Sunday, September 19, 2010

Challenge: Sun-dried tomato risotto


Hello, friends!

It's been a long time. I'm sorry.

As some of you may know, I'm a graduate student, and school started for us a few weeks ago. I've been busy with beginning of semester stuff, as well as some looming program deadlines. I haven't been cooking much at all, and have been suffering mightily for it. So has Jeff, patient man that he is.

But, last night I finally cooked again. I've been meaning to try some risotto and have been reading recipes all over and decided to just go for it.

Let me say that, like so many things, it was way more intimidating than it should have been. I pulled it off quite easily. Now, my risotto may not have been perfect, but it was pretty tasty! The recipe below is my basic understanding of how you are supposed to cook risotto. I'd attribute it somewhere, but every recipe seems to say basically the same thing!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Challenge: Curried Couscous


Okay, okay, so this isn't actually challenging at all. The challenging part was that I had never made couscous before, and I can't exactly remember eating it either. So it was adventurous for me on that account, but that's it. And this is my blog, so there.

And, if it weren't a challenge, I wouldn't actually be posting it, because I didn't think it was that good. The flavors fell flat in my opinion. And yes, it could have been the fact that I didn't have any green onions so I omitted them. But I feel like it was more than that. It just didn't have any punch to it, and it was almost acrid. Maybe my curry is bad...but I doubt it. It's pretty new. I don't know. If the idea of curried couscous inspired you, play around with the general idea and fit it to what you think sounds good. In my opinion, it wasn't sweet enough (because it tasted a bit acrid) and it needed some kick, maybe more salt would help. *shrug* I'm an Ina fan too, but this one fell short when I made it. Sad.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Fallen Chocolate Souffle Cake


Weeks ago...nay, months ago, I won a cookbook giveaway from lisamichele.wordpress.com, and she sent me a copy of The Sweet Melissa Baking Book. I was so stoked when I got it, I pored over it, and dog-eared recipes I was dying to make, and dreamed of the treats melting in my mouth.

And then life happened. The book got shelved away, along with my baking dreams. I planned on baking from it eventually...

I pulled it out last week when I was trying to figure out how to use a couple of pounds of raspberries and was reminded of all those sweet dreams.

I didn't end up using it for the raspberries...but when my mom and I decided to have a family dinner together last Sunday, I knew I had the perfect dessert. I pulled out the Sweet Melissa book and dreamed once again, this time knowing my dreams would come to fruition.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Raspberry Almond Bars


I have a neighbor who does not bake. She used to, but has no desire anymore. She just doesn't enjoy the work. And although she loves baked goods, she and her husband get along just fine without her baking.

But this is mostly because she has me and another neighbor, who have made it a habit to share whenever we bake.

It works out great, actually. I love baking (mostly the eating part, I'll grant you) but it's just me and Jeff right now, and while I might enjoy eating an entire cake or batch of cookies, it's probably not wise. So I share. They get to enjoy a treat and I don't get (horribly) overweight.

The other day, I dropped some raspberry almond bars off at her house and called to let her know they were there. I didn't tell her what they were, just that I had left her a treat. The next time I saw her, she was just about speechless, which is a rarity for this friend. She asked what they were, and just had no words to describe how much she had enjoyed them.


And the thing is, they were just about as easy as you could ask for. Ten minutes to put it together, and then time to bake. So simple.

I don't think she'll be baking them anytime soon, but I know I'll be making them again!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Bread

I have very few memories from my childhood. Saying that makes me sound like some poor abused refugee kid, but I assure you, I had a very normal, middle-class suburban childhood. I was just a sensitive child to being bullied. So, in a move towards self-preservation, I have blocked out much of my childhood. It's sad, really...I remember mostly bad moments...and I'm quite sure I had much happier experiences. The whole normal middle-class suburban thing, you know.

One happy memory I have is eating fresh homemade bread. I remember the wheat grinder my mom used to grind fresh wheat into flour. The smell of hot flour was intoxicating to me as a six-year-old. I remember the wire cooling racks my mom set the hot loaves on. And I remember that first thick slice of bread, still steaming. Dense and moist, and perfectly flavored. Especially with a smear of jam or honey.

It was always a treat when my mom made bread.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse Tarts with Strawberries

Junior Chef is eating solids now. So far, she loves it all, with the exception of oatmeal. But, she'll gobble that down if we mix in some bananas or applesauce. I'm so pleased she loves food! But, feeding her requires me to think about grocery shopping a little differently. I have to be prepared for the next food,  I have to make sure to have fresh bananas and avocados on hand (and that they don't get overripe). And it really isn't a big deal, but I'm just used to planning a grocery list for just me and Jeff. It's just different.


So, last Saturday, I had to run to the grocery store just to pick up some bananas. But, on my way in, I noticed a display of strawberries for only $1.50 a pound. It's not the best price I've ever seen, but when they are that price, I'll pick up a pound or two without even thinking twice.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Lemon-Basil Pasta with Chicken


I have a secret.

Pioneer Woman's recipes rarely work out for me.

I always want them to, I really do! I love reading Ree's posts. I try her recipes often. But most of the time, they're just okay.

It makes me so sad!

But, the other day, I tried another one. See, she just makes them sound so wonderful. You know. You all read Pioneer Woman. She makes her food sound just delightful. And I love her cooking style: she's not afraid to use butter, she cooks by the seat of her pants, and she makes a lot of food that sounds like food I would like. Well, she nailed this one. It was delicious. Finally, I thought...I love a PW recipe!! Yay!

I have to say, this one had me at the basil.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Oreo Truffles


A few years ago, I worked as a secretary at a university. In my department, we had lots of student employees and I interacted with most of them on a fairly regular basis. It was a really fun place to work, and most everyone became close friends throughout the semesters. If it weren't so stressful during the regular school year, I'd really miss working there.

Due to the nature of our department (busy, lots of employees, stressful...etc), treats were always welcome, and often assigned depending on the shift. One day, a girl brought in Oreo truffles. Another student brought several to us non-student employees in the office, but didn't tell us what they were. We each took one and I was shocked. I couldn't tell what it was. The interior was soft and smooth, and a nice blend of sweet and tart. And naturally, they were addictive. The last thing I would have guessed would have been Oreos, but at the same time, I can't say I was surprised when she told me. We polished off the few that had been brought over and promptly requested more. When the girl who brought them in came over, we asked her what they were and she told us. We all acted duly impressed, because none of us had seen anything like it! This was before the cakeball craze hit our area. She shrugged it off and looked genuinely surprised by our reaction. She told us how to do it, and of course, it's simple. You really don't even need a recipe.

Of course, I'll give you one anyway. These are delicious. And look impressive, especially if you dress them up like Bakerella does. But so simple. I whipped these up last night and it took me less than 45 minutes from start to finish. Of course, that doesn't include time for the dipped truffles to set, but the point is, they're easy. And you should make them.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Zucchini Pancakes

It's finally time to start thinking about how to use delicious garden vegetables! Hurrah!

