Monthly Archives: July 2011

In the words of Ina, “how easy is that?”

July 28, 2011

I’d like to think the Barefoot Contessa herself would approve of my quick and easy dinner tonight.  She’s telling it’s easy to grill a whole chicken, as I whip up my little dinner here…so, I’ll just assume she’d be okay with it.
Tonight, I did the thing I usually do at about 5:30 on Thursday- “HOLY CHEESE AND CRACKERS! It’s 5:30 and I didn’t even start to THINK about dinner. Hmmm….”

Tonight’s rescue plan: Pasta tossed in a creamy artichoke and sausage sauce.  (Ready in the time it takes to cook the pasta!)

1. Open up a jar of Artichoke Antipasta (I’m using a 12 ounce jar from Trader Joe’s- thanks Aunt MP!)

2. Toss that in a high lipped skillet, along with a spash of milk, and some precooked Sausage Crumbles (Jimmy Dean are on sale this week, friends!- and there’s a coupon!)

3. Add some grated parmesean or romano…I was so desperate tonight that I grated up a “string cheese”. Don’t sweat it- whatever you have is fine so long as its not cheddar.

4. Give them a stir every now and then to make sure everyone’s having fun at the party.  When your pasta is done, transfer the skillet and toss it all together…Yum!

…and how easy was that?

Monday Lovin from the Oven

July 18, 2011

Oh let’s see…what can we make today? It’s 5:40 and Kevin will be home in about 25 minutes.  I hate when I don’t have a game plan, but sometimes that ends up being my finest meals.  I’m hoping tonight will be that way.  Here’s some “Monday Lovin’ from Your Oven”:

Simple Chicken Courden Bleu (kind of?) with Rice and Green Beans

Alright so this is easy-peasy.  I make this recipe for 2, but you can make it for however many people are at dinner!  Get your oven groovin’ at a nice 350.

I take boneless, skinless chicken breasts and filet them (cut them in half, except the one side), and then pound them out a tiny bit.  (OR you could just pound them out. your call.)  Next, I add some sliced deli ham that we happen to have for lunches. (I generally do 2 to 3 slices per chicken breast- put it on one side of the chicken)  I top that with cheese- baby swiss works great, but we didn’t have that tonight, so I’m using a sliced mottz/provolone blend.  1 and 1/2 slices per piece of chicken.  Then I fold the top half over the chicken and coat it.  To coat the top, mix 2 squirts mayo with 1 squirt dijon mustard. Very scientific.  Mix that up with a fork or a spoon and divide it up among your chicken in a semi thin layer.  Then, pop those lovely chickies into the oven for 25 minutes. 

While those are going, I make the rice and finally the beans.  This part is nothing special- I follow the directions given to me.  When I’m feeling fancy (as I am tonight), I spruce up the rice at the end with a few spoonfuls of the dijon/majo mixture. It adds a little creaminess and flavor pop to the otherwise pretty boring rice.

And that’s it.  Sorry this is a shortie today, but in all honesty…I’m typing this while the above dinner is cooking, and figured..why not share?

Happy eating!

I am my mother, after all…

July 15, 2011

While most would think that title is scary in itself…I am OK with being like my mother.  She was a pretty special lady.  We’d all be okay to be a bit more like her, in my opinion.  But, today’s shining example of how I’ve become my mother, struck today when I saw this adorable china pattern in a magazine, and decided that I may need another set of dishes after all.  I mean, come on… how cute are these??

SO THEN, I got to looking at china patterns…and now, I have a problem. I want several.  Now, this is fairly common for most of the relatives in my family.  I fit in with them completely because I would be happy having a different set of dishes for each day of the week.  While searching, I also found these cuties…which would happen to match the eggplant colored Rachael Ray serving ware that I have my eyes on. 

Keep in mind, I already have these beautiful every day dishes from Kevin’s mom.  Completely adore them because they were my dream dishes for quite some time.  I have zero interest in replacing these dishes any time soon…I love them…how they look, how the mug feels in my hand… love them.

So many dishes…so little time.

