pasta and meatballs

Baby is coming soon…ish. I have everything ready and the waiting is driving me a little bit crazy. To combat the temptation to focus on every sensation in this huge, sore body and wonder, “Was that a Braxton-Hicks contraction? When is this going to happen for real?!” (see, just a little bit crazy!) I’ve been trying to stay busy. So. FREEZER MEALS!!!

I made a couple without taking any photos (sorry) but here’s the most recent one. I just cooked some farfalle, coated it nicely in butter…bowtie pasta in casserole pan…topped it with sauce and these turkey-and-quinoa meatballs, which I love and have made four or five times since discovering the recipe on Cookin’ Canuck*…pasta layered with sauce & meatballs…and then topped them with a little more sauce and cheese to finish things off.

meatballs layered with sauce and mozzarellaIt’s nice to know that whenever our wee one chooses to grace us with his presence, we have enough meals stashed that we can let the oven do the work and fully focus on our new distraction. Do you have any favorites that freeze well? Share links if you want!

*If you look at Cookin’ Canuck’s recipe you’ll see that she includes zucchini in her meatballs and serves them no-carb on lettuce leaves. I’ve had success using the recipe without the zucchini (no other changes). The flavor of these is amazing! (That may be because I don’t actually measure the soy sauce and spices, just so you know.)

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raspberry lemonade

So¬†technically it’s spring, but the sunny days are spaced out between days of rain. Sometimes it’s a slow, day-long drizzle; sometimes it’s a gray sky split every few hours by torrential cloudbursts and ominous thunder. Come on, flowers and birdsong! (But the rain leads to that, I know….)

raspberries in homemade lemonadeWhile I wait for the brief perfection of spring, I’m starting to make things that look and taste like the season I crave. This drink is super-simple: just the juice and pulp of a lemon along with a teaspoon of sugar (I use the real stuff but substitute any sweetener) swirled with water in a blender. You can adjust the amounts of sugar and water to suit your taste; I usually bring the water level up to 8 ounces and leave the flavor a bit tart. Sacrifice a few raspberries to the blade, then drop in a few whole raspberries and enjoy!

veggie-loaded penne

The closer we get to spring–real spring, not just the season’s official start on the calendar–the more I want lots of produce, lots of color, lots of flavor!
veggie-loaded penne pasta dinnerThis meal helped satisfy that desire. Penne pasta played a pretty minor role here. The real stars were seared beef, sundried tomatoes (SO easy to make at home!), steamed broccoli, artichoke hearts, Kalamata olives, and Gorgonzola. This combo brought my tastebuds out of hibernation for sure!

Corona cornmeal muffins

muffins ready to bake with butterWhile most of the internet broadcasts its Easter-baking frenzy, I’m using my new pastel silicone muffin cups to bake a version of beer bread. Nothing says “spring” like imported beer, right?

The real reason I’m doing this is that our landlord left a Corona in our fridge when he was fixing up the place. I’ve thought about taking it back to him, but that just seems weird. “Um, here’s a rent check. And the beer you left at my house….”

I’ve had a spotty history with beer bread recipes: too dry, too wet, too bland, and so on. I wanted to do it right this time. I found the suggestion to bake the batter as muffins in a thread on Chowhound. The compactness of muffins seemed more appealing than the prospect of the unwieldy slices I’ve cut from my crumbly loaves in the past.

baked Corona cornmeal muffinI adapted the recipe a little bit because I want to serve these with turkey-and-bean chili. Chili demands cornbread. I cut back the flour by 1/2 cup to add in that much cornmeal. I also used honey in place of sugar, and sprinkled in garlic powder, dried minced onion, and paprika. And, because I love spice, I added 1 Tbs sriracha. The result: a fragrant house and happy tastebuds! Now to make that chili….

