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what to do with leftover mussels

leftover mussels

I don’t know if you noticed just how big that bag of mussels was in yesterday’s post. There were over 140 mussels in it! I steamed them all on Sunday and then made another meal out of the leftover 60 or so mussels for dinner on Monday. I’ll get to the recipe shortly, but first I want to share a new favorite ingredient of mine with you – capers packed in sea salt.

capers in sea salt

Most capers we see in the U.S. are packed in a vinegar brine after curing. Often the brine overpowers the wonderful fresh caper flavor. Capers packed in sea salt are more flowery, more like flower buds, which is of course what capers are. The caper plant, Capparis spinosa, can be found all around the Mediterranean Sea and spreads its long, spiny branches over rocks and open into beautiful white flowers with long purple stamens.

I used the capers directly from the jar, with the salt clinging to them, for this recipe. I didn’t use additional salt for the dish, just the salt that was already present on the capers. For a salad or another dish where not as much salt is needed, the capers need to be cleaned of their salt. To do so; cover the salt-packed capers with water. Swish to remove any clinging salt and let stand a minute to let it settle to bottom. Lift out capers with a sieve, and taste. If still too salty, repeat the process.

I bought the capers while I was in Canada last summer and have looked for them here, but haven’t run across any yet. You can find them easily on Amazon.

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April 3, 2014   No Comments

sausage and mussels

bag o mussles

Here is the second recipe I made on Sunday night with a portion of that huge package of sausage I’d purchased at Costco. I bought a huge bag of live mussels to go along with it.

mussels and chowder

Remember, I made the Corn, Potato & Sausage Chowder? We had steamed mussels too.

discard broken

It’s important to do two things with live mussels. First, pull out and discard any and all cracked or broken mussels.

cornmeal

The second thing; just before cooking,  pour a 1/2 cup or so of cornmeal into a large bowl.

add water

Add cold water and stir. Then add the mussels and let sit for about 20 minutes. As the mussels breathe, they take in the cornmeal and fresh water and expel sand and grit.

get rid of grit

Lift the mussels out of the water with a slotted spoon or spider and leave the sandy water behind.

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April 2, 2014   2 Comments

pasta and lamb

Yesterday it was pasta and beef – today it’s pasta and lamb.

Pappardelle with Lamb Ragu1

What’s going on? Honestly, it’s just a coincidence. This was my Valentine’s dinner gift to my guys. After dinner we went to see The Lego Movie – loved it!

The beef and pasta dinner was a couple of days later. Sometimes we all crave pasta.

pasta

The pasta used here is pappardelle which is a large, very broad, flat pasta noodle, similar to wide fettuccine. Pappardelle can be difficult to find in the grocery store. I found mine at Whole Foods.

scissor tomatoes

Tip: This recipe calls for canned diced tomatoes. If you only have canned whole tomatoes, an easy way to dice them is by using kitchen shears and cut the tomatoes right in the can.

This particular recipe is one that I adapted from a recipe I found in Food & Wine magazine.

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February 18, 2014   5 Comments

pasta and beef

A week ago yesterday, our neighbors, Allison and Ian, had a new baby girl. She joins two sisters, ages 2 and 3.  Since Allison obviously has her hands full (to say the least!) another neighbor, Kim, organized a sign-up for us to pitch in and bring dinners to the family for the next couple weeks.

genius

Kim used a great online tool called Signup Genius. I’d never heard of it before, but I guess it’s all the rage with mom’s of school age kids. I am so out of the loop! It really is genius though!

braised tri tip and spaghetti

Anyhow, I made a double batch of this dish yesterday afternoon. My three guys really enjoyed it for dinner last night. Hopefully Ian, Allison and their girls will enjoy it just as much tonight.

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February 17, 2014   1 Comment

Migas for the crew

Before I get into today’s post – I want to take a moment to wish my mother-in-law, Patricia Hopkins, a very happy birthday! I love you. xoxo

I made brunch for the fabulous crew from Forevergreen Landscape Designs, Inc., the great group of guys who’ve been redoing our front yard and patio area for the past month.

brunch on the patio

The project was supposed to wrap up last Friday, but because of a mistake by the rock delivery dude, who delivered the wrong color rocks, the project is ongoing… it should be done by the end of this week with a reveal sometime next week.

screen

Long before the nasty gray cement-like rock was delivered, I’d promised to make the guys breakfast or lunch on what was to be their last day… we settled on brunch. And since the majority of men on the job are Hispanic, I decided to make Migas.

As you can see, I was very stealth and snapped a couple photos through the screened windows of them enjoying their meal.

peak

Mexican or Tex-Mex Migas is a traditional breakfast dish consisting of scrambled eggs mixed with strips of corn tortilla, diced onions, chile peppers, diced fresh tomatoes, and cheese.

chips and such

My version uses crushed tortilla chips, minced serrano, and Parmesan.

Chip Custer is the owner of Forevergreen Landscape Designs. He is the very talented landscape designer who did our backyard. If you go to his website HERE, you can check out photos 2, 3, 8, 10, and 12. Those are a few of the before and after pictures of the backyard project we did with Chip five years ago.

