02 December 2008

Weeknight Chili


I'm a soup kind of girl, BUT only in cold weather. So now that we have a burst of cold weather, I am in the soup mood! I had soup last night for dinner and I was so inspired that I decided to come home and make chili. With my Czhilispiel experience (and cheating and watching the pros there), I thought I could pull off a good chili with no recipe. I would say for a first timer I did pretty decent. It wasn't as full bodied as I would have liked, but then again I made it in an evening and wasn't able to let it simmer as long as I would have liked. I know the pros do different "dumps" to layer the flavors, but I was hungry! So below is a weeknight chili; you can make it without simmering it all day and it still tastes great! I like mine with cheddar cheese and cornbread. Since the hurricane, I lost my cornbread pan so I had to improvise with corn muffins and although they weren't they same, they definitely did the job. I like my chili pretty spicy and bold, so I didn't include measurements for spices (also, I have a real problem measuring spices). But chili is a very individual thing so don't be afraid to experiment with what you like (but just in case you're nervous, I'll put my estimate of spices in parentheses). I hope you have a chili day to enjoy some chili (pun intended)!


Fully Dressed with Cheese and a Cornbread Muffin


Weeknight Chipotle Chili

3 slices bacon
1 large onion, finely chopped
5 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 chipotle chiles, chopped, with 2 tsp sauce

1# ground sirlon
1# Chicken and Poblano Sausage, casings removed (found at HEB)

28oz crushed fire-roasted tomatoes
16oz Diced Tomatoes, Chili Style
16oz Diced Tomatoes, Sweet Onion
16 oz tomato sauce, no salt added
1 tomato sauce can of water
1 c. beef broth, no salt added
tomato paste

Salt (3T)
Chipotle chili powder (2T)
Dallas Dynamite Chili Powder (5T)
Lemon Pepper (1T)
Brown Sugar (2T)
Pepper (1T)

1/3c. flour
8oz cold water

Brown bacon in soup pot. Remove bacon and saute onions in bacon grease until opaque. Add garlic and chiles, keep sauteing until onions are translucent. Add ground sirloin and chicken sausage and cook until brown. (This is very important: add some seasonings HERE or else your meat will be plain jane.) When the meat is browned, add all of the tomatoes, water, beef broth and tomato paste. After the chili begins boiling, add seasonings to taste. After the chili simmers for ten to fifteen minutes, taste for seasoning and adjust. Simmer for as long as you can and constantly adjust as you go. When you can't wait any longer to eat, mix the flour and water and add to the boiling chili. Let boil for a few minutes longer and enjoy!

21 November 2008

Bridal Shower

Before I post recipes, I just had to post pictures because I'm so proud!!! I threw a scrapbooking shower for my cousin's wife and of course I HAD to do a nice spread. They're wedding colors were fern and wine, so I decided to only serve food that were red and green, how clever, right? It actually wasn't as hard as one would think. A random lady stopped me in the grocery store to discuss women getting into Texas A&M (which while it was totally interesting, it was not the right time) so I got put behind schedule and didn't get to complete everything I had planned. But I was VERY pleased with the end result. I think the biggest compliment was having 9 ladies eat all 28 of my mini cheesecakes!











10 November 2008

Chipotle Tortilla Soup

I love tortilla soup, but I don't like chicken in my tortilla soup. It's one of my weird quirks. I do however love veggie tortilla soup and my favorite restaurant puts zucchini in their tortilla soup. What do you know, my aunt and uncle had an abundance of zucchini about to go bad, so I decided to try and recreate my own. The results? Better than going out!



32oz. low-sodium chicken broth
32oz. vegetable broth
1 can chipotle diced tomatoes, undrained
1 can rotel tomatoes, undrained
1 can green chiles, undrained
12 oz super sweet frozen corn
2 can black beans, rinsed and drained
Poultry seasoning
Chipotle chili powder
super secret chili powder
Cumin
7 zucchini, halved and chunked

Garnish: Sour cream, avocado chunks, lime wedges, tortilla chips

Bring broths to a boil. Add remaining ingredients except for zucchini. Boil for 10 minutes, then drop to a simmer. About 15 minutes before serving time, add zucchini chunks. Cook until zucchini is soft. (If you are making this all at once you add the zucchini when you add everything else. However, I like to let my soups simmer for the afternoon and in that case, it has a tendency to break down. So add accordingly depending on how long you plan to cook it.)

The BEST way to eat this is to put some tortilla chips in the bottom of your soup bowl. Pour soup over it. Squeeze a lime wedge (or two) into the soup. Dollop with sour cream and avocado chunks (be generous). Mix in the sour cream to make it slighty creamy. Oh! So good!!!! I mean, of course, the soup is great plain, BUT this way, it's soooo good. In case you haven't gathered, this soup is awesome!

09 November 2008

Apples Galore!


Okay, I admit it. I am ADDICTED to food blogging. Not only do I participate, but I have upwards of 10 different blogs listed on my google reader feed. A few weeks it ago, it seemed that ALL of them had some sort of recipe containing apples, one even had an apple week!!! After sifting through them all, I decided on an apple cake. Apple Dapple Cake to be exact. How can you resist a name like that? And once you look at the pictures, HOW can you resist a cake like that?

