Friday, July 16, 2010

Monday Blues

Hi DCFoodLovers!  Sorry the posts have been sparse lately, summer really just seems to have a way of getting away from me!  Between travelling and a crazy work schedule, June and July are always a little hectic.  That and I haven't been cooking much lately because I'm never home!  I did try out a new pasta recipe earlier this week though, so I finally have something to share! 

Monday night B and I invited two friends up for dinner.  Everyone hates Mondays, so I can't think of a better way to cheer up the day and make the week more bearable than by spending the night with friends, a bottle of wine, a good meal, and The Bachelorette!  Pasta is my go-to comfort food, so I picked a new Giada recipe to try to help beat the Monday blues.  Of course I adapted it to my own liking- added more vegetables, and I kind of guestimated measurements (that's the beauty of a pasta dish, you can usually get away with just throwing things together).  I thought it turned out very well, everyone seemed to enjoy it, and it really was a great way to start off the week!
I encourage you all to try an early-week dinner party, you won't be sorry!
Italian Baked Chicken and Pasta
Adapted from a recipe by Giada De Laurentiis
Serves 4
1/2 box whole wheat rotini
1 zuchinni, cut into bite-sized chunks
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup cubed chicken breast
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced 
1 can diced tomatoes with juice
1 cup shredded mozzarella
oregano, red pepper flakes, parsley, salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup Italian breadcrumbs
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1 tbsp butter
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Cook pasta until tender (about 5 minutes) and drain.

Meanwhile, saute the chicken in olive oil over medium heat.  Cook for about 3 minutes, then add the onion, garlic and zuchinni and cook for 5 more minutes.  Put the pasta in a mixing bowl and add the chicken and zuchinni mixture, the can of tomatoes, cheese, herbs, salt and pepper and mix well.  Place in a buttered 8 by 8 baking dish. Top with the breadcrumbs and parmesan and bits of butter.  Bake for 30 minutes. 
Cook's note: You can save yourself some time on Monday by making this dish ahead of time Sunday night.  Just stop after placing the mix in the baking dish, cover and refrigerate overnight.  Add the breadcrumbs and parmesan right before baking on Monday.

Bon Apetit! 

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Lacking Lunches...

Oh capitol hill cafeterias, what high hopes I have for you- all the promises from restaurant vendors for better and cheaper options for us poor, underpaid hill staffers, all the tasty sounding daily lunch options and weekly specials- only to have those hopes dashed when I bring back a soggy sandwich or salty turkey dinner to suffer through at my desk...

I can't tell you what a struggle it is to find a decent lunch option on the hill.  First time visitors to the capitol complex may be impressed with the wide array of services available to Members and staff.  Honestly, you can get everything you need to survive the week without stepping outside- cafeterias, a barber, a dry cleaner, a bank, a post office, and a gym.  Unfortunately, the appeal wears off quickly, and staffers are left suffering through subpar meals or eating from a vending machine.  SInce we're pretty much chained to our desks when Congress is in session, we can't hit up all the great downtown restaurants for a 2 hour lunch.  We're left with the cafeterias, a brown bagged lunch, or one of the few takeout places in a 10 minute walk.  I'm usually a brown bag girl.  A. It's cheaper, and B. I can't handle the overpriced, tasteless cafeteria food (it takes me back to my high school days...).  When I need a break from packing I run up the street to grab food to take back to the office.  In the three years that I've worked on the Hill, I've discovered a relative lack of affordable food options in walking distance of the Capitol.  The discovery surprised me, after all, there are tens of thousands of Hill employees, plus an influx of lobbyists, tourists, and business people when we are in session.  You'd think the place would be bursting with options waiting to capitalize on all that potential.   

Fortunately, restaurants are beginning to catch on, and Pennsylvania Ave is finally getting some action.  I can't tell you how excited Hill staffers get for new lunch options!  Good Stuff Eatery has to make a killing off us, and Sweetgreen just opened.  I can't wait for Chef Spike's pizza shop to open next month!  

While lunch wish number one is starting to come true, and I'm excited with the influx of options down the street, I'm still waiting for the cafeterias to catch up and offer something halfway decent.  Until then, I guess it's brown bags for me!