Last week, Jeff and I visited his family in LA. It was a great trip, and it was fun to get away from the daily cares of our lives. Plus, Grandma loved caring for Junior Chef (age 6 mo.) so I was off the hook for a few days, which is always nice.

When we got back, though, we had driven for two days (in order to make it easier on Junior Chef) and returned to an empty refrigerator. Which I reason is better than returning to a smelly refrigerator...but there is still the problem of what to eat when you're tired and hungry. Part of the problem is that when you have returned from vacation, you have theoretically gotten your fill of fast food and restaurants, rendering those options less desirable.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Cheese Enchiladas

I am a food snob.

There's no denying it, unfortunately. I like eating good food, and so often, typical chain-restaurant food does not measure up. The food is often salty (a sure sign that it is full of preservatives) the vegetables are frozen, or the food is prepared cafeteria-style (in huge quantities and plated from vats) and that is never good.

Mexican restaurants are notorious for serving sub-par cafeteria food. And who can blame them? With menus that have dozens of items, it would be impossible to not serve food that way. While I used to love Mexican food, my snobbery has taken hold and I now find it all but unbearable. Don't get me wrong; I like Mexican food! It's the typical Mexican restaurant I can't bear anymore. Greasy food, salty food, and poor quality meat rank among the top offenses in my book...so we rarely go out for Mexican food.

It makes me sad. I love cheese enchiladas with a good red sauce, salsa that tastes like the vegetables that are in it and not the bottle it came from, and crispy flautas that aren't greasy. But I'm often disappointed. There are some great Mexican restaurants out there...just not near me. If you're in the downtown Salt Lake City area, Red Iguana is always delicious, and they serve up several types of Mole, which Jeff adores.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Challenge: Homemade Ravioli


There's a restaurant near my house. It's famous for its pizza, and rightly so. We love getting the chicken artichoke, but substituting tomatoes for the spinach. It's pretty delicious.

But they also serve pasta.

And they serve an all-you-can-eat pasta bar.

I only need one plate. I mean, really. Pasta's pretty filling. In my younger days, I could stomach more than one plate, but now...well, I leave the heavy eating to Jeff. Since I can really only eat one plate, I have to choose very carefully. I have to make my choice count, after all. And they have some great choices: there are usually 12 different types of pasta and 6 different sauces.

Choosing the pasta is never a hard decision. They have only a few freshly-made pastas, and those are what I pick from. I usually select the plain fresh fettuccine and the fresh whole wheat fettuccine. And I top one half with roasted red pepper sauce, and the other half with something else. Usually a white chicken sauce.

It's always delicious. The pasta is perfectly tender, slightly thicker than traditional pasta, and it absorbs the sauce like it was intended to. The red pepper sauce is amazing; perfectly creamy, flavorful, with just a slight punch. The Pioneer Woman posted a recipe for roasted red pepper sauce a couple of years ago, and I tried it. I like Ree, I really do. But I'm still on a quest for a good red pepper sauce. If I ever find one, I'll post it, rest assured.

I always wish I could eat more, but I also know I'll seriously regret it if I do.

Overeating is never rewarded.

This was, though, my first real exposure to freshly-made pasta. And it's been a treat for me ever since.

Since it's a treat, and my mother never made it, I always considered it an elusive dish. So, I challenged myself to make it. But not just any pasta, ravioli.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Fresh Strawberry Ice Cream


Preserve that perfect strawberry taste, even with imperfect strawberries, with this ice cream. It tastes so fresh, I can hardly stand it. If it only it were as healthy for you as fresh strawberries! But hey, it's loaded with a full pound of strawberries, so it can't be all that bad for you, can it?

This recipe is perfect when strawberries go on sale for a dollar a pound. You can buy a lot, and freeze this ice cream. Then you don't have worry about the berries spoiling, plus, even if the berries aren't perfectly sweet when you buy them, you'll never be able to tell because this ice cream makes them taste amazing. Not kidding.


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Favorite Bakeries

We recently celebrated our fifth anniversary. I can hardly believe we've been married that long; it's just flown by! To celebrate, we took it easy. Earlier in the day, I picked up a mini cake from a local bakery, The Chocolate Dessert Cafe. When Jeff got home from work, we went out dinner at a great Italian restaurant and took a walk. Simple.

But it sparked this post. See, the bakery is just amazing. And we have several local bakeries that are just awesome. For being in little old Utah County, and not, say, in New York or Paris, we do pretty well for ourselves in the bakery department. So, without further ado, my favorites, in no particular order.

  • Kneaders. This is a Utah chain that has spread to Arizona. Aside from the customer service, which is less than stellar even in off-peak hours, everything I've had here has been great. They are a cafe, so they have sandwiches and salads, but they also offer all-you-can-eat cinnamon french toast with caramel syrup, strawberries, and whipped cream in the mornings for about $5. I can't eat more than a plate, and Jeff can only eat one extra slice, that's how big they are. But they are so yummy, especially when strawberries are in season. They also sell artisan-style bread, and they have the best baguettes I have found in Utah. That is actually how I started going here: a French professor I had once brought in baguettes and cheese for us, and said he had purchased them here. And my favorite treat is the lime tart. Yum.
  • Flour Girls and Dough Boys. This is another artisan bakery, and claims to be 100% artisanal (no yeast). It's located in Lehi, Utah, and is AMAZING. They have a little bit of everything, and are also a cafe. Their sandwiches are delicious, and I wish I lived closer. As it is, we only get to go when we're passing through Lehi. They have divine cream puffs and cream cheese brownies, not too mention the cookies. Oh, the cookies. Shortbread chocolate chip, and Oatmeal chocolate chip stuffed with coconut and pecans. Really, just yum.
  • Sweet Tooth Fairy. I have to admit, the first time I visited, I was not impressed. Their selection was, in my opinion, pathetic. I remember seeing only a handful of cupcake flavors and a few cookie flavors, in addition to a few boxes of cakeballs. And I couldn't fathom spending $2 on a cupcake, so I got a cookie, and it was okay. But. My sister-in-law, when visiting us, brought half a dozen cupcakes from her favorite cupcakery (which shall remain nameless to protect the not-so-innocent) and I thought they were pathetic. I didn't say this of course...how can you tell someone that they paid $3 for a sorry cupcake? The thing is, they were really sweet and they fell in the middle. The bakery had piled on frosting (probably close to 3 inches, easy) which covered the fact that they had fallen in the middle, but also made them extraordinarily sweet. They tasted fine, if you could get past the toothache. When she came again, I picked up a half-dozen from the Sweet Tooth Fairy, and wasn't expecting much. I just did it because I thought she'd appreciate it. But they were astounding (this coming from someone who doesn't LOVE cake)! So much better. They weren't drenched in frosting, but were as perfectly balanced as possible. They did have more flavors than I remember seeing the first time I visited, and they had some really good ones. I tried (halves or quarters, of course) chocolate marble, German chocolate, toasted coconut (my favorite), cheesecake, dulce de leche (I only had a bite of those two) and chocolate peanut butter. They were all great. They were all moist. They weren't too airy. And not one of them had fallen in the middle. The first store is in Provo, but they have opened stores in Draper and St. George. The owner has also appeared on Rachel Ray with her cake bites. Next time I want $2 cupcakes, I'm so there.
  • The Chocolate. Last, but certainly not least. As mentioned, these are in no particular order. This is where I bought the mini cake for our anniversary. This is such a fun place; it's a cafe, but they just sell desserts and coffee. I visited once on a Friday night and the line was out the door. It was great to see it so busy, because that means it's doing well, right? The only thing I haven't loved has been the mint brownie. But guess what? I don't like mint brownies, so that's hardly fair to judge them based on that (Jeff picked it out and I didn't have the heart to tell him no). They have an amazing turtle tart, which happens to be gluten free. Yes. And you can't tell it's gluten free. They also sell an array of cupcakes and other sweet things (not all are chocolate...). Love it. They have the MOST amazing vanilla cake I've ever tasted. Whoever said vanilla is bland has not tried this cake. I'm telling you, I love chocolate. But the chocolate cake was a disappointment after the vanilla.
With all these great bakeries, it's almost hard to find motivation to bake anything myself. Almost. :-)

