Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Few things I am excited about and a sad excuse for a recipe

This will be a very quick post but I realized I haven't posted in awhile and wanted to make sure to post something this week for you loyal readers (all 2 of you :) ).

First, a few things I am excited about:
-My new salad chopper- it's like a scissors that you can use to cut up lettuce and other veggies in a salad. This combined with my new salad spinner have opened a whole new world of fresh salads to me and Manatee. No more bagged lettuce! How did we live without this??
-Avocado Oil- I overheard a conversation between a patron and a Target employee about the benefits of Avocado Oil. Apparently, it helps you soak in more nutrients from a salad and it's easier to cook with. I purchased some and will let you know how it goes. I think I am going to try in my Best Salad Dressings Ever.
-Found out today that I can have salads custom ordered from our deli AND I can call ahead and order them. Considering where I worked before this, the vague non-profit protecting wildlife where we didn't even have a vending machine, this is awesome news.

Ok, now my sad excuse for a recipe. The only 'cooking' I have done was last weekend. My parents were having a hard time getting the grill started and I had just finished my second glass of wine. I knew we needed something because Manatee and I are lightweights so I began to scavenge in their fridge. I found salsa, shredded cheese and three tortillas. I spread out the cheese and salsa on 1 1/2 of the tortillas and covered them with the other 1 1/2 tortillas. By that time, I thought I was a genius (I had started wine glass #3- hey, we were celebrating our third place finish in the triathlon!) and the grill was finally going.

In my haste to buffer the wine and because I was afraid of burning it, I took it off a few minutes early, but it still was delicious. I only cooked it for 2-3 minutes. If I did it again, I would have flipped and left it on a few minutes longer. It's not gourmet but is an easy and fast appetizer. And, it is particularly useful when your dinner is running behind schedule.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Favorite Dressing Ever

Now that I have used up an entire roll of Scotch tape wrapping gifts for various showers and have tended to my multiple wrapping paper cuts, I can sit back and share with you "The Best Salad Dressing Ever" (imagine an echo with those words).

Now, I have talked about recipes as suggestions. I want to amend that as a recipe as a starting block. In my Real Simple magazine, I found the following recipe:
Balsamic Vinaigrette

1/3 cup olive oil
3 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard

Well it was too much oil and the mustard didn't quite have a kick, so I began to play.
This is the recipe in its most current state:

1/4 cup Olive Oil
3 heaping Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
1 heaping Tbsp Horseradish Mustard
A generous sprinkling of garlic powder (1/4 tsp?)

It's good now. I will keep you posted as Manatee and I continue to experiment with it.

Earlier in the process, he gave me the ultimate compliment: it was even better than salsa.

Trust me. This is a big deal.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Oops Factor

Dinner at the in-laws went smoothly. As stated, I decided to play it safe: steamed green beans and lemons, salad with two homemade vinaigrettes, potato salad, pork chops (made my future father in law) and rhubarb pie. Aside from knocking over a glass of ice water into my future father in law's lap (oops!), I also grossly miscalculated the amount of red potatoes in my potato salad. I have a problem eye balling quanities, not for small things like teaspoons, 1/3 cups, 1/4 cups, but when it gets to full cups and vegetables, I'm lost. Matter of fact, when I used to make stir fries, I would end up with vats of stir fried vegetables.
So back to the potato salad. I started mixing it together and realized very quickly, I made way too many potatoes. As the rest of the group cheered on their ducks (long story), I was frantically adding dijon mustard, red wine vinegar and reduced fat mayo.
Now that I think of it, I had to improvise with a couple other dishes- the shallots I brought for the lemon vinaigrette were bad, so I used minced garlic and extra lemon. I also forgot the recipe so I am just assuming I got the rest right. :) I also braved the garlic scapes in the potato salad. So rather than my future post of garlic scapes:wtf, it will be garlic scapes: how great thou art.

All's well that ends well. The only goof that people saw was my graceful toppling of the ice water and he claimed that the rhubarb pie made up for it.

By the way, I will start including pictures soon. My camera is on the fritz so Manatee and I are going to start shopping. I will also try to get these recipes online in future posts. I am still finessing them. Just know that you don't need a lot of mayo to make an exceptional potato salad. :)

The reason I am tired and being a blogger slacker: Manatee and I did a relay triathlon this morning. He also wanted me to inform the world o blogging that we won the relay triathlon today. Just don't ask us how many entries were in that category....

Saturday, June 19, 2010


I love reading recipes. I follow several cooking blogs, receive a couple cooking magazines, and have overflowed one of my bookshelves with cookbooks. It began when I was saving up for graduate school and trying to cut back on expenses, including groceries. Stale cereal was a common dinner but with that stale cereal, I read about grilled flank steak, chicken parmesan, double layer cakes, recipes that would make you drool and that made the cereal a little more palpable. 
I now eat a little healthier, but still love reading recipes. It gives me ideas about what are good combinations and how to cook different foods. 

You would think with my love of reading recipes, I may actually follow them. Not so much. To me, recipes are like suggestions. It's like someone is saying, This might be good if..."

