Sunday, April 29, 2012

Chicago, Chicago!

I am a little behind in my blogging, so I will play a little catch-up here.

The highlight of April for Stephen and I was our to trip to Chicago. We were celebrating my birthday, new job, and the spring! We headed down to the Magnificent Mile for some good food, shopping, and museums. We had terrific weather despite the threat of rain.

After shopping and dinner on Saturday we found a gem of a piano bar, The Redhead Piano Bar. Check it out if you are in town!

After our tour of the art museum on Sunday--it had been years since either of us had been there--I introduced Stephen to "the Bean." He had never seen it. After this picture we indulged in some people watching before we headed to visit our friends Jenna and Sam, and then back to Milwaukee.

Hope you had a great April, everyone!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Changes! Ah!

So, I am eating my lunch at my desk (which I shouldn't do) and trying to catch up on all my blogs. With my new job, I do a great job of following blogs but a sub-par job writing new posts. I apologize. Anyway, I went to log into my blogger and add a link to a new blog that I read, At Home on the Range, written by Stephen's cousin and her fiancé. And of course, the format has changed. Everything that I knew how to do has changed. And now I have spilled lunch on my pants and my desk.

Here's to say I am still alive, loving others' blogs. Hopefully you will soon hear about out trip to Chicago a few weeks ago and our attempt this Saturday to finally run the Crazylegs race in Madison. You will not hear about a horrible egg-salad we made last night (that I am suffering through right now). And hopefully I can fill you in on the book I am reading right now, Gathering of the Waters by Brenice McFadden.

PS I apologize for the font change. It won't change back!!!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

3 recipes from Gwyneth Paltrow

I have not posted about food or recipes for a while so I think that tonight I will pay homage to Gwyneth Paltrow. For Christmas I received four different cookbooks, and the one I was most intimidated by but desired the most was Paltrow's My Father's Daughter. Needless to say, I love it.

At first I would pour over it's pages and have no idea what I wanted to make. Then, I sat down and began to actually read it. In fact there is a chapter called "How to use this book." In it, Paltrow lays out essentials for your pantry. [I am going to digress for just a moment and posit that keeping my pantry stocked has been one of my most challenging cooking chores. Living with my parents, the pantry held every spice possible, extra pasta and rice, canned tomatoes, etc. Now that I have an adequate kitchen and a husband to cook for, I am getting a bit better. I try to put items on my grocery list before I am almost out and a stock up on a few items every trip to the grocery store (although today I walked solo to the store and had to be able to carry everything back).] Needless to say, the lists are helpful.

Eventually, I dove in to the book. One of the first recipes I used was for a homemade chicken stock. I must admit, I felt like quite the chef when the product was successful and I had tender chicken to add to salads, or whatever else struck my fancy. One of the things that I admire most about this book are it's basics, like how to make and freeze your own chicken stock, how to make your own vegan mayo, or how to roast your own tomatoes. However, I don't always want to make the basics. Sometimes I want to throw everything together in 20 minutes. Herein lies Paltrow's niche, the basics meet simplicity and flavor.

For example, deli coleslaw. The trick to this recipe is my food processor. But here is Paltrow's recipe:

1/2 small green cabbage, coarsely grated (about 2 cups)
1/2 carrot, peeled, coarsely grated (I do a whole carrot just because)
1/2 cup Veganaise (I use olive oil mayo)
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons granulated sgar

Toss the cabbage with a healthy pinch of salt and let sit for at least 10 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir to combine. Let the coleslaw get to know itself for at least an hour or 2, but it is really best to let it sit over night.

I made this for the first time a week or so ago. I am not a huge fan of coleslaw, but it tasted wonderfully fresh. Tonight I made another batch for our our Cooking Light BBQ chicken sandwiches (thank god for rotisserie chicken and barely any cooking tomorrow!).

Last week I made Fried Zucchini Spaghetti - it is pretty much like it sounds. Fried zucchini and spaghetti. Believe it or not, it is a nice, light dinner.

