Sunday school began yesterday. I teach the preschoolers. I was eager but nervous to begin the year. I love the kids, but they can be so unpredictable, which feeds my anxiety. They have questions that I simply do not know the answers to. They let me know if the story is boring or if they would much rather be playing than doing the activity I spent so much time—oh, precious time!—creating because I thought for sure it would be a hit. And let’s not forget the manner in which they offer critique so freely—matter of fact, unapologetic. It’s almost as if they live in a different culture than we adults do.
This dinner was a hit, and I will certainly keep the recipes handy. It was easy enough that I would actually consider making on a weeknight! Of course, I will not serve the two dishes together again. Some dishes just don’t mesh well. In this case, the ravioli had a fall feel to it—comforting, a bit on the heavier side. The salad felt like spring—light and crunchy, minty fresh. Opposites do attract, but I think these two are better off staying single. Of course, that didn’t stop us from gobbling both up!
Ravioli in Brown Butter
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound zucchini, thinly sliced
1 9-ounce package four-cheese ravioli
1/4 cup butter
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup almonds, chopped
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh mint
Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large nonstick skillet. Add zucchini and cook until tender, about 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Take out the zucchini and set aside.
Cook ravioli according to package instructions and drain.
In the skillet, heat butter and salt over medium heat, until butter is browned, about 3 minutes.
Add almonds; cook and stir until toasted, about 2 minutes.
Add zucchini and toss to coat.
Add ravioli, balsamic vinegar, and mint; stir gently to coat.
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley, plus leaves for garnish
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Wedge of Romano, for shaving
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
Fresh mint leaves, torn
Heat canola oil in medium skillet on medium heat. Add zucchini and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook until slightly wilted, then set aside.
Whisk together the Dijon mustard, lemon juice, lemon zest, honey to taste, salt and pepper to taste, and parsley in a small bowl. Slowly, whisk in the olive oil until emulsified.
Drizzle the vinaigrette over the zucchini and let it marinate for 15 minutes at room temperature. Top with shaved cheese, pine nuts, parsley and mint leaves.Recipe adapted from Bobby Flay at Food Network.
Our first failure. Well, sort of. I don’t consider it a true failure—that requires a colossal disaster, which I am perfectly capable of. This was beneath my potential and therefore more along the lines of a trial failure.
It had been a long week, but we had to have our dinner on Friday. There was no other day this month that worked for our families. In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I decide on an Irish theme—shepherd’s pie, fancy green drinks, and pistachio pudding cake. On the side, I added chunky cinnamon applesauce and cottage cheese. Great, right? Well, it would have been, but I cheated, and as Ali reminded me several times throughout the evening, cheaters never win.
Quick and easy was the name of my game, and I thought I was pretty clever in using an adapted version of shepherd’s pie. Ali was kind enough to back-seat chef me and question everything that came out of a can or box. “That’s Fey food. Our dinners are supposed to be more than that. You’re going to have to do this over.” Yeah, yeah. So maybe she was right, but no way was I going to tell her that. I was cheating for a reason after all. Sheesh.
So, without further ado, following are the recipes, which even Ali agreed were tasty, that I used to cheat. But first, allow me to point out that this was also the first meal that the Fey, including the baby (with her blended version), enjoyed as well.
1 lb ground beef (I substituted vegetarian ground meat)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 small can peas
1 small can carrots (Ali doesn’t like cooked carrots, so I substituted corn)
½ cup honey barbecue sauce
⅓ cup ketchup
1 pkg refrigerated mashed potatoes
½ tsp paprika
Preheat oven to 350°.
Brown the meat with the onion in a large skillet. (Since I substituted vegetarian ground meat, I sautéed the onion in olive oil and added the “meat.”)
Turn off the heat, and add the vegetables, barbecue sauce, and ketchup.
Put into a greased 1 ½ quart baking dish.
5. Spread the mashed potatoes on top and sprinkle with paprika.
6. Bake for 30–35 minutes.
Optional: Add shredded cheese on top before serving.
Pistachio Pudding Cake
1 pkg yellow cake mix
2 pkgs instant pistachio pudding mix
1 cup club soda
½ cup canola oil
1 cup chopped walnuts, divided
1 cup heavy whipping cream
¾ cup 2% milk
2 tsp confectioner’s sugar
In a large bowl, combine the cake mix, 1 package of pudding mix, eggs, club soda, and oil. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds, then beat on medium for 2 minutes. Stir in ½ cup walnuts.
Pour into a greased and floured 10-inch fluted tube pan.
Bake at 350° for 40–45 minutes.
Cool for ten minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack to cool completely.
In a large bowl, beat the cream, milk, 1 package of pudding mix, and confectioners’ sugar on high until stiff peaks form.
Frost the cake. Sprinkle with remaining walnuts. (In our case, the kids threw the walnuts at the cake to see how many would stick.)
Minted Sake and Pineapple Cooler
This is what I had planned to make, but I didn’t have a sieve. I don’t easily give up and tried several workarounds but none really worked: taping a coffee filter to a bowl, straining the concoction through a garlic press, you know, the usual.
1½ cups loosely packed mint leaves (about 1 ounce)
1 cup sake
¼ cup sugar
3 cans (6 oz each) pineapple juice, divided
¼ cup fresh lime juice
Pineapple slices (optional)
Combine mint, sake, and sugar in a blender; process for 2 minutes or until mint is very finely chopped.
Strain sake mixture through a fine sieve over a bowl; discard solids.
