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Guest Post: Valentine’s Day Dinner 2011

Guest post from Victoria’s husband, Brent:

As documented in the past, I cook Victoria dinner on Valentine’s Day. Recently, she has begun forcing me to blog about it as well.

We recently ate at the Palace Kitchen, and Victoria had a blood orange margarita she really enjoyed, so I made her one as an apéritif. This was just lime juice, fresh-squeezed blood orange juice, agave syrup, and tequila.

The first course was a white salad with apple, fennel, and celery root with a crème fraiche dressing. Apparently this recipe came from a “Mommy Blog.” This wasn’t a genre I was familiar with until Victoria, having seen the tab open on my computer, asked me accusingly: “Are you reading a mommy blog!?” Apparently childless men aren’t the target the target demo.

The second course was a lobster pot pie. I didn’t use Pernod, because it was like $30 a bottle, and I didn’t make my own crust because that is hard. Victoria’s only complaint was that there wasn’t enough lobster. A woman of simple tastes, huh?

Beats an overcrowded, overpriced prix fixe menu. See you next year, blogonauts.

Smoked Salmon Crostini

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Hopefully everyone rang in the new year in a safe and awesome way. Brent and I made some snacks, hung out at home, and went to our roof to watch fireworks from the space needle at midnight.

It was pretty sweet that we had this awesome view and didn’t even have to leave our building! Before all that though, we ate. I wanted to stay in and make something, but I wasn’t feeling up for full-fledged “cooking” because my kitchen isn’t quite set up yet. We headed to the market earlier in the day and picked up some crusty bread and locally smoked salmon — which I am currently obsessed with!

I sliced the bread thinly , drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper, and then grilled in a grill pan until lightly golden and toasty, flipped and did the same for the other side. Next I spread a thin layer of goat cheese on each slice, topped it with a generous dose of the smoked salmon, and sprinkled with diced red onions and capers.

These were pretty fantastic. Like, seriously so good that I made them again tonight. This is the perfect bite of food. I love the tangy-ness of the goat cheese combined with the smoky salmon and the salty bite from the capers. I cannot recommend this combo enough. Plus, it felt so good to make something at home after so much eating out in the past few weeks. I’m really enjoying getting settled in and looking forward to getting into a routine.

To end the post, I’d like to leave you with another gorgeous shot from our balcony – taken tonight around sunset.

Belated Valentine’s Day Post

Hey all. My posting has been so sporadic, sometimes I wonder why I bother, but the blog is (if nothing else) a fun reference for me when I’m meal-planning. On to tonight’s post. If you read last year’s Valentine’s Day dinner, you may remember that Brent always cooks me dinner. This year was no exception.

While he was preparing dinner, Brent presented me with a cocktail ( also tradition), which was Stoli strawberry vodka, lime juice, and some sort of punch. Delicious and pretty. :)

Our appetizer was a mixed baby greens salad, topped with balsamic caramelized onions. He just sautéed this until caramelized and added splash of vinegar to deglaze the pan. At least I think that’s what he did. I was on the couch ;) These onions elevate any salad to spectacular.

For our main course, Brent went with Sole Meuniere and fingerling potatoes. I love these potatoes! Unfortunately, the sauce for the fish was just a bit too sour. I guess I don’t love lemon as much as I thought I did, but it was nice to try something different.

In addition to schoolwork, I’ve been obsessed with the Olympics. Brent thinks my focus on the Olympics is borderline insane. I think he’s just sick of ice dancing. Oh, also I got my cholesterol test done, and it’s super high. :( Can’t outrun genetics I guess. I have a follow-up doctor’s appointment in two weeks, and I’ll get a better understanding then, but you may be seeing some dietary changes in the Monroe house.

I have more to post, so hopefully I’ll be back before next week!

