Saturday, November 29, 2008

You don't know how lucky you are

All right, I'm going to use this post as a quick catch up. There's a lot that's been going on that I've let fall to the wayside, and you all deserve an update!

First, the moment you've all been waiting for - the winner of the Bossa Nova giveaway. Using the random number generator I got an integer to correspond with the entries. That integer matched up with.....drumroll please....... Lisa of Jersey Girl Cooks. Congratulations!



Second, I'm a winner too! I won the last Platinum Chef Challenge, which means I get to host this round! Does everyone remember the rules? If not here they again!

“Platinum Chef Challenge started as an activity on a cooking message board to encourage members to create a meal out of 5 selected ingredients. You might think they go together, and you might not. You might have used them before, or maybe not. Maybe you will have a recipe in mind, and maybe you will create a new one. Most likely, you’ll put on your creative (chef’s) hat and whip out something new and exciting. To play, just create a meal using the five given ingredients and blog about it. Please link back to this post, and feel free to include the event logo in your blog. The meal can consist of 1 or 2 dishes - so you can use all the ingredients in one recipe, or make two. Example: main dish + side, appetizer + main dish, main dish + dessert, etc. But, if more than one dish is created, each dish must use at least two of the ingredients (and, any ingredient may be repeated and used in both dishes if desired). You can add whatever other ingredients you like.”


I'm giving you an extra long time to do this one, because of the holidays, and because I'll be out of town a lot in December and I hate to keep y'all waiting for the results!

To participate, please post your dishes on your blog (linking back to this post), and send an email to platinumchefchallenge@gmail.com by midnight (PST) on Friday, January 9, with the following information:

Name

Location

Name of your dish(es) and your blog

Pictures you want in the Round-up

Link to the PCC12 post in your blog

(If you don’t have a blog, send recipes and photos in your email and I will include you in the PCC Round-up that way!)

Here are your five challenge ingredients:

Potatoes! Idaho, Russet, Red, Purple, Gold, White. Whatever your favorite is.

Pear: Bosc, Asian, Bartlett...again, I'm not picky.
Egg: For this you HAVE to use cage free organic eggs.....Naw, you can use whatever eggs you want. Even egg beaters. Even if you just want to use the white. And by the way- I am now queen of recipes that use up extra yolk or extra whites if you ever need any help.

Parsley: Personally I prefer the flat-leaf Italian parsley, but who am I to tell you what you like best!

Fingers! Oh wait, those are carrots aren't they. Yeah, to be on the safe side, let's use carrots instead of fingers.

All right, and now to catch up on memes and awards.
Giz of Equal Opportunity Cooking has tagged me with a compliment meme. Which seems fitting in the holiday season.

*List the Last 10 people who have commented on your blog.
*If you appear on my list, you are tagged and have to do this meme on your own blog too.
*So - who were my last ten commenters?

10) Wan from Wan Life to Live
9) Kayla from Central Cooking
8) Katie from The Summertree Cafe
7) Just Another Small Town Girl (no blog?)
6) Pamela from Cookies with Boys
5) Psychgrad from Equal Opportunity Kitchen (is this cheating?)
4) Tiff from Tiffany's Temptations
3) R from Married Not Buried
2) Karen (no blog?)
1) Nina from My Easy Cooking

Now answer the following:

1. What is your favourite post from number 3's blog?

R keeps us updated with her friend Spunky's battle with Leukemia. Spunky is 5 years old, and although we've never met, Spunky's battle touches me in a very personal way because of my own experiences with a friend who lost the same battle. R doesn't know it, but I can't get through a single Spunky post without dissolving into a mess of tears. And yet I crave each new entry in the hopes that this time it will have a happy ending.

2. Has number 10 taken any pictures that have moved you?

I LOVE the pictures Wan takes of the Bean. Seriously - if there are any talent scouts out there check out her blog for the cutest baby pictures ever.

3. Does number 6 reply to comments on their blog?

I don't think she does - but then again, I don't think she gets many questions. I have no doubt that Pamela would reply to any queries in a heartbeat!

