Monday, December 27, 2010

Goals for 2011

As we move into the new year, I wanted to lay out some cooking goals I have for myself. Most of these involve trying new dishes whether it's new dishes I have never had but associate with being a 'good cook' or just stuff I have been curious about.
You will notice a lot of 'from scratch' in my goal list. One of my major over-arching goals for the year is to continue cutting out processed foods from my diet.

1. Make fish once a week. Manatee and I love seafood yet we rarely make it. Why? Because it terrifies me. No rationale beyond it. I can handle salmon but everything else just seems foreign and out of reach. Hopefully we can work to take the mystique out.
2. Make Coq au Vin.
3. Make Boeuf Bourguignon a la Julia Child.
4. Make homemade macaroni and cheese. Do I like noodles? Not really. And I'm lactose intolerant so this really makes no sense other than I just have always wanted to do it. So there.
5. Make a real ragut sauce. I have several books on Italian cooking and I need to get cracking on them.
6. Have a formal dinner party.
7. Learn more about wine pairing.
8. Visit a winery.
9. Attend a wine tasting.
10. Make 'real' scalloped potatoes.
11. Cook lamb.
12. Cook/Roast a whole chicken. This is another strange thing that terrifies me. I prefer my chicken skinless and boneless.
13. Make an angel food cake from scratch.
14. Conquer my fears of making bread- no bread machine, just me and active yeast. I need to get over the unleavened bread disaster from this past summer.
15. Make pasta from scratch.
16. Master the art of making a double layer cake from scratch so that I can have an old reliable way of doing it.
17. Try making different rolls and biscuits until I find one that I can claim as a trademark.
18. Continue with 'the plan' or, if you haven't been following, having a plan for every week.
19. Start cooking with dried beans, not canned.
20. Convince Manatee that goat cheese is awesome OR find a cheese that Manatee and I both love. There is no cheese I love more than goat cheese and there is no cheese Manatee hates more. I love it if I could find a way to prepare it that both of us would love or find a cheese we both like and I love as much as goat cheese, it would be a good thing. Suggestions anyone- on recipes for goat cheese or cheeses that would appeal to both palates?

I will monitor my progress on the blog. I am leaving it up to you to hold me accountable.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Cookie Baking Extravaganza 2010

There are a lot of things I make that are low fat. Frosting is not one of them.

Favorite Frosting for the Holidays

8 oz Cream Cheese (You could use reduced fat cream cheese)
8 oz Unsalted Butter
4 cups powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla

1. Beat with electric mixer: cream cheese and butter.

2. Beat in sugar and vanilla.

3. Add food coloring and yum!


I am trying to be nice to myself over the holidays and Manatee is helping me to do that. Menus are based on what we know and the least fuss possible while still serving good food.

Christmas Eve will be appetizers. My mother is bringing meatballs and we are having shrimp cocktail with tarrago aoli (I couldn't be nice enough where I didn't have to do something more than just dump cocktail sauce in a bowl) and the mushroom cheesey bread. We'll also have a salad available.

Saturday we are bringing a big salad as well as fresh veggies with dips- hummus (easy! not homemade) and a carmelized onion dip.

Sunday we are making two cookie pans of homemade pizza following my grandmother's recipe. We will also have a big salad and leftover veggies from Saturday.

Sweet items for the weekend (as my family is notorious for their sweet tooth): Cookies from the Cookie Extravaganza (pics to come!) and gingerbread cupcakes (recipe a la Weight Watchers).

Snackey items: aformentioned dips and veggies, as well as sweet and spicey walnuts, and a cheese and sausage tray that Manatee received as a gift.

We are having overnight guests so we need something for breakfast but nothing too filling since we will be eating big lunches so I am going to make a banana bread with peanut butter sauce (recipe a la Cooking Light).

One thing Manatee and I struggle with over the holidays is that we maintain a fairly healthy lifestyle and most of the foods we enjoy eating are not necessarily enjoyable by the masses. For example, our love of salads, veggies, sugar free jello, etc. We are not too big into snacking but when we have guests, we often find ourselves struggling to provide snacks that they won't turn their noses up to or breakfasts they won't have to choke down (apparently not everyone loves Fiber One and Crunchy Corn Bran with Soy Milk- shocker, I know). We'll see how this weekend goes as we have tried to find that balance between healthy but feels like a treat and while also keeping it low fuss.

Monday, December 13, 2010


Do you know what is REALLY disgusting?

Gluten Free Pizza Bread.

'Nuff said.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Plan: Entering the Holidays

I thought I would change the background color in honor of the holidays.

Okay, confession: I LOVE the holidays. So even though we have been hit by a major blizzard, I am perfectly content staying inside wrapping presents, decorating the tree, working on Christmas cards, etc.

Yesterday I braved the world of gluten free baking. Now, quick sidebar- I am still learning about gluten free baking so what I may describe may not be totally gluten free but it is a big step forward. I am really going to try to learn more about it and will keep you posted as I go.

So my first attempt was gluten free cornbread from scratch. I am not sharing the recipe because it was kinda bland (which I don't think was because it was gluten free) but it did turn out. I got some special flour and used xanthum gum in place of flour. Manatee was able to eat and didn't feel bad afterwards and I have to admit, I even felt noticeably better than I normally do when I pig out on cornbread but it still may be mental at this point.

