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

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35 Days of Celebration: 11

35 Days of Celebration: Day 11

HouseI knew it would happen, I would do some more decorating. Considered it was snowing all day, I was put in a ‘white Christmas mood’ and it was easy to feel jolly. As I decorated it started to see a theme. If there are materials I have in abundance they are 1) ornaments and 2) glasses. Decorations_2They are everywhere; on the dining room table, the bookshelf, the living room table…just all over the place. However, as I’ve come to realize, cluttered is a bit my style. Just yesterday I was discussing with my mother how my living room always looks messy, no matter how much I have everything cleaned up. My mother than informed me of a distinction: messy and cluttered are different. Instantly I felt better. Funny how easily that happens.

I was surprised by my parent’s offer to help me scoop my drive. They really are just too kind. The first time it snowed it took me 45ish minutes to scoop my driveway, maybe longer. I came to the obvious conclusion that I have the longest in town driveway in the world and that Guinness should promptly be notified. However with the three of us it took only about 15-20 minutes. Strength in numbers.

Dad‘What is that on your hat’
Me‘Jack Skellington. He’s a character from Nightmare Before Christmas…you know, because I’m an adult.’

DinnerOriginally I planned to have french toast and cocoa for my first themed supper. I feel like french toast isn’t the same unless you use texas toast. I was not stocked with such bread, so instead I had pancakes. Of course, I had to have them in the shape of snowflakes to match the snowy day, and with powdered sugar to make the scene complete. Similar to the ‘Sunday Snowflakes’ that my mom would make for us when we were younger. To this day if I have french toast with powdered sugar I call them Sunday Snowflakes. Embarrassing if you are having them on a Tuesday night. However it would have worked today. Even with the pancake exchange it was a fun dinner indeed.

Until next time

~ Q

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

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

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

Fresh Vegetable and Chicken Soup (without the Chicken)

Over the weekend I tested my prowess at making soup. As it turns out I can achieve a good result. Well, so long as it is a broth based soup not a cream based one. I have yet to attempt that. There are just too many variables to mess up with that tosh for my current level of confidence in cooking. Anyway, everything was fairly smooth sailing. I had read the ingredients before going to the store and was sure everything was on hand. When It came down to cook though I was prepping all the ingredients and had a bit of a shock. I went to the freezer to get the chicken I had planned to use up and saw that it was dried out or freezer burned. This rose a peculiar dilemma. I did not wish to go to the store just for two cups worth of chicken. I did not think I could quite salvage the chicken in its current state. I did not want to ruin the rest of the soup by using inferior chicken. In the end I decided to just omit the chicken all together and making it a completely vegetarian soup. I probably should have continued my alterations to add in beans or some other protein source. But I have thus enjoyed the end result so am fine with having a perhaps somewhat nutritionally inferior soup (I guess a saving grace is that it is fairly wholesome and low-cal). “Be ever flexible” that’s my kitchen motto (like last week when I made a dish of saute onions and apples and served it on a bed of couscous because both items in question were nearing the end of their optimal produce window).

Until next time ~ Q

Fresh Veggie SoupIngredients:

      • 3 tbsp olive oil
      • 1 onion, chopped
      • 1/2 head of broccoli, chopped
      • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
      • 1 pepper, chopped
      • Salt to taste
      • Pepper to taste
      • 4 cups chicken broth


    Directions:

  • Heat oil in a large quart boiler over medium heat.
  • Add the onions and cook until soft, about five minutes.
  • Add broccoli, carrots and peppers, cook about four minutes.
  • Add salt, pepper and broth and bring to simmer.
  • Cook until vegetables are tender, about 25 minutes.

Who doesn’t have ketchup?

My latest expedition in cooking was a slow-cook recipe. I am infamously poor about reading directions, this cooking escapade was no different. I had retrieved the recipe online from someplace. When I get recipes I look at two things, the title and the ingredients. If it sounds enticing then I’ll check out the ingredients. If it doesn’t seem too over my head or have too many things I don’t like I’ll grab it. This recipe was for Sloppy Joes. I haven’t had Sloppy Joes in for-ev-er. Sounded like a match made in heaven, also my parents were coming up for dinner – even better since the recipe made 8 servings, which meant I’d have left overs for about half the time, very enticing indeed.

