monday musing


Always.  Happy new week!


tilapia & creamed corn and spinach

I love Food Network and Cooking Channel.  Not all that surprising coming from someone who loves eating, cooking, and reading about food.  I’m more into the cooking shows than the reality or other types of shows, and one of the first I started watching way back when was Everyday Italian.  To this day, I still love Giada, not only because I think she’s fun and interesting to watch, but also because her recipes are almost always successes.

That includes these two: baked tilapia with arugula salsa verde, and creamed corn and spinach.  Weeknights with Giada is a great cookbook that I enjoy using for food that is doable on a weeknight, but not lacking in flavor or interest.  These recipes were easy to accomplish after a long day at work, but were still fresh and delicious.

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Baked Tilapia with Arugula Salsa Verde

  • 2 tilapia fillets, approximately 6 oz each
  • 2 T chopped green onions
  • 2 T chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 t lemon zest
  • 1 c arugula
  • 2/3 c flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 c olive oil
  • 1/8 c capers, rinsed and drained
  • Juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 3/4 t salt
  • 1/2 t crushed red pepper

Prepare fish:  Preheat oven to 375.  Season tilapia with olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Combine green onions, parsley, and lemon zest.  Place tilapia on a baking dish or pan, and place herb mixture on top.  Bake the fish in the oven until it is opaque in the center and flakes easily with a fork, approximately 10 minutes.

Prepare salsa verde:  Combine all ingredients in a small food processor, and pulse until combined (but not pureed).

Serve the tilapia with the salsa verde spooned over top.  You’ll probably have extra salsa verde, but it keeps in the fridge, and also makes a great salad dressing when pureed with a bit more olive oil and lemon juice.

Creamed Corn and Spinach

  • 3 ears of corn
  • 2 T butter
  • 1 T flour
  • 1/3 c heavy cream
  • 1/3 c whole milk
  • 1/3 c parmesan cheese
  • 3-4 oz fresh spinach

Heat the butter in a high-sided skillet over medium-high heat.  Remove the kernals from the ears of corn.  Add the corn to the skillet, and season with salt and pepper.  Cook until the corn softens (about 3 minutes).  Add the flour, and cook for another minute or so.

Reduce the heat to medium, and add the cream to the skillet.  Simmer until the mixture thickens a bit (about 2-3 minutes).

Pour half of the corn/cream mixture into a food processor, and blend until smooth.  Add the pureed mixture back into the skillet.  Add the milk, cheese, and spinach to the skillet.  Cook over medium-low heat until the spinach has wilted and the mixture is arm (about 4-5 minutes).

Serve these together for a delicious, not too tricky weeknight dinner.  The freshness and acidity of the tilapia/salsa verde go well with the creaminess and richness of the corn/spinach.  Outstanding combo.

what i wouldn’t mind. . .

These posts will be full of things I’m loving lately–what strikes my fancy!  Perhaps you’ll love them too?

  • A super cozy book nook like this:

  • These awesome stackable rings.  Kwiat makes such pretty skinny ones:

  • A swing on a big, beautiful porch looking out on the ocean:

  • A fabulous sprinkles cake!  Sprinkles AND bows?!  Amazing.  This is the coolest thing ever and I want it for my birthday (or maybe a smaller version would be ok too):

Clicking on the picture will take to you either to the site I found the picture on, or my Pinterest page 🙂

monday musing

So true.  With temperatures in the upper 60’s and lower 70’s this week, it should be so nice out.  Love the midwest’s beautiful seasons.  We’ll see if I’m still saying this come February, but for now we’ll embrace the transition.

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

Fall weekends just beg for cozy food.  On those mornings when it starts to get cool and all I want to do is stay in pajamas and socks, cinnamon rolls are pretty  perfect.  And since it’s October, what do I feel like adding to pretty much everything?  Ah yes, pumpkin.  The two together? Brilliant.  They make for a fun fall weekend breakfast.

These take a bit of time, since they are made with a yeast dough and have to rise twice.  If you feel like actually eating them in the morning without waking up super early to do so, I’d make them the night before, and then just bake them in the morning.  Commence the pumpkin binge…

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Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls  (inspired by and adapted from the recipe on Sally’s Baking Addiction, a fabulous blog full of the sweetest treats)

  • Rolls
  • 1/3 c whole milk
  • 2 T butter
  • 1/2 c pureed pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 2 T brown sugar
  • 1/2 t cinnamon
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 1/4 t active dry yeast (or one standard-sized package)
  • 2 1/2 flour
  • Filling
  • 1 c brown sugar
  • 1 T cinnamon
  • 1/2 nutmeg
  • 1/4 t cloves
  • 6 T butter, softened
  • Glaze
  • 1/3 c butter, melted
  • 2 c powdered sugar
  • 1 t vanilla
  • Hot water

Make the dough:  Gently warm the butter and milk together, just until the butter is melted (if it’s too hot, it will kill the yeast).  Set it aside.  Mix the pumpkin puree, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt together in a bowl.  Add the warm milk/butter mixture and beat it all together until combined.  Add the egg then add the yeast, and beat it all together.  Add the flour in three batches, beating slowly after each addition, and then beat the whole mixture until combined.

