Home Alone: A Mother’s Fantasy

Back at the end of January, The Husband bought a barn on eBay. No, I don’t mean like a barn and some property, I mean just the barn, 5 hours from home. He finally started taking it apart and bringing home the pieces in March and has been going back up to it every nice weekend he can. The first weekend he went alone, then he took Tartlet 1, another time he took Tartlets 1 & 2, another time it was Tartlets 2, 3 & 4 (Tartlet 1 was in her glory having Mom without competition!). This weekend he has taken all four Tartlets! So I am having a wonderful quiet day alone.

I’ve done the sorts of things it seems every mom I know does when the kids are gone — clean and organize without interference. Tossing out little plastic toys that no one will miss if they don’t see them going into the trash, straightening some drawers, laundry, laundry, and more laundry. Finally it was time to take a break and find some nourishment.

Many times when The Husband is gone, I don’t really cook. Either I get some take out or I scrounge leftovers. Knowing I would be sans car (no take out) and wanting something that celebrated the adult moment of being home alone, I bought some mushrooms and asparagus before the family left. I added a sprinkling of feta, some onion, a little long sweet red pepper, and seasoned it with a little fresh garlic and dried basil and oregano and tossed it with mostaccioli.  Mmmm, adult food!

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.

It’s a ‘Shroomin’ Kind of Day

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We are without children for a couple of days — they get a vacation without parents but with the Grandparents. So we had ‘adult food’ tonight. The kind you make and know no one will turn up their nose and say “Eewwww, what is *this*?” It’s good to have a couple of those days in a year.

Since I am without an oven still, I grilled tonight. We had burgers, but not quite like the Husband’s favorites (which involve green chile). I mixed about 1/2 pound of ground beef with some chopped onion, a couple tablespoons of raspberry chipoltle salsa, a sprinkle of bread crumbs, and an egg and made those into patties. When they were nearly done, I topped them with cheese, a slice of deli turkey, a grilled portabella mushroom, and spread the bun with guacamole rather than the typical mayo/mustard/ketchup options. Mmmm. That’s a good burger! I served it with grilled crab stuffed mushrooms that are slightly different than that recipe — no ham, different cheeses, etc, and fruit salad. Later I made some Mango Dreams for us.

Stuffed Mushrooms

I was inspired by Brilynn at Jumbo Empanadas and her special creations for the Food Holidays. Today is ‘Stuffed Mushroom Day’. I have been saving some cans of crab meat that were originally intended for the New Year’s Eve party and, boy, am I glad I used them this way!! Actually, tonight’s dinner is going to be the source of three separate posts . . . the Husband came home and wondered if it was my birthday and he forgot! 😉

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I didn’t follow a recipe for these and, as usual, I didn’t measure anything, so this is going to be a ‘free form’ recipe.

I bought four ‘baby portabella’ mushrooms — but they were still a good 2.5-3 inches across. I cleaned those up and scraped out the pretty ridges inside the cap. I saved two of the stems and chopped them into a bowl. I added half a can of crab meat, an egg white, a dab of mayo (2 tsp?), a pinch of breadcrumbs, a couple of squirts of Tabasco, about a tablespoon of very finely minced turkey ham, and about a 1/4 cup of finely shredded mozzarella b/c I didn’t have any more interesting cheese on hand.

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I put a bit of that on top of each mushroom, to fill the caps. I topped it with some more finely shredded mozzarella.

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I baked them in a 350 F oven for about 20 minutes.

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Then I served them with dinner. The kids, who moaned in agony that I would cook yucky blecky mushrooms (despite my telling them it wasn’t for them, but a treat for Mom and Dad), suddenly wished I had made more than 4 because, man, these are GREAT!!!

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Recipe of the Day — Chocolate Cheesecake (with White Lasagna) *** Updated recipe with photos

Tonight I made two experimental foods and invited over a couple I can always use as guinea pigs . . . a nameless, blogless people who are game to try many of my creations at least once. They declared both to be worthy of repetition!! Yeah!!!

I guess I’ve had a lasagna fixation since I catered the rehearsal dinner last week (lasagna was the main dish) b/c I kept thinking how interesting it would be to make the mushrooms and chicken in the fridge into a lasagna. So I made a white lasagna with chicken, mushrooms, and artichoke hearts (I know, you think I have some sort of chicken, mushroom and artichoke heart fetish or something, and maybe I do — but I really like the combo). I made a white sauce with some riesling (we drank the rest with dinner), milk and Parmesan. The cheese layer used ricotta, feta, mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses with an egg and some parsley — the feta was sadly swamped and I couldn’t really taste it distinctly. If I make it again I would probably want to add more feta. Still, it made for a good dinner. I have two really deep 10 x 13-in dishes so I made it in one of those with three layers of cheese & meat sauce and a fourth layer of noodles on top — nice, thick lasagna!

