Monday, September 27, 2010

Meatless Monday - That's Shallota Flavor Spaghetti

Day 78

If you had to pick one thing Rachael Ray is known for, it could be her clever little nicknames for things (EVOO, YUM-O, Delish! etc.) around the kitchen. I've long been a fan of her Food Network show, but until recently haven't ever really considered making anything... Until I saw her make "That's Shalotta Flavor Spaghetti," a dish she said tasted like warm focaccia-in-a-bowl.

I'm a fan of pretty much any kind of fresh bread, but there's not much that beats focaccia, with its caramelized onions and bursts of fresh herb flavors combining to create a little slice of heaven. If you want to enjoy those flavors as a meal, might I suggest this dish.

What I like about Rachael's recipes is that, on top of being super easy to make, they typically call for common ingredients easily found in most grocery stores. She also does a great job of recommending different uses for fresh herbs. I haven't used parsley in a meal for a while, and was reminded of just how much flavor it packs into each bite. If I had to make any changes next time, I would spend more time caramelizing the shallots to get a warmer, more hearty flavor from them to better balance the fresh parsley.

In terms of prep, the only difficulty I had was making it through slicing all ten shallots without breaking out into full sobs. Admittedly, I had to stop a few times to let my eyes breathe, and when I was done I had no idea what Hubby meant when he asked what the heck happened to my face. Here's a little tip from me to you: You may want to wear waterproof mascara when prepping this meal.

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

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Real Housewife's GTL

Day 67

If you're as obsessed with reality television as I am, you probably get the references for today's post.

Oddly enough, I'm a relative newcomer to the "Real Housewives" phenomenon. The New Jersey ladies were my first foray into the series, and since then I've become hooked on the women of Franklin Lakes, DC and New York (the latter via iTunes to prep for the upcoming season four), including "Bethenny Getting Married?". Give me a show about newlyweds or babies - bringing them home or making them ("Giuliana & Bill," anyone?) - and I'm in. Oh, and I can't wait for the "Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" to enter the picture next month.

When it comes to "Jersey Shore," I decided a couple years ago that it was time for me to grow up and move beyond MTV. You know, to more refined programming (like the Real Housewives... ahem). I was, however, sucked in by the crew for one season, just long enough to understand their GTL lifestyle. Now that I'm home full-time, I've adopted a bit of a GTL lifestyle myself, although my daily activities are slightly different.

G is for Groceries
When I was working full-time, I would go to the store - I'm not kidding - maybe once a month, if that. I would buy massive amounts of food to get us back on track to a healthier diet. Chicken, lettuce, fruits, organic snacks... And it would all go to waste. By the time I walked in the door at night the last thing I wanted to do was cook. Luckily, Hubby stepped in and took over dinner most nights, whether it was prepared items from Trader Joe's or Whole Foods, takeout, delivery or a concoction of his own (thankfully, he's a great cook).
Now? I can't get enough of the grocery store! I go at least every other day, sometimes more, depending on how fully I've thought out our menus for the week.

T is for Tidying Up
One of the first things I did when I stopped working full-time was to go through all the piles of mail, magazines, laundry, etc., that had accumulated over the past year. Don't get me wrong, it's not like our house looked like an episode of "Hoarders" (wow, it sounds like I watch a lot of reality TV, doesn't it? ... eeks), but I prefer having everything put away in its place. Going through mail, wiping down kitchen counters, and sweeping up neglected pieces of dog food every day might sound like a nightmare to some, but I love it.

Note: T could also be for treadmill, but since I technically use an elliptical or even more specifically a cross trainer elliptical, I went with tidying up. Sounds more housewife-y anyway, right? Plus, using my workouts as the T in GTL would mean I would share two daily activities with the "Jersey Shore" cast because of our shared daily activity of...

L is for Laundry
Not much I can say about this one, other than I do it more than before. Now I do a load or two every couple days instead of spending all day Saturday or Sunday catching up. The only problem is I'm not getting to half of my closet because I keep wearing the same things over and over. Time to go through and start a pile for donations!

At least the pile won't accumulate for long. You know, because of my T.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Meatless Monday - Zucchini Fettuccine

Day 64

Doesn't this look yummy? What if I told you Hubby called this, "the weirdest dinner I've ever had," would you still want to try it? I have to admit that I, too, was pulled in by a delicious-looking pile of pasta on the pages of Food Network magazine.

