lazy pasta.

So we got back in town from Cape Cod Sunday night (a fun little getaway around a wedding!), and we were starving.  It’s always such a nice surprise to open up the fridge and realize you have more unspoiled food than you thought!  I love pasta dishes, because you can really throw in whatever you happen to have on hand.  (Omelets are the same way.)  I must say, pasta is sometimes my go-to carb.  If I’m ever craving carbs, and have run out of all things salty and crunchy, I generally cook some pasta!  Lather it up with some olive oil + sea salt, and I’m a happy camper.  This probably isn’t any healthier than most carb snacks, but I like it.  :)

Back to the meal.  This is nothing fancy, but here is what I used in this EASY BREEZY and QUICK-to-make pasta dish:  rotini, broccoli (cooked in the microwave, because I was tired!), goat cheese (later I realized I had some feta that might have been even more exciting!  Oh well!), and homemade pesto (which I retrieved from the freezer!  Thank you, Past Jacqueline, for thinking to make a lot of pesto!).

Pesto Pasta with Goat Cheese & Broccoli!

Like I pleaded with you last month, make your own pesto!  It’s easy, and you’ll never want to buy it again!  Yum, yum.  :)

mexican, mexican, mexican.

I have SO much Mexican food to share!  Next post, I promise to move on to something else.  :)

Last weekend (not this past weekend, but the one before), I made my favorite casserole for our friends who just had a baby.  Here is a link to the recipe for the Southwest Pasta Bake…. I just call it “Mexican Lasagna.”  Tired of making the same old boring casserole?  Here is something that will wow your audience.  I made extra to enjoy with my dear friend Arielle, who was in town from Seattle.  We had a yummy South African Sauvignon Blanc (wine maker: Zafrika) from Trader Joe’s, which complimented the meal nicely.

Mexican Lasagna

Next, quesadilla madness.  Are you surprised?  I obviously love quesadillas.  :)  We had friends over a week ago, and this was the spread… Crispy Black Bean Tacos with Feta and Cabbage Slaw… (I know they are called “tacos,” but I really made them more quesadilla-like!)

Crispy Black Bean Tacos with Feta & Cabbage Slaw

That’s Mexican rice in the crockpot, that our friend Sarah brought along.  I promise I will post the amazing margarita and guacamole recipes at some point!  A staple for Chris and I’s food life.

Tonight, I made similar quesadillas (with tomatoes added and pepper jack cheese, instead of feta).  I also wanted to share this Corn & Avocado Salad, from this month’s Real Simple issue.  Light and easy!  I used green onions instead of scallions.

Corn & Avocado Salad

The next meal will be more Italian-based… my other favorite cuisine besides Mexican.  :)

asparagus, goat cheese, & mushroom quesadillas!

I haven’t been cooking a lot this week.  We were out of town in Blacksburg last weekend, and let me just say that if you ever are in Blacksburg, you MUST go to Gillie’s for breakfast.  I love everything on the menu, but usually order the Red Earth (homemade salsa on top of scrambled eggs on top of potatoes!).  I need to recreate that sometime.  Anyway, this week has just been a busier one of leftovers, eating at Panera, eating at National’s Park, etc!  By the way, we totally missed these new vendors at the stadium.  That’s okay, Ben’s Chili Bowl is still pretty exciting.

I did want to share one of my favorite easy and quick veggie meals.  I consider myself a flexitarian (yes, that word is for real!), so I love eating vegetarian whenever I can.  Here is a recipe for goat cheese and asparagus quesadillas… and I always add mushrooms!

Asparagus, Goat Cheese, and Mushroom Quesadillas

I’m starting to wonder if I only eat the same ingredients all the time?  I do love asparagus, goat cheese, and mushrooms.  :)  You can make these in a pan on the stove, but I’ve started using our little George Foreman grill instead.

I’m making a Mexican casserole this weekend for our friends who just had a baby, and then we’re having a couple over for Mexican food on Monday… so those are my next cooking adventures!

mexican tuesday.

Whenever Chris and I have no plans on Mondays, we make Mexican food and margaritas!  As I posted, we had our friend over for dinner last Monday, but we were free the next night, so we decided to postpone Mexican food a day later this week.  Usually, I make some pretty basic quesadillas, and then lots of dips to go along.  This week, I was inspired by Chipotle to try out making barbacoa (spicy beef) tacos!  I found this recipe for slow cooker barbacoa, and let me tell you… it was wonderful coming home after a long day of work to the smell of this cooking!

Barbacoa Cooking in the Slow Cooker

To be honest, it probably didn’t turn out as spicy as I would have liked… but we couldn’t really tell in the mixture of ingredients once the tacos were assembled.  We wrapped the shredded barbacoa, grated pepper jack cheese, and chopped peppers in soft tortillas (wheat).

Barbacoa Taco

On the table, we had spicy salsa and homemade guacamole to add in.  We also always make our margaritas from scratch!  At some point, I will post the easy recipes for homemade guac and homemade margs.

a sediment-al night.

Monday night, we had a dear friend over for dinner to drink a special bottle of wine that he gave us for our wedding!  A 2000 Domaine Cros Minervois Vieilles Vignes.  Most wines people buy these days are made to drink right now.  This wine is unique (for modern wine-drinking), because even at 11 years old, it was still hitting its peak!  All wines were once made this way… built to grow better with time.  Very cool.

