Orecchiette with Balsamic Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Let’s talk about weeknight dinners. A Monday dinner no less. Could there be a less appealing night to get in the kitchen and dirty up a ton of dishes?

Last night, after hiking up the hill to my apartment, peeling off layer after layer of cold weather gear, slipping off my boots and putting on pajamas, I plopped down on the couch and just stared at my kitchen. I was starving. I needed to eat. But all I wanted in that moment was my make-believe cabana boy (who doubles as a chef) to come cook me dinner.

Alas. My cabana boy seemed to have the night off. So I reminded myself how therapeutic cooking can be, even when your body and mind are tired, and got to it.

The brussel sprouts were two days shy of being thrown out. The orecchiette hadn’t been opened despite taking up valuable real estate in my cupboard for over a month now. The butter and the cheese, well, that was my reward to myself for getting off the couch.

I cooked in silence for once. Usually I jam some music or have MSNBC on in the background, but the sounds of the knife thunking on the cutting board, the hissss of gas when I turned on the oven and even the crinkle and tear of the parchment paper I used for roasting the sprouts was a soothing back drop. And there it was, I found my zen.

It was a nice little moment, and something I need to remind myself I can have every day if I like. I have a tendency to stop before I even start when it comes to weeknight cooking, don’t you? I have these big ideas for, let’s get real, ambitious meals, and once I get home the idea of cooking for more than 15 minutes sounds completely overwhelming. (Not to mention the dishes. Oy! The dishes!) But these meals can, and should, be simple but special in some way. So here are my weeknight cooking tips:

  1. Start with a pantry staple (in this case, pasta)
  2. Add an ingredient you don’t normally use (brussel sprouts)
  3. Boost flavor (balsamic here, but think spices and herbs too)
  4. Indulge a bit (butter and cheese)
  5. BONUS TIP: add an appetizer

Regarding that last one – start keeping some good bread/crackers and cheese in your house. You’re not going to eat the whole loaf or inhale the entire wedge of cheese, but a couple slices of each with a glass of wine while you wait for dinner to finish can be really nice. I probably have more cheese in my house than I know what to do with, and am perpetually freezing my favorite loaf of bread.  These odd habits have served me well for both the average weeknight and for entertaining unexpected guests.

But let’s get to it – here’s what you’ll be making for dinner tonight! Continue reading

This Week’s Cookin’

Are you guys Type-A? Or are you more free flowin’?

I’m kind of Type-A. I’m Type-A until I decide to be free flowin’…which is pretty easy for me to decide.

My point here is, I’m the kind of gal who loves a schedule. I love a daily schedule, a weekly schedule…even a monthly schedule. I find comfort in the familiar. Even if it means every night I boil water for my tea, and put together part of my lunch for the next day. If I don’t have that, I don’t have lunch for the next day. If I don’t have that, I don’t grocery shop! If I don’t do that…well…it makes eating and cooking, a pretty hard deal. The last three weekends have been filled with fun, family, and friends but that has meant no grocery shopping, so no cooking. So, no blogging. :(

This weekend though, was my first weekend back at the Dupont Farmers Market in three weeks! Three weeks! And I may have overloaded. I’m excited. Here’s what I  plan on experimenting with this week…it should be fun.

I got squash blossoms. Litttle bugers were $4 a carton! But here’s the plan…I want to stuff them with herbed goat cheese. Then I want to stew them…Veracruz style. Why? Well…it’s squash blossom festival at Oyamel…one of my favorite restaurants in town. And I can’t get enough of Jose Andres’ take on these edible flowers. He’s my inspiration here.

I also got corn…I’m thinking maybe roasted corn. Paula Deen style…with some mayo and Parmesan, salt and pepper. Or if I can’t muster the energy to roast it, I’ll just cook it and make a corn salsa. The BF and I made tacos tonight…I should have done the corn salsa for ‘em, but hey…some nights, the tummy that rumbles loudest, wins.

I got tomatoes. For some reason, I’m just not into tomato season this year. Everyone goes crazy over heirloom tomatoes every year…even the Washington Post held a tomato recipe contest. Not into it at all this year. Not sure why…but it is what it is. I’m more interested in the beefsteak tomatoes I got. I’m going to slice ‘em up and serve them with fresh mozzarella and tear some fresh basil over it. Simple, easy. Olive oil, sea salt and pepper. Snack. App. Dinner. It’s great. It screams summer. I’m excited for it.

I also got brussel sprouts. Nearly becoming a staple in my home. Also some green beans. The BF likes Chinese-style green beens. I’ll try to make them for him.

I want to make granola bars. I want to make olive oil cake. I WILL make olive oil cake. I tried to find a good olive oil at the grocery store. You know…good luck with that. Unless you’re at Whole Paycheck. Which makes me sad.

This week should be fun with cooking. I also realize it’s a lot. But I’ll try, and we’ll see how it goes. I’ll report back on Saturday or Sunday. I bet you anything, Friday night will result in me cooking a lot of veggies. What do you bet!?

Valentine’s Day Dinner

It’s Valentine’s day this weekend! Whether you’re celebrating your supremely sexy, single self…or you have a significant other, I think cooking a special meal every now and then is important!

I made this dinner for myself last night actually…and quite by mistake. I needed protein (lots of working out with all this snowed-in business) so chicken was a must. I love brussel sprouts (more on that in another post later this week) and had a whole bag on hand. I had to move corn meal out of the way while I was trying to get sugar for a blueberry cake (again, more on that later) and saw a recipe on the side of the bag for polenta and thought, “Hey! I’ve never made polenta before!” And so my meal was born.

This is an easy meal to put together (trust me!), but looks and tastes delish!

Enjoy!

Continue reading