Happy Memorial Day Weekend everyone! It has been a crazy couple of weeks in our house. All of you parents can certainly relate to the “end of the school year” craziness that has invaded our home over the last few weeks. Field trips, Super Kids Day, Victoria’s spring orchestra concert, soccer games and practices, orthodontist and allergist appointments, etc. etc. etc… Well amidst all the chaos, I did find a little bit of time to experiment in the kitchen. Let me start by saying that I have utilized a lot of tried and true recipes the last few weeks. When I am short on time, I usually reach for the recipes that I know will work, and that my family loves. So in the last few weeks, in addition to the yummy recipes I experimented with, I have also made pasta with arribiata sauce, veggie meatballs, broccoli Palermo, panini, veggie burritos/nachos, hummus, and for dessert chocolate emergency cookies and “my Aunt Toni’s cookies.” The first recipe I experimented with was for stir fry pasta. We had a ton of pasta left over from Ryan’s birthday party, and I wanted to try a new recipe. I also had a ton of fresh veggies that I wanted to use, so this recipe was a perfect fit. Honestly, I have never made stir fry before. If we eat stir fry at home, Dan usually makes his vegetarian version of pad thai. I have made veggie egg rolls, veggie wontons, and veggie fried rice but not stir fry, so I was excited to give it a go. The recipe I decided on did contain chicken, but I just used Quorn Chik’n Tenders (a vegetarian chicken alternative) as a substitute. I also substituted red bell peppers for the cauliflower as my family doesn’t like cauliflower. Lastly, I made a peanut sauce to add to the stir fry, and added some chopped peanuts to the dish as well. The resulting dish was DELICIOUS!! I will gladly make this dish again. Here are the links to the recipes that I used: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/stir-fried-pasta-with-veggies/ and http://chinesefood.about.com/od/saucesdipping/r/peanut-sauce.htm I think the very best part about this dish, was that we got to eat dinner that night on the deck! Love love love nice weather!!
The next recipe that I made was for Sandra Lee’s Christmas crescent ring. I have made this recipe in the past, but it has been a few years since I made it last. I actually got this recipe from my Mom years ago. She saw it on tv, and made it for a family get together. After that, she came over to my house, and taught me to make it too. It has been a long time since that day in “my old house” when my Mom taught me to make this dessert, but I always think of her when I make it. I had made a few different variations of this dish too. The original recipe uses raspberry or cherry jam. I have made this dessert with seedless raspberry jam, but this time I used blueberry preserves. YUM. I would also like to try this with apple or strawberry preserves some time. Anyway, I love love love this recipe as it looks and tastes as if it was labor intensive, when in fact, the converse is true. It is very simple to make, and it’s always a crowd pleaser…unless you are Ferf that is. Haha. So this probably requires an explanation. Here it is. A few weekends ago, my brother from another mother Chris (aka Ferf), came home from New York for a visit. I was sooooo excited. I haven’t seen him since Christmas, and bonus, he was bringing his boyfriend Brae so we could all meet him. Ferf and Brae were coming over for dinner, so I decided to make this for dessert. As we were eating it, Ferf mentioned that he thought it was a bit on the sweet side. Actually he said “…this is too sweet.” Well, I could have bet my life that he would say that as he usually says that about desserts. Anyway, he then launched into a discussion on his preferences for desserts. He mentioned that he liked savory desserts, like cheesecake, or that he liked chocolatey desserts. He also mentioned that he really didn’t care for things that were glazed or too sweet. Well right in the middle of his sentence, Brae started laughing, cut him off and said “…yeah so basically I hate what you made.” We all laughed and then teased Ferf, that we also didn’t care for desserts that were glazed…or made with any type of dough…or with any kind of fruit…or with God forbid sprinkles of any kind…you get the picture. At this point of the evening, I already liked Brae, but this tongue in cheek jab at Ferf sealed the deal. Yep, he was one of us. My Mom used to crack up and say “…man don’t make a mistake around this family…you will never live it down!” That was in reference to my family’s habit of lovingly teasing each other about our missteps. One
example of that sentiment is as follows….there are a ton of them, but this is probably the most infamous. One time at a family get together, (before we used Sharpies to write our names on our red solo cups or water bottles), my Mom was cleaning up a bit and came across a random cup of pop. She picked it up and instead of asking “who’s pop is this?” she asked “who’s is this pop?” Well we all cracked up (Mom included), and for the better part of the last decade her “misstep” makes an appearance at most family get togethers. Anytime somebody inquires about the unknown possession of any random object, one of us will yell “who’s is this pop?” Well that is the spirit in which Brae teased Ferf, AND the spirit in which I will continue to tease him about his dessert preferences from here to eternity. It is also the spirit in which we all tease Ferf about the seriousness with which he plays board games. Apples to Apples to anyone?? I’m sorry… was that answer too literal??? Another story for another time. Here is the link to the recipe for the crescent ring that my Mom loved, but that Ferf finds too sweet ☺ http://www.food.com/recipe/christmas-crescent-ring-154762