Two nights ago I was stricken with a dilemma. To cook it through the night before or cook it during the day. I know, decisions decisions. I browsed the directions for the word ‘hours’ to see how long it’d cook in the crock. It said 6-8. I finally decided to cook it during the day and didn’t prep anything that night. Yesterday morning I woke up with a nagging feeling. I had to decide if I wanted to throw everything together over an early lunch break or throw it together in the am and take a late lunch to take it off the heat. Again I decided to wait until lunch but compromised by deciding to get it all prepped before going to work. I am so glad I did. I had completely ignored the part where I was suppose to brown the meat before putting it in the crock pot. WHY does it call it a crock-pot recipe when, really, it just acts as a warmer.

Semantics aside, I started browning meat. Once that was done I actually read the instructions and started mixing the sauce ingredients. When it came time to add ketchup I opened up the fridge and where I thought it should be there was nothing but pickle relish and Worcestershire sauce. I don’t even like pickles and who has No KetchupWorcestershire sauce? Further background: when I was five if it was late at night and I wanted a midnight snack I would grab a piece of bread, squirt some ketchup on it, fold it in half and eat it. That was it, no deli meat, nothing, just ketchup. How do I go from that background to having absolutely no ketchup in the house? I don’t know, it’s most likely due to the fact I don’t have food that requires ketchup in the kitchen. But that is neither here nor there and, once again, I’m glad I live four blocks from the grocery store.

Shockingly no one was in the store about twenty minutes after it opened. I jumped out of my skin a little when the cashier came up behind me while I waited for someone to come check me out. In case my workout didn’t wake me up, that jolt certainly did. I returned home, used up a fair share of the ketchup and got the sauce ready before adding the meat. The rest of the escapade went off with out much incident. I returned at noon to start the warming process, only that too made me nervous. The recipe didn’t call for water to be added, but I really didn’t want it to dry out. Throwing caution to the wind I added 1/2 cup of water and it ended up working just fine.

As I mentioned in my post earlier today, I have discussed with my parents about implementing weekly dinners. We had sort of done this when I lived with them years ago, but that was more so I could A) feel like I was contributing by supplying one of the meals entirely on my own and B) get some cooking experience. My middle sister was able to join us and much fun was had by all. We started watching a Hercule Poirot movie but stopped half-way through (we were all getting sleepy). Perhaps next week will finish it up. It’s quite amusing, but I noticed something watching this movie that I never noticed before. In the past I have seen Poirot movies (namely Death on the Nile and Murder on the Orient Express) and never noticed Hastings. I’m not sure if I just didn’t notice the character or if he isn’t in those movies. Last night we were watching Thirteen at Dinner and for the first time I met Hastings. Hastings is Poroit’s partner. He takes notes, is less intelligent and is an ex-army person of some sort. Sound familiar? Seems like a slight play off Watson. However I’m 100% sure that that is looking at it through an extremely simplified light, just an interesting observation (to no one else but me).

Oh, for the recipe itself here it is.

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds lean ground beef (I used 96%)
  • 1 white onion, chopped
  • some garlic (original recipe called for 3 cloves minced and I had garlic powder…I might have used a tablespoon or so)
  • 1 1/4 cups ketchup
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 3 tablespoons mustard (the original recipe called for ‘prepared’ mustard. I didn’t really know what that meant so I just used the honey mustard I had on hand.)
  • 3 tablespoons vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (original recipe called for 2 teaspoons chili powder but I had the flakes and cayenne on hand so I used that instead)
  • Hamburger buns (I heated mine in the oven before serving)

Directions (which you can choose to read or not)

  1. Cook and stir ground beef, onion and garlic in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until beef is browned and onion is tender.
  2. Drain and discard fat.
  3. Combine ketchup, bell pepper, Worcestershire sauce, sugar, mustard, vinegar and chili powder in 4 1/2-quart slow cooker.
  4. Stir in beef mixture. (I then refrigerated mine for 4 hours)
  5. Cover; cook on LOW 6 to 8 hours. (I added about 1/2 – 3/4 cup water when I removed it from the fridge and started the slow cooker. I ended up heating mine for about six hours, maybe a little less.)
  6. To serve, spoon mixture onto hamburger buns.

SloppyJoeThere you have it, an adventure in cooking, which is always a joy. Also, a photo of the final result. My leftovers at lunch show that the recipe may have lead me astray. The recipe said there would be 8 servings, which if you’re a carnivore may be true. However this omnivore leans to the herbi side and I think expecting me to eat more than 1/4 pound of ground beef is optimistic. Looks more like 12 servings to me (given 3 pounds of meat is a good ratio I think). Until next time ~ Q