Monday, August 30, 2010

Meatless Monday- Black Bean Burgers with Mango Salsa

Day 50

After a few weeks making, albeit delicious pasta dishes, I was on a quest to make something for Meatless Monday that didn't involve pasta. Don't get me wrong. I love pasta, but once I start eating it I can't stop. It's true what they say - carbs make people happy!

I also love veggie burgers, but I very much dislike mushrooms, which is the main ingredient in most you'll find in the store or at a restaurant. The dish includes several of my favorite ingredients - black beans, avocado, mango - so I was really excited about giving it a try.

These burgers were a big hit in our house - yay, me!! I was a little nervous about getting the ingredients to bind together into a cohesive patty, but it was so easy. I was also able to make up the mango salsa earlier in the day to cut down on prep time in the evening. If you like anything with a southwest flair, you have to give these a try. So delicious!

Oh, and did I mention I found this in Cooking Light? That's three in a row for those of you counting. I'm wondering if I should just call them Cooking Light Mondays at this point. What can I say? They make it so easy for an amateur like me to feel like a rock star in the kitchen. Plus, I've subscribed to the publication for a little over a year and just now started putting it to use. Sooner or later, I suppose I'll run out of back issues and will have to look elsewhere for recipe ideas. Until then, thank you, Cooking Light!

My Grade: A
Hubby's Grade: A

Friday, August 27, 2010

Murphy's Law Strikes at Home

Day 47

As the saying goes, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." This week I've come up with a saying of my own: "If it's broke and you start to fix it, chances are there is more where that came from." It doesn't have the same ring to it, but this is my life right now.

A few weeks ago, we had friends in from New York for our fourth annual standing vacation scheduled for the first weekend of August. The weekend has grown into a three, four or even five day holiday which starts at our house for one night before heading to the beach for the rest of the weekend. Hubby and I typically shower in the guest room because it's more modern. I feel like Dorothy Zbornak or Rose Nylund (Golden Girls, anyone?) in the 80s master bath. To be better hosts, we decided to clear out and give our guests the guest bathroom and, after showering in the master shower for the first time since last Christmas (the last time we really had overnight guests), noticed a leak above our kitchen table from the master bath. No worries, we'd just go back to using the guest bath. We want to gut the master anyway, eventually, but certainly can live without it for awhile.

Cut to Wednesday morning, as in two days ago. Hubby is heading out the door for work and notices a leak on the kitchen ceiling coming from the guest bath. Ay Dios mio. Of course this doesn't happen on any Wednesday; this happens the day I'm supposed to host book club, which I was so looking forward to.

Murphy 1 | Me 0

We called a friend who is also a contractor to come take a look. But of course, everyone is busy due to the four-day rainstorm our area was closing out.

Murphy 2 | Me 0

He could make it Thursday afternoon so things could've been worse. But he wasn't able to fix it then and there. He needed more tools and supplies. He would come back Friday morning. But not any Friday morning; he was going to come back and work when I had scheduled for some friends and their little bambinos to come see the house (for the first time) and hit the beach.

Murphy 3 | Me 0

Cut to this morning when he comes to make a couple quick fixes on the pipes. Not so fast. After showering this morning, we noticed some additional leaks which have now turned this project from a minor fix to a more lengthy and in-depth project that will involve fixing the water pipe, patching in holes and repainting the wall/ceiling. Oh yeah - on top of holes in the kitchen ceiling, there is now a hole outside the guest room upstairs.

Murphy 4 | Me 0

But not just any guest room - This is the guest room Mom is going to be staying in this weekend for her first visit since Christmas.

Murphy 5 | Me 0

Clearly, Murph is the runaway victor in this battle, but I'm hoping that after everything gets fixed I don't have to invite him back for a very long time.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Meatless Monday - Penne with Pistachio Pesto and White Beans

Day 43

Dusting off the keyboard after an almost week-long getaway/mini vacation to soak up the last few days of summer sun. Good timing, too, since it's been raining for 24 hours with no end in sight. Days like this are trouble for a stay-at-home-wife like me. I could conceivably stay inside in my PJs all day, catching up on trashy reality shows on the DVR (Rachel Zoe Project and Keeping Up With The Kardashians, anyone?). Instead of getting sucked into hermit mode, I'm speaking to you from Starbucks today. I haven't "worked" from here in ages. Makes me feel like a college student all over again. Sigh...

Before we took off last week, we squeezed in another Meatless Monday, again featuring a recipe from Cooking Light: Penne with Pistachio Pesto and White Beans. It's similar to the orecchiette dish we fell in love with, but different enough with the white beans for added protein. It also called for Pecorino Romano, one of my favorite cheeses!