Christmas is Nearly Here

This past weekend Brent and I drove to the Chicago area to drop off some pies for my mother and visit my college friends. I spent the few days before we left making a huge mess in the kitchen preparing Christmas gifts. I made the pies for my mother: pumpkin eggnog, caramel apple, and cherry. I made all the pies and then froze and wrapped them for my mom. She’s going to thaw and bake them for the family Christmas party over the weekend.

I also made some candied nuts (I forgot to get a picture and I ate most of the leftovers :)), peppermint bark, and truffles!

The bark was super simple and I thought it would make a nice addition to the gift boxes. I just really like how festive it looks.

The truffles I made were Chocolate Truffles from the Barefoot Contessa and Chocolate-Peanut Butter Truffles.

The truffles were fun for me to make because they were something new, but they turned out to be a lot more difficult than I expected. The truffle mixtures were easy to make: Heat all the ingredients and then cool, but the rolling was difficult. If the mix was too warm, it melted all over and was impossible to shape and if it was too cool, it chipped and broke and wouldn’t get into shape. I got them all done, but it definitely took more time than I originally intended.

I wanted to make a larger variety of truffle flavors, but after my shaping difficulty, I figured two kinds were enough. The gifts were enjoyed by their recipients. My father loved the peppermint bark, my mother loved the candied nuts, and my friends Tessa and Greg enjoyed the truffles.

I have to make another pie today for Christmas with the in-laws tomorrow, but other than that I’ve just been lounging around enjoying my break. I did finally get a haircut. I’m notoriously bad at getting my haircut. I frequently go nearly a year without doing it. Yesterday’s cut was my first since February. Here’s a before & after:

Thanksgiving 2009

I had a wonderful (and much needed!) Thanksgiving break. We hosted my mom, dad, brother, and sister along with Brent’s parents for Thanksgiving dinner. I’ve hosted holidays before, and usually I make all the dinner, but buy the pies from a store. For shame, I know. This year I was determined to make a truly from-scratch dinner, complete with homemade pies.

I had Wednesday off from school so I spent all day baking and doing other prep work for the meal. I’ll share the final products with you at the end of this post. We had to have dinner before dessert. :)

My family drove in Thursday morning, so I needed to have something available for them to munch on soon after they arrived because we weren’t scheduled to eat until late afternoon. Along with some chips and crackers, I made a simple appetizer of Cranberry Brie. I scooped about 1/3 cup of homemade cranberry sauce (cranberries, orange juice and sugar boiled together) onto an 8oz wheel of brie and baked at 350 for 10 minutes.

I enjoyed it, although I’m a fan of anything cranberry related. My dad liked it as well. My mom refused to eat it and my younger sister claimed she hates cheese (who is this girl?).

Meanwhile the turkey was in the oven. We had a huge one this year and we had some serious problems getting it all cooked, but it turned out well in the end. Brent found a recipe that he wanted me to use this year: Twin Oaks Roast Turkey with Anchovies. Anchovies! You better believe I had to hide that little secret ingredient from my mother. She’s very suspicious when I do the cooking, and when my brother Matt called to say hello to everyone, I heard her complaining about “all that seasoning” that I put on the turkey. Little did she know, haha. She managed to eat it without any complaints though.

I didn’t get a picture of each dish, but here’s my plate: Clockwise from top – mashed potatoes with sour cream and chives, roast turkey with cranberry sauce, green beans and walnuts with lemon vinaigrette, Caesar salad with homemade dressing, Sausage and Herb Stuffing from the Barefoot Contessa (I added an additional 1/2 cup of fresh sage, rosemary and thyme).

I thought everything turned out wonderful. The stuffing and mashed potatoes seemed to be especially popular. My family didn’t love the green beans because they found them “too crunchy” and not cooked enough, but I enjoyed them.

For dessert I wanted to do the traditional apple and pumpkin pies, but with a slight twist, so I made Crunchy Caramel Apple Pie and Pumpkin Eggnog Pie. I used this all butter flaky pie dough recipe from Smitten Kitchen for the crusts. I don’t have a pastry cutter, so I used my Kitchen Aid mixer (even though Deb says not to) and mine still turned out flaky and perfect. My kitchen was a MESS by Wednesday evening!

