Thursday, September 29, 2011

a wonderful birthday.

I had a great birthday yesterday! Many thanks to the warm wishes from family and friends. I felt very spoiled and loved. Here are a few pics from the day!
If any of my colleagues didn't know that I like vampires...they all know now.
Birthday cocktails at F.Scott's in Greenhills.
Mrs. Albaugh's personalized birthday menu.
A rose from our waiter.
A dish of pan seared red snapper over carrot polenta and grilled zucchini with white wine scallion butter was just what I wanted to celebrate the night with my fantastic husband! Thank for making it so special, Vance!

Hello fall.

Although the high this week is about 82 degrees, I am still excited about fall recipes. Butternut squash and goat cheese pasta, courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis, truly took our breath away.
It is fall in the House of Clarbaugh.

Ingredients (6 servings):
·     Vegetable oil cooking spray
·     1 (2-pound) butternut or kombucha squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
·     1 onion, diced into 1/2-inch pieces
·     Olive oil, for drizzling
·     Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
·     1 pound penne pasta
·     1 cup (8 ounces) goat cheese, crumbled
·     1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted *see note
·     1 packed cup chopped fresh basil leaves
·     1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan
·     chopped asparagus
Put an oven rack in the upper third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Spray a baking sheet, liberally, with vegetable oil cooking spray. Set aside.

Mix the squash and onion together and arrange in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Bake for about 30 minutes until the vegetables are golden and cooked through. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool slightly.

While the squash mixture is cooling, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain and reserve about 2 cups of the pasta water. Put the pasta, goat cheese and 1 cup of pasta water in a large serving bowl. Toss until the cheese has melted and forms a creamy sauce. Add the squash and onion mixture, the walnuts and the basil. Toss well and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Garnish with Parmesan and serve. 
This pic really doesn't do this dish justice. Served with some fresh asparagus and a chilled Honey Brown Ale.
*To toast the walnuts, arrange them in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 350 degree F oven until lightly toasted, about 6 to 8 minutes Cool completely before using.
This entree is a fantastic hearty vegetarian meal, give it a try!

I feel a chill in the air...

and down here, that is hard to detect. The changing of the seasons is best felt as I move from being excited about True Blood on Sunday nights with vodka 'n tonics to Grey's Anatomy on Thursdays with Dewers & soda. September is this fun transitional season (that can sometimes be a challenge on the wardrobe - espadrilles or booties, white jeans or thin wale corduroy, you get the idea). What is great about this time of year is that you can catch the last few crops of fresh fruit and vegetables like nectarines and zucchini and begin to find fall veggies like beautiful squash.
This week I am sporting two early fall recipes, a tortellini and white bean soup and butternut squash and goat cheese pasta.
Tortellini soup topped with grated Parmesan.

Jen Grimes-Inspired Tortellini Soup

-medium onion
-2 tablespoons olive oil (EVOO)
-14.5 oz can of fire roasted chopped tomatoes
-can of white beans, rinsed and drained
-1 zucchini
-4 cups of vegetable or chicken stock
-2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
-1-2 tablespoons thyme (any herbs you enjoy will do!)
-6-8 oz package of cheese tortellini
-3 cups of fresh spinach
-2 cloves minced garlic
-2 to 4 tablespoons grated Parmesan

In a large stock pot, saute garlic and chopped onion in EVOO. Peel and cube the zucchini - add and saute for about 5 mins. Add the tomatoes (with liquid), stock, white beans, herbs and bring to a light boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and add tortellini and spinach. Simmer for 8-10 minutes, top with grated Parmesan and serve!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

New season, new appliances.

As a newly-minted wife, my kitchen is full of lovely new Kitchenaid and Cuisinart tools and gadgets. As we roll into fall, I took this weekend to break-in some of these exciting culinary items.

First up, white bean dip with bagel chips.