4. Which part of blogland is number 2 from?

?????

5. If you could give one piece of advice to number 7 what would it be?

I think I get a pass on this one too. Although maybe I would recommend that she may enjoy "Rock of Ages" if she happens to be heading to New York any time soon.

6. Have you every tried something from number 9's blog?

Not yet, but I have a couple bookmarked!

7. Has number 1 blogged something that inspired you?

Nina always inspires me. She makes the most gorgeous bites, using ingredients I would never have thought of, and she also manages to corral a couple kids in the process! In addition, she's played a ginormous role in Garden Village, a gardening project that is meant to feed both the body and the soul.

8. How often do you comment on number 4's blog?

I don't think I've ever commented. But I will start!

9. Do you wait for number 8 to post excitedly?

Don't you? Especially when I'm trying to decide what to pack for lunches!

10. How did number 5's blog change your life?

Change my life? That seems a little drastic. Psychgrad (and Giz) have definitely made me appreciate my relationship with my mom!

11. Do you know any of the 10 bloggers in person?

I know both Wan and R.

12. Do any of your 10 bloggers know each other in person?

I'm going to keep it safe. I know Wan and R know each other, so I'll stick with that answer.

13. Out of the 10, which updates more frequently?

I'm going to go with Wan. Even when she has nothing to say, she still finds time to post!

14. Which of the 10 keep you laughing?

I'm going to stick with Wan on this one.

15. Which of the 10 has made you cry?

I think I kinda answered this with the first question!


And last but not least, Pamela of Cookies with Boys has awarded me the Kreativ Blogger Award. Awwwwwwwwwwww. It's nice to be recognized for being creative. I'm just hoping "Kreativ" is the creative spelling and not the result of too much to drink on the part of the creator.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Running home

This will be my last entry before the holiday as we'll be spending it with my family. Thanksgiving is Thatmom's favorite holiday and we go crazy overboard. As last year, I'm in charge of desserts. So far I've made chocolate cupcakes with vanilla frosting and yellow cupcakes with chocolate frosting. Tomorrow is pie day - pumpkin and mixed berry. I've also been put in charge of the bread course, so I've thrown some baking powder biscuit dough together and it's in the freezer ready to be placed in the oven for fresh hot rolls!

In honor of Thanksgiving, Thatboy and I have been trying to eat light this week, to make up for the ridiculous feast we have coming up. Thanksgiving includes two turkeys, two kinds of stuffing, two kinds of cranberry relish, baked potates, mashed potatoes, candied yams, veggies, salad, bread, and gravy. So tonight we had a ham omlette on a bun - light and breakfasty, but OH so good.


Also in honor of Thanksgiving, I want to take this time to show how thankful I am for my friends and family this year, and also for each of you. To show my thanks, I wanted to pass along some of my good fortune. As some of you already know, I was contacted by Bossa Nova about one of my recipes. Thatboy and I are big fans of this juice. I don't buy into "magical fruit health benefits," but I like the tart flavor of acai juice, so it's usually in the fridge. It's great to throw into a salad dressing, marinade, or even a cocktail. When speaking to a representative from the company, she asked if Thatboy and I had tried any of their new flavors. We hadn't. So she sent us a box of them! Acerloa juice with red peach, Acerola juice with mango, Mangosteen juice with passion fruit, and Mangosteen juice with dragon fruit. I thought I'd bundle up some of these juices and send them off to a reader, as a Thanksgiving treat. I mean, you should all benefit too! If you're interested, all you have to do is leave a comment between now and Friday, November 28 at midnight.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I hope you get to spend it with good food and surrounded by those you love.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The reason why

I think we started celebrating Thatboy's birthday on Friday. There have been a series of fantastic meals and activities ever since then. There has also been a series of cigars and alcohol. I think the end of the celebration was tonight, when his office took off the afternoon for a trip to the bar. (Although the leftover ice cream cake, chocolate cake, and cupcakes means the celebration will really continue for another week at least).

