35 Days of Celebration: 16

35 Days of Celebration: Day 16Tonight’s dinner was food that was red or green (and white for good measure). I was thinking of making it a red and green food themed day, but that didn’t go according to plan. Why you may ask? Oh, that would d be because I decided to go the midnight showing of the hobbit. That somewhat upset my timeline for the day. Of course, I’d do it again in a second, disruption and all. Red & GreenAnyway I slept in late, not leaving me enough time to make the imagined red velvet pancakes for breakfast. Lunch was going to be salad, but then I ended up napping instead. This brings me to supper, which I ate way to much of. Spinach salad with raspberry vinaigrette dressing and parmesan cheese, veggie farfalle with pesto sauce, and green crystal-lite (martini & margarita mock-tales mixed). It was my first time making pesto and it was quite lovely.

Until next time
~ Q

35 Days of Celebration 01 | 02 | 03 | 04 | 05 | 06 | 07 & 08 | 09 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13

Quick Post: Throwing Together Supper

Rice and FruitOne of the nice things about living alone is that I don’t have to answer “What are we having for supper?” There are downsides that I have mentioned (most meals I make are for 4 or more people) but occasionally the unknown dinner is a blessing. Take the other day when I threw together rice, strawberries, blueberries and shredded carrots then called it quits. Not in my wildest dreams would I have planned for this to be a meal, but in the end it worked out. I didn’t really use amounts, just enough for one person. So a cup or so of rice and handful of diced strawberries (ditto the blueberries and carrots). When the rice was almost done I added the other ingredients so they all would get heated up. Fun fact warm blueberries practically burst with flavor, I’ll have to remember that for the future.

Fancy Fish

It’s that time of week where I have my family dinner. Since instigating this last month it has been rather successful in making sure I see my parents at least once a week. They live about ten miles away, there really is no reason for me to not see them weekly. Although they are hosting tonight figured I’d share the recipe from when I hosted last Wednesday.

I don’t cook a whole lot of meat. Browning burger or cooking chicken is about as complex as I get. In light of the Easter season I decided to make fish. This was a major deal for me, turns out I didn’t have much to fear. I bought some cod fillets; chopped up a tomato that I combined with diced pineapple and presto-chango done! The biggest issue was that I’m use to meat changing color has it cooks. Chicken goes from pink to white, beef from red to brown etc. Fish apparently goes from white to white.Lacking this foreknowledge I did over cook the fish a bit, but I usually prefer me meat overcooked rather than risk the alternative. I don’t want to hear the cow moo when I bit into a burger, sue me. Toss in some steamed vegetables and rice and it was ready to serve. A simple, yet effective, meal.

FishIngredients:

  • 4-6 oz fish fillets (I used cod)
  • 1 cup diced pineapple (I used a can)
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1/2 tablespoon chili paste

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 375
  • Line 9×13 baking pan with aluminum foil and place fillets on foil (if yours were ever frozen be sure they are defrosted)
  • In a bowl mix pineapple, tomato and chili paste. Once combined divide and place topping on fillets.
  • Bake in oven for 20 minutes (obviously this is flexible ‘cook until the fish flakes apart’ were the directions I had)

As you can see from the slightly out-of-focus photo I also chose to serve my fish on a small bed of spinach. Presentation is everything.

My kitchen focus was severely lacking the other day

Pesto Pepper PizzaI have recently initiated meal planning into my life. I go a pinch overboard and plan a month in advance. Since I live alone, I really only have to pick out 8-10 recipes that I’ll spread out over the month. Any who, I was planning on making Chicken Pesto Pizza for lunch one week. I was at one grocery store and decided to wait on getting the chicken until later in the week when I’d hit up Fareway, however that stop never happened. It was 8:50 on Monday night when I was getting ready to bake the pizza that I would have for lunch the following day when I realized my mistake. By that time my local grocery store was closed (which is only 4 blocks away, so sad) as well as Fareway, by the time I would have driven over to the next town. What could I do? Not make it and have something else for lunch (a good solution) or make it without the title ingredient. As the picture shows I chose the latter, I made Pesto Pepper Pizza and it was delicious. It’s passed all my ‘rules’: it’s good hot, reheated and cold. The perfect single person food or at least I enjoy it all those ways. My taste buds diverge from the norm. For instance I’ve never gotten the extreme love for steak. Yeah it’s good and all but I’m just as happy with a well cooked chicken breast or even a burger. All-in-all, despite my short comings, I was (and am) quite pleased with the end result. Also I have a second pizza crust that I can try the correct recipe on. Win-win.

