my eyes must endure.

At long last, dinner time rolled around at 9:00 pm, and (luckily) many of our friends showed up to help us indulge.

 

The duck was so tender, it practically melted with each bite. Such a perfect dinner to enjoy on the eve of Dave’s birth!

Dave and I were lame hosts–both of us fell asleep before our friends even left! Fortunately, they were nice enough to close up shop so we could get some rest to prepare for Dave’s parents visit today.

 

We had a lovely long visit with them, and Dave was elated at the gifts his parents brought.

I must admit, I was pretty excited for him as well–new Birkenstocks! He has had his old pair since high school and they are literally falling apart with every step he takes.

 

Poor old soles.

I think his toes will be very happy in the new ones come winter.

 

He second gift was a Playstation 2. Dave has been a computer gamer as long as I’ve known him, but lately he’s been craving a bit of console gaming. I’m sure I will see my brother over here a lot more often now, as well…

At about 4:00pm, we headed out to one of our favorite restaurants for Dave’s birthday dinner: St. Brendan’s.

 

 

Since we’d each had a couple drinks at our apartment, we stuck to water at the restaurant and started off with Cabbage Rolls and Guinness Chicken. Dinner took quite awhile to come out due to a printer mishap, but it was worth the wait.

I ordered the walleye fillet served over potato cakes with vegetables on the side. The dish remained true to form with almost every St. Brendan’s main dish I have ever ordered: while the main entree (in this case, walleye) is cooked to perfection, the vegetables are always an afterthought and usually lacking flavor.

For a veggie lover like me, this makes me a bit sad. But everything else is usually so good that I forgive them/ The waiter offered us free desserts in return for the long wait, but we had birthday cake waiting at home, so he put the appetizers on the house instead.

We headed back to our apartment for a Dowe specialty cake–two layers of banana cake with a bottom layer of brownie covered in frosting.

 

Happy, Happy Birthday, Baby!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fajita Lasagna

I’m just going to say it: I don’t know that much about meat.

Growing up, ours was strictly a chicken breast and ground beef household and, as a result, the different cuts of meat mean very little to me. I never saw someone cut up a whole chicken until I met Dave (although my dad did a lovely job slicing up the turkey every Thanksgiving).

So when I told Dave I used a rib-eye steak to make fajita lasagna tonight, he said it was heresy.

But we both agreed it tasted great.

Since I spent another day at home with my broken car lurking outside my apartment door, I had enough time to finish my last ever Level 1, drool over Food Network’s Thanksgiving issue (Roasted Garlic Brussels Sprouts this year, methinks, , and make a meal that usually takes more time than I have on a weeknight.

Fajita Lasagna

  • 9 whole wheat lasagna noodles
  • 1/2 lb steak, cut into strips (don’t use rib-eye or your spouse will think it’s heresy)
  • 1 c. chopped onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 portabella mushroom caps, sliced
  • 1 c. pepper strips
  • 28 oz diced tomatoes
  • 1 c. plain Greek yogurt
  • 8 oz mozzarella, shredded
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup salsa
  • shredded sharp cheddar for topping
  • 7 tbsp. Fajita seasoning

Cook lasagna according to package directions.

In a large saucepan over medium heat, cook steak and onions until browned. Add garlic, portabella mushrooms caps, and pepper strips and cook for about five more minutes. Add diced tomatoes and fajita seasoning and simmer over medium low heat for about 15 minutes.

In a medium bowl, mix together Greek yogurt, mozzarella, and egg.

In a 9×13 saucepan, cover the bottom with meat sauce mixture.

Layer with three lasagna noodles.

Then top with cheese mixture.

Repeat layers.

Top with 1/2 cup salsa and shredded sharp cheddar cheese.

Bake at 375 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until heated through. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Or, if you’re Dave, dig out a piece immediately.

 

Heretically delicious.

Goodbye, Farmer’s Market

I felt kind of cooped up today. Luckily, I didn’t get called into work (which saved my brother a trip to come pick me up), and I may not have gone anywhere anyway, but just knowing that I couldn’t go anywhere gave me a bit of cabin fever. I did the best I could with what I had at home.

First, exercise. Here’s a hint to how well I know Level 1 of 30 Day Shred: I performed the entire workout this morning without watching the video at all. In fact, I was watching an episode of Parenthood.

I actually think I worked out much more vigorously without the video on in the background. I always feel the need to pace myself to their level, even though my body naturally wants to speed things up a bit. Today, I sped things up naturally but performed each circuit a bit longer, so I ended up with a full 30 minute workout.

I then read one hundred more pages of Born to Run. I cannot get over these 300 mile ultrarunners; they are crazy and inspiring, and I never knew I could be so interested about the human biology behind running before. Did you know that the human foot contains over 1/4 of all the bones present in the human body? The human body never ceases to amaze me.

After reading, I made myself a little lunch. Lunch is usually not a very exciting meal for me, but since I was home to cook and hadn’t eaten breakfast, I actually took the time to make myself something.

I stir-fried some frozen veggies and shrimp.

Then added my favorite Thai Peanut Sauce with powdered peanut butter, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, ground ginger, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Looove that sauce.

 

The icing on the cake was eating it with chopsticks.

After cooking lunch, I had a baking itch. I decided to make one of my favorite addictions and give some to my mom and brother Tyler as a thank-you for carting me around: homemade granola.

Homemade Granola

  • 2 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
  • 3/4 cup pecan pieces
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds
  • 2 tbsp Stevia
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large bowl, mix together oats, nuts, seeds, sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.

