Sunday, February 20, 2011

Home for a Partay, I Brought Cake :)

We are back. We went down south for a couple of days to do things like go to the dentist, eye doc, get haircuts, and also to celebrate Jason's g-ma's 80th birthday. We all gathered together at her house to play games and to just enjoy each others company. It was super fun.

I was deemed the cake baker this year. I thought a lot about it and knew the colors I wanted and that I wanted daisies on it. Everything else was a bit fuzzy but figured it would come together as I went. I also knew that there was no way I'd have time to bake and decorate the cake all in one day. So, I made it a week ahead and froze it. I was worried that it would end up dry but it was still pretty moist when we ate it. (I LOVE cake...but I cannot stand even slightly dry cake, haha). The recipe is Martha Stewart's white cake which I highly recommend. It's both moist and dense, two things I love in a cake. Jason's g-ma LOVES lemon and so I layered the cake with Ina Garten's lemon curd (easier than Martha Stewart's). I am really not a lemon fan but I was told it was yummy.

So, the blue part of the cake is a fondant recipe that I use (this was the first time I colored the fondant that dark...SO much kneading). The white and green parts (including the 80 cake topper)...oh, and the daisies are all gumpaste. It was my first go with this stuff. It's amazing. It's like "sugar clay" that you can mold and form...and then it dries and holds its shape. Super fun to work with. So, technically everything on the cake is edible...though the gumpaste isn't all that flavorful.Here is Jason and I with the birthday girl! Doesn't she look amazing for 80. I'd say not a day past 39 ;).

Anyways, we had a great time seeing family...on both sides. I was super excited to have the chance to gather with my fam as we were heading out of SLO...even for just a few hours. Nothing better than time with the ma and pa. :)

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Weekend Plans and This Weeks Menu.

Mornin' to all.

Any interesting weekend plans?

We are having some friends over tonight. Well, Jason's friends. haha. You see, I LOVE to host. Completely my thing. The part that I love is the meal planning/carrying out part. I literally think about it for days before. What should I cook? What should we have as a side dish? Dessert? etc etc. Kind of funny. Jason though is the one who keeps meeting all the new friends since he's in school. So, he invites perfect strangers (to me) over and I cook for them. :) Good times. Anyways, the last people we had over were from S. Korea. The wife spoke little English. It was fun to have them over and to go over to their house also...kind of a cultural exchange. It will be nice though to have a couple over who both speak English! :)

Monday is Jason and I's anniversary. We're going to celebrate Sunday though by ditching church (ooooh, so naughty :) ) and just spending the day together exploring more of San Francisco. A hike would be nice too...maybe we can find one some where around here.

On a totally different topic, lately I've heard a huge theme on "meal planning" and how big of a pain it is! :) I've found it's lame too sometimes but totally necessary when on a tight budget (not a lot of room for, "Oh, let's get take-out tonight") I don't like cleaning or decorating or many things that have to do with the "home" but meal planning is always something I can carry out and stick too. Have no idea why. is my "Meal Plan" for the week. Maybe you'll like some of the recipes. Some recipes are more complex and some are very fast (I get home from work between 6 and 7 sometimes.) To ensure meal planning success I shop for the whole week on Sat. morning and put the menu on the 'fridge. Sometimes I switch days and make what I was going to make on Thur. on Tues. instead...just because it sounds better that day. So here you go and I've included some notes since I almost always tweak a recipe.

Portobello Mushroom Lasagna I make this one as is. Our friends are some-what vegetarians so we're keeping it meat free. I always make tried and true recipes that I can prepare ahead of time. That way I can chat with everyone and I'm not busy cooking.
Roasted Asparagus I actually don't use a recipe for this but this is the closest I can find. I skip the lemon and parm. cheese on this one. Just use evoo, salt, pepper, and a little garlic. Toss, lay on a pan in a single layer in a 425 degree pre-heated oven. Cook for 15-20 min. yum
Peach Cobbler I was looking for a crumb crust rather than a bread crust. I found this one. I will omit the fruit and nuts in this crust. Everything else looks good. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

Anniversary. Going out!

Spaghetti and a veggie.--I buy jarred Trader Joe's sauce. I'm incredibly picky with jar sauce. I hate it when it tastes "jarred". I've found that Trader's cheapest Tomato and Basil sauce is good. Before I do the sauce I usually saute some fresh garlic, onions, and mushrooms before hand, then throw in the jar of sauce. I also like a little kick so I toss in some dried chili pepper flakes and some dried oregano. It's the closest I can get to homemade without all the work. (If I have diced tomatoes on hand I also through that in too...drain the juice though first).
For the veggie on this night...I really love fresh French Green Beans. You can steam them or boil them. We just add salt and pepper to them

Garlic Soba Noodles This is super good/fast/healthy. Love Heather's recipes. Very whole foods oriented. If you aren't a tofu eater you could make the recipe exactly the same but use chicken breast. Tofu is incredibly cheap though so we tend to eat it. Breaded and fried it's really good. You should try it! As far as alterations...I almost always double all garlic in EVERY recipe I make. :) For the greens I prefer kale rather than the others but it's a bit of a different taste. You could leave out the greens all together if you want and serve a steamed veggie on the side...or even mix it in. I also find that one egg beaten is sufficient for the tofu (not sure if it would be enough if you used chicken)

Stir-Fry Veggies over Couscous. I get tired of rice so I'm using couscous (whole wheat!) this time. This recipe uses chicken...we're scrapping that since it's expensive (and I have another recipe I want to use my leftover frozen chicken from last week for) and instead using a big bag of mixed veggies. But...chicken does make this yummier so I'd recommend going for it if you can. On this recipe...the only change is that I use fresh grated ginger and fresh garlic rather than powdered...but I'm sure it's good with what they call for too.

Garlic Chicken and Broccoli Pasta---I don't use a recipe for this...let's see if I can find one that's similar...hmmm. It's not all that unique but no go. Ok, you go.

Generously salt a pot of water and cook you up some pasta.

Generously salt another pot of water and cook you up some broccoli...but not until soft. Just until you take the "snap" off of it...just barely soft.

Meanwhile, cut up 3 chicken breasts into some what small pieces.
Pour some olive oil into a big pot/pan on md. heat...cook chicken thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper. When chicken is almost done add 3-4 diced garlic cloves (less if you aren't a garlic luvah, more if you would like to "wreak" havoc the next day ;) ). Cook until garlic is just golden.

When pasta is done. Reserve some of the salty water...maybe 1/3 c. and pour it into the chicken garlicy goodness.

Add the some-what cooked broccoli and cook for a minute or two.

Throw in the drained pasta.

(This is where things get really fuzzy) I'm a "throw a bunch of stuff in until it's just like what I pictured" person...which usually does not entail measuring anything...or remembering even what actually went in. In this case I pour a lot of grated Parmesan in, usually some red pepper flakes (my go-to seasoning)...and some more salt and pepper if it's still a little bland. Stir it all up. Done.

WOW! I could never write a cookbook. haha. That was really hard.

I'm so done. This post took way longer than I though. Stupid Thur. meal. Oh, and Fri is date night which as of late has involved homemade pizza. I use this quick crust dough. So easy...and no rising involved. Yay. After our pizza we curl up and watch a movie form the library! :) ...or RedBox. Doesn't get much cheaper than that.

Happy Weekend everyone.