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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Campanelle with Fresh Corn and Pistachio Pesto


The main reason I had children was so they could one day shuck my corn for me...


And don't worry. Despite the serious expression of his face, he really enjoys this little chore. It might take him all afternoon, but at least he is sitting still and quietly (with determination) doing something productive.

That corn he is shucking went into this delicious pasta we made for dinner. Now, I have been making a variation of this pasta for about 4 years now. The original recipe comes from an issue of Bon Appetite that I had seen while perusing the magazine stands while waiting in line at the grocery store. The unique corn pesto immediately caught my eye because it sounded like such a great idea. Paired with bacon, basil, and Parmesan cheese, this dish was sure to be a winner! The only issue I had with it is that the pine nuts are so darn expensive. I know that they are the traditional nut used to make pesto, but I thought maybe I could bring down the cost of this recipe by using another nut - and pistachios seemed ideal to me. They are slightly sweet with a mild enough flavor that would not overwhelm the pesto and scream "pistachio flavor." Rather, they would serve to complement all the other components of the finished dish.

And boy did they ever. Paul could not stop eating this pasta and Matthew was a big fan as well. It may or may not have had something to do with the bacon, but Paul declared that the pistachios made the pesto really sing.

If this sounds weird to you, just trust me. This dish is amazing. I look forward to making this every year and it will continue to be part of our summer lineup.


Campanelle with Fresh Corn and Pistachio Pesto
adapted from Bon Appetite Magazine

Note: Toss the pesto with as much pasta as you want. In the past, I have used only about 8 ounces of pasta for this recipe, but I spread it out among 16 ounces of pasta this past time and it still was awesome (especially with a lot of extra Parmesan added!).

6 slices bacon, preferably thick-sliced
6 cups fresh cut-from-the-cob sweet corn
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/3 cup roasted, salted shelled pistachios
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
8-16 ounces campanelle pasta
3/4 cup chopped fresh basil

Cut each bacon slice in half length-wise, then crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces.  Cook in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp and brown, then transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.  Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the fat.

Add the corn, garlic, salt and pepper to the skillet, and saute until the corn is just tender, but not brown, 3-5 minutes.  Transfer 1 1/2 cups of the corn to a small bowl and reserve.  Transfer the rest to a food processor, and add the pistachios and 1/2 cup of Parmesan.  Pulse to blend the mixture until fairly smooth, stopping to scrape down the bowl as necessary. With the machine running, slowly stream the oil through the feed tube and blend until pesto is almost smooth, scraping down as needed.  Set aside.

Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon of salt and pasta and give it a stir. Cook pasta until just a bit firm to the bite (not quite as done as you would want it).  Reserve 1 1/2 cups of the pasta water and drain the pasta.  Return pasta to the pot and add the pesto, reserved corn kernels, reserved bacon, and 1/2 cup fresh herbs.  Toss well and add pasta water 1/4 cup at a time until the desired consistency is reached (I usually end up adding about 1/2 cup).  Cook an additional 2-3 minutes, or until pasta is cooked through.  Taste, and season with additional salt and pepper as needed.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Summer Corn Chowder


Sweet corn season will be over before we know it! I have eaten my fair share of summer corn and I am sure going to miss it when I will have to resort to the frozen packs of corn during the winter. One of the best ways to use fresh sweet corn is in a fresh summer chowder. This can be made vegetarian by omitting the bacon and instead cooking the corn and onion in a bit of butter over medium heat although Paul would balk if I EVER were to make this without the bacon. In fact, when we made this for dinner last week, he actually came home and fried a couple extra pieces so his bowl could have some "extra garnish." Matthew, who has inherited his father's deep passion for all things bacon, was certainly singing Paul's praises as he fried up the extra pork fat.

With or without bacon, the corn is truly the star of this chowder. Pureeing a couple cans of corn with a little chicken broth helps lend a smooth consistency to the soup without having to resort to adding extra cream and drowning out the corn flavor. Serve with a side of corn bread or hot buttered rolls for dipping!


Fresh Corn Chowder
adapted from Cook's Country

6 large ears of corn
2 (15 ounce) cans whole kernel corn, drained
5 cups chicken broth
3 slices of bacon, chopped fine
1 onion, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 pound red potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 cup heavy cream or half/half
4 scallions, thinly sliced

Cut the kernels from the ears of corn and reserve kernels and cobs separately. Puree the canned corn and 2 cups of broth in a blender until completely smooth. Set aside.