White Lasagna with chicken, mushroom and artichoke (after reheating in the mircowave):

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The second thing I made was a mental experiment that got out of hand. I still had some extra ricotta (when you buy it at Sam’s in a 3 lb container, it’s easy to have extra!) and I also had some phyllo dough and I started by thinking I could make some lovely little cheesecake bites in phyllo dough and then I started thinking, oh, and I could make it chocolate cheesecake . . . but even though I’m not from TX, I can’t seem to keep myself from making everything *large* so I started mixing up my batter and then I looked at my nearly full Pampered Chef bowl and thought — man, this will make something like 100 cheesecake ‘bites’ . . . um, let’s think of something else . . . so I whipped out the Pampered Chef springform pan (which had a couple of rust spots on it 😦 ) and started putting together a graham cracker crust but I wanted it chocolate-y so I added cocoa.
I was doing this at 3 PM with my dinner guests coming at 6:30 so I really should have thought ahead (reading a recipe or two might have helped too!) — I didn’t give myself much time for it to cool, etc. It was no longer warm when I served it, but it was kind of gooey, which at least one of the guests prefers — he doesn’t like true cheesecake and said he never would have thought it was cheesecake if I hadn’t told him b/c the texture was nothing like it. I sat down and tried to remember what I did, so this may, in fact, be totally wrong . . . I think if I were to make this again, I would use one less egg — it ended up with something between cheesecake and molten lava cake texture . . . Molten Cheesecake?? But it tastes mighty fine.

Man, I wish I had the camera tonight . . . The Husband and Kids are back, so I *do* have the camera now:

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Chocolate Cheesecake

Crust:

1 sleeve graham crackers, crushed

1/4 c. sugar

5-6 Tbsp. melted butter

2 Tbsp. cocoa (this is totally a guess, I just opened the container and shook some into my bowl)

Filling:

~ 1/4 c. whipping cream

1 1/2 – 2 c. chocolate chips (I used a partial bag of dark and a partial bag of semi-sweet)

3 c. ricotta cheese

1 c. sugar

4 eggs (try 3 if you make this recipe!)
Method:

Stir together the crust ingredients and press into the bottom of the 9-in springform pan, bringing the crust up the side slightly. Bake at 350 F for 10-15 minutes. Remove from oven and cool.

In a heavy saucepan, over low heat, stir together the whipping cream and chocolate chips until melted and smooth.

In a medium bowl, beat together the cheese, sugar and egg until well mixed. Stir in chocolate mixture and beat 1 min. Pour into prepared pan. Bake at 325 F for 50-60 minutes. Cool completely.

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I thought about making a ganauche to go over the top of this, but it was clearly soft already so I skipped that (it did form a ‘crust’ top). If I were prepared, I would have whipped the rest of the cream to serve with it, but instead I was on the phone talking to the Husband so I didn’t 😉 I’ll try to reserve at least one piece of this until Saturday night when the Husband returns with the camera and I’ll update the post then! Done! 🙂 I *still* didn’t add the whipping cream garnish for the Husband but he really liked it with his glass of milk, which is a *must* for him with a sweet chocolatey dessert.

Easy Recipe of the Day (Return of the Artichokes)

I’m teaching my 9yr old how to cook some basic things and she’s currently thrilled with quesadillas — it’s like a grilled cheese tortilla, how simple can you get? Her favorite is to add a couple of spoons of chopped green chiles, chopped green onion and pre-shredded Mexican/4 Cheese from a bag and she likes to do hers stove top on the griddle b/c she doesn’t like to mess with the oven. The husband and I like a bit more to ours. This is what I did:

In a small saute pan:

olive oil

8oz sliced fresh mushrooms

sliced onion

sliced bell pepper (the pretty ones were on sale last week)

Sautee until tender crisp then divide between 2-4 tortillas, depending on how full you like them. Top with some chopped artichoke hearts, sprinkle with cheese. I make my quesadillas by folding the tortilla over on itself, but you can also make them stacked. Pop in a 350F oven for 5 min and YUM! The only improvement I would have made would be to have some feta on hand instead of the Mexican cheese . . . but this was tasty. This may show up as an appetizer at future food events in our household!

Easy Recipe of the Day (today’s dinner)

Chicken & Artichoke Pasta

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in 1 inch cubes
small onion, diced
14 oz jar marinated artichoke hearts, cut in smaller pieces
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
grape tomatoes, halved
Parmesan cheese
16 oz box bowtie pasta

In a large pot, cook the pasta according to the package instructions, drain.
In a large skillet, cook the chicken breasts, onion and artichoke hearts in a few tablespoons of the artichoke marinade. When the chicken is cooked through (no more pink showing), toss in the mushrooms and cook a few minutes. Add the tomatoes, cheese and cooked pasta and stir to coat. Serves 6-8.

You can also had some halved black olives (yum!) and some red bell pepper is nice if you have it (I didn’t tonight).

It was resoundly detested by the offspring, which makes it clear just how yummy it was. I served it with some asparagus.