I had a little trouble with the cake, but I think it was my own fault. I didn't have an electric mixer NOR a 1 cup measuring cup NOR a sifter. I think I might have lost count when adding the oil. When I first mixed it as I thought was right, it was very stiff. Like I said, I don't know if I mis-measured oil or maybe it had to do with not having an electric mixer. Anyways, I added a little more oil and a tad bit of milk. It turned out GREAT! The cake was a little dense, but sooooo moist. I also didn't boil the syrup for long enough because I was worried that I was going to burn it or myself because I was cooking in a much smaller pan that anticipated. So I'm not sure if the syrup was supposed to harden or what. Anyways, in spite of all of this, the cake was DELICIOUS!!! It's in my refrigerator right now and it's going to be hard to share it the rest of the week. I know I *should* if I don't want to gain 10 pounds this week, but it's so good I just might not!


Apple Dapple Cake
(Slightly modified from The Southern Plate)

3 c. all purpose flour
1 t. salt
1. t. soda
1 c. oil
2 c. sugar
3 eggs
2 t. vanilla
3 1/2 cups raw apples, peeled and chopped fine
Mix oil, sugar, eggs and vanilla. Sift together flour, salt, soda. Add to first mixture. Fold in pecans and apples. Bake in tube pan at 350 for 1 hour (or until knife comes out clean).

Sauce

1 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup milk
3/4 cup margarine(1 1/2 sticks) (*I used 1/2c because that's all I had)

Mix and cook 3 minutes after it begins to gently boil, stirring constantly. Pour over hot cake while cake is still in pan. Let cake cool completely before removing.

Deconstructed Lasagna (with Spaghetti Squash!!!)


The spaghetti squash. Seemingly, a nice, quiet little squash. But inside, a hard winter vegatable that isn't in my everyday food vocabulary.

But I did it. Yes, I finally overcome AND conquered my fear of spaghetti squash. I bought one a couple of weeks ago at Central Market and it has since sat on my countertop. Looking at me everyday, taunting me, begging me to be cooked. Since today was a Sunday, I figured I had lots of time to cook another dinner in case I failed. I had planned to do a "deconstructed" type of lasagna, meaning use pasta, ricotta cheese and pasta sauce but not layered in a pan, just mixed in a bowl. I baked my spaghetti squash and it worked!!! I used the squash instead of pasta for my idea and it was fabulous! It has proved to me that you should take risks in the kitchen and you will be rewarded!!!

Deconstructed Lasagna with Spaghetti Squash

1 medium spaghetti squash
EVOO
Salt and Pepper

Fat Free Ricotta Cheese
Your favorite spaghetti sauce
Mozzarella Cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Split the spaghetti squash in half. Clean out the stringy pulp and seeds. (You can save the seeds to roast like a pumpkin.) Place on a cookie sheet lined with foil. Brush with EVOO, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until fork tender.

Meanwhile, heat your spaghetti sauce or make your own. I prefer to make my own. I sauteed half a white onion, diced, in EVOO. Once the onion turned opaque and softened, I added two cloves of garlic and continued sauteing. Once the garlic had slighty browned, I added a large can of diced tomatoes with basil, garlic and onions. Season to taste with salt, pepper and italian seasoning. Simmer until the spaghetti squash is ready.

Once the squash has cooled enough to handle, use a fork to pull apart and "make spaghetti." While hot, mix squash with ricotta cheese. The squash should be hot enough to melt the cheese. Add sauce, top with mozzarella cheese and serve. Mangia!
(The first picture is the layered, "fancy" picture, but really, it's best when you stir it all together. SOOOOOOOOOOO good!)

29 October 2008

Oktoberfest ! Ja!



It's the end of October already! Can you believe it? In honor of Oktober, I decided to cook a German meal. Because really, who doesn't love German food? If you raised your hand, then you obviously haven't German food before. In case you haven't, here's a start. I, by the way, could eat this stuff EVERYDAY. I would put sauerkraut on most things if I could. Yum!

German Quiche
*Modified from Rachel Ray



1 cup sauerkraut, squeezed dry + 2 extra handfuls
2 baking potatoes (mine weighed 1.29 pounds in case you're wondering)—peeled, grated and squeezed dry
8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
3 teaspoons caraway seeds
Salt and pepper
1 c. egg substitute (or 4 lg. eggs)
1 cup heavy cream
One 9-inch frozen (deep dish!) pie shell

Preheat the oven to 375°. In a large bowl, combine the sauerkraut, potatoes, bacon and caraway seeds; season with salt and pepper. In a small bowl, beat together the eggs and cream. Stir into the potato mixture. Pour the mixture into the pie shell; place to pie shell on a cookie sheet. Bake until the filling has set and is golden around the edges. Serve warm or at room temperature.

