Friday, July 24, 2009

Orecchiette with Sundried Tomato Alfredo Sauce and Mom's Pattypan Squash

In the interest of EVER getting this post published, I am putting it up without the photos. I have a newer post I am working on and want to share that with you asap. At some point, I will probably add the photos, but we're going minimalist for now.

Thanks to all for your support, patience, cheerleading, and friendship!! You are the foodie friends anyone could ask for!

I hope you enjoy this no-frills post.

I was thrilled to get back into the kitchen last night and even created a new recipe, for Orecchiette with Sundried Tomato Alfredo Sauce. I was really pleased with a) how quick and easy it was and b) how well it turned out. I picked up some salmon burgers to try and needed something to serve along side them. Having cooked mostly vegetarian for a number of years, I'm used to "one-pot" kind of meals so often find having to dream up real side dishes a pain.

But this pasta is a good one, simple, quick and yummy!

My son loves pattypan squash and the price was really good on the locally grown ones at WF, so I also decided to try my hand at my mom's recipe for squash-- which I've had mixed results with over the years. But I think I finally figured it out! Hers is just a very simple, good old Southern veggie dish, which I thought you might enjoy. Both dishes went well with the salmon burgers.

Orecchiette with Sundried Tomato Alfredo Sauce

I'm calling this "alfredo" for lack of a better name, though I don't think it really is an alfredo sauce, but it has some of the same flavor and texture notes. I'm sure Reeni or any of you other fabulous Italian food geniuses could clue me in on what goes into a real alfredo! DC loves alfredo, so my goal was to produce something similar.

First, get your pasta cooking. I cooked about 1/2 lb. of the pasta, and we have at least 1 serving left over, so I would say this serves 4-5. Of course you can use any kind of pasta you want, but I chose the orecchiette so it would really sop up the sauce! To make my sauce, I used the following ingredients:

1 c. heavy cream
1/3 c. julienned sundried tomatoes (dry, not packed in oil)
Pinch of salt
Fresh ground pepper to taste
2 lg. cloves crushed garlic, or more, to taste
3/4 c. freshly grated parmigiano regggiano cheese

Put the cream, sundried tomato strips, pinch of salt (you don't want to add much at this point because you are going to reduce this sauce and it could quickly get too salty) and pepper in a small, heavy bottom sauce pan and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Turn the heat down and simmer until reduced by about 1/3, sitrring occasionally. This took about 7-8 minutes. Add the crushed garlic, stir to combine, and turn off the heat.

Drain your hot cooked pasta and toss with 1 T unsalted butter and 1/4 c. chopped Italian parsley. Back at the saucepan, stir in the grated cheese and add more salt and pepper to taste.

Pour the sauce over the pasta and toss thoroughly. That's all there is to it! It was a big hit-- DC and DS loved it!

Mom's Good Old-Fashioned Southern Squash
My mom's recipe is actually for yellow squash, but I substituted the pattypan instead. For pattypan, Mom usually battered and and pan-fried it, but I have yet to try that-- but, oh, it was sooooo good that way. We didn't get to have it often, because you couldn't buy pattypans at the store back in those days-- we got ours from a neighbor with a garden. The recipe below is a more typical Southern preparation for yellow squash, but is just as delicious with the pattypans.

I bought about 4 pattypans, for the 3 of us, because squash always shrinks down when you cook it. Again, we had at least 2 servings of leftovers, so this would probably serve 4-6.

Wash the pattypans and cut off the stem and blossom ends. Dice into 1" pieces, and set aside. Heat 2-3 T olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Meanwhile, peel and halve 2 medium onions and slice thinly. I forgot and diced one of mine, but I think sliced onions make the finished dish sweeter and tastier. Add the onions to the hot skillet, and season generously with salt and pepper. The black pepper is one of the keys to the great flavor of this dish, so don't be shy. I think I used at least 1/2 -1 t. overall.

Cook the onions until they are getting pretty soft, but do not brown-- 8-9 minutes or so. Turn up the heat to medium high, and add the diced squash, along with more salt and pepper. Saute for about 5 minutes, then reduce the heat to medium and cover. Cook for 5-6 minutes and check for tenderness. It should be just about right, not too hard, not too mushy.

