Thursday, November 29, 2012

Pork sausage pasta with spinach and sun-dried tomatoes

Erik and I have been avoiding the grocery store this week and whipped up this meal from ingredients we had at home (aka a pantry party).  I wasn't sure how it was going to taste but we ended up really liking it (especially Erik).  Best of all, it was a 25 minute meal and we have tons of leftovers.

You'll notice from the recipe below, this wasn't really a healthy meal.  It has butter, cheese and heavy cream.  But hey, I'm still breastfeeding and have been pretty liberal with my diet lately.  

Pork sausage pasta with spinach and sun-dried tomatoes

Ingredients

One pound pork sausage
1 package fresh spinach
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes (packed in oil), chopped
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
16 oz box of spaghetti noodles (we use whole wheat)
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup butter (one stick)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon of fresh oregano (optional)

Preparation

Cook the noodles according to package directions.  Drain and set aside.

In a large skillet, add the olive oil, onions and garlic over medium heat and cook until garlic is fragrant, about a minute.  Add the the pork sausage and cook until evenly brown.  Add the spinach and stir until wilted.

In a large bowl (I used the pot that I boiled the noodles in), add the noodles, butter, cream, sun-dried tomatoes and red pepper flakes.  Add the pork mixture and stir well, until incorporated.  Top with parmesan cheese and oregano.

Has anyone else thought this has been a long week?  I've missed Juliet a lot during the day, while I'm at work.  The weekend can't come soon enough.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Easy weeknight chili

Chili is one of those super easy go-to meals that you can resort to on busy weeknights. It's perfect for cold, winter evenings and the leftovers taste better the day or two after.

I'm usually SUPER lazy when it comes to chili. I open a packet of chili seasoning and call it a day. Yesterday this couldn't happen because we didn't have a packet at home and after a quick google search, I learned just how stupidly easy it is to make your own chili seasoning.

Chili seasoning (recipe via My Baking Addiction)

Ingredients

4 tablespoons of chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons paprika
2 tablespoons ground cumin
3 teaspoons sea salt
4 teaspoons black pepper

Directions

In a medium bowl, combine chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, crushed red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, oregano, paprika, ground cumin, sea salt, and black pepper. Store in an air tight container at room temperature.

Couple notes, I didn't have paprika so I skipped it. I had fresh oregano and used that as well as some dried. I used two tablespoons of the seasoning in my chili and saved the rest for another day.

Making the rest of the chili is just as easy. Just brown one pound of ground beef with a medium yellow onion (chopped) and as much minced garlic as you like (I used 4 cloves). To that add two 14.5 oz canned of diced tomatoes and a can of partially drained black beans. Let simmer with the seasoning for at least 30 minutes. I like to top my chili with sour cream and whatever cheese is in the fridge, we had parmesan cheese so that's what we used.  I served with cornbread from a mix purchased at Trader Joes.

A quick note about my recent food photos.  I don't take them in natural light since it gets dark by 4:30 now.  I just use the lighting in my kitchen, which is not great.  But it is what it is and I'd rather post not so great photos than not post at all.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Thanksgiving weekend

We had an awesome Thanksgiving weekend.  It was busy, filled with family and great food.  Erik's family stayed with us all weekend and my family came over on Thanksgiving.  Our house was filled to the brim with all the people I love, this makes me very happy.

The beautiful callas are from Flower Muse, they sent me 50 to arrange for my Thanksgiving table.  Flower Muse is an eco-friendly, farm-to-table floral e-tailer.  I put the flowers in a variety of vases and they created a gorgeous tablescape for the Thanksgiving meal.
Erik and I were up bright and early to prep the turkey.  Each year we do the same recipe, a parmesan sage turkey.  Some years we roast it without an oven bag and some years we use one.  We decided to use one this year (it's easier and there is no basting, and usually a very moist turkey).  Each year there seems to be something that isn't perfect about the turkey, and I have a minor turkey meltdown.  I am happy to report that there was no turkey meltdown this year. We had a very tasty turkey.
We add a lot more butter than the recipes calls for. All dressed up, bagged up and ready for the oven.  My family is big on appetizers, on Thanksgiving and basically any normal day of the year.  We had caprese skewers, roasted red pepper pesto crostini, smoked oysters on crackers and mixed nuts.

Roasted red pepper pesto crostini (via Annie Eats blog)

Ingredients

baguette, cut into ¼”-thick slices

extra-virgin olive oil for brushing, plus 1 tsp.
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 red bell pepper, roasted, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 tbsp. pine nuts
1 ½ tbsp. Parmesan cheese
1 tbsp. finely chopped parsley
1 tbsp. finely chopped basil
½ tsp. fresh lemon juice
pinch of cayenne pepper
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
goat cheese

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°.  Arrange the baguette slices on a baking sheet.  Brush lightly with olive oil.  Bake until lightly browned and crispy.  Cut one clove of garlic in half and rub the cut side on the baguette slices while still warm.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Spread each baguette slice with a thin layer of goat cheese. 

