I Love Presents!

Just after Easter the FedEx man arrived with a gift from the great people at FoodBuzz. Oooh, I love getting presents! 😉 It was marked ‘Keep Refrigerated’ and ‘Perishable’. What could it be? The Tartlets gathered around to see what treasure would come from the box. Imagine my delight when it was a package of Buitoni’s new Wild Mushroom Agnolotti. Especially delightful since three of the Tartlets turn their little noses up at mushrooms, leaving all the more for me! 😀

Oh, the ideas this lovely gift inspired. What kind of sauce to make? Hmmm . . . eggplant and zucchini in a tomato base? artichoke and leek in a cream base? maybe just a light toss with some fresh pesto? or a creamy sauce with ham and peas? oh maybe something with a little wine in it? Oh the agony of decision making! But this was just after Easter and I had a little bit of lamb leftover, which I usually save for a shepherd’s pie, and the sauteed mushrooms and onions were *sooooo* good with the lamb, that I kept thinking of how to incorporate the lamb into my pasta sauce.

The leeks couldn’t be passed up, so I started building a recipe in my head, combining things I had on hand with a few things I bought to add. Leftover half and half, leftover lamb, pignolia in the cupboard, and a lemon from the fridge were combined with a red pepper, leek, fresh grated Parmesan cheese, fresh oregano and basil to make a very tasty lunch. Tartlet 1 said that the only problem she could see with this recipe is that there wasn’t more of it!

In order to not be swayed by the flavor of my sauce, I tasted a wild mushroom agnolotti fresh from the boiling pot, and it was just amazing. Little bits of mushroom with a great flavor and would be a lovely meal without any sauce at all. Although the packages may be a bit spendy for feeding a family of six, I would absolutely buy this as a treat or for special adult meals. I loved them!

Speaking of spending money, I’d like to give a plug for buying day old bread at your grocery bakery. I picked up a day old baguette for $0.83. Now day old baguettes may seem to you like they are only useful as baseball bats or fending off would be attackers, but they make great cheesy toast. Cut the loaf in half, sprinkle with a little seasoning, top with shredded cheese and bake in a 350 – 400 F oven until the cheese melts. Not only will the bread soften so you don’t recognize it as day old, but you made a great accompaniment for your meal for a little more than a dollar (adding the cost of the cheese). It goes well with pasta and soups.

Make sure you check out what other people are doing with their pasta gifts and, if you like what you see, Buzz it!

Wild Mushroom Agnolotti with Lamb and Leek Cream Sauce

1 package Buitoni Wild Mushroom Agnolotti, cooked according to the directions

2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 medium leek
2 Tbsp. fresh basil, chopped
2 Tbsp. fresh oregano, chopped
1 crushed clove of garlic
1/2 medium red pepper, chopped
zest of one lemon
1/2 c. chopped cooked lamb

1 1/2 c. half and half (or substitute milk)
3/4 c. shredded Parmesan cheese

1/2 c. pignolia

In a heavy pan over medium heat, heat olive oil and saute leek until bright green. Add basil, oregano, garlic, red pepper, lemon and lamb. Saute until fragrant and vegetables are tender.

Add half and half and continue to heat, stirring frequently, until sauce is warm. Add the cheese and stir constantly, allowing the sauce to thicken. If you like a thicker sauce, add a Tbsp of flour to 2 Tbsp cold water and mix well, then add to the sauce and stir until thickened; for a thinner sauce, add a little milk or half and half. Stir in pignolia and serve over Wild Mushroom Agnolotti. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan, if desired.

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He Is Risen!

We had the privilege today to celebrate the Risen Lord with a number of friends. The no-longer-blogging Gorfchild kept our guests from being too impatient while waiting for me to finish cooking by playing his guitar and leading us in some worship songs. I forgot to put the sweet potatoes in the oven, but thought I had, so we were 30 minutes behind schedule. There’s little so frustrating as opening your oven to find it empty when you are striving to have the other dishes finished at approximately the same time! But our friends are too polite to grumble over the tardiness of the meal. 😉

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Notice the abundance of men in blue button-down shirts (4 total)? The Husband is one of them at the end of the table in the bottom pic. When I was gainfully employed as a chemist and I had need of a service technician for my instruments, I learned the HP dress code was a blue button-down. Now I think of it as the ‘nerd uniform’. Hehehe! 😀 I only mean that in the best way — I like nerds, I married one. 😉

I think this was officially our largest Easter dinner. We had 19 adults, 5 kids, and 2 infants. We put 20 people at the big table and had a ‘kids’ table’ for the 4 youngest. The birthday girl (10 today) was very happy about being an ‘adult’ today! 😉

The menu for today:

Lamb roasted with oregano and garlic, rather like the lamb steaks I did earlier
Ham with apricot glaze
Praline Sweet Potatoes
Oven Roasted Yukon Gold potatoes with onion and spices
Steamed Asparagus
Orange Glazed Baby Carrots
Peas
Baby Greens salad with grape tomatoes, olives, and jicama

Dinner rolls (the only thing that I didn’t prepare myself — brown-n-serve rolls)

and for dessert:
Chocolate Chip Cheesecake with Raspberry Sauce
Lemon Curd Cake with Fruit
Zucotto (a chocolate bombe)

Recipes and more pictures to come . . . stay tuned!

A Visit to Santorini

We didn’t fly off to Greek Isles yesterday, we just drove up to Chicago. The Husband needed to pick up a rather large box of ‘stuff’ for work and he’s been wanting to make it a Romantic Outing for about 2 wks. Yesterday we were finally able to get away, many thanks to Ramona and Nat. The trip to Chicago met the two major criteria we have for adventures to the Windy City — we didn’t get lost and we didn’t get in an accident. But driving in Chicago makes me freak out and the Husband and I discussed some major decisions in the car, our best place to talk, so it wasn’t exactly a relaxing day.