I made the apple pie first. I followed the recipe exactly, except for the “caramel ice cream topping.” For that I just made a homemade caramel sauce on the stove top using heavy cream, butter, brown sugar and vanilla extract.

Brent’s comments on the pie: “This is really good, but I wish you made the whole pie out of topping.” There are actually apples under there, I promise. Up next was the pumpkin eggnog pie. This was super simple. Mix the filling and dump it in the pie shell. Bake.

I loved this pumpkin pie! (I also happen to be a huge eggnog fan). I would definitely say the pies were the hit of the meal. My mother (who may be a bit difficult to please) could not stop talking about how much she loved the apple pie and the pumpkin was equally popular. I would recommend either or both if you’re looking for a holiday pie.

I’m feeling a bit exhausted now (my family will do that to you), but come back tomorrow for an exciting giveaway involving my one of my favorite food groups: Cheese!

The View From The Roof

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I hope you all had a fun Fourth of July! Brent and I had a good time just hanging out at home. We made a delicious dinner on the grill. I had wild Sockeye salmon (Brent had a NY Strip steak), grilled herbed corn on the cob and a salad with a delicious Feta dressing.

HPIM3658The dressing was tasty on the salad but even better as a sauce for the salmon! I loved every bite of it and I want to eat it again very soon.  For the corn on the cob I mixed together some Earth Balance, chives, parsley and thyme and then peeled back the husks to apply the butter. I pulled the husks back up and they were grilled for about 15 minutes. The fresh corn is definitely not at it’s peak yet, but the herb butter is a treatment we’ll be repeating. :)

After dinner and some XBoxing, we got ready for some fireworks. I climbed out of our bedroom window onto the roof of our house and settled in with blanket while Brent set off some bottle rockets and fountains below on the driveway.

HPIM3683From my tree top view I was able to see a lot of different shows going on, most of which I think were put on by some of our more enthusiastic neighbors. I couldn’t believe how huge some of these were, coming from someone’s backyard!

HPIM3699When the shows really got going, the dogs ran upstairs because they’re terrified of the fireworks. Lucy seemed ready to come onto the roof with me, but luckily Brent was able to calm her down.

HPIM3753Being on the roof did have its perils though. While Brent was out there with me, he forgot where he was for a moment and put his chips and dip down on the angled roof! I watched in horror as my cute bowl from Anthropologie slid down the shingles and shattered on the driveway. :(

HPIM3743It was a wonderful long weekend, but it’s back to reality tomorrow morning so I’m going to read a bit more of my book and then head to bed.

Valentine’s Day Dinner

Editor’s Note: This post was written in its entirety by Victoria’s husband, Brent, and has been posted in its original format.

So as Victoria mentioned earlier, it’s become something of a tradition for me to make dinner on Valentine’s Day.  This tradition has its roots in necessity, as when we first married, we were fairly broke and Victoria could scarcely work the stove.  Victoria’s cooking has improved slightly since then, but I suspect she likes making me work.

As is apparently standard practice for this whole food blog genre, here’s a picture of the wine we drank (it’s a pinot grigio).

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The first course was a pretty tasty salad  This was a pretty big hit.  Victoria loves anything with avocado, and I never pass up an opportunity to throw down with some bacon.  The obligatory photo follows.  I’m always a little surprised at the number of photos Victoria takes of each dish.  She spares no expense bringing you only the most vivid digital representations of her food.

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The main course was a pasta.  The only real shortcoming was the amount of lobster.  I grossly underestimated the amount that would come out of the two lobster tails I bought.

This dude is not for the faint of heart.  I halved the recipe, and still used nearly a stick of butter and half a cup of heavy cream.  You could probably make it without the lobster, and it would still be pretty good.  I would definitely recommend keeping the beet, though.  It brings a surprising amount to the party.

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