15 March 2013

Moules à la Marinière | Julia Child's Mussels

A couple of weeks ago some dear friends came to visit from the UK. We had a great time skipping around the city (it was beautiful weather then, not like the hurricane of rain we've had this week) and making meals together. One highlight was stopping over to our famers market for some fresh mussels. I'm normally afraid of the fishmongers. (Even it my mother-in-law went with me last time and taught me how to clean a fish.) But with some encouragement from a friend who also recently took on the challenge, we stopped by to buy our own mussels for a relaxing meal in. 

You know you have found a heart-friend when you share the same passion for Julia Child. (And obviously we looked to her for the recipe below.) And you know your friend has a ridiculous husband when he can impersonate Julia's voice to the T. Andy and I have found both of these to be true in our weekend guests, so we had quite the time making and enjoying this meal together.

I spoke with our fishmonger about the proper way to clean, store, and prepare the mussels and I suggest you do the same. (Or YouTube works great if you're too shy!)

It was not as hard as I thought and they were delicious! Serve as an appetizer or with crusty bread and salad for a lighter meal.

Moules à la Marinière
Fresh Mussel Steamed Open in Wine and Flavorings

2 cups of light, dry white wine
1/2 cup minced shallots/ green onions/ very finely minced onions
8 parsley springs
1/2 bay leaf
1/4 tsp thyme
1/8 tsp pepper
6 Tb butter
6 quarts scrubbed, soaked mussels (I used around 2.5 kilos.)
  • Bring the wine to boil in a pot (I used my large Le Creuset Stockpot) with all the ingredients but the last two for 2 - 3 minutes
  • Add the mussels. Cover tightly and boil quickly over high heat. Frequently grasp the kettle with both hands, your thumbs clamped to the cover, and toss the mussels in the kettle with an up and down slightly jerky motion so the mussels will change levels and cook evenly. In about 5 minutes the shells will open and the mussels are ready.
  • Then, with a large ladle, dip the mussels into wide soup plates. Allow the cooking liquid to settle for a moment so any sand will sink to the bottom. Then ladle the liquid over the mussels. sprinkle with parsley and enjoy!

PS- What? 

23 January 2013

... And we're back!

Well hello there, friend. Haven't seen you in a while! But I just love those friendships that you can just pick up after a long hiatus, so even if we don't really know each other, let's choose to be those type of friends and settle back in. Sound good?

So being the type of friends that we are, I'm not going to acknowledge that YES, I haven't blogged since June 2, 2012, and YES, I totally never picked up "simply" after my summer holiday, but we're not those type of friends, remember? So we'll just leave it at that.

What I DO want to talk about is the great time Mr. D and I had in America this Christmas, full of good friends, family, and surprises (like finding your wedding cake in the freezer 2.5 years after your wedding.) Oops! And no, the cake wasn't really worth eating after we cut it. (Surprised?)

And I DO want to share a fun and easy citrus salad recipe that my dear friend Amy served at her fabulous birthday party this year. We had it for Christmas brunch and it was equally delicious! Enjoy! xo

Winter Citrus Salad with Poached Cranberries
Inspired by my beautiful friend Amy
Adapted slightly from Martha Stewart

3 pounds mixed citrus (oranges, pink grapefruit, yummy Italian blood oranges, etc) peeled, pith removed

1 star anise pod or cinnamon stick

1/2 cup frozen cranberries

1/2 cup water

1/8-1/4 cup sugar (depending on the sweetness your fruit)

1. Boil the sugar, cinnamon (or anise), cranberries, and water. Once it boils lower the heat and let simmer until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and bring to room temp.

2. Peal the citrus and remove the pith. Slice to show all the segments (see photo) and pour the mixture over the top. Refrigerate until chilled.

Note: This will store overnight in the fridge!

02 June 2012

Glazed (Overnight) Doughnuts. Another win!

It's getting to that time of year when people in my line of work are tired. Really, really, tired. We've battled through a really busy spring and, with the heat wave sweeping over Rome, it sinks in: Summer break is NOT here yet. You see, "summer" for us here in Italy isn't until August. And not only is my body telling me I need a break, but Facebook is always throwing it in my face with all my teacher-friends gushing about how Summer is Here! (Love you, teacher-friends, I just can't look at your profiles right now.)

But God is GOOD and provides us all with things like DOUGHNUTS to wake us up and keep us kicking. Nothing that a little fried dough can't fix, my grandmother always said. (Or maybe it was "a minute on the lips, forever on the hips. Never mind.)

On Monday we had about 15 students over to our home for dinner, and after they left at 11pm I turned a bleary eye to my favorite Pioneer Woman to give me a little American grease to raise the energy level of our staff team at Tuesday morning's meeting. This doughnut recipe turned out GREAT and was easy to make the night before. I halved the recipe (due to an egg shortage) and it was probably for the best. (Grandmother's are always right.)

Check out Pioneer Woman's Homemade Glazed Doughnut recipe here. I cut down the sugar a bit, but would highly recommend these tasty pick-me-ups with the added bonus of making the dough the night before.

11 May 2012

Martha-izing my life | Chalkboard Labels

It never ceases to amaze me how things go from bad to worse. Chaotic things never turn orderly on their own. (Hmmm, macro evolution disproved in my kitchen cabinets?) As it seems, no matter how hard I try, our house continues to need attention in the organization department. (I surely do wish that something would crawl out of the sticky ooze in there and morph into a little Martha Stewart. Now THAT would be science at its finest.)