Saturday, June 19, 2010

My Favorite Appliances

There are SO many countertop kitchen appliances out there. And so many of them perform precisely ONE function. Which, to me, feels wasteful. They do take up a lot of room, after all. I got rid of our electric can opener a few years ago because I just thought it was a waste of space. Are we really opening so many cans that we need an appliance to do it for us so we don't get carpel tunnel? I don't think so. The manual can openers work just as well, and take about quarter of the space. While there are some that are useless (in my opinion), there are some I cannot live without. And it has surprised me; I didn't think I would own some (or most) of these. But I love them.
  1. Ice Cream Maker. I used to have this one, but "upgraded" because this bowl is slightly bigger and the machine is smaller. Always a plus. Plus, the first one had the dispenser, which I never used, and made it a pain to clean. It claims to be for soft serve ice cream, but what they don't tell you is that ALL homemade ice cream is basically soft serve ice cream and you need to freeze it for several hours before serving if you want it firmer.
  2. Rice Cooker. I have a really basic one, and it does the trick just fine, but, I don't make sushi or anything that requires specially prepared rice. It holds 7 cups, I think, so it's a good size, and we use it a lot. I have also used it for rice pilaf, and it works beautifully.
  3. Toaster Oven. I have a large cuisinart one, and it's been going strong for 5 years. It broils, toasts, bakes...it's amazing. I have never baked cookies or anything in it, but I have cooked with it (roasting vegetables, etc), and it's great. When you don't want to heat the whole house up but really need the oven, it's perfect. Also, I don't own a toaster. This works well for toasting and that's one less appliance I need!
  4. Food Processor. I thought this was the stupidest gadget ever. And then I had one of those mini food blender sticks, and I used the process attachment all the time, especially for hummus or falafel. And then I decided that I was burning out my blender when I puree food, especially for roasted potato leek soup. So I stole my mom's food processor, because it was sitting in her basement, completely forgotten, and I love it. Grating carrots has never gone so fast!
  5. Kitchenaid Stand Mixer. I have the Artisan tilt-head model, and I like it, but wish I had sprung for the more expensive, larger one.
  6. Just one more...Popcorn Popper. I grew up in a popcorn-eating family, and microwave is okay, but nothing beats home-popped (is that the right word?). Especially when it comes to making caramel corn, which just happens to be one of my favorite treats. This particular popper doesn't need a lot of oil and pops the corn wonderfully. There are rarely stray kernels, even with store brand popcorn. Stray kernels can really ruin caramel corn (chipped tooth, anyone?).
What appliances are your favorites? What can you just not live without? And what have you used a lot more than you thought you would?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Overnight Apple French Toast


When I was in college, I studied abroad in Paris for a semester. It was amazing. I loved it, and I wish I had been more adventurous or more experienced, because I wasted a lot of my time while I was there. I loved it just the same, and felt like I really grew a lot. I learned to know and love a city besides the one where I grew up, and I learned to find my way around. I became a lot more independent.

But I still missed home. A lot. I didn't live at home as a student, but I attended a university only about an hour away from home, so I saw my family really whenever I wanted. Being in Europe for four months really helped me gain independence from that, but I was really ready to see my family when I got home.

A few weeks before we came home, I asked my mom to make me apple French toast when I got back. It was something she often made for us on holidays, especially Thanksgiving or Christmas, and it was just special. I loved the warm caramel syrup on the bottom and crispy edges of the toast on top that concealed the moist, eggy interior. It seemed like a great welcome home.


Saturday, June 12, 2010

Herbs in My Garden

When we moved into our new home two years ago, I threw caution to the wind and planted a vegetable garden. I didn't know what I was doing, but the previous owner had installed raised garden beds complete with soaker hoses hooked up to the sprinkling system, and so it was easy. Well, it seemed easy.

That's the thing: anyone can garden. But not everyone can do it well.


I don't do it well. But I still enjoy what we get. Using potting soil and having a sprinkling system really do a lot for someone without a green thumb.

Each year, I've tried some new things, and gone with old-standbys as well. And each year, I've incorporated some herbs into my plans.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Cherry, Chocolate, and Buttermilk Scones

I love when a recipe is both surprisingly easy and amazingly delicious. It's so rewarding. It makes you feel like a master chef, and you get to enjoy the fruits of your non-labor.

Such was the case with these scones. Which is why there was only one left to take a picture with. At least until I gave it to my sister a minute after taking this picture, at which point it was promptly devoured. This is why the picture is extraordinarily pathetic.

But, first we need to rewind.
 
Yesterday, I had to give a presentation in my graduate class. My project is on food writing and narrative, and I'll be using some of David Lebovitz's writings as a text to study. So, I thought it would be very appropriate to bake something written by him for my class. But--we all know David Lebovitz is the king of sweets. And my class is 8am. Somehow, I didn't think Chocolate Idiot Cake or Mint Chip Ice Cream would fly. But, I found a recipe for scones that sounded delicious in his Great Book of Chocolate. Scones are totally breakfast food, right? Plus, bonus--I still had buttermilk in my refrigerator, and the expiration date was quickly approaching (read: had passed two days earlier, but it still smelled like buttermilk, so we're good).

