Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Dinner For Ruby's Parents


It was a few years ago that I first had the honor of meeting Shelley from FranishSpeaks. It was at the first Austin Food Swap and not knowing what to expect, I showed up so nervous about my wares that I simply looked for the friendly smile of anyone to cling too. I know that sounds cheesy but it's true. There was Shelley smiling away and eager to put the first handshake forward.  Since then we have become friends as well as fellow food bloggers. I cannot tell you how thrilled I was when she announced she was going to have a little girl. Her friend and fellow food blogger Ilke came up with this great idea to host a virtual food shower. Bloggers were invited to post one of there "freezer friendly" recipes during the week of June 27th. This would give plenty of time for Shelly to prepare and freeze a number of go-to, heat-and-serve meals for when that sweet little Baby Ruby makes her debut in August. So what do you cook for a dad who is a professional chef and a mom who is a trained pastry chef?  As daunting as that may seem, I know that their professions will be the last thing they are thinking about after being up all night with that sweet little one. Many of us have been there and we know that just about anything that can be thrown together quickly or heated up fast will fit the bill and be appreciated.  But even with that, the challenge is still to make a dish packed with flavor so I thought I would do a pasta recipe that my family loves and, as a Steel Magnolia once said, "freezes beautifully".  After all, Baby Ruby is a soon-to-be special dinner guest and though she may not be eating the same food as her parents, she will definitely be the honored guest at the dinner table... I'm jus' sayin'! 



Ruby Red Tomato Pasta Bake
Ingredients
  • 6 tablespoons butter, plus more for baking dishes
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 pound tube pasta such as penne or rigatoni (I used Trottole  because I had it on hand)
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (8 ounces each), halved horizontally (I sliced mine 1/4" thin while still frozen.  Pre-cutting and cooking at this size saves valuable cooking time)
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp. of crushed garlic
  • 6 cups whole milk
  • 1 large portabella mushroom, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Mozzarella (6 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan (4 ounces)
  • 1 cup of bread crumbs (I used day-old garlic bread that I put in my food processor to create crumbs)


Directions
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees farenheit. Butter two shallow 2-quart baking dishes. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta 3 minutes short of al dente; drain pasta, and return to pot.
  • In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium-high. Season sliced chicken with salt and pepper. Saute until golden. Set aside.
  • In a 5-quart Dutch oven or heavy pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add flour and garlic; cook, whisking, 1 minute. While whisking, gradually add milk; bring to a simmer, whisking frequently. Add mushrooms and tomatoes; cook 1 minute. Off heat, gradually stir in mozzarella and parmesan.
  • Add chicken and pasta to pot; season with salt and pepper. Divide pasta mixture between baking dishes; sprinkle each casserole with 1/2 cup of bread crumbs.
  • Wrap one in plastic wrap and then foil to tuck away in the freezer. Make sure you put a little sticky note or write with a sharpie on the foil that there is a layer of plastic wrap under the foil. (no new parent should have to deal with that mess) Also, if you are giving the freezer one away, place a card with the re-heating directions directly with the dish.
  • Bake, uncovered, until top is golden and bubbling, about 25 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.



Speck of Ruby Salad 

Ingredients:

1 head of butter lettuce
1 Rio Red Ruby Grapefruit, peeled and supremed (reserve juice)
1 avocado peeled and sliced
Dried Cranberries
Crumbled Blue Cheese


Grapefruit Vinaigrette:

  • Reserved juice from grapefruit and enough extra to make up 1/4 cup of juice.
  • 1 Tablespoon of Agave or Honey
  • 1 Teaspoon of Honey Mustard
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • 6 Tablespoons of olive oil
  • In a small jar combine the ingredients and shake vigorously until thick and emulsified. Keep leftover in fridge for up to 3 weeks.
  • Gently wash and tear lettuce into large leaf bite sizes. Arrange the avocado and grapefruit slices on lettuce leaves. Sprinkle dried cranberries and cheese over the top. 
    Drizzle with vinaigrette. 




Ruby Red Spritzer



Pomegranate Juice
Sparkling Water
Pitted Cherries.
Fresh Lime juice
Drizzle of Agave syrup (too taste)
Ice

In a tall, ice-filled glass, fill 1/3 of the glass with  pomegranate juice. Fill the glass with sparkling water and drizzle agave and squeezed fresh lime to taste. Garnish by floating a cherry or two on top. Now sit back for a moment and relax as theses moments will be rare. 

Check out all the other Bloggers that chimed in on Ruby's welcome.
Anna from Keep It Luce
Carrie from Bakeaholic Mama
Elaine from California Living
Esra from Irmik Hanim
Ilke from Ilke’s Kitchen
Jennie from Pastry Chef Online
Jennifer from Scissors and Spatulas
Lana from Bibberche
Lisa from Lisa Is Cooking
Renee from Sweet Sugar Bean
Robin from A Chow Life
Sarah from Snippets of Thyme

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Sweet Taste of Volunteering





Before our youngest child started middle school, my husband and I agreed that it would be a good idea for me to stay home, so long as finances allowed for it.  After all middle school is not for the weak and never has been.  As part of this plan, I volunteered to work in the school office every Tuesday.  What started out as a plan to keep up with my daughter turned out to be so much more. For the last 3 years I have used the staff as my guinea pigs - ahem, I mean testers - for many of the recipes for my blog.  They did not seem to mind being forced each Tuesday to have a sweet treat. Unfortunately, getting honest feedback from them was tougher than nails as they were never critical - I think they were afraid if they gave honest feedback I might stop bringing treats.  Anyway, I digress.  Most of the days I had planned out what I would bring because it was something that had been floating in my head all week.  But then there were those days where I was really busy and completely blocked for creativity.  Those were the days that I had to open up the fridge to see what I had and use my inner "Chopped" skills. Funny how I feel those tend to be my best desserts.  It's like I'm being creative and don't realize it until the finished result.  Now, three years later, our daughter is ready to move on to high school.  It has been an honor and privilege to work in the office with some of the finest ladies I know.  I will miss them dearly and I am proud to say that buttering (or sugaring) up the staff just in case my daughter got in trouble was not needed.  She made it through with a strong shell and, thanks to some of her amazing teachers, a solid focus for the future... I'm jus' sayin'!



One Pot (food processor) Cheese Tart

Preheat oven to 350ยบ

In my food processor I combined the following for the crust.

9 bakery style (non-frosted) sugar cookies
2 Tbs. melted butter

Blend until combined
Pat into an 8 inch tart pan, all the way around and up the sides.
If you use a bigger tart pan just use more cookies and a tad more melted butter.
Don't wash the processor bowl out, just free it from any excess crumbs you may have lingering on the sides.

Place the following in the food processor .

1 8 oz. Brick of Cream Cheese (Room Temperature)
1 Egg
1/2 Cup of Sugar
1 Tbsp. of Vanilla

Whirl until creamy. Spread evenly over crust. Place tart pan on a cookie sheet. Bake in oven for approximately 25-30 minutes. It will be done when it only has a slight movement to the middle but the sides are firm.  Cool completely before topping with your favorite sliced fruit. I used mangos and strawberries as they came in my co-op produce basket this week. I also melted a little peach jam and brushed it on top of the fruit to give it a little glisten. This is also a good tip if your fruit is not very ripe or sweet. However, I feel perfectly ripe fruit is the way to go on this tart.

I would love to see what your favorite fruit combos are - keep me posted.



Many cupcake flavors were taste-tested over 3 years.







I will miss Tuesday afternoons - These ladies made volunteering so fun.