Bernie the Basset turns 1!

If you follow me on Instagram, you know that Bernie’s birthday was a few weeks ago. We officially celebrated last night with dinner, a doggy cake and his new best friend, Dolly. I never thought I’d throw my dog a birthday party, but it was the perfect excuse to have friends over!

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It’s gone by so fast. Seriously, I feel like I was just emailing breeders. Our little 45-lb snuggle bug can definitely be a handful, but has brought Andy and I so much laughter and love. Pretty much everything he does is pure comedy, so you can count on at least one big belly laugh every day you have him around.

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Andy made him and Dolly a cake (using this recipe), which was a big hit. We know this since it was inhaled in a few seconds. We also made a human cake, chocolate with chocolate frosting, for us to enjoy. I quickly sewed up some bunting for the cake using ribbon, fabric scraps and bamboo skewers.

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Cue the instagram-ing (courtesy of Elise & Andy):
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A Healthy Loaf

I’ll admit that I’m a bit of a health nut. I like to eat healthy food whenever I can, especially at home. My general philosophy about food is to eat well at home, so we can eat whatever we want when we go to restaurants. And so Top Chef Andy can make anything he wants when he has the time to cook (think risotto with pancetta, spicy pulled pork… yup, he’s good!).

I had a serious craving for good bread. Well, actually for toast with butter and jam. After searching around online for a while, I pulled out the trusty Betty Crocker cookbook and found just the right recipe: honey whole wheat bread.

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The recipe itself is very healthy, but I decided to take it up a notch by replacing the butter with canola oil and adding 1/2 C of flaxseed.

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Here are a few photos of the dough. It was super easy (and fun!) to work with and rose beautifully.

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Once it’s out of the oven and cooled, it’s hard not to tear off a chunk right away! The flaxseed toasts up really well and the bread has just the right amount of sweetness. It’s perfect for sandwiches and toast, and healthy enough that you can slather on all the butter and raspberry jam you want!

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Do you have a favorite bread recipe? I honestly haven’t tried very many, but this one’s a winner. Hope you have a happy Sunday!

Valentine’s Day Mules Frites

We celebrated Valentine’s day yesterday since I had a class Thursday evening. Making mussels is our little tradition, so we had a full-fledged Belgian feast with (oven baked) fries, mussels in a Leffe beer sauce, bread and beer! We also had brownies for desert, which is not Belgian at all, but were super yummy.

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Here’s Andy scrubbing the mussels. Bernie just wants to know what all the fuss is about…

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Here are the little babies right before we put the lid on. The sauce was super simple—just a few shallots, garlic, rosemary and about a cup of beer.

photo (30)And here’s the meal in all it’s glory. Unfortunately, the mussels ended up being super tiny and thin. We have no idea why (not that we know very much about mussels)—maybe a weird batch?

The good news its that they were still delicious and we feel fine today 🙂 The better news is that the sauce was perfect for dipping the fries and bread.

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What do you like to cook for a celebration? For some reason, we’re all about the seafood.

Hope you have a great weekend!

Roast Chicken Dinner

Happy Valentine’s day! Hope you had a great one! How did you celebrate? Andy and I are actually celebrating tonight, since I was at a class yesterday. We’ll cook and lounge around here—I’ll be sure to post a few photos!

In the meantime, I want to share my absolute favorite way to roast chicken. Like so many, I think yummy chicken is the best weeknight dinner. It’s simple, healthy, inexpensive and ultra-comforting. You can pair it with just about anything and you’ve got a perfect meal.

Roasting a whole bird is my favorite way to cook and eat chicken. Not only does this give you more bang for your buck, I think the meat is juicier and more flavorful than any other way. One chicken equals two, sometimes three, meals for Andy and me! Now that I have a great recipe—and have the hang of it—I love to roast a chicken almost every week.

My Roast Chicken Recipe: 

  • Preheat oven to 425 F.
  • Rinse chicken thoroughly and pat dry with paper towels. Try to dry it off as well as possible—this helps the skin crisp up! 
  • Quarter 1 lemon, smash 3 cloves of garlic, coarsely chop 3 T rosemary (or any other hearty herb you like!) and cut 2 T butter into small cubes.
  • Loosen skin and place a few cubes of butter beneath. Spread remaining butter all over the entire chicken. Season with salt, pepper and 2 T rosemary.
  • Place 1 T rosemary, garlic cloves and lemon wedges inside cavity.
  • Tie legs and thighs together with twine.

