dane cooks!

Dinner with the Family in PA

While in Pennsylvania with Dane’s family over the holidays (yes, I realize that was a month ago, but things have been hectic), Dane got inspired and decided to make a several course meal inspired by the area of Italy where his family is from. Dane spent some time researching the Campobasso region, and came up with an awesome menu. Pasta e fagioli, lamb, pollenta, bruschetta, asparagus, steamed clams, stuffed peppers. And that didn’t include dessert.

We spent all day cooking the different courses of the meal. Everyone kept commenting on how much work we were doing, and how tired we must be. Not us though. We just love to do it. We tried to prep, cook, and eat in the midst of it all. We learned it’s an fine art to be able to time about 5 courses of food just right so that things stay hot, but we aren’t starting from scratch for every single course. Somehow, we pulled it off.

We started off with pasta e fajioli. This is pronounced pasta (hopefully you can get that one on your own) e (ee) fajioli (fa-jo-li). Usually when you see this on a menu or hear it said, it sounds like “pasta fazool”. Dane slipped and pronounced it wrong at first, but his awesome Uncle Bob quickly corrected us. I will never make the mistake again!

Then some snacks in the form of tomato, fresh mozzarella and prosciutto, along with traditional bruschetta. There’s the  idea that bruschetta refers to the tomato/garlic/basil topping that is often served with bread. Traditionally, bruschetta is actually the toasted bread itself, rubbed with olive oil and garlic. The tomato mixture is just a bonus you can put on top.

I was in charge of a few aspects of the meal, including my stuffed bell peppers.  This is the largest batch I’ve made of them, and they were a bit hit for the third course. And they’re great as leftovers!

Dane got an entire leg of lamb. I’ve never made lamb before, so this was an interesting experience for me. He cut it into steaks that he seasoned and grilled.

And because lamb wasn’t enough on its own, he also did baked cod with capers, olives, and garlic.

And asparagus.

And just when we needed a little extra help in the kitchen, we got a visit from Dane’s nephew, Jesse Oliver. Dane tried teaching him about cooking, but I think he was more interested in eating it.

Last we had steamed clams and linguine. There was so much food to go around! We definitely slept really well that night in our food comas.

Thanks to my hubby for our amazing dinner! I think we need to keep working on our timing for multiple course meals. It’s not something you do often. At least we don’t. Maybe we need to plan some dinner parties soon to keep practicing!

Anyone have tips for us?

Thanksgiving Day (and turkey thieves!)

We spent Thanksgiving in Pennsylvania this year with Dane’s family. Dane makes the most amazing turkey every year by basting it with ginger ale. Yes, ginger ale. I think that’s why we were put in charge of dinner and more importantly, in charge of the turkey. The star of the show.

Making dinner with about 22 family and family friends over is not an easy task. Although we had it easier because people brought different elements of dinner (including a deep fried turkey, so we had two, which we obviously needed), we also became the kitchen police. The kitchen at Dane’s mom’s house is not very spacious. We fit perfectly and are used to cooking around each other so that worked out fine. But add in a bunch of people trying to pick at the turkey and the job becomes much more interesting.

Our most notorious culprit was Dane’s grandma…

I caught her on about her second or third attempt at the deep fried turkey. This one wasn’t the one Dane was roasting, so we let it slide. At least we let it slide the first 5 times.

And it must run in the family, because in an attempt to hide the turkey and keep it out of thieving hands before dinner, Dane put it on top of the washing machine. This might sound weird, but it totally made sense at the time. His strategy definitely didn’t work.

While Dane tended the turkey, I did my best to keep the kitchen clear and make sure everything stayed heated. Not easy with this around…

When everything was ready and finally put out we had an impressive spread. Everyone contributed something to the meal, which made it that much better.

Only thing better than dinner is dessert right? We had plenty of that too.

And someone seemed to especially like the whipped cream.

