MFM – Black Bean Burgers

In making our weekly menu this past Sunday, I just couldn’t convince hubs that we should make any seafood, even for MeatFreeMonday. We decided to do black bean burgers instead with a side of avocado dressing (which is sorta like a guacamole but a bit creamier.)

This is another one of those recipes that doesn’t take a lot of time or many dirty dishes to put together, so really great for a weeknight. It’s also really easy to remember because there’s not a lot of measuring and you can’t actually mess it up.

INGREDIENTS

For the ‘burgers’

IMG_1519 IMG_1520

  • 1 can of black beans, rinsed and dried (this is important to avoid super soggy patties)
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1/2 green bell pepper
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Sriracha sauce (amount can vary depending on your spice-tolerance)
  • 1 tsp each of cumin and black pepper

PROCEDURE

  1. Rinse and dry the entire can of black beans. If you don’t have a fancy contraption (I call mine ‘the pastina strainer’ but in the real world it’s a sieve) you can rinse them in the can and carefully use the lid to keep the beans from falling out while you drain the water.
  2. Throw the beans in a big mixing bowl and mash them (you can use a masher or a fork)

IMG_1522 IMG_1525

3. In a food processor, combine the onion, green pepper, and garlic. (You could mince this using a slap chop or with a plain old knife, but I find the smoother combination makes for better patties.) Add this to the mashed black beans.

IMG_1526 IMG_1527

4. In a separate bowl, beat 1 egg with desired amount of sriracha and other spices. Add this to the big bowl of beans. Mix all ingredients.

5. At this point, start adding bread crumbs to the mixture until it becomes a thicker consistency, conducive to actually forming a patty that will keep it’s shape. I end up using about 3/4 of a cup.

IMG_1528 IMG_1529

6. Form patties and place on greased baking sheet. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes, flipping halfway through so both sides get a little crispy. You can flash broil at the end for even more crisp.

I forgot to take pictures of the final project because I was already two vodka drinks in when I started cooking, but you can just take my word for it that it came out awesome.  I served them on a bed of lettuce with tomatoes and avocado dressing (just mash together two avocados, garlic powder, fresh cilantro, cumin, lemon juice, and 1/4 cup sour cream!)

IMG_1532

Advertisements

Slow Cooker Beef Stroganoff

Two awesome things happened this week: we got a snow day from work AND my mother-in-law learned how to hashtag. Group text messages are about to reach a whole other level of entertaining!

Now with these blizzard conditions, we’re obviously stuck  psyched to be tucked inside for the day, giving us the perfect excuse to experiment with our brand-spanking new pressure cooker (which I’ve been told can double as a slow-cooker, so let’s hope I don’t royally fuck this up.) I’m using a Cooking Light recipe, but modifying cooking time to fit the pressure cooker. here goes….

BUT FIRST, allow me to introduce you to our pressure cooker. (It only took an extra 20 minutes to get it out of the coat closet — gotta love newlywed apartment life — and assemble.)

IMG_1533 IMG_1534

INGREDIENTS:

IMG_1535 IMG_1536 IMG_1538 IMG_1539

  • 1 (1-pound) top round steak (1 inch thick), trimmed (I don’t know what trimmed means, so I’m going to assume the piece of meat we bought is good to go, as-is.)
  • 1 cup chopped onion (I’m using sweet onions because they were literally the last bag left at the grocery store as people stocked up for snowmageddon)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (I’m using dried parsley so I’ll only need half the amount here.)
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried dill (I’m using fresh only because I had some on hand from a previous tzatziki recipe)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (8-ounce) package sliced mushrooms (about 2 cups)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced (I’ll be using 5)
  • 1.5 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1/3 cup) – why the hell would anyone use ounces for dry ingredients?!?!
  • 1 cup fat-free, lower-sodium beef broth
  • 1 (8-ounce) container low-fat sour cream – ONE CUP of sour cream. my frustration with the metric system grows…also, you can leave this in the fridge until you’re ready to serve, no need to measure out now.

PROCEDURE

  1. Cut steak into a bunch of smaller pieces. Recipe says 1/4 inch, but I just did bite-size amounts.

IMG_1542 IMG_1541

2. Whisk together the flour and beef broth until smooth.

IMG_1545 IMG_1546

3. Add all ingredients to the pressure cooker.

Okay, so here’s where things went really south. In fact, hubs is at the gym right now to avoid us yelling at each other any more. The instructions on using the pressure cooker are NOT easy to read. Also, it’s come to our attention that even on “low pressure” this meal is going to cook wayyyyy faster than we need (it’s noon now and we don’t plan to eat dinner for another 7 hours.) Unfortunately, we already started the “simmer” function and it seems much of the meat has browned. I’m just going to hope this is the equivalent of “cooking on high setting for one hour” as the original recipe says.

