family dinner

Philly Lovin’

I feel like things have just been moving at the speed of light lately. This is pretty much what Dane and I have been surrounded by for close to two weeks.

Last week we moved from Boston to Philadelphia. A few months ago we decided it was time to move closer to both of our families. Dane’s family is here in PA around Philadelphia. My family is in New York on Long Island. After 6 years of traveling back and forth (not nearly as often as we really wanted to) to visit our homes with 6-7 hour trips, it was time for a change. We spent about 5 days packing up our things in Boston and hired movers for the first time to load out all of things, drive it down to Philly, and load it all into the new place. It was expensive, but it was probably also the best money we ever spent.

Our things got picked up last Thursday, but didn’t actually arrive here until Sunday. That meant we had some time to visit with friends and family and relax for a little bit before the unpacking began. Our friends Emily and Ben (Emily was my first roommate in Boston and moved to Philly with her husband about a year ago – the universe has put us back in the same city by a happy twist of fate) invited us to Longwood Gardens on Saturday for Emily’s birthday. I am so happy we got to visit there. Absolutely gorgeous place full of the most beautiful flowers and plants and currently hosting an art exhibit called “Light”. Seriously awesome.

And Longwood Gardens had beer, wine, and snacks that you could enjoy while walking around. I had to get a Yuengling now that I’m living here. It was only right. Happy Birthday Em!

Dane started his new job on Monday and I’m on a little hiatus while I unpack and try and get the new place together. There seems to be 5 more boxes for every 1 I unpack. The kitchen got done first, of course. This was about the extent of the decorating though.

So cute. A former student at my last job bought this for me as a going away gift. She obviously totally gets me. Owls + cooking = Perfect gift for Kristen.

I’ve already gotten to take advantage of being closer to home. Yesterday I headed back to New York for my mom’s birthday and to do my dress fitting for my Matron of Honor dress for my sister’s wedding (August 11 – coming up so fast!). It was amazing to get in the car and be able to drive back and forth in just a day. I don’t have to miss things like birthdays and anniversaries anymore.

We celebrated at Carraba’s because Mom loves it there. We shared some wine and lots and lots of laughs. We were probably the loudest group there. That’s what happens when you throw us all together.

Mom was so happy I could be there and so was I. Happy birthday and cheers to my amazing Mom!

I’ll be updating our wishlist here and am already busy at work on all kinds of projects here. We have a backyard so I’ll be planting a garden and we’re planning to get a dog (!). I’m going to be heading up the PA chapter of Girls’ Pint Out here and I’m headed to Maine next week to visit with Sam and Jason. I don’t really know how to take a break, let’s be honest. But I’m loving all of it!

More updates to come from Philly! Stay tuned!

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?

In the Kitchen with Dad: Steamed Clams, Pasta, and Clam Sauce

My Dad is the best. Over the holidays, I decided that my Dad needed to do some culinary exploring. And I knew that he would be more than happy to do some cooking with me.

Growing up I always remember my Dad for making those big delicious meals. On a Sunday I’d get up to see that he’d already gone to the store and picked up a turkey, or a flank steak (my personal favorite, right Dad?), or the makings for a delicious summer barbeque. You know, the kinds of meals that you could just eat and eat and eat. Until you felt ready to explode. Then you’d have some more. Oh, and he makes the BEST scrambled eggs with corned beef hash. No joke.

So for Christmas, Dad got some gourmet gifts from O & Co. on Newbury Street. The ingredients for a great dinner: chili infused olive oil, basil pesto, olives, and pici pasta. He was a happy camper, and even happier when I told him this meant he had to make dinner with me, and that steamed clams would be involved.

To find clams, we ended up at about 5 different stores. We obviously decided to do this the same day the blizzard hit NY, but we were persistent, and we finally found Cherry Stone clams to use. In a blizzard. Some things in life are important.

