Hobbit Day and Tomato, Bacon & Onion Pie

Yesterday is known, in some circles, as Hobbit Day. Why? Because it is Bilbo and Frodo Baggins shared birthday. Yeah, we celebrate fictional characters birthdays. So, how did we celebrate? In the Lundin house, celebration means food.

I went looking for an appropriately hobbit-like dish, and found a recipe for Tomato, Bacon and Onion Pie. A savory pie? What could be more hobbit-like!

Tomato, Bacon & Onion Pie

Tomato, Bacon & Onion Pie

The original recipe is from Rod Dreher (whose current blog you should be reading if you love food, culture and Jesus), and I made some modifications to suit our palates better. That means I added goat cheese and took Rod’s advice on the herbs.

TOMATO, BACON AND ONION PIE
1 pre-baked pie crust (cooled)
2 fresh sliced tomatoes (medium size)
1/2-1 fresh sliced onion
1 1/2 cups monterey  jack cheese
crumbled goat cheese to taste
1 pkg. cooked bacon, crumbled (you can do with less, if you want. This will put a lot of bacon on top)
salt, pepper, rosemary & thyme to taste

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  2. Slice tomatoes, arrange in layer on pie crust, then season with salt, pepper, rosemary & thyme
  3. Top with layer of thin-sliced onions
  4. Grate a thin layer of monterey jack over the onions
  5. Repeat
  6. Grate a good layer of monterey jack on top
  7. Sprinkle on goat cheese to taste
  8. Sprinkle with crumbled bacon
  9. Bake for 25 minutes. Let cool thoroughly before serving

If you are skeptical, don’t be. It’s fantastic. Try it and I bet you will love it.

Too tired, too late

I wrote this post at 12:15pm on Saturday afternoon, not just before midnight as the post will be marked. It is because this is the Friday post, written on Saturday. We had a long week, so long in fact my wife pointed out to me that I couldn’t stay awake after dinner at least two nights this week. But Friday night was good for us because we were looking forward to having a good friend over for dinner.

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Pork loin, stuffed with apples, wrapped in prosciutto, rolled into a puff pastry. Yeah, it’s good.

We invited our friend Jared over for dinner and a few drinks, and we were looking forward to it. We love to host people in our home, but we have not been able to do so often. In fact, I took the opportunity to make something that I have not had any excuse to make, Alton Brown’s Pork Wellington. I love trying new things, but that is not a regular weeknight dinner for two.

The dinner was great. we served out favorite brussel sprouts dish and garlic cheese mashed potatoes. Then we had Lindsey’s killer Guinness brownies. It was an amazing dinner, and we had an even better time talking to and catching up with Jared.

When the evening was over Lindsey and I got into bed, I pulled out the laptop to blog. She was asleep in 30 seconds, and I was only about a minute behind.

We’re still learning how to balance the early mornings, jobs, and time together in the evening. Honestly, I’ve been getting less sleep because I am trying to do too much in a day. Lindsey has to get her sleep and she has been forgoing some things she needs to get done because she needs the sleep. It’s been a great and crazy year, but just so full.

We’re getting better at it. This school year is better than last, and next year will be even better. I think it just takes time.

Marriage makes you fat

It’s true. Neither I nor my husband would be designated as “fat” in most circles, but we’re both much larger than we were on the day we said “I do”.

We’ve gone through some different food plans and preferences in our time together. Pre-wedding, I was doing a modified version of the Abs Diet, where I basically cut out whites (rice, bread, sugar), replaced them with whole grains, ate mostly low fat foods, and did so 5-6 times per day. I was successful on this plan, but it is a no-fun plan and on the day I got married, I started having fun again 🙂

On our honeymoon, Brian reread a book he loves about real food, which propelled us into a no processed, eat lots of locally sourced items and tons of veggies mindset. We learned quickly that it is very difficult to cut out processed foods when you have busy schedules. Eating real food takes a lot of planning and preparation.