Using the food processor, I mixed a can of drained and rinsed white beans, about a tablespoon of basil (well pureed), teaspoon of garlic (yes - jarred), and drizzled in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil while mixing. Add salt and pepper to taste. After all the ingredients were well-mixed, I stirred in a bit of fresh squeezed lemon juice (about a wedge's worth). Serve with bagel chips, vegetables or any other tasty base.

Next on the list is Maple Dijon Chicken with sweet potatoes and carrots in the slow cooker.
Not pictured: skinless boneless chicken tatas and bay leaves.

--1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast
--1 cup chicken broth (or vegetable)
--2 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped

--1 onion, chopped
--2 T dijon mustard
--3 T maple syrup 
--3 cloves garlic, chopped

--2 bay leaves
--1 tsp thyme (I had fresh thyme so I used about 3-4 sprigs
--3 carrots, peeled and chopped
Note: I like a lot of flavor in my dishes, so I used pretty heavy pours of maple syrup and dijon mustard!

In a 4 quart slow cooker, put the chicken into the bottom of your crockpot and toss it with the thyme, maple syrup, and dijon mustard.
 Mix in the onion, carrots, and garlic.

Peel and cube the sweet potato, and add to the pot. 

Pour in the broth. Add the bay leaves.

Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours, or on high for 4-5. This is done when the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables reach desired tenderness.

I am cooking on low for 6 hours and will check to see if the chicken is done.
Outcome: quite good! I probably could have put the chicken in later (after giving the sweet potatoes and carrots about 2 hours) as skinless boneless chicken tatas cook rather quickly. The dish has a lot of good sauce/stock to spoon over the meat and veggies. Paired with a salad, this is a great Sunday night dinner. We also have at least 2 left over servings for lunches this week. Eat up!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Eggs are good all the time.

I am trying to use a variety of protein for our evening meal and last night a quick egg dish did the trick. I snapped an instagram of the dish mid-way, and then Vance and I were so excited to eat it that I forgot to take another pic!
Ingredients are nestled in a ramekin after being sauteed in garlic and olive oil.

·     2 Tbsp olive oil
·     2 garlic cloves, crushed
·     10 oz. fresh spinach
·     1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
·     2 Tbsp minced onion
·     2 eggs
·     Salt and pepper
·     Paprika or Shredded Parmesan, sprinkle as garnish
·     Preheat oven to 360.
·     To a large skillet or saucepan, add the olive oil and saute the garlic for a minute, before adding the spinach.  Toss the spinach around for a minute, then add the diced tomatoes.  Toss together and then add the minced onion.  Let simmer until most of the liquid has cooked off, about 5-7 minutes.
·     Place the sauteed spinach into an ovenproof, creating divets for the eggs.  Crack 1 egg into each hole.
·     Bake the spinach and eggs for about 12-15 minutes, or until egg whites have turned white.
·     Once cooked, remove from the oven and sprinkle with salt and pepper and paprika or Parmesan. I used Parmesan cheese and it was delicious!

 Courtesy of 5 dollar dinners.
Served with a small scoop orzo with parsley and a slice of whole grain bread.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

My fun guy

The summer that Vance and I started dating, we took a day trip to Rehoboth beach. We were young and falling in love and both burn rather quickly - so needless to say the day was full of giggles, waves crashing and the slathering of suntan lotion over freckles (people, please, let's keep this clean). Anyways, as we were driving home, I said to Vance, "I have so much with you - you are a fun guy!" and he replied, "I am a fun guy, I'm ike a big mushroom!" Get it - fun guy, fungi? From that moment, I knew it would be love to last a lifetime.

Speaking of mushrooms, I made a delicious mushroom bourguignon the other night. I am becoming anxious for chilly weather so I can make big hearty dishes like this! Vegan-alert, for my leaf-eating friends like the Murphys, I believe this fits the vegan bill! You would have to use egg free noodles though - no biggie!

