Summer has already gotten the better of me. Nicely organized healthy family meals have disintegrated down into quick grabs for anything I can find that everyone (or at least the kids) will eat. Carefully planned meals full of veggies flavored with a judicious amount of lean protein have given way to sandwiches and oven fries on more than one occasion recently. We’ve just been busy. Busy in the off to camp, run errands with twins, back to pick up from camp, afternoon at the grandparents, stop by the grocery store on the way home to get something (anything) to eat for dinner kind of way. It’s days and days on end like this that make summer so frenetic and makes me sit down come September and wonder what happened to summer. I need to S-T-O-P and smell the basil! (I would if the stupid beetles would stop eating it).
As busy as I’ve been schlepping Little Guy around, I’ve still done a little cooking. We’re finally done with the barbecue brisket. We stretched it out to two big dinners with the grandparents (all four of them), two meals of sandwiches, one dinner of chopped barbecued beef baked potatoes, and lots of picking and nibbling. I’m down to my last jar of barbecue sauce, but I don’t feel too panicked about it though since I finally, at the age of 39, have a recipe that I know will work to reproduce the sauce when I run out.
Pasta has show up a lot on our table lately. In addition to making our own fettuccine and ravioli, I also made Cooking Light’s Creamy Lobster Pappardelle. It was part of date night in for hubby and I. We do this every now and then. We wear the kids out, and get them in bed a little early. We then enjoy a date night together in our own house. “La Nostra Casa” is a fantastic restaurant (Hubby and I have decided that any word makes a good restaurant name if you use the Italian version of it). Good affordable wine list, decent chef, nice atmosphere (minus the baby clutter), and good service. However they make you clean up your own dishes (cheeky!).
I made a few changes to the lobster pappardelle recipe to make it work with what I had on hand. The recipe calls for three lobster tails, but I substituted two culls (whole live lobsters that are missing the claws) which a lobsterman at the farmer’s market was selling for 3.99/lb. People complain that that eating local or shopping at the farmer’s market is more expensive. But that is not always the case. If you are eating a sustainable local food that is in season, then you can really save some serious money. Don’t believe me? You try to get two super-fresh lobsters for under 7 bucks.
One other change I made was to toss the pasta with a few tablespoons of fresh ricotta instead of using heavy cream. I had ricotta, I didn’t have heavy cream. It was delicious. I garnished the pasta with an additional dollop of the ricotta and dash of chive paste that I made the day before (recipe coming next week). It was really a special dish, and one heck of a weeknight meal.
Our CSA from Pakeen Farm is also in full swing. One of my favorite unexpected surprises so far was the 1/2 pound of dried black beans that I made into Cooking Light’s Moros y Cristianos (Cuban-Style Black Beans and Rice). What a hit these were. I think it’s funny just how excited I was to get dried black beans in my share. I don’t know why, but the dark black and shiny beans were better somehow than the ones I get at the store. Maybe because I had to really pick over them and wash them over and over to prepare them, maybe because the Cooking Light recipe was fantastic and a clear favorite with the kids.
I followed the recipe exactly except that I used lots of fresh cilantro instead of dried coriander and I used dried beans instead of canned (which added a few hours to the cooking time). Sadly, they are not the cleanest food a young toddler can eat. We got used to keeping the mop handy next to the highchairs so that we could sweep and mop every time they eat these beans. Even the mess didn’t matter: they were good and they are now all gone. I’m sad, but I’ll survive.
On the fourth I treated myself (and my mother-in-law) to peach ice cream. Only the two of us because no one else around here likes fruit desserts (???!!!!). I’ve been dreaming of creamy, over-the-top real peach ice cream made with nothing but heavy cream, eggs sugar, peaches, vanilla and salt. I am also dreaming of me a couple dozen pounds lighter so I skipped the heavy cream and opted instead for this recipe for Peach Cobbler Ice Cream with Bourbon Caramel Sauce. I didn’t feel cheated; I felt like I won the dessert lottery. The recipe calls for light whipped topping which is a little too processed for my taste. I substituted some of the whole milk vanilla yogurt I keep in the fridge for the twins. Perhaps it’s lighter real ice cream, but it was still a decadent treat — especially with the Bourbon Caramel Sauce. Making a dessert with a bourbon caramel sauce on it is sort-of cheating, because what wouldn’t be good covered in warm boozy bourbon caramel sauce?