Now you see why I happily cook for these guys!

onion tomato serrano

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November 13, 2013   4 Comments

Olive Garden Salad Knock-Off

Olive Garden Endless Salad

Even though I may be a food industry professional who generally avoids big chain restaurants, even I have to admit that Olive Garden’s all-you-can-eat salad and bread-sticks are hard to pass up!

all you can eat Olive Garden salad

Not that we are frequent diners at Olive Garden. In fact, I believe the only times we’ve eaten there in the past decade have been on road trips.

no much of a stretch

This is the salad I made for work-weary Marissa and Jeff on Friday night. I have a few more photos of the apartment kitchen too. Here you can see that 6′ 3″ Jeff doesn’t have to stretch much to touch both ends of the kitchen at the same time.

color strip

After I complained about how dark the sink area was at night, Dave went to Costco and bought a cool light strip that Jeff and I installed around the kitchen and over the sink. It even has a remote and you can have a full-color light show! Most importantly, it really lights up the place.

pumpkin happy

Lastly, Marissa used the velvet pumpkins I made for her last year, to cover up and camouflage the TV cords and components on her mantel. Cute!

And most wonderful of all… I found the Jarrahdale pumpkins, that I so love, at Marissa’s corner market which is only two blocks from her house. I smuggled home three of them in our luggage! So excited!

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October 8, 2013   3 Comments

cooking in a postage stamp-sized kitchen

We return later today from a glorious long weekend, spent with Marissa and her boyfriend, Jeff, in San Francisco and Napa.

San Francisco from the ferry

Marissa had a very busy and stressful work week, so I made dinner on Friday night in her very small kitchen. When I say small, I mean really small!

In May, Marissa moved from the Outer Sunset neighborhood to Pacific Heights. Part of the tradeoff to live closer to the center of the city was less space.

postage stamp kitchen

The closet-sized kitchen is only 7 feet wide by 10 feet long, with less than 25 square feet of walkable floor space and only 3 linear feet of counter space. No dishwasher, no garbage disposal, and a smaller than average sized refrigerator.

fridges

Speaking of the refrigerator… remember this Friday Funny I posted last week?

small fridge

It is Marissa’s reality! Here is her refrigerator…

fridge

… and here is how mine typically looks. Just a bit of a contrast!

filled to the rim with goceries

So, what did I make for dinner in the tiny kitchen, you ask?

After a quick trip to Trader Joe’s, I unpacked it all, which took up every inch of counter space, then I proceeded to make a one pot (no drain) pasta dinner, rounded out with salad and garlic bread. The salad recipe will be posted tomorrow.

foil to cover holes in cover

The one pot Marissa owned, that was big enough, had a lid with holes, for draining pasta. I needed a solid lid so I covered the pot with foil, then added the lid, for a tight seal.

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October 7, 2013   6 Comments

easy meaty or meatless Monday meal

It has only taken me a week, but I’m finally getting back to you with the second recipe using those polenta scraps from the Polenta Pesto Bruschetta recipe I gave you a week ago today.

trader joe's polenta

This is almost the perfect “layer and bake” recipe, all you have to do is brown some Italian sausage. Although, you could easily make this dish even more convenient by omitting the sausage, thereby creating the perfect Mindless Meatless Monday Meal.

Dave was out-of-town when I made it, but Connor was home for the night, so meat was called for. We enjoyed the spiciness that the sausage added.

Italian Polenta Bake

Italian Polenta Bake

Polenta trimmings from this recipe, or a tube of prepared polenta, cut into rounds
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
8 ounces hot Italian sausage, cooked
1  1/2 cups purchased marinara sauce
2/3 cup grated mozzarella cheese

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September 16, 2013   1 Comment

I’m back…

Connor and I had a blast in Disneyland and California Adventure. When I say a blast, I not only mean a great time but a heat blast too.

main street USA

It never fails, I leave this Godforsaken desert to find some refreshing cool air and the heat follows me! It was 95 every day we were there. The weatherman is predicting a lovely 75 degrees for Tuesday! It’s not right!

polenta bruschetta

Oh well, fall is coming soon… I hope. Until then, I have the quickest and the easiest appetizer for you …. plus a few Disney vacation photos at the end of the post.

polenta pesto bruschetta ingredients

Most grocery stores carry the tubes of prepared polenta … and prepared pesto too. Although, I used some frozen arugula pesto I had on hand. I brought this to a surprise party on Sunday that our dear friend, Amy, threw for her husband, our dear friend, Scott.

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September 9, 2013   1 Comment

simple stir-fry

I really love stir-fry. When I have a plethora of fresh vegetables on hand, there is nothing I’d rather make.

stir fry equipment

With a little prep, a nutritious and colorful dinner comes together in a matter of minutes.

More often than not, I don’t even take the time to make rice. None of my family seems to miss it, so why bother?

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August 28, 2013   1 Comment