Yay! I found the one. But. I worried. Every scone I'd ever eaten had been rock hard. And, the recipe did say to serve warm...which suggested to me that these, too, might turn to rocks upon cooling and *gasp* overnight storage. But there was no way I was making these the morning of class--I don't get up that early. My only option was to bake them the night before. I also worried because the instructions said to cut in the butter--not something I'm very good at or do very often. Yet, it looked easy overall.

So, I did it. I was worried it would flop at 9pm the night before and I would be left without any time to prepare anything else, but that was a risk I was willing to take. But as I got into making them, my worries dissipated.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Bean to Bar

One thing I love about where I live is that even though it isn't exactly metro, I can get some really high quality treats. We have a few artisan bakeries and other fun dessert options. We have a local mill that (I've heard) mills great flour (I've been meaning to try it, okay?). Yes, despite being no where interesting, we have delicious food options.

That ability to get great treats locally is about to skyrocket. Amano is a bean to bar chocolate factory and it's located in Orem, Utah, which is near where I live. Since they began making chocolate, they have sold mostly on the internet and at some storefronts, although I've never actually seen any (I haven't ordered any either...I'm too lazy. Which I realize is amazing.) BUT, I saw on their website that they are opening a factory storefront sometime around June. Which is now! I cannot wait to try their chocolate (and yet I've never ordered any...suspicious, I grant you.)


Today, when I checked on when their store might be open, I was pleasantly greeted with a contest for a year's worth of chocolate. (Umm, yum!) And I had to enter. I think you should too. But I hope I win. Sorry! I could really use a year's worth of chocolate. Just imagine how much weight I would put on. And how much fun I would have doing it! Good luck, though...if it can't be me, I hope it's you. Is that better? I think once their store is open, I might have to have a giveaway with a bar or two of their fantastic chocolate. But it will also have to wait for winter...I'd hate to have it melt everywhere before it arrived.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Buttermilk Pound Cake

I love dessert. I have quite a sweet tooth. But I've never really gotten into cake. So many cakes are too fluffy, and I like dense desserts. So when I make cakes, I opt for molten cakes, quick breads, and pound cakes. Those...those are right up my alley. Desserts you can really sink your teeth into. Desserts that are substantial.

I love them. But I still don't make them very often. I guess that's partly because they're just not good for you. But mostly because it's just me and Jeff...eating the entire thing ourselves...which is fun, don't get me wrong, Having cake for a week is nice. But then you realize you consumed half a pound of butter and a whole cup of sugar by yourself...well, it starts to make you feel gross.

Sometimes I give in to temptation. Like last week. The problem is, Elissa of 17andbaking makes it Impossible not to! Her photography is delicious. Thus far, I've resisted.

But then, she made Buttermilk Pound Cake. Buttermilk, I thought. Ha! I never have buttermilk (even though she says you can make your own with the lemon juice trick). But then my in-laws visited. And I decided, since I needed to feed my sourdough starter anyway, I would make sourdough waffles. Which need buttermilk, apparently. So, I bought a quart and what do you know? I had 2 cups left. Perfect for making pound cake.

I didn't make it for my in-laws. I waited a couple of weeks and made it shortly after Jeff's birthday. I couldn't wait the two days Elissa suggests; we enjoyed it that night. And it was delicious. And heavy. And slightly sweet. The perfect end. Some desserts are far too rich. This one was perfect.

Resist. I dare you.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Does it feel like I'm slacking?

Because I am. I apologize. This time of year is hectic for everyone, I know. Within about 4 weeks, we have mother's day, memorial day, and father's day, and families with school-aged children deal with the last days of school. On top of that, I have Jeff's birthday and our anniversary, and I've been taking a graduate class, so we have our final projects and final exam coming up in about a week. Then I have a good friend from Paris coming to stay for a week (which I'm SUPER excited about; I haven't seen her in 3 years! It just means I'll be busy). Life is crazy.

I have things in queue for this blog...kind of. I have a post written about strawberry ice cream. But not pictures. I have pictures of a delicious bundt cake. But no post. And I have mango ice cream in the freezer waiting for a post and pictures.

I started this blog with the goal of posting 3 times a week. I thought that was very doable. Not quite daily, like blogging rockstars, but not terribly infrequent either, like blogging slackers. But then life happened.

Life always happens.

And you know, I wouldn't have it any other way. Because the truth is, this blog is fun. And that's all it's supposed to be. It's not supposed to be my life. I have a life. I have a dishwashing-rockstar of a husband and a little daughter and an MA program. Not to mention good friends, extended family, and a very social neighborhood.

This is not a goodbye, although I know it sounds like one.

It's a justification for my infrequent posting habits. I'll tell you what, though.

My final exam is on June 16th. After that, I'll get cooking and posting (before school starts again in the fall...).

I'll do more challenges, which is in part why I started this blog. To keep me honest, here are some self-imposed deadlines.

June 20th: I'll make ravioli from scratch (pasta and all)
July 15th: I'll bake bagels
August 4th: I'll make couscous (I'm sure this one is simple...but it's not something I have ever done)
August 20th: I'll bake lemon bars (ditto)

In addition to these, I'll continue posting other recipes, obviously...

I dunno. It sounds like a fun summer!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Challenge: Vanilla Marshmallows

Small pillows of fluffy, sugary goodness. Homemade marshmallows are the perfect snack for someone with a sweet tooth. That is, if you can eat just one. And they are nothing like the ones you can get at the grocery store. These are worth eating, spending the calories. If I had chocolate to dip them in, I would do it, because chocolate-covered marshmallows are one of my favorite treats. I might have to squirrel away a few to try later...

I was nervous, though.

Boy, was I nervous.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Pork Chops with Apples and Onions

About a month ago, my friend Sunny had a birthday. She and I, as well as our friend Julie, are firm believers that no woman should have to cook dinner on her birthday. So Julie and I made her dinner. It didn't actually end up being on her birthday because she went out with family. So she didn't cook anyway. But, this was our way of helping her celebrate. Planning birthday menus is fun, if laborious. I always want the meal to be special, so casseroles don't cut it, and it has to be delicious to the birthday person. We knew Sunny doesn't love Italian food, which ruled out a lot of my "special" meals, and we knew that she doesn't like curry or spicy foods, which ruled out some of Julie's favorites. (I promise, she's not as picky as she sounds right here!) So we brainstormed and then found a recipe for really tender pork chops on Mel's Kitchen Cafe. That was it. Julie put it together and made some potatoes and I baked breadsticks. The one thing I knew was that this dinner had better incorporate homemade bread in some form because Sunny does not bake but LOVES homemade bread. She is a jill of all trades (she replaced Julie's toilet once) and prefers repayment in the form of baked goods. We, of course, are happy to oblige. We also made molten chocolate cakes which ended up being not so molten, but still yummy. But the pork chops.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Minestrone

Some days are soup days. Especially in the fall and spring, when we have so many in-between days--one day will be nice, and the next...well, not so nice. Those days, when it's cold and rainy (or even snowy), call for soup. It warms the soul and makes the days seem less disappointing. Soup just does that. We've had a lot of those days lately...spring has been slow in coming this year. We put our tomato plants in just this week, even though they can usually go in safely after Mother's Day here in Utah. (I know, I know...just two extra weeks. But that is two extra weeks we have to wait for garden tomatoes!)