In the bowl of a food processor, combine one clove of garlic, the red pepper, pine nuts, Parmesan, parsley, basil, lemon juice and cayenne pepper.  Pulse until a coarse puree forms. Add salt and pepper to taste.  Spread a spoonful of the red pepper pesto onto each baguette slice.

We have the smoked oyster appetizer each year.  They are Erik's favorite.  He grew up eating them.  I eat one to make Erik happy, but usually not more than that.  More for him then.  And my dad, he likes them, too.   While Erik was extremely helpful prepping the turkey, after that he made a home on this chair and watched hours of football.  There was way too much football going on this weekend, would you agree? My cutie girl and her sassy shoes.  These stayed on for about 2 minutes.
Juliet and Uncle Steve.  Our new foyer table and more pretty callas from Flower Muse.
We just bought a formal dining room table (a very generous gift from Erik's mom) and will be receiving  it this week.  For Thanksgiving we used 3 folding tables and a white linen and the pretty callas to dress it up.   My brother Joel and his girlfriend Katie.  Juliet and Grandma Connie.  Juliet was such a happy girl on Thanksgiving.  She loves having lots of people around and all the attention she gets.   I made homemade cranberry sauce for the first time.  It was another recipe from Annie Eats blog and it was surprisingly easy.  The sauce was delicious and received a lot of compliments.
Erik cut the turkey and I kept asking him to cut thinner slices. Seriously.  I hate to hover while others do their thing but thick turkey slices is not cool.   Erik's mom made a tasty noodle ring salad.   My aunt makes her delicious stuffing every year.  My plate drowned in gravy.  I am a big fan of a lot of gravy. And of course pumpkin pie for dessert.  We picked these up from Bakers Square to keep it easy.  We also got a real tree this weekend and decorated it.  Juliet loved the pretty lights and ornaments.  Isn't this the cutest photo of Juliet and her daddy?

Thankful.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Fannie May chocolate dipped strawberries winner

The winner of the giveaway is the following comment: 

"Ooh yum! I would eat those chocolate covered strawberries for a special date night with the hubs...we'll I say that but I might end up eating them myself waiting for him to get home. :) Libby"  

Please send an email to eatdrinkpretty {at} gmail.com {dot}com with your full name and address. 

Thanks to everyone who entered and have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Juliet: 9 months

My sweet Juliet turned 9 months last Friday.  We've had a great month with lots of milestones!

  • Juliet started saying dada.  I don't think she really knows what it means but Erik adores it.  I've been practicing mama mama mama mama a ton with her, but no such luck.  Yet. 
  • She understands things.  When I ask her "Juliet, where is the kitty?" she looks around the room and spies Kody, stares at him, looks back at us and gives a big smile.  She is always excited when Kody is near and if he sticks around long enough to let her pet him, she is one very happy little girl.  
  • Juliet is getting much stronger while standing with support.  She loves holding onto the couch, ottoman and coffee table while she stands.  She is still a bit wobbly so we are always right behind her.  She can't pull herself up but I suspect it won't be long.  We still don't have a crawler yet, but she can roll to the other side of the room really fast.  Looks like we need to start baby-proofing soon.  
  • Juliet has been perfecting her pincer grasp.  She eats all sorts of table foods and usually can pick food up and get it into her mouth, no problem.  She also still loves purees and I'm continuing to make most of her food (we also by Earth's Best organic brand of baby food).  Juliet loves her puffs, mum mums, fruits, veggies, but her favorite is probably pork.  
  • Juliet started waving.  I first noticed it one day I dropped her off at daycare.  I always wave bye bye to her, tell her I love her, kiss her chubby cheek.  That day I noticed her arm flailing around a little...I said, "is she waving???" and Sarah, our daycare provider said, "I think so!".  The next day she did it again and now she does it fairly regularly.  
  • While much of the time Juliet is a very easy, laid back little girl, I see a bit of stubbornness and sassiness developing.  She started making this mad face where she scrunches up her nose and purses her lips (it's actually the most adorable little face).  Luckily she never stays angry for long.  It usually just takes some kisses on her neck (she's ticklish there) and she is giggling up a storm.  
  • Along the lines of getting angry, this comes out the most when we get her dressed in the morning. Lately she hates getting dressed.  Erik just wants to send Juliet to daycare in her jammies to avoid the struggle but I insist on getting her dressed every morning.  She is also on the move and rolls around which makes it impossible to do diaper changes and put her clothes on.  
  • Finally, Juliet's hair grew a ton in the past month. It is getting thick and long.  I keep meaning to buy those little hair ties to put a pony in but I'm sort of avoiding it because I worry it'll make her look like a big girl and I'm not ready for that yet. 
Taking photos of Juliet is getting harder and harder.  She is curious about everything and doesn't sit still for a second.  Here are a few funny outtakes from the 9 months photos I snapped over the weekend.  
Mama loves you so much, sweet girl.  Happy 9 months!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Wednesday date night + a sweet giveaway

