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January 30, 2013

Orecchiette Pasta with Crumbled Meatballs in a Parmesan Tomato Sauce

It turns out that Emma loves meat.  She will gobble down her braised beef, shredded chicken or crumbled meatballs even before she even goes for the macaroni and cheese!  So, this week I made an extra large (4 pounds!) batch of meatballs to keep in the freezer (here's my recipe & step-by-step guide... it is so much easier to make meatballs than you might think).  Now,  I'll be able to get one or two out of the freezer at a time for her lunches and our dinners.

I use pre-cooked meatballs all of the time - they work great crumbled up to make a quick meat sauce for pasta, or on a pizza.  This recipe for calls for pre-cooked meatballs crumbled into the sauce.  It is a great alternative to the typical browned meat as the texture and flavor of the meatball is far better.  If you keep them in mass quantities in the freezer, it can be a really quick dinner.

This recipe was influenced by both the Barefoot Contessa's Weeknight Bolognese and her Orecchiette with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe.

Orecchiette Pasta with Crumbled Meatballs 
in a Parmesan Tomato Sauce
serves 4

8 meatballs, pre-cooked (about 1 pound)
1 pound of orecchiette
3 tablespoons of olive oil
2 cups of mushrooms, sliced
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 - 32 oz. can of whole peeled tomatoes
1/2 cup of heavy cream
1 cup of pasta water (see *note below)
2 cups of spinach, stems removed
1 cup of parmesan cheese, grated

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil for the pasta.

For the sauce, in a saute pan cook the mushrooms in the olive oil for 2-3 minutes over high heat.  Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds.  Add the tomatoes, crushing them one at a time into the pan along with the juice.  Simmer on medium heat for 10 minutes.  Crumble in the meatballs.

In the meantime, cook pasta for 4 minutes less than the package directions.

Add heavy cream to the tomato sauce.

*Ladel 1 cup of water from the pasta boiling water into the tomato sauce.  The starch from the pasta water will help to thicken the sauce.  Add spinach and pasta and cook for 5 minutes.

Remove from heat and add parmesan cheese.

January 29, 2013

My Kitchen Office | Our Home

These days there is a lot of chatter about the dangers of "If, When, Then... I'll be happy" thinking.  Though I'm aware of the pitfalls, I'm not immune to their beckoning.

It is so easy to get caught up in "Only if..." ways of thinking.

When we were little, everyone taught us to dream... Now we're told to be happy with what we have.  Who knew day dreaming could be so bad?  What if I like living in my head every now and again, and dream about what might be?

What if I don't want to give up my dreamy thoughts in order to "be present."  Is one exclusive of the other?  I believe that good can come out of day dreaming - it is where creativity lives.

I guess the difference is that I refuse to wait.  I think the danger lies in never making the effort to make those day dreams come to fruition. 

While day dreaming about our future kitchen, where I'll have a big marble topped island and plenty of beautiful storage, I started to think about how great it will be to have an area in the kitchen where I can work.   I imagined I'd sit at a desk looking out a huge window while I blog... a day dream in itself. the Today Show, and store my cookbooks (who am I kidding, my barefoot books...).

Then I thought, why wait until then? 

Ah!  The moment all of us creative types crave - where day dreams and reality merge.

The ability to create something from nothing.

Can you believe that I already had this desk - hiding away in our guest room.  It matches the style of the shelving nicely.  

 I'll still allow myself to dream of the bigger kitchen, but I will do so gladly from my pretty little "kitchen office."

See the "other" side of our DIY kitchen and how we installed the open shelving that we mimicked in the "office" side, here.

January 28, 2013

Our Weekend In Pictures (mostly of Emma...)

My kids are crazy for balls.

 Emma's first word was "ball."  Mr. is never without one.

He has turned our backyard into a ball pit.

This is her first time to really play outdoors... there might have been kicking and screaming when we had to come inside.  I'm thinking I should have a big garden this summer... it will give me something to do while she and the Mr. pick up balls.  I wonder if she'll take to picking weeds?

She doesn't know the green one is there... she was trying to throw it to Mr. and that is where it ended up : )

Homemade Turtle "Puddles" recipe coming soon...

Sweet girl.

Homemade Pizzas

Mr. Darcy and I have started up our morning walks again.  I miss the charming New England town walks from last Winter, but...

We have some great spots here, too.

Mr. always checks for the ducks.

It is such a great way to start the day.  I'm just glad you can't see me in these photos - when we leave the house I have bed head covered by a stocking cap and am clinging to my coffee.  

But it always feels so good about 2 minutes in... especially when D turns and gives me one of these grins.

January 25, 2013

Chocolate Chip Blondies | The Barefoot Contessa Project

You all know that Mike loves Chocolate Chip Cookies.  He always insists "don't fix what's not broken."  An for him, it doesn't get better than a good chocolate chip cookie.

I knew he'd be excited about these Chocolate Chip Blondes (officially Chocolate "Chunk" but I used chips because that's what I had) because they are basically Chocolate Chip Cookies in bar form.  Not basically, that's exactly what they are.  In fact, I think it is The Barefoot Contessa's exact Chocolate Chunk Cookie recipe, just baked in a baking dish vs. scooped into cookies.

True to form, these cookies I mean blondies are delish.  My only note is that I only baked them for 22 minutes of the recommended 30 and they do not seem as goey or moist as pictured in Foolproof.  I wonder if it is because I used a metal sheet pan vs. a glass baking dish?  Anyone else run into this problem?

Don't worry though, we are still gobbling them up at record speed.  I took these photos yesterday and am looking at the last one right now!