Now, here is the real secret to getting that old-fashioned flavor: stir in 1-2 T unsalted butter. You won't believe what a difference it makes! I learned this trick from my friend Nathan's delicious recipe for Calabacitas. Taste and add more salt and pepper as needed.

It tasted juuuuust like Mom's squash used to, so I felt really triumphant!! I think I have at last cracked the secret to making her recipe.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Back to Basics with Bison Burgers!

Well, this is day 5 for me with Bell's Palsy, and very fortunately, I am already starting to see some small improvements. I have learned from reading a super-helpful forum on the subject that 50% of people with BP recover completely in 3 months or less, an additional 35% recover in a year or less, and 15% don't fully recover. A lot of people don't see any improvement at all for 6-8 weeks, so I feel like I am making fabulous progress. I can now close my left eye and drink out of a glass without spilling, and my face is getting more symmetrical. I KNOW this is due to all the positive vibes and good wishes from all of you out there, so THANK YOU, and keep that good energy coming for a speedy and complete recovery!

I am feeling ok, though I am very fatigued. I've pretty much just been resting in bed the past several days. I have been advised to take it easy for the next two weeks, as the nerves in my face begin to regenerate. I went out today to the dr. and the pharmacy, picked up a few groceries, and then had lunch with DC, and was completely exhausted. I guess 3 hrs. of activity was too much! So I took a long nap, and feel much better. So much better, in fact, that I actually cooked dinner tonight!!

This is not really what I would normally consider a "blog-worthy" meal, but under the circumstances I am so excited I'm going to share anyway. We've been subsisting on take-out food for the past week or so, and I really wanted to find a way to get us out of that rut and into some healthier and tastier homemade food. So I am totally cheating this week with some help from my friends at Whole Foods.

I bought some pre-made bison burger patties for dinner tonight, along with some sweet potatoes and microwave-in-the-bag pre-prepped veggies. In order to make all this prefabrication palatable, I figured I would focus on oomphing up the flavor with condiments.

I know I have shown these before, but they are a huge family fave and really easy to make and so tasty and healthy. So here is a quick look at my

Sweet Potato Oven Fries
Preheat the oven to 400F and line a baking sheet with foil. I also like to spray the foil with nonstick spray. Peel 3 sweet potatoes. Garnets are my favorite, and I also really like the locally-grown purple sweet potatoes, which are very high in antioxidants. So today I used a mixture. Slice the potatoes into steak fries. Put them in a really big bowl, toss generously with some olive oil, and add the seasoning of your choice. We love cajun seasoning mix, and sometimes, but not today, I add some generous splashes of Cholula hot sauce. Dump the potatoes onto the prepped baking sheet and spread out in one layer. Bake for 20 minutes, or until tender. I like to turn the oven off and then leave the fries in the warm oven to crisp up for 10-15 minutes while I prep the rest of the meal.

Whoo, that was one hot oven! It totally fogged up the camera lens!

"Lemon-aise" Sauce for Steamed Veggies

DC isn't a huge veggie fan, but I have been able to tempt him to eat reasonable servings of veggies by dressing them up with various condiments. This simple sauce is also a huge family favorite, and is extremely tasty on plain veggies. It couldn't be easier to make!

Squeeze the juice of one fresh lemon into a bowl and whisk in mayonnaise to your taste. Add tamari or Pickapeppa sauce to taste. Crush one clove of garlic into the mixture, and add salt and pepper to taste. Taste again, and add more garlic, lemon, or mayo to suit your taste. Spoon over steamed veggies.

Sweet-Hot Pepperjack Bison Patties

I purchased 3 pre-made bison burger patties and as you know, I love my food spicy, so a sweet-hot combo sounded good to me. Bison tastes similar to ground beef (in my opinion, is actually even tastier) yet is much lower in fat. DC had never tried bison, so I decided to give it a go. I heated up my trusty griddle and sprinkled it with a thin layer of kosher salt, to give the burgers a nice crust. I think these weighed in at about 8 oz. each. I cooked them for 5-6 minutes on side 1, adding a bit of salt and pepper to the tops.

Then I turned them and cooked them for another 5-6 minutes, again adding a little salt and pepper.