We both really liked the meal, Hubby more so than I. I didn't dislike it, but there are a few tweaks I'd make next time around. While I enjoyed switching out the traditional pine nut pesto for one made with pistachios (one of my favorite nuts), it was a little too garlicky and lacked moisture, which made the meal feel a little dry. In my opinion, the excessive garlic made it a little hard to find other flavors in the dish, and I was left wanting a little more depth.

That said, the recipe escaped the recycling bin and made in back into my binder so I'll give it another go with some minor adjustments.

My Grade: B+
Hubby's Grade: A-

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Ready, Set, Guests!

Day 32

After the mattress delivery debacles, I'm so thrilled to finally share with you our second completed guest bedroom. Just in time, too - I'm expecting a houseful of guests this weekend and now everyone has a bed!

I am so in love with the room. It's exactly what I envisioned when I set out decorating it. I wanted something whimsical and vintage-inspired, but also something you would find in a classic New England farmhouse with a beachy twist (which seems to be the overall direction the house is headed). I'm not saying I belong on HGTV's Next Design Star, but I'm pretty proud with the way the house is coming along.

Hubby and I decided long ago to go with two twin beds since our first guest room has a queen. This way we can sleep more people. And, when we have kids we'll already have the twins for their big kid rooms. Gotta think ahead so we're not buying furniture that won't have any long-term use. I have to be honest, though. Guest room #1 was really the one that would have fit the twin beds. It has a solid back wall built for them. But I have to admit I rather like the way the twins are on opposite walls. This way, people aren't sleeping face-to-face with someone else in the room. It's even growing on Hubby, who was very adamant about them being on the same wall.

There are a couple things I'd still like to get. A mirror, for one, because I believe no room is complete without one. But for now, the room is ready to go and anxiously awaiting its first visitors this weekend!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Meatless Monday - Orecchiette with Roasted Peppers, Arugula and Tomatoes

Day 29

Our second Meatless Monday dish might be one of my favorites that I've cooked any day thus far! (Before I forget - a big shout out to Cooking Light magazine, who makes it so easy for me to find vegetarian options with its front-of-book recipe index. Thank you!!)

Last week I made Cooking Light's Orecchiette with Roasted Peppers, Arugula and Tomatoes. Now, I think I've told you all that I prefer long ribbon-shaped pastas, but this small ear-shaped pasta really did a great job of holding in the light, refreshing sauce for the dish - just as the recipe promised! And what a tasty sauce it was. It was a very full, layered flavor with the Herbes de Provence and arugula, but a little white wine vinegar for balance kept it seasonally light and refreshing. Truly delicious!

This was the first time I've roasted my own peppers and I was shocked at how simple it was to achieve that flavor in the broiler. My only mistake was that I purchased one red and one orange bell pepper and the recipe called for one orange and one yellow pepper. The yellow would have added a nice pop of color to the already pretty dish, but the flavor was still spot on. Next time!

Yes - I will be making this again and again and again...

My Grade: A
Hubby's Grade: A

Monday, August 2, 2010

Meatless Monday - Fusilli with Eggplant and Basil Pesto

Day 22

I don't know about you, but I feel like all I do every weekend is eat my way through Friday, Saturday and Sunday - especially in the summer. Because of this weekend gorging, Hubby and I have adopted the Meatless Monday diet here at home. A little meat detox, if you will, for at least one day of the week.

Since I've been home I've become even more obsessed with the Food Network. Most of the shows really do make me feel empowered to cook wonderfully tasty food here at home. And I've been exposed to plenty of great recipes that are nutritious and filling enough to stand on their own, sans meat. For example, I'm totally obsessed with eggplant these days. And when am I not obsessed with pasta? Last week's Meatless Monday recipe combines both of these and another personal favorite - pesto.

Giada De Laurentiis's recipe for Trenette with Eggplant and Pesto seemed like a great way to kick off Meatless Mondays. I wasn't able to find trenette pasta at the store, but I was happy to settle with fusilli, a favorite of ours. The spiral shape would be perfect to hold in all the pesto flavor, and it was a great medium length, making it easy to eat with little fuss.

Overall, the recipe was very simple to execute. The pesto recipe was super easy to make - I will definitely use it in other applications and recipes. The eggplant came out perfectly, although I will maybe peel it next time. Personally, I prefer it without the skin. And the Parmesan added just the right amount of salt to the dish. This is the first time I've ever said "Buon appetito!" and not felt like a total sham.

My Grade: A- (only because I have chosen a way to improve the eggplant next time)
Hubby's Grade: A