I've been a good wife all weekend cooking up fantastic and elaborate birthday meals, but when you have to go out to pick up your drunk husband, he gets stuck with pub fare. The perfect drunk meal, it's a cross between Dennys and a bar. Ham and eggs on toast with cheese sauce, and Irish nachoes (cheesy potato slices).

Irish Nachoes
  • 1 potato, washed
  • canola oil
  • cheddar cheese, grated
  1. Preheat broiler. Slice potato into 1/4 inch slices and place on broiler pan.
  2. Brush each slice with canola oil. Broil for 4 minutes.
  3. Flip potatoes over, brush with canola oil, and broil for 4 minutes.
  4. Sprinkle potatoes with cheddar cheese and broil for 2 more minutes.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

What goes on in your mind?



I'm going to let you in to the secret recesses of my mind. It all starts with an idea. In this case, I knew I really wanted to take part in Platinum Chef Challenge 10. I missed the last one, so I really wanted to take part. Especially since the ingredients sounded like fun - lentils, lemon, goat cheese, spinach, and vinegar.

So now that I knew I wanted to take part, I had to come up with some recipes. I'm entirely uncreative this round. Maybe because I'm out of practice. For me, lentils = soup and goat cheese = salad. Soup and salad is such a great combination, and currently one of my favorite things to order when we go out.

Next up in my process is "the internets." I already knew what to do with the salad, but I needed a good lentil soup recipe. Nothing was really singing to me, until I started seeing recipes for "lentil soup with sausage." Now that is my kind of soup. I love sausage in soup. There's no better way to jazz up a minestrone. And making a lentil and sausage soup just couldn't be easier. Especially with a fridge full of veggies to add to it! The soup makes enough for lots of leftovers too, like all good soup.

The soup and salad turned into the perfect summer lunch. I love the warm, spiciness of the soup. The only thing I would change about the salad is to keep the apples raw - I thought the warm apples would be a better combo with the warm soup, but I decided I didn't like the soft consistency with the crisp endive.


Sausage and Lentil Soup
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 5 links hot italian sausage
  • 7 oz ham, shredded
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 3/4 tsp thyme
  • 8 cups chicken broth
  • 1 can whole tomatoes
  • 1/2 lb dried lentils
  • 1 bunch spinach leaves, chopped
  1. Heat olive oil in large pot over medium heat. Add sausage links and cook until done. Remove sausages from pot, cool, and slice sausages.
  2. Add ham, onions, and green pepper to the pot. Cover and cook 15 minutes.
  3. Add garlic, cumin, and thyme. Cover and cook 5 more minutes.
  4. Add chicken broth, sausage, tomatoes, and lentils. Lower heat, cover, and cook two hours.
  5. Remove from heat, add spinach, and let stand 2 more minutes.



Warm Goat Cheese Salad
  • 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/6 cup olive oil
  • 2 belgian endives
  • 1 bunch spinach
  • 1/2 granny smith apple, sliced into 8 slices
  • 2 oz goat cheese, sliced into 2 rounds
  • chopped walnuts
  1. Preheat broil. Combine vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, garlic, salt, and pepper. Shake to blend.
  2. Add oil and shake again.
  3. Place endive leaves and spinach on plate.
  4. Place slices of apples on broiler pan into two fans. Place round of goat cheese on top of each fan of apples. Broil 5 minutes.
  5. Use spatula to place apples and goat cheese in center of salad. Drizzle with dressing and sprinkle with walnuts.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Let me tell you


I'm glad it's Friday! Today did not go as planned at all. Disappointing for me, but even more because I'm worried I may have disappointed some other people. You know what they say about the best laid plans... Things didn't go as planned for Thatboy either. He had to work late tonight while everyone else in his office left around 1 to go grab a drink. No worries though, he's definitely joining in the half day they have planned for next Wednesday! When he called, he asked if I had started dinner yet, which is when I realized, I hadn't.

