Friday, April 29, 2011

Ready for a Change

I get to a point in every season where I'm ready for a change. And I have hit that wall hard this Springter (that's Spring/Winter for those of you who haven't been experiencing the nasty weather in the Midwest this month).

I chopped off my hair. Yep, about 6 inches. GONE. Now I'm yearning for highlights.

Somehow, any cute clothes I once owned mysteriously disappeared from my closet, and I have nothing to wear.

I can't handle another Saturday movie night at home because it's too cold/dark/rainy/dreary/foggy/horrible to leave the house. Talk about cabin fever.

My shoes. Oh, my shoes. They are all frayed and salt-blotched from the snowy season.

And I am so ready for warm-weather food.

To indulge at least one of my summer dreams, I am sharing with you a few photos from last summer's farmer's market haul. Please hum Will Smith's "Summertime" to yourself quietly as you view them.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Mother Dearest by Lady of the House

Have you bought a Mother's Day card yet? Chocolates, flowers and brunch aside, what spills from your heart is the most important part. Send her some love...

Smock's motto is: Create meaning. And I'll argue that's a lot easier with a lined envelope!

Pup and Pony. What a pleasing card. Oh, good luck trying not to buy everything in their shop!

And my personal favorite: Anna Bond's delightful creations for her very own Rifle Paper Co.


{ Lady of the House }

Monday, April 25, 2011

Cobb Salad with Honey Dijon Vinaigrette

Today I will share with you a one act play.

Dinner One Night
By: Erin

Erin is in the kitchen, peering into the fridge. She closes the fridge. 
Enter: The Husband.

Erin: [Turning to The Husband.] Wanna have Cobb salad for dinner?
The Husband: [Scowl. Squint eyes in a dubious manner.]
Erin: It has bacon and hard-boiled eggs in it.
The Husband: Ok.

End scene.

Do you have leftover Easter eggs? If so, you can re-enact this play at your house tonight. Let me know how it goes.

Cobb Salad
Serves: 4

1 large head Romaine lettuce, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 tomatoes, chopped
4 hard-boiled eggs, sliced
6 slices bacon, crumbled
1/2 cup blue cheese, crumbled (or shredded cheddar for the non-blue cheese eaters)
2 cooked chicken breasts, thinly sliced
1/3 cup honey Dijon vinaigrette (recipe below)
Pepper, to taste

Arrange lettuce on individual plates or a large platter for serving. Neatly arrange tomatoes, eggs, bacon, blue cheese, and chicken on top of lettuce. Drizzle vinaigrette over top. Sprinkle with freshly ground pepper.

Honey Dijon Vinaigrette
Adapted from The America's Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook
Makes 1 cup

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons minced shallot
1 garlic clove, minced
3 tablespoons honey
Salt and pepper, to taste

Whisk together all ingredients in a small bowl. Alternatively, combine ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake until well-blended.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Onion Roasted Potatoes

As I mentioned, I spent the weekend with my family in Buffalo. Of course, we spent time in the kitchen cooking some cozy meals to block out the Buffalo snow. (You read that correctly. It was snowing. In April. Sigh.) Being a good Irish man, my dad loves potatoes. So, Mom and I had to incorporate his favorite tuber into our Sunday supper.

Now, I must admit, I'm not the biggest potato fan personally. I do love orange, sugary sweet potatoes. But plain, old Russets? Eh, not so much. There are a few preparations, though, that get me jazzed about all-purpose potatoes.

My mother-in-law introduced me to the simplest way of roasting potatoes. She raised three hungry boys, so she knows her stuff when it comes to fast and delicious! The family secret is this: onion soup mix. You just sprinkle it over chopped potatoes, bake, and, voila! Dinner is served. So if you have a packet of onion soup mix left over from your pot roast, then this spud's for you!

Onion-Roasted Potatoes
Source: My Fabulous Mother-in-Law (I should probably give the ultimate credit to Lipton, because they do list this recipe on the back of the box.)
Serves: 4-6

2 pounds of your favorite potatoes, cut into 1" pieces
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 envelope onion soup mix

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spread potatoes onto a large baking sheet so they're in one layer. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with onion soup mix. Stir so potatoes are evenly coated. Roast in preheated oven for 35-45 minutes, until potatoes are golden brown and tender, stirring halfway through. Serve with ketchup.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

With Whip by Lady of the House

We celebrated our daughter's first birthday on Tuesday, and in what might seem an uncharacteristic post for me, I've decided to share the simple recipe we used for her chocolate birthday cake. It's light as air, fluffy goodness that if I can make, you absolutely can!

Here's what you'll need...