Needless to say, we've had lots of soup. This minestrone, though, is great all year. It's light enough that you don't feel overwhelmed when it's warm outside, but nice and hot when it's cool outside.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Indian Cauliflower and Potatoes

My first exposure to Indian cuisine was when I was a junior in college. Near the university I attended, there is a very popular Indian restaurant run by some Indian immigrants. At the recommendation of my friend, I tried the Chicken Coconut Korma.

I thought I had died and gone to heaven.

Over the course of my education, I visited that restaurant frequently. I share my passion for Indian food with my husband and we ate there while we dated at least once a month, often two or three times a month. Needless to say, I was disappointed I wouldn't be able to get my Indian fix when we moved to Los Angeles.

Now, I know what you're all thinking: there are dozens of Indian restaurants in LA! How could I worry?

Well, as it turns out, I ended up with something even better than a dozen Indian restaurants.

I ended up with my own Indian chef.

Sabbatical

Sorry everyone, for the mini sabbatical last week. I had company and between preparing my house and hosting, I was pretty busy. But everyone has left and my house is quiet. I will get posting again, I promise. And there are some good things coming, too! Indian cauliflower, strawberry ice cream, minestrone...They're worth the wait, I promise. Again, sorry to abandon the blog for a week.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Sticky Coconut Chicken

I mentioned earlier that I buy my meat in bulk when it's on sale and freeze it. This works out great. Except that it's often unpredictable when meat will go on sale again, so when  my stores get low, I tend to get very protective. Yes, I'm crazy.

So, yesterday, I went to make dinner. I'd found a recipe for sticky coconut chicken (and I LOVE coconut). But when I looked for chicken, all I found was two small bags of chicken pieces and a half breast. Not suitable for grilling (or pan-frying, as I had planned on). And I wondered if this dish would be worth it, using up the rest of my chicken. What if it wasn't as tasty as I imagined it would be? Would I have used up my chicken for no reason? But, there was enough there for just me and Jeff, I didn't know what else to make, so I opted to cut up the breast and make it a stir-fry type dish. It worked great! I mixed the marinade and poured it right in with the frozen chicken and left it for about an hour, and once the chicken had thawed enough, I cut up the breast and threw it back in the marinade.

I don't know why I was worried. The dish was delicious and definitely something I'll be making again. It had a great punchy flavor and the sweet was perfectly balanced. I actually didn't take pictures of this dish before I began eating because I was apathetic about it; I couldn't imagine that it would be good enough to warrant a post. But as soon as I had taken a bite, I frantically turned to the kitchen to see if Jeff had left any so I could assemble a plate to photograph. It really was that good.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Asian Lettuce Wraps

I love PF Changs. Love it. We don't go often, but when we do, it never disappoints. The food is so flavorful. Nothing is bland.

Part of the reason we don't go very often is that we have to order lettuce wraps as an appetizer. We have to. And then, it's just a lot of food after everything is said and done. Sure, you can always take what's left home, but it's never as good. Plus, if you are going somewhere after, you really can't. I always overindulge at PF Changs because it's just that good. And then I feel gross. Overeating is not a good thing.

So, I have seen lots of PF Changs imitation lettuce wraps recipes floating around the internet and I have never tried them. First, because I doubt that I could recreate the goodness at home, and second because the ingredient lists are always super long. No thanks.

Monday, May 3, 2010

No idea what to make for dinner...try marinated pork chops!

Sometimes when I don't know what to make for dinner (even though I've already laid a menu for the week...) I come up with great ad-libbed dinners. Other times, I just don't cook and we eat toast. Hey, just keeping it real.

Last week, I came up with something good. I have no idea where the idea came from, because it's really just a basic marinade with an Asian twist. It's probably a simplified conglomerate of many recipes I have read over the years. But it did the job! The sauce was pretty rich; next time, I'd dilute it before thickening it. Don't get me wrong; it was good, just strong. The best part is, you probably have all the ingredients in your refrigerator!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Good Reads

I, like many of you I'm sure, have a very extensive cookbook collection. I have over 30 cookbooks, and I should go through and give some away, because I have more than I need. And yet, I still continue to buy more...

I love looking through them, especially ones with beautiful, glossy photos. They are so much fun for me, I'm sure you understand. I'm sure many of you have the same weakness. Cooking blogs have, in many ways, replaced cookbooks for me; it is so easy to search for exactly what you are looking for. But cookbooks are fun because they are tangible. I hope they never go away.

Even though I have over 30, there are some I turn to a lot and others, not so much. Here are my top three.
  1. Favorites (by the Ivory family, published for the Make a Wish Foundation). This one, since it was for a charitable foundation and not for profit, is something of a Utah phenomenon. Most of the contributors are residents of Salt Lake City and are friends of the Ivory family. Since it's not a professional cookbook by any means, some recipes are fantastic while others are...less so. Some fit in with my cooking style (from scratch, homestyle), and others are written more with shortcuts in mind (such as using onion soup mix as seasoning and bottled salad dressing as marinades). Still, since it's a compilation of family favorite recipes, there are some gems. By the way, there's nothing wrong with using shortcuts. They have a place and I use them regularly when the situation calls for it. But it seems odd that recipes like that would be included in a cookbook.
  2. Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics by Ina Garten (actually, all the Barefoot Contessa books, except for Parties, which I don't have). I love Ina's style: good food that relies on fresh ingredients. I do a lot more cooking from her cookbooks during the summer when produce is at its peak.
  3. The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz. Yes, one of my top three is dedicated to ice cream. David has a way with sweet things. I would love to buy some of his other dessert books, but I'm afraid that would really be detrimental to my waistline, which has thus far survived my addiction to his ice creams.
What are your favorites?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Homemade Thin Mints

I saw some photos of homemade thin mints over at Lisa Is Cooking, and have been meaning to make them since. Problem is, Lisa has a great policy and refuses to publish already-published-recipes unless she actually changes them enough to justify it. Kudos, to Lisa, for making sure she's being legal. (By the way, I feel confident that I am posting recipes within legal bounds). But, that made it harder for me. I didn't have a great way of tracking down the recipe she used! So I put it off.