Week Plan:

Monday: "Gluten-free" Pizza Bread (Ultimate Cooking Book)

Tuesday: Provencale Chicken over Bed of Spinach (Cooking Light)

Wednesday: Book Club

Thursday: Happy Hour

Friday: Quinoa Stuffed Peppers (Healthy Cooking-Taste of Home)

Saturday: Cookie Baking Extravaganza!

A Baking Tale in Pictures

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Oh Quinoa!

Quinoa, pronounced Keen-wa, is the new favorite grain of the Manatee/Badger Girl household. Wednesday night we made a quinoa pilaf. It was awesome though I will say that I liked it much better then next day, when I stirred in some leftover steak. The irony of this being, for those who know me, is that there have been several times in my life where I have been a vegetarian. yet when faced with a particularly good vegetarian meal then all I could think of was, 'Gee this would be better with meat'.

Here is my leftover lunch with meat.

Hmmm...that doesn't look as appetizing as it actually is. I guess you will just have to trust me on this. Now I will give you the recipe, but a warning: I kind of suck at ratios. You will only want to follow this to a tee if you are feeding a small athletic team or teenage boys. Adjustments may need to be made for a typical family or couple.

Quinoa Pilaf

2 cups uncooked quinoa
4 cups water

1 huge jar of salsa
2 cans of black beans
lots of taco seasoning
4-5 green onions sliced

  1. Cook the quinoa as directed. I did 2 cups of uncooked quinoa with 4 cups of water. That makes a LOT of quinoa just so you know.
  2. Mix in the other ingredients and heat until it's all nice and warm. I kept adding taco seasoning until I could taste it, then I added salt. 
  3. Eat.

I served it over green romaine lettuce with greek yogurt. It was good but I would also suggest mixing in chicken or steak. Then it's awesome.

We will definitely make this again.

In regards to The Plan, due to my off ratios with this dish and what I made last night (chicken sausage + various veggies + diced tomatoes + tomato paste + spaghetti squash), we do not need any new recipes anytime soon, so leftovers are on the docket. Once we catch up, I will post the new Plan and keep you posted.

The baked good goal of the weekend is biscotti. I will be making some for the cookie exchange at work. I'm excited and terrified.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

A Love Affair Begins...

with Quinoa. I finally found a grain that Manatee likes! Quinoa- the super food that also has protein. You will see it in many upcoming recipes.

This post could have also said: A Love Affair Continues...with the slow cooker.  3 meals in the slow cooker last week but alas, no pictures. Don't worry- all the recipes made the cut so they will be repeated.

And finally this post could have been: A Love Affair Begins...with home made pasta. Manatee and I spent the afternoon with some friends who taught me how to make homemade pasta. So easy! If only I had the right equipment...

So this week's plan:

Monday: Leftovers

Tuesday: Black Bean, Quinoa and Salsa Pilaf
from The 5 Ingredient Vegetarian Gourmet

Wednesday: Chicken, Tomato, and other veggies over Spaghetti Squash/Spaghetti

Thursday: Beer tasting!

Friday: Sesame Soy Meatballs with Quinoa and Sugar Snap Peas
(Cooking Light)

Saturday: Vegetarian Chili

Sunday: Moroccan Chicken with Preserved Lemons
(Fine Cooking)

Baking: I might attempt a gluten free baking this week. Manatee and I suspect he may have a mild wheat/gluten intolerance and I am tired of eating my entire batch of baked goods (though I really had no trouble finishing off the pumpkin oat bread). Has anyone ever attempted any gluten free baking?


I will try to be better with pictures this week.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Plan: Monday

Before I launch into tonight's dinner, I have some pictures from last week and some humble pie.

May I present: the world's flattest and ugliest cookies.


I am sure you are looking at these and thinking, well hey maybe they taste good. Though they were a hit at work, my father, whom I have never seen turn his nose up to a cookie, threw half of his away. Gasp! 

So what happened? I have to admit I am a little intimidated by my stand mixer. Now I grew up in a household where we had home baked cookies on a weekly basis (Could that be why I was so chubby?!), but my mother did all her mixing by hand. 

I registered for the stand mixer because I was enamored by it. Yes, I had a crush on stand mixers. But now using it....well....I'm scared. I don't know how to work it. Manatee claims some knowledge but only enough to be dangerous. 

In this particular episode, I poured the ingredients in and missed the pour-in-spout-thingy. I think that all of the baking powder got spilled which led to these abnormally flat cookies.  

Any advice on conquering the stand mixer?

Also, before launching into tonight's dinner, a much happier picture.

This was my spaghetti squash/spaghetti dish. I highly recommend mixing spaghetti squash with whole wheat noodles. I topped it with marinara, eggplant, onions, mushrooms and chicken sausage, but any kind of pasta sauce would be good. It's nice way to cut back on carbs and get more veggies in your diet. 

And last but not least, Monday Night on the Plan.

So the original recipe was called 'Easy Chicken Terriyaki.' Because of my ego, I am going to dub this recipe: Slow Cooker Chicken Terriyaki.

4 chicken breasts
1 cup of terriyaki sauce
20 oz can of pineapple chunks
2 red peppers diced into 1 inch squares
2 green peppers diced into 1 inch squares
dash of ground ginger

*Next time I would also add an onion

1. Put all the ingredients in the slow cooker plus 1 can of water or enough water to cover all the ingredients.
2. Cook on low 8-10 hours.
3. I got home about 8 hours into the cooking. I removed the chicken, shredded it and then returned it to the slow cooker and let it keep cooking while I made brown rice.
4. Serve over rice

We had it with a romaine, apple and golden raisin salad with a ginger lime vinaigrette that I made. It was pretty bland. Not sure if it was the dressing or the 2 week old romaine lettuce. I am going to let the flavors mix together more and see if it's any better tomorrow night. 