(*Note: The original recipe said to bake for 35 minutes. I had to bake my quiche for almost 75 minutes and the potatoes were still slighty raw and the center was not completely set. Next time, I would grate the potatoes, then partially cook them in the microwave and then bake in the quiche. I also think the non-setting had something to do with using egg substitute. I'll be making this again for sure and will experiment!)



German Beer Brats

5 uncooked brats
1 medium onion
1 bottle of beer (I used Miller Lite)
1 bottle of water
red pepper
garlic
salt

Turn oven on broil. Put all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Make sure that you have enough liquid to cover the brats. Bring to a simmer, simmer for 10 minutes. Remove brats and place on a foil-lined cookie sheet. Leave onions simmering on sove top. Broil on each side until brat turns brown and crispy (I prefer mine extra crispy!). This process goes fast, so leave the door cracker and keep an eye on your brats. Brats are ready to eat as soon as they are brown enough for you! Serve with onions and a good german mustard!

*Note: You can also skip the broiling and throw the brats on the grill. However it was cold and I don't do grilling, so broiling is basically upside down grilling. =)



Gl├╝cklich Essen!

08 October 2008

Omnivore's 100

I've been food blog perusing lately, actually I've become quite addicted to it. On a lot of blogs I have come across this list. So I'll bold the ones I've tried and put in red the things I would NEVER try.

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile (Alligator, yes; crocodile, not yet)
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail (I'm really tempted to strike this out, but I'm not quite sure yet.)
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel (ah! maybe)
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin (again, big maybe. I saw this prepared on Iron Chef and it totally grossed me out)
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal (surprisingly enough, I haven't had this)
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini YUM-O.
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads (hesistant)
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs (they tasted okay, but I couldn't get past the idea.)
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake (LOVE all of them!)
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain (READY to try!)
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette Nope, won't do it.
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe (Believe it or not, yes. But I don't think we drank it in the proper way. Actually, I KNOW we didn't drink it in the proper way.)
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill Something that has been hunted, yes; something that has been runover, no.
76. Baijiu or shaojiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta (trying it this week! woo!)
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

White Bean and Spinach Lasagna



Ohmygoodness, this stuff was delicious! It's one of the first times I've cooked since the hurricane, so maybe that might have had something to do with it's tasty-ness. I adapted this recipe from "What Can I Bring Cookbook?" by Anne Byrn. I modified it to be more heart friendly and healthy for my uncle. I added leftover turkey because it's what we had. You can use ground turkey, or you might not even need meat at all. It would taste good without any meat, I can promise you wouldn't even miss it. Below is my version:

White Bean and Spinach Lasagna

32oz. pasta sauce (I used one full jar of Pasta/Alfredo Sauce and half a Sun-Dried Tomato Alfredo Sauce)
1 clove garlic
1 can chickpeas, drained
leftover turkey

15oz. fat-free ricotta cheese
2 c. fat-free mozzarella cheese
1/2 c/ egg beaters

1 pkg. frozen spinach
1 pkg egg roll wrappers
2c. fat-free mozzarella cheese

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Bring the pasta sauce, garlic, beans and turkey to a simmer in a saucepan. Meanwhile, combine the ricotta and mozzarella cheeses and egg beaters in a bowl. In a 9x13 pan, layer the following:
sauce on the bottom,
layer of egg roll wrappers,
cheese,
spinach,
sauce,
noodles,
cheese,
sauce,
noodles,
cheese,
spinach,
noodles,
sauce
and sprinkle the last 2c. cheese on top. (I find that it's easier to guesstimate the measurements rather than try and measure them. It just gets messy and you have to way too many measuring cups, so sorry there's no measurements.) The original recipe called for it to bake 40 mins and rest 20. I found that it needed longer to bake and didn't need to rest that long.

What I would do different next time...I would use garbanzo beans and mash them into the cheese mixture. They were too lumpy in the tomato sauce mixture. I would also mix the spinach into the tomato sauce mixture. There is no need to keep it separate, it is just too time consuming to keep it separate. I think I would also add a can of crushed tomatoes to the sauce mixture because the lasagna was a little dry. Not dry as in dry, but I like my lasagnas creamy and this wasn't. I ended up having to heat a can of crushed tomatoes and add some seasoning to make it a little more saucy. Even though, it was sooo tasty. It really hit the spot. Serve this with some good Italian bread and woo, it will be a hit!

06 October 2008

Menu Planning!

Since the hurricane, I've been staying with my Aunt Connie and Uncle Cliff. We've come to terms that I'll be the designated chef for the household and my Aunt Connie will be the cleaner (which is totally my ideal situation!). So here's what I'm planning:


Greek/Antipasto Pasta Salad: I don't know why but I loooove Greek food, so I'm planning to combine two recipes.

Taco Salad: My Aunt cooked a turkey on Sunday, so instead of grilled chicken, we're using leftover turkey and I'm making a homemade vinaigrette.

White Bean and Spinach Lasagna: This recipe seemed too interesting to pass up. Instead of noodles, this calls for egg rolls wrappers. Also, since we're into healthy eating, a vegetarian meal seemed like a plus.