steak saga

I have a confession to make. I’ve been married for five years and never figured out how to cook steak properly. Well, that’s not quite right. I’ve cooked it okay. A good rub…

meat rub-chili, salt, garlic, onion, mustard

chili, garlic, and onion powders, dry mustard, kosher salt

…bringing the meat to room temperature…

top round

Top Round Steak

…searing on the stove and finishing in the oven; I’ve got all that down. But for some reason even the steaks I cooked for mere moments came out chewy and disappointing, even as they bled all over the plate. (Disgusting, I know; I’m sorry.)

steak and veggies

steak with tomatoes & peppers, couscous salad, grapes

What was this fable I kept hearing of steak that would “melt in your mouth?” Talks with grill-master friends, meat-loving brothers-in-law, and acquaintances who’ve been to culinary school weren’t helping me discern the root issue. It was my sister who finally blurted out something along the lines of, “Quit buying inferior meat, you cheapskate!” Ohhh…

boneless ribeye, garlic&rosemary potatoes, blue cheese cream sauceIt pained me to spend $11/pound for this boneless ribeye. I was afraid to mess it up! What if “Steak Failure” lurked in my DNA? But she was right. This steak was fabulous. I served it for Valentine’s Day dinner and Lovey was rolling his eyes in happiness. Truth: it was the sauce that did it. You can barely see it in this photo, but it’s on the right side of the plate—nothing but cream, simmered ’til thickened, with a bit of salt, pepper, and blue cheese whisked in. Perfection! Try it! (And add garlic and rosemary to your mashed potatoes.)

lemon curd!

We’ve had endless white mornings for the last few months. I’m so tired of looking out at snow! I need sunshine. I brought some to breakfast.

toast spread with lemon curd, next to scrambled eggsLemon curd is the perfect cure for winter blahs. All it takes is a bit of sugar and lemon zest getting married in a food processor…

lemon zest and sugar in food processor…followed by the addition of lemon juice, eggs, and butter. They make a really happy family. (But don’t the “white” lemons look weird?)skinned lemonMaking lemon curd had been a goal of mine for over a year. It didn’t seem difficult, and yet something about it intimidated me anyway. There was nothing to fear. I used Ina Garten’s recipe. That lady comes through for me every time.

Then Valentine’s Day came, and I had lemon curd on hand, so…

whole lemon-curd filled cake  on stand…I made a “classic white” cake, omitting egg yolks for that snow-white crumb. I spread lemon curd between the layers and covered the outside with slightly-sweetened whipped cream. After planning this as the finale to our Valentine’s Day dinner (back with that soon!) I realized it’s a near-perfect replica of our wedding cake, which was a white cake with lemon filling and Pastry Pride frosting (instead of fondant or buttercream). We got married in December, so I assume there’s something about citrus that speaks to me in the midst of winter; I keep gravitating toward it. Any kind of “sunshine” goes a long way in this weather, even the edible kind.

sliced lemon-curd filled cake  side view

tzatziki and pita chips

I’m back with another dip I made during the Christmas season but this one is better suited to the new year—you know, when you and everyone you know start fretting over the top-heavy food pyramid built over the holidays. This is guilt-free, promise!

tzatzikiYou grate a cucumber and salt it liberally, to draw out moisture, then let it drain (preferably overnight). Meanwhile, mix together fat-free Greek yogurt, minced fresh garlic, lemon juice, white wine vinegar, olive oil, and black pepper. You can adjust the recipe pretty much however you want. This is my go-to that I adjust as my moods change.

grated cucumber draining in sieveSqueeze the cucumber to get out every last bit of moisture. I put my cucumber-wad in a kitchen towel and squeeze. Break up the cucumber so it’s not clumpy, then incorporate it into the dip. It’s yummy!

If you have lots of time on your hands, you can even make your own pita chips to go with it. Bake some pitas—surprisingly easy, and it’s fun to see them puff up!

fresh-baked pitas on a cooling rack Then deconstruct them. This goes quickly if you use kitchen shear. Spritz the pieces with oil, add salt if you want (I didn’t) and bake ’til crisp. (Baked chips visible in corner of first photo.) Enjoy!

pita chips ready to bake