1 3/4 cup unsifted flour
1 3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup cocoa (unsweetened)
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 l/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup boiling water

For the frosting...
1 pint heavy whipping cream
a splash of vanilla extract
a level tablespoon of confectioners sugar

And here's what you'll do...

Combine dry ingredients in large mixing bowl. Add remaining ingredients except boiling water. Beat at medium speed for 2 minutes. Remove from mixer. Stir in boiling water. (Batter will be very thin.) Pour into 2 greased and
floured 9-inch or 3-8 inch layer pans or l (13 x 9-inch). A layer of parchment paper is also helpful if you have some. And I used three varying sizes of layer pans, and pulled the little guy out at about 25 minutes.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes for layers, 35-40 minutes for 13 x 9
minutes or until tester comes out clean. cool 10 minutes. Remove from pan.
top with fresh whipped cream.

{ Lady of the House }

Monday, April 18, 2011

Not my usual post

I have to apologize in advance, folks, because today's post is a little unusual. You see, I am visiting my family in sunny Buffalo, and I don't have access to my usual blog stuff. But I know your Monday wouldn't be complete without a word from Erin (stop chuckling, I can hear you!!), so here I am.

I don't know about visits to your hometown, but when I make my way back to Western New York, it's all about the food. My mom picked me up from the airport, and we wasted no time. We headed straight to Charlie the Butchers for beef on weck. "What in tarnation is beef on weck?" you're asking yourself. Glorious, slow roasted beef (carved by Charlie, of course) piled high on a salty, caraway seed-studded kummelweck roll. I just stuffed my pie hole with Perry's Panda Paws ice cream, and my mouth is still watering at the thought of beef on weck. Mmmm.

Mom and I also love going out for breakfast, so the next morning we headed over to Ohlson's Bakery for cinnamon swirl french toast. I ate it too quickly to take a picture, but I did snap a shot of their cinnamon syrup. Whatever genius decided to add cinnamon to syrup deserves a statue cast in gold. With diamond eye balls. And carrera marble shoes.

And then there's Wegmans. There are no words for the wonder that is this grocery store. But there is a picture of some of their bulk candy. And here is that picture.
So, come to Buffalo. The eating is better than the weather.

P.S. Where do you visit in your hometown? Comment or give us a shout on our Facebook page.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Tuna Noodle Casserole

Just a few days ago, I was discussing the gorgeous, sunny, warm weather in Milwaukee. Well, this is Spring. I shouldn't have been surprised when the weather forecast dipped back to the 40's. Sigh.

With the return of the clouds and cold came my craving for a cozy dinner. Enter Tuna Noodle Casserole. Not that I'm knocking a handy can of Campbell's, but this isn't your standard mushroom soup meal. This is from scratch goodness.

If Spring is sticking around in your town, keep enjoying those salads. But if, like me, you're drowning in April showers, Tuna Noodle Casserole might be just what you need.

P.S. Did you like today's post? Show us the love by "liking" us on Facebook!

Tuna Noodle Casserole
Adapted from
Serves: 6

4 tablespoons butter, divided
8 ounces egg noodles
1/2 onion, chopped finely
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 ounces baby portobello mushrooms, chopped
1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk
Salt and pepper
2 (6- or 7-ounce) cans tuna, drained and flaked
2 cups frozen peas, thawed
3 tablespoons bread crumbs
3/4 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9 x 13 baking dish with cooking oil spray.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add egg noodles and cook until a dente, about 8 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and saute for 5 minutes, until onion is softened. Add mushrooms, increase heat to medium-high and cook for another 5 minutes, until the mushrooms are tender.  Transfer onion and mushroom mixture to a small bowl.

Add 2 tablespoons butter to the now-empty skillet. Once butter is melted, whisk in the flour for 1-2 minutes. Very slowly, whisk in the milk. Stirring frequently, continue to cook until the mixture is thickened and smooth, about 5 minutes. (When you pull a spatula through the sauce, it will leave a trail behind in the pan. See blurry picture below.) Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Combine cooked noodles, onion and mushroom mixture, sauce, tuna, and peas. Pour into the prepared baking dish.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter and combine with breadcrumbs and cheese. Sprinkle on top of the casserole. Bake for 20 minutes, until lightly browned.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Tisket A Tasket by Lady of the House

I'm realizing, now that I'm a mother, I wear a number of hats. I haven't ever appropriately assumed my role as Easter Bunny, but this year I've decided to hop to it. (Sorry, that's the bunny ears getting to me!)

I'm loathe to see the table set Easter morning with one of those ratty, disposable baskets, so I started to wonder... Could all the lovely Easter treats be snuggled inside something that won't end up in the bin? Could the "basket" be re-thought? Could I find Easter cheer in a container that might lend itself elsewhere?

Yes! Turns out, there are endless options once you think outside the basket. (Again, it's the bunny ears talking.) Here are my favorites...