Erik and I managed to do date night two Wednesdays in a row!  I made an easy 30 minute meal of herb and goat cheese stuffed chicken breasts, we had red wine, watched our TV shows (Modern Family and Nashville) and even had dessert.  It was a great night, even though I could have gone to bed at 8pm, I was so tired.   During dinner Erik said "I want an ice cream sandwich" which was random.  But I remembered we had some chocolate chip cookies in our freezer from his mom as well as ice cream...one minute later we had dessert!  Easy and super yummy.   In case you are looking at these champagne chocolate dipped strawberries and thinking we got all romantic last night...think again :)  Fannie May sent these to me about a week ago and I brought them to brunch with some girlfriends.  These are delicious and super beautiful.  They even have pretty little sparkly sugar.
I am giving away a dozen chocolate dipped strawberries to a lucky reader (who preferably has a sweet tooth).  

To enter the giveaway comment on this post and tell me when/where/with who you would eat these strawberries (breakfast?  A romantic dinner with your honey? An afternoon snack?)  Obviously, these are perfect for a special occasion but that didn't stop me from opening the box and eating a strawberry on a random Thursday after work.  I did share the strawberry (minus the chocolate) with Juliet and she loved it.  

The giveaway will end on Monday at 11:59pm and I'll announce the winner on Tuesday.  Open to US residents only.  Good luck!

A little about Fannie May's strawberries:
Fannie May Berries can be ordered and in the customers’ home within 24 hours and includes large, luscious berries that are hand dipped in 100% rich, smooth, Fannie May chocolate. Fannie May Berries includes hand crafted indulgent flavor combinations including Sea Salt Milk Chocolate Caramel, Pink & White Champagne, Toasted Coconut & White Chocolate (Trinidad©), Milk Chocolate Caramel & Nuts (Pixies©) and Holiday flavors—Dark Chocolate Gingerbread, Candy Cane and Eggnog.

And don't forget to check out Fannie May on Facebook.

Monday, November 12, 2012

A dancing, brunch and sushi weekend

The weekend went by too fast!  Erik and I had a lot going on.  On Friday we met up with friends Libby and Biffer for sushi and my brother and his girlfriend babysat Juliet.  We went after she was asleep, which is nice because that way I don't have to miss any time with her.

On Saturday morning we met my sister and her husband for breakfast at a new bakery by our house.  Then we ran errands and relaxed at home.

Libby and Biffer had us over on Sunday for brunch and Libby made a delicious spread including quiche, monkey bread and fruit.  We also had mimosas, of course.  Juliet loved the quiche.  She is such a good eater, she likes mostly everything and we are doing a blend of purees and table food.  She enjoys feeding herself, especially with a spoon, which gets REALLY messy.
In this photo you can see me sporting the "no make-up huge zit on my face" look.  Not glamorous at all but I love my sweet little girlie in these pictures and I try not to dip out of any photo opportunity with her.  I'm usually behind the camera so when I get Erik to take pictures of us, I go for it, make-up or no make-up.
Seriously cute, yes?  She loves her dada so much.   While we are doing better at getting some smiles for the camera, a lot of shots still look like the one on the right.  She wasn't grumpy at all on Saturday but she looks like she was in that photo! Saturday was beautiful outside, 65 degrees.  We took advantage of it by going for a long walk.On Sunday I asked Erik, "so can I put Juliet in a cute outfit or does she have to wear her jersey?".  Well, you can see here what his answer was.  So I wore mine too and we all matched.  That necklace is a Chewbeads necklace. Juliet chews on it and likes to play with it while breastfeeding.  It's super functional because it keeps her busy but it is UGLY.  I don't usually wear it out in public.

After brunch Erik went to the Vikings game and Juliet went home for an afternoon snuggle-and-play-fest.  Our new thing is listening to the Raffi station on Pandora and dancing around the living room.  We've also been practicing crawling and clapping.  We're not quite there yet but we have fun trying!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Chicken florentine artichoke bake

On Wednesdays Erik and I try to have a date night at home. We cook a nice meal, open a bottle of wine and spend time together. And by try...I mean we've done it 5 times since we've lived in our new house (for the past 3 months). But hey, we try.