Cook the bacon in a dutch oven over medium heat until crisp. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a paper towel lined plate and set aside. Cook the onion, corn kernels, thyme, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper in bacon fat until vegetables are softened and golden brown.

Add the potatoes, corn puree, remaining broth, and reserved corn cobs to dutch oven and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until potatoes are tender (about 15 minutes). Discard cobs and stir in cream, scallions, and reserved bacon. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve!

Friday, August 23, 2013

7 Quick Takes: The Week in Review


Linking up with Jen for 7 Quick Takes Friday! This has certainly been a busy week in anticipation of our upcoming vacation. In fact, I should be packing right now but instead am choosing to blog because I hate packing. Here is a quick rundown of a couple highlights from this past week!

-1-

We took Matthew to see some trains at a local railway museum. They had an actual steam engine circa 1910 running on the tracks and we foolishly thought he would love to see it since he talks pretty much nonstop about Thomas the Train. However, the loud noises the steam engine made proved to be too much for him and he was pretty much terrified and begging to go home the whole time. Since we had taken a bit of a drive to get to the museum, we forced him to at least walk through the whole thing although he insisted that Paul hold him the entire time. He could not wait to get back into the car, although he did declare during the drive home: "I had fun at the train station!" 

Whatever.



-2-

Baby Emma has been rolling around a ton and scooting herself forward using her back feet. I don't think she really has a lot of control over these movements because she will randomly face plant and then have a bit of trouble recovering (she usually ends up wailing in frustration until someone comes to "rescue" her by flipping her back over). However, I do think it will only be a matter of time before she starts crawling. She spends a lot of time analyzing her big brother (who never stops moving) and I get the impression she is just itching to join him in his shenanigans. For now, I am enjoying her lack of mobility before I have two crazy children flying off the walls.


-3-

I am getting SO EXCITED because our trip to revisit our honeymoon location for our five year anniversary is in just a few days! However, I have been keeping an eye on the weather forecast and it looks like it will be raining the whole time! Selfish as it sounds, I have been praying like mad that the weather will clear up while we are there because Paul and I both get headaches from rain and persistent cloudiness. I really want this to be a great trip...and it should be because we'll be spending uninterrupted time together. But still. A little sunshine would be nice.

-4-

Matthew discovered that Baby Emma is not yet ready to catch a football. He had been tossing his football around while I cleaned up the bedroom. Suddenly, I heard him say: "Here Baby Emma, catch!" Before I could react, he beamed her in the forehead with the football. She just blinked a few times, obviously stunned. I flipped out a bit and asked Matthew since Baby Emma cannot walk, talk, feed herself, dress herself, or hold herself up why in heaven's name did he think she would be able to catch a football? 

His reply: "She has fingers."


-5-

On an episode of Sesame Street this week, Ricky Gervais was the guest star. I had to turn it off. I have major problems with crass, immoral celebrities being featured on children's shows. Nevermind the whole Elmo fiasco. I'll get off my tiny little soapbox now.

-6-

This week, Matthew and I have been baking up a storm in preparation for the bridal shower of my college roomie. Since we picked a gazillion blueberries last weekend, almost everything features blueberries - muffins, quickbreads, and scones. We also made a peach bread, an experimental loaf of banana bread, and a couple different roll recipes. I am done baking for a couple weeks and my freezer is STUFFED (and so is Matthew...goodness gracious that child can eat his weight in baked goods!).

-7-

Our washing machine has been broken for the last two weeks. This has been totally annoying. Several visits from the repairman and trips to the laundromat later, today it will finally be fixed! Luckily, Matthew has not had any accidents over this past week. Emma on the other hand is running out of clothes...


Head on over to Jen for more exciting Quick Takes!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Blueberry Muffins


Before we get to these muffins, I have to share a funny little anecdote from this weekend...

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Matthew woke up yesterday morning and announced to the world: "I is a superhero!"

Paul and I largely ignored him and went about fixing him breakfast, which he gobbled down voraciously. Afterwards, he climbed down from his chair, washed his hands in the bathroom, and then came zipping out to the kitchen while crying: "I flying! I a flying superhero!" Paul and I noticed that he had rotated his bib to the back of his neck, making a tiny little cape to enhance his superhero facade. He continued to fly about the room making whooshing noises and declaring: "I a superhero with the power of INVESTIGATION!!!"


Where he gets this stuff, I will never know.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Okay, back to these muffins...

The blueberry harvest this year has been out of control. The local farms are practically begging for people to come out and pick all the fruit. We went this weekend and the branches were practically buckling under the weight of the berries. There were so many on each branch that you could pick an entire gallon while just standing in one spot! They were out of control!! We came home with so many berries that baking something delicious with the fresh ones was a necessity.