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Following the Plan

So the holidays have officially begun and this is going be a crazy week. I did a lot of cooking last week but never managed to snap any pictures. But to report on last week's recipes: the meat pies- the pie part of the meat pies was very disappointment but the meat filling plus the sauce in lettuce wraps= huge success. That recipe will resurface as a lettuce wrap recipe. Also to report from last week, I went with the blue cheese ball and it was amazing. If someone would have just given me a spoon and that cheese ball, I would have had a happy thanksgiving. That recipe will also return when I make it again and remember to take a picture. I may also make some tweaks.

This week's plan was based on efficiancy and knowing I have some long days this week so the slow cooker will get plenty of use. I also have some very sexy not sexy recipes. See if you can pick them out. :) You will also notice the attempt to re-use side dishes.

Monday: Easy Terriyaki Chicken with Brown Rice

Tuesday: Fall Vegetable Curry with Brown Rice

Wednesday: Verde Chicken Enchiladas with (you guessed it) Brown Rice

Thursday: Moroccan Braised Beef with Quinoa (surprised you, didn't I?)

Friday: leftovers/ going out

Sweets for the week: Pumpkin Oat Bars

My 'Tweaking' recipe this week is the Easy Terriyaki Chicken. This was something I made a lot in graduate school and I am going to add some vegetables to it. I will report on how it turned out later this week.

Manatee and I are also starting a new routine, or restarting an old routine. We are going to do another round of P90x. I thought I would mention it here in efforts to be held accountable (to all three of you who read this). I will keep you posted on our progress- not in any embarrasing pictures or testimonials but probably in scales of how sore I am. Like, today I was too sore to pour my soy milk or yesterday I was so sore I couldn't dice an onion, important bench marks like that.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Plan: Over the Holidays

Entering into the holidays, I am easing up this week on cooking. Last night we made a bean and sausage dish that was perfect for a cold night.

This is a little cheap because I found the recipe on another blog (thank you missyween) so I didn't have to retype it. You will find it below. I subbed in turkey kielbasa and also added a chopped tomato.  I served it with a spinach salad and crusty sourdough bread.

I may be committing a major blog foul and I apologize....but I am still doing it. Too much to do today and it really is a share worthy recipe.

This week on The Plan:

Tonight will be our willy nilly throw it together recipe. I am making spaghetti squash and whole wheat spaghetti. I will mix them together but I think Manatee will probably just have the squash.

For a sauce, I have a bottle of low cal marinara. I am also going to mix in chicken sausage, onions, mushrooms, eggplant and zucchini. 

Tomorrow night I am going to make meat pies and buttermilk dipping sauce. Okay, it actually has a much fancier name but essentially that's what it is. It's from my Food and Wine cookbook. I am making extra meat so we can use it for lettuce rolls for the rest of the week.

For sweets, I am going to try to make whole wheat chocolate chip cookies and apple butter.

After tomorrow night, I am going to stop the meal cooking and start preparing the stuff I volunteered to bring to Thanksgiving dinner. I am definitely bringing two pumpkin pies, a salad and goat cheese with dried cranberries and pistachios.

For my second appetizer, I am trying to decide between vegetarian chopped liver (made with toasted walnuts and mushrooms) or a blue cheese ball with walnuts and dates. Thoughts anyone?

Here is the pirated recipe:

Black Beans and Sausage
serves 4       total cooking time: 40 minutes
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound Kielbasa or other smoked sausage cut into one inch pieces 
3 medium carrots, diced small
2 shallots, diced small
coarse salt, ground pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced……or six if it’s the Weens
2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups chicken broth
3 TB chopped fresh parsley, plus more for serving
1/4 cup plain yogurt, for serving
In a large skillet, heat oil over medium high. Add sausage and cook until browned on all sides.  About 8 minutes.Transfer to a plate.
Add carrots and shallots to the skillet, and cook until beginning to soften.  About 4 minutes.
season with salt and pepper.
Add bardic and cook until fragrant.   about one minute.
Add black beans and broth and bring mixture to a boil.  Add sausage, reduce heat to a rapid simmer, and cook until carrots are tender.   About 12 minutes.
Remove  from heat, stir in parsley, serve with more parsley and a dollop of yogurt.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Recipe Riffing- Mushroom Cheese Bread

After a week and a half of planning our meals based on recipes, I was feeling a little less than fulfilled. I missed the improv of coming home and trying to make a meal out of what I had, the creativity of not following a recipe. So I have decided to amend my original plan of planning meals with the caveat that at least one meal would be making doing with ingredients or riffing on a beloved recipe.

This week I got the opportunity because I realized, well actually Manatee realized, that my schedule for the week was insane and what was even crazier was the thought of pulling together a four course from scratch meal for my book club. He pleaded with me to 'just order a pizza for the love of God.' I think he was thinking Pizza Hut but I of course went ahead with Roman Candle. I mean, if you are going to order pizza, then at least do something good!

But of course I couldn't just do that, I also had to make something so I decided to make the mushroom bread of yore. But then was thinking more about it and I had some Romano cheese I wanted to use up and Manatee wasn't a big Swiss cheese fan so I decided to amend the recipe slightly and I have to say it I was really pleased with the result.