Next, I brushed the top of each burger with a delicious product we have just discovered that is locally made, called Num Num Sauce. It is indeed nummy!! Isn't the little bottle cute?

Our WF sells it, and we just love it on salmon. It's a little like East Carolina BBQ sauce, but thicker and sweeter. It comes in Mild and Hot (I always go for the hot, natch!).

Then I added a slice of Pepperjack cheese to each patty and let them cook for another 3 minutes or so. I guess the fact that the cheese didn't totally melt should have clued me into the fact that they were still a bit rare when I pulled them off the griddle at that point and served them. DC liked his as it was, but as I have no desire to complicate my life further with food poisoning at this point, I popped my patty into the microwave to cook it through. Next time I'll know to either flatten the patties out or cook them longer. DC loved his bison burger!

At that point, DS returned home from having dinner with his dad and immediately came into the kitchen to ask what smelled so good! He has really been missing my cooking since I've been feeling sick. It has broken my heart, but lately every night around 9ish, he pokes his head into the family room and asks hopefully, "Dessert?" Well, tonight he didn't have to be disappointed. He even had a choice! WF had Ben and Jerry's ice cream on sale 2 for 1, so I bought some vanilla and also the Cinnamon Bun flavor DS has been wanting to try. I also bought some vanilla cupcakes. Frosting vs. ice cream?? The cupcakes won, hands down! Even though I didn't have the energy to make a homemade dessert, I still managed to put a smile on DS's sweet face.

Here is our very simple, yet delicious meal of Sweet-Hot PepperJack Bison Burgers, sweet potato oven fries, and steamed broccoli and cauliflower with lemonaise sauce:

It felt SO good to get back into the kitchen, even if I didn't really "make" the food!

Monday, July 20, 2009

It's Been A Quiet Week on DomesticMuse

But it has NOT been a quiet week in the life of Karen, the DomesticMuse!!

LOTS of stuff has been going on behind the scenes.

DomesticMuse has been having fun!
Recently, I reconnected with an old and dear friend, Cynthia, whom I had not seen since our high school graduation. The funny thing is, she has been living right here in the Triangle for the past 20 years, and our paths have never crossed! I am so glad to have Cynthia back in my life, and it has been wonderful having a real girlfriend.

DomesticMuse has been getting ready to open her Etsy Store!
I've been having a blast making jewelry for DomesticBliss, which will open soon. I will be selling my handmade jewelry, and some homemade body pampering products, including chakra-balancing aromatherapy body oils, and body mists. I hope to expand my jewelry lines and also offer some bling for the home. Lots of behind-the-scenes stuff is going on! Stay tuned for the big announcement of when DomesticBliss will open!

DomesticMuse is getting a makeover!!
SherbetBlossom Designs has been working on a new blog design, which will be up shortly! I love the new design, and hope you will, too!

DomesticMuse has been traveling!
I recently attended the American Library Association Conference in Chicago, IL (where I lived briefly in 2007/2008). It was a fabulous conference and I learned a lot, reconnected with my library-land homies, and even got to have a little fun. My plans to post every day while in Chicago were foiled by technical difficulties. Highlights of the trip included a visit to one of my big Chicago faves, MojoSpa. Photos coming soon!! I also got to eat at a couple of great restaurants, Roy's (Hawaiian fusion cuisine) and Brasserie Jo, which I hope to write about soon. And, treat of all treats, I got to see one of my bestest friends ever, Janet, who lives in Chicago. We spent an absolutely magical evening in the beautiful garden of an Irish Pub, eating delicious food and listening to Janet's friends play live Celtic music until the stars came out, amidst masses of flowers and plashing fountains. It doesn't get much better than that!

DomesticMuse is SICK!!!
I've been under the weather since my return from Chicago last Monday. I caught the conference crud, which morphed into a raging eye and sinus infection by Friday. Had fun at Urgent Care Friday night, got put on 2 antibiotics. But wait!! There's more!

I have a new addition to the list of Strange Afflictions I have Suffered In My Life. I noticed Friday evening I was having a little trouble drinking with a straw at my post-Urgent Care Indian Restaurant meal with DC. However, having been fighting off the onset of a dreaded cold sore for a couple of days, I figured my lips were just puffy from that. Mentally cursing myself for having forgotten to ask for some Valtrex to stave off the cold sore, I took my new meds and went to bed Friday night looking forward to an end to the sinus headache that I had been suffering all week.