Place the  dough in a bowl (I like to coat the inside of the bowl with a very thin layer of olive oil or cooking spray to make sure the dough doesn’t stick).  Cover the bowl with a towel or plastic wrap and let it rise, until it doubles in size (about an hour).  (I usually let my doughs rise in the oven.  If you have a gas oven, there is usually a bit of residual heat that makes it slightly warm.  If not, you can preheat your oven to 200 or so, then turn it off before you put the dough in.)

Once the dough has risen, punch it down and place it onto a lightly floured surface.  Knead the dough a little bit, adding flour as needed to make the dough easier to knead (I probably added about 1/3 cup of additional flour).  Roll or press the dough out into a rectangle (I am bad at estimating size but I’d say mine was probably 18×10 inches or so.)

Make the filling:  Combine the softened butter, brown sugar, and spices in a small bowl.  Spread the mixture all over the dough.

Assemble:  Roll the dough into a log.  (Start rolling from the shorter/narrower end of the rectangle–that way, you’ll have more spirals of filling.)  Use a sharp knife to cut the log into rolls (mine were probably 1 1/2 or 2 in thick).

Coat the inside of a pan (I used a ceramic pie dish, mostly because it had a ruffled edge, and was green and pretty) with a thin layer of olive oil or cooking spray.  Arrange rolls in the pan.  Again, let the rolls rise until they double in size (about an hour).  (This is when you can stop the night before, and let them rise overnight to be baked in the morning.)

Bake the rolls:  Preheat the oven to 350.  Bake rolls for approximately 25 minutes.  Keep an eye on them for browning, and cover loosely with aluminum foil if they are browning too much (I covered mine after about 18-20 mins).

Make the glaze:  While the rolls are baking, mix the melted butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla.  Add 1 T of hot water at a time until glaze reaches desired consistency.

Let the rolls cool a little bit after they come out of the oven (I feel your pain–this is difficult).  Spread or drizzle the glaze over the rolls, and enjoy one (or three) with a cup of coffee.  Yay weekends!

photography project

Photoshop is an amazing program–and so fun! I wanted to share a project of mine that I’d been working on in Photoshop. I’m loving it, and am excited about the way it turned out.

This is the photo in its more natural state. I’ve certainly worked with it in Photoshop, but only to enhance it, not really to change it. I really like this photo–the colors are so bright and vivid.

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And here is the photo, made into something more abstract. I love this for different reasons–the shapes and colors are fun. The background almost looks like a heat map or something. It certainly doesn’t look like anything that you’d actually see in nature, but I think that’s what makes it neat–it’s almost more like a painting than a photograph.

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I recently added the abstract print to my Etsy shop, and hope to create and add many more like it. Happy almost Friday!

roasted veggie gazpacho

For me, chilled soups can be hit or miss. I’ve had wonderful ones–one in particular I remember was a strawberry basil soup that I ate on a summer afternoon on the patio of one of my favorite (unfortunately, now closed) Chicago restaurants, Bistro 110.

But, I’ll admit, sometimes cold soup can be a little weird. One that is almost always delicious, though, is gazpacho. On a warm day, it’s the perfect lunch. And it makes a filling dinner when paired with some grilled bread or, like we had, sautéed shrimp.

This soup is a creamier gazpacho. I certainly love chunky, almost salsa-like versions, too, but this one isn’t really like that. It has a nice, smoother texture, while not being completely pureed or watery. I think this gets better the longer it sits, so making it the night before and chilling overnight would be the best, but not necessary.

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Roasted Tomato Gazpacho

  • 1.5 pounds roma tomatoes
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, cut into large wedges
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 anaheim pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 T sherry vinegar
  • 1/4 slivered or sliced almonds, toasted
  • 1 thick slice sourdough bread, toasted (or staled)
  • Optional toppings: cilantro, crushed red pepper, chopped tomatoes, and green onions (these are what we used, but anything that sounds good works, too)

Toast the almonds: put them in a pan over medium high heat. Heat until fragrant and a bit golden, stirring or shaking the pan while the almonds toast, to make sure they don’t burn. Keep an eye on them–they can burn in a blink. When they smell “nutty” and start to change color a bit, they’re done.

Make the gazpacho: heat a grill pan or cast iron pan over high heat. Place the whole tomatoes, onion wedges, whole peppers, and whole garlic cloves in the pan. (This is dry roasting, so you don’t need any oil or anything in the pan.) Dry roast the vegetables until black char marks appear on the sides. Things may finish roasting at different times, so remove them as they get enough char.

Core the tomatoes and peppers (removing the seeds and ribs). Remove the paper from the garlic cloves.

In a food processor, combine the tomatoes, onion, peppers, garlic, olive oil, sherry vinegar, and salt/pepper. Blend until pureed.