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  • Place on a baking sheet, lined with foil, and roast for 70-90 minutes, rotating halfway through.
  • Don’t open the oven door for the first 30 minutes. It’s hard, believe me, but worth it!
  • When the chicken is almost done, the juices will sputter in the oven and the skin should be golden and crispy.
  • Remove from oven and cut into the thigh to make sure that the juices run clear. photo (27)
  • Carve the chicken, serve with your favorite side (roasted veggies here) and eat up!

Hope you enjoy this recipe! What’s your favorite way to cook chicken? What’s your favorite go-to chicken dinners?

Chicken Salad for Lunches

Sorry it’s been so long! Things have gotten away from me lately!

Andy’s been working quite a bit lately—longer hours and more days on-call. I like making lunches him, but I’m not very good at it. I usually make one on Monday, but then get lazy after that. So I decided to just make one big batch of my favorite lunch: chicken salad.

Over the years, I’ve made quite a few batches of chicken salad. Some of them have been downright terrible, but I’ve slowly found the recipe that I like the best!

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My Chicken Salad: 

  • Poach 2 split chicken breasts with skin on (I find that boneless, skinless chicken breasts are pretty tasteless when poached, so I usually buy split breasts. Use whatever kind of chicken you prefer!) until fully cooked. Let cool, remove skin and shred meat. 
  • Toast 1 3/4 C slivered almonds at 350 F for 10 – 15 minutes. Set aside and let cool.
  • Chop 1 C celery and 1/2 C cilantro (optional).
  • Slice 3 C grapes in half.
  • Mix all chicken, almonds, celery and cilantro together.
  • Mix 2 packages of nonfat greek yogurt (I use 12 ounces of fage yogurt) with a dollop of mayonaise to taste. Add the juice from half a lemon and whisk until combined.
  • Combine the yogurt mixture with the chicken.

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  • Add 1 T of paprika for color and curry powder to taste. I love curry, so I usually add 1 T, but that can be too much for many people.
  • Stir in grapes gently until completely combined.
  • Divide into separate containers for lunches throughout the week.
  • Eat with greens and bread, or just straight!

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It’s protein-packed for lots of energy and has lots of crunch, thanks to the almonds and celery. I love this chicken salad, so it’s become one of our go-to meals. What’s one of your favorite recipes for a packed lunch? Hope you enjoy this recipe!

Christmas Recap

Christmas 2012 was a blast. I’m very sad it’s over, which is why it’s taken me so long to write up this post!

My family and Andy’s family traveled to Chicago to celebrate all together. So all 10 people of two clans spent the days eating and lounging in our apartment. It was so much fun, even though our place isn’t huge. Our families were such good sports and helped us so much with the food and gifts.
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When Andy’s parents arrived, him and his mom were wearing (almost) the same sweater! Ha. It was a great way to start off the weekend.

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On Christmas Eve, we had a big fondue fest. We had fondue pots of oil and cheese, then another at the very end with chocolate. As you can see, it was hard not leave stuffed!photo-8

The tablecloth is actually just a large piece of $1.99/ yard muslin! Since fondue can be messy and oily, I was afraid to use any of our nice, new tablecloths. One long piece of muslin was perfect–and it was so nice to just throw it away at the end of dinner.

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On Christmas Day, we spent the morning opening gifts and eating a super-relaxed brunch. Then… we settled in for a movie marathon.

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Getting the time to relax together is one of the best parts of Christmas. And Bernie seriously, seriously loved having so many people around. He’s just so social and loves our families, so it just always having someone new to play with or snuggle up with was the best present he could ask for. Of course, he also got several other little gifts.

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For Christmas dinner, my dad and Andy cooked a beef tenderloin perfectly. I pre-made baked artichoke hearts and a roasted butternut squash galette that just needed to be popped in the oven. I also made some fingerling potatoes and carrots, and crescent rolls since no holiday feast is complete without a basket of those!

Andy and I loved hosting our first Christmas together. We are just so lucky to have families that enjoy spending time with each other so much–and were willing to travel to be with us! 

Pizzelle Amore

Growing up, Christmas time meant making pizzelles–crispy and sweet Italian waffle cookies. My sisters and I usually make them with our grandma or lovely mama, and eat entire batches in one sitting. When Andy and I got engaged, I registered for a pizzelle press (pretty much immediately) and were thrilled when a very generous friend purchased it for us!

