Blissfully Delicious

zucchini carbonaraHappy Monday everyone! I hope you had a nice weekend, and are ready for the week. I’m going to have a shorter work week this week, so I’m pretty thrilled, and ready to get my week started :) I think we’re going to make another mini weekend trip up to Minneapolis for a little shopping (for us!), and some adventures for the kids. One of the many things that Mike and I have in common is that we both love “city-vacation”.  We like a little culture, feast on some new food, and maybe a little lake time. We still haven’t braved ourselves on taking two kids on an airplane, so for now, we’re sticking to destinations that we can reasonably get to with car. I don’t think that we can spend an entire week laying on a beach somewhere, even with plenty of fruity drinks. Maybe good for a day or two, but any more than that, we get pretty restless.
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Pasta makes a pretty frequent appearance at our dinner table. I don’t think that I ate this much pasta until we had kids. The only exception maybe when we went to Italy five years ago,we ate some sort of pasta every lunch and dinner. The only time that we didn’t have pasta was in the morning, when we had Nutella and some sort of pastry or croissant. With summer in the full swing, I want a quick pasta dish that can be prepared in hopefully less than 45 minutes or so (with prepping time already included), and uses summer’s produce. The more veggies that I can incorporate into the dish, the better it is.I love zucchini and squashes, so I thought this was a really fantastic weeknight dinner. While my daughter may be picking the vegetables off her plates, which then I’d happily gather up the pieces and enjoy them. If you’re looking for something different to make with pasta, give this one a try while zucchinis are still in season.

apricot ice cream Wow, today is the first Monday in August. Yes, that’s right – I had to do a double take when checking my calendar. I always think of this month as the last official month of the summer, and it is quite depressing to think that next month is already September.  I think school will be starting in the next week or two for some kids already. This summer has been pretty rainy and a little bit in the cool side in Iowa (and no complaints from me!), but that didn’t stop me from thinking about whipping a batch of homemade ice-cream! It is a little comical to think that I actually thought about homemade ice-cream, after I read this article that has literally gone viral on the internet. There are several ways you can make ice-cream: using a custard (eggs) based mixture, which is then mixed with pure creamy whole milk, or like this version that I’m making below with whipping cream. As a side note: my heavy-cream based ice cream would have melted every where in 80 degrees weather ;-)
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Homemade ice-cream is pretty simple to make; but just like anything homemade, it just take a little time, and a little planning. For me, the planning came from just even looking for my freezer bowl first, and once I had that sitting in the freezer, I was pretty determined to churn a batch. These apricots came in handy when I saw the organic version of these gorgeous, soft, squishy orange fruits packaged beautifully in a warehouse store that I go to.  There were three dozens total, and I decided to try making a batch. It was creamy, luscious and pretty much like taking a bite into a frozen apricot. It has a little bit of tartness, which I love, against a little bit of sweetness from the sugar and natural apricots flavor. My kids weren’t crazy for this, maybe because it wasn’t as sweet as most other fruit ice-cream that I have made, but Mike and I loved it so much that I decide to use the rest two pounds of the apricots on this ice-cream. I’m excited to have a couple batches of these delightful, rare treats in my freezer for me to dig for our movies night.

red wine pan-seared steakWith our sixth year wedding anniversary this Saturday, I thought that I’d share a recipe that my husband normally requests whenever we’re cooking to celebrate a special occasion: steaks! Since we don’t cook steaks too frequently, we tend to go for the really classic ways to prepare them. Like this one: it is sprinkled generously with black pepper (and mixed with allspice berries), and serve them with red wine and shallot sauce. If anything, I know that for a dish like this, the simpler way to prepare them would be the best way, and always – find the best quality meat that you can find so the flavor can be the highlight of the dish.
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This red-wine sauce is a nice compliment to any lean steaks; and just a slight variation of this Classic Steak au Poivre.  The recipe also suggests that for added flavors, the steaks can be coated in peppercorns, and left to sit at room temperature for an hour. For pairings, I love very simple side dish to go with this, such as this Parmesan Roasted Baby Potatoes or Mustard Roasted Potatoes. For vegetables, Sauteed Wild Mushrooms or Easy Roasted Broccoli with Garlic. Since we also served steaks (and fish!) at our wedding, I thought I should post a picture of our menu from the wedding as a Thursday throwback action :) C107_Meade

 

blackbean chiliHello everyone, today is my first day back to work after 12 days off! Booo (sad face here).  I had a really nice time off: some relaxation, lots of family time, and I even managed to get some big “chores” done (because when I know that they’re done, I naturally feel less stressed). As a working parent, I don’t know how I would even balance my life without those vacation days. Seriously! Vacation days are meant for relaxation, but for me – sometimes they’re also a life saver in getting things done as well. Now, you’re probably thinking, why the heck did she post about chili in the middle of the summer? I mean, people don’t normally think about chili in the middle of the summer, right? Chili is actually one of the dishes that shows up throughout the year at our house. I feel like every day, I have lesser free time on my hands, so if I wanted my family to still eat home cooked meals, my cooking needs to be simpler. blackbean chili 2 This recipe is so wonderful because I can get both my protein and veggies in one pot so I don’t have to  make additional sides (like vegetable or potatoes or other form of carbs). I also add some leftover chopped zucchini and a generous amount of corn to give this chili a summer flavor, and have a pretty healthy meal without needing anything extra. You can omit those if you wish, but if you do, you’d have to adjust down some of the spices. I also love that this recipe uses black bean as a variation to the traditional red beans used in most chili. This dish is also wonderful as a leftover and stays pretty good in the refrigerator for a few days. With school season starting up around the corner, you can always make an extra batch for the freezer, for a quick healthy dinner in the future. Finally, you can really fancy up this dish into an elegant summer dinner with friends and family with a variety of toppings such as crumbled tortilla chips, sour cream, shredded cheeses, avocado, homemade salsa, etc. Since I’m still working on downloading my vacation pictures, I thought that I’d share one with you of the two kids together playing by the lake.
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If I could eat one vegetable for the rest of my life, it would be broccoli. Hands down. But get this, I don’t really love them raw. I would definitely eat them raw on a vegetable platter, but I’m just not a big fan. I prefer them gently steamed, so it’s just perfect to my liking – not too hard and raw, but also not too mushy. Just enough texture to the touch, with a teeny bit of crunch. I would then sprinkle them with some spices, and that’s it. With my son actually really liking broccoli right now, we have been eating a lot of broccolis at our house. If I have a little bit extra time, I also love roasting them with garlic.  While I don’t like fresh garlic on my steamed broccoli, I really love them roasting them. All of the garlic bits and pieces will then blend nicely with the olive oil and broccoli, you just need to make sure that they don’t burn, so you have to watch them closely in the oven. If you don’t want to deal with keeping an eye on the garlic burning, you can skip them altogether. This method is pretty much applicable to any other vegetables as well. I love roasting several variety of fall vegetables. You can fancy them up with fresh herbs, and garlic, or leave them with just olive oil, and the good old fashioned pairing of salt and pepper.