And what better way to use blueberries than in a simple muffin recipe?


Blueberry muffins are one of my favorite breakfast treats. I like them simple, unadorned (with the exception of perhaps a little bit of lemon zest) and not to sweet. the perfect vehicle for a light smearing of jam or butter. This recipe meets all those requirements and takes less than 10 minutes to whip up. After 20 minutes of bake time, a dozen beautiful, piping-hot muffins can be on the breakfast table ready to be devoured. A perfect recipe.

If you would like a sweeter muffin, I would up the sugar by 1/4 cup. Next time, I will add some lemon zest to the sugar and rub it together so the oils perfume the sugar and lend that additional flavor to the batter. I would not substitute low fat sour cream - the results are just not as good.


Simple Blueberry Muffins
adapted slightly from The New Best Recipe

2 cups all-purpose flour (about 10 ounces)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 cup sugar
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) sour cream
1 1/2 cups blueberries (I carefully selected the smallest berries)

Heat the oven to 350 degrees with a rack set in the middle position. Fill a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl. In a second bowl, whisk the egg until light colored, about 20 seconds. Add the sugar and whisk vigorously until well combined and creamy looking. Add the melted butter in 2 additions, whisking well to combine. Add the sour cream in 2-3 additions, whisking just until combined.

Add the blueberries to the dry ingredients and toss gently to coat. Add the sour cream mixture and gently fold together with a spatula just until everything is moistened. Use a light hand - the batter will be very thick and it is very important not to over-mix or the muffins will come out on the tough side!

Carefully spoon the batter evenly into the prepared muffin liners. Bake until the muffins are lightly golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean (about 25-30 minutes). My muffins were still rather pale when finished so do not look to the browning as your cue that the muffins are finished baking. Immediately invert the muffins onto a wire rack, stand them in an upright position, and let cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Five Favorites: Matthew Says



Believe it or not, Paul and I used to be concerned that Matthew did not talk enough.

Now, he won't STOP! He chatters and titters away all day long. He is endlessly spewing off random little tidbits, observations, and words of affirmation. It is not unusual for him to come up to me while I am obviously busy and simply stand there chanting: "Mommy....Mommy?....Mommy?...Mommy?...I love you...Mommy...I love you...Mommy? I love you...I kiss you?..." etc.

Despite the sweet sentiment behind his words, there are times where I am just about ready to rip my ears out so I don't have to listen to him. Of course, then I start thinking that there will come a day where I'll miss this little phase and try my best to enjoy it. But I'll be honest, that does not really seem to be working for me.

This edition of Five Favorites is dedicated to some of the funny things Matthew has randomly said over the past week.


-1-

Matthew has been really into recognizing the different letters of the alphabet so Paul has been trying to introduce him to the concept of reading/spelling with small words.

Paul: What letter is this, Matthew?
Matthew: H!
Paul: And this one?
Matthew: O!
Paul: And this last one?
Matthew: T!
Paul: And what does that spell?
Matthew: Sombrero!

Obviously, it's going well.

-2-

Over our morning cup of coffee, Matthew suddenly leans over and whispers in a low voice: "Mommy...Peter Parker is Spider-Man."


-3-

While on our way back from the grocery store one day, Matthew had been uncharacteristically silent as if deep in thought. Suddenly, he spoke up from the back seat: "Mary Jane, Mommy."
"Mary Jane? Who is Mary Jane, Matthew?" I asked, confused.
"Peter Parker loves Mary Jane."

These Spider-Man revelations are weighing heavily on his little mind.

-4-

While at the Zoo one hazy Sunday afternoon, we took Matthew and Emma through the kangaroo exhibit where the kangaroos were very active, hopping and bouncing about. Paul got down to Matthew's level and points at one of the larger kangaroos making his way across the grass and says: "Look at the Kangaroo go Matthew!"
Matthew looks at Paul with a look that screamed "you are so stupid" and condescendingly said: "No Daddy...nooo! Not Kangaroo! Big Rabbit!"

Rodents of unusual size? I don't think they exist, Matthew.


-5-

And while sitting on the potty...

"Mommy? Curious George pooped."
"Curious George pooped?"
"Yes, Mommy."
"Curious George poops on the potty like Matthew, right?"
"No Mommy. Curious George poops in a tree."
"No...not in a tree Matthew. In the potty."
"No in a tree. Matthew poops in a tree!" he declares with wide eyes and a creepy little smile.

I now fear for all the vegetation in our yard.