Pasta and Clam Sauce with Steamed Clams

Ingredients for the Pasta and Clam Sauce:

  • 1 pound of pasta (recommended: fettuccine, linguine, or spaghetti – we used the pici pasta, but that’s not so easy to find)
  • Olive oil
  • Chili infused olive oil (optional)
  • 1/2 a medium onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 2 small cans (6.5 oz each) Snow’s Bumblebee chopped clams
  • 1/4 cup of the liquid from the steamed clams

Ingredients for the Steamed Clams:

  • Fresh Littleneck or Cherry Stone clams (we used 36 Cherry Stone clams, but use as many as you want)
  • Olive oil
  • Chile infused olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced finely
  • 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 cup of a white wine (pick one you like)

To prepare the clams, submerge them in a large bowl with cold water. This will help any dirt come out of the clams before cooking. I let them sit for about an hour before I started cooking. Also, put on the water for the pasta to come to a boil.

In a large pot, add both olive oils for the steamed clams over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and let them cook until they turn translucent.

Drain the clams well, then transfer them to the pot. Add the white wine and cover. Let the clams steam over medium heat. Once they open fully, they will be ready to eat. This took about 25 minutes.

While the clams are steaming, add both olive oils for the sauce to a large pan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, and cook about 5 minutes. Add the olives and tomatoes, and reduce heat to medium-low. Let cook while you wait for the pasta water to boil, stirring occasionally.

Once water is boiled, add pasta and cook according to directions.The pici pasta took at least 20 minutes to cook. It is a much thicker pasta, which needed more time than the usual fettuccine or linguine.

With about 4 minutes left on the pasta, add the chopped clams and liquid from the steamed clams to the sauce. Stir and let simmer for about another 5-10 minutes before serving.

At this point, your clams should be ready and open. Discard any that did not open.

Serve the sauce over the pasta, with the steamed clams on the side to enjoy together.

Everything was so good. The chili infused olive oil gave it just a slight kick in the back of your throat, very slight but a great flavor.

Thanks for cooking with me Daddy! He asked if we cold make it again for breakfast the next morning, so I think it’s safe to assume he liked it. I already have our next meal together planned out.

We also made some toasted bread by cutting up Italian bread, brushing both sides with olive oil, then toasting it under the broiler of the oven for about 2 minutes per side. We used the basil pesto as a spread and it was awesome.

And the best part about cooking? The unspoken rule is that if you cook, everyone else cleans. Thanks to our clean-up crew: my sister Melissa, her boyfriend George, and my little munchkin Abby, who just loves to help.

Ready for our next meal Dad?

Christmas Eve Dinner with the Family

It was great having some time off over the holidays to spend with both mine and Dane’s family. This time of togetherness always means some great gatherings and plenty of food to go around.

One thing my sisters and I haven’t outgrown yet (and probably never will at this point) is being silly at the table. It drives my mom nuts, but it was Christmas Eve and we don’t get to spend nearly enough time together with them being in NY and me in Boston.

I made panko crusted chicken with a pink sauce, along with garlic bread. It’s my mom’s favorite and somehow our fun at the other end of the table seemed to go unnoticed…

Even my cutie pie niece enjoyed her “magetti”. That’s two year-old for spaghetti, for those of you who don’t speak fluent toddler.

We might be getting older, but I’m pretty sure the scene at dinner will always look something like this.

I guess with faces like these, you just can’t stay mad for too long. Even after 20-something years of joking around at the dinner table. Love you Mama Bear!

What’s it like at your dinner table over the holidays? Hope you all had as much fun as we did!

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!

Fried Ravioli

That’s right. Fried. Ravioli. Two words could not go more perfectly together. The first time I tried these was at our wedding, and they were delicious. My sister Jenna and her boyfriend Rich became totally obsessed with fried ravioli after our wedding, so when they came to visit recently, I knew I just had to make them. Jenna had (not surprisingly) figured out how to make them, so she gave me some suggestions and I took it from there.

So thanks Jenna, for the instructions. Here how you do it.

Fried Ravioli

Ingredients:

  • 1 bag of frozen mini round ravioli (or square, whichever you’d like, but make sure they are the smaller variety)
  • Italian bread crumbs
  • 2 eggs
  • Olive oil
  • Marinara sauce for dipping

First take the ravioli out of the freezer to defrost about 10-15 minutes before you plan to start cooking it. I put them all out on a wire rack because sometimes they freeze together and you have to separate them. It was just easier for me to separate them all this way before getting started so you’re not doing it while your hands are messy.

