Spinach Salad with Soft Boiled Eggs

Still happily laying low. Tonight's dinner needed to be cheap, fast and healthy (read: first of the month so money is tight and I wanted to go to the gym not go grocery shopping). For nights like this spinach with 4-minute, soft boiled eggs and homemade dressing have become my go-to meal. Mix in a little bacon and even O is happy. 

We ate our dinner while catching up on The Walking Dead. Did anyone else notice the unusually perfect post-apocalyptic vegetable garden? We ignore our tomatoes for two weeks in August and they're falling all over themselves. These TV tomatoes are not only perfectly pruned but there isn't a single sign of worms or rot! It seems zombies must know a thing or two about gardening.

I did it! I cooked*! Well, almost...

My panzanella was a success! Even more rewarding (for me) was that I didn't need to follow a recipe exactly; instead I read three and combined by favorite parts of each. I even diced up all the ingredients on my own! (Yes - I do realize this could be the accomplishment of a motivated 10 year old - but cut me some slack. I wasn't remotely interested in real food or cooking until after I turned 30.) 

My panzanella is combination of Ali Benjamin, Alton Brown and the pin I found online. Two called for bacon, one did not. Two called for stale bread, one called for toasting. One added chili peppers, two did not. None of them suggesting adding dijon mustard to the dressing; I figured that out on my own. 

This is what I did:
• Cubed two cups of baguette then spread them on a pan, drizzled them with olive oil and put them into the oven for 10 minutes until hard/crispy.
• While the bread was in the oven I: diced one shallot, put it into a cup of red wine vinegar, added a spot of dijon mustard and whisked. Next I cubed two avocados, a cucumber, a variety of tomatoes and combined them all in bowl. For a little heat I added half of one jalapeno. 
• When the bread came out of the oven it moved it to a Pyrex bowl to cool. Next I heated up the cast iron skillet that still contained bacon fat from our morning's breakfast. Once the bacon fat was hot I spooned out three tablespoons and drizzled them over the bread and tossed. 
• To the bread bowl I added the tomato mix and an appropriate amount of dressing. I mixed it all up with my hands and then put one and half handfuls into each dinner bowl. The only thing I would do differently next time is not mix in the avocado because it made the dish look green and mushy. Instead, I would add the avocado at the end as a garnish. 

It was so delicious!! And perfectly summer. I hope you try it yourself!
XO -
Cullen (the one who obviously doesn't create the beautiful meals you see on this blog). 

*According to Oliver "adding heat" is a core part of cooking. Everything else is just "combining ingredients". But I'm okay with that. Baby steps!


Seeking an in-season, mid-summer dinner idea I turned to Pinterest. Panzanella caught my eye. While I don't think I've ever had it before, it seems to be a chunky version of gazpacho and I love gazpacho. Tomatoes, cucumber, chunks of bread, extra virgin olive oil and vinegar.

Not enough of our tomatoes are ready to be picked so we biked down to the Grant Park Farmer's Market to see what we could find there. A colorful pint of mixed cherry and heirloom tomatoes caught my eye. On our way out of the market we ran into our friends Laura and AJ; they mentioned that Laura's sister-in-law (Ali Benjamin of the blog and book  Cleaner Plate Clubhas a great Panzanella recipe. As soon as I got home I pulled the book from my shelf and flipped to the tomato chapter. Her recipe calls for toasting the bread in the oven - which sounds more appealing then the recipe I had which calls for leaving the bread out overnight. AND it means we can try this sooner then later! 

Louisiana Maque Choux

Being married to a man from Southern Louisiana is an ongoing lesson in food and history. Tonight's dinner, Maque Choux, reminds me of the very first things I learned about the lives of Acadian descendants in Louisiana: 1. An "x" on the end of a last name is silent (Boudreaux, Malveaux, Thibodaux, etc). 2. The difference between Cajun and Creole cooking (Cajun = one pot/bayou, Creole = lots of pots/NOLA). 

The story of the Acadians in South Louisiana is a fascinating one. One that I'm quite proud to have married into. If you want read more about it click here.

Maque Choux, takes the Acadian's traditional food base (the "holy trinity" of onion, celery, bell pepper) and combines it with the Native American influence of corn. It is often topped with a local protein: chicken, shrimp or crawfish. It's a perfect midsummer dinner!

