Tuesday, January 22, 2013


It is so cold out that I am using that as my excuse for not blogging!  Ha!  But, really there was a 2 hour delay for school this morning because it is sooooo cold out there.  Windchill was around -15.  YIKES!

Most of the rest of January I won't be blogging a lot either.  Sorry ya'll.  It will pick back up soon though, so please check back by soon.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Oh, Do You Know the Grocery Man?

More importantly, have you formed a relationship with the person at the seafood counter, meat counter, or the produce manager?  If not, well...you should.

Today I went to Fresh Market to purchase some groceries.  As I strolled through the produce aisles, the Produce Manager pointed me in the direction of the shitake mushrooms that he had just put in the bin (they are sold in bulk at FM).  Those will be in one of my meals later in the week.

As I approached the Seafood Counter, I could tell that the Fishmonger remembered me.  That smile you get from someone when they recognize you, but don't necessarily know your name.  On my last visit we had struck up a conversation about all the places we had lived.  He and his wife had just moved back to Indianapolis from San Francisco, and I was very jealous!  So, as I was making my seafood choices he mentioned that he and his wife had just tried a sushi restaurant and that my hubby and I should try it.  When your fishmonger recommends a sushi restaurant and he has lived in San Francisco, you trust his judgement.  We will be visiting the place he mentioned, and I will report back to you on it.  He also told me that the tuna was great today, which was obvious just by looking at it, but I appreciated him pointing it out, none the less.

At the Meat Counter, the Butcher and I had never met before.  So I joked around with him a bit and then asked him what was good today.  Of course at first you get the standard, "It's all good!"  But with a little more prodding I was able to find out that there was some great lamb sausages available today, and that I should wait til Saturday to get any beef because there is an "event" happening.  So, even though I did not purchase anything at the Meat Counter today, I walked away with a wealth of knowledge.  Had I not already had so much perishable seafood in my basket, the lamb would have come home with me for sure.

The point here, is that you should get to know these people if you are able to shop in a store where you can actually talk to them.  Joke around with them.  Let them know what level of foodie or chef you are, and they can sometimes point you in the direction of some fantastic food, and often get you the best value for your money!

So, what is in the basket today?

From the Produce Department we have (all Organic unless otherwise noted):

Shitake Mushrooms
Baby Portobello Mushrooms
Boston Lettuce
Green Beans (not organic)
Carrots with their tops
Red Beets with their tops (this is a two for one veggie: greens and beets)
Baby Spinach
Red Pears
Aurora Apples (my new favorite)

From the Seafood Department we have (all Wild and Fresh)

Sashimi Grade Tuna
American Shrimp
Blue Mussels

As I type the mussels are in a bowl of floured water so that they can purge.  They were quite muddy when I got them home, so I knew they needed it (remembered they are wild, not cultivated), plus all their beards were in their shells, and the purge helps to get them to spit their beards out (so to speak).

We have decided this is the year to really start paying even closer attention to what we are putting in our bodies.  Our intent is to buy more organic produce, and more wild seafood, grass-fed meats, and free range poultry.  I discovered an amazing food co-op here in Indy for the meat and poultry, and I can't wait to get my first delivery of meats in March.  I will be writing more on that soon as well.

That is all for now, as the mussels are calling my name!

Easy Shmeezy, Pesto Pea-zy

They say that variety is the spice of life, but how about using some spice to put some variety in your life?

My latest spice obsession has been Smoked Paprika.  I put it on everything.  I have always been a fan of regular paprika.  Most people associate it with the red color on deviled eggs, but it really is so much more.  It tenderizes, and adds peppery flavor.  I just love it.

So, when I saw Smoked Paprika in the store a while back, of course I picked some up.  It adds smokiness to foods without the funkiness of cumin.  It is so versatile!  You haven't had sweet potato fry perfection, until you have put Smoked Paprika on your sweet potato fries! When you grill fish for fish tacos, add a little Smoked Paprika, you are gonna love it!  Then of course there is garlic aioli with Smoked Paprika...yummmmy!  The list goes on and on, but here is how I am using it today!

Take a pound of boneless skinless chicken thighs, Smoked Paprika, garlic powder, salt and pepper.

