Winner, Winner, Gyoza Dinner. No, really this time.

Andra won the wild card contest on Food52!  Do you go to Food52?  Well, you should.  You can start by looking at Andra’s winning recipe for Steamed Gyoza.  I plan to make it this week, not only because it sounds good, but to catch up with what Andra’s doing.  First it was feathered hair.  Then it was listening to The Violent Femmes.  I should just make this recipe, because our parents will probably never buy me Vuarnet sunglasses.

Oh, and we ate Portobello Mushroom Risotto last night.  Risotto is one of those things that I used to make all the time when it was just the two of us.  I really believe risotto has an undeserved reputation for being difficult to prepare.  It’s meditative, with all the stirring and  staring at rice granules and you can take some short-cuts.  I always use room temperature chicken stock, because I don’t feel like dirty-ing another pan to warm it up and I add the stock in two big additions instead of a ladle-ful at a time.  My girls would really love it, all creamy and cheesy and monochromatic.  But, sometimes, like last night, you just need to put kids to bed and eat a quiet civilized dinner like you used to.  Besides, they can always have leftovers.

- Catherine

If You Give a Kid a Pancake…

If you give a kid a pancake on his birthday, chance are he’s going to want a candle.  And if you give him a candle, chances are he’s going to want to blow it out.  And if he blows it out, chances are he’s going to want to lick the frosting off of the candle.  And if you don’t have frosting chance are you have ruined the birthday.  Did you know that you can make cupcakes out of pancake batter? They bake up into little cupcakes that taste just like pancakes.  Take it a step further with cream cheese maple frosting and you have the perfect celebratory dessert, I mean,  breakfast.    It tastes just like pancakes with maple syrup.  Adding a slice of bacon or bacon sprinkles is optional.  But if you make a kid a pancake cupcake with maple cream cheese frosting chances are he’s going to want a side of bacon.  - Andra

For the Cupcakes

2 cups of unbleached all purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1½ cups whole milk

2 eggs

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Preheat  oven to 400 degrees.  Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners.

Combine the dry ingredients.  In a separate bowl, combine the milk, eggs and melted butter.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix to combine.  Pour the batter into the muffin cups and bake for 10 minutes.  Let cool and frost with maple cream cheese frosting.  Top with pieces of crispy bacon.

For the Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

8 ounces cream cheese at room temperature

8 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature

1 cup confectioners sugar

1 teaspoon of maple extract

Combine all of the ingredients in an electric mixer.

White Bean Soup with Rosemary and Bacon and Kale Salad (or Almost Meatless Monday)

I guess “Almost Meatless Monday” is like being a little bit pregnant, but I had four slices of bacon just begging to be used.   I also make this soup without the bacon and both versions are delicious.  For last night’s version, I cooked four slices of chopped bacon until crisp and then removed the bacon but kept the drippings to saute an onion, two cloves of garlic and about a teaspoon of chopped fresh rosemary.  I added a pound and a half of white Navy beans that I had soaked for about six hours, four cups of chicken broth, three cups of water and salt and pepper.   When the beans were cooked, I used an immersion blender to blend it until it was the consistency we like and topped each bowl with the crisp bacon and a sprig of rosemary.

For the kale salad, I washed and spun the kale and tossed it with a lemon vinaigrette and crumbled goat cheese.

Tuesday is a better day to go meatless anyway.

- Catherine

Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

These peppers are stuffed with ground turkey, quinoa, crushed tomatoes, feta and pine nuts.  You could use goat cheese and walnuts instead, if that’s what you have on hand.  Andra loves to substitute completely unrelated items for ingredients called for in recipes, so she’d probably use Cheese Whiz and peanuts.

Another picture below with their tops on, if the topless photo made you uncomfortable.

We love the addition of quinoa instead of rice, found in most traditional stuffed pepper recipes.  This ends up feeling comforting and healthy at the same time.  So you should definitely have another glass of wine with it.

- Catherine

Short Rib Ragu

For dinner last night, I wanted to make something special to celebrate a birthday.  We also had a baseball game which meant we had to eat after we got home.  It would have to be prepared ahead of time so that we could eat as soon as we walked in the door.  I decided on short rib ragu over polenta.  We have been experimenting with several ragu recipes and I think this may have just taken the lead.  Previous recipes we’ve tried have used chuck steak or pork loin but last night I used boneless short ribs and an ounce of dried mushrooms.  I started the ragu at 3:00, had it in the oven to braise at 4:00 and by the time we walked in the door last night, the house smelled like Fat Clemenza was pulling 10-15 for armed robbery in my kitchen.  All I had to do was make polenta and shred the short ribs and we were sitting down in twenty minutes to this rich, hearty short rib ragu over buttery polenta.   The mushrooms added earthiness, the short ribs had a wonderful rich beefy flavor and the long braise pulled all of these flavors together.  If Fat Clemnza were in the big house making this sauce it could make recidivism look appealing.                      -Andra

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