Sweet Potato Turkey Meatloaf: Again, a healthy recipe with turkey and the sweet potatoes add a "fall-y" element that I am ready to explore.

Pumpkin Polenta w/ Italian Sausage, Tuscan Cauliflower (side dish):I've been wanting to experiment with polenta for a while now, so with a recipe like this, how could I resist?

I don't know yet when or what side I'll cook with most of them, but we'll see. I'm planning on going to a farmer's market tomorrow too as well, so that will probably give me some new ideas! I'm REALLY excited about the farmer's market because I haven't been to one in forever. I'll *hopefully* make posts this week as I go along.

If any of the three people that read this have any ideas for healthy "fall-y" meals, I'd more than welcome them!

07 September 2008

Updates

Just FYI, I updated my January post with pictures of my meatball minestrone soup. I took some leftovers out of my freezer earlier this month and had it when we had a brief cold spell. The presentation isn't that great, but the some is awesome. Go check it out!

Also, I finally posted pictures from my first attempt at a full fancy meal. Check out the June post. I didn't post recipes because I wrote my notes down in my recipe book, which I currently can't find. As soon as I do, I'll post it and then make another update post. Woo Hoo for updating!

26 August 2008

Chicken Noodle Soup

*I'm pre-dating this entry to the date I actually made it.

When I was sick, all I wanted was a big of bowl of chicken noodle soup. Except I can't stand all the salt in canned varieties and to be honest, I really don't care for chicken in my soup (not just chicken noodle soup but also chicken and dumplings, I'd just rather have the dumplings to be quite honest). So even though I was almost dying, I decided I could make my own chicken noodle soup (or just noodle soup technically). This makes a LOT of soup to begin with but if you don't eat it all in one setting (or sitting as the case may be), the noodles happen to soak up a lot of the broth, so you'll need to re-add some chicken broth. Also, next time, I think I would add just carrots (and possibly a larger amount) instead of peas AND carrots. I would have used all real stock if I had had it, but I didn't, so I used bouillon in a pinch; however use whatever combination of what you have on hand, you can use all chicken stock or a little more vegetable, whatever you have, it will turn out stellar. Don't just save this for when your sick, it's pretty dang good.

Chicken Noodle Soup (without the real chicken)

1 sm. pkg frozen seasoning mix (onions, celery, parsley, bell peppers)
16 oz. chicken stock
16 oz. vegetable stock
4 chicken bouillion cubes
4 cups water
1 sm. can peas and carrots, drained
1 package egg noodles (I used the "healthier" version with no whites)

In a large soup pot, saute the package of seasoning mix in a few tablespoons of olive oil. When onions are translucent and veggies are soft, add stock (and bouillon and water) and peas and carrots. When broth is at a rolling boil, add egg noodles and cook as directed. Serve warm with saltine crackers.

18 August 2008

Pesto Eggplant Pizza


I have been seriously jonesing for pizza the past few weeks. Not just any Pizza Hut or CiCi's pizza, but the real deal. I got home to my house finally and remembered I had a pizza crust in the freezer (Thank goodness for me being frugal and freezing EVERYTHING so it doesn't go bad!). I pulled one out to defrost and turns out not only was it a pizza crust, but it was healthy (honey wheat!), go me! I've told you before that the closest decent grocery store is an hour away, so instead, I decided to raid the pantry. I wasn't in a meat mood so I decided to go vegetarian. I found marinated eggplant which was my main star of the pizza, and didn't want a heavy tomato sauce, so I went with alfredo mixed with a hint of pesto. I didn't have any mozarella cheese to top it, so I used what I had and really didn't miss it! I think the feta and the hint of melty cheese that I used was perfect' I think mozarella would have been overpowering. The only thing I would change is that I would drain my eggplant and oven-roasted tomatoes throughly so there's less grease on the pizza. This pizza turned out better than I could have ever planned! Everything compliments each other, the pesto and the marinated eggplant have similar flavors. The sweetness of the fresh tomatoes and the intenseness and the robust flavor of the oven-roasted tomatoes are juxtaposing, but taste like a match in heaven! The lightness of the alfredo sauce rounds everything out perfectly and bring it all together. The recipe follows and it is simply fabulous! (I hardly ever measure, so the measurements are a guestimate, if it doesn't look right, change it to what looks good to you, and let me know so I can change it on here!

p.s. I'm adding lots of pictures because I loved it so much. The pics don't really do it justice. I need to find a better place for lighting in my house. I'll keep working, promise!

Pesto Eggplant Pizza

1 honey wheat pizza crust
3/4c. Alfredo sauce
4T. pesto sauce
1/2 jar marinated eggplant
2 roma tomatoes, seeded, sliced
5 oven-roasted tomatoes, sliced (I used homemade oven-roasted tomatoes, but you can also sub. sun-dried; also to "slice" them, I used kitchen shears to snip off strips.)
1c. feta cheese (I used garlic and herb)
1/4 c/ easy melt shredded cheese

Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Mix alfredo sauce and pesto. Spoon a thin layer onto unbaked pizza crust. Don't go too heavy, the pesto makes it really intense, so less is more. Make sure marinated eggplant is free of oil and put a single layer on pizza. Add tomatoes, and finally sprinkle on both types of cheeses. Turn oven down to 450 degrees, place pizza directly on rack and back for 8-9 minutes on shredded cheese melts and crust is brown. Remove and eat!

