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Meatball Mafioso: A Ziti You Can’t Refuse

28 Feb

Sometimes I write up recipes because they’re really easy.  Sometimes I write up recipes that are good for the diet.  This recipe fulfills neither of those requirements.  But DAMN is it good.

I found out recently that my friend Steve, who lives in California and whom I haven’t seen since high school, was going to make a special stop at Dulles airport just to spend the evening with me and meet my family.  Considering that childcare duties and the shortness of the stay prevented me from taking him anywhere at all, our remaining option was to hang out at my house and enjoy dinner there.  So, I was thinking, “This had better be good.”

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Dirty Secrets Get Dirtier

17 Feb

Just a quick update (and sorry I’ve been MIA – who hasn’t had two kids with the flu lately?).

I wanted you all to know that I recently took my Mom’s goulash and tried it as a crockpot recipe with excellent results.

You know the drill.  You want to make dinner, but you have the following schedule:

9:15 – Preschool drop-off

11:45 – Preschool pick-up

3:00 – drive to appointment

5:00 – return from appointment

I’m not complaining about this day, but it would have precluded me from watching a pot on the stove from 3pm to 6pm.  So I said to myself, “Self, what is to prevent you from crocking this in the pot?”  Indeed, it turned out to be ridiculously easy.

Make the following changes to the recipe – just brown the meat, onions, and garlic and then throw it in the crockpot with all the other ingredients.  Also, I changed from regular paprika to smoked paprika because it was all I had.  And I used beef chuck this time because I’d been feeling like the sirloin was too tough.

Cook on low for up to 10 hrs. and serve over egg noodles.  Seriously, I browned the meat at 8:00am, threw it in the pot at 8:30am, and didn’t touch it again until 6pm.

AMAZING.  Dan said the best goulash I’ve ever made.  I’d have taken a picture but, honestly, beauty is not one of the greatest attributes of goulash.  Yumminess, on the other hand…and now ease!

Go forth and cook slowly, folks.  Mom would approve.

My Hip Mom

A Chili January Day (Resolutions Edition)

10 Jan

‘Tis the season for the eternal weight loss resolution.  For me (as I’m sure is the case for many of you) this doesn’t mean a new diet as much as it means a continuation of the old diet.  Deprivation!  The ever-present companion of the Rubenesque among us.

I post a lot of recipes that couldn’t be categorized as “diet food.”  In fact, I prefer to think that I avoid any recipe that classifies as “diet food” because it’s a pretty depressing idea.  You know…like this.  Anyone who has eaten bad diet recipes will tell you that the reason they work is because you’d rather go hungry than consume them.  Of course, none of us can live like that for long.

This week, Dan and I have been following Weight Watchers which, for me, means pulling out my materials from ten years ago and counting points the way I did back in 1999.  I continue, in fact, to diet like it’s 1999 and don’t see why I should adapt to any new system.  For one, I’d have to actually go to a meeting, and I have always found Weight Watchers meetings to be most suitable as a torturous punishment for not losing weight that week.  Inspirational and informative, not so much.  As a result, I just stay home and use what worked for me back then and, not shockingly, it still works.

On this cold weekend, I introduced Dan to a chili recipe that I long ago dug up from some old Weight Watchers cookbook that went out of print ages ago and has now been lost, even to me.  Luckily, I typed this recipe up way back when to give to someone else, so it was on my hard drive.  I’m telling you, this one is a keeper.  You will not feel deprived.  Also, it has the winter benefit of clearing your sinuses.  Spicy!

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Sassy Stuffed Shells

12 Nov

The time in my life that I most closely associate with the quintessential American childhood is the nearly four years my family spent based at Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha, NE.  I’m not going to say that Omaha was the coolest place I’ve ever lived.  However, freshly returned from two years in Europe, where we had no Saturday morning cartoons and no trick-or-treating, our tract home in Bellevue, NE was pretty much Norman Rockwellesque to my brother and me.  There were school buses, lots of other kids, girl scouts, and games of Ghost in the Graveyard at twilight.  It was good.

During that time in my life, roughly ages eight to twelve, I had a couple of really close “best” friends with whom I don’t recall ever having any serious disagreements.  Their names were Kristine and Kim, and they lived in the same cul-de-sac a few streets away from me.  We biked, played outside, did crafts, and sold girl scout cookies together.  You know – pretty squeaky clean fun.

 

Kristine, Kim, and me with our girl scout counselor at winter camp in Council Bluffs, Iowa

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A Different Pot of Beans

16 Oct

I have to start by apologizing because, when I hear Puerto Vallarta, I think of the Love Boat.  I feel bad about that, because I’m sure that Puerto Vallarta has a lot of great things for which it is better known, and I’m hoping someone visiting my blog can tell me about those things.  For now, however, I am going to confirm my reservation for that special-room-in-hell-for-backward-people by telling you all about my family recipe for chili…which is called Chili Puerto Vallarta.

STOP!  I hear the primal screams of chili aficionados around the country rising in my ears.  As any chili cook well knows, the mere mention of this dish immediately invites a throw-down in just about any part of the nation.  Entire feature articles have been written about the various types of chili that are made (with great success) across the U.S.A.  I’m going to come out right now and say that I have no wish to participate in a throw-down.  In fact, I don’t think I really could.  The fact is, based on my observation, Chili Puerto Vallarta is not even really a chili. Calm yourselves, settle your beans, and read on.

Okay, so here’s the scoop.  As long as I can remember, my Mom has been making this meal, and we never, ever get tired of it.  But it turns out that she actually got it from my Aunt Jane, who lives in Madison, Wisconsin and has been teaching art history at the university there since 1963.

Aunt Jane…prior to Chili Puerto Vallarta

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Presto Pesto

3 Sep

When you want to feel really self-satisfied over a home cooking endeavor, look no further than pesto.  It’s one of those foods that has a sort of glamorous foodie image and with good cause.  Pesto adds incredible flavor to everything from sandwiches to pasta.  It’s expensive to buy, though, and can be overpowering if you use too much.  I think people are a little intimidated by it.

When we finally moved into our own house and I had room to grow as much basil as my heart desired, I went a little overboard.  In the summer of 2006, my backyard looked like it belonged to Cheech and Chong.  What could I do with all this basil?  I just made batch after batch of pesto and froze it in ice cube trays.  For the entire winter, we had fresh pesto (defrosted on the spot) to use in our meals.

Basil Rocks

Basil Rocks

This didn’t change the fact, though, that every pesto recipe I tried appeared to be lots of work and, frankly, a big mess.  It was only this summer when I was too lazy to go to the store that I realized you can make an absolutely kick-ass pesto with only four ingredients.  It really is that simple.  Here’s what you do. Continue reading

Becoming a Saucy Wench

31 Aug

Yesterday I made pasta from scratch with William — and then I tried to blog about it.  Frankly, the post was boring to read.  I shelved it.  What can I say about making pasta from scratch?

1) Everyone seems to get a pasta maker for their wedding, yet nobody else I know uses theirs.  That’s a shame.

2) Fresh pasta is one of those things that is cheap to make and so superior to the dried kind that you hardly need any sauce at all.  The pasta is delectable and tender.

3) It’s a mess.  Even messier if you decide your preschooler is the next Lidia Bastianich and let him help.   Continue reading