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You might not know this story, if you haven’t known Jon and I since we’ve been, well, Jon and I. Many many years ago (well, about six), when we first started dating, we would only frequent the restaurants near campus. Neither of us had a car, and to be honest, there wasn’t too much gourmet food within walking distance of N.C. State… Not that it would have mattered, probably, since we were broke, and I hadn’t yet forced fancy foods onto him. Yet….

One of our favorite places to go to was Ruby Tuesdays, and I would always get the salad bar, him the burger. He wasn’t big on salad, but I always got a heaping scoop of pasta salad on my plate for him to sneak bites of (at Ruby Tuesdays, there is NO SHARING OF THE SALAD BAR!!!). Jon proclaimed it The Best Pasta Salad EVER, and it was pretty good. It was enough to keep us coming back for more… until one day…

The worst had happened. They changed the pasta salad.

Jon was devastated. It was the only pasta salad he ever liked. Well, that, and once when we went white water rafting, when they fed us on the shores of a West Virginian river…

Anyhow, it has pretty much been my life’s work since then to create a pasta salad that we can both enjoy. But what do you do when one person likes mayo but hates loves olives, goat/feta cheese, and balsamic, and the other person feels the opposite?

Finally, I have solved The Pasta Salad Controversy.

Better than the Old Ruby Tuesdays’ Pasta Salad
(c) 2008 danadishes

1 box rotelli pasta, cooked and rinsed with cold water until cool
1/3 yellow pepper, diced
1/3 bell pepper, diced
1/3 small red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
Newman’s Own Oil/Vinegar Salad Dressing, about 2/3 cup

Pitted calmatta olives (My FAVORITE), as many as you can tolerate!!! (leaving extras to much on as you make the salad…)
As much goat cheese as you can HANDLE!
A sprinkling of shredded parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste

This is one of those great recipes where it’s fun to get your *clean* hands into the mix. Start by pressing the garlic into the bottom of the bowl with a spoon. That’s right, really smoosh it around. Then add 1/2 of the salad dressing, 1/2 of the diced peppers and onions, and start mixing it around with your hand while you add the drained, cooled pasta. Gradually add in the rest of the peppers and onions, and the rest of the dressing. More if it seems dry (but remember to watch for pooling in the bottom of the bowl). Salt and pepper the mix.
**This is the part where you separate half of the pasta salad for Jon. The boring half!!! 🙂
Now add the olives and feta and Parmesan and all the good stuff, and serve yourSELF! Yaaay!

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I never liked that Jump Rope Chant. Something about the false rhyme always grated on my nerves. I preferred to jump to “Cinderella dressed in yella/went upstairs to kiss her fella,” &c. Also, the one about school where at the end you just keep counting how many times you jump, and that’s what “grade” you are in.

Anyone up for double-dutch? When the weather gets warmer, I think I will have everyone over for a double-dutch tournament!!! This has nothing to do with strawberries.

a preview…

the blog has been quiet for awhile and I apologize… I’ve been cooking up something pretty awesome though (food pun! love it!). I can’t tell you yet, but here’s a sneaky little preview:

orange you glad

Soon, I promise! Soon!

dishes.jpg

If you live in Brooklyn, or any major metropolitan area, or even in the backwoods of Mississippi, there’s a chance you don’t have a dishwasher. My condolences. And if you’re anything like me, you fall for the curse of having a cute bowl and utensil for each action in the kitchen, which adds up to one helluva pile that may or may not spill over onto your stove. Call me crazy, but I just can’t rinse and re-use a bowl (let alone a paper towel, what are they THINKING in that commercial?!). I can’t even rinse it after I’m done with it. This is where Jon comes in.

Yes, I know I’m home all day. And though I AM doing valuable, important things (applying for jobs, catching up on missed episodes of shows that air in syndicated daytime tv, brushing the cat, sitting by the phone waiting to hear about jobs…), when Jon comes home from work, if there is a big mess o’ dishes piled high, I have guilt.

It’s not that he’ll say anything about it. It might take a few days for him to even mention the dish-in-sink to dish-in-cupboard ratio. Unlike a friend of mine, who’s roommate is also unemployed, and leaves her *own* dishes in the sink for days at a time while watching tv all day, then when asked about it replies “I HAVE NO TIME DURING THE DAY.” This same roommate tends to remain pajama-clad, and hardly move from the couch.

This post from a favorite blog of mine, The Brooklyn Nester, inspired me to give dishes a second chance a while back. And while I still hate the grainy, dry feeling my hands get after a half-hour soak in scalding Ajax, I crank up the tunes (now on ipod since we have no speakers… i rock out in silence while Jon sneaks up behind me) and somehow dishes become…… fun.