01 July 2008

George's Bar

I'm in Waco today for work. I always try to check out non-chain restaurants when I travel and the best way to find out what's good is to ask the locals. Immediately upon checking in at my hotel, I asked the friendly desk clerk what's the best place to eat around here and she told me that if I was in Waco I HAD to go to George's. Now, me being the Texas Country Music fan that I am, I know of George's Bar because of Pat Green (who had really good music back in the day). I decided that this trip, I would make it happen. Driving up to George's, if I hadn't have been looking for it, I never would have found. It's just off a road with no other businesses in sight. However, the parking lot was full and the parking lot across the street was starting to get full, so I knew it had to be a good local hang. The building is actually divided into different parts, there's a section just for dinning without smoking, a section to eat in the bar (which allows smoking), and then a patio-esque section which I didn't check out. Needless to say, it can hold a LOT of people. I opted to eat in the diner section since it was getting to be going out time. It had a classic diner in a small town feel.

I had a caesar salad and the chicken jack sandwich with broccoli salad. The caesar salad was more vinegar-y than creamy, which I myself like creamy. But it was still good. The croutons however were fabulous!!! They were buttery and crispy on the outside, but soft on the inside. I have a feeling they make them out of their leftover homemade rolls, which apparently are AWESOME, but I didn't catch onto that until AFTER I ordered. Most everyone around me had an order of rolls with ranch. Interesting, but probably very good. I went for the blackened chicken option which was good, but not spicy. The chicken was moist and the bread was homemade and awesome. The bread was thick and tender and on the sweet side but had jalepenos in it, so that made for a nice contrast. The broccoli salad was the standard with bacon, onions and cheese and miracle whip-based dressing. No raisins which made me sad, but for some reason the cheese tasted freshly grated, which I doubt, but it was still dang good.

Another interesting thing I saw and wished I had friends with me to spilt an order of was the crazy wings. Somehow it was chicken, cheese and jalepenos wrapped in bacon and deep fried. They looked awesome too. But my two upcoming weddngs are preventing me from consuming fried foods (or at least I'm trying!) Maybe next time...

Overall, it was good food, but on the expensive side. My total was 11.77 for all of that, which to me is a lot for one person. I didn't have "The Big O" because I had beer last night and just wasn't in the mood, but this would definitely be a nice hang for a group of friends to go and have some snacks and then stick around for a few beers. I really want to give this place four stars, but the price was just a little too high for me, so I'm gonna go 3.75/5.

12 June 2008

51st Anniversary Four Course Meal

My grandparents celebrated their 51st anniversary this year (yay!). Instead of the ginamorous party we threw for them last year, I decided to put my skills to use and cook them a nice dinner for the two of them. I decided to go ultra swanky and attempt a four course meal. Honestly, it was my first time to try and get the out at the right time. It was going well until dessert, that was a little late. BUT it went over well and everything turned out great. My pork turned out a little dry, so I need to remember the carry over cooking time next go around, but all in all, it was pretty great! I'll list the recipes after each picture. OH! And the theme for dinner was fruit. Each course had fruit in it and was used in different ways. For a little bit I was worried that it might have been a too sweet meal, but I think I definitely managed to balance the savory with the sweet. I wrote all these recipes down in my food book which is currently somewhere in my house. I thought since I was in the updating mood, I'd at least post the pictures.

First Course: Strawberry Cheese Ball


Okay, I cheated and bought this from HEB. But it definitely could be made at home. It tasted like strawberry cream cheese and cheddar cheese mixed rolled in pecans and cinnamon sugar. Very good. This worked out perfect because it tasted like fruit AND looked like fruit.


Second Course: Spinach Salad with Goat Cheese, Figs and Apple Vinagrette


Specific recipe to follow once I find my book.


Third Course: Apple Stuffed Pork Chops with Cheddar Potatoes and Honey Kissed Carrots




Specific recipe to follow once I find my book.




Fourth Course: Fluffy Panckes with Bananas and Butterscotch Sauce


Specific recipe to follow once I find my book.

28 May 2008

Grilled Veggie and Bread Salad

I had some squash and zucchini left over from Uncle Reed's and my tomato plant is producing fruit, so veggies for dinner was the only logical answer. So I busted out the grill pan and decided to have a go. Nothing can beat fresh veggies on the grill! This is what I included in my salad but you can use what you have on hand. (This is a horrible picture, but it will give you the idea.)



1 yellow squash, cut on the bias
1 zucchini, cut on the bias
2 tomatoes, thickly sliced
2 slices bread
Leftover corn

Toss in oil, salt and pepper. Grill veggies on grill or grill pan until soft but still firm. Toast bread throughly on grill. Peel tomatoes, place in bowl with squash, zucchini and corn. Tear up bread and stir throughly. Serve while warm.