To celebrate the end of a fairly grueling month of work for Andy, we gave our new press a spin. Pizzelles are just so much fun to make–simple, quick and very yummy. They are the perfect Christmas cookie because they aren’t too filling (if you have some self-control, which I often don’t), and travel really well. Plus a little powdered sugar on top makes these simple treats look really impressive.

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For our first batch, we made the basic dough recipe. Next time, we’ll probably add some citrus zest or chocolate. Maybe we’ll even try to shape the pizzelles and make cannolis someday. Yum, can’t wait!

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Basic Pizzelles: [Found here at allrecipes.com]

  • Heat pizzelle press and brush with 1 teaspoon vegetable oil.
  • Beat 3 eggs and 3/4 cup sugar in a standing mixer or by hand until thick.
  • Add 1/2 cup melted butter and 1 tablespoon vanilla extract, mix until combined.
  • Add 1 3/4 cups flour and 2 teaspoons baking powder, mix until smooth.
  • Place 1 tablespoon of batter onto each pizelle circle on the press. Clamp down the press and hold until steam is no longer coming out from the iron (around 30 seconds).
  • Use a spatula to remove the cookies from the press and place on a wire rack for 30 seconds.
  • Once cool and crisp, snap off the excess dough from the main cookie design. (I did this on a plate to make it easier to clean up. And I ended up just eating all the bits, which makes it even easier to clean up.)
  • Sift powdered sugar on top (optional).
  • Repeat until dough is gone. Store pizzelles in an airtight container. Mangia!

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And there you have it. One batch makes enough pizzelles to fill our large cookie jar and last… probably three days. Seriously, they are so good.

How about you? What’s your favorite holiday treat to make?

P.S. I’m sure you noticed that the blog’s header has changed. It’s a sign I stitched to sit at the head table at our wedding reception. The photo is just lovely, thanks to our amazing photographer, Becca Dilley. I’ll share many, many more photos of our wedding’s handmade touches. Soon!

Happy Birthday to Andy!

Last month, we celebrated Andy’s birthday! I must admit that I wasn’t up for planning a big event, right after the wedding. So we just invited a bunch of friends over for pizza and beer.

Chocolate and peanut butter is one of his favorite flavor combinations, and a few years ago I found the perfect cake recipe from Smitten Kitchen. I mean, just look at those photos. It’s like a gourmet reese’s peanut butter cup!

So for the big 2-7 I decided to whip it up again. With the help of his super cute cousin, Annie, it came out pretty well! I’m still not very good at frosting cakes, but the chocolate glaze covers up all the imperfections. The cake is super duper rich. I mean, intense. So you only need a very small sliver. But that didn’t keep me from eating up all the leftovers. Oh well.

Photo courtesy of Elise O’Brien and her talented instagraming! Thanks!

Pizza

Andy and I received so many gorgeous, generous wedding presents and one of them was a pizza stone! We love making pizza, almost as much as we love eating it. So we had to test it out right away.

We’re still searching for the best dough recipe, and this time around he made it with a Mark Bittman recipe. All in all, it was delicious. The stone definitely made the crust crispier and more flavorful. I still miss Minnesota’s Punch Pizza, which I could eat for every meal. Maybe one day we’ll get the right Neopolitan recipe and technique.

In the meantime, I love our home pizza–it’s super simple and yummy. What can be better?

Martin Family Home Pizza Recipe:

Pizza Crust (Mark Bittman’s Recipe in How to Cook Everything)

  • Combine 1 T yeast, 2 C flour and 2 t salt in a food processor. Pulse while adding 1 C water and 2 T olive oil.
  • Process for another 30 seconds and add more water, little by little, until forms a sticky ball.
  • Knead dough by hand on a floured surface for a minute or two. Grease a bowl with 1 T olive oil and place dough in it. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 1 – 2 hours.

Notes: Andy used whole wheat flour since that’s all we had. I love whole wheat, so I was excited! Surprisingly, Andy really liked it too.

Pizza:

  1. Place pizza stone in cool oven. Preheat to 450 F.
  2. Knead dough into a large circle/ rectangle on a floured surface. We usually just roll with whatever happens.
  3. Let the dough rest. Meanwhile, grate as much mozzarella as you like.
  4. Spread 1 – 2 T olive oil and a hearty sprinkle of sea salt on each round. Add preferred sauce, cheese and toppings. Here, we added chopped tomatoes, sliced pepperoni and peperoncini.
  5. Place the pizza on a baking sheet and slide it onto the heated stone. Bake until crisp, about 10 minutes.
  6. Slide back onto baking sheet and add fresh torn basil leaves. Serve with simple salad and wine. Mangia!