I may or may not have lost my patience with the new kitchen tool and opted for using our old crock pot. We moved all the ingredients from the pressure cooker to the slow cooker and set it to low. Now we wait.

IMG_1548

I’ll update this post after dinner and let you know how badly we messed it all up. Maybe we’re not quite ready to branch out of our Crock Pot comfort zone.

Creamy Pork with Egg Noodles

Whenever the weather is cold, dreary, rainy and generally miserable, I like to put together a ‘comfort food’ meal that won’t require us to wear XXL sweatpants for the next 2 days.

I found what seemed like an ‘easy’ pork chop recipe from an old Good Housekeeping mag and thought I’d give it a try. (I first had to figure out what cremini mushrooms looked like, but after that it was a breeze!)

INGREDIENTS*

  • 1 cup (ish) wide egg noodles (original recipe calls for wild rice, you can use the grain of your choice or omit completely if you’re only in this for the protein.)
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 6 oz. bone-in pork chops (the package I bought had 3, original recipe called for 4 – the only difference was having some extra gravy!)
  • 12 ounces fresh cremini mushrooms, cut into 1/2 inch thick slices (I went WAY overboard at the grocery store and ended up with extra mushrooms. For future reference 12 medium caps = about 12 oz.)
  • 1.5 cups reduced sodium chicken stock (in the same aisle as broth, but apparently a different thing)
  • 1 tbsp fresh finely chopped rosemary (dried rosemary can be used, 1 tsp as substitute)
  • 1/2 medium white onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp flour (might require a bit more or a tsp of cornstarch to thicken the gravy, if desired.)
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf (not curly!) parsley
  • 2 tbsp fat free sour cream (can be omitted if you’re not a fan.)

IMG_1052 IMG_1053

*Executing this recipe was made 10x easier and faster by having all my ingredients in the correct portions before hand. I’ve been relying very heavily this 10 piece set of nesting bowls from Crate & Barrel

IMG_1050 IMG_1051

1. Add butter to a large, semi-deep skillet over medium-high heat.Sprinkle pork chops with salt and pepper.

2.  Add chops to the pan and brown. (2 minutes on each side should be sufficient, you don’t want to dry them out and they will cook more in the sauce later.) Transfer to a plate.

IMG_1056 IMG_1058

3. Add mushrooms, onions, and rosemary to the same pan. Cook for about 8 minutes. (No need to add any additional butter or non-stick spray, mushrooms create quite a bit of moisture when cooked.)  Sprinkle mushrooms with flour and toss to coat. (This will absorb the water and be the base for a thicker gravy.)

IMG_1059  IMG_1060

At this point you should start making your grain. Egg noodles generally cook pretty quickly and will stick together once drained, so you don’t want to start them too early.

4. Add in the wine and chicken stock, scraping pan to loosen bits.Return the pork chops to the pan, cover and simmer about 10 minutes, or until it’s done enough for you. (I think 10 min would be the max, depending on how thin the chops are. I sorta overcooked mine.)

IMG_1062 IMG_1061

5. Plate pork chops on a serving platter (or individual plates if it’s just you and your hubs on a weeknight) and let sauce simmer for another 2 minutes.

6. Add parsley, S&P to taste, and a small pad of butter to your egg noodles. Plate with chops.

7. Remove gravy from heat and add sour cream (after eating this meal I think it only helps with consistency and color but won’t impact the flavor of your meal.)

IMG_1066 IMG_1068

I threw in a side of steamed brocolli and carrots ’cause vegetables are important! Next time, I’d use a wee bit more salt and add some cornstarch to the gravy. We’ll update this post with a review of how this meal holds up once re-heated.

MFM – Arugula Pesto with Shrimp

At some point over the past few years, in a bout of solidarity with my then vegetarian sister, Patrick and I took part in the Meat Free Monday campaign.

Although this had more to do with a concern for the livestock population than any health benefits, the concept just sorta stuck.

(It doesn’t hurt that the seafood/meat free meals tend to be a bit easier to put together, making them the perfect Monday meal – when my culinary motivation is at an all-time low.)

This most complex tool this recipe requires is a food processor. (Ours is tiny so I had to make the sauce in two batches.)

INGREDIENTS this recipe serves 2 with no leftovers (’cause re-heated shrimp are gross.)