Traditional Rustic Roasted Chicken and Vegetable Torte gets “real”

July 8, 2011

Hey, welcome back!  Remember how I mentioned that I was being haunted by visions of tortes and fabulous family dinners?  Well, it’s a little more complicated than just that.  Ever since we moved to this fantastic state, and discovered a little restaurant chain called “Bertucci’s”, my hauntings have become much more specific in nature.  You see, Bertuccis has this A-mazing torta that goes in their brick oven.  Now, I won’t go so far as to express my desire for a brick oven out back, but I will say that ever since tasting this torta and all of its glory on Valentine’s Day, I have been determined to make it….determined, but also, too busy. Or so I thought, until I asked Kevin earlier this week the ever famous 2:30 in the afternoon question via email “What do you want for dinner tonight.”  His response: “Something yummy.”  Well, gee…that sure narrowed it down.  Kevin is pretty laid back when it comes to food- lucky for me.  So, without much guidance from my love, I decided…tonight was the night of the torte.  Now, I know what you’re thinking…”that sounds like a hell of a lot of work when you could just go up the street and order one instead”. BUT, bear with me, because in under 45 minutes, you’ll have an insanely impressive and delicious dinner that really only takes about 5 minutes of prep work- AND gives you the groundwork for a 10 minute meal later in the week. Now that I’ve caught your attention again, let’s cook, shall we?

Do not groan at this list of ingredients.  It looks scarier than it really is, I promise.

2 medium zucchinis or yellow squash
4 roma tomatoes
1 red onion
1 mini** eggplant (see note below)
1 package of Perdue Short Cuts (I like the wine/ garlic ones)
1 canister/package Pillsbury Pizza Crust (in the cooler section at the store)
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
Your fave marinara
Olive Oil

First things first, get that oven preheating at 450.

Cut up the following veggies (Unless, of course, you enjoy the modern conveniences of a grocery store that has this done for you in their produce section. WIN!)
– 2 medium sized zucchinis or yellow squash, cut into circle medallions
– 1/2 a red onion, sliced in circles then separated into rings (Thanks, Giant!)
– 4 roma tomatoes, sliced in circles
– 1 mini** eggplant, sliced in circles, then halved
**Our Giant had these cute eggplants that were about 1/2 or 1/3 of the size of a regular eggplant…perfect amount.  IF your store does not have this, don’t fret…just get a regular one, and roast all of it.

Once your veggies are chopped, plop them on a baking dish and drizzle them with oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and pop them in the oven for about 25 minutes.  In the meantime, you can prep your dough! (Did you just groan again??)

Now, Martha and Julia…and all our friends from the 50’s for that matter… would have you make this from scratch and let it rise. Blah blah blah.  I, on the other hand, let the nice people at Pillsbury do that for us.  After all,  that little doughboy has to earn a living somehow!  So, what I REALLY mean when I say prep your dough, is this:
                      Go to the fridge and take out the canister thing of Pillsbury pizza crust.  Unwrap the paper, stab at the seam with your spoon, and inevitably jump when it finally pops open. (You snicker, but it happens every time, and you know it)  Unroll your dough onto a baking sheet and cut it in half so you have 2 squares. *huff, puff, huff puff* Done.  Dough prepped.  That wasn’t so bad, was it?

Now, for the next 15 minutes or so, kick back- pour a glass of wine!  Or, if you feel the urge, set the table.  I’ll opt for the wine, thanks.  If you feel SUPER ambitious- make a little salad. (ie, open the bag of salad)

Great! Once your veggies are delightfully roasted, take them out, but keep your oven cruisin at a toasty 450.  Spoon a bit of your fave marinara onto your dough, leaving the edges sauce free- we’ll need those in just a minute!  Spoon some of the veggies in (aren’t they lovely? Gosh- you are a culinary marvel!) and add a dollop of ricotta cheese.  Finally top it off with Perdue Short Cuts chicken.  I am partial to the wine/garlic variety that they just came out with.  You won’t need the whole package, just enough to look sufficient.  Fold over the edges of the dough, pinching as you go, making a bit of a “lip” for your torte until you get the whole way around.  At this point, our classic ladies would insist that you brush the dough with an egg wash.  I will insist that you don’t bother- it’s fine, really.  Pop those babies in the oven for 15 minutes and bask in the glory of your yummy food adventure.