Then on Friday, it was my neighbor's ten-year-old daughter's birthday. We're good friends, so I wanted to make sure we did something for her. But what do you do for a ten-year-old? Really. Then, as I brainstormed all kinds of fun treats she would appreciate, it hit me. The other day, she had been BEGGING her mom for some thin mints. Her mom said no...so I figured it would be a perfect treat to make her some thin mints! (Consequently, I forgot until I was in the midst of dipping them, that my friend had told her no not because they didn't have any, but because she didn't want to open them. They are like Pringles, after all--betcha can't eat just one!)

Monday, April 26, 2010

Chicken With Asparagus and Roasted Red Peppers Over Rice

Asparagus has got to be one of my favorite vegetables. But, it's generally pretty expensive, so I don't get to buy it very often. But when it goes on sale...I love it.

I don't have a lot of recipes that call for asparagus because, as mentioned, I don't buy it very often. But this is one I love. I found it in an American Heart Association cookbook, one written for low cholesterol diets. No, I'm not concerned about my cholesterol...but it always pays to eat healthy food at least sometimes! I enjoy the American Heart Association cookbooks. I first discovered them at the library in Los Angeles where I used to live. They have great recipes, some designed as healthy alternatives, and others designed just as tasty, healthy food. My only complaint: they don't have pictures. I have a hard time visualizing things without pictures.

This one, though, was easy to visualize. Who hasn't had chicken ala king before? That's basically what this is, only better. And healthier. Yum!

Chicken With Asparagus and Roasted Red Peppers Over Rice
Adapted from American Heart Association Low-Fat, Low-Cholesterol Cookbook (4th edition)
Printable Recipe


1 1/2 cups asparagus cut into 2-inch pieces (about 1/2 pound)

2 1/2 cups chicken broth, low sodium if possible
1 teaspoon Provencal herbs (or thyme or tarragon)
pinch of cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
pinch of black pepper
1 1/2 cups fat free evaporated milk (or regular skim milk--evaporated milk makes the sauce yellowish-orange)
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 red pepper, roasted, peeled, and sliced into 2 inch pieces
2 cups cooked, cubed chicken
cooked rice, about 2/3-3/4 cup cooked rice per person

In a large skillet, stir together the broth, asparagus, herbs, cayenne pepper, salt, and black pepper. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce and simmer, covered, for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk together the milk and cornstarch. Stir into the broth. Cook for about 10 minutes, until it has thickened, stirring occasionally. Stir in the chicken and roasted pepper. Continue cooking just until the chicken and pepper are heated through. Serve with rice.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Chicken, Broccoli, and Tomato Pasta

I made my first "skillet meal" a couple of months ago, and I was instantly hooked. It doesn't sound cool and it's certainly not fancy or showy, but it's a perfect meal when you don't have a ton of time. It's basically well-rounded, it's filling, and it usually involves pasta. And we all know how I feel about pasta!

The first skillet meal recipe I made came from Mel's Kitchen Cafe. And I have made several since. They have all been utterly delicious. If you haven't been over to Mel's, you should check it out. She posts a lot of recipes and has a similar cooking style to me. Plus, she just revamped her website and it's a lot easier to search.

Last night, I had no idea what to make for dinner. I didn't have much in the refrigerator...a couple bunches of broccoli, some carrots...and a tomato that really needed to be eaten. I left the carrots alone because I found this recipe on Mel's and ended my recipe search immediately.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Chocolate-Cinnamon Ice Cream

A couple weeks ago, whipping cream was on sale. When it's on sale, I can't help but pick up a couple; if I don't make ice cream with it, I could make alfredo. If I don't make alfredo, I could make any number of other things, or just whip it up and eat it over a nice, chocolatey brownie. I'm a fan of cream. Even though it's horribly awful for your health...

Then, I forgot about that cream I bought. For about a week and a half. Oops! The use by date was only a day away, and I needed to use the cream. I fretted for a little while, trying to figure out what to make with it, and determined the only thing that made sense was ice cream. But what flavor? I flipped through my copy of Perfect Scoop feverishly, looking for just the right recipe, that, oh yeah, I had all the ingredients for. There were not that many recipes, that's for sure...but, I decided it was between chocolate (always a phenomenal stand-by) and cinnamon (a yummy flavor you can't buy at the store). I asked Jeff and his vote was for cinnamon, and then it hit me. Why not make a combination? Why decide at all? I looked over the recipes and figured out what I would do, and promptly called my neighbor to see if she had any extra semi-sweet baking chocolate because I only had 3 ounces and needed 5. I promised homemade ice cream in exchange for it, and she was naturally happy to oblige.

And then I set forth to make chocolate-cinnamon ice cream.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Beef With Broccoli, with a twist

I love beef with broccoli. I really enjoy Asian food because you feel like you are eating healthy food: it has so many vegetables, and you can stir fry things in minimal oil. As a general rule, though, I don't enjoy Chinese restaurants. Too many of them use poor-quality meat and I end up chewing on a piece of gristle. Yuck. So, we are limited to PF Changs and an upscale Chinese restaurant a few cities away.

People will tell me that they know of a great Chinese restaurant that has excellent quality food. And inevitably, when I believe them, the first bite I take has a big, chewy piece of gristle. I must just have terrible luck; Jeff has never had this problem. But I always do, and when my mouth feels that gristle, my body involuntarily shudders in disgust. I find it both disappointing and offensive. I would never serve meat like that at my table, and when I pay to eat out, I expect to be fed something better than what I could make at home. Maybe my expectations are too high. But I'm not sorry if they are; I like eating good food, and if that means I have to make it, so be it.

Anyway, that is neither here nor there. I enjoy beef with broccoli, despite all the poor experiences I have ever had. And I would love to recreate it at home. I tried a recipe a while back that promised to be just like your favorite take out. Unfortunately, I don't know if it was just because I knew it was there and I couldn't get my mind past it, or if I used a low-quality ingredient, but the fish sauce the recipe called for overwhelmed the recipe. I know many call for oyster sauce, but I don't know if I could get over the fish sauce experience. I'm not sure why I haven't thrown out that bottle, which continues to sit in my refrigerator; I know I'll never use it because the after-taste was way too much for me.

So, when I saw this recipe, for a pumped up version of beef with broccoli, and it did not have fish or oyster sauce in it, I leapt for joy!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Gardening

It's that time of year again...time to think about the garden! Are you gardening this year? I am really new to gardening. We bought a house just two years ago when we moved to Utah from Los Angeles (anyone who can afford a house in LA gets all my respect) and our backyard had some raised garden beds with soaker hoses already prepared. So that first year, I threw caution to the wind and dove right in. I didn't have any real experience and hoped for good luck. What else can you do when you don't know what you're doing?