Origin Crafts is one stop shopping for pretty containers, and their wire baskets seem to channel the Easter vibe, if you were perhaps celebrating in Tuscany this year.

Upcycled and totally charming, Sewing Momma's sweet little fabric bins would be welcome year-round.

Garnet Hill's collapsible bucket is a genius design that would be darling filled with treats for the beach or garden.
And don't these bright enamel pails just scream Spring?

{ Lady of the House }

Monday, April 11, 2011

Warm Spinach Salad with Quinoa and Mushrooms

When people find out I'm from Buffalo, they always want to know which city's weather is worse, my current hometown of Milwaukee or the one I grew up in? In case you've been wondering, Milwaukee is colder (bone-chilling, really), but Buffalo gets (much) more snow. So, which is worse? You decide: Would you pick cold or snow?

Needless to say, in both cities, spring is often chilly and dreary. Lots of clouds, rain, and wind. This weekend, though, the weather in Milwaukee finally took a positive turn. The birds were chirping, the sun was shining, and it was, get this, EIGHTY DEGREES. Yep, 8-0. Glorious.

As the weather warms, my interest in salads always seems to pick up. With that in mind, I'm sharing a hearty salad. Hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed reading on my front porch wearing shorts. In other words, lots.

Warm Spinach Salad with Quinoa and Mushrooms
Adapted from Great Food Fast by Everyday Food
Serves: 4

1/4 cup red wine vinegar, plus more for serving
1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for serving
Salt and pepper
2 pounds sliced baby portobello mushrooms*
1.5 cups quinoa
3 cups water
1 pound baby spinach
6 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

Heat the broiler and adjust an oven rack to about 4" from the heat source. In a bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup vinegar and 1/4 cup olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss the mushrooms with the vinaigrette and spread on a large, rimmed baking sheet. Broil, stirring several times, until the mushrooms are tender, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring quinoa, water, and 1 teaspoon salt to a boil in a medium-sized saucepan. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and simmer until the liquid is absorbed, about 15-20 minutes. If the quinoa is looking too water-logged, remove the lid for the last several minutes of cooking.

Place the spinach in a large bowl and top with hot mushrooms and quinoa. Drizzle with extra olive oil and vinegar to taste. Sprinkle the crumbled feta on top and serve.

*You'll probably be thinking, "There's no way I'll need all these mushrooms." But they shrink waaaaaaay down in size. You'll be glad you used the whole 2 pounds.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Slow Cooker Pot Roast

Yesterday, I (very cruelly) left you hanging. I know you were waiting with bated breath to hear the results of my adventures in slow cooking.

Well, my friends, it was an incredible success!! Fall-apart juicy and delicious, my pot roast was everything I hoped for. And the leftovers? You guessed it. Even better.

Lucky for you, I documented my crock pot journey for your viewing pleasure. It all began on Monday evening...

First, I lined my crock pot with a slow cooker liner. (Genius invention, by the way.)

Then, I chopped stuff up and dumped it into my slow cooker. First onions, then celery.

Then, I slapped a bunch of Montreal steak seasoning all over my roast. And I tossed that in the crock pot, too.

Next came the potatoes. (Doesn't that roast look cozy nestled in there?)

And the carrots and bay leaves.

Then I put the lid on and shoved the crock in my messy fridge until the next morning.

After a lovely night's sleep, I woke up and put on my ratty-yet-comfortable slippers. (Yes, this is important in the making of my pot roast!)

Then I pulled out my crock out of the fridge and dumped a packet of onion soup mix on top of everything else. (Sure, it's full of preservatives, but it tastes so onion-y and good. Don't be a hater.)

And some liquid: Worcestershire sauce, beef broth, and one delicious beer. Then I put the lid on, and set that sucker to cook on low for 10 hours.

Then I took a picture of the clock to prove that it was morning.

And I got ready for work. I wore purple shoes on Monday.

Fast forward through lots of e-mails, conference calls, blah, blah, blah. This is what greeted me when I walked in the door:

Hear that? It's angels singing.

Crock Pot + Erin  = Best Friends 4 Ever

Slow Cooker Pot Roast
Serves: 8

1 large onion, sliced
3 ribs celery, cut into large pieces
3.5 pound beef roast (I used top round roast)
2 teaspoons Montreal steak seasoning
2 pounds potatoes, cut in half (or in quarters, if they're large)
10 carrots peeled and sliced in half or thirds
2 bay leaves
1 packet onion soup mix
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 cups beef broth
1 bottle beer
1 tablespoon corn starch

Pat the Montreal steak seasoning on the roast, and dump everything except the corn starch into your crock pot. Cook on low for 10 hours. Place two cups of cooking liquid in a small sauce pan over medium-high heat. Whisk in the corn starch. Allow mixture to simmer for 5 minutes, whisking often, until thickened. Serve the gravy with the pot roast.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Crock Pot: Friend or Foe?