You can find the recipe here!

January 24, 2013

Baked Crispy Lemon Chicken with Basil Mashed Potatoes | Snapshots from a "Real" Tuesday Night Dinner | The Barefoot Contessa Project

Today I'm sharing "real" photos (as opposed to staged...) from a typical weeknight dinner at our house.  To be honest, I had planned taking "pretty" photos of this dinner the next day with our leftovers (as I normally do...) but we didn't have any!  How's that for an endorsement... 

So here is a little "slice of life" insight to what our house looks like on a typical Tuesday night. 

On most weeknights, Mike entertains Emma while I finish up dinner.  Here they are reading her new book.  

My sweet Emma.  She put her hat on by herself : )  

This quiet moment is followed by :

Laps around the dining room table chasing Mr. Darcy.

It is so fun to see them begin to really play with each other.  She as always been interested in him.  He has not always been extremely interested in her.  Until, that is, Emma got a giant bag of balls.  Mister loves balls.  Now, she hands him balls and he goes and hides them.  So cute to watch them plan.

Back to the kitchen with my camera.

Our Barefoot Contessa Project Continues :

I'd heard (through an associate at my jcrew...) that the Crispy Mustard Chicken in Foolproof was a little "mustardy."  So, I opted out of the mustard all together, but instead ramped up the lemon factor by using lemon juice and olive oil to coat the chicken (instead of brushing with dijon and white wine), then covering it in the garlic, panko, lemon zest, thyme, butter and oil mixture.  It was fabulous.  I made a white wine, butter and meyer lemon sauce to go over it - yum!!  Also, I accompanied it with something I'd been wanting to try for a while...

No, that is not a green breakfast smoothie.  That is the basil cream for the Basil Potato Puree.  I'd heard from Tessa (of Nine And Sixteen) that it was one of her family's favorites.  I'd been hesitant to try it, as Mike is not a huge fan of fresh basil (ugh...), but he agreed to try anything and everything during our Barefoot Project, so now was my chance.

Since this post is filled with side notes, I'll note that Tessa's new kitchen is so great.  You must look at it on her blog.  It is cozy and charming... making me rethink the plans for the new gleaming white kitchen we're planning.  It is also inspiring me to paint the cabinets in my current kitchen in Farrow & Ball's "old white" this weekend.  Shhh.  Don't tell Mike.  He'll think I'm ridiculous for wanting to "do anything else to this kitchen we're tearing out in less than a year."  I'm infamous for the projects I start while he's at work... or away for the weekend.

The recipe begins just as normal mashed potatoes, but instead of just adding milk and butter, you create a basil, parmesan cream mixture in the food processor (or blender, if you recently dropped and broke the bowl that goes to your food processor... when it was filled with Tuscan Mashed Chickpeas).  Then, after mashing the potatoes, you add the basil cream to create these fabulously flavored Basil Mashed Potatoes.

I love Meyer Lemons.  They really are more special than the average lemon - with a slightly sweeter juice and very thin skin.  You can definitely use normal lemons for this sauce, but splurge on the Meyers if the opportunity presents itself.
Meyer Lemon Sauce

1/2 cup of white wine
1 meyer lemon, juiced
1/4 cup of butter

Put the wine, lemon juice and butter in a skillet (or small saucepan) and cook on medium until it has reduced - about 10-15 minutes. 

Baked Crispy Lemon Chicken
adapted from Ina's Crispy Mustard Chicken from "Foolproof"

4 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves
sea salt
cracked black pepper
2 cups panko bread crumbs
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 lemons, juiced
1/4 cup of olive oil
2 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, butterflied

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Place the garlic, thyme, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper in a food processor fitted with the steel blade and process until the garlic is finely minced. Add the panko, lemon zest, olive oil, and butter and pulse a few times to moisten the bread flakes. Pour the mixture onto a large plate.

In a shallow bowl, whisk together the juice of 2 lemons and 1/4 cup of olive oil.

Pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Sprinkle generously all over with salt and pepper. Dip each piece in the lemon olive oil mixture to coat on all sides and then into the crumb mixture, pressing gently to make the crumbs adhere. Place the chicken on a sheet pan.  Press the remaining crumbs on the chicken pieces.

Bake the chicken for 25-30 minutes, until the crumbs are browned and the chicken is cooked through. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.

The Meyer Lemon Sauce drizzled over. 

The Chocolate Chip Blondes come out of the oven just as we're finished with dinner...

And Emma does laps around the ottoman!

January 22, 2013

Penne alla Vodka Sauce | The Barefoot Contessa Project continues...

This post is part of my "A Month with The Barefoot Contessa" project.  To read all about the project and to find the index of posts for the project, click here.

 I've been saving this one.  Immediately, I knew it would be a favorite.  And it is.  Of course, I love any and every kind of pasta... especially with a tomato cream sauce.  I'm not sure why, but it seems that "Vodka Sauce" is really just tomato cream sauce.  I'm not sure exactly what the Vodka adds, but so the recipe goes.

I made slight revisions (of course, because you know I can't just do what I'm told...) :

- I did not puree the sauce.  I really like the texture of the hand-crushed tomatoes
- I did not use fresh oregano because I didn't have time to go the "good grocery store" to get it.  So,  I just used dried as directed.
- I only cooked the sauce in the oven for 1 hour, vs. the 1 hour 45 minutes, as directed.  We were hungry!

This recipe is so delicious - very similar (but simpler) to my Fra Diavolo in taste, but different in preparation.

Another winner from The Barefoot Contessa!
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