We got together with The Neighbors and took the kids to the Turtleback Zoo in West Orange this morning, and they were very excited. Nicholas couldn’t wait to see the bears and wolves and as we pulled into the parking lot, he exclaimed, “Wow, this is terrific! But remember, don’t touch the wolves!” I’m not sure where the word “terrific” comes from, since I don’t use it often — he cracks me up sometimes! As you can see from the picture above, both kids are VERY attached to the shirts they got when we were in Mexico in February. Without prior conversation this morning, they both arrived in the same t-shirt … ahhh, those silly lovebirds.
Unfortunately, the zoo was a bit of a let-down. The wallabies, wolves and kangaroos were sleeping, the bear was so small and far away we could barely see it, let alone the kids, and the alligator exhibit was closed. The place is immaculate and the crowds were negligible, which made it more enjoyable, but there wasn’t too much for the kids to really see, unfortunately. Needless to say, a day at the Bronx Zoo is planned. (And if you happen to go to Turtleback, the front gate ONLY takes cash – fyi).
Nicholas spent some time playing at my parents’ house this afternoon, and we met him there for dinner. My Mom has been using Rachael Ray’s newest cookbook, Express Lane Meals, a lot lately, and tonight’s dinner recipe came from there, Pasta with Broccoli and Sausage with a Ricotta Surprise. It was light and delicious, and even Nicholas liked it (but, of course, eschewing the broccoli). He demolished the salad and blew threw more than half a slice of cheesecake. He goes through phases where he either grazes all day or eats like there’s no tomorrow. One guess what phase he’s in now. ;) My Mom topped the cheesecake with Fruit Stew, a recipe from one of Costco’s own cookbooks, Cooking the Costco Way. Makes great use out of fresh blueberries and strawberries.
Alright folks, all for tonight. Tomorrow, it looks like there’s a field trip in order to go check out the pirates. If you’re in the area, you might want to check it out … they’re there every weekend in June.
Nicholasism for Today: “Grandma, what’s for dessert?” “Cheesecake.” “Where did it come from?” This gave us a chuckle — geesh, it’s not like she never bakes!
Rachael Ray’s Pasta With Broccoli and Sausage With a Ricotta Surprise
1 lb short-cut pasta, such as penne
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 lemon, juice and zest of
fresh ground black pepper
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, once around the pan
1 lb bulk sweet Italian sausage
1 large head broccoli
1 medium onion, chopped
4 large garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1/2 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese or pecorino romano cheese, plus some to pass at the table
Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente. Heads up, you will need to use about 1/2 cup of the starchy cooking liquid for the sauce before you drain the pasta.
In a small mixing bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, lemon zest, salt, and a lot of freshly ground black pepper. Reserve the ricotta mixture on the countertop and let it come up to room temperature The flavors of the cheese and lemon will develop as the cheese warms up.
Preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat with the EVOO. Add the sausage and break it up with the back of a wooden spoon into a small bite-size pieces. Really go at breaking the meat up; it will make a difference in the end. Cook the meat until brown, about 4 to 5 minutes. While the sausage is browning, prepare the broccoli. Cut the broccoli tops into small florets. Remove the fibrous outer layer of the stem (just square it off using your knife), then thinly slice the tender center portion of the stem.
Once the sausage is browned, remove it to a paper-towel-lined plate. Return the skillet to the heat and add all of the broccoli and the chopped onion. Spread the veggies out in an even layer in the pan, season with some salt and pepper, and let the broccoli brown up a bit before stirring, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and continue to cook 2 minutes more. Add the sausage back to the skillet along with the chicken stock. Ladle in some cooking water from the pasta and bring up to a simmer. Cook until the broccoli is tender and the liquids have reduced slightly, about 2 minutes. Add the lemon juice, parsley, and cooked, well-drained pasta. Toss to combine and simmer 1 last minute to allow the pasta to soak in the sauce and flavors. Turn the heat off, add the grated cheese, and toss to combine.
To serve, place a large dollop of the pepper-lemon-ricotta mixture into each of 4 shallow bowls and bury it with the hot pasta. Once you are at the table, mix it up with a fork to distribute the ricotta cheese. Serve with extra grated cheese.
Warm Fruit Stew
Recipe from Cooking the Costco Way, courtesy of Chef Jeremiah Tower
1 cup strawberries, halved
1 cup blueberries
1 cup blackberries
1/4 cup Light Syrup, recipe follows
1 tablespoon sweet butter, cut into cubes or softened
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Prepare the Light Syrup. Combine water and sugar in a 2:1 ratio in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, until all the sugar is dissolved. Simmer 5 minutes, cool. Put the fruit in a frying pan and add the syrup. Cook over medium heat for 2 minutes, shaking the pan gently to coat the fruit with syrup. Add the butter, a pinch of salt, and the lemon juice, and continue to cook, swirling the fruit and butter around in the pan, another minute, or until the butter has melted. Spoon the fruit compote onto 4 plates and place scoops of vanilla ice cream in the center of each serving.
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup water
Put the sugar and water in a pan. Bring the water to a boil, stirring constantly, until all the sugar is dissolved. Simmer 5 minutes, then let the syrup cool. Use as needed.