This Week for Dinner

And, it’s Sunday again.

So, here’s what we’ve been cooking up for the last few days:

Pasta with Butternut Parmesan Sauce

From: Simply Recipes

This was the highlight of my week! The prep time is a bit lengthy, because you have to roast the squash for about 40 minutes in the oven, but the results are worth it. The sauce is rich and velvety and got me really excited about cooking with more fall flavors in the months ahead. You could probably use this as a base for a butternut squash soup—just use chicken stock for a bit more flavor and thicken it up a bit with some cream. We added garlic (it’s the base for almost everything we cook!) and I’m glad we did, since it might have been a bit bland without it. I’ve also seen a few similar recipes that jazz things up even more with the addition of other ingredients, including pine nuts, bacon and/or sage.

Baked Chicken Parmesan

From: Skinnytaste

The staple Italian dish gets a healthy makeover. Since we had a couple of pasta dishes on the menu, we opted for quinoa and zucchini as side options.

Beef and Broccoli

From: Cooking Light

Yes, beef can be pricey, but be sure to splurge a bit for a good cut for this dish. The broccoli and other ingredients are cheap, so it all evens out.

Chicken Marsala Pasta

From: Baked Bree

One of the nice things about chicken marsala is that it smells so darn good when it’s cooking—earthy and sweet at the same time. You can get the same effect with this relatively easy dish.

Greek Pizza

From: Cooking Light

Someday, I’m going to try to make my own pizza dough. But, for now, we save time by buying pre-made crust (we usually use Mama Mary’s honey wheat. They come in packs of two so you can keep one in the freezer for another meal). We added Portobello mushroom slices to this for a bit of extra protein.

Okay, now to work out our plan for the next week! What’s on your menu?

This Week for Dinner

Hope that everyone had a good weekend! It seems as though the summer is just flying by, but July has been a bit more relaxing than June was. Thank goodness for that.

Still looking for some ideas for dinner this week? Well, here you go!

Steak Fajitas with Sweet  Potatoes

From: Real Simple

I’ll get these out of the way first, because I just wasn’t a fan. I’ve decided I feel the same way about skirt steak as I do about snow peas. Big dislike. Maybe with a different cut of beef, I would have enjoyed these more. And, maybe you like skirt steak. In which case, you should make these.

Honey Cashew Chicken

From: Cooking Light

Moving on to better things, with this stir-fry, which had a great combination of flavors and ingredients. You could substitute whatever vegetables you happen to like or maybe what you have growing in your garden this summer.

Summer Pasta Bolognese

From: Real Simple

This sauce has a nice, chunky texture and includes all of the best summer vegetables, including sweet tomatoes and basil and cool zucchini. I really need to start growing tomatoes though, because those things are expensive–four beefsteak tomatoes at our grocery store were nearly $8. That’s crazy.

Mini Greek Lamb Burgers

From: Martha Stewart

We don’t eat lamb that often, but this recipe reminded me how good and versatile it can be. If you are grilling, you could make these into larger patties, but the sliders are pretty adorable, aren’t they?

Summer Squash, Prosciutto and Pasta Salad

From: Cooking Light

We make so many pasta salads in the summer that they all start to run together. That’s all I have to say about that.

What was your favorite recipe from last week and what’s on your menu this week?

Christmastime Fun at Winterthur and Restaurant Review: Pagoda Noodle Cafe

One of Winterthur's many Christmas trees.

There are so many Christmas-y things to do in Philadelphia that it would be impossible to try to fit them all in each holiday season. Of course, there are some things that we try to do every year—the Light Show and Dicken’s Village at Macy’s—just because we’ve always done them. But, during the past couple of years, we’ve tried to visit some different places with holiday festivities taking place. This year, my mom, aunt, Chester headed to Delaware for the “Yuletide at Winterthur” tour.

Close up of the peony tree.

Winterthur is a sprawling estate that takes up nearly 1,000 acres of land and was the home of Henry Francis DuPont and his family.  Henry was quite the hoarder collector. Over his lifetime he accumulated, literally, thousands of objects—from glassware to books to building facades that he incorporated into the architecture of his estate. To store all of these treasures, he just kept adding rooms onto his house. During the holiday season, many of the 175 rooms are done up with festive décor that reflects Christmas traditions from colonial America through World War II.

Montmorenci Staircase. DuPont found this in a home in South Carolina and had it brought to Winterthur.

If you are planning to go, this year’s Yuletide runs through January 8th and reservations can be made in advance on the museum’s website. We had a really excellent guide for the hour-long tour, who knew so much about the history of the place, traditions, and the objects on display.

Dried flower tree. Smelled so good!

Afterwards, we headed over to King of Prussia Mall so that we could do some shopping. As expected, there were jerks in the parking lot (Chester was waiting patiently for a parking spot and someone swooped in and stole it!), it was crowded and lines were pretty long. Although we all got a few things checked off our lists, we didn’t want to brave the crowds for dinner around there. So, we headed back into the city for Chinese food at Pagoda Noodle Café in Old City.

We’ve been to Pagoda a bunch of times before because it’s right next door to one of the Ritz movie theaters. Chinese food is actually not my favorite thing in the world, but when I do have an odd craving for it, I don’t mind going to Pagoda. The dishes are not laden with salt and all of the other things that invariably make me feel a bit ill after eating Chinese food (I’ve never fully recovered from my experiences with the now closed Happy Dragon in South Philly’s Whitman plaza. Ugh).

We always order steamed dumplings at Pagoda. They include a generous helping of pork, vegetable or chicken and can also be ordered fried. On this visit, I ordered the pagoda noodle soup, which included an ample amount of shitake mushrooms and chicken. It was the perfect meal for such a chilly day. Some other dishes I’ve tried and liked include the Mango Chicken and Thai Style Grilled Salmon Filet. Chester’s favorite dish is General Tso’s Chicken, and he gives Pagoda’s version pretty high marks.

There are two floors in the restaurant, but it never seems really busy. It has been open for more than ten years though, so I’m guessing that they must do a decent business with take-out and deliveries. If you read some of the reviews online, you’ll probably notice that many people complain about poor service, but I don’t think we’ve ever had a problem. The servers do seem a little cold, but they are attentive to guests and the food comes out promptly.

The portions are really huge, so I had plenty to take to work with me for lunch on Monday. Most importantly, it was a much more enjoyable experience than if we had to wait for an hour or more for a table at a restaurant at the mall.

Do you have any favorite Christmas traditions and/or places to go after a long day of Christmas shopping that you’ll be hitting up this weekend?  Only ten days left until the big day (and three days left of work until 2012! Not that I’m counting).