~ ~ ~

Please head over to Moxie Wife to view more Five Favorites posts!


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

TWD: Johnnycake Cobbler with Pluots


This week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe has been one of my absolute favorite recipes the group has baked so far. I have always loved the combination of cornmeal and fruit (as evidenced by one of my favorite desserts being Blueberry Cornbread). When I saw the recipe for a cobbler that employed a hefty dose of cornmeal in the biscuit topping, I immediately voted for this recipe to made by the group as soon as possible.

The same week I was supposed to be baking the cobbler, our local store began selling a beautiful variety of pluots - plum/apricot hybrids of all different colors. Yellow, pink, black, red, speckled, and streaked - pluots are sometimes called "dinosaur eggs" due to their appearance and each variety has its own unique sweet flavor. They were perfect for use in this cobbler!


Everything was thrown together in a matter of minutes. First, the fruit is sauteed in butter and sugar to help release and reduce the fruit juices. While the fruit cooks down, a simple biscuit batter is formed. The recipe called for the use of a food processor, but I just used my hands. I chose to omit the ginger from the biscuit simply because I really do not think ginger and cornmeal mix well. I also did not use *all* the heavy cream called for in the recipe as I only had 1/2 cup left in my fridge and really did not feel like going to the store for more. I ended up using 1 cup of buttermilk to make up for the additional liquid.


The biscuit topping is carefully spooned on top of the warm fruit and then everything is baked until the topping is golden brown and the fruit juices are bubbling away. The whole house smelled heavenly.

I removed the cobbler from the oven, snapped a few photos, and then Paul and I brandished our spoons and began to dig in. This proved to be a huge mistake as we both have been unable to taste anything for the past few days since we burnt our faces off. However, that piping hot bite of glorious cobbler was totally worth it. This recipe is a keeper. The biscuit on top is crisp and contrasts perfectly with the soft fruit, while the dough that touched the fruit during the baking process had the texture of a steamed dumpling. It was pretty delicious! I loved the pluots in this but can't wait to try the same recipe with all the fresh peaches flying off the trees around here!

Check out the Tuesdays with Dorie website to see how the other bakers fared with this week's challenge!


Johnnycake Cobbler with Pluots
adapted from Baking with Julia

For the Fruit:
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup sugar
6 cups sliced pluots

For the Biscuit Topping:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick (2 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup heavy cream
3/4-1 cup buttermilk

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the sugar, stirring to dissolve, then toss in the fruit. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the fruit is soft and releases its juices. Increase the heat to high and cook for a few minutes more to boil down the juices, stirring occasionally. Spoon the fruit into a 1 1/2 quart baking pan and set aside while you make the topping.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees with a rack in the center position.

Whisk together the four, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Using your fingers, gently rub in the pieces of butter until the mixture feels like coarse meal. Make a well in the center and add in the heavy cream and 3/4 cup buttermilk. Using a fork, mix everything together, drawing the dry ingredients in from the sides, until a dough forms. If the mixture appears too dry, add in up to 1/4 cup additional buttermilk. The dough should be soft, moist, and form curds as you stir it.

Spoon the biscuit dough over the fruit. Place the cobbler on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake for 14-16 minutes, or until the biscuit is golden brown and the fruit juices are bubbling. Serve with ice cream or additional heavy cream!

Friday, August 16, 2013

7 Quick Takes: The Anniversary Edition


Five years ago today, Paul and I committed to spend the rest of our lives together as husband and wife. We were young, nervous, excited, and scared to be taking such a gigantic step in our lives just three months after graduating and leaving the safety and comfort of Notre Dame, the place we had called home for four years. However, despite the natural anxiety about what the future had in store for us, we both were positive that we were being called to be together. And now, five years later, I cannot believe that so much time has passed while simultaneously thinking that we have been together for much, much longer than that. So much has happened in that short span of time, the most monumental change being that we have grown from a newlywed couple into a family of four. Our children have showed us how God continually works through our marriage to open our hearts and amplify our capacity to give and receive love. What an incredible experience that has been so far!

I am writing these 7 Quick Takes with the theme "You Know You've Been Married Five Years When..." in honor of our anniversary today:

-1-

Shortly before our wedding, my Mom began reciting my soon-to-be married name over and over in order to get used to it (also while pointing out that it was to be the name adorning my grave someday...a slightly morbid thought!). I remember thinking my new name sounded strange together. You know you've been married five years when the opposite is now true. Whenever I see my first name paired with my maiden name, I have a brief moment where I think: "Who is that?!?"

