Sunday, October 30, 2011

Date Night: Pasta Carbonara with Leeks & Lemon

Steve and I have never been good about making time to hire a babysitter and go out together. We don't really know anyone who babysits around these parts either, so that doesn't help. We both like to cook though, so recently we've taken to making some mac & cheese, getting a Redbox, and banishing the children in the family room so that we can have 1.5-2 hours of kid-free time to cook and have a meal together (the kind of meal that the children would most likely gag and make faces at). I'm on a personal mission to make sure we do this once a week. It will become especially important when Steve heads back to work in a couple of weeks, and the stress level around here goes from zero to about 250. Not exactly looking forward to that. But, I digress...

I think I've mentioned before that I love the magazine Everyday Food. I look forward to receiving my subscription every month, and I always end up making something from every issue. For last week's date night, I made Pasta Carbonara with Leeks & Lemon. Below is my own adaptation of the recipe - - I made a couple of changes to suit our tastes. You can find the original recipe in the November 2011 issue, on page 16.

Pasta Carbonara with Leeks & Lemons

10 slices thick-cut bacon, sliced crosswise in 1-inch pieces

2 large leeks (white and light green part only), halved lengthwise and sliced thin **

3/4 lb. short pasta, such as orecchiette or fusilli

2 large, fresh eggs

1/4 cup grated Parmesan (plus more for serving)

1/2 - 1 Tbsp. finely grated lemon zest, depending on taste. I used 1 Tbsp. and liked the flavor; Steve could have done with less lemon.

1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves, chopped

** Leeks can be a pain to clean. Dirt likes to hide between the layers. If you cut them crosswise, then hold on to one end firmly, you can separate the layers under running water and wash away all the grit. You can also Google "cleaning leeks" and find all kinds of different ways to clean them without a lot of effort.

Set a large pot of salted water to boil. Meanwhile, cook bacon over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 8-10 minutes until crisp. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon to drain on a paper towel. Remove all but 2 Tbsp. of the bacon grease from the pan, and add the leeks. Season with salt and pepper, then cook, stirring often, until leeks are beginning to brown, approximately 10 minutes.

Add pasta to boiling water and cook according to package directions. While the pasta is cooking, whisk the eggs together in a bowl. Whisk in the Parmesan, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Remove 1/4 cup of the boiling pasta water, and whisk it into the egg mixture.

Drain the cooked pasta, and immediately add to the egg mixture, along with the bacon, leeks, and parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately. Tastes even better the second day!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

A Quick Trip to Maine

A few short weeks ago, my dear friend Jen's husband (hi, Chad!) contacted me, to see if there was a chance I could come to a surprise party for Jen's 40th birthday (in Maine!). I mentioned it to Steve and he thought I should just go for it. After going back and fourth for a few days about it, I found an airline ticket that would work, and started planning. It was pretty spur-of-the moment, but Jen and I have shared some unique and crazy adventures together over the years, so it all seemed fitting. It would be a weekend trip, and with two full days of travel, that left me with little more than two days in Maine, but boy, did I make the most of it!

Even though it was the quickest trip ever, I was determined to see Kate. Kate and I have known each other since the fourth grade ~ definitely one of my oldest friends. Every time I've been to Maine in the past 10 years we attempt to get together but have never been able to make it happen, so I was thrilled to see her. I got off the plane and met her for dinner (yay for real seafood!) and wish we could have spent more time together, but I sure was happy just to see her at all. Kate will most likely disown me for posting the above picture, but I'm willing to take the risk. I had to do some photo-editing because my face was so darn shiny from being on an airplane all day. Lovely! On a side note, if you've never visited Kate's blog before, do yourself a favor. Lots of creativity and dry wit. Kate, you're the best!

After dinner with Kate, I sped down to Topsham for some sleep and some time with my mother (who, I didn't get one single picture of). Next, I set off for the southern tip of Maine (more or less) and the scenic town of Wells. Somewhere between landing in Maine and arriving in Wells, I learned that Jen actually knew all about her surprise (stinker!). At least the pressure was off to make sure nobody blew my cover, and I even got to arrive a little early and spend more time with Jen.

We had a wonderful birthday dinner at Pedro's in Kennebunk, and I even got to see an old college friend (Darcey, on the left) who I hadn't seen in probably 18 years ~ she was just as I'd remembered her! If you live in the Brunswick/Topsham area, you may recognize her, as she is a doctor at Midcoast Hospital.

Had to get a picture with my favorite sports writer.

The next morning, Jen and I had a late breakfast and then headed to Ogunquit and a walk along Marginal Way. The weather was perfect and I'm so glad that I got to see the ocean.

That evening, I zoomed back up the coast to Topsham for dinner with my mother, and some sleep. Monday proved hectic with packing, a trip to the post office, and then a mad dash to see my nephews and sister-in-law. I had never met my youngest nephew, Oliver, before, so I was really glad to have the chance. My sister-in-law is lucky I didn't stuff Max (on the left, below) into my suitcase and take him back to Idaho with me. What a sweet little boy.

After leaving Dani and the boys, I zipped over to the Tontine Mall parking lot, for a lightening-speed visit and hug with my friend Heather. Heather, along with Kate and Jen, was a huge support to me while Steve was deployed, and I was so happy to see her, even if only for a few minutes.

Next it was off to the airport and back to Idaho. By the time I landed at 11 p.m. that night, my head was spinning. I can't believe how much I managed to cram into those couple of days, while still keeping the pace enjoyable.

A huge thank you to Steve, who really made the whole trip possible. He held down the fort for me while I was gone, and I came back to happy children and a clean house. Hooray!

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