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.

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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

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

S’more Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies

As is quickly becoming my norm, here is yet another kitchen adventure. Just once I’d like to make something and have nothing go wrong. Alas pipe dreams never come to fruition.

Well, actually that’s not entirely true. Before the near disaster that was the S’more Sensation, I did manage to successfully make Trix Krispies. They are a much more colorful version of Rice Krispies where you use Trix (in case the title didn’t give it away) instead of Rice Krispies. I think Fruity Pebbles may work well too. Perhaps even better because Trix are rather giant in comparison. Oh, I did have issues with nearly burning the butter, but I just threw in the marshmallows to nip that in the bud (so not incident free as I had thought). I love Trix and am happy to have a fun alternative to the standard Krispies. Sometime I’d like to try the ‘fruity’  marshmallows instead. However I think if I tried that in conjunction with Fruity Pebbles/Trix the universe would implode.

Onto the mishap. Everything with the S’more Cookies was going so well. I realized that I really needed to invest in a giant mixing bowl, but with some patience and careful stirring that minor notion was easily overcome. Then came the massive cookies. Again, although they caught me off guard, that too was fine. The oven was all preheated and I stuck the cookies into the oven to bake. Setting the timer for half the time so I could swap the layers mid-cooking. *Note: these did not fit on one tray, two should do. I used three but that’s because the second and third trays I used were a 8×8 square pan and a loaf pan. Pure laziness prevented me from digging out a second cookie tray (too many other dishes balanced on top of it).

Imagine my surprise when seven-ish minutes later I open the oven and smoke/steam comes streaking out. Just super. Further bewildering was I could find no source. The cookies weren’t burnt at all and the wax paper was fully intact. No singeing at all. I quickly flipped on the vent fan, swapped the trays and shut the door. A few minutes into the second baking stage I flipped the oven light and could see some smoke/steam building up. I cracked the oven door hoping that it would all escape into the vent. I’m pretty sure that fan (which is run through my microwave that is above the stove/oven) is purely a loud placebo. After fretting about letting the smoke/steam out I turned around to witness the haze forming in the rest of the apartment.

I don’t wish to make it sound like it was billowing in my apartment, because it wasn’t. But it definitely as clear as a bell like it usually is. Panicked I turned on the overhead fans, shut the doors I could (to prevent the smoke from simply wafting through. If it was going to invade the other rooms it would have to drop down to the floor and go under by golly!) opened the front door and threw opened the windows (for the cross breeze of course). Yup, middle of winter and I was chilling in my apartment, literally. I fully admit I over reacted but I have this inane fear of bothering my neighbors and I really didn’t want to be the reason the fire alarms went off. More importantly I thought the sprinklers would go off for some reason if I didn’t nip the haze in the bud. Illogical thoughts? Absolutely. Am I aware of this? Obviously. Do I let it effect my behavior (so I’m a bit crazy)? Yes.

Finally the haze cleared and the end result was awesome. Just so yummy. Gooey marshmallow, scrumptious chocolate AND the graham cracker added it’s only unique texture to the mix. I highly recommend them, if you have other people around to share in the eating. Otherwise you’ll be in danger of a sugar overdose. That’s it. My latest ‘calamity’ in the kitchen. The building, my mental state and diet (so far) survived, so in the end a win.

Beware, these cookies are fantastic (especially shortly after they have been made) and you should know they are terrible for you. Each cookie is over 500 calories (according to the myfitnesspal app). These suckers are so massive though you can easily just have half, which is still over 250 calories. I think if I make them again I’ll cut them down so there are 24 cookies instead of 12.S'More Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients

  • 2 sticks (8 ounces) softened butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 24 graham cracker quarters or 12 full sheets separated at perforations
  • 3 Hershey Bars, broken into rows of 3 bars
  • 12 large marshmallows cut in half

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a large baking sheet with parchment or wax paper.
  • In a stand or electric mixer, beat the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla. Beat until well combined.
  • Place flour, salt and baking soda into a bowl; mix to combine then add slowly to wet ingredients along with the chocolate chips.
  • Layer a graham cracker quarter with 3 Hershey chocolate squares and 2 marshmallow halves. Close with another graham cracker.
  • Top s’more with a large scoop of cookie dough. Place in hands and place another large scoop on bottom then front and back sides as needed. Form dough around s’mores. (It is much easier than it sounds, just make sure your dough is around room temperature, and make one big disc shape. Pinch off excess dough if you have too much.)
  • *Note: When your cookies go into the oven, they should look like HUGE, lumpy cookie dough balls on the tray. The s’more should be completely encased with dough!
  • Place giant cookies onto prepared baking sheet and bake for 15-17 minutes or until edges are golden and centers are cooked through.
  • Let cool for 10 minutes before transferring to cooling rack or serving plate.

Trix Krispies*Bonus Recipe: Trix Krispies*

Ingredients

  • 1 large bag of mini marshmallows (458 g or something like that)
  • 10 cups Trix cereal (I used one box, which according to the nutritional label, had approx. 9 cups)
  • 1/4 cup butter

Directions

  • Place the butter and marshmallows in a large sauce pan and heat until all melted and combined. (I found stirring fairly constantly helped everything not burn.)
  • Mix in Trix and stir.
  • Pour into a large greased pan (I used 9×13) and press down with a spoon.
  • Cut into squares (I did 30)

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