Add toasted almonds and bread. Adjust seasoning if needed. Chill.

Serve with anything that sounds good–two of my favorite things are thick slices of grilled or toasted focaccia bread and shrimp. The shrimp in the photo above were tossed in salt, pepper, garlic, creole seasoning, chili powder, and olive oil; then sautéed in a skillet over medium-high heat until they just turned pink. Easy, healthy, and yummy!

the bookshelf

I love reading–always have.  I was one of those kids who regularly read a Baby-Sitters Club (the classic 90’s series which of course began with the fabulous Kristy’s Great Idea) book in a day, and am still a person for whom a book and a blanket with some tea makes a pretty nice evening.  Along those lines, some girlfriends and I had chatted about the idea of a book club off and on for a while now.  We thought it would be a fun way to both read some new things and get together on a regular basis.

Well, we finally did it!  We’ve got nine wonderful, smart, and interesting women in our group and we all picked books to add to the collective “bookshelf” from which we’ll choose our book each month.  The hostess gets to choose the book that will be discussed at her house, and what’s even more fun about it is that we must pick one that was added by someone else.

Personally, I’m excited to read some new things.  One of the reasons I looked forward to doing this was because it would force me to choose and read books that I wouldn’t normally pick out for myself.  It’ll be nice to have the inspiration and motivation to try something new, or to persevere through something if it might not be my cup of tea.  Plus, it will be great to discuss things together, as a group of young professional women who have diverse interests and ideas.

Our first book is The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.  It takes place in Nazi Germany in 1939, and is about a young girl who steals books, learns to read, and shares her books with her neighbors and a Jewish man hidden in her basement during the War.  It sounds fascinating, and is supposedly great, but it’s one I may not have heard of on my own.  We’ll see how it goes!

Off to read… cheers to a fun new adventure.

chicken dumpling soup

I think Fall may have officially arrived! (See? I said I’d embrace it eventually.)  When we had that first officially brisk day, I could only think of one thing: soup. Nothing better in cool weather.  As if by magic, I caught a rerun of one my most favorite little cooking shows, and on it was this chicken dumpling soup.  As an aside, that show is Rachel Khoo’s The Little Paris Kitchen on BBC (Cooking Channel shows it here in the US, too)–it’s fabulous, she’s fabulous, and I think the whole thing is just charming and great.  The food is simple and yummy, and I want her cookbook quite badly.  Pretty much, I want to be her.

Anyway, girl crush aside: this soup.  It’s super basic, but what makes it really yummy are the dumplings.  I’d never made anything quite like them before.  (Actually, I don’t really think I’d ever put chicken breasts into a blender before…) But, they come together quickly and are so light and delicious.  Plus they make the soup kind of special!  And they’re easy to do ahead of time–I made the dumplings the night before so I could just put together the rest of the soup easily the next evening after work.  This is a slight variation on the original recipe–she also adds mushrooms so feel free if you’re a fan.

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Starts with a mirepoix–chopped celery, carrots, and onion, sautéing in a bit of olive oil and butter

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The dumplings–they might look a bit strange at first but they’re delicious

Chicken broth and the dumplings are added to the sautéed veggies

Chicken broth and the dumplings are added to the sautéed veggies

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Served with chopped parsley or cilantro

And eaten on the porch with white wine

And eaten in the cool outside air with white wine

And perhaps the evening will turn into a lovely one with candles, wine, and a long talk on the porch

And perhaps the evening will turn into a lovely one with candles, wine, and a long talk on the porch

chicken dumpling soup (boillon de poulet avec des quenelles de volailles)

dumplings (quenelles)

  • 8oz chicken breast
  • 4-5 slice of white bread, crusts removed and torn
  • 6 1/2 T heavy cream
  • 1 egg + 1 egg yolk
  • 1 t salt
  • pinch of pepper
  • pinch of nutmeg

Place all the above ingredients into a food processor or blender.  Blend until they form a paste.  Shape the dumplings into a medium-sized, football-like shape using two spoons.  This video (also above) shows the easiest way to do this, but you basically just enough to fit in the spoon, and then pass the mixture back and forth between the two spoons until you have a dumpling shape that looks like the photo above.  This is the easiest way to shape these, since they are much too sticky to use your hands.


  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 T butter
  • 2 large carrots, chopped
  • 4 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 6 c chicken stock
  • Parsley or cilantro, chopped (or another herb that sounds good to you)

Heat the olive oil and butter in a large pot over medium-high heat (I used a large cast iron dutch oven).  Add the chopped carrots, celery, and onion, and sauté until the onion begins to soften (5-10min).  Pour the chicken broth into the bot, and bring to a boil.  Gently add the dumplings to the pot, and simmer until they are cooked through (3-5min).  The dumplings will float to the top when they are done, and you can also cut one in half to check it.  If all the dumplings are approximately the same size, they should cook evenly.

Serve with chopped parsley or cilantro on top. Be cozy!