This leads to both my greatest strength and greatest weakness as a cook; my complete inability to follow a recipe to a T. I have made some pretty nasty things and some pretty amazing things because of this. Before I recount my recent mishaps, a few successes.

Lemon Rice- This was a recipe I found in a cookbook while visiting a friend. I painstakingly copied it down and then proceeded to never actually follow it.  I started making it the first time and realized I was supposed to be adding fresh parsley. I have no patience for fresh parsley. I don't use it fast enough and then it goes bad. Since then I have had to make it when I didn't have the recipe handy (mainly because I promised this amazing lemon-y risotto to someone I was visiting and then forgot to bring the recipe with me). 
So to make it...
Buy some good rice. No instant! I have made it with jasmine, basmati and brown rice, all are excellent.
Make 1 serving of rice as directed on the package except a little less water than you are told.
Add juice of at least 1 lemon. 2 if you want it more lemon-y
Throw in a few cloves of garlic (do not mince)
Add a few tablespoons of butter (1-3)

Cook rice as directed.
When you serve it, mash in the cloves of garlic.


Corn Tortilla Baked Chips

I decided that I wanted to bake my own tortilla chips so I searched far and wide for a recipe. When I found it, I started tinkering immediately. It just called for a little oil brushed on corn tortillas. I decided that I could get rid of some of the oil if I added lime juice. Still a little boring. I have tweaked it and found something that totally blows baked scoops out of the water.

Use about a half of package of White Corn Tortilla.

Cut them into fours.

In a bowl, whisk together the juice of a couple of limes and lemons.

I have found an amazing Lime Fajita seasoning, but you could also do any kind of Mexican seasoning or even better Citrus Mexican seasoning. Whisk some of that in.

Add just about a teaspoon of canola oil. Whisk it together.

Spray the baking pan with some baking spray.

Using a pastry brush, brush on the mixture to the tortillas. Then sprinkle with sea salt.

Bake at 350. After 12 minutes flip them and re-salt them. Bake for about 8 more minutes.

*I realize that these are vague. Think in terms of ratio. For the chips, do a 4:1 ratio, 4 citrus juice to 1 oil. If it's a little greasy, just decrease the oil. In terms of time, you will find out how crispy you like them.

Recent Disasters
I decided tonight to improv on a recipe for polenta. This was a bad idea for several reasons. 1- I have never actually made polenta so I didn't know how it cooked or what it was supposed to look like. 2-I did have polenta once and hated it. 3-Whenever I read about polenta, it was in a recipe where polenta wasn't the main dish. Use polenta in a tamale! Instead of pasta, use polenta! Put a yummy tomato mixture and cheese on top of polenta!
So what did I do with polenta? I did buy polenta pre-made and decided I would grill it. Worried that it would be too bland, I mixed up some olive oil, basil, oregano and minced garlic and spread it on the polenta. The result? Grilled, greasy, mushy polenta.

So, for tomorrow's dinner, I am actually going to play it safe. Steamed green beans with lemon, potato salad that I have made before, salad with radishes and green onions and rhubarb pie for dessert. Hopefully the future in-laws will like it!

Friday, June 18, 2010

A New Beginning

I have been thinking a lot about this blog the last few days. I realized I had no point. Originally this was a traveling blog and then it told my adventures in academia. Now I am pretty boring. So I tried to think of blogs I liked. After filling out a subscription for my third cooking magazine, I did my daily check of my three favorite cooking blogs and I thought...could I? Immediately, the answer came: NO! I don't know how to cook! I never seem able to follow a recipe or time a dinner right. The side dishes and main dish get done at totally different times. I often get halfway through a recipe to realize I am missing a key ingredient or did something horribly wrong. I can't tell anyone about cooking or food.

Then I decided maybe it would be more interesting to talk about learning to cook. Not in any kind of regimented way, but my experiments, mishaps, accidents and the occasional standout dish.

A quick key for you new readers:

Me= Badger Girl: a girl in the Midwest soon to be married and trying to learn how to cook nutritious, delicious and adventurous meals

Fiance = Manatee: He is a key player but being an English major and a bit type A, I hate writing fiance because I can't figure out how to get the little accent...well and also because I lovingly call him a manatee. It's not a weird pet name nor does he look like a manatee. But if you have ever seen them feed manatees at Sea World, you know they eat a lot of lettuce (and now the rest of you know that too) and Manatee eats more lettuce than any human I have ever met. Most of my dishes end up on top of lettuce unless I give him my pouty face and then he puts his salad in a separate bowl (though I suspect when I am not looking he puts it on the lettuce before he eats it).

That's all you need to know for now. This weekend I have committed to baking my future father-in-law a rhubarb pie as well as cooking several side dishes. I had hoped to use our CSA (Community Shared Agriculture) for inspiration but all I got were radishes, lettuce (Manatee and I were happy about the salad mix), green onions and garlic scapes (future post will be Garlic Scapes: WTF). If you have any ideas for sides dishes using these ingredients, please do let me know.