Serves 4
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds portabello mushrooms, sliced into ¼ inch slices
½ carrot, finely chopped
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup full-bodied red wine
2 cups vegetable broth
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme (or ½ teaspoon dried)
1 tablespoon butter
1 ½ tablespoons all purpose flour
1 cup pearl onions, peeled and thawed if frozen (I used fresh and just followed the directions to quickly boil and peel)
Egg noodles, cooked

Heat two tablespoons olive oil in a medium dutch oven or large sauce pan over high heat. Sear the mushrooms for about three or four minutes or until they start to darken. Before they begin to release much liquid remove from heat and set aside.
Lower the heat to medium and add in another tablespoon of olive oil. Saute the carrots, onion, thyme, salt and pepper for about 10 minutes until the onions are lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
Add the wine to the vegetables and turn the heat back up. Reduce it by half, scraping the bottom of the pot to remove any bits that are stuck. Add in the tomato paste and the broth. Remove the thyme sprigs (if using fresh) and add back in the mushrooms (and any juices that have collected) and simmer the mixture for 20 minutes, or until the mushrooms are very tender. Add in the pearl onions (if using).
Combine the tablespoons of butter and flour and stir it into the stew. Lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, or until the sauce is thick and has a nice consistency. Spoon the mixture over egg noodles.
I served this with some lightly sauteed spinach and french bread, yum!

Sandwich season

As I am preparing for travel, I am incorporating easier meals into our weekly menu. Although, I sometimes give people hell for a plain boring lunch sandwich, I do like the idea of having a snazzy sandwich with salad or soup at dinner. Last week, before heading out to Chicago, I made croque monsieur. I jazzed it up a bit with some fresh tomato and it was delicious and a perfect meal with a small salad.

Ingredients (for 2 sandwiches)
1/2 cup parmigiano-reggiano (grated)
3/4 cup gruyere (grated)
1/2 cup Bechamel Sauce* below
4 slices bread
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
5-6 slices ham
1 ripe tomato

1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
2. Melt half of the Gruyère and all of the parmigiano-reggiano into the Bechamel sauce.
3. Toast bread in oven.
4. Spread Dijon mustard on one slice of bread.
5. Add the ham slices and about half of the remaining Gruyère cheese. Add slice of tomato and top with the other toasted bread slice.
6. Spoon the Bechamel sauce onto the top of the sandwich.
7. Sprinkle with the remaining Gruyère cheese.
8. Place on a broiling pan and bake in the oven for 5 minutes.
9. Turn on the broiler and broil for an additional 5 minutes. (Until the cheese topping is bubbly and lightly browned.)
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour*
1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (optional)
salt and pepper to taste (optional)

1. Heat the butter in a small sauce pan over medium-low heat until melted.
2. Add the flour and stir until smooth.
3. Add the milk and stir until smooth.
4. Add nutmeg, salt and pepper.
5. Reduce heat to low and cook for 5 minutes.

For a thin sauce use 1 tablespoon of flour and butter.
For a thick sauce use 3 tablespoons of flour and butter.
I used a hearty grain bread, but any firm bread would do.
Caution - this sandwich will be hot and you will want to eat it fast. Slow down.
Now that is dinner.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Exciting culinary weekend!

I have had fun cooking dinner last night and tonight. Sadly, last night's entree did not get a photo - it looked so good that Vance and I dug in before I could remember to snap a shot! We feasted on zucchini parmesan. I found it on one of favorite blog's A Cozy Kitchen.
The only change I made, was peeling about half of the zucchini skin off. This dish is delicious and fast!

