The Excellent Adventures of Kim and Kev

Thursday, July 16, 2009

My First Gourmet Dish

A family cookbook.

Special recipes submitted by each female family member.

To cherish forever.

And I couldn't be more excited about it.

My cousin, Angela, is putting the cookbook together for us.

The same cousin who is expecting her first child in about a month and a half.

I'm amazed every day as to what all she is able to get accomplished. There must be more hours in the day in Pawley's Island. There has to be.

Well, this was the week of submission. Actually, she requested these recipes back in March. Which should have given me plenty of time to think.

But for some reason.... March quickly turned in to July. So here we were Monday night deciding on what we should submit.

Now you all know how much I LOVE to cook. And bake. And I have endless recipes that I have collected over the years. I had no idea how I would ever narrow it down.

Kev suggested writing down my favorite things to cook/bake and then choosing from the list. I was going to do that. But then I got sidetracked with a frog. And you all know how that story ended.

(Which... by the way... I am typing this at 2:30 am on Thursday morning. And.. yes.. Froggles is once again sitting outside by the pool. Staring off in to the palm trees.... and I am determined to let him be. To not sneak outside for a picture. Because how many pictures do you really need of a frog. Even if he is our new pet.)

I finally decided that I would do a main dish, an appetizer, and a dessert.

One of my FAVORITE desserts is banana pudding. My cousin Brandy's banana pudding. It is so rich and creamy and delicious. And I wanted to make sure that the recipe made it in to the cookbook. So, I submitted that one for Brandy.

Then I decided to submit Kev's new favorite dessert. The blueberry pineapple crunch cake. Don't act like you don't know what I'm talking about. I've made it three times in the last couple of months. Mother's Day, Beach trip, and 4th of July. And I've drooled over it on this blog with my words. Every time. It is an interesting dessert for Kev to love so much. Which makes it even more fun to make. Not to mention that it is easier than replacing a roll of toilet paper. Except for I seem to have a lot of trouble getting that done.

I'd rather make the cake.

Next I chose the appetizer. Now, we all know how much I love appetizers. I make entire dinners out of appetizers. I have been known to order up to three appetizers at a time at a restaurant. Finger foods are fun!

I wanted to go with a layered Greek Dip. I found a recipe for it years and years ago. I made it for Bethany. We fell in love with it. And it became a staple in my house every time she came to visit. There is one problem though. I lost the recipe. It is no problem for me personally because I have the ingredients memorized. But the measurements.... not so much. I kinda just make it up as I go along. I tried to picture amounts in my head. But I was never really that great at math. So, I gave up. Because the last thing I would want is for me to stretch the truth on a measurment and one of my loved ones makes the recipe and it tastes horrible.

I could be shunned for life.

So, I went with spinach/artichoke dip. Yes, the one from Paula Deen. And yes, the one that makes my eyes light up. Sometimes I even start singing in French. Or Italian. Let's just say that I sing the language of where the dip orginated from. And it better not be English. Because that would be no fun.

I can't help it. It is so good.

And that just left the main dish. I needed something that everyone seems to like. Something that everyone in the family had eaten before. Something that would be recognized as a "Kim and Kev" dish.

And I chose my Baked Ziti.

Back in the day. Let's say.... 13 years ago. I was a true Hamburger Helper every.night.of.the.week. gal. Throw in some spaghetti. And we were livin' the foodie life. Cooking wasn't my passion. It was my responsibility. And I would have been just as happy to sit there and eat a block of cheese. Or two.

And I did that often.

But then one day... I came across a recipe for baked ziti. In a random magazine. And it looked so "gourmet" and "difficult to make" and beautiful. Because of the peppers. And I knew that I had to try it. To impress Kev. And to give him a reason to keep me around.

I remember it being this huge ordeal. So much work. Took forever. But a couple of days ago when I was writing the recipe down. I realized that it is one of the easiest recipes I've ever made. And I laughed at how hard I used to think it was to make.

Over the years, I have made this dish multiple times. Especially for family gatherings. It was just what "Kim and Kev" did.

And yes, our names go in quotes as if we were one person. Because... freakishly... sometimes we almost are.

So, in honor of my first "gourmet" dish. I decided to make it for dinner this week. Except for I wanted to challenge myself. And I CUT THE RECIPE IN HALF. Do you even realize what a big deal that is for me? I cut NOTHING in half. Because I worry that we will run out of food. We will leave the dinner table hungry. We will break out in hives.

It worked out great. And we survived just fine. And we didn't have to eat baked ziti for leftovers the entire week. Because it makes a ton. FYI.

You start out by cutting 5 peppers. 3 red and 2 green.....

I love red and green peppers together. They are so pretty. It was like Christmas in July.

You cut them in chunks like you see in the picture. Unless you have a smaller pie-hole. Then you might want to cut them a little more.

Cook 1LB. of ziti noodles. I used whole wheat. Just for that extra fiber. We are getting close to 40 folks.

Mix cooked noodles, peppers, 20 oz can of diced tomatoes (minus 1/2 of juice), 8 oz. Monterey Jack, 8 oz. Cheddar, salt and pepper in a big bowl. Pour in to a 13x9 baking dish. Pour 1 cup half and half over top. Cover with foil. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake for 30 minutes more.

This is before it went in to oven....

And this is after. It is that simple. And it is delightful. And delicious. And fun to eat. And a good alternative to eating a meal with meat. Because it is filling. And there is a lot of cheese.

And that is all there is to it. I have now introduced you to the dish that started my love for cooking.
You should feel privaleged. And maybe a little hungry.
Be on the lookout for some amazing family recipes. I'm looking forward to sharing them with you.

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