The altered recipe is below, until next time.
~ Q

PestoPizza_LargeIngredients:

  • 2 cups spinach (frozen + thawed)
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil – set 1/2 tsp aside
  • 3 teaspoons basil
  • 3 teaspoons parsley
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)
  • 1-12″ prebaked pizza shell
  • 1 orange pepper, cut into small strips
  • 1 water-packed canned artichoke hearts, rinsed and drained, patted dry and quartered (the recipe called for 1/2 cup which is about 3 but I thought they smelled funny so I only used one – turns out I like them though so all three next time.)
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled feta cheese

Directions:

  • Preheat oven according to package (mine said 450 I believe)
  • Thaw the frozen spinach by placing it in a microwaveable bowl and microwaving it for 2 minutes.
  • Transfer the spinach into a blender or food processor, and add the remaining ingredients. Blend until smooth and creamy. (If the pesto is too thick, a small amount of water may be necessary to thin it out.)
  • Spread 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil over crust before spreading pesto
  • Top with peppers, artichokes, and cheese
  • Cook for 10 minutes

Fruit Pizza Redux

FruitCup_CloseLast week I had cause to make some desserts. My mom’s family came down to celebrate my uncle’s birthday and then we had an office luncheon to celebrate the birthday of one of my coworkers. I was trying to make something health (even if faux-healthy, it was still dessert) so I opted for fruit pizza. Fruit pizza is somewhat of a family ‘thing’.

When I was in elementary school each of my homeroom teachers could expect a fruit pizza compliments of my family. Excessive? You be the judge, but we were always making a bunch for the high school teachers, where my dad was principal. When you’re already making eight, what’s one more?

Fast forward to last fall when I first modified the fruit pizzas for individual consumption. My office participated in the town’s progressive dinner. We baked several dozen individual sugar cookies (rather than baking them as one giant pizza) and had people who stopped in for the event top them however they wanted. It was a HUGE hit (if I do say so myself. However, since people were talking about it after they left our office, I feel confident in that statement).

Fast forward again to where we began this tale, last week. I was looking for a way to bake the little delights but have it more contained. The toppings have a tendency to roll off once cut up into individual pieces, if baked in large pizza form. The solution (so simple I’m sad it took me this long to discover it)? Bake the cookies in muffin tins. The edges curled up and held the filling and fruit marvelously. Now I decided (since I have so much free time on my hands apparently) that I’d try something different for my coworker, so I used up all the sugar cookie dough on my uncle’s treats.

For my second attempt I started with pastry dough. This may have worked if I cooked it all at once, but traditionally the fruit pizza is cooked then cooled then topped. The pastry dough, in it’s nature, cooked to be way to fluffy and airy. No such luck in being able to then top it so everything would stay on. Panicking, since it was now eight o’clock the night before I was suppose to bring the treats, I quickly checked the pantry. I still had graham crackers from my s’more cookie experiment. This lead me to the Google machine to look up simple graham crust recipes. Low and behold the inter-webs did not let me down and using muffin tins again I baked cute little individual fruit pizza pies. Perhaps pie is the wrong word, the crusts were flat and did not curve up the side at all, next time perhaps.

Although the two attempts yielded very different results I think I’m going to keep both in my repertoire. Also, as I topped each piece I felt like a real gourmet and quite fancy. Not the usual for yours truly. Besides the pastry crust being a total fail there were no huge mishaps. Progress?

Until next time (recipes below)
~ Q

Cream Cheese Filling
(split between the two recipes)

Ingredients

  • 1-8 oz package cream cheese
  • 1-16 oz tub whip cream (I think it was 16 oz, the standard tub size)

Directions

  • Allow cream cheese to sit until room temperature. If you’re impatient warm SLIGHTLY in the microwave. Also let the cream cheese warm up a tinge. (This is only necessary if you are coming directly from the grocery store where it’s been stored in the freezer. If it’s already it’s fluffy usual state that’s not necessary.)
  • Stir two ingredients together until well combined. Set aside or in fridge until ready for use.

Fruit Cookie CupsFruitCups

Ingredients

  • 1 container sugar cookie dough (or bake your own from scratch)
  • 24 blueberries
  • 1 kiwi, cut into 24 pieces
  • 6 strawberries, quartered
  • 3/4 of cream cheese filling mixture

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350 (or whatever package instructs)
  • Spray muffin tins (or use non-stick)
  • Divide dough into 24 separate balls
  • Flatten dough into disks that snugly fit the bottom of regular sized muffin tins
  • Once oven is preheated place tins in oven and cook for 10-12 minutes – or until thoroughly cooked. I used 2-12 muffin tins so I rotated them top for bottom halfway through.
  • Allow to cool completely before filling with cream cheese mixture. I used about half a spoonful in each cookie, not a science though, just wing it.
  • Top with cut up fruit. As stated I used kiwi, blueberries and strawberries. Feel free to use whatever your little heart desires. If made to these specifications you’ll have 24 servings, each about 125 calories (according to my app).