Tonight is herb and lemon roasted chicken with potatoes, carrots and onions. Thank you Ina Garten.
I just popped this little bird in the oven...
Lemon and Herb Roasted Chicken

Here it is:


  • 1 (5 to 6 pound) roasting chicken
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large bunch fresh thyme, plus 20 sprigs
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • 1 head garlic, cut in half crosswise
  • 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter, melted
  • 1 large yellow onion, thickly sliced
  • 4 carrots cut into 2-inch chunks
  • 1 bulb of fennel, tops removed, and cut into wedges
  • Olive oil


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Remove the chicken giblets. Rinse the chicken inside and out. Remove any excess fat and leftover pin feathers and pat the outside dry. Liberally salt and pepper the inside of the chicken. Stuff the cavity with the bunch of thyme, both halves of lemon, and all the garlic. Brush the outside of the chicken with the butter and sprinkle again with salt and pepper. Tie the legs together with kitchen string and tuck the wing tips under the body of the chicken. Place the onions, carrots, and fennel in a roasting pan. Toss with salt, pepper, 20 sprigs of thyme, and olive oil. Spread around the bottom of the roasting pan and place the chicken on top.
Roast the chicken for 1 1/2 hours, or until the juices run clear when you cut between a leg and thigh. Remove the chicken and vegetables to a platter and cover with aluminum foil for about 20 minutes. Slice the chicken onto a platter and serve it with the vegetables.

I did not have fennel and I added a few quartered red skin potatoes. Additionally, I had some fresh oregano to use up so I added that in with thyme.
Issue: My cute carrots and onions got a bit charred at this high temp. Next time I will put the veggies in after about 30 minutes of roasting.
I see chicken salad made from leftovers! Night all!

My Saturday in Franklin

Nothing beats a good book and nice lunch on a sunny Saturday!
Butternut squash soup with a dollop of creme fraiche and fontina crostini and a delicious caprese salad. Lunch at Marcia's and antiquing in Franklin - that is my kind of day.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

No more plain turkey and cheese, please!

I have this great friend in DC, who says she always fails at lunch. All the time. It is so easy to do. Packing interesting lunches takes a little pre-planning but is totally doable. I am over my boring turkey and cheese sandwich - here is what I am munching today...

Smoked Salmon Pita Pocket
whole wheat pita bread
red pepper hummus
horseradish cheddar (or any cheese you like)
sliced salmon lox
romaine lettuce
few drops of Blaze balsamic glace
Microwave for about 10 seconds so you can easily open pita pocket.

Vance and I love lox in wraps, salads, pasta...everything!

I am going to finish my lunch, hope you give a pita pocket a try this week. Stuff them with tomatoes and mozzarella, roasted vegetables...even your standard lunch meats with some fun cheeses and add-ins like red bell pepper, avocado and sprouts.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Sizzling skirt steak

What is better on a Friday night than a cold beer and soft steak tacos? Nothing. That is what is better.
Here is the run down...

  • 1 orange, thinly sliced with peel
  • 1/2 onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, halved and smashed
  • 1.5 pounds skirt steak
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 cup light-colored beer (I used Corona)
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
Easy to put together in the morning and marinate during the day in the fridge.

In a wide, shallow glass baking dish, scatter half of the orange slices, half of the onion slices and half of the garlic pieces on the bottom of the dish. Sprinkle the steak all over with salt and pepper and put in the dish on top of the orange and onion slices. Scatter the remaining orange, onion and garlic over the steak and pour in the beer and soy sauce. Cover with plastic wrap and marinate for 1 hour at room temperature or up to overnight in the refrigerator.
Prepare a barbeque or grill pan on medium-high heat or preheat a broiler. Remove the meat from the marinade and discard the marinade. Grill the steak to desired doneness, about 4 minutes per side for medium-rare.
Slice against the grain and serve with warm tortillas, shredded cheddar and sliced avocado. Soft steak tacos - yum!

Peach Party Fizz Cocktails

As summer comes to a close (tear), I am trying to maximize the great prices on fresh fruit. To use up some raspberries and peaches, I made a delicious cocktail last night.

Peach Party Fizz
The only thing missing from this photo is vodka...oops! Muddle about 1/4 of a peach (cubed) with 4-5 raspberries and about a half packet (1/4-1/2 teaspoon) of Truvia (or you could use sugar). Add a small shot of vodka (not too much) a splash of lemonade and top with champagne. If everything is chilled, you don't need ice, but if you are serving these cocktails to lightweights (like I was), add some ice.