Monday, July 25, 2011

Salmon and Asparagus Pasta in Tomato Cream Sauce

It seems like every time I happen to catch the Dr. Oz show he tells me to add salmon to my diet. I think about that recommendation every time I pass the seafood section at the grocery store. I also think about this pasta in particular.

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This is as close as I can get to a dish that I would order from the Italian restaurant across the street from the office I used to work at. I'd indulge in this and then follow it up with a bowl of chocolate ice cream. Those days of eating by myself at a restaurant seem so long ago. Asking for a table for just one was intimidating for this non-type-A girl, but I quickly got over it and grew to love the chance to sit back and zone out amid the hum of people chatting around me.

Anyway, here's an approximation of that dish, which is very similar to the chicken and penne skillet meal we have at our house all the time.

This is one of those dishes that each time I make it I prepare it a little differently. There's not an exact science to preparing this and there's a lot of wiggle room. If you have a favorite method for cooking salmon or asparagus, do so and just add those ingredients to the pasta at the end.

Ingredients:

Approximately 1 pound fresh salmon
1 pound pasta (I use penne, but that's just because the kids seem to think that shape tastes best.)
1 to 2 cups fresh asparagus
1 medium onion (I've used sweet and red onions; both work well.)
2 or 3 cloves garlic
1 1/2 cup canned diced tomatoes, italian style (with basil and garlic)
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 tbsp olive oil
7 or 8 fresh basil leaves (or 1 tbsp dried basil)
6 tablespoons butter
Parmesan cheese, to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste

Yield: 5 servings
Preparation time: 40 minutes

Begin by pre-heating the oven to 400° in preparation for the asparagus. Set a large pot of water to boil for the pasta. Add a healthy dose of salt and a couple of dashes of olive oil to the pasta water.

Meanwhile, prepare the vegetables and fish for cooking. I like to prepare them ahead of time, since the process seems to go fast once the cooking begins.

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Chop the onion into small pieces and set aside. Chop or press about three cloves of garlic and set aside in a small bowl.

Prepare the asparagus by rinsing and then removing the tough, fibrous lower portion of the stalks. Don't know how far up to cut the bottoms of the asparagus? All you have to do is bend the asparagus toward the bottom; it will snap apart in the perfect spot, right where the woody portion of the base begins. (I always end up snapping off a few stray ends that didn't get cut far enough up.)

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Set aside the asparagus spears on a metal cookie sheet. Chop about 7 or 8 leaves of fresh basil and set aside in a small bowl.

For the salmon, prepare it by removing the skin and rinsing off any scales that may have stuck around. Set aside.

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To cook the asparagus, melt two tablespoons of butter in the microwave. Drizzle the butter over the asparagus, add salt, a healthy dose of Parmesan cheese, and lightly toss the spears to coat them. Spread the spears out into a single layer on the metal sheet. Place the asparagus in the pre-heated oven for 10 - 12 minutes (cook for up to 20 minutes if you have thick stalks and like your asparagus softer).

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When the water comes to a boil, cook the pasta according to package directions. When finished, drain, add 2 tablespoons of butter, salt generously, and stir to coat the pasta. Set aside.

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When the asparagus is finished, remove the asparagus to a cutting board to cool, then chop the spears into bite-sized pieces.

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While the pasta and asparagus are cooking, heat two tablespoons of butter and two tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and stir occasionally until the onions are almost translucent.

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Add the minced or chopped garlic and continue to cook for a minute or two. Add the 1/2 cup chicken stock.

Place the salmon into the onion/chicken stock mixture and let the meat cook for 3 to 4 minutes on each side.

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When the salmon is nearly done and is beginning to separate, add the diced tomatoes and the heavy cream. Stir gently. Continue to cook until the salmon is cooked through. Remove from the heat.

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Add the chopped basil to the salmon mixture, as well as a healthy dose of salt and pepper to taste.

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Combine the noodles and the asparagus in the skillet, as well as Parmesan cheese to taste. I like a lot of cheese and end up using about half of a cup. Gently stir to combine. Add more salt and pepper if needed.

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Don't forget the bowl of chocolate ice cream at the end of the meal, it just wouldn't be right without it. :)

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Well, at least this time I didn't fall!

I made it! Every year we try to visit my parents' house to see this particular fireworks show. It's worth the 9 to 11 hour drive (depending on the temperament and bladders of the children involved, as well as the ever-present road construction in Nevada.)

This time around, I managed not to embarrass myself.

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Last year I had a rather spectacular public display of uncoordination. It was so cool. In honor of my ability to stay upright this year, I give you the recreation of the fall here.

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By the way, school starts around these parts in something like 2 1/2 weeks.

I'm kinda freaking out. How can summer be almost over already?