Cover the chicken thighs with all the spices (about a tsp each of SP and G, and 1/2 tsp each of the S&P), and let it marinade in the fridge for the day.

Put a cast iron skillet on medium heat, and add a little of your favorite oil (Coconut Oil here).

Cook for 8 minutes on the first side.

Cook for 6 minutes on the other side.  Make sure to check your chicken for doneness, as the size of thighs and heat of your pan may vary from mine.

Serve it up for some total deliciousness!

Tonight I am serving mine with Pesto Pea Salad on page 77 of Barefoot Contessa at Home,

Spinach, Peas, Pesto, and Parmesan with Walnuts (my improvisation).

Easy, Shmeezy, Pesto Pea-zy!

Try toasting the nuts in the microwave.  I left out the salt, because I felt that between the pesto and the parm there was already plenty of salt in the dish.

...and Wanna Be's Oven Roasted Veggies.

Oven at 475.  Red Peppers, Onions, and Mushrooms on a pan with olive oil, sea salt, and fresh cracked pepper.

Tonight Marcus cut up the mushrooms.  Yes, with a real knife.

Cook until brown and caramelized (about 20 minutes).


No making fun of the McDonald's plates!  We WERE adding a little spice to our meal!

 Then when you are reading a good book after dinner, get leftover salad out of the fridge and enjoy while reading.  He ate the WHOLE thing!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Easy Tomato Soup & Grilled Cheese Croutons

Mmmmmm!  When I first read those words on the page, I knew this would be one of the first recipes that I made for my family.  In case you haven't noticed, soup has been really popular around here lately, and any way that I can get more tomatoes in to my fellas makes me a happy gal!  This recipe is comfort food in a bowl, that will take you back to the days of eating canned tomato soup, but it is much more sophisticated.  This recipe is on page 56 of Barefoot Contessa Foolproof.  You should give it a try, you WON'T be sorry that you did!

Tomatoes, onions, garlic, chicken stock, and pasta.  What could possible be bad about that?

Home bubblin' pot of yummy!

Adding a little heavy cream never hurt anyone, right?

Time to make the croutons!

Plate it all up!

Now enjoy the deliciousness!

All I can say is that this was really delicious!  The saffron totally makes the soup, so if you don't have the saffron, step away from the recipe.  If the cost of saffron seems prohibitive, try looking for it at TJ Maxx, they usually have little jars of it on the cheap, and they are always fine quality. 

There were two things that I did different.  First, I mistakenly grabbed a can of Trader Joe's Marinara instead of crushed tomatoes.  After reading the ingredients on the can, I decided to just go with it, and I have total faith that it didn't change the taste of the soup any.  Second, I could not find Gruyere cheese anywhere, all I could find was smoked Gruyere   I decided that the smokiness might not play well with the saffron, so I opted to make the croutons with a cheddar and mozzarella  blend.  There is NO doubt in my mind that the Gruyere would have made this already terrific dish even better, so next time I will make sure that I have it on hand, but my improvised croutons were still a big hit.  One other little minor thing that I did, to make it more appealing to my kiddo, I used star shaped pasta instead of orzo.  Worked like a charm.  First time the kid has ever asked if he can take leftover soup in his lunch!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Word for the Year - 2013

I am not a person who really believes in New Year's resolutions.  To me it just adds stress to a time of year when we should be decompressing from all that Holiday drama cheer!  So, we just kind of pick a word to focus on for the year.  This year's word is:


In our life, we have quite a few negative people.  Some of them are friends, some are relatives, and some are   just acquaintances.  Obviously, we can't shut these people out, so we are going to focus on helping them to be more positive too.  We can't control the people around us, but we can surely try to change their stinkin thinkin!

I hope that I can bring lots of positivity to your lives this year as well.  Don't worry, I am not talking daily affirmations from Wanna Be Ina!  I believe that something as simple as a good chuckle can foster positive thoughts, so expect my sense of humor to show up even more.

I hope that whatever you are focusing on for 2013 that it brings brightness and cheer to your life, and that you don't let that focus lead to added stress!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Winter Minestrone & Garlic Bruschetta

The christening of that new cookbook I got, started with Ina's Winter Minestrone & Garlic Bruschetta, Barefoot Contessa Foolproof, p. 53.