I, unfortunately, don't have pictures because my book club (and Manatee when he got home) devoured it, but I will provide the recipe. Now, given my crazy schedule, I was literally throwing spices into the sauce so I made changes to the ratios but don't have exact measurements so I will try to do approximations.


1 round loaf bread (preferably day old ot make it easier to cut but doesn't have to be)
8 oz. shredded Swiss cheese
8 oz. shredded Mozzzarella cheese
3-4 oz. shredded Romano Cheese
approx. 1/2 cup chopped sundried tomatoes
1 pear- cut into matchsticks and then cut those in half
6 oz. baby bella mushrooms, coarsely chopped
6 oz. regular mushrooms coursely chopped

3/4 cup butter
2 parts poppyseeds (1-1 1/2 Tbsp)
1 part ground mustard
1 part season salt
2 parts lemon juice
3 green onions, finely chopped

  1. Mix together cheeses, mushrooms, sundried tomatoes and pear in a bowl.
  2. Cut the bread in diagnol rows and then cross hatch to you have 1 to 1 1/2 inch cubes. Go almost to the bottom but make sure it is still attached. guests will need to pull apart the bread.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350.
  4. Place bread on foil. Stuff ingredients into the bread. Fill in all crevices.
  5. Melt sauce ingredients in a saucepan. As soon as butter is melted, remove from stove and pour over bread.
  6. Wrap bread with foil. At this point, really work to get the bread back into a round shape by pulling the foil tight across it.
  7. Put bread on cookie sheet and bake 40 minutes at 350.
  8. Remove, Unwrap and Enjoy!

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Super Sexy Not Sexy Recipe

Confession: I love shredded lettuce. Like love-love-LOVE shredded lettuce. It's weird and I don't admit it to anyone--well at least not in person--but I love it so much I look for recipes where I can justify eating shredded lettuce. My enchiladas are one of those recipes.

If you recall from the last week, enchiladas equaled bitter disappointment. Well this time I managed to turn the slow cooker on and it worked surprisingly better.

There is nothing sexy about this recipe. No hidden ingredients, it's not even close to authentic and takes little to no talent to make. Well I like to brag about more complex recipes, I like to make (and eat) these kind of recipes.

The Super Sexy Not Sexy Enchiladas

3 10 oz cans of enchilada sauce
1 small can of chiles
1 lb of chicken breasts

*I recommend whole wheat tortillas, Manatee and I really like the low carb, high fiber kind (I did warn you that this was NOT an authentic enchilada recipe)
1 can of black beans drained and rinsed
Reduced Fat Mexican Blend Cheese

In the morning, combine enchilada sauce, chiles and chicken in the slow cooker. Cook on low for 8 hours. *I added two cans of water because I knew I would be going to the gym after work. Do you know what's worse than forgetting to turn the slow cooker on? Having it dry out. Much harder to clean afterwards.

When you get home for the day, pull out the chicken into a bowl and shred.

Preheat oven to 350.

Take out 1 2/3 cups of slow cooker sauce and put in large bowl. Add chicken and beans.

Take about 1 cup of sauce and spread in a pan (coated in cooking spray).

On a plate, put 1/3 cup of chicken mixture in middle of tortilla and roll up. Place enchilada seam side down in the pan.

Pour remaining sauce over top the enchiladas and top with approx. 1 cup of cheese.

Cover with tinfoil and bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 5-8 minutes.

I served them with brown rice, shredded lettuce (yum!) and fat free Greek Yogurt.

Some notes:
You have a few options here. The recipe book suggested splitting between 2 8 inch square pans and freezing one pan. I didn't have an 8 inch square pan so I made 1 11x7 pan. I had some chicken mixture leftover so I saved it for Manatee to use on his salads this week.

This second picture looks super yellow- it was the setting I used, I swear. ;)

So because I am not without a sliver of an ego, here are some pictures from a more complex and more brag-worthy recipe: Pumpkin doughnut muffins. I think it will become a staple of guests and brunches so the recipe will follow in upcoming posts.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

And then there are days...

When you burn the puff pastry, miss a step in the recipe and burn your finger, all within about 2 minutes of each other.


Sometime I think Martha Stewart is sadistic and purposefully lays out her recipes so you miss one vital part.

I would write more but it is hard to type with a blistered index finger.

This is post is dedicated to anyone who has screwed up a recipe, burned a body part or burned puff pastry, that evil delicately-layered bakery item. To all the REAL cooks out there: You're not alone and don't give up. For those who claim they never mess up, you're lying.

With love,
Badger Girl

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Plan: Final Day

We made it through the week. The only hang up we had with 'the plan' was when I forgot to turn on the slow cooker for our enchiladas. Manatee saved the day by taking me out for Mexican food.

I have to admit that I was so hungry last night that I did not take the time to take a picture before eating. :)

Talking with Manatee, he claimed this was not a huge change from our normal routine because I usually cook a lot during the week. For me though, this was huge. It was so much easier having everything planned out and the grocery list in my wallet. It also made my lunches easier as I always had leftovers.

Next week will be a little tough as we have plans every single night but none of them include dinner. I mapped out our plan and we are really going to utilize the slow cooker. Here is our plan of attack:

Mushroom and Pecorino  Tart
Tomato Pesto Crockpot Soup


Leftover Soup
(We have a knife skills class and I know we will get turkey sandwiches at some point in the evening so we won't need much before)

Slow Cooker Paella and Spanish Tortilla (hosting my bookclub)

Leftovers/Chicken Sausage Ravioli

Sweet for the week: Pumpkin doughnut muffins which I am going to take a brunch we are going to go on Sunday.