My goals this year:

1 - Convince my 2 year old that he still needs to nap, and figure out how to work it in even though I'll have to drive to the school 4 times a day to accommodate the different start times for the other two. Oh, and actually do something productive while he naps.

2 - Survive the onslaught of paper and figure out a better system for deciding what to keep and what to toss above and beyond shoving everything into a big box.

3 - Not cry when I drop my little Kindergartner off for the first time. At least, not so he can see. Or so anyone else can see.

Happy end of summer everyone, I hope you all enjoy your final weeks too!

Monday, July 18, 2011

A good cause, and guy-friendly purse holding techniques revealed!!

Project Purse and Boots is a fundraising event to combat stroke, originating from the brain of the lovely Lori from In Pursuit of it All. She and her brilliant friends realized how fabulous it would be to send this sequined purse around to enjoy a weekend with ladies from all over the country, and help raise funds for the American Stroke Association along the way.

Because, let's face it, stroke sucks.

I was thrilled to host Pursey Galore this last weekend.



Unfortunately, Pursey took a little unexpected extended vacation at an unknown location, so I had the pleasure of taking out her evil twin, OctoPursey.

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I dragged my best girl friend along (I'll have to work on making more friends my age here in the new neighborhood):

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We took OctoPursey to the fire station for a night of fun and dinner prepared for us at the hands of some talented firefighters.

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OctoPursey had a great time. She saw some pole action,

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got cozy with a fire truck,

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and even had the opportunity to snuggle up to this strong, handsome number.

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Over the course of the evening, OctoPursey was instrumental in an exchange between the firefighters about the only ways a guy can hold a sequined purse without losing a man-card.

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Acceptable method #1 - the finger pinch

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The object of this hold is to physically touch as little of the purse as possible. A distasteful or smirking facial expression is the key to properly executing this hold. Be sure to fully extend the arm out away from the body, elbows locked. Orient your extended arm in the direction of the closest female.

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Acceptable method #2 - the man grab

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Grasp the purse by both straps in one hand, with arm extended downward. (Please note that this hold works best with purses that are not sturdy.) Again, keep your elbow locked. Be sure to make a fist and tense your arm muscles, signaling a pending punch to any guy who attempts to take your man-card. And remember — never, ever look down at the purse you're holding, or acknowledge it in any way. Emotional detachment in your facial expressions is essential. Being all sweaty after a rigorous workout doesn't hurt, either.

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Acceptable method #3 - the illusionist

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If your wife begs and pleads you to "work it" while modeling the purse, use this method as a last-resort attempt to get her to put down the camera. Get a sturdy, puffy coat. Hold it out at arm's length and drape the purse over the empty shoulder. The trick to this method is careful cropping, to remove traces of the supporting hands.

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Oh, and of course, it's always acceptable to rescue a damsel's purse in distress (method #4):

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No particular rules of engagement apply here, other than remembering to adopt one of the aforementioned carrying methods after the purse has been retrieved.

A big thanks to the guys at the station, for a great night out, a fabulous meal, and the support of a good cause along the way.

And if you would like to donate to the American Stroke Association, you can do so here:

Friday, July 15, 2011

What could be better than a fabulous kitchen?

Check out the kitchen at my husband's new home station.

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Two sinks, huge range,

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and THREE larger than full-sized fridges!!

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(Keep in mind that currently, there are usually only three people staffed at this station at any one time. It was originally built, before the consolidation, to house many more than that.)

Industrial strength stainless steel everywhere, endless counter space, double dishwasher, huge red cabinets... this kitchen really has it all.

What, one might ask, could possibly make this kitchen even awesomer?

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How about having dinner prepared for me by firefighters as I sit on a recliner and watch a show?

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I, unfortunately, did not manage to take a picture of the meal. It was a sausage pasta, paired with a fabulous salad. And ice cream for dessert (of course.) And it was good! The guys at this station know how to cook!

So far, I'm reeeeally liking the new station!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Let's see what some paint can do - the dining room/gallery

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The old office had a few issues to resolve, the main one being it was set up as an office. A dark office. With wallpaper.


We decided to lighten the space up, switch out the fan, and turn the long room into a dining/gallery space. The facelift cost about $200.

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I spent a lot of time scrubbing/scraping/priming these walls. They're still not perfect, but I prefer not to think about that too much. Some of the texture on the walls (tomorrow's popcorn ceilings) started peeling away during the wallpaper removal. I wasn't about to scrape down ALL that texturing so I just let it be. We eventually want to put white paneling on one of the walls in there, similar to the paneling in the living room, so I'll work on the surface texture more then.

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In the meantime, I'm happy with how the dining room turned out. Here are some before and after pictures.

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I left some red in there, in loving memory of the walls I spent so much time altering.

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Black hole, begone!

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Dinner party, anyone? :)

If you missed them, you can see our other facelift projects here (living room) and here (kitchen).

Up next - the upstairs game room and the guest room.
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