23 May 2008

Garden Goodness

Today I traveled to Midway with my grandparents and our first stop was my Uncle Reed's. Two summer ago, my Aunt Beth passed away and Uncle Reed invited my grandfather and me back to his place for dinner. That night, we went into his garden and picked our dinner. He has an EXTENSIVE garden and whatever I said I wanted was what we picked and then my Aunt Betty Ann cooked it. Since then, Uncle Reed and I have had a common bond over his garden. Last summer, I canned pickles, salsa and jelly for the first time on my own with only ingredients from his garden. This winter, Uncle Reed came to my house and saw my own garden and he was mighty impressed. So, back around to Friday, we went to Uncle Reed's and the first thing he asked was if we were having dinner there. OF COURSE! I exclaimed knowing what was ahead. So we went out in his garden and he
showed me what all he was growing this year. We ended up picking fresh pinto beans, potato, cucumbers, zucchini, squash, peppers, onions, cilantro, dill and garlic. We had bought 9 chicken breasts at the store because we were expecting nine people for dinner. Once we start cooking, Uncle Reed decided to only cook three chicken breasts and I was for sure it wasn't gonna be enough. Once we started filling up the table, I realized that we had MORE than enough food. Everything was simple and SO fresh, it was amazing. Hands down, my two best meals I've ever eaten have been at my Uncle Reed's. Here's what was on the menu:

Ice Cold Cucumber Salad

Slice cucumbers into 1/2" rounds. French a large white onion. Add lots of fresh dill. Pour equal parts of white vinegar and red wine vinegar over cucumbers (for about 4 cups cucumbers, use about 1 cup). Add ice cubes and chill in refrigerator. Taste mixture once ice melts, it should have a twang but not too much of a bite. Add either more water or more vinegar and add salt and pepper to taste. This will get better the longer it sits!

Boiled Potatoes w/ Dill and Butter

I quartered red potatoes and put in boiling water til fork tender. Drain, add butter, and fresh dill.






Fresh Pinto Beans
Shell beans and place in pot with four cloves chopped garlic. Boil until tender. Serve with onion, cilantro, and pepper garnish.


Grilled Chicken, Zucchini, Squash and Onions
Slice onions, zucchini, squash and cut chicken into bite size pieces. Cook on the grill with olive oil, salt, pepper and grub rub (my new favorite seasoning!). Cook until chicken is done and vegetables are soft.




Serve with good company and nothing can beat this meal!!!

20 May 2008

Leftovers Galore



Both my pantry and my freezer are getting rather full. Since I live an hour away from a real grocery store (not an over-price store that barely carries anything), I tend to stock on everything in the chance that I *might* need it someday to cook something. However, my readiness to be prepared for anything has left little room for things I actually need, like freezer space to put my ice trays in so I can have ice! To make matters worse, this weekend I went to a banquet that had lots of leftover Chinese food that I was graciously sent home with. One of the items was white rice. I'm not a rice person but I didn't want it to go to waste. After looking over my pantry, I had a brilliant idea to reuse and reinvent the rice. My thought process was a tropical rice using fruit in my freezer and pantry to serve with the grilled pork chops I (also) had in the freezer. Below is my recipe which I must say I am very proud because this is the first time I have created a recipe from scratch with no outside inspiration. It came just from my pantry! It's almost like the German version of sweet rice, but not as sweet or as milky. Make sure to add the red pepper, it adds a nice little kick every now and then. Enjoy!















Tropical Rice

4 c. leftover cooked white rice
1 can coconut milk, unsweetened
1 sm. can mandarin oranges, drained and reserve juice
1 sm. can pineapple chunks, drained and reserve juice
3/4 cranberry sauce*
2 T. brown sugar
2 T. cinnamon
2 t. red pepper
heavy pinch salt

Place rice in large saucepan over medium low heat. Begin by adding enough milk to almost cover rice, about 1 in from top of rice (I used 3/4 of the can, but it will vary depending on how moist your leftover rice is), cranberry sauce, oranges and pineapple. Stir until mixed. Added 1/4 c. of desired juice to add flavor. Once rice is moist and fruit is throughly mixed in, add sugar and seasonings. Bring rice mixture to a simmer, then drop heat to low and let simmer for 5 minutes. Turn heat off and let sit for an additional 5 minutes. Serve with grilled pork chops for a delicious and easy dinner!



*My cranberry sauce was actually what I had made at Christmas using fresh cranberries, water, sugar and orange juice brought to a boil until the berries began to pop. If you don't have any lying around, try using fresh cranberries and add a little more sugar or you might try it out the can, or just add more orange and pineapples!

**I'm also working on my food pictures so bear with me.

07 May 2008

Quick and Easy Pasta

It's been a busy week and tonight was the first night I've had the opportunity to cook. However, referring back to the previous sentence, it's been a long and hard past 7 days and I was not in the mood to cook anything complicated or even go to the store for that matter. Yes, a pantry raid was in store. I pulled a package of Knorr "Sides Plus Veggies" off the shelf. It was the roasted garlic, olive oil and broccoli rotini version. I had originally planned to add a can of cannellini beans and a handful of frozen spinach, however when the pasta got dry, I decided to add a can of stewed Italian tomatoes. I cooked the beans separately because I can't stand undercooked beans and overcooked pasta. Maybe one day I'll try cooking them together. It turned out EXCELLENT and very easy. So think of it Semi-Homemade, Amanda Style.