The last three recipes I experimented with were made with polenta. I must admit that growing up, my family didn’t routinely make polenta, so I didn’t have a lot of experience with eating it or with cooking it. I have come across a lot of recipes in the last few weeks that include polenta, so I decided to make it. I used the recipe for basic polenta by Giada de Laurentiis. It was simple enough, but I must admit it was rather bland…and too salty for my taste. As a side note, I had a premonition that when I added 2 teaspoons of salt to the bubbling cornmeal on the stove that it would be too much. BUT since I am a compulsive rule follower (especially the first time I make a new recipe), I did as Giada instructed, and added the salt. Well it wasn’t good. I know that most people eat it with some sort of sauce, soup, or stew, but Giada also writes that plain polenta is to Italians, what mashed potatoes are to Americans. Well as an American (of Italian heritage), I beg to differ. I love love love me a bowl of mashed potatoes, but that plain polenta was not good. I tried…and I mean I really tried… to like it, but no dice. Now what?? Well, luckily half of the polenta was already spoken for as I needed 3 cups of freshly made polenta for the “fried polenta” recipe I was going to try. I had planned on just eating the rest of the polenta like Giada mentioned, with a little sauce on top. After tasting it though, I knew that if I didn’t like it, my family probably wouldn’t either, so I decided to use it in yet another recipe. I found the recipe for “cheesy polenta” in a cookbook I have titled “Better Homes and Gardens Biggest Book of Italian Recipes.” I obviously already had the polenta, and I always have cheese and basil, so I decided to give it a go. The result? One word. YUM. My family (minus Ryan of course) really loved the cheese polenta, and I will definitely make it again. My family (again minus Ryan) also really loved the fried polenta, but I WILL NOT make that again anytime soon…OR EVER!
Let me explain.
To make the fried polenta, you need to spread the freshly made polenta into a baking dish. Then you need to chill it for a few hours. Then you cut into strips and fry it up in some olive oil. Sounds simple enough right? I thought so. That is until I put the first polenta stick into the oil and it went nuts. Literally it went crazy. It was like adding an ice cube to a pan of hot oil. It exploded and spattered everywhere. Long story short, I was covered head to toe in oil…hot oil…OUCH! After the first “oil attack,” I quickly changed into a long sleeve shirt that I no longer care about, donned an apron, put on safety goggles, and dug out my XL grilling oven mitt. Then I covered the floor in front of the stove with an old beach towel, and braced myself for what would turn out to be the most miserable culinary experience of my life. I used a pot lid as a shield, channeled my inner “Captain America,” and did the best I could to protect myself from the oil attacks that ensued. Even though I hated it, I did not quit. Batch by batch, I put the polenta into the oil, and just took the abuse. Picture this…I am in my culinary version of an “outbreak suit,” cussing like a sailor, and cleaning like a madwoman in between each and every batch! Well, despite all the oil covered walls, spattered kitchen surfaces, and one royally peeved oily Mama, my family had fried polenta on their dinner plates. To add insult to injury…my family LOVED the fried polenta. My family loving the fried polenta is the equivalent of that damn olive oil daring me to make it again. I mean if oil could laugh, my olive oil is cackling at me right now. Well that is one culinary dare that I will not take. It was too painful, and way way too messy the first time for me to even think about doing it again. So go ahead oil…laugh all you want…this Cookie Mama will not take you on again. You win! ☺ Here are the links to the three different polenta recipes that I used: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/giada-de-laurentiis/basic-polenta-recipe/index.html
As I write this, Dan and Victoria are in Cedar Point. They went with Victoria’s orchestra. They left yesterday, and made a few stops on the way. First they toured Seneca Caverns, and Lyme Village in Ohio. Then they checked into the Great Wolf Lodge, and Victoria went to her first water park. Dan said she loved it. This morning, Victoria’s orchestra performed, and apparently did great…the medals ceremony is at 5 o’clock tonight so time will tell how great they did…fingers crossed! Just a few minutes ago, I got a breathless call from Victoria fresh from her maiden voyage on the “Iron Dragon.” She was crazy with excitement. Neither of my kids have ever been to Cedar Point before, so this is kind of a big deal. Currently she is in line for the “Gemini,” and promised to call afterwards. I must admit that I am a bit jealous that Dan is getting the “front row seat” to her last couple days of “firsts,” but I am very thankful that one of us gets to be there with her. Thank goodness for Apple’s “face time” app. It makes Ryan and I kind of feel like we are right there with them. Ryan and I did have big plans for today, but when Ryan got up this morning, he decided he just wanted to hang out at home. Works for me. Hopefully, sometime during the movie marathon Ryan has planned, I can get into the kitchen and whip up something delicious! I hope you try the recipes, we really enjoyed them! ♥♥