The 2000 Domaine Cros Minervois Vieilles Vignes

I didn’t do the best job of pairing the meal with the wine (steak probably would have been a better fit), but the cheese I selected for a pre-dinner appetizer matched beautifully.  I highly recommend this French Morbier cheese, bought at Trader Joe’s!  It was stinky, pungent, and it brought out lovely dark berry flavors from the wine.  The vegetable streak through the middle of the Morbier is crazy!  (Crazy good.)

The French Morbier Cheese

Even though the meal might not have been the best choice for the wine, it sure was delicious!  I served prosciutto-wrapped grilled chicken stuffed with goat cheese & herbs, along with sautéed squash, steamed broccoli, and French bread.  The chicken was as easy to make as it is to write out!  I took chicken breast fillets, made a slit with a sharp knife, then stuffed in goat cheese (this particular cheese came already mixed with fresh herbs… you could also mix in your own!).  I tried to seal up the opening as best possible, then cooked the fillets in our George Foreman counter grill for about 5 minutes.  After that, I took the chicken out and carefully wrapped each fillet in prosciutto.  I cooked the chicken for about 2 more minutes, and the result was delicious!  It was like the prosciutto had been welded on — yum!

Prosciutto-Wrapped Chicken, Stuffed with Goat Cheese & Herbs

It was a sediment-al night, because I have never seen such crazy sediment from a wine!  Truly an Old World style wine.  :)

Sediment!

steak & potatoes {spanish style}

I studied abroad in Spain four years ago, and fell in love with the country!  Early on in our relationship, Chris and I went on a date to Jaleo, “the renowned tapas restaurant of José Andrés.”  Oh my goodness.  One sip of the sangria, and I was transported back to Spain!  The tapas were amazing, and I have since fallen in love with the food at every restaurant of his.  Chris and I actually had our rehearsal dinner at the Jaleo in Crystal City, and it was SO delicious and fun!

Anyway, I could go on and on about Chef José Andrés, and I’m sure I will write more entries on his food.  We had some friends over for dinner on Saturday night, and I decided to make it Spanish-themed and use recipes by José!  His Made in Spain cookbook was the inspiration.  I made red wine sangria, beef tenderloin with picón cheese, sauteed green asparagus (white asparagus probably would have been more authentic!), and mashed potatoes with manchego and olive oil (that recipe can be found here).

Steak w/Blue Cheese Sauce & Asparagus

Here you can see most of the entire meal… I’m not sure why I put the mashed potatoes in a bowl when everything else was already on the plate!

Steak w/Blue Cheese Sauce, Asparagus, Mashed Potatoes w/Cabra Cheese, & Sangria!

There were a few adjustments.  I used ribeye steaks (cheaper) and Moody Blue Smoked Blue Cheese (from Screwtop!) for the sauce.  I also used Cabra cheese for the mashed potatoes (also from Screwtop) instead of Manchego.

Sangria!

What a fun night of Spanish-style food with our friends!  By the way, check out this new temporary restaurant of his that is opening up soon.  It’s going along with the National Archives’ exhibit, What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam?  I can’t wait!

top 100 restaurants: zentan

Zentan is a hip and ritzy Asian restaurant created by the famous Chef Susur Lee, and located near the McPherson Square metro in DC.  We discovered the restaurant when Village Vines emailed us another free $10 credit to get 30% off our final bill, so we went straight to their restaurant list and made our choice!  It’s also fun, of course, that Zentan turns out to be another Top 100 restaurant.

I definitely want to go there again.  I loved the modern vibe of the place, and the wait staff was very friendly.  Chris wasn’t as impressed as I was, but I think he just wished we’d ordered different sushi rolls.  We chose our entire meal and wine based on our waitress’ recommendations, and I was thrilled with all of it!  Next time, we’ll choose more of Chris’ favorite sushi instead.  :)

This was our view of the restaurant (before it filled up and was hopping!):

The bar and awesome candles at Zentan.

We ordered a 2009 Adelsheim Pinot Gris from the Willamette Valley in Oregon.  Crisp, refreshing, and to the point.  We started with a half-order of the Singapore Slaw, which had a salted plum dressing and peanuts in the mix.  It was very light, and a great way to begin.  Next, we shared the Escolar, which is Asian crudo (raw fish) with pickled jalapeño, jicama, and shallot-sesame dressing.  As the waitress had said, it was just a really clean and nice fish!

Finally, we ended with two sushi rolls: The “Brick” (spicy lobster, scallop, barbeque eel, avocado, & tobiko) and The “Rock & Roll” (crispy calamari, yellowtail, mango, & jalapeño).

The "Brick" and the "Rock & Roll" Signature Sushi Rolls.

We usually ask for roe-less sushi… but oops, forgot to do that this time!  So we just tried to scrape off the roe as best we could and not think about baby fish being born in our stomachs.  :)

What is it about sushi?  To me, it might be the most romantic food in the world…

I really loved Zentan.  It reminded me of Passion Fish, a restaurant in Reston that is more highly-ranked on the Top 100 list.  I do think I might like Passion Fish better than Zentan, but I definitely prefer DC over Reston.  In any case, it’s wonderful to know about two delicious and trendy sushi restaurants now!