Yesterday evening I made this delicious chicken florentine artichoke bake, we drank wine and watched Modern Family and Nashville after the girlie went to bed.  We had our date night and it was great.

This meal is very flavorful and it made a ton of food. We'll be eating leftovers for a couple days for sure (we love leftovers in our house).

Chicken florentine artichoke bake (recipe via Better Homes and Gardens)

Ingredients
8 ounces dried bow tie pasta
1 small onion, chopped
1 tablespoon butter
2 eggs
1 1/4 cups milk
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
2 cups chopped cooked chicken
2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese (8 oz.)
1 14 ounce can artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
1 10 ounce frozen chopped spinach, thawed and well drained
1/2 cup oil-packed dried tomatoes, drained and chopped
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup soft bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon butter, melted

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cook pasta according to package directions; drain. In medium skillet cook onion in 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat about 5 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; set aside.

2. In bowl whisk together eggs, milk, seasoning, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. black pepper, and crushed red pepper. Stir in chicken, Monterey Jack cheese, artichokes, spinach, tomatoes, half of the Parmesan, cooked pasta, and onion. Transfer to a 13x9x2-inch baking dish or 3-quart rectangular casserole.

3. Bake, covered, 20 minutes. In small bowl combine remaining Parmesan, bread crumbs, paprika, and melted butter. Sprinkle mixture over pasta. Bake, uncovered, 10 minutes more or until golden. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

A fall-inspired dinner party, sponsored by Alexia Foods

My Alexia Foods sponsored dinner party went better than I ever hoped.  All the guests enjoyed the food and drinks and had a great time.  I was really happy at the end of the night.

There were a few reasons why I believe the dinner party was a success. First, I had major help from my friend Libby.  She arrived an hour and a half early and didn't stop helping me in the kitchen until we all sat down to dinner.  I wouldn't have been able to pull it off without her.  Second, Juliet went to sleep around 6:45pm and slept the entire party.  I couldn't believe it because the house was LOUD.  And she usually doesn't like missing out on fun so I was expecting her to be up.  Third, I planned ahead.  I had a Pinterest board for inspiration, made lots of lists and got all the shopping done ahead of time.  And lastly, I planned a fairly easy menu.  Nothing was too complicated or took a lot of time to prepare.

Erik and I invited 12 of our good friends.  We absolutely love our new house and the fact that we can easily host a dinner party for 14 people.  We've only lived here for 3 months and have already entertained at least 10 times. Alexia Foods sent me tons of food for the party.  I received Mushroom Bites, Mozzarella Sticks, Multi Grain Onion Rings, Sweet Potato Fries and Focaccia.   I kept the decor simple and fall-inspired.  I purchased flowers from Trader Joes and placed them in small mason jars tied with twine.  I used white tablecloths with a burlap runner and purchased mini pumpkins to add to the tablescape.  I also used bigger mason jars wtih votive candles.   Here is the menu:

Appetizers
Cheese board with fontina, brie and blue cheese.  Served with baguette and crackers
Alexia Foods Mushroom Bites
Alexia Foods Mozzarella Sticks

Soup Course
Butternut Squash Soup

Main Course
Pork Tenderloin with Apples and Onions
Garlic Smashed Red Potatoes
Green Beans with toasted almonds and garlic
Alexia Foods Focaccia 

Dessert (I made a dessert table, photos below)
Apple pie
Pumpkin cupcakes
Caramel apples
Candy (Whoppers and Candy Corn)

I didn't end up making a couple of the appetizers because I realized we had way more than enough food.
The Alexia Foods appetizers were great because they only took about 12 minutes in the oven.  Super fast and really tasty.   When I host a party, often-times I forget to sip wine and allow myself to have some fun.  Because Libby helped I was able to mingle a bit and drink wine.  I had a great time.  A few of our dinner guests.
I put together a dessert table with a few store-bought desserts.  As much as I love baking, it's something that has taken a back seat pretty much since Juliet was born.  I miss baking, but it's been hard to find the time.

Everyone ate so much that the desserts were barely touched.   Here is a breakdown of costs for the party.  Note, a lot of things are pre-owned, like the platters, mason jars, burlap and tablecloths.

Decor: $15 (flowers and mini pumpkins)
Alcohol: $75 (a variety of beer, red wine and white wine).  We have a lot leftover.
Food: $175
Total: $265

Thanks to Alexia Foods for sponsoring this dinner party!

Disclaimer:  I am being compensated for partnering with Alexia Foods as an Alexia Tastemaker.  This partnership allows me to try their new products and incorporate their food into my everyday life and entertaining.  All the opinions are my own.