But wait- there’s those extra veggies on the tray!  Here are 3 ideas that will have your other leftovers shaking in their tupperware.

1) Roasted Veggie Pasta- if you can boil water, you can do this!  Prepare linguine as directed on the box.  Note that a wheat pasta adds a nice nutty element to the dish.  While the pasta is doing it’s thing, toss your veggies in your fave sauce, (A basil pesto sauce works great- go store bought, it’s fine!) and put in the microwave for 2 minutes.  Toss the veggie/sauce combo with your linguine, and PRESTO. Dinner is done!

2) Roasted Veggie Subs- top open faced subs with veggies and a slice of provolone cheese.  Put under broiler for 5-7 minutes (keep your eye on them so they don’t burn).  Yum!

3) Roasted Veggie Soup- prepare tomato soup in a pot.  Add veggies and blend using a “Stick” or immersion blender.  Fantastic with asiago foccacia from the store!

Try them out-I promise, it’s not hard and your tummy will thank you.
Until next time…happy eating,

A 1950’s wife in a 2011 life!

July 6, 2011

And so, it begins…

A few years back, I sat down on the living room floor and began thumbing through various cookbooks that belonged to my mother and great aunts.  Treasures of a life since passed; a time of fabulous recipes for family meals, homemade pies, and bake sale treats.  And as I read with guilty pleasure, I couldn’t help but feel somewhat annoyed.  Yes, annoyed.  Homemade crusts? Dough from scratch?!  Who has that kind of time? Oh Julia…Oh Betty… Oh, even you, Martha (my favorite)…How could you have known how busy we’d become? That your hours of dedication and  meticulous recipes would end up essentially obsolete to us?  “A Perfect Pie”- seriously? It was just all too much to think about.  Cautiously, I thought “some other time”, and backed away from the books.

But it was too late.  I was captured; haunted by the images of rustic tortes and homemade soups.  Captivated by the notion of Sunday roasts and cakes on pedestal plates.  Somehow, my pre-prepared one skillet frozen wonder of modern convenience seemed so empty.  Where was the soul in this food? (Sucked out when it was vacuum packed, no doubt!)  It seemed to me, in that moment, that our ever-present quest to “go go go” and streamline our needs, we’ve forgotten one very crucial detail. 

And that, is this: Food is meant to nourish the soul as much as the body.

And in that moment, staring at the empty bag that now symbolized my empty dinner, Modern Martha was born.  That tiny spark of a notion that perhaps, it didn’t have to be this way; that spark that said “Hey Jenny, maybe, just maybe, you could have both.”  Hmm. That’s an interesting concept.  Somewhere, I am certain that Julia Child is rolling over in her grave as I type this, and so in that sense, I will also say this:  If ever I should meet Martha Stewart, since I obviously can’t personally apologize for the horrors I’d have inflicted upon dear Julia, I hope that Ms. Stewart won’t be irritated that I’ve somewhat borrowed her name and yet totally changed what it stands for.  I hope she’ll understand that while women of my generation may love her books, magazines, and products, that we simply don’t have time to say, debone a chicken on a Tuesday evening.  No offense, Martha, but we’ve got things to do!  In any case, I hope these magnificent women whom inspire me each day, will understand.

So why Modern Martha?  Well, it came to be my title out of jest fun and a light bit of teasing.  Of my friends and age bracket colleagues, I consistently am the one who cooks up new recipes, is “crafty”, and could be teleported to the 1950’s and fit in without so much as blinking an eye…right down to my vintage Pyrex bowls and vintage inspired apron.  It makes my friends giggle, and also makes them give me house plants- which, ironically, I kill instantly…Apparently my Martha only goes so far!

At any rate, I suppose it was inevitable that I’d end up here…at the crossroads of classic and convenient.  So here’s to an experiment in seeing if 2 world can co-exist when they collide.

Happy reading, and more importantly, happy eating!