Saturday morning, I noticed I was having some trouble drinking from a glass and things seemed a little "off" when I smiled. I dropped DC off at work, and headed to the beading class I'd been eagerly looking forward to for weeks and did not want to miss. At lunch break, while browsing the store, I caught sight of myself in a mirror and realized that only HALF of my mouth was smiling, the right side. The left side, where the sinus and eye infection are, was NOT MOVING. Left arm, hand, fingers, leg, foot, toes?? No problem. Left eye? Not closing.

So, more fun at Urgent Care!! And I missed half of my bead class. It turns out, I have Bell's Palsy, and the left side of my face is now paralyzed.

It appears the herpes virus from my developing cold sore got bored and attacked the facial nerves on my left side. I am now on a 9-day steroids taper, and massive doses of Valtrex. Supposedly, this is a temporary condition, and supposedly, MOST people recover from the paralysis. But there is no cure. The dr. said since I started treatment within 24 hrs. of onset, I should see a big improvement in the next 2-3 weeks. And it should resolve gradually over the next couple of months.

Oh good. I'll only be looking like the Phantom of the Opera for a FEW MONTHS. And I am scheduled to visit a client on-site in Maryland next week!! But I am grateful, as the runner-up diagnosis was a stroke. Since my diagnosis, I have heard of people having Bell's Palsy for 3-4 months, 8 months, a year, and forever. (Yikes!) And I still have the headache.

Please send me all your good wishes, good vibes, prayers, even say a novena for me if the mood strikes you, for a SPEEDY and COMPLETE recovery. Thanks to all of you!

I hope to have a chance to cook, and post all my new stuff, soon! So stay tuned for more adventures with DomesticMuse! Thanks, as always, for all your support!

Friday, July 10, 2009


We have winners for the birthday bash giveaway!

First, the luscious lip balms from Mojo Spa:

The Strike It Rich lip balm winner is: Reeni!!

The Sweet Success lip balm goes to: Heather aka Girlichef!

The winner of Gloria Chadwick's Foods and Flavors of San Antonio is: Shaye aka Momma Miller!

The winner of the apron set from Handmaiden's Cottage is: Ginger!

And finally, we had TWO winners for the Harmony Necklace: Natasha aka 5-Star Foodie and Gloria Chadwick! Gloria and Natasha, please contact me so we can decide which chakra necklace is best for you.

Winners, please email me your shipping information at domestickmuse at gmail dot com.

Since so many of you expressed interest in the Harmony necklace, I would like to extend a SPECIAL OFFER to you. I am happy to custom-make a necklace for you and will also offer you a 20% discount. Each necklace is made with an authentic semi-precious gemstone that is especially chosen to balance or heal a particular chakra, and is attuned to that chakra's vibration. Each gemstone is carefully charged using sunlight, moonlight or other appropriate element, and each is also purified with sage.

Thanks again to all of you for your encouragement and support of DomesticMuse!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

What Happened to DomesticMuse???

Dear foodie friends: you are the best, and I have sadly neglected you over the past few weeks. Many exciting things have been happening, which I will update you on shortly.

AAAAAARGH!!!!! I just realized I have my camera with me, but forgot my magic cable that puts the photos into the computer. Oh well, I'll think of somethin'!

I am writing to you at an altitude of 30,000 feet in the beautiful skies somewhere between NC and Chicago. Yes, there is Interet access on the plane-- how cool is that???

I am on my way to the biggest library event of the year, the American Library Association Annual Conference, which is in Chicago. I will be here in the Windy City until Monday night and plan to submit short posts of my gastronomical experiences each day. It should be a great conference and chance to reunite with friends I have not seen for a long time. There will be 20,000 librarians attending the conference-- look out, Chitown!!

I am also planning to announce the winners of my BD BASH GIVEAWAY tonight.

You all are the best friends anyone could have-- thanks for your continued support of DomesticMuse!!

Lots of love and light,
Karen, the DomesticMuse

Chi miigwetch SCL: thank you to my son for creating this logo
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