The other thing is that Brian and I both really love good food. We love interesting flavors, international foods, gourmet items, etc. Alton Brown makes us hungry every time we watch him, and I’m partial to the Pioneer Woman, who regularly pours cream or butter into recipes (so good!). This is the kick we’ve been on lately– the good stuff.

Thus, marriage has made us fat. Ugh. This means we need to make changes, and who has time to do that? But we must. We’re too young to blow up like balloons, and –honest moment– I want to stay hot for my husband!

Since we talk about food a lot on here, I’m sure you’ll hear more on what changes we make… or don’t make… we’ll let you know 😉

Takeout Chinese

Tonight, Lindsey and I hosted her Gran and mom at the house for takeout Chinese. A very old-fashioned family dinner, right? 😉

Lindsey’s Mom has not seen her new school, and with her Gran in town they thought it was a good time to make the trek up north from Dripping Springs to do so. So they met Lindsey after work, took a short tour and headed over to the house.

Honestly, it was perfect. There is a really good Chinese place right next to her house, and her Gran loves it. So, we tossed out our ‘cook for guests’ default setting and went with the takeout. Brilliant move, actually.

It was really good to see her family tonight. We are short on time these days, so any way we can fit time in to see family is great. Just to sit around the table, talk, catch up and laugh was a real blessing in the middle of the week.

So now, Lindsey is already asleep and I am about to be. We have almost a full day at ACL, and then two more after that. Something tells me we are not catching up on sleep anytime soon.

An unexpected delight

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Vegetarian lasagna.

What do you think when you read that? If you are like me, you’re thoughts are not good.

Yet, that is what Lindsey made tonight and it was awesome. No, really. I’m not saying that as some sort of newlywed, I have to be careful not to hurt her feelings placation. I really mean it.

Lindsey did an excellent job tonight cooking for us and our friend Laura. It was so good I want to share the recipe with you. Lindsey found this over at crumbblog.com, and you should definitely try it.

Roasted Veggie Lasagna

If you can’t find La Bomba sauce, substitute with sundried tomato pesto or regular basil pesto.
Ingredients

Roasted Vegetables

  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 1 medium-sized zucchini
  • 1 medium-sized Asian eggplant
  • 4 medium-sized portobello mushrooms
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp each salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil

Marinara Sauce

  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 can (796 ml each) crushed tomatoes
  • 1 can (156 ml) tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine

Spinach-Ricotta Filling

  • 1 container (450g) ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 package (255g) frozen chopped spinach, thawed

Lasagna Layers

  • 16 lasagna noodles, cooked as per package directions
  • 1 cup La Bomba sauce
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 450F.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare the vegetables for roast. Cut the red peppers into quarters, removing the seeds and stem. Slice the zucchini and eggplant into 1/2″ thick slices. Remove the thick stems from the portobellos.
  3. Arrange the vegetables in a single layer on a large baking sheet (use two sheets if necessary). Brush with oil, then sprinkle with salt, pepper and shredded basil. Roast in preheated oven for 15 minutes, then flip over and roast for 10-15 minutes longer, or until vegetables are browned on the edges and soft. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.
  4. While the vegetables are roasting, prepare the sauce. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, saute the onions and garlic in olive oil over medium-high heat for 7-10 minutes, or until soft and lightly coloured. Add tomato puree, tomato paste and wine, and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and let simmer for 20 minutes to allow the flavours to blend.
  5. Meanwhile, reduce the oven temperature to 350F, and roughly chop the cooled vegetables into bite-sized chunks. Transfer the chopped vegetables to a bowl, along with any juices that may have accumulated on the baking sheet.
  6. Lastly, prepare the ricotta-spinach layer by whisking together the ricotta, parmesan, basil, eggs, salt and pepper in a mixing bowl until smooth and creamy. Squeeze out all the excess moisture from the spinach, then stir into the ricotta until evenly combined.
  7. To assemble the lasagna, spoon a thin layer of sauce onto the bottom of a 9×13″ baking dish. Cover with a layer of four lasagna noodles (you’ll need four per layer), followed by half of the roasted vegetables and a 1/2 cup of sauce. Top with another layer of lasagna noodles. Spread the ricotta mixture evenly on top, followed by a thin layer of La Bomba. Top with a third layer of lasagna noodles, and spread with the last of the roasted vegetables and another 1/2 cup of marinara. Top off with one last layer of noodles. Pour the remaining marinara sauce overtop, then sprinkle evenly with mozzarella.
  8. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil, and bake in preheated oven for 40 minutes. Uncover and continue baking for 5-10 minutes longer, or until lasagna is bubbly and cheese is melted and golden-brown.
  9. Let stand for 10 minutes to allow the lasagna to firm up, then cut into pieces and serve piping hot with a green salad and crusty bread.