 First I started by prepping the veggies, and herbs, and pancetta.

Next, I added the pancetta to a Dutch oven with a bit of olive oil.

Once the pancetta was browned, the whole lot of veggies was added.

Once those got softened, a few other ingredients were added.

I only used one can of tomato sauce.
Once those simmered for a while, the rest of the ingredients were added, and the soup was finished.

Don't forget the tasty brushetta for dipping!

And the leftovers were put in to pint size Ball jars, and put in the freezer to enjoy on another cold Winter's night!

I did change Ina's recipe just a slight bit.  I omitted the cannellini beans as beans and I have not really been each other's friend of late.  My husband does not like tomatoes.  He likes the taste, it is just a texture thing, so I used a can of tomato sauce instead of chopped tomatoes.  As I was first making the recipe and I tasted it, I was not sure we were going to like it.  It seemed too tomato-y.  But, after it simmered, it was tasting better.  The kicker was the pesto and parmesan cheese.  Once these were added, my whole family LOVED this soup.  Marcus said it tasted like pizza soup, which is a high compliment from him!  Dan really enjoyed it too, and even took some of the leftovers for lunch the next day, along with plenty of pieces of that yummy garlic bruschetta.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Where to Start?

How about where we left off?  About 10 days before Christmas everyone in our household came down with something.  We were all sick, but with different symptoms.  Maybe we had a touch of the flu.  I really don’t know, because I have NEVER had the flu, but I can tell you that I felt pretty rotten, as did the rest of my crew.  I started five different blog posts during that time, but truly did not have the energy to take pictures and edit the text, so those will go in to the file for next year.  Just in case you are wondering, none of us are fully recovered from whatever we had, but we are all functioning which is what is important.

My hubby’s parents arrived the Saturday before Christmas.  It is all really a blur what we did while they were here.  I remember that we had venison on Christmas Eve.  I truly can’t remember any of the other meals.  While they were here, I was just about at the height of my ailment, and my mind is really fuzzy as to what we did.  There was one morning that they entertained Marcus when he got up, and hubby and I slept in til 9:45.  For that I am very thankful, because between us snoring and sneezing and coughing, there had not been a whole lot of sleeping happening.

Yes, someone is spoiled rotten...it is totally his Grandparents' faults.

We had a great Christmas.  Many new things were added to my kitchen.  There was a potato ricer and and an electric knife (both items that I had been wanting  for years), a cast iron griddle, a set of artisanal salts, a set of European jams and curds, a replacement bowl for my food processor, and the best gift of all…

An autographed copy of Ina’s new cookbook.  My Mother-in-Law is actually the one who got it for me.  I am so excited to start cooking from this cookbook.  I will be tweaking some of the recipes to make them a little healthier, but no worries, I won’t play around with them too much.

My hubby’s parents ended up having to leave on Christmas day to head home, because we were under a blizzard warning, and they did not  want to get stuck here.  My Father-in-Law still works, and he wanted to make sure he could get to work on the 27th.  It was a good thing they left, because we ended up with a pile of snow estimated to be around 11 inches!  It was nice though, because we didn't have any real accumulations of snow last Winter.

This was long before it finished snowing.  The snow was all the way up to the seat on Marcus's picnic table!

The view from above.  It was nothing but white everywhere you looked.
There is still a lot of snow on the ground, because it just hasn't warmed up enough melt the snow!

Some news to share, I have started a new business venture.  I am not quite ready to share about it just yet, but I will be posting on it within the next week or two.  I am REALLY excited about it, but I want to get all my ducks in a row before I give you all the details!

Now, with Marcus back to school (they went back yesterday) and Dan back at work, I finally let out a little sigh of relief.  Everything seems to be returning to normal, and I am so happy about that.  Not only have I not been blogging, but I haven't been able to read any of my favorite blogs either.  So, I am going to stop typing now, and try to catch up with all my friends out in the blogisphere!

I hope that all of you had a fantastic Holiday Season, and that you are headed in to the New Year with plenty of homemade chicken stock in your freezer!  ;)