I will continue to keep you posted. :)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Plan: Day 3

What is the most important step when cooking something in the slow cooker?

Turning the slow cooker on before you leave for work.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Plan: Day 2

Day 2 and we are still with The Plan. Manatee claimed this was one of my bests. The sherry gives this black bean soup a lot of flavor. Though it was one of the best tasting, I will warn you, it is one of the worst looking things I have ever made.

I also discovered what happens when the lid is not secured when pureeing black beans and chicken broth. Luckily Manatee did not make the same discovery. I was able to hide it well when he walked in the room. I swear he has something against the food processor. This may be because of what happened when we bought it.
Me (gazing lovingly at the Cuisinart): I want this one.
Manatee (doing a double take): Are you stroking that food processor?
Me: Um...(cough) No (voice higher than normal) don't be ridiculous (cough).

Here's the recipe and picture.

I told you it wasn't pretty.

Black Bean Soup with Sherry

3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced
3 medium cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
2 15 1/2 oz cans black beans, including liquid
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1/4 cup dry sherry

Heat the oil in a 4-5 quart pot over medium heat. Add onion, green pepper, and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 5 minutes.

Puree the chicken broth and 1 can of beans (and liquid). Make sure the top is secured!!

Add cumin and oregano to onion mixture. Cook 1 minute.

Add tomato paste. Cook 1 minute.

Add bean puree and can of beans (and liquid) and cook 10 minutes (until flavors meld).

Stir in sherry. Add salt and pepper to season.

We also squeezed lime juice over our individual bowls.

Enjoy! :)

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Plan: Day 1

Well, I didn't get off to a great start seeing how I did not bake cookies yesterday, but I made up for it tonight. I made the salmon AND the cookies. :)

Five-spice-glazed Salmon
1/4 cup honey
1 1/2 tsp five-spice powder
4 tsp reduced sodium soy sauce
2 large cloves of garlic minced
4 6 oz. salmon fillets
1 lb. green beans
1 tsp Asian sesame oil
1 tsp canola oil
2 Tbsp of toasted sesame seeds
1 tsp lemon juice

In a small bowl, whisk honey, soy sauce, five-spice powder and garlic.
Put salmon skin side down on a large plate and pour sauce over it. Let it marinate for at least 15 minutes.

Position rack 6 inches from broiler and heat it on high. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with tinfoil and coat with cooking spray.

In large bowl, toss green beans with canola and sesame oils. Arrange beans on one half of sheet.

Arrange salmon, skin side down, on baking sheet. Drizzle with leftover sauce.

Broil salmon and green beans for 3 minutes. Toss green beans and rearrange salmon if necessary. Broil 3 more minutes. Toss green beans with sesame seeds and lemon juice and enjoy!

This recipe was actually even easier than it seems. We loved it.

So I didn't really know what they meant by 'toasted sesame seeds' so I took it literally. I put the sesame seeds in the toaster oven. It seemed to work pretty well!

This one type A girl I know served salmon over spinach and basil. Well it was so good I had to copy her. :) I also made some brown rice and an additional spinach salad with my favorite homemade dressing. Yum!

These are our leftovers. Yummy lunches the rest of the week!

These are what my mother and I suspect to be my grandmother's recipe for chocolate sour cream cookies. We can't find her recipe but they taste just like we remember- light, fluffy and more cake than cookie. Recipe will be included at a later date. :)

Some Leftover Pictures

Here are some pictures leftover from our Halloween dinner party and a recipe.

Caramelized Onion Dip

2 Tbsp of unsalted butter
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
1 8 oz bar reduced fat cream cheese
1 cup fat free sour cream
2 Tbsp of chopped fresh chives

Melt butter in large skillet over medium-low heat.
Add onions and 1/2 tsp of salt and pepper.
Cook until deep golden brown- the recipe says 30-35 minutes but that's a vicious lie. I cooked the onions for well over an hour.
Remove onions from heat and let cool.
Mix sour cream and cream cheese together.
Add cooled onions and mix well.
Fold in chives.

Serve with thick cut vegetable chips and veggies.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Hold Me Accountable

Now that I am finally feeling better, I am ready to jump back into cooking. Many of my friends are far more organized than I, and they actually plan a week's worth of meals before the week starts. I have decided to follow suit. Because I don't fully trust myself, I thought I would publish my plan on the blog and hopefully be held accountable.

I am also trying to make sure I use some of my awesome cookbooks as I have tendency to rely on recipes from magazines and the internet. So here is the week's plan:

Sunday: Finish up leftovers from this weekend: Coconut Curry Butternut Squash Soup, Roasted Tomatoes and Homemade pizzas.

Bake some kind of cookie

5 spice glazed salmon with sesame green beans
(Fine Cooking magazine)

Black Bean Soup with Sherry
(Fine Cooking magazine)

Hearty Chicken Enchiladas
(Taste of Home Casseroles, Slower Cooker and Soup cookbook)

Beef skewers with horseradish dipping sauce
(Everyday Food Fresh Flavors Fast cookbook)

Hopefully we will go out to eat :) or we will eat leftovers

The nice thing about this plan, if I can keep to it, is I will have leftovers for lunch so I won't have to worry about buying stuff to pack my lunch.