A million thanks

Well, it’s here. Summer. I made it through another school year.

Today was my first official day of summer vacation. So what’s a new wife to do with a day of freedom? I decided to take care of a few things I haven’t had time to do.

Task #1: Thank you cards

I am embarrassed to say that my thank you card to-do pile has been stacking up since the wedding. It’s so impolite. I realize this. I likely nearly killed my dear mother over the embarrassment of it all. I just felt like every time I had a moment to sit at a desk during the school year, the priority had to be grading. Thus, the thank you card pile grew.

But yesterday and today I sat down and put the pen to the notecard. I wrote 69 thank you cards and proudly marched them down to the outgoing mailbox. The mail(wo)man was at the box and I was able to place the pile into her capable hands before proudly prancing away.

The task wasn’t without its issues. Cards were separated from gifts at the wedding, so there were several gifts for which we don’t know the exact giver. On the upside– we loved everything we received, so I could accurately relay that we loved the “gift,” even though I couldn’t specify the exact nature of the “gift.” And then there was the pile of cards that were in the to do box that I could swear I already sent the thanks for. But I couldn’t leave it to chance– better two thank you cards than none at all. Better someone think I’m crazy than rude.

Though this task should be checked off as completed, I have the ridiculous feeling that I forgot to thank someone, and thus, I also have the feeling of guilt. Brian looks at me with his confused face when I try to explain this. I accept that there are things like thank you cards or high heeled wedges that he will never understand.

As I wrote the individual cards, I began to once again feel the corporate blessing of all of the gifts. We were overwhelmed by the incredible generosity and love. I remembered once more how many people contributed in ways big and small, seen and unseen to our wedding and household. It was at that point I realized that my meager 69 cards did not express the million thanks I felt in my heart. We are so blessed.

Once Task #1 was completed, it was on to Task #2: cooking a nice meal for my husband on a weeknight. This was a treat for both of us; I got to love and serve, and he got to relax and eat. For my first weeknight solo run in the kitchen as wife, I served up herb breaded baked chicken, sweet potato risotto, and green beans.

It was a satisfying first day off. Just enough to do to feel productive, but not enough for it to feel like “work.”

Dinner tonight

Lindsey, making a killer risotto

We got up this morning and went to the farmer’s market. The selection of veggies is getting more diverse every week through the spring. We found some great stuff, including a never-before-seen (to us, at least) purple bell pepper. We also got some really nice scallops fresh from the Gulf from our new fish guy.

Yep, we have a fish guy. His name is Scott.

After an afternoon hanging out at the house (me) and shopping (guess who) we went to HEB to get our groceries for the week. As we always do now we spent about an hour studying ingredient lists and joking about anything and everything. This is also a surprisingly good thing for me. I used to hate the grocery store, but honestly I enjoy going with my wife. She makes everything we do better. It’s awesome.

Mmmm, who doesn’t love cheese, olives and cured meats?

We came home, made up a plate of fantastic snacks, opened a bottle of wine and started cooking together. Lindsey is really good in the kitchen and I love to cook so it works out well. We’re still learning some of our little habits, but we work together well and have a good time cooking.