We had such a great day and were stuffed and tired at the end of it. We’re looking forward to doing it again over Christmas and New Year’s!

Homemade Apple Sauce

After we went apple picking we had a ton of apples, and wasted no time using them. I got home from work one evening, and Dane was in the kitchen cooking. He decided to make applesauce, which neither of us had made before. He got the idea from a recipe in the Betty Crocker cookbook (which I got for my bridal shower), but then just decided to wing it and make it to our tastes (he doesn’t always follow instructions well).

Apple Sauce

  • 4 or 5 apples, peeled and cored
  • about 1/4- 1/3 cup water
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon

Cut the cored apples into quarters (they cook faster that way). Add the water to a medium saucepan, and put in all the apple pieces. Over medium heat, cook the apples until they begin to break down.

This took a while, and we actually started to think they weren’t going to ever get soft, but have a little patience and they will. Use a wooden spoon to break them up once they begin to break down to your desired consistency. We like a few chunks of apples still in the sauce.

Once at the consistency you like, remove from the heat and add the brown sugar and cinnamon. Stir it up and enjoy! You can have it warm, or chill in the refrigerator before you eat it.

all done!

Other recipes called for orange zest, lemon juice, allspice, and a variety of other things. I think the best thing about this recipe is you can really add whatever you want to flavor it the way you’d like. If you want to get crazy, you can try it with pears too. If you’re feeling sassy, maybe even add some craisins. It’s up to you! Enjoy!

how2heroes Video #2: Cherry Ice Cream

We were thrilled when our favorites over at how2heroes asked us to do another video for them. We set up a date and time and prepped for our second shoot, Cherry Ice Cream.

The crew came the day of the shoot and set up in our kitchen again. My favorite part was still this:

This time they let me play with it too. So fun! We’re basically movie stars.

They set up the cameras, put our mics on, and we got started with the shoot. I definitely messed up the first introduction by patting my microphone, which made a really loud noise on the camera. Oops. Once we got past that it was smooth sailing.

And without further ado, here’s the final video! We had a blast with the how2heroes crew, of course. Thanks to them for setting it up and coming out!

Our how2heroes Video!

Check it out! We’re so happy and proud to see this finished product. Feel free to send interview and autograph requests :)

To the fabulous people of how2heroes, we’re available anytime for you again! Thanks for the fun day!

Oatmeal Craisin Cookies

These are my absolute favorite cookies, made even better because Dane always makes them for me. I became a big fan of Craisins about 2 years ago, and much prefer them over raisins at this point. Knowing this, Dane substituted the normal raisin for the vastly superior (in my opinion) Craisin, and it was the perfect change! Gives the cookie a nice tart flavor in every bite, which works nicely with the sweetness of the rest of it.

Dane got the recipe from an oatmeal container, so there’s no big secret here. Here’s the recipe he uses:

Oatmeal Craisin Cookies

Ingredients

  • 2 sticks of butter, softened
  • 1 cup of brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups of Quaker oats
  • 1 cup of Craisins

Start with preheating your oven to 350 degrees. Cream together the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar. Once it’s creamy, add the eggs and vanilla. Mix that all together, then add in the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Mix it well.

Next add in the oats and Craisins. And then? You guessed it. Mix it up!

Spoon the batter using heaping tablespoons onto a baking sheet. This recipe made about 3 dozen cookies, so this might take a few batches depending on how many baking sheets you have handy.

Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Let the cookies cool for about 5 minutes before removing them from the baking sheet. When they’re all done, enjoy with a big glass of milk!

I brought some to work the next day and they were gone within minutes. Turns out everyone, not just me, really liked them! Thanks Dane, for making my favorite cookies!

Kristen

Ropa Vieja

This is one of the most delicious meals I’ve ever had. Dane had ordered Ropa Vieja at a Cuban restaurant we frequent in Jamaica Plain. After taking my friend Heather to the restaurant, she told us her dad makes amazing Ropa Vieja, and graciously volunteered to get us the recipe. All I can say is THANK YOU HEATHER!