Has anyone else gotten clued into the fact that I make a lot of last minute dinners? Even with menu planning, there are always those nights I forget to get right on top of things. Luckily, the menu planning serves a purpose even then, because I know I have meal fixings in the house - I just have to look over the week's menu to find what can be made in the shortest amount of time. And this is it. It's my basic Mexican beef recipe - good for fajitas, tacos, burritos, enchiladas, pretty much any Mexican dish that involves putting a filling in a tortilla.

By the time Thatboy got home, the onions and garlic were already cooking, which means I was greeted with "dinner smells great" as soon as he opened the door. He's easy to please. The smell of cooking onions and garlic always does it for him.


Beef Mexicana
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 lb ground beef
  • 5 oz tomato sauce
  • 1 can corn
  • 2 Tbsp taco sauce
  1. Heat butter, onions, and garlic over medium heat until onions are golden.
  2. Add ground beef and cook until beef is browned.
  3. Add tomato sauce, corn, and taco sauce. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook 10 minutes.
Serves 2.
Each serving has:
Calories 453.4
Total Fat 26.4 g
Saturated Fat 11.5 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1.6 g
Monounsaturated Fat 10.4 g
Cholesterol 93.8 mg
Sodium 778.4 mg
Potassium 865.3 mg
Total Carbohydrate 31.3 g
Dietary Fiber 4.2 g
Sugars 3.1 g
Protein 25.7 g

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Searchin'


I forgot to give you an update of my perpetual baking cycle!
* I had black licorice left over that I wanted to use up.
*Result: I made black licorice ice cream. The ice cream wasn't as bad as we feared it would be. The cream part was fantastic, but Thatboy picked out all the black licorice pieces.

*The black licorice ice cream used three egg yolks, leaving me with 3 egg whites.
*Result: I decided to try my hand at macarons. It was a new experience for me, but something I always wanted to try. I went to the master of all macarons, Tartlette, and attempted her Espresso Toffee macarons. I was expecting bite-size morsels, and got chocolate chip cookie size treats! They tasted just as they were supposed to, and Thatboy declared them to be excellent macarons - just extra large. Ever the gracious blogger, Tartlette emailed me to see how they turned out and diagnosed my problem as overfolding the batter. Next time I'll know better.

*Despite the ice cream, I still had leftover licorice.
*Result: I used up the rest in one fell swoop - making black licorice creme brulee tarts. These were a bit labor intensive, but SO fabulous, it was more than worth it. I love these. I love how the chocolate crust contains the brulee. I love how the creme just barely has a hint of the licorice flavor. I love it topped with the black licorice ice cream....love love love love.

*The creme brulee left me with more egg whites!
*Result: I decided it was cupcake time. Cupcakes are easier to share than ice cream or creme brulee. These were fantastic. I especially love the frosting because it reminds me of Sweetcakes frosting - perfectly formed and melt proof.

*This baking baking baking week left me with two problems. 1) I still have some more egg whites, which means tomorrow there will be even more baking! 2) After all that baking I didn't want to be hanging out in the kitchen making dinner. So I turned to stew. Something I could stick in the oven and forget about and then just relax. It was really cold tonight, so stew was the perfect choice. My only problem is the lack of color, so I threw together some zucchini, tomatoes, mushrooms, and parmesean cheese to go along side. It was a warm and filling dinner on a cold night!


Beef Stew
  • 1 lb beef stew meat
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 1 potato, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1 can whole tomatoes, chopped, undrained
  • 1/4 cup minute tapioca
  • 1/4 tsp thyme
  • 1/4 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp instant coffee
  • 1 cube beef bouillon
  • 2 cups water
  1. Preheat oven to 300. Combine all ingredients in dutch oven or oven proof pot. Cover and cook four hours, stirring occasionally.
Serves 4.
Each serving has:
Calories 450.5
Total Fat 23.8 g
Total Carbohydrate 34.9 g
Protein 23.5 g

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Sunset


Today was a reuniting kind of day for me. I got an email from a friend, saying she was in the area, and was I able to meet for coffee? As luck would have it, I was able to meet for coffee! But I got to the coffee shop just a couple minutes early and as I was standing there, I saw a girl I recognized from college. She was in my sorority and a year older than me. I hadn't seen her since she graduated - which was quite a while ago, but I recognized her immediately. She did not recognize me immediately.