As nice as it was to be cooking together, it was even better to sit down, talk and just get to spend some time together. Today was most certainly a blessing.

There is something important in the rhythms of life. By trying to spend our Saturdays together like this we are trying to be in sync and experience them together and fully. Today we had a day for us, where we go through our days together, knowing when to do our own thing but also sharing meals, time and laughter together.  I appreciate our time together on these days more than I could have imagined before getting married.

Scallops, risotto and some really great, local squash

An Open Table: How’s It Going So Far?

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One of our home cooked meals: Coffee and spice-rubbed Salmon with Potatoes and Brussel Sprouts with Pecans and Cranberries

Monday night I was talking to my sister in New York on video chat (which is a wonderful thing for our far-flung family) and she was very curious about how it was going with the new approach to food we talked about previously.

Lindsey and I smiled at the question– and then she laughed. We’ve done well, but not perfectly so I wanted to post an update on how we’ve done so far, and what we have learned. So, without further ado, how are the resolutions going?

1. We said we would “cook our dinners at home from real food, not processed kits, boxes, meals or other unreal creations of the food industry.”
This is a success story. All of our dinners at home have met this criteria. Whether it is from the farmer’s market, Central Market or HEB we have bought food that was as minimally processed as possible and had two fresh veggie sides at every home cooked meal.

Notice I said dinners. Lunches have been hard. Lindsey takes leftovers every day that she can (that’s good!), and when there are none she takes the healthiest frozen dinners she can find (that’s not so good…). I am worse at lunches though, but this leads to the next item.

2. “We will go out to eat occasionally, but we want that to be the infrequent exception and not the rule.”
This one has been harder. I eat lunch out once a week with a good friend, and that was planned for, but other things have been a challenge. I have two addictions that are really tough to break, Chik-fil-a and a really good hamburger. I have failed on this one more than my bride, but still not often. Maybe once or twice a week.

Other than lunch, we have been out to eat a few times. Chipotle is very responsible about their sourcing so our consciences are pretty good there. We’ve been to Uchi once to celebrate, and Chuy’s once or twice. All in all, not bad.

3. “We will have people over and cook for them at least once a week.”
This has been good. Since we posted this four weeks ago we have a 50% score with an asterisk. One week we were in Oklahoma for my Dad’s surgery so I give us a pass. The other, well it’s just a failure during a busy week. So we are happy with our progress here so far.

So there is a scorecard on our progress. We’ve been happy with the changes and are very encouraged by the impact it has had. To sit down every night and have time to eat and talk with each other has been a huge blessing. We will not give this up easily.

An open table

Lindsey and I are closing out our first week back in the real world with something that is very important to us and something we plan to make a building block for our home. We are cooking and having friends over for dinner.

Since reading Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma several years ago and re-reading his In Defense of Food again lately my perception of food and eating has changed. Now, I’ll admit up front that I still fall into the modern food industry’s system on a daily basis, I have not been able to effect my escape yet. But, one of the key premises of those books is that our culture and and food are so intimately tied together that the degradation of one leads to the destruction of the other. With this, we both whole-heartedly agree.

So, we have undertaken two propositions to start out our marriage. First, we are going to cook our dinners at home from real food, not processed kits, boxes, meals or other unreal creations of the food industry (check out Michael Pollan’s rules for eating to get an idea of what I am talking about). We will go out to eat occasionally, but we want that to be the infrequent exception and not the rule.

Second, we will have people over and cook for them at least once a week. Now, friends and family in Austin don’t worry, your invitation is coming but we have to start somewhere. 🙂 This is really an extension of our desire to have a home that is open to all of our friends, all the time. This is certainly not the norm these days, and it may sound unrealistic to some folks. We get that, but we want to buck that trend.

So tonight we are having two great friends over. We’re grilling up fajitas and making mexican rice and guacamole from scratch. They will bring some good beer and we will have a great time of fellowship with people we love. In our home, there are few things more valuable than that.