I’m not saying I want to do them. In fact, it still takes me nearly a full day to get motivated to actually do them. But I can’t help thinking my playlist has a lot to do with it. Some of the essentials:

-INXS – New Sensation
-Stevie Knicks – Edge of Seventeen
-Eurythmics – Sisters
-Scissor Sisters – Take Your Mama Out
-Journey – Any Way You Want It
-Destiny’s Child – Survivor
-Fergie – London Bridges
-Mazarin – For Energy Infinite
-Feist – See It All
-Gloria Estefan – Conga

and you can’t even think about making a playlist without at least a little Neil Diamond.

The point of this post was to gripe about dishes, but mainly to drop in the hint that soon (yes, soon!) I’ll know the joy of a dishwasher. Soon, soon! Maybe I’ll explain later. And the days of the playlist will be few and far between. Except on the occasional subway ride.  And for those hand-washables, the many parts to my kitchen appliances, until they make a dishwasher safe stand mixer or food processor (hey wait, don’t they?), I’ll at least need four songs to get me through. And at least one of them has to be Survivor.

I know it looks a little sparse, but trust me– it’s amazing. I have always dreamt of having a fridge full of gourmet and fresh ingredients from which I could produce beautiful, healthy meals. Our amazing neighbor Michael, who is a chef at an upstate restaurant (will have to find out which), told me his restaurant would be closing for the winter, and he’d be bringing over a few things. These “few things” included:

Truffled Cauliflower Sou
Fresh Mozzarell
Grated Mozzarella
Limes galore!
Portobellos
Onions
Zucchini
Pressed Cream
Butter
Cream
Red Potatoes
Grapes
Green beeeeens
Hearts of Romaine
the filling to a chicken pot pie (luckily, i make a mean pie crust

What a wonderful surprise! I love this big block of butter (next to the obligatory film-in-fridge)

Use It or Lose It

In pantries, as in life, chances are if you don’t use it, you will lose it. I always buy fresh fruit and vegetables with the best of intentions, only to discover a penicillin farm thriving in my crisper weeks later.   Lately, (mostly due to budgetary reasons) I’ve avoided buying fresh ingredients  unless I have a specific and failsafe plan for them in the next THREE DAYS. Otherwise, I pass. I’ve missed some beautiful fruits, friends, some mouthwatering nectarines and perfect avocados, heirloom tomatoes come and gone… but I can’t do it. Until I am again gainfully employed, it’s frozen veg and multi-purpose meals for us.

It is with this “Use it or Lose it” attitude that I raided our cabinets, our drawers, our freezer and fridge, and what I came up with surprised even Jon (who is not very easily surprised). I call it: well, now I can’t think of anything catchy. Wait. It’ll come to me.

Anyhow, without further adieu, I give you “——–“:

chicken.jpg

Rather than a recipe, I’ll tell you what I did and what I used, and rather than recreate this particular dish, I’m hoping it will inspire you to combine whatever crazy ingredients you have lying around into something (surprisingly) delicious. And as always, if you fail, Chinese is only a phone call away….

“——————-”

-4 thawed chicken breast tenders
-olive oil
-1 REALLY, REALLY stale baguette (not moldy)
-oregano, parsley, basil, cayenne pepper, salt, pepper
-a handful of spaghetti noodles
-red onion, garlic and shallot remnants
-less than 1/2 a jar of storebought pasta sauce (*sigh*, yes, even I buy my sauce from time to time…this budget business SUCKS for achieving culinary greatness!!!!)
-the remnants of a slightly moldy (but still quite good) wedge of Parmigiana-Reggiano cheese!

I probably tossed a few random items in there too, but this seems fairly comprehensive.

So, I whipped out the food processor and threw in a few slices of the baguette, as well as the spices, creating beautiful seasoned breadcrumbs. I took the chicken, pounded it flat, rubbed olive oil and then the breadcrumb mixture all over it. (This is a lot like another particular Italian dish. But, IPL be damned, it’s MY RECIPE! Bwuhahaha.) I crisped it up in the pan over some olive oil, while cooking the noodles in a big noodle pot, and at the last minute remembered the pasta sauce, which I haphazardly threw in the microwave for a minute or so. Brilliant. It all came together in less than 15 minutes and I piled the noodles, then the chicken, then a bit o’ sauce onto a lovely white plate, grated some of that lovely cheese on top, then presented it to Jon as he finished up beating Super Mario Galaxy, much to his amazement.

I of course thought it was brilliant, but I’ll let his comments speak for themselves: “Oh Man! It’s so juicy!” “Wow– we had all this stuff in there?” “This is great!” Etc, etc.

You, too, can create kitchen miracles. Try throwing whatever random  ingredients you have lying around (capers, frozen asparagus, olive paste, whatever) and see what you can come up with! Just like every morning when I step into my closet and realize I have nothing to wear, the pantry/fridge can appear equally as empty. But I assure you– there is a meal in there somewhere! And it’s up to you to find it!! Excavate, friends, and let me know what you come up with!