We drove right to the place to pick up the big box and then drove toward the lake and found a place to park for an exorbitant sum of money. We walked out to the end of Navy Pier and back to the car and then drove to Santorini at the corner of Halsted and Adams. One of the Husband’s former co-workers took us there about 6 yrs ago when we were in Chicago for an event at the Field Museum. It’s a nice Greek restaurant with white tablecloths and we had in tow two kids who were about 4 and 1.5 and who were tired after a day of travel and museum wandering. It’s not a place that is typically frequented by people with children but they were ever so gracious and seated us in a distant corner and gave the kids special things to eat. Ever since then the Husband has been wanting to us go back alone.

Santorini offers complimentary valet parking, which we didn’t realize and didn’t use. After you walk in the door of the terra cotta colored building, to your left is a display case of iced seafood. Both times we have been there, at least one octopus was prominently displayed. Santorini has a number of seafood specialties, but I’ve only had the kalimari, which was good. The restaurant interior is rustic with flagstone floors, a fireplace (with a fire yesterday), and homey decor.

They serve a hearty bread with butter and olive oil at the table while you peruse the menu. There are soups, salads, hot and cold appetizers, specials, kabobs, seafood, pasta and desserts. We ordered a fried eggplant appetizer that came with about six slices of deep fried eggplant covered with a delicious red sauce and a sprinkling of cheese. It would have been enough to make a meal by itself. I think it was about $5 with the most expensive appetizers (octopus being one of them) around $10-11.

For the entree, the Husband ordered Chicken Alexander, one of the specials that is served on Tuesdays and another day of the week (the menu labels the days that each special is served). It is a dish of chicken and vegetables (peas, carrots, celery, pepper, onion, etc) wrapped in phyllo dough and covered with the same delicious red sauce as was on the eggplant (I’ve got to learn how to make that stuff! YUM!) with cheese. It’s massive — about 8-10 inches long, 4 inches high and 4-5 inches deep; enough to fill the Husband and still have leftovers! It came with some very tasty potatoes that were cooked with onion. They serve something similar made with lamb, Lamb Stamnos, which I ordered the last time we were there and it was wonderful too. I didn’t take the camera with us so please excuse me for showing you pictures of cold leftovers — it doesn’t do justice to the goodness of the food.

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Showing the inside:

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I ordered Lamb Artichokes and it came with as much meat as I would use to serve the entire family. I’m afraid I ate most of the artichokes, all of the 4 or 5 thick slices of carrot, and part of the potato. The sauce has lemon and seasoning that is just scrumptious.

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I think our specials were both in the $11-12 range. The high end of the menu would be some seafood options around $22-25. The price is very reasonable for the quality and quantity of food you get.  I was hoping to try the baklava for dessert, but I was too stuffed. The service was perfect, the food was excellent, and I hope we don’t wait six years to go back! 🙂

Flattery Bread

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“They” say that imitation is the highest form of flattery so Helen should considered herself praised from afar. 😉 And she passed on the recipe from Saffron so there’s all sorts of flattery going on here.

I made the chappatis tonight as the replacement for pita in my pseudo-gyros. Next time I might try rolling them out a little thicker — this time I made them rather like a flour tortilla (which I think is how they are supposed to be but I don’t know Indian food well and I’m mixing my ethnicities here with the foods). I’d love to find something a little thicker, like naan but that doesn’t need a tandoor oven!

Anyway, Saffron mentions making these in a food processor, which I do not own, so I mixed the cottage cheese and spinach in the blender until it was smooth (and GREEN!) and then followed the recipe from there. They weren’t difficult at all and I’ll definitely make them again . . . possibly this week to use up the cottage cheese.

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I sliced up the leftover lamb steaks and some leftover chuck steak with an onion and heated it in a pan with olive oil, oregano, cumin, lemon juice and garlic.

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I put the gyros together with feta:

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and topped it with tomato, lettuce and tzatziki sauce.

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Oh yum! I scarfed mine down rather quickly as I was heading out the door and I took longer cooking dinner than I had hoped, so I haven’t heard the verdict from the rest of the family. But *I* loved it and would happily make these for myself! 🙂

Respite from Rice

When I was shopping on Saturday I found they had dropped the price of a bunch of lamb shoulder steaks by 40% b/c they were a day from expiration.  Any time you have some lamb about to expire, I’ll take it.  I grew up eating lamb b/c we raised them but I’m too stingy to pay the usual $4-8/lb for the stuff . . . but 40% off, I’ll snatch it up! 😉

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I tossed the steaks in a bag with some lemon juice and a little olive oil.  Next, I rubbed it with garlic and added sea salt, fresh cracked pepper, and oregano.  After cooking the leftover rice all week, we were ready for the break Sunday night.  I grilled the lamb steaks, roasted some spuds, nuked some veggies, and sliced some honeydew for dessert.  Summer is almost here and I’m ready for grilling season.

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We bought a new grill at the end of the season last year and I love it.  I’ve even used it in the middle of winter.  It has a thermometer on the lid so once it read 400 F, I added the lamb.  I love the sound of meat searing on the grill.  I turned them after a few minutes ~maybe 5 minutes?  and let them cook another 5-6 minutes.  I don’t like my lamb to bleat as it walks up to my plate and lays down; I like it medium well to well done.  If you like yours less well done, it would only take a couple of minutes per side.

Mmm, tasty.  I think Thing 1 ate 2 steaks and everyone but Thing 4 liked it. I have a couple of steaks leftover and I’m thinking I’ll try to find some naan or other flatbread and slice the lamb and mix with some other stuff, maybe even some rice, to have with a little yogurt sauce.