Almost Greek Tortellini Salad

For the last four or so years that we’ve lived together, my husband and I have spent weekend mornings lazing around in bed. Around 10 AM, our bed became think tank HQ for plotting out weekend days and nights.  There were big, strategic decisions to be made: where might we want to go eat for dinner?  with whom should we try to make plans?  what fun things did we want to do?

Now weekend mornings are just a little different.  For one: they begin earlier, as the newest member of our household doesn’t understand the concept of sleeping in.  For another: it’s a lot less think tank, a lot more operations management.  When and where and how are we going to squeeze in naptime and feeding time and cleaning all the things time?  For one more: we spend a lot less time planning Saturday night and more time planning Monday night. As in, what can I make for dinner that will be quick and easy and also quick and easy?

The husband came up with the below.  Bonus: it’s good hot or cold and even sneaks you some veggies.

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Almost Greek Tortellini Salad

  • 1 package tortellini
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • about 3-4 oz sundried tomatoes, preferably packed in oil
  • 1 container cherry tomatoes, cut in half or quartered
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and diced
  • about 4 oz feta cheese, crumbled
  • a big handful spinach
  • obviously optional – olives. I hear some people like these.
  • for the dressing:
    • olive oil
    • red wine or balsamic vinegar
    • dash cumin
    • salt, pepper
    • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
    • dash oregano
  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook the tortellini according to the directions; drain.  While this gets going, prep all your veggies and put them into a large bowl.
  2. In a small side bowl, whisk all of the dressing ingredients together.  (Note: the cumin adds just a hint of sweet that I really like against the general saltiness of the dish.)
  3. Add the warm, drained tortellini to the veggie bowl and give it a toss.   Add the feta and give it a thorough mix before adding spinach and dressing.  Serve warm or cold.

The Verdict:

This was deliciously easy, which is a good thing since the pictures didn’t come out (see above, obvi).  Which means I’ll get another crack at posting something a little more light-friendly.  Also: the fact that you can serve this warm or cold makes it a perfect dish to bring to your new mom friends.  Just saying: heating things in the microwave can be a challenge.

 

Slow Cooked Coconut Curry Chicken

While I grant that it’s totally odd to be eating heavy slow cooker dishes when the temperature outside is approaching 100 degrees F and every time we step outside I melt into a small puddle that incidentally seems to attract all the mosquitoes in the DMV area, the slow cooker seems to be one of the few ways I actually get dinner to the table these days.  Just another reason for my love affair with the crock pot: dinner can basically be done by the time baby goes down for and then wakes up from his first nap.  And I can spend the rest of the day feeling like at least I accomplished one thing.

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Slow Cooked Coconut Curry Chicken

  • 2 pounds bone-in chicken breasts, skin removed
  • salt and pepper
  • coconut oil
  • 2 cans coconut milk
  • a big heap fresh basil
  • a big handful yellow curry powder
  • a handful chili powder
  • 1 large red onion, chopped
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • a big squeeze chili paste or 1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch or flour
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated or minced
  • to serve:
    • cooked rice or barley
    • cilantro
    • more basil
    • sour cream or Greek yogurt
  1. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add a little bit of coconut oil.
  2. Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper.  Add them to the pan (don’t overcrowd the pan!) and get a nice brown sear on each side.  Remove to a plate while you assemble the slow cooker ingredients.
  3. In the slow cooker, combine coconut milk, basil, about 2 teaspoons salt and a teaspoon pepper, curry powder, and chili powder. Stir to combine and then add the red onions, garlic, and chili paste/jalapeno.  Place the seared chicken on top.
  4. Cook on low for 6-8 hours and then remove the chicken; let it cool for a few minutes so you can shred it.
  5. As chicken cools, add the ginger to the slow cooker.  Combine a little bit of cornstarch or flour with about a tablespoon cold water and give it a quick stir – add this to the slow cooker to help thicken the sauce a bit.
  6. Shred the chicken, removing the bones, and then return it to the crock pot.  Cook on low for another ten minutes or so.
  7. Serve on rice (we used barley – oh so good), topped with cilantro.

The Verdict:

Of all the dishes in slow cooker land, this is the one I’ve heard the most rave reviews from my husband about.    In fact, I was pretty sure I shouldn’t be posting this recipe, with the 100 degree heat and all, but then Husband asked: “but what if you forget how you made it?!”  I won’t, because I basically just adapted to our taste from this fabulous lady, but your wish is my  command, honey.

Slow Cooker Ramen

No one who lives in DC is actually from here.  “Home” is always a word for another state, another city, another place – even if that’s somewhere in the DMV area (so, I admit I don’t think Fairfax counts as DC).  Somehow, almost 14 years have passed since I first moved here, and when I talk about going home, I always mean Boston.

However, there are some signs that my son will mean “DC” when he talks about home.  Like the fact that we just bought a house here. (Side note:  Yea, so that happened, and it was terrifying.)  And he owns more DC-onesies than can fit in his chest of drawers.  And most importantly, the local ramen guy knows his parents, and always manages to squeeze them in ahead of the long line.  Thanks, Tony.