As you know, I've been in a little bit of a Cooking Light and pasta rut on Meatless Mondays, so I was anxious to try something completely different. I'm a new reader of Food Network magazine so figured it was a natural fit for my next subscription. I am obsessed with the network; I watch all the shows and immediately download and print off recipes I can't wait to try, so why not give its sister publication a go?

I pulled a handful of recipes from the September issue and could not wait to try this zucchini dish, which I thought would be the perfect way to feel like I was eating pasta without all the guilt. I mean, it's zucchini cut into strips and salted to bend and look like pasta. How fun!

I was excited to break out the mandoline for the first time, but after a few attempts and near-miss finger amputations, I decided to go with the vegetable peeler instead. I was already not a fan of this dish. Too much work and too much mess! Although, thankfully, that mess did not include a fingertip since I decided to use the peeler rather than the mandoline. I lost my motivation and commitment to giving this a real college try. I don't even know how I made the sauce, but I know I didn't do much more than stir all the remaining ingredients together. Funny enough, the sauce was the best part of the dish. You can't beat the flavors of fresh basil and garlic, and the jalapeƱo gave it a nice, subtle kick.

I was probably most disappointed because I have an, admittedly, weird thing where I don't like cold dinners. I need something hot and hearty to feel satisfied at the end of the day. This was just a pile of cold noodles that weren't fooling anyone. Foodles, more like it. Hubby was trying to be positive, bless his heart, while I was completely over the meal before it began. He suggested making this as a side dish or salad, which in hindsight, makes more sense than serving it as a main course. Oh, well. Frankly, this may be the first recipe that doesn't make it back into my binder.

My Grade: C+
Hubby's Grade: B/B-

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

How Earl Changed Up Labor Day 2010

Day 58

Normally, I get really sad about Labor Day because it means the end of summer, the end of boating, the end of beach days... But we've had such an amazing summer this year that not only can I not even imagine spending one more day out in the sun, I am actually looking forward to the cooler temperatures and everything else fall has to offer - college football, apple orchards, pumpkins and pretty leaves.

I'm not sure about the rest of the country, but if you live on the east coast, chances are all you heard about last week was how tropical storm-turned-hurricane Earl was on his way up the coast and preparing to rear his ugly head just in time for the long Labor Day weekend. We decided to scrap our plans to head down to the beach on Thursday night, and reevaluate Saturday morning after the storm had passed.

Well, Earl came and went, but we decided to stay put for Fall Cleaning 2010 - a Labor of Love. Not everyone's dream holiday weekend, I'm sure, but getting organized makes me happy.

First stop - the guest room that still holds unpacked boxes from the move one year and three months ago. We found some random clothing and shoes that, honestly, should have probably been immediately donated since they hadn't been missed in all this time. But we sifted through and decided what to keep and what to donate. Hubby had an entire box of t-shirts and baseball hats.

Next stop - Hubby's bureau and closet. In order to make room for the rediscovered t-shirts we had to go through drawers and decide which to keep and which to donate. We even put some in reserves to replenish as others grow too old and raggedy for wear.

Next up - Bed Bath & Beyond (for the first of three times over the weekend) for an over-the-door hat rack for the hats and a few other necessities to help facilitate our Fall Cleaning weekend. I am so ridiculously jealous of how gorgeously organized and pristine Hubby's closet is right now. Sometimes when I walk by I turn on the light and just look at it. Mine, on the other hand, did not get touched this weekend.

I was too busy swapping out plastic hangers for cedar coat hangers in the coat closet; raising the guest beds off the floor with bed risers (to prevent the bed-skirts from dragging on the floor); organizing travel-sized toiletries by category (have I ever told you how I'm obsessed with organizing?); hanging my dresses in new dress bags; and weeding through/organizing all my fun accent and costume jewelry that I never wear because it's in a big pile in the closet.

All of this takes much longer than one would think, but the payoff is so worth it. It's such a great feeling when everything has a place and if it doesn't, someone else might need it more than we do. I'm sure I'm going to envy everyone's end-of-summer tans - this weekend turned out to be an absolutely gorgeous one - but I couldn't have planned a better weekend at home. Thanks, Earl.