In a small saucepan over low heat, add applesauce, honey, and oil. Mix applesauce mixture into oat mixture, and stir to coat everything. Spread mixture into a 9×13 baking pan.

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. When 15 minutes are remaining, stir in shredded coconut. After removing granola from the oven, stir in dried cranberries and cool completely before storing.

*****

My sister Emily came to pick me up at 4, and we headed to the last Farmer’s Market on Broadway of the season with my grandma, Aunt Dina, Mom, Aurelia, and my other sister Moriah. The day was a bit chilly and since it was the end of the season, vendors were a lot more sparse.

I wasn’t on a mission for veggies this time, though; I was on a mission for meat. Since local, humane-certified meat is so hard to find and expensive at the grocery stores, I wanted to stock our freezer with a few goodies for the winter.

 

I left with ground beef, ground bison, ribeye steak, stew meat, and pork chops. And then I got some cajun smoked salmon…because I couldn’t resist.

All that walking made us hungry, so we stopped for Chinese food at Mr. Ginger and headed back to my grandma’s house for a bit of a visit.

 

I ordered shrimp curry and a spring roll. The curry was extremely spicy but very tasty. I always forget to cook with curry at home, even though I love it. I finished all the curried shrimp and veggies and left about half the rice.

Then I went home….with this!

 

I bought my sister Emily a subscription to the Food Network magazine for her last birthday, and I love to read her copies when I’m over. I love food magazines, but I never order any–I think the Food Network magazine is going to go on my wish list this year, though. I’m eager to dive into this issue and even more excited for the holiday issue!

 

Dirty Day

I spoke too soon. My car wouldn’t start again this morning. 😦

I bought it used five and a half years ago, and it has given me relatively little trouble until this year. I’m not sure if it’s time to put it to rest yet, but I’m getting tired of being stranded. Luckily, my family has been great about helping me out so I didn’t have to rent a car or a taxi yet (although I did take a ride in a tow truck a few months ago…).

I came home not hungry for the first time in ages! For lunch, I heated up two slices of leftover pizza, and I can say with certainty that pretzel dough pizza crust reheats beautifully. I also had a pear and snacked on a bag of salted peanuts later. All the protein must have kept me full.

So instead of sharing a meal tonight, I’m going to share my recipe for the perfect dirty martini.

 

What you’ll need:

 

  • Gin (New Amsterdam is a regular for everyday martinis, otherwise Tanqueray is my gin of choice)
  • Vermouth (Dave and I have both agreed that cheaper vermouth actually tastes better in martinis–we usually buy Gallo brand)
  • Olives (regular queen for everyday martinis, but occasionally we’ll buy bleu cheese or garlic stuffed)
  • Lemon juice (a new ingredient I have grown to love in my martinis. It softens the sharpness of the olive juice nicely)

 

  • A martini shaker
  • 1.5 oz jigger
  • Martini glass

Fill your martini shaker about 1/3 full of ice cubes.

 

Add two jiggers of gin (3 oz) to martini shaker.

 

Followed by one jigger about 1/5 to 1/4 full of Vermouth.

And one jigger filled about 1/5 to 1/4 full of olive juice.

 

Add a drop of lemon juice to your martini shaker, cover, and shake vigorously.

Pour into a martini glass with two speared olives.

 

Enjoy.

 

There are many schools of thought on what constitutes the perfect dirty martini. It was rumored that Winston Churchill made a martini by filling a glass with gin, looking at a bottle of vermouth, and drinking.

I have certainly adjusted my taste over the last couple years. I use less vermouth, less olive juice, and add a tiny hint of lemon juice. And right now, this is my perfect dirty martini.

 

 

Plumb Plums

I was plumb tired yesterday and for no particular reason. Other than a few hours spent with Dad trying to fix my car (which is fixed now–hooray! Thanks, Dad!) and working on pretzel dough pizza crust, I didn’t do anything that necessitated a 10pm bedtime last night. Still, it was all I could do to stay up even that long.

Although I woke up every couple hours, I slept straight until 8:30 this morning! I woke up to do day number five of Level 1 of 30 Day Shred. It’s becoming easier now to wake up to exercise, which is great.

 

Once again, I turned the volume of 30 Day Shred off and the volume on my Itunes up. This morning’s music of choice was Gaelic Storm, which was a lovely way to start my day. I’m glad I decided to do only seven days of Level 1, because I’m wearied of it. Unfortunately, that means I’ll be even more tired of Level 2.

Monotony is not for the faint of heart.

After exercising, I started on breakfast. I have been all about the egg sandwich lately, but this morning it was back to oatmeal. We had a few plums in the refrigerator that needed to be used up, and I didn’t think they would taste great on an egg sandwich.

 

I made this morning’s stove top oats with 1/2 cup almond coconut milk, 1/2 cup water, 1/3 cup rolled oats, 1 tsp Stevia, 1 tsp chia seeds, cinnamon, a splash of vanilla, and a diced plum stirred in at the end. I topped the oatmeal with dried cranberries and chopped pecans.

I’ve never used plum in my oatmeal before, but it was quite good. Still, I felt like I was missing something. It wasn’t until I started putting on makeup for work that I remembered–I didn’t have any coffee!

I really must have slept well last night to forget. That won’t matter later, because I could enter a competition for most-yawns-per-workday and come out on top. Though I clearly didn’t need the coffee for caffeine, I couldn’t turn down the thought of a cup of caramel cream flavored coffee.

 

And now my morning is complete.