I will keep you posted on how well Manatee and I can keep to this plan. And knowing us, with all these meals there will be salads. :)

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Now People...

My title had a typo! You readers, out there, all three of you, why didn't you say anything?

So, a very quick update on the dinner party. Overall: successful. Manatee and I have progressed a long way from the grilling Memorial Day weekend debacle. I had a few surprise standouts, namely the salad, and some disappointments (I do not like gruyere cheese, I do not like it here nor there, I do not like it anywhere).

More later, with recipes...

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Dinner Party Part 1

I think I may be stretching to say that we are having a dinner party tonight because we are, just in fact, having a family over for dinner. But there will be more than the two of us which equals party and we will be having dinner. Therefore, I am calling it a dinner party.

This party at which we are having dinner has had two menus. My first one was much more well planned out and fancy without being fancy. Then I got hit by a bus earlier this week- or at least I felt like I got hit by a bus, so I wanted to both make it easy and limit my contact with food that will not be cooked at high temperatures before my guests have it.

As with all planned events, I had an awesome, organized grocery list. Not only did I categorize it, I also put it in the order that I would find the stuff in the store. Yes, I am that anal and I know my grocery store that well. I (like with many other planned events) proceeded to leave this list at home and take my first list, a chicken scratch approximation, with me to the store. This meant that I both forgot things and I had to double back in the store when I realized the next item on my list was three aisles back.

I also discovered two things. Copps does not carry instant espresso powder and Gruyere cheese is the single most difficult thing to find. There was one 2 inch block in all of the store. A trip that should have taken 30 minutes took over an hour, and all the while I was being chased by a screaming toddler. Now I have friends who have children and I am sympathetic to a point but I would hope that if my friends' children were screaming for 30 minutes straight, they would leave the store and not follow some poor woman, who is already muttering to herself, around Copps. No matter where I was in the store, they were in the aisle behind me. Even when I doubled back or spent 20 minutes going through every coffee product Copps sells, I could hear them behind me. I think they had a radar or some other tracking device.

So, without further adieu, here is the menu for tonight's dinner:

Braised Onion dip with veggies and vegetable chips
Stuffed Mushrooms (with spinach and Gruyere cheese)

Spinach, radicchio, arugula
Sweet and Spicy Sesame Walnuts
Turkey Bacon
Red Onion
Homemade Poppy Dressing

Entree: Italian Beef Sandwiches with Havarti Cheese
Roasted Potatoes and Butternut Squash
Roasted Green Beans

Dessert: Hot Fudge Cakes

Last night, I made the onion dip, sweet and spicy sesame walnuts and got the beef started. Before guests arrive, I am planning to do the following:
-Go back to the store to get the rest of what I forgot yesterday
-make the poppyseed dressing
-Peel and cut the squash
-Pre-bake and stuff the mushrooms
-Clean and prepare the green beans
-go back to the store to get what I forgot on my second trip
-Stir up the hot fudge cakes

Right before they arrive, I will just need to put the mushrooms and potatoes in the oven. So the only things I will actually make when they are here are the green beans and I will put the cakes in the oven when we sit down to eat.

That's the plan at least. We'll see how it goes...

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Slow Cooker Veggie Chili

It seems everyone has a veggie chili recipe and like everyone, I think mine is totally the best. I actually wasn't going to post this but I was going to type it up to send a friend and thought, heck why not just put it on the blog?

So here is my 'this-is-the-best-chili-you'll-ever-have' recipe:

2 large carrots diced (1 cup)
2 or 3 celery ribs diced (1/2 cup)
1 medium sweet onion diced
2 8 oz pkgs of sliced fresh mushrooms
1 large zucchini diced (1 1/2 cup)
1 yellow squash diced (1 cup)

1 Tbsp Chili powder
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp ground seasoned pepper

1 8 oz can tomato sauce
3 cups tomato juice (or you can use salsa for an extra kick)
2 14 1/2 oz cans of diced tomatoes undrained
4 15 oz cans of pinto, black, great Northern or kidney beans (any combo you want) rinsed and drained
1 cup of frozen corn

1. Saute first 3 ingredients in large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium high heat 10 minutes or until onions are translucent

Add mushrooms, zucchini, and squash, saute 3 more minutes

Add Chili powder, basil and pepper and saute for more 5 more minutes

2. While that is sauteing, stir together tomato sauce and tomato juice in a 6 qt slow cooker.

Stir in diced tomatoes, beans and corn.

Add carrot/onion/veggie mixture.

3. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.

Monday, October 11, 2010


Balsamic Beets

1 cooked beet sliced
Splash of balsamic vinegar
Crumbled Goat Cheese

The entree was just a conglomeration of leftover pizza ingredients. This last Saturday, I had my nephews over and we made our own pizzas. I had leftover marinara, chicken sausage, and shredded cheese (Romano, Parmesan and Mozzarella: thank you food processor). I also had some sad looking basil and sundried tomatoes. I made the pasta and then drained it but left just a little pasta water. I stirred in the cheese, sausage, sun dried tomatoes and basil, and left it all on low. I have to say it turned out pretty darn good for a made up recipe.

So, this week's challenge:

I finally faced my fear: the pressure cooker and now we have all these beets. Okay, so my other fear was cooking beets, so two fears faced. The first night I quartered three of the red ones, tossed them in olive oil, salt, and pepper, then made a greek yogurt and chive dipping sauce. Yum.