IMG_1031 IMG_1032

 

  • 1 cup uncooked mini farfalle (or pasta of your choice)
  • 1.5 cups arugula
  • 1/4 cup basil leaves (freshness matters here so don’t use dried spices)
  • 3 tablespoons of parmigiana cheese (you don’t have to be that precise when it comes to sprinkled cheese.)
  • 4 garlic cloves (The Cooking Light original recipe called for 1, but we love garlic!)
  • 2 Tbsp of Pine Nuts (I had no idea how expensive these were, I’m sure they could be omitted if you don’t feel like spending $16 on a 4 oz bag!)
  • olive oil
  • 1/4 cup white whine (we pretty much always have a double bottle of Pinot Grigio in the fridge, that’s what I’ll use for cooking.)
  • 1.5 pounds of medium shrimp (we buy the 2lb bag of frozen raw shrimp from Costco – already peeled and deveined. Just make sure to defrost about half the bag that morning.)

IMG_1037

  1. Cook the pasta first according to package directions. When draining, do so over a container to reserve about 1/2 cup of starchy water.  (Boiling water pictured at right, in case if it’s your first time in a kitchen on planet earth.)

IMG_10352. Throw the arugula, basil, cheese, pine nuts, garlic and 2 tbsp of olive oil into a food processor. Process until smooth.

3. Heat a large skillet with 1 tbsp of olive oil, swirl to coat. Add shrimp and cook for about 5 minutes until pink on both sides.

 

 

IMG_1036 IMG_1038

IMG_1039 IMG_1040

 

 

 

 

 

4. Remove shrimp from pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.

5. Add wine to pan, cook until mostly evaporated (seems pretty pointless but I’m assuming it adds to the flavor.)

6. Add basil mixture (which BTW is pretty thick so make sure you use a spatula to get all that goodness out of your measuring cup) and add the reserved starchy water. Bring to a simmer (that’s teeny bubbles, not a ‘rolling boil’)

IMG_1042 IMG_1043

7. Plate your pasta, add shrimp, and cover with sauce. Boom, #NailedIt.

IMG_1046 IMG_1047

(Nearly) Flourless Dark Chocolate Cake

It’s a rare and wonderful thing when your male friends not only invite you over for dinner, but only ask you to bring dessert.

We’re going on a few straight weekends of not having to make dinner for ourselves thanks to our honeymoon followed by back to back weddings. Having not been in the kitchen much, I thought I’d try something just a bit more complicated than a box of Betty Crocker, so I resurrected a recipe for a dark chocolate cake served with a side of raspberries and home made whipped cream. If you’ve got an hour and an electric hand mixer, you too can dazzle your friends!

INGREDIENTS

torta1

For cake:

  • 1 – 10 oz bag of bittersweet dark chocolate (I used the Ghiradelli chips)
  • 12 tablespoons (a stick and a half) of unsalted butter
  • 5 eggs, separated (put the whites in a bigger bowl for beating.)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons of flour

For whipped cream

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/2 cup crème fraiche (optional but gives final product a sturdier structure)

METHOD

  1. Preheat oven to 350, butter a 9-inch pan or pie plate.
  2. Place the chocolate and the butter in a microwave safe bowl. Melt for 2 minutes and stir until well combined, set aside to cool.

torta2torta4

torta5torta6

 

3. Use an electric mixer to beat egg whites until soft peaks form (4-5 minutes on a med/high setting.) Gently sprinkle the flour and sugar over the whites and beat until glossy (about 15 seconds – don’t overbeat!)

4. Mix the egg yolks with the vanilla, add to the cooled chocolate mixture.

 

The tricky part involves a rubber spatula and some patience with your ‘folding’ technique. First, mix about 1/3 of the egg white mixture into the chocolate to lighten the color. Gently fold in the remaining egg whites until no white streaks remain.

torta7torta8

Bake for about 30 minutes until a knife inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Cool for 30 minutes before removing from pan. The cake will fall significantly once removed from the oven- fear not, this is supposed to happen!

torta9  torta11

To make the whipped cream, simply combine all ingredients and beat on medium for 2-ish minutes. Plate with raspberries, Top Chef style .

One Day Married – The Slump

We were warned about A LOT of things during the wedding planning process. Countless times we were told that “the day goes by SO fast” and “slow down to really try to take it all in.”

What our married friends didn’t tell us, was what a HUGE bummer it is to say goodbye to everyone when they inevitably pack their bags and check out of the hotel.

Even with the numbness and nausea of a world-class hangover (for thosmomse of you who said I would have a hard time getting drunk at my own wedding, not so)  the impending doom of everyone leaving Vermont  felt like an unbearable and uncontrollable rug being pulled out from underneath me.

The highs of being the center of attention, marrying the love of my life, dancing with my newly formed family (see Moms at right), and partying with all my family and friends (some till 4am) seems like it should never end. And then it does. Abruptly.

I’ll spare you the gooey sh-ow of emotion, but suffice it to say tears were shed by all parties involved as we drove out of town withiPhone Pics 1083 our Just Married sign attached to the bumper. Consider this your fair warning that months and months of planning an amazing party will sting like hell when it’s over.