1 pkg. Knorr Sides Plus Veggies, Roasted garlic, Olive oil, and Broccoli Rotini
1 can stewed tomatoes, Italian style
Handful frozen spinach
1 can cannellini beans
Italian seasoning, Roasted Garlic and Rosemary seasoning

Begin cooking Knorr sides pasta as directed on the package. While the pasta is cooking, begin cooking beans in a separate pot. Bring beans to boil and let simmer. About three minutes before pasta is done per package directions, add tomatoes and additional seasonings and let simmer 3-5 minutes, or until pasta is done. When pasta is done stir in beans, do not drain. Serve warm with bread.

17 April 2008

Fuentes - San Angelo

Since I'm back into traveling for work, I thought I'd start postings of restaurants across the state because I can never find any reviews online and I mean really, who better to give you food advice than me? ;) That is in case any one ever reads this besides me. If not, then it'll simply be a reminder of the good (and not so good) places to eat.

For the readers, let me start by telling you what I look for in restaurants and food in general. I generally tend to stick to non-chain restaurants when traveling out of town. I love a cozy atmosphere where I can feel welcome no matter if I'm dressed up for work or in jeans and a shirt relaxing. I like food to be spiced nicely. I hope the never have to add salt or pepper.

As for Mexican food, I LOVE MEXICAN FOOD. You might even say I'm a connoisseur. Let me rephrase though, I love Tex-Mex. I like seasonings and bold flavors. I expect cheese with my beef tacos, enough enchilada sauce to mix with rice and salsa good enough to eat with a fork! (yes, a fork, I like chunky salsa). So I might be a little overly picky with Mexican food, so take that into account. My mediocre might be okay for you.

Here is my review of Fuentes in Downtown San Angelo:

Cheese Enchilada - Great sauce!, cheese not melty, not enough sauce given on the plate
Beef Taco-No cheese (which sucks), sliced tomato (how am I supposed to eat that on a taco?), DRY beef (I like a little juice running out of my taco)
Rice-dry (bleck)
Beans-okay
Tortillas-good, homemade, but she charged me 85 cents for 2! What a stinking rip-off! I could make fifteen tortillas for that rate. Jerks.
Queso-Just okay, came out late, actually AFTER my dinner was served. No extra stuff in it, just cheese.

The atmosphere was very nice and typical Mexican. Mexican style decor was everywhere, including brick archways inside. The waitstaff was very rushed and hardly friendly. It was decent Mexican food, but not something to write home about. If it was cheaper, I'd go back, but it won't be at the top of my list.

Overall: 3.5/5 stars

http://www.fuentescafedowntown.com/pages/home.html

02 April 2008

Opa! It's Greek Night!

So if you don't know, I live in a very secluded area of the Gulf Coast. To give you an idea, the nearest Wal-Mart is an hour away, so needless to say a Greek restaurant is NOWHERE to be found. So when I had a craving for tzatziki sauce, I couldn't run down to the local Greek restaurant in town. I decided instead to hit up the local supermarket and try and make it for myself, which turned out to be quite the success. To compliment my tzatziki sauce, I decided that I actually needed something substantial for dinner and used things I had lying around in my kitchen (seriously, I only bought the feta cheese) to make Greek Turkey Pitas. Dinner tonight was truly greek-tastic! (And comparable to any Greek restaurant you'll find in your corner of the world.)

Tzatziki Sauce

8oz. nonfat PLAIN yogurt
1 cucumber, peeled, finely diced
4 springs dill
1 clove garlic, finely diced
2 T. fresh lemon juice, (or more/less to taste)
salt, pepper

Line a colander with cheesecloth (you can also use coffee filters or multiple paper towels). Dump yogurt into colander and let sit over a bowl for at least 30 minutes (or you can leave it overnight inside the refrigerator). While yogurt is draining, place finely diced cucumber on multiple paper towels and salt. Let cucumber set for at 30 minutes to remove excess water. After cucumber and yogurt have drained, combine together in a bowl. Add dill and garlic. Add lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste. Chill at least 30 minutes before serving. Serve with warmed pita bread.

Greek Turkey Pitas

Cooked ground turkey (leftover from the turkey burger mishap)
Handful of Feta cheese
4 Sun-dried tomatoes
2 cloves of Roasted garlic
8 Kalamata olives
1 whole pita, sliced in half (place in microwave for 20 secs to warm before stuffing)
Tzatziki sauce

Mix turkey, feta, tomatoes, garlic and olives together. Stuff into pita halves. Serve with tzatziki sauce. *Makes 2 pita halves.*

An easy and excellent Greek dinner for any night of the week. (I was so hungry I forgot to take pictures, but I'm sure I'll make this again, so I'll repost then!)