I'm a workin' girl. So, if what they say is true, I should be BFF with my slow cooker. Well, to put it mildly, I'm not. Every time I use it, I feel like something goes wrong. (Remember this post?)

One of my goals is to conquer kitchen fears. And since Sarah suggested on HDHH's Facebook wall that I bust out my crock pot, I decided to give it a whirl. Although Sarah specifically asked for something besides pot roast, I had a mean hankerin' for a fall-apart chunk of beef with potatoes and carrots and some sort of meaty gravy. So, sorry, Sarah, but I made a pot roast.

On to my adventure in slow cooking...

I was determined to take full advantage of this appliance. I wanted to stick the stuff in there, set it, and forget it. I knew my pot roast would taste better if I browned the meat first, but I just didn't wanna. Was I being stubborn? Lazy? Probably so, but no matter. I refused to do anything but dump stuff into the slow cooker.

So, that's what I did. Chopped stuff up, dumped it in, and turned the thing on. After about 10 hours of commuting, working, and dilly-dallying, I arrived home to find...

Well, I can't let you off that easily! This is a bonus Thursday post. You have to come back tomorrow to find out how it went. (Insert sneaky cackle.)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

I Just Need Some Air by Lady of the House

Truth be told, I am not a green thumb. Though I adore flowers, know their names, even stop to smell them--I can't seem to keep them alive. My options are limited due to this fact, but even more so now that we're in a north facing flat with no garden. Meanwhile Spring, in all her glory, buds and blooms.

So I went out today in search of some sprig of nature that just might let me at least try and look after it. And after chatting with the nice gals at my local nursery, it was determined that the perfect plant for my type is an air plant. They don't need much, meaning I probably can't screw it up, and they also happen to be wild and wonderful.
I fished out some delicate glass vases my sister gave me ages ago. (CB2 still makes this one!) Then I started by sprinkling a shallow layer of sand into the base of each vase. I added a little reindeer moss for some fluff and color, suspecting the air plant might hinge itself a bit more easily with a little cushion. Then I placed the air plants, strung the vases with twine, and hung them in the kitchen window. I'm delighted to have a bit of the outside in. Now if I can just keep them alive... Wish me luck!

{ Lady of the House }
p.s. I just set up an email address, if you'd ever like to drop me a line or ask a question like, "What should I get my sister-in-law for her birthday?" :
p.p.s Oooh! And I'm on Twitter now too: @HDHHLady .Well aren't we fancy!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Brined Pork Chops

As I've mentioned on several occasions, I really like pork. Quick-cooking and lean, it's perfect for busy weeknights at our happy home. One cut of pork that can be tricky to work with, however, is the chop.

Often, my pork chops were turning out dry and tough. I knew the meat itself wasn't to blame; it must be an issue with the way I was cooking it. When porterhouse pork chops went on sale at my local market, I seized the opportunity to conquer the elusive juicy chop.

The Thanksgiving turkey is another culprit in terms of dryness, and brining has been a fabulous method to salvage that particular cut. So, I busted out my salt and sugar and set to brining my pork chops.

After a mere hour in the brine and a quick stint on the grill pan, my dinner was ready. I must admit a bit of performance anxiety as I sliced into my chop, but my fears were quickly allayed. The brined meat was juicy and flavorful.

Next time pork chops are on sale, give brining a shot. I think you'll like it.    

Brined Pork Chops
Serves: 4

Lots of water
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons salt
4 porterhouse pork chops (or your favorite bone-in cut), about 1.5" thick each
Your favorite dry rub, seasoning, or salt and pepper (to season the pork)
1 tablespoon olive oil

Fill up your largest bowl with water. Stir in 3 tablespoons of sugar and 3 tablespoons of salt until dissolved. Add your pork chops. Cover and refrigerate for one hour.

After your chops have brined for an hour, discard the brine and rinse your pork chops thoroughly. Pat them dry and season them with your favorite dry rub or a hearty sprinkling of salt and pepper.

Heat a grill pan (or skillet) to medium-high and oil the grates. Place your pork chops on the grill pan and allow them to cook until they release easily from the pan, about 6 minutes.

Flip the chops over and cook about 3 minutes. Then, reduce heat to medium and cook until the pork reaches an internal temperature of 135-140 degrees, about 6 more minutes. (If your pork is getting too dark before it's cooked through, pop it in a 350 degree oven for 5-10 minutes until it reaches the appropriate temperature.) Remove the meat to a plate, tent with foil, and allow it to rest for about 10 minutes before serving.