Next get your eggs and breadcrumbs ready to easily dip your ravioli in. I scrambled three eggs (but I made two bags of ravioli, you should only need two eggs for one bag) and put about a cup of bread crumbs in a small bowl so that I could easily transfer the ravioli from the egg, to the breadcrumbs, to the pan.

Heat about 1/3-1/2 cup of olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Dip the ravioli in the eggs. I put a handful of ravioli in the eggs at a time so that it wouldn’t take quite as long. Then transfer the ravioli to the breadcrumbs to coat the ravioli. I took the ravioli out one at a time from the eggs, then put 6-7 in the breadcrumbs before shaking it up to cover them all. Place in the hot oil to fry, making sure there is enough oil in the pan to mostly cover the ravioli.

This will take about 3 minutes per side. You just want the ravioli to become golden brown and they’ll be done. After the first side is done, flip each ravioli and cook for another 3 minutes. When the ravioli are nice and crispy, transfer them to a plate lined with paper towels to collect any extra oil and cool.

Once cooled for a few minutes, serve with some marinara sauce for dipping.

This is a great appetizer to serve at a party. They’ve been a hit for me so far with friends and I would definitely recommend them for something fun and a little different. My sisters and Rich scarfed these down when they got to our apartment, so for them it was more of a meal, but I think they were totally OK with that.

I’ll close with a picture of my sister Melissa and I in cool hats. Go make some Fried Ravioli!

7 Fishes

A few days before New Year’s Eve, I made my annual 7 fish dinner for my family. This is normally a tradition for Christmas Eve, but since we spent Christmas Eve in NY I had to wait a few days. The wait was worth it.

That morning I decided that I wanted to include lobster bisque in the menu. It’s one of my favorites, but I’d never made it before. Kristen found some good recipes online, and I ended up combining a few to get the final product. It was a long process.

One of the recipes called for four 1 pound lobsters. I couldn’t find fresh lobsters, so I got lobster tails instead. Here are the rest of the ingredients (as I used them):

Lobster and Corn Bisque

  • 3 lobster tails
  • fresh thyme
  • bay leaves
  • 2 large potatoes
  • corn (canned or fresh)
  • bacon
  • 2 cups of light cream
  • 1/4 cup of butter

First, boil the three lobster tails for about 5 minutes. The recipe I had said 3-4 minutes, but I did a few more since the tails were frozen. You don’t want the lobster to be totally cooked because it will cook more in the bisque. Chop the meat into bite sized pieces and put it aside for later.

Take the lobsters out and take all the meat out. Put the shells back into the water you first boiled and add the thyme and 2 bay leaves. You should have about 8-10 cups of water in the pot (that might mean you have to pour some out before putting the shells back in). Bring the water to a simmer and let the lobster shells and herbs simmer for about an hour and a half to make the stock. It will reduce a bit.

After an hour and a half, strain the stock to get all the solids out. Put the stock aside and get started on the bisque.

Peel and dice the potatoes to about a 1/4 inch dice. Cook the bacon to render the fat. You won’t need the bacon for the bisque, so feel free to eat it. Add the potatoes to the bacon fat and cook until tender. Add the corn near the end to heat it up.

I used corn because one of the recipes I found was for lobster corn bisque and I just like corn. You don’t have to add it if you don’t want it.

Once the potatoes and corn are heated and tender, add the two cups of light cream and let simmer for about 10 minutes. Now add the stock until the bisque is the consistency you want. Then add the lobster back in and stir together. Let the bisque simmer for 15 minutes. Right before you serve it, add the butter and stir in.

At the same time as this, I was making a few other things. We had…

And there’s more. For hors’doeuvres we had fresh mozzarella with tomato and basil, calamari, shrimp cocktail, pan seared scallops, kalamata olives, and sundried tomatoes. We also made linguine with clams steamed in garlic, shallots, and white wine.

We’ll see what I come up with next year!

Oh, and another big development. Last year Kristen was my sous chef for this meal. This year I promoted her to Co-Chef for all her hard work. She made the green beans, and clams herself and was definitely a big help.

- Dane

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