Stir in 2 cans pineapple juice and lime juice. Cover and chill.
Pour the remaining 1 can pineapple juice into a zip-top plastic bag; seal. Lay the bag flat in the freezer; freeze 1 hour or until frozen.
Combine the sake mixture and frozen pineapple juice in a blender; process 1 minute or until thoroughly combined.
Pour about ¾ cup pineapple mixture into each glass, and let stand 1 minute before serving. Garnish with pineapple slices, if desired.
St. Patrick’s Day Drinks
Fill glass about two-thirds full with soda.
Add one or two scoops of sherbet and let sit for about ten minutes.
Gently stir the drink, wait for it to settle, and serve.
Adult version: Substitute white wine or champagne for the soda.
For dinner this month, I had to redeem myself. Considering that Ali complimented my umpteenth failure at cooking asparagus, I think my goal was met. (Or maybe I just plied her with too much wine.) Regardless, the deviled crab was nothing like I’d ever tasted, and I think we both agreed we would like the experience again. Well, with properly cooked asparagus next time. Paired with a Riesling and enjoyed on the deck while the Fey played in the yard, this dinner made for a delicious evening.
2 small spherical loaves of your choice of bread
1/4 c chopped green onions, divided
1/2 c dry white wine, divided
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp mayonnaise
1 tbsp ground mustard
1/8 tsp ground red pepper
1/8 tsp paprika
1/2 lb lump crabmeat
1/3 c reduced-sodium chicken broth, divided
1/4 c finely chopped shallots
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 bay leaf
1 tsp cornstarch
1 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1/8 tsp black pepper
Preheat oven to 375°.
Hollow out each loaf and place bread shells on a baking sheet. Bake at 375° for 5 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside. (I used the bread “scraps” for a delicious humus and avocado snack the next day.)
In a medium saucepan, mix 2 tablespoons of green onions, 1/4 cup wine, and garlic, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.
Stir in mayonnaise, mustard, red pepper, and paprika.
Add 2 tablespoons chopped green onions and crabmeat; stir in gently.
Divide the crab mixture evenly into bread shells. Bake at 375° for 15 minutes or until thoroughly heated.
In a small saucepan, combine 2 tablespoons broth, shallots, 1/4 cup wine, vinegar, and bay leaf, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 3 minutes. Drain through a fine sieve into a bowl. Discard solids.
Return liquid to the saucepan. Stir in remaining broth and cornstarch with a whisk. Bring to a boil and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.
Add butter, stirring until butter melts. Stir in lemon juice and black pepper.
I was really excited to make this dish. It included many of my favorite flavors in a combination that I would not expect. I must admit, though, I was also a little intimidated. One, the dish included meat. Cooking meat makes me very nervous. I’ve never had food poisoning, but I attribute that to consciously choosing other varieties of protein in my meal. I also knew Lesley was not a fan of meat and didn’t want to disappoint. Second, it had A LOT of prep work. I’m sure it goes without saying, but my nights are full! Where was I going to find time to chop all of those onions? Then I remembered! Lesley has a food chopper! Oh, that made my excitement even greater. I always wanted to try one of those, and if it worked, it would save me a great deal of time. I brought home my borrowed food chopper and got to work. In no time (okay, maybe 45 minutes or so), I had chopped all the onions and green peppers, made the marinade, and assembled the garnish all with a baby on hip. Success!
6-8 oz flank steak or round steak
1/2 cup naranja agria (2 parts orange juice, 1 part lemon juice)
2 Tbsp minced garlic
1/2 cup medium onions, chopped
1/4 cup lime juice
1/2 cup parsley, finely chopped
2 limes, cut into wedges
1) Combine naranja agria and garlic. Marinate steaks for 1 hour.
2) Prepare garnish in a medium bowl. Combine parsley, onions, and lime juice. Drizzle a small amount of olive oil over the mixture and cover. Set aside.
3) Cook steak. Garnish the steak and serve with lime wedges.
Moros y Cristianos (Cuban Red Beans and Rice)
1 1/2 cups dried black beans
1/4 cup olive oil
2 1/2 cups white onions, chopped
2 1/2 cups green peppers, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
3 Tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp oregano
1 bay leaf
3 Tbsp white vinegar
2 Tbsp tomato paste
2 Tsp salt
1/2 Tsp pepper
4 1/2 cups chicken stock
3 cups long-grain rice
1) Saute onions and green peppers in olive oil until tender. Add garlic and saute 1 to 2 more minutes.
2) Add tomato paste, black beans, oregano, cumin, bay leaf, and vinegar. Cook about 5 minutes, stirring gently.
3) Add chicken stock and rice. Bring to a boil. Turn the temperature down and allow to simmer, covered, for 20-30 minutes.
*This recipe makes a lot of rice. Approximately 8-10 servings. Depending on the size of your family or the number of guests you have over, you will likely have leftovers. Try making Leftover Rice Cakes with this flavorful rice!
Ali’s Awesome Sangria
Another excitement for me in preparing this dinner was making sangria. I’ve never made it but always wanted to try. While looking at several sangria recipes, I decided that, basically, you throw a lot of fruit into red wine. So I did, and it was amazing.
1 bottle of dry red wine
1 6 oz can of peach juice
1 20 oz can of cubed pineapple, with juice
1 nectarine, chopped
2 oranges, chopped
1 lime, juiced
1/2 cup sugar
1) Combine all ingredients in pitcher and put it in the refrigerator overnight. Serve chilled.