You saw the results from night 2, but I still have 9 beets and I am out of ideas. Help please??

Friday, October 1, 2010

A few recipes and lessons learned from the dinner party

As I am enjoying leftover crust-less pumpkin pie over lunch, I thought I would share a few recipes and some leassons learned.

My last minute add on to the appetizers--goat cheese empanadas and roasted red pepper sauce- ended up being awesome! I am always a little leery of Real Simple's recipes because of some previous bad experiences but this was easy and impressive.

Refridgerated Pie Crust (feeling a little less dirty about using them in this recipe than I have in the past)
Goat cheese 2 oz per pie crust

Spread out the pie crust. Cut small circles (approx. 3 inch diameter). I used a glass to do this. Put a LITTLE bit of goat cheese in center. Wet the outer edge of the circle and fold over. Then use a fork to press it together and give the edges a nice crimped look.

*You really only need a little goat cheese. I had a terrible experience making ricotta and jam pockets (shudder, cringe) and I put in too much filling. It was a mess! And it was disgusting so it was a lose-lose.

Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes.

Real Simple said to pair this with corn salsa. You could, but I think it's much better with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce. The sweetness of the sauce goes well with the goat cheese.

The other big hit of the party were the crust-less individual pumpkin pies. Essentially use your favorite pumpkin pie filling recipe (I have an awesome WW one that is fairly healthy) and put the filling in little ramekins and bake until the center is firm.

Two things I added that I would never do without: spiced whipped cream and ginger snaps.

For the spiced whip cream, whip heavy cream with:
2 parts cinnamon
2 parts ground ginger
1 part ground cloves
1 part allspice

Last night, I did 1/2 tsp of cinnamon and ground ginger, and 1/4 tsp of cloves and allspices. As I eat my leftover individual pie, I am still debating whether I would increase that or not. It's pretty subtle now and I can't decide if I want to risk the spices overtaking the dessert or if it would just enhance it.

Lessons Learned

1. If you want to actually enjoy the night: 1) Serve an appetizer so people don't get too hungry 2)Have a schedule! My biggest slip up was that I forgot to put something on the schedule and had to rush it so it didn't turn out quite as I planned.
2. People don't know if you screw up and are forgiving. I always have to remember that. Did people know the sauce was supposed to be thicker? Well not until I just admitted it now but oh well.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Dinner Party

Too tired for words. I'll let the pictures do the talking...

The Dinner Party

Part 1: Preparations

Tonight I am having a dinner party. Now what is the cardinal rule of entertaining? Never make anything you haven’t made before. Now what did I do with this dinner party? You guessed it! Broke cardinal rule with absolutely every dish that I am making.

As Manatee said, why make things easy?

With the exception of the dessert, the menu is designed to pair with Pinot Noir. But by the time we get to the dessert, hopefully the guests won’t be caring too much about pairing.

Here is our menu:

Cheesy Mushroom Bread
Goat Cheese Empanadas with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce with Lemon and Basil

Aragula and Spinach, Red Grapes, Roasted Pumpkin Seeds, Sesame Sticks, Feta
Balsamic Dijon vinaigrette

Roasted Chicken Breasts with Pinot Noir Sauce
Buttered Green Beans with Mushrooms
Roasted Rosemary Fingerling Potatoes

Crust-less Pumpkin Pies with Spiced Whipped Cream

Last night I made the pumpkin pies and the roasted red pepper sauce. I also shredded a pound of Swiss cheese (yay food processor!), cut up the mushrooms, and prepped the green beans.

Things I learned:

1. Parchment paper is only ‘oven safe’ up to 425 degrees. Lucky I learned this before I put into the oven but after I subbed it for foil when roasting peppers and garlic. I had an inkling it could result in disaster so I actually read the package. Oops. Worked totally fine on a pan.

2. Why haven’t I roasted red peppers before? It was so easy! I guess it's not technically a lesson but a pleasant surprise.

That’s all I have so far. As part of my heritage, it is impossible for me to make just one trip to the store so I do have to run back for foil, chicken broth and possibly either ginger snaps or ingredients for ginger snaps. The crust-less pumpkin pies need a crunch so I may add either crumbled cookies or small cookies inserted into the top. We’ll see.

How to Roast Red Peppers

1. Cut red peppers in half vertically. Discard seeds and stems.

2. Place on foil (or just on a pan) skin side up.

3. Mist with olive oil.

4. Broil for 10-12 minutes until tops are charred.

5. Remove and let ‘rest’ until they are cool to the touch.

6. Peel off skins and voila! You have roasted red peppers.

*I roasted garlic alongside the peppers for the sauce. I was supposed to put them into a foil packet but it worked fine just leaving them out on the pan. When I took the peppers out, I turned the oven off but left the garlic in until the peppers were cool to the touch.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The White Flag

Some people take in stray animals. I take in stray cabbages. For some reason, I associated my failure at coleslaw with my food processor. Tonight I learned it was not the fault of the food processor. I am just not destined to make good coleslaw.

The photos I took somehow did not even stay on the camera. Don't worry, you didn't miss much.

Imagine a cabbage the size of the basketball with the weight of bowling bowl.

Then imagine a small vat of brightly colored coleslaw (putting carrots through the food processor was way too fun, seriously, TOO fun, I had way too many carrots in there by the end).

So I quit. No more taking home stray cabbages, no more lofty dreams of non-dairy creamy coleslaw. From now on I buy my coleslaw at the deli counter.