-2-

You know you've been married five years when you look back at old pictures from college of this guy and still think he is a cutie, ugly sideburns and all. (In all seriousness Paul, what the heck were you thinking?!?)


-3-

You know you've been married five years when you have no problem giving your spouse your honest opinion concerning their appearance, wardrobe, conduct, behavior, etc. You also are certain that you can rely on them to give you honest, loving feedback as well. For example, those sideburns pictured above? Now I would have no problem telling Paul: "Shave those off! They make you look like a troll!!"

-4-

You know you've been married five years when you have a designated "side of the bed" and a favorite cuddling position while falling asleep. You also are unafraid to whack the other person should their snoring become so uncontrollably loud that neither you nor the newborn baby can stay asleep.

-5-

You know you have been married five years when alone time together is precious and fleeting. You relish those moments that you wake up before the kids on Saturday morning and can enjoy a warm cup of coffee together or are able to sneak off for a dinner date alone (of course the main topic of conversation is probably the kids, but they are the major never-ending project you share).

Notice that the ugly sideburns have been disposed of by this point!

-6-

You know you've been married five years when you find your husband irresistibly sexy when he is washing dishes, folding laundry, mowing the lawn, or reading a book to the kids. 


-7-

You know you've been married five years when your idea of a wild Friday night involves putting the kids to bed, popping a big batch of popcorn, and putting in a movie. Of course, you both pass out before the popcorn can be eaten and the movie is barely 20 minutes in...but that's only because it is so comfortable to be snuggling in one another's arms. And there is nowhere else you'd rather be.


Happy Anniversary, sweetheart! I love you!!

Head on over to Conversion Diary to read more quick takes!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Curried Rice Salad with Cauliflower, Mango and Cashews


A few months back, a dear friend of mine sent me an email shortly after I wrote this whiny post about how challenging it is for me to eat something nutritious for lunch (can you say "first world problem"?). I primarily blamed these two little people for my gourmet lunches featuring crusts cut neatly from peanut butter sandwiches and leftover juice boxes:

The roots of all my problems together in one place. Sigh.
In her email, she suggested that I prepare a rice salad with fresh ingredients at the beginning of the week and then continue to enjoy the leftovers for lunch the following days. She attached a brilliantly yummy recipe that made me fall in love with the concept of a rice salad. I had never had one before and now I wonder where the heck they have been all my life?

Given my love for couscous, quinoa, wheatberry, and other fluffy delicious salads, it would seem that rice salad would be a no-brainer new favorite dish of mine.

I have been enjoying many rice salads for lunch and dinner and have started bringing them as my "side to share" at a few summer potlucks. This is my favorite by far. Indian spices are so warming and they are really elevated with the combination of basmati rice, cashews, and raisins. The curry-sauteed cauliflower adds a crunchy element throughout and the fresh chives tossed on at the end lend brightness, a fresh finish, and a touch of color. We paired this with Paul's charcoal-grilled tandoori chicken and raita. Since this feeds a small army, the leftovers were truly something to look forward to all week long!


Curried Rice Salad with Cauliflower, Mango and Cashews
adapted from Cook's Illustrated 

1 1/2 cups basmati rice (or another long grain rice - but basmati is a real treat)
2 1/4 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons peanut oil (vegetable or canola works in a pinch!)
1/2 small head cauliflower, cut into small florets (about 2-3 cups)
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 teaspoon table salt
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup roasted, salted cashews
1 medium mango, peeled and diced fine
3 tablespoons minced fresh chives
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Meanwhile, heat medium skillet with a touch of oil over medium heat until hot. Add the rice and toast, stirring frequently, until faintly fragrant and some grains turn opaque (about 5 minutes). This helps most long grain rice cook up separate and fluffy.

Combine the toasted rice with cold chicken stock in rice cooker. Cook the rice in your rice cooker according to the manufacturer's instructions. Or you can cook it on the stovetop (but I'm lazy and really love my rice cooker).

Once rice has finished cooking, fluff it gently with a fork, and leave it (covered) on the warm setting while you prepare the remaining salad ingredients. Heat oil in medium skillet over high heat until shimmering but not smoking. Add cauliflower, curry powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant and curry powder adheres to cauliflower, about 1 minute. Add raisins and 1/4 cup water; reduce heat to medium-high and continue to cook until water evaporates and cauliflower is tender, about 3 minutes. Transfer cauliflower to large bowl; add rice, cashews, mango, chives, pepper, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt to bowl and toss thoroughly to combine. Let stand 20 minutes to blend flavors and serve.