I thought I’d be relieved that we could consider the weekend a success, but instead I worried about what I was going to do next!

The upside is, Husband knows just how to put things in a perspective that will make me happy. There were still lists to be made and tasks to be completed before our flight to Italy!

 

That Time We Threw an Awesome Party

Having been engaged since February of 2013 but deciding to marry in the Fall of 2014 (we both always knew we wanted a fall wedding and 2013 was just too soon), we had almost NINETEEN months to worry, stress, agonize, and change our minds about how our wedding day would go down. In retrospect, I almost feel like it would have been easier to pop out a pair of Irish twins. That said, every single decision we made and dollar we spent was completely, totally worth it in the end. I can honestly say I wouldn’t have changed a thing.

In an attempt to attempt to compete with the myriad of wedding blogs dedicated to the subject, I’m going to share a few highlights from our wedding and the things I learned from the process.

1) THE VENUE Less is More.

If you have the flexibility to chose an all inclusive venue, I would highly recommend it. Since we made our marriage official at the courthouse in Stamford, we didn’t need to worry about transportation from a church to a reception. We were also able to eliminate a long, usually awkward, intermission between ceremony and party, which I think our guests appreciated.  The Grand Summit Resort at Mount Snow had everything we were looking for – a beautiful outdoor space for the ceremony and cocktail hour, a gorgeous ballroom, delicious farm-to-table food, and the ability to accommodate all of our out-of-town guests (which in our case was everyone.)

An all-inclusive venue also allowed us to keep the party going longgg after the end of the sanctioned after-party. One stop shopping really helped maintain a smooth flow for our wedding day.

2) THE PHOTOGRAPHYDon’t Skip An Engagement Session.

Our photographer Jeff Weeks was fabulous. Our package included an engagement session which we considered skipping because of the distance between our home and our photographer. We figured out a weekend close to the holidays last year to make it work, and I’m SO glad we did. Spending one-on-one time with your photographer before your wedding day is crucial to feeling comfortable!

Also, this amazing perspective on wedding photography. I dare you to read it and not cry.

Highlights from our wedding can be seen at Jeff’s blog here.

3) THE SMALL STUFFYou should only sweat it if it really matters to YOU.

If I had a nickel for every time someone asked me about my “vision” for my wedding day, I would have been able to invite a lot more than 120 people to the party. To be honest, I didn’t have any specifics in mind when we first started wedding planning, but I will tell you as soon as I did care about something, I REALLY cared. (Confession: I went so far as buying 150 eggplant colored napkins because I hated the color options offered by our venue and renting linens was too much of a logistical nightmare.)  If buying linens is more cost-effective than renting, I highly recommend eFavorMart.com. They have excellent prices (lots of sales!), speedy delivery, and high-quality products. I also had our tables set with these champagne organza runners.

I received another stellar piece of wedding planning advice that I feel should be passed along to whomever stumbles on this blog:

“Sometimes, you just have to throw a little money at the problem… Especially if it’s under $100.”

Amen sistah. That’s not to say you should be reckless and wasteful, but in the grand scheme of your wedding budget, although the dollars will add up, if $65 worth of napkins will give you peace of mind about your tablescapes, I say pull the trigger and move on. (If you don’t already have your credit card number memorized, a few weeks of online shopping for your big day will take care of all that.)

4) THE FOODmore is more.

Feeding 100 people of various backgrounds (Germans, Italians, and people who know good food) can be quite a challenge. From my experience, I would recommend at least one (maybe two) stationary displays of the usual cheese and cracker fare (ours was antipasto themed to satisfy the eye-talians of the family) as well as 4-5 options for passed hot hors d’oeuvres. Your goal here is to satisfy, not stuff your guests. They should have a solid base of snacks in their systems when they hit the open bar, but not too much food that the thought of napping becomes more appealing than dancing.

5) FOCUS ON THE PRESENTdon’t get distracted by shiny objects.

I know, I know. You realize there will be A LOT going on in the background of your wedding day events. You’ll want to be part of everything, which would only be possible if your party consisted of 3 guests. It’s tempting to spread yourself SO thin that you spend exactly one minute with each of your guests (between dances, speeches, dinner, and cake cutting) but I think it’s more important to focus on what’s happening right in front of you, not across the room. Will you miss out on an inside joke or funny story? Probably. Will it matter that much? Not likely.
To wrap it up and move on to honeymoon posts, I will say this: Our wedding day was perfect…for us. It included the most special people in our lives and was so full of joy and happiness that nothing else mattered. So the best advice I can give you, is to take everyone else’s wedding advice with a grain of salt and do what feels right for you and your soon-to-be-husband. You can’t make everyone else happy so don’t even try.