I waved as she walked by, and she gave me one of those "hey crazy woman waving at me" waves back, and then, just as she almost passed me, I saw the recognition in her eyes. She flipped around quickly and enveloped me in a giant hug. We chatted, quickly catching up, exchanging numbers, and promising to dinner soon. I'm so glad I ran into her, she's one of the reasons we fell in love with this town.

My coffee date showed up and we caught up, for longer than I was expecting. Before I knew it, I was late for my own plans to make dinner! I had to improvise. So I tossed some meat and wine in the skillet. Letting it simmer gave us the time to head to the gym, come home and get comfy - Just in time for ANTM. I called the result, but that doesn't mean I liked it.

I also had some time to create my makeshift green bean casserole - green beans, dijon mustard, and cornflakes (super fancy), and some brown rice.


Beef Burgundy
  • 1 lb beef stew meat
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • 2 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 5 oz tomato sauce
  • 1 cup Burgundy wine
  1. Place beef and flour in ziplock bag and shake to coat meat.
  2. Heat oil in large saucepan. Add meat and onions and brown meat on all sides.
  3. Add tomato sauce and wine. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cook 2 hours - stirring to prevent from sticking to bottom of pan.
Serves 4.
Each serving has:
Calories 431.2
Total Fat 20.7 g
Cholesterol 100.9 mg
Sodium 755.2 mg
Potassium 733.3 mg
Total Carbohydrate 13.5 g
Protein 36.9 g

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Beneath the blue suburban skies


The theme of tonight's post is "childhood memories." Going back to a simpler time. You see, sometimes at night, when we can't sleep, Thatboy and I tell each other stories. Last night, I asked Thatboy to tell me a cricket story.

Have you ever asked a 4 year old to tell you a story? Chances are every sentence will start with "And then..." such as "And then the cricket went jumping jumping jumping onto the field. And then the cricket met up with his cricket friends." Needless to say, when he finished, I told Thatboy his story was the worst cricket story I have ever heard. He defended his story, saying it was impossible to come up with a good cricket story.

"Are you serious?" I asked him.
"Yeah - I mean, it's a cricket. Crickets don't do anything."

I ran to the bookshelf and pulled out an old favorite. I began reading him chapter 1, which describes how Tucker Mouse watched poor Mario sitting in the Times Square subway station, trying to sell newspapers. By the end of the first chapter, Thatboy was hooked. He can't wait to hear the rest of the story - from a book he had never read.

My trip down memory lane continued with a dinner straight out of childhood. Macaroni and cheese. From a box. I stepped it up a bit and tried the Trader Joe's variety instead of Kraft, which went over really well. I added some cooked chicken to the dish, and even though Thatboy was a little nervous about the addition (even going as far as telling me how it was ruining his evening), he ended up really enjoying it - and it made me feel better that all our protein wasn't coming from cheese.

And to round out our meal, and add a little color, I used my favorite childhood veggie. I honestly think sugared carrots were a secret trick of my parents to get Thatbrother and I to fally madly in love with vegetables. What's better than carrots that are sweeter than candy? Thatboy declared this an instant hit.



Sugared Carrots
  • 5-6 carrots, peeled and cut into quarters
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  1. Place carrots in saucepan and just cover with water.
  2. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to low. Cook for 8 minutes.
  3. Add butter and brown sugar and cook for additional minute, or until butter melts.
Serves 2.
Each serving has:
Calories 216.2
Total Fat 11.9 g
Saturated Fat 7.2 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.6 g
Monounsaturated Fat 3.3 g
Cholesterol 31.1 mg
Sodium 112.2 mg
Potassium 539.4 mg
Total Carbohydrate 28.0 g
Dietary Fiber 4.3 g
Sugars 6.9 g
Protein 1.5 g