That first year ended up going really well, and I think it was due to the dirt I used. I bought Miracle Grow Organic Garden soil from Lowes, and boy did it grow stuff. I had tons of tomatoes, which was awesome. Last year, I decided to get cheaper dirt from the local transfer station, and actually bought my seedlings and seeds from a local nursery that everyone raves about. And I had mediocre luck. It's all about the soil, people!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Penzey's Spices

I just got my first order from Penzey's and I'm so excited to try them. I have resisted ordering spices online because I figured my palate was not that discerning and that it really couldn't matter that much. But, then I ran out of Herbes de Provence, which I bought in Provence when I was there a couple of years ago, and I cannot survive without my Provencal herbs. I use them several times a week. And it's not exactly an herb you can pick up on your way home, at least around where I live. But, it is available through online spice merchants. I checked out Spice House and Penzey's, and Penzey's was cheaper AFTER shipping, which I thought was interesting. So, that's where I ordered from. And it came today! When I opened the box, I was hit in the face with the lovely scent of herbs and pepper. It was intoxicating. I will never doubt the importance of high quality spices and herbs again.

I am SO excited. In addition to Herbes de Provence, I ordered some European peppercorns, medium chili powder, cayenne pepper, and taco seasoning (I had to make it worth paying for shipping, right?). They also sent me a sample jar of mild chili powder, and I would have been more excited for a different sample, since I ordered a chili powder anyway, but what can you do? I wasn't expecting the little sample jar anyway, so it was a nice surprise. Thank you, Penzey's!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Hot Spinach Artichoke Dip

Wondering what to do with the rest of that frozen spinach from the stuffed pasta shells earlier this week? I always wonder. How many recipes call for more than a half a box of frozen spinach? And, you have to thaw it to take out half and the box specifically says not to refreeze. Argh! I never know what to do with the other half and it usually goes in the garbage two weeks later, after I have forgotten about it. I hate wasting food.

Well, you can wonder no longer! Make spinach artichoke dip! Hot and bubbly, not to mention fattening...you can't get much better than that. Unless you could...I found a recipe on Tasty Kitchen for a low-fat version of this cheesy mess, and it worked out really well. I had to fudge it a little, because my can of artichokes was in fact a small jar, and my half-box of spinach was only 5 ounces, but it worked out great just the same. I'm sure it would be great if you followed the original recipe and used as much spinach and artichokes as the recipe said.

Now, I have a confession to make.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Stuffed Pasta Shells

Like I've said earlier, we love pasta here at our house. We have several staples we go through on a pretty regular basis, and I always have plenty of dry pasta stashed away in the pantry; I stock up when it goes on sale. I don't think there's anything worse than a pantry without pasta in it. It can be such an easy and quick meal when you've had a hectic day. I know it's a big no-no for the carb-conscious, but I don't care. It's delicious.

One of our favorite staples is stuffed shells. I love stuffed pastas, and one of the challenges I will (eventually) do here will be to make ravioli from scratch. But for now, I'm going to satisfy myself with these stuffed shells with spinach and ricotta. I originally tried a recipe for stuffed shells from the Favorites cookbook by the Ivory Family, but I was sorely disappointed. I think the recipe must have had a typo because the spinach to ricotta cheese ratio was backwards: if I remember correctly, it called for 2 boxes of chopped spinach and only 1 carton of ricotta. I like spinach as much as the next gal, but that was WAY too much. Since, I've tried basing recipes off the recipes on the back of the pasta boxes and have had much better luck. But, I haven't looked at a box in a long time, so I have no idea how much my recipe resembles those recipes and I usually just improvise and throw stuff in the bowl. I kept track this time, for the recipe, and below is basically what I do every time, give or take here or there.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Mexican Chicken Pasta

Like many of you, I read Pioneer Woman daily. I love her wit and her photos, and I love her recipes. I admire the woman; she seems to come up with recipes so easily. Is it any wonder she has thousands and thousands of hits every day?

Back in February, she posted a recipe for Cajun Chicken Pasta. Like everything else, it looked delicious and I had to try it--we are into pasta here at our house. But, I was not so sure about the Cajun part. I've never really been exposed to much Cajun cooking, so I'm unfamiliar with the flavors (blasphemy! I know) and I don't have any of the spices. But, after reading the recipe, I decided it would be easy enough to alter it to become Mexican Chicken Pasta, which is exactly what I did. And it was delicious. Obviously this pasta has no real affiliation with Mexican cooking in any way; but I never said I cooked authentic Mexican food, so I don't think it matters. Plus, the most important part is that it tastes good. Which it does.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Samoa Ice Cream


Shortly after I started this blog, I had a dream. A glorious dream. Okay, it wasn't really a dream, I was definitely awake. But this dream kept me lying awake in bed, when I should have been sleeping. I could not get it out of my head.

The idea was Samoa ice cream. Girl Scout Cookies had just been delivered. And naturally, like many of you I'm sure, my passion for Girl Scout Cookies had just been remembered.

Samoas, in my opinion, are the best (and naturally one of the most-loved) of the Girl Scout Cookies. Thin Mints are nice, and certainly deserve their place in cookie fame, but Samoas. Mmm. Little can beat a Samoa, in my opinion.

Now, Trusty Dishwasher Jeff does not agree. When he tried a Samoa, he said, "well, they're good," and lost himself the privilege of eating any more. If you only think they're good, that's not good enough. At 50 cents a cookie and available for only about a month every year, you better love them.

However, the problem remained. How to capture the essence of Samoas in an ice cream. Coconut ice cream with fudge and caramel ripples? Too busy. Chocolate ice cream with caramel ripple and sprinkled with coconut? Meh. And what to do with the cookie. Obviously, it was a shortbread, but it wasn't overly buttery. Mix it in? Jeff prefers his ice cream exceptionally smooth, so that was out.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Breadsticks

We often collaborate on dinner with our neighbors. It's wonderful; it motivates both of us to cook, we make great dinners, we get to hang out together, and everyone wins! I often bring breadsticks because I have a great recipe, and they are almost always the first thing to go. Her oldest daughter loves them and would eat them all if we would let her. We also use them to bribe her second daughter, a picky eater, to eat her dinner. Last time I made them, I tried something a little different. First, I divided the dough and then let them rise a second time so they would look more uniform (in the past, they've always been misshapen because I am terrible at rolling them out!). Second, I baked them on the pizza stone instead of a baking pan. What a difference! I am using my stone more and more often because I love the results. Crusts are crisper and have a better color, and the interiors are soft and delicious. If you don't have a pizza stone, I seriously recommend getting one; it is definitely for more than just pizza!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Porcupine Meatballs

I know I said I cook everything from scratch...and that's (mostly) true. But, I haven't figured out how to replace the tomato soup in this recipe, and I don't know if I really want to. See, this is a recipe from my mom, and I love it. It was something she made a lot when I was growing up and it was one of my favorite meals. I remember fighting over the meatballs with my siblings, and I remember thinking we left some in the bowl beneath all the deliciously thick sauce for my dad, who often worked late, only to find out there wasn't anything actually there...So, it's sentimental, as well as delicious. Now that I'm grown, I add more chili powder and often add chili powder to the meatballs. And I like the kick of adding red pepper flakes. If you don't, leave them out.

