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.