Dane tends to be the one who does slow cooker/meat based meals for us. Maybe it’s a man thing, but I’m definitely ok with letting him cook while I relax and do things like write blog posts about him cooking.

Ropa Vieja (which, not to be gross, literally translated means “old clothes”)

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 pounds flank steak (You can also use skirt steak or brisket. We actually couldn’t find any of those things, so we used top sirloin.)
  • 3 quarts plus 1/4 cup water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 4 teaspoons bouillon granules
  • 1 tablespoon parsley flakes
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, sliced thin
  • 1 red pepper and 1 green pepper, seeded and sliced thin
  • 6-8 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1 1/2 cups tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon vinegar
  • Bay leaves
  • Seasoning: salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder

Add the meat, water, and some salt and pepper to a large pot. Bring to a boil. Foam will form on the surface, make sure you skim that off and get rid of it. After 5 minutes or so, add the garlic powder, bouillon, and parsley flakes, and onion powder and reduce the heat. Cover the pot partially and let the meat cook over medium-low heat for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. You want to be able to easily shred the meat once it’s done. Dane cooked ours for about 2 hours and 45 minutes. Your kitchen will smell AMAZING, but try and restrain yourself from eating it just yet. It gets better.

Remove your meat from the pot and shred with a fork. I had a little too much fun with it and decided to just use my hands to separate it. Put the meat together, cover and set aside for the moment.

In a big skillet, heat the olive oil and saute the onions until they start to become translucent. Add the peppers and garlic and continue cooking for a few more minutes. Now add the tomato sauce, stir it all together, and let it begin to bubble. Add the wine, vinegar, some salt and pepper, the garlic and onion powder, and bay leaves. Stir together and add 1/4 cup water. Let it come to a boil, the lower the heat and let is simmer for 5-10 minutes.

At this point I started making some yellow rice and beans to go with the main dish. This was the only part of the meal I was allowed to help with (which was fine with me). All I did was boil some water, add the rice and seasoning (that was all from the same bag) and follow the directions. Then I drained and rinsed some red beans, and added them to the rice when there was bout 5 minutes left for it to cook, just so the beans would be heated.

Back to Dane’s part. Add the meat to the pan with your veggies and stir together. Simmer this delicious mix for about 30 minutes, covered.

After a half hour, you’re all done! Time to eat! Serve with or over the yellow rice and beans. And make room, because you’ll probably want more.

Salud!

The time I ate moose

I have this thing on my list of things I want to do in my life that I don’t think many people share. I want to see a moose. A real live moose in the wild, not in a zoo. I’ve been to Vermont twice, both times hoping I would see a moose. It didn’t happen.

Now, my need to see a moose ended up getting me closer to a moose that I would have imagined, but not really in a way that I wanted. Last time we went to Vermont to visit our friends Sam and Jason, I shared my moose story with Sam’s parents. Somehow at the end of the story, Sam’s dad decided since I didn’t see a moose I may as well eat a moose. They just so happened to have moose in their freezer and sent us home with some.

Not that I especially wanted to eat moose, but since we had some I figured I’d at least try it. Wrong. Dane made it one night and ate it all before I got home. Bummer.

But as luck would have it, Sam and Jason stayed at our place before going home to Minnesota and brought us more moose. Awesome. So we made it this weekend and after much deliberation I decided to try it.

We had steak that night too, since I wasn’t too crazy about the moose idea. Dane grilled it up and seasoned it. Have to admit, it smelled pretty good.

Then came the moment of truth. The bite of moose.

And with that bite, I have officially eaten moose. It tasted basically like steak, but had a gamey after taste. I don’t have any intention of becoming a regular moose eater, but I’m glad I tried it.

Sorry to the mooses (is that the plural of moose? pretty sure it’s not) out there. But you were pretty yummy.

Kristen

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