As a side note, does anyone know how to replace tomato soup in recipes? I'd love to know.

Friday, April 2, 2010

My Kitchen Wish List

There are endless kitchen tools to buy. Some very handy, others...not so much. Does anyone really need onion goggles? I don't think so...and I (personally) believe that there is something to be said for an uncluttered kitchen.  Some things are indispensable, though, and warrant the space. Like the two sets of measuring cups and spoons I have. Because, don't you know that whenever I go to cook, my 1 teaspoon is inevitably in the dishwasher. And while I do a lot of measuring with my palm, sometimes you need precision.

So, getting back on track, there are lots of cool things. Here's my kitchen wish list.
  1. Microplane Zester
  2. A Really Nice Knife
  3. Mandolin
  4. Digital Kitchen Scale
  5. Le Creuset French Oven
These are things I think would be highly useful (and I've seen other food bloggers RAVE about them...) but I have gotten by without them for so long...and when Christmas rolls around, well, I forget. So, Trusty Dishwasher Jeff, here's a go-to gift list. You know what? Mother's Day is coming...

What kitchen items are you dying to have?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Orange Cranberry White Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

What a mouthful! Years ago, I was a leader for a girls' church group. I had just 4 girls, ages 8 to 11. I was always trying to think of activities to do with them, and many of them centered around food. What can I say? I have always been a sucker for treats. In order to make it more service-oriented, I decided to help them make cookies in a jar as gifts that they could give to people they appreciated. Naturally, most of them chose their moms...but, through that activity, I inadvertently found a cookie recipe I have made over and over. (Just not as jar cookies)

After I moved, I lost the recipe. I was pretty bummed. Periodically, I would scour my pathetic and disorganized recipe file, always hoping I had somehow overlooked it, but I never found it. About a week ago, I decided to Google it; I had initially found the recipe online anyway, I should be able to find it again, right? Right!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Granola

I think granola is a very personal thing. I mean, everyone has their own preferences. I got my recipe from Barefoot Contessa, and in the introduction to the recipe, she claims hers is the best granola and that she merely built on someone else's granola.

Well, I happen to think that MY granola is the best ever, and I have just tweaked hers. See? Very personal. So. I'm posting my recipe and take it for what it's worth. Adjust it, make it, love it.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Julie's Morning Glory Muffins

In December, before I had my baby, I made a big batch of Morning Glory Muffins. I got the recipe from my good friend, Julie, because she makes them all the time and I love them. It proved to be a very wise choice: I froze them and they became the perfect go-to breakfast while I figured out how to be a mom. It worked so well, I made more about a month after she was born.

Julie got the original recipe from allrecipes.com, her go-to reference. But I really like the changes she made, and it's even healthier than the original recipe, which is good. Not many muffins are actually good for you. But Julie toned down the sugar and with all the fruits and nuts, they are nutritious in my opinion. I mean, c'mon. You can see all the goodness in there: carrots, bits of apples, craisins...yum.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Calzones

Trusty Dishwasher Jeff requested Calzones last week. And I aim to please, so I made them for him. I was a little concerned, because I had eaten calzones that weren't cooked all the way through (and in Venice, no less!), calzones that were doughy...so I was a hesitant to make them. But, after some googling, I noticed that most recipes used a basic pizza dough, and I had a recipe I loved, so I just went for it. And they worked out! I think I will use less yeast in the future (and have changed the recipe below to reflect that) because even though I rolled them out fairly thin, they still rose a good deal in the oven and they were a bit more bready than I think they should have been.

What is so great about calzones (and pizza) is that you can top them with whatever you want! So, go crazy with this. It's so flexible, and that's totally my kind of cooking.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Rustic Sourdough Bread

If you'll recall from last week, I made a sourdough starter and then questioned how it was doing...well, I still wasn't sure, but I thought I might as well go for it. It seemed like the right consistency, and rather than just discard what I removed to feed it, I thought I would use it to try and bake. If it didn't work, I wasn't out much, just the extra flour really.

So, I headed back over to the King Arthur Flour website, confident that they could provide a suitable recipe to try out my starter. And of course they came through. I was surprised at how many of the sourdough recipes called for wheat gluten, which I didn't have...but I found one that did not: Rustic Sourdough Bread.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Roasted Potato Leek Soup

I discovered leeks about 2 years ago. I had never cooked with them before, but found an Asian-style recipe that included them and I always try to do a recipe correctly at least the first go-around. Well...most of the time, anyway...

See, my mom does not like leeks. So I never had them growing up. When I tried them, though, I knew we would be life-long friends. And we have been. I just wish they weren't so darn expensive. I know you can use the green stalks, but I never do so they go in the garbage, which makes leeks quite expensive. I know, I know...I need to be better.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Blackberry Swirl Ice Cream

I had forgotten how truly amazing homemade ice cream is.

Last summer, I took a bit of a sabbatical from the kitchen...I was pregnant and exhausted. The last thing on my mind was making ice cream! Although, I probably would have loved eating it, I didn't need the extra weight.

But, I got a new ice cream maker for Christmas, and I have been itching to try it out. I finally had the energy, and it's been warm enough to justify it, and I didn't need any more justifications than that. I mean, it's ice cream, people!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Provencal Popcorn


I grew up in a popcorn-eating family. We ate popcorn often, and my dad was the best at making it. Lots of butter, lots of salt...yum. Butter really does make everything taste better.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Sourdough Update

So, I'm not entirely sure this is working.

My mixture smells like alcohol, and I think that is probably a good sign.

But it's thin, and it's not bubbling anymore, although it still separates.

Maybe this is what the blogger on King Arthur meant when she said "Frankly, I tried to make my own from scratch, and it simply wasn’t a happy experience."

I'd post a picture, I really would, but it looks kinda gross. I'll spare you.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Challenge: Make Your Own Sourdough Starter


I have heard people throw around the term "starter" for a while. I think when I was a freshman in college, a boy in the next dorms over had a starter he used frequently. He bragged about how it had been around since the Gold Rush. Hearing that made me feel intimidated by it; if it's something that people cherish so much and keep around for so long, it MUST be difficult.

This fear was confirmed when I read on the King Arthur blog that one of the test kitchen cooks tried to make a starter and it was a complete disaster.

But then I read their instructions for making a starter and it sounded extraordinarily easy! How could it be that hard? Four ingredients.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Chicken Spiedies

My good friend turned me onto the My Kitchen Cafe blog. Her recipes seem to be right in line with how I cook, so I was really pleased to discover it. I've already made a couple of dishes from her site and they have been good.

Tonight, I made Chicken Spiedies. The same friend that told me about the blog also raved about these sandwiches. When I saw the picture, I thought they looked okay, but nothing to write home about.