Fruit Pie Cups Fruit Pie Cups

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons sugar (although I think it could be omitted entirely)
  • 8 graham crackers, finely crushed
  • 18 blueberries
  • 1/2 kiwi, cut into 6 pieces
  • 3 strawberries, halved
  • 1/4 of cream cheese filling mixture

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350
  • Spare muffin tins (or use non-stick)
  • Combine butter, crushed crackers and sugar
  • Once well combined, pack into the bottom of 6 regular sized muffin tins.
  • Bake for 10 minutes, or until well set/cooked. Again, here I rotated it from bottom to top.
  • Allow to cool fully before topping with cream cheese filling
  • Top each cup with kiwi slice, strawberry and 3 blueberries. Again, use whatever ingredients you want but if made to these specifications you’ll have 6 servings, each about 250 caloires (according to the app, again).

Hummus Wraps Sans Hummus

HummusWrapIt may be weird to have a hummus wrap without the hummus but the hummus I purchased was distasteful so I pitched it. I need to remember which brand I enjoy so I can try these suckers again ‘properly’ but the rest of the ingredients blended well to create an enticing low-cal meal.

Not being one to normally eat tomatoes I thought I was going to have to shut my eyes and gobble down these little wraps, however I gobbled them down for other reasons. Why don’t I like tomatoes? When I was a kid we had tomato vines. Every summer we would produce a lot of tomatoes. Many meals comprised of corn on the cob (hello, I’m an Iowan), some kind of meat and then sliced tomatoes. I did my best not to take a slice but pops, insisting I try new things, would be sure I have at least one slice at each meal. I would like to say I took my ‘punishment’ gracefully but sadly, that was not the case. That is how I developed the eye shut eating technique though. Because, obviously, if you can’t see it happening, then it isn’t. Right?

Twenty years later I’m at the grocery store looking at my list and see that tomatoes are on it. Leery does not begin to cover what I felt. I somewhat shut my eyes, grabbed the cherry tomatoes, placed them in the cart and vacated the produce section before I could second guess myself. Dad, you were right, tomatoes are good. I’m putting it in writing so you can always prove I said it.

Hummus, Spinach and Tomato Wraps (serves 4)

Ingredients (for original recipe)

  • 4-12 inch tortillas
  • 8 tbs hummus
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, finely chopped (about 12-14)
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 cups spinach leaves
  • salt (to taste)
  • pepper (to taste)

Directions

  • Heat tortillas (I did it in the microwave for about 20 seconds)
  • Turn on broiler (optional – it’s just what I did)
  • Spread 2 tbs hummus on each tortilla
  • Mix together tomatoes, pepper and spinach (I had this several days running so the tomato juices were able to ‘marinate’ the other veggies)
  • Divide vegetables equally onto each tortilla
  • Wrap up and if you want to broil them to toast & heat everything up I strongly suggest it. I put them on the bottom shelf and cooked for about 5 minutes. (I burnt mine if I did it on the top shelf for 5 minutes)
  • Not into hummus? Try substituting 1/4 cup of cheese instead. That’s how I rolled since the hummus was gross.

Best Cooking Fail Ever [well, at least to date]

SandwichSo it’s been a long week. Not sure why, maybe it’s the waiting for Spring to finally get here, the random snow storm that began the week or not being able to remember what nights I have volleyball games. However no problem is so great that a good meal can’t curb the dragging hours. Enter my biggest cooking failure to date: Chicken ‘N’ Dumplings crock pot style.

It sounded so simple. Precook the chicken before putting it in a crock pot. Add a couple kinds of soup, cut up Grand’s biscuits and let it cook for 4-6 hours. Alas the best laid plans go to waste. Those biscuits would not cook. I started the crock in the morning thinking it’d be ready by noon. I come back for lunch, no such luck. I think letting it stew for the afternoon may work out. Again I am proven wrong. When I get home I turn up the heat and let it cook for yet two more hours. Maybe my awesome crock pot isn’t conducive to cooking biscuits but they never got cooked. They stayed gooey and not in a good way. What to do? I had banked on that for a few meals but now what? It seemed like and uber waste to pitch everything when only the biscuits were undesirable.

A plan was hatched. Brilliant in it’s simplicity. Take out the biscuits and eat the remainder. I know, I blow myself away with my genius. Although the first time I had it I just hate it as a thick soup the second time I poured it over bread and it was the best thing ever. In fact having it in a bread bowl has saved it from being pitched from the recipe book. I’m not saying I’ll cook it again any time soon (the wounds of failure haven’t yet healed) but in general it was just too tasty to throw out.

Chicken 'N' Dumplings IngredientsIngredients (from the recipe I attempted)

  • 2 cups cooked chicken
  • 1 can (10 3/4 ounces) condensed cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
  • 1 can (10 3/4 ounces) condensed cream of chicken soup, undiluted
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 4 teaspoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 can refrigerated buttermilk biscuits

Recipes

  1. Mix all ingredients, except biscuits, in a slow cooker.
  2. Cut biscuits into quarters and gently stir into mixture.
  3. Cover; cook on LOW 4 to 6 hours