Roasting: Cabbage & Pork

Thanks to Pinterest we stumbled upon a new way to cook cabbage: sliced into large chunks and then roasted. If only we'd found this suggestion this time last year! By the end of May our garden had more cabbage then I knew what to do with. (I'll admit that my "know what to do" was limited to kimchi, coleslaw and soup.) This new recipe is simple and evokes a Brussels sprouts flavor. Check it out here: HERE!

Oliver paired the cabbage with chili-roasted pork (he made the chili paste himself by putting a variety of dried peppers into the blender with a lot spices, chicken stock and garlic). Along with the cabbage and pork we also had sides of sauteed spinach and rice. I'm looking forward to eating it all again tonight! YUM! But before that... I must be heading to the gym before it gets too late.

True Love Enchiladas

It's been a rough two weeks for me at work. Roles are changing and being redefined. I find myself silently repeating "the only constant in life is change", "you either bend or you break" and "life's lessons make me stronger". Those are (of course) interspursed with internal reprimations of "relax before you stress everyone else out" and "loosing your cool won't get this project done". The best I can offer now: I'm trying. I'm really really making an effort to go with flow and wait and see how things play out. I'm not the quitter I was ten years ago.  Even so, I had tears of frustration and fury streaming down my face before lunch. After a 12 hour work day I was so thankful to come home to one of my favorite Chez OB meals: enchiladas! These were made with chorizo and ground beef. The red sauce was homemade from dried chilis (YDFM). The gaucamole and salsa were homemade too (heavy on cumin and citrus, just the way I like it). He even picked up one of my favorite beers (Coca Mole). A needed reminder that there is more to life then work and career. Thanks Bou.

*Keep an eye out for our new (and completely unrelated) blog: BoudreauxsBigAdventure.blogspot.com. It should be up and running in the next 10 days. (No, we're not pregnant. That's not the adventure.)

Healthy, real food, we've been eating

Labor Day: Mini sausages on ciabatta rolls with a fun assortment of toppings (pickled cauliflower, homemade kimchi, carmelized leeks, avocado, etc).
Tuesday: Roast chicken, mashed potatoes, okra and tomato salad (it was a rough day for me so Oliver cooked up some comfort food - super thoughtful of him, thanks Bou).
Wednesday: Chicken salad (and some experimentation with filters on my camera).

Thai Chicken Satay Salad with Peanut Sauce Dressing

If you don't know what Thai chicken satay is - look it up*! Because it is DELICIOUS!! Last night we ate it on skewers hot off the grill with a side of homegrown grilled eggplant and YDFM sweet potato. Tonight we enjoyed it on a bed of lettuce with home grown red peppers and tomatoes. Oliver's peanut sauce accompanied both meals. YUM!

*Yes, this is me losing patience with writing copy for meals I didn't cook (read: don't know how cook) but LOVED eating.

Lunch & dinner, lunch & dinner

More dinners made from the London Broil we grilled on Monday: 
• Wednesday: London Broil on a big bed of red leaf lettuce with vinaigrette, homegrown tomatoes and blue cheese crumbles. 
• Thursday: London Broil stir fry with green peppers from the garden and baby portobello mushrooms from YDFM (side of baked sweet potato).

Lunch (x5): stewed black beans with a dollop of Greek yogurt

Dinner from the garden

Thursday night Oliver made dinner from ingredients we had on hand. An onion, garlic, olive oil and box of pasta from the pantry. Plus three tomatoes, a green bell pepper, a red chili pepper, basil, oregano, thyme and parsley all picked fresh from the garden. 

*Fancy Beer Friday will be posted tomorrow (Saturday)! Check back to read about Friday night at Redbrick Brewing Company and their soon to be released 17th Anniversary Ale.  

Meals from the garden

The weather may be outrageously hot, but it's still a wonderful time of year to have a vegetable garden. For us Sunday marked the beginning of BLT (bacon, lettuce & tomato) season. To make this season opening, mouthwateringly delicious, sandwich we picked tomatos from two of our heirloom plants. The sourdough bread was fresh from the H&F booth at the Grant Park Farmers Market. Bacon and lettuce from YDFM. This sandwich was PERFECTION! I'm looking foward to more throughout the season. 

For this evening's dinner we picked our two giant eggplants. They were mixed them with pole beans, small potatoes, red peppers, curry paste and coconut milk for a super spicey curry. 
I'd write more - but our Peachtree Road Race costumes are beckoning. I've decided to add pockets to my toga and the draw string in Oliver's Uncle Sam pants need mending. One more day til the big race! YAY! Keep an eye out for us if you plan to be there too.