3/4 pound spaghetti
coarse salt
3 zucchini very thinly slice (I used 2 b/c I misread)
1 tablespoon unbleached all-pupose flour
1/4 cup plus 2 T EVOO
1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
1/4 cup pasta water to thin
Freshly ground black pepper
handful fresh basil leaves

Boil spaghetti until just al dente. Meanwhile, toss the zucchini with the flour. Heat the 1/4 cup of olive in a large nonstick frying pan over high heat and add as much zucchini as will fit in a single layer. Cook until well-browned and crispy (about 4 minutes). Repeat until all the zucchini is cooked.

Meanwhile, whisk the cheese together with the remaining 2 T of olive oil. Whisk in 1/4 cup of the past water. You can add more water if necessary. You want a creamy sauce. Drain the spaghetti and add to cheese mixture. Toss with salt and pepper and fold in 2/3 of the fried zucchini and all of the basil. Portion out the pasta and evenly distribute the rest of the zucchini on top.

This is a delicious dinner. Stephen and I had fun cooking it together. The only downside: it is not the best leftover because the zucchini does not stay crispy.

Tonight I made arugula and tomato pasta. The husband was at the Brewer game, so I did the grocery shopping, made dinner for myself (with extras for our lunches), made the coleslaw, and did my yoga practice. Yes, I am tired, but back to the recipe:

4 cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon red chile flakes
1 teaspoons fennel seeds, crushed (I used my meat cleaver!)
3 14 oz. cans whole peeled tomatoes with their juice
coarse salt
freshly ground black pepper
3/4 pound spaghetti
3 ounces arugula (3 handfuls)
Grated Parmesan cheese

Heat the EVOO in a large saucepan over medium-low heat, ad the garlic, chile flakes, and fennel, and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes or until very fragrant. Add the tomatoes and their juice, season with salt and pepper, turn the heat to high, and bring the sauce to a boil. Turn the heat to medium low and let the sauce cook on a low boil for 1 hour.

About 10 minutes before eating, boil the spaghetti in salted boiling water. A minute before it's al dente, add the arugula to the pasta pot. Drain the pasta and arugula and toss with the tomato sauce. Serve with plenty of Parmesan.

I did make a few errors with this recipe tonight. I didn't put in quite as many tomatoes as the recipe called for, I wanted to make a smaller batch. I forgot, however, and added more than the required pasta. I also used whole wheat penne, which made it a bit drier. But, even with those snafus, it was delicious. I will keep you posted on how the leftovers taste.

With the arugula and tomato pasta, I did not read the recipe correctly the first time and did not know that I would have to simmer the sauce for an hour. In the end, I was able to let the sauce simmer, make coleslaw, and do yoga. So overall, a terrific use of time.

So, there you have 3 healthy, basic, and simple recipes. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A lunchtime post...and Happy Eater at 8:30 pm.

As you may know, I have a new job. I love it more everyday. The upside, when 5 pm rolls around I am done for the day. The downside, I have less flexibility during the day and I blog less. (There are a lot more benefits but that is not the point of the post. I will tell you why I love my job later.)

So, I am dashing off a quick post on my iPad, which is not my favorite thing to type on. I know I owe you, my readers, posts about the Hunger Games, fried Zucchini pasta, and curry egg salad. In due time...hopefully.

So, before Easter is to far in the past. Here is an Easter picture. Hope you all had a wonderful day with family and friends.

The Cunninghams 2012 Easter

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Little Superheroes

Last night Stephen and I put on our aunt and uncle hats and babysat our niece and nephew. The time went so quickly, mostly because they go to bed at 8 pm and when that includes dinner and brand new capes, time just flies.

Yes, I said brand new capes. 

Superheroes Grace and Luke
A family friend is incredibly crafty and posted a how-to on her blog, Cameron Homemade. While I enjoy some crafts, sewing is not my forte. So, I commissioned Cammie. She made some wonderful capes that reflected both kids' styles.

The best part was showing up for the night and having a surprise for the kids. At first, they were excited and moved on to other toys. All of sudden, they both put on their capes and played church, superheroes, and Darth Vader. All three games required the capes. I can't tell you how many times I was attacked by a hooded Darth Vader last night...

Here are my darlings last night:
Yesterday was also a big day because we saw Hunger Games - I will try to write more on that later. Until then, remember what it was like as a little kid playing with sheet sand blankets and all the fun you would have pretending!