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Slow Cooker Ramen, inspired by Cooking Light

  • canola or olive oil
  • 2 pounds pork roast or loin
  • salt, pepper
  • crushed red pepper
  • 2 onions, peeled and halved horizontally
  • 8 cups chicken stock (can also use some water instead)
  • 1/4 cup  soy sauce, divided
  • 2 containers shiitake mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • about 2 inches of fresh ginger, sliced thinly
  • 1 package fresh udon noodles
  • one egg per servings planned (i.e., one egg per bowl)
  • 1/2 bunch scallions, sliced
  • a handful of sesame seeds
  • optional – 1 sheet nori, cut into very thin strips; 1 cup or so corn kernels

1. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add oil to pan. Season the pork with salt and pepper, and then add pork to the pan and sear on all sides.  Place in the slow cooker.

2. Increase the heat of the skillet and add onions, cut side down.  Cook until charred, and then transfer to slow cooker. Add the stock and about two tablespoons of soy sauce to the slow cooker.  Shake some red pepper in there for heat. Remove the stems from the mushrooms and add those to the slow cooker.  Cover and cook on low for 7 hours.

3. Remove pork from cooker and let rest while you thinly slice the mushroom caps.  Strain the mushroom caps from the brother.  Add 2 tablespoons soy sauce, mushroom caps, sesame oil, and ginger to slow cooker. Cook on high for 20 minutes. Add noodles and corn to slow cooker; cook 5 minutes.

4. As the noodles cook, poach an egg or two to serve. Serve with the soup, sprinkle with sesame seeds, scallions, and nori, if using.

The Verdict:

No one will be replacing Sakuramen anytime soon, but goodness this was good.

Cranberry Grapefruit Muffins

Here are just a few ways you can tell I’m no baker.

  1. I measure things in “handfuls,” “bunches,” “splashes,” and other oh-so-specific terms.
  2. I (always, always, always) eat the batter.  Even pancake batter.  Raw eggs, bring it on.
  3. After the first round of pancakes/muffins/coookies/insert-the-baked-good, I will often end up with just enough dough or batter to make just one GIANT insert-the-baked good.  I always go for it.

Despite being no baker, I don’t let a little thing like recipes get me down.  I had a grapefruit going bad and I didn’t want to do the healthy thing and just eat it for breakfast on its own, so I added sugar and butter and sour cream and flour and all sorts of things that are absolutely no good for you, and THESE turned out.  They were absolutely delicious.  I even measured along the way, so I could try to replicate them some time in the future.

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Cranberry Grapefruit Muffins

  • 2 cups all-purpose white flour
  • 1 tsp of baking powder
  • ½ tsp of baking soda
  • ½ tsp of salt
  • 1 cup white, granulated sugar
  • 2 medium-sized eggs
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract
  • juice from one grapefruit (about 1/2 cup)
  • zest from 1/2 grapefruit
  • 1/4 cup of milk
  • 1 stick butter, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon sour cream
  • about a cup dried cranberries

**I bet these would be awesome with added almonds, coconut flakes, etc.  Since I don’t want to be the only ones eating them (as in, the Husband isn’t a fan, and baby is on a milk-only diet), these versions did not include those.

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Lightly butter or add baking liners to a muffin pan.
  2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl, add sugar and the 2 eggs.  Whisk together, then add the vanilla extract, milk, grapefruit juice and grapefruit zest.  Slowly stir in the sour cream.  Finally, whisk in the room temperature butter – you don’t want overmix or you’ll make it a little heavy, but you want the butter throughout.
  4. Slowly (slowly) add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, careful not to overmix.  Add the cranberries (and any other extra ingredients) at the end and give everything a stir.
  5. Evenly divide the mix to the muffin tray and bake for 20 minutes.

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The Verdict:

So when I made this batter, I made exactly enough for 13 muffins.  That’s right.  One full tray…and then one more go-round in the oven for just one more muffin.  It’s lucky 13 for me, though: I could eat one and no one ever has to know.  Which is a good thing, because your family is going to want the other 12.

 

Arugula and Mint Pea Salad

We had company over for the first time post-baby two weeks ago.  Prior to baby, I thought spending time at home with one small, portable child who naps on and off all day would mean I’d have lots of time to menu plan and cook and get real fancy.  I had big plans for this blog, for instance.

I know.

Clearly, I didn’t spend any time with any children before abruptly shifting into 24/7, all baby, all the time, mode.  So what made it to the table for company was a reliable friend: chicken and this simple, deceptively good salad.

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Arugula and Mint Pea Salad

  • 2 cups fresh peas
  • 1 bunch mint, torn
  • good handful of parmesan
  • arugula
  • dressing:
    • juice from one lemon
    • a bit of lemon zest
    • olive oil
    • salt, pepper
  1. If using fresh peas (which are awesome), bring a pot of water to boil and very quickly pass the peas through – about 1 minute.  You can also use canned or thawed frozen peas.
  2. Whisk dressing together.
  3. Combine all ingredients together and toss with dressing; top with parmesan.

The Verdict:

This is an old reliable for good reason. Simple, easy, and super delicious.  Definitely enough to impress post-baby company.