28 February 2008

Turkey Burgers

I was totally craving MEAT tonight. (It had been a rough day.) What better way to consume meat than in burger form. Yum-o. However, an assessment of the freezer lead to only ground turkey, surely, I thought, turkey can make a decent burger. So after going here, I found a tantalizing recipe for turkey burgers. After making my first 3 burgers and having them crumble in the pan, I added more breadcrumbs, so here is my adjusted and revised recipe. *Below picture shows all forms of turkey: the burnt part because my pan was too high, the crumbles because lack of bread crumbs, and the successful burger!*



Turkey Burgers

1 1/4 lb. ground turkey
1/2 cup bread crumbs (+up to another 1/2 c. depending on the moistness of meat)
3 Tbsp mayonnaise
4 chopped fresh garlic chives
1/2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
A couple generous shakes of Tabasco Garlic sauce
4 green onions top, sliced

Mix all ingredients together with fingers. For moist turkey, you'll need to add almost full 1/2 cup of additional bread crumbs. Form into 5 patties. Patties should firmly remain together when handled.

Let rest while heating a non-stick skillet over low heat,(too much heat will burn the outsides, which is not good eats). When skillet is warm, place patties in pan, but be sure not to overcrowd, you'll need flipping room. Leave burgers alone for 5 minutes, then check. If the bottom is nice and seared and the top is beginning to turn white, flip; if not, cook an additional minute or two.

After flipping, cook an additional 5 minutes until a nice sear develops. Remove from heat, top with cheese while still warm. Serve on a toasted bun with tomatoes and bread and butter pickles.

Original recipe modified from Simply Recipes

26 February 2008

Sweet Potato Chips

So tonight I had a hankering for chili dog and fries. Yum. But I'm trying to eat healthy, so lucky me, I had turkey dogs and turkey chili and whole wheat buns lying around. But alas, I knew fries couldn't be good. Well, I remembered I bought a swanky little apple peeler, corer, slicer at Target a few month ago. So I thought I'd make spiral cut sweet potato chips (only after realizing my bag of potatoes were missing, where they went, I have no idea!). The result of my swanky peeler/corer/slicer was not too keen. The ultra-thin ribbon chips I had hoped for were more thick and chunky. But ALAS! I also have a mandoline that I drug out. Sliced my sweet potato on the thinnest slice possible, covered a cookie sheet with foil, arrange the sliced chips in a single layer on the cookie sheet, sprayed with cookie spray and put in the oven at 450 for 8 minutes. I flipped, sprayed with oil again, then added salt, fresh cracker pepper, and cayenne (It's not THAT hot, and gives a little surprise to the sweetness). Baked again for 8 minutes. Unfortunately that last 8 minutes was a little too long. Some of the chips ended up a little burned.

*Second attempt: I sliced the long thick ribbon into single "O's" if you will. Baked them about 400 degrees for 8 mins on one side, flipped, oiled and seasoned, 8 mins again. THEN I cranked up the heat to 450 and baked for 5 more minutes. Not crispy but definitely good!!! I think lower heat first is the key. I'll definitely have to revisit this idea. After all, I have 4 more sweet potatoes in my pantry still!!!

25 January 2008

Meatball Minestrone

so, i just found my friend flo posted my blog on her blog, so now i feel obligated to update it. i have a stack of recipes that i've either created or severely changed from the original that i can say they are all mine. yet i can't seem to find the time to post the pictures and write the recipes out. at first, i searched all over the net for an easy recipe manager, but haven't found one. so if any of you find one or know of one, you should let me know. but now, i'm just gonna write my recipes out, and for those of you who know me, you'll know they're gonna be good, and for those who don't, i guess you'll just have to trust me. SO my first recipe for the new year is Meatball Minestrone soup. It's been FREEZING cold here and a good soup always warms the body up. Enjoy and feel free to leave comments and suggestions. (I'll take a pic when I heat up my leftovers.)

*Sorry for the bad presentation in the bowl!*











3 cans diced tomatoes, Italian recipe (with juice)
1 can stewed tomatoes, Regular (with juice)
2 cans V8
2 cups water
1 chicken bouillion cube

1 sm. box frozen spinach
1 sm. bag frozen mixed vegetable
1 can each: dark kidney beans, light kidney beans, northern beans, cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 sm. bag frozen seasoning mix (onions, celery, bell peppers)

1 lb. Italian meatballs
2 c. macaroni

Mix 1st section of ingredients together over high heat until bouillion cube dissolves. Add frozen veggies and beans. Bring to boil. Drop heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Taste for seasoning, add salt, pepper, italian seasoning if desired. Add meatballs. Once soup begins to simmer again, add macaroni. Cook for 10 minutes or until pasta is al dente. Serve hot with fresh bread and cheese!!

(This makes a LOT of soup in case you can't tell. It will freeze well and gets better the following day. BUT know that the pasta will absorb a lot of liquid, so when reheating, add another can of V8 and a can full of water to match. Add as much V8/water as needed to bring back to soup-like consistency.)