Sunday, March 11, 2012


Years ago, Mr. McGhee and I lived in the Windy City.  We had a 3 bedroom, 1 bathroom, zero closet apartment that was smack dab in the Little Italy neighborhood.  Mr. McGhee was a student and I was working for a large pharmaceutical company.  We call those my "real job" years.  Thank God they only lasted two and a half years before I had a baby, stopped working, and we started our "broke as hell" years. 

Anyway, we had a favorite restaurant that we could only afford to go to on very special occasions, like when Mr. McGhee had a 4-hour graduation ceremony that I spent nervously trying to soothe our screaming 3 month old and stressing because I wasn't sure if it was legal to breastfeed in public or not, all while listening to a commencement speaker talk about "be the best you that you can be".  Well, sonofa "b", the best I could be that day was a frazzled, overtired, and overwhelmed new mom that wanted two things....garlic and wine.

So, occasionally I try to recreate those celebratory meals.  Yesterday, Mr. McGhee was very stressed out from a 12 hour day at work, and I had a trip to Target with the minis and only bought what was on my shopping list.  Yeah!  Two reasons to celebrate (in all honesty, I did buy 7 things that weren't on my shopping list, but they were from the dollar spot, and everyone knows that purchases from the dollar spot really don't count as purchases, they're principle buys!)  And we weren't celebrating Mr. McGhee's day, rather than celebrating that he made it home in time to eat and help put the minis to bed. 

The first course for dinner was garlic and bread.  I made my own bread following a recipe that came with my bread machine.  If you don't want to make your own, buy a loaf that's nice and crusty. 

Classic French Bread
  • 1 cup + 1 tbsp warm water
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 1/4 cups bread flour (*gasp*  I used white flour.  Hey, it's Saturday night and we're celebrating)
  • 1 tsp bread machine yeast
1.  Add ingredients according to your bread machine's instructions.
2.  Bake. 

In my opinion, this is not the best bread I have ever had, but that doesn't matter.  Wait until you see what goes on top of the bread.

Roasted Garlic
  • whole garlic bulb
  • olive oil
1.  Cut 1/4 to 1/2 inch off the top of a whole garlic bulb.
2.  Place bulb cut side up in a custard cup or other oven-safe dish and drizzle with olive oil.
3.  Cover with foil and bake at 400F for 25 minutes.
4.  Cool and gently squeeze the base of the bulb to push out the roasted cloves.
5.  Mash on a plate.  You can add additional olive oil and fresh grated Parmesan cheese.  Just don't lick the plate.  That is frowned on in most households.  In our house, you can lick the plate.  We don't judge. 

Cut the top of the garlic out.  Pick out any brownish-looking garlic cloves.

Here is the roasted garlic.  At this point, your house should smell ah-may-zing.

Squeeze the cloves onto the plate.....

.....mash and add olive oil and grated Parmesan, if you prefer.  I did one with, one without.  Both got devoured.

Are you thinking, "Oh. My. Heids McGhee, you have outdone yourself?"  I am sure you are because last night I was thinking the same thing.  But, guess what?  I've got more.

Tomato Bruschetta
  • 6 roma (plum) tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, stems removed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1.  Add all ingredients in order listed.
2.  Enjoy with bread.  Tell yourself you are awesome.  Because you really are.  I am too.

The bread, garlic, bruschetta combo is an amazing start to dinner.  But, I don't like to stop at amazing.  I prefer to aim for incredible.  Plus, I had leftover basil and I wanted to see if it was physically possible to make dinner for 5 using 3 whole bulbs of garlic.  So I made my personal favorite appetizer, stuffed mini sweet peppers.

Stuffed mini sweet peppers
  • 15-20 mini sweet peppers
  • 1/2 cup cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup goat cheese (you can substitute mozzarella, but I don't know why you would want to)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
  • 2 tbsp diced sun dried tomatoes
  • salt and pepper
1. Cut the tops off the peppers and clean out the seeds.
2. In a bowl, mix cream cheese and goat cheese.
3. Add garlic, basil, sun dried tomatoes, salt and pepper.
4. Using a small spoon, fill the mini pepper with the mixture.
5. OPTIONAL: brush peppers with olive oil and bake/broil for 5-10 minutes until pepper is soft. 

Do yourself a favor and make lots of these.  Stick the leftovers in the fridge and cut them up to put in scrambled eggs. 

The main course of dinner last night was sauteed mushrooms.  Oh wait, I think there was a steak under those mushrooms, but the mushrooms were definitely the star.

Sauteed Mushrooms
  • 3 Tablespoons Butter (or olive oil)
  • 16 ounces, weight White Mushrooms, Sliced
  • 1/3 cup Sherry Or Wine
  • Kosher Salt And Pepper To Taste
1.   Melt 2 tablespoons butter in large skillet and add sliced mushrooms. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
2.  Saute over medium-high heat for 2 minutes, then pour in sherry. Add salt and pepper.
3.  Continue cooking for 6 to 8 minutes, or until all liquid is evaporated.

The key to these mushrooms is the sherry.  I will never eat mushrooms that are not sauteed in sherry again.  In fact, I bought a bottle of sherry to keep in my purse for when I eat out.  If I know you in real life and walk up to you and hand you a bottle of sherry,that means, "I love you and I don't want you eating crappy mushrooms."

We had our mushrooms over a grass-fed NY strip steak, but to be honest, I would have devoured these mushrooms if they had been on an over-processed slice of bologna.

And there you go, next time you have something to celebrate in life, you've got your menu already planned!  My wish for you is that you can find something in each day to celebrate.