And now I have to burn some seriously smelly candles in my kitchen. As Manatee told me when he walked into the kitchen tonight, cabbage smells like fart.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Lessons Learned

Looking over my last few entries, I realized that I was starting to come across like I actually might know what I am talking about. This is grossly untrue. Therefore I decided to start a tradition of posting 'Lessons Learned' to prove that I am still in fact learning thereby lowering the standards if any of you readers come over to our house for a meal.

1. If you touch one of the burners inside an oven, the oven will turn off. This is also linked to...
2. When baking salted eggplant and zucchini, juices from the veggies do not come off the pan and start a fire. Thank God. Also linked to...
3. Always check to make sure the oven is on when you think something is baking.

So when making Garden Casserole, the recipe told me to put my slices of zucchini and eggplant on a rimmed baking sheet. Now despite our very generous wedding guests, we only have one very old rimmed baking sheet. I also needed to toast breadcrumbs for this recipe and quickly decided (based on a previous lessons learned) that it would be far worse for a 1/2 cup breadcrumbs to end up on the bottom of my stove than a slice of zucchini or eggplant.

So I put a sheet of aluminum foil on the bottom rack and prepared my sliced veggies and put them on two of my new unrimmed but awesome cookie sheets (Thank you Aunt Ellen!). This actually leads to another lesson learned:

4. Two cool unrimmed but awesome cookie sheets do not fit on the same rack in my oven.

Manatee and I developed a plan and rearranged veggie slices on sheet #1 so we could overlap them. Then I went to put in sheet #2 and I swear I wasn't throwing it in the oven, but in the process, one zucchini slice flew off the sheet (in slow motion) and landed under the racks and under a burner in the oven. Manatee came to the recipe with his new grilling fork (Thank you Aunt Bev) and in process bumped a burner.

Fast forward twenty minutes as I impatiently check the veggies and alas they didn't seem to be making much process. After I sighed and probably slammed a drawer shut, Manatee examined the oven and determined that it was no longer on. Oops.

5. Don't give up on something if you think it sucks. It may taste better tomorrow.

I hated the stuffed mushrooms we made on Monday. But Manatee didn't let me throw them away. At the last minute, I decided to reheat them with the garden casserole and with some additional baking time, they actually tasted good. Was it my low expectations? Maybe. The glass of wine I drank BEFORE dinner (see above lesson learned)? Maybe. But I am glad we tried them again.

6. If your oven locks down and starts to clean itself WHILE you have two pans of food in the oven, unplug it. When you plug it back in, it will reset and unlock.

Did I know this when it happened? No. Manatee figured it out. I could have also made this a here's what not to do:

6. When your oven locks down and starts to clean itself WHILE you have two pans of food in the oven, do NOT
1. Scream.
2. Call your mother who will also freak out.
3. While your poor mother is on the phone, pull on the oven door, yelling OPEN! Please Open! (Amazingly ovens do not respond to vocal commands)
4. Tell your husband that this is actually great because you can now get that stainless steel oven you have been fantasizing about.
4. Also tell him you will need new baking pans, a new refridgerator, new kitchen table to go with new appliances, or maybe just a new house...

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Garden Casserole

This week, Manatee and I dove back into cooking. Our first night, Monday, was a bit of a disappointment. Well for me, at least, Manatee loved it but I am also blessed with someone who would be content to eat salads and hard boiled eggs every night so he still thinks all my cooking is awesome (Yay low standards!). We made white bean stuff portobella mushrooms. I admit, I was a little overzealous in creating bread crumbs (my new food processor is so freaking cool!) so Tuesday night I had a baggie of fresh bread crumbs and about 2 1/2 lbs of fresh tomatoes from our CSA.

I did a little online research and found a recipe from Food and Wine magazine which I modified a bit (due to reviews and my complete inability to follows a recipe) and it was stupendous. This will clearly be a staple in our diet. Even the leftover white bean stuffed mushrooms tasted good with it.

Here are some pictures, one includes said leftover mushrooms. We of course added a salad and voila: a complete hearty and healthy summer meal!


2 eggplants

3 zucchini

6 oz of feta cheese (we chose tomato basil fat free feta)

1/2 cup of TOASTED breadcrumbs (toast them until they are almost black- keeps it from being soggy)

2 1/2 lbs of fresh tomatoes (any kind)

1/2 cup of fresh basil (chopped)

1 shallot (minced)

Olive Oil

1. Slice the eggplants and zucchini length wise 1/3 to 1/4 inch thick. *If you want to skin the eggplant, go right ahead. I did not have the patience for it but the original recipe mentioned it.

2. Dice the tomato into 1/2 inch cubes.

3. Brush the eggplant and zucchini with olive oil and lay out on two baking sheets.  Bake at 425 for 15 minutes.

4. While it's baking, heat 1 Tbsp of olive oil in a pan. Add shallot and cook for 2-3 minutes on medium heat.

5. Add tomatoes and cook for 1 minute Remove from heat.

6. In a lasagna pan, layer eggplant, tomatoes and then 1/2 of feta cheese and basil. Then zucchini, tomato, basil, and rest of eggplant and zucchini. Then rest of tomatoes and cover with remaining cheese and bread crumbs.

7. Bake at 425 for 20 minutes.

8. Take out and let the pan 'rest'. We did it for 5 minutes but it was probably 10-15 before you could actually get something resembling a slice.

It may not be pretty when you slice it but it sure does taste good.