But oh yes. Martha Stewart. The reason for this post. A dear friend sent me these organizational labels from Martha's new office line at Staples which have been so fun! If you're like me, there are some canisters that seem to rotate what's in them. (But I do love these permanent labels) That's why I've loved using these chalkboard labels. Aren't they cute?

2 notes: (1) The chalk does smudge easily, so I wouldn't recommend them for high-traffic cansiters and (2) the Martha Magazine iPad subscription is AMAZING. Check it out.

Have a great weekend! x

09 May 2012

Never too late to celebrate | White Enchiladas

Ok, so maybe we're all over Cinco de Mayo. But I'm always behind here in Rome, news always seems to arrive late. Like when I asked what "Modern Family" was a year ago and when I had to google "Bieber Fever" to find out who this Justin Bieber character was and what all the fuss was about his hair. Sometimes living life as an ex-pat can be embarrassing. I digress.

Late Cinco de Mayo. Mexican Food.

Here is a fun recipe from Pioneer Woman, (thanks to my sweet from Kimberly who gave me her book for my birthday!) which I've also adapted for those less-fortunate so-and-sos who find them living outside the cool kid circle of America and have no access to all Mexico (or America) has to offer. But it's delicious, so I can't complain!

Pioneer Woman's White Chicken Enchiladas
adapted for foreign living

2-1/2 cups Cooked, Shredded Chicken (I boiled mine and supplemented the broth with powdered broth)
2 cups Reserved Broth From Chicken
3 Tablespoons Canola Oil
12 whole Corn Tortillas (or white if you can't find them)
1 whole Large Onion, Diced
3 whole 4 Oz Cans Whole Green Chilies, Diced (or extra fresh if you don't have them)
1 whole Jalapeno, Seeded And Finely Diced
1 teaspoon Paprika
1/2 cup Heavy Cream
2 Tablespoons Butter
2 Tablespoons Flour
1 cup Sour Cream (or greek yogurt)
2-1/2 cups Monterey Jack Cheese, Grated (I used Edamer to great success) 
Salt And Pepper, to taste
Picante Sauce/salsa (optional)
Cilantro, Chopped
Preparation Instructions

Fry the tortillas in 2T canola oil if you want to. (I didn't, it just takes time.) But if you do, place the tortillas on a large towel or paper towels to drain.

Heat 1 tablespoon canola oil in separate skillet over medium heat. Add onions and jalapenos and saute for 1 minute, just to start the cooking process. Add chicken, half of the green chilies, and 1/2 teaspoon paprika. Stir together. Add 1/2 cup chicken broth and stir. Add cream and stir, allowing mixture to bubble and get hot. Turn off heat and set aside.

In a separate large skillet, melt butter and sprinkle in flour. Whisk together and cook over medium heat for one minute. Pour in 1 1/2 cups chicken broth. Whisk together and cook for another minute or two. Stir in the other half of the chilies. Reduce heat, then stir in sour cream. Add 1 1/2 cups grated cheese and stir to melt. Add 1/2 teaspoon paprika. Check seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed.

To assemble, spoon chicken mixture on top of tortillas, one by one. Top with plenty of cheese and roll up. Place seam side down in a 9 x 13 casserole dish.

Pour cheese mixture all over the top of the tortillas. Top with extra cheese if you'd like, then bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Sprinkle generously with chopped cilantro.

Serve with picante sauce/salsa, if desired.

Check out Pioneer Woman's Blog for her complete recipe and buy her cookbook- it's delicious!

06 May 2012

De-stressing by Distressing

Nothing says de-stressing like mutilating a piece of furniture. Maybe that sounds unhealthy? A scene from Office Space? (Who doesn't sometimes want to beat-up their printer?) But for me, distressing furniture is very de-stressing. Har Har.

I first got the idea of how to turn my second-hand Ikea butchers block into a more rustic piece from pinterest. Jenna at SAS Interiors did a great job, and I wanted to give it a whirl.

I used white paint to paint the bottom part of the butchers block. I then took to de-stressing my life on the poor top, using a hammer and a flathead skrew driver. I dented the top and, something that I think made a big difference, hit the corners down to make it look worn and curved. I mixed some black acrylic paint (just a dab) with some glaze that I had to rub the surface down and then added some stain, letting myself get creative with filling in the holes with some black paint for accent.I finished it up with a light sanding of the paint to give the bottom half a worn look. Check out Jenna's for the really cool stamp she put on hers, which I chose to leave out for now. Something from Ikea never looked so good!

Have some stress? Let me know how your de-stressing distressing goes! x

25 April 2012

Baggu Re-usable Bags


Toting my groceries home, up the street, up 6 flights of stairs, and into my house every week is a feat I'm proud of. (Or whine about, depending on the day.) Needless to say, my re-usable market bags have gotten the pants kicked out of them in Rome and I'm in the market for some new ones. How cute are these BAGGU bags? These 3 were some of my favorites. Loving the prints.

I'm just looking forward to telling my kids "Your mother had to climb 6 flights of stairs to bring her groceries into the house" when they complain about helping to unload the car's grocery load. It's the modern day "walking to school uphill both ways" lecture. Check.

Happy Wednesday! x