cooking


this is me and my friend shana.  I like her.  she is getting married in a month.  to my friend doug.  I like him too.  sorry, getting off topic.

so, we were determined to make the “zachary taylor.”  named after our 12th president.  I’ve told you guys how he died, right?  it’s my favorite president fact.  in case you have forgotten, it was the 4th of july in 1850, halfway through his term, and he was at the groundbreaking ceremony for the washington monument.  it was crazy hot, and to cool himself off, he ate a bunch of cherries and washed it down with iced milk.  FOOLISH!  both of these things were dangerous to eat in washington dc in the summer due to a lack of proper sanitation/refrigeration.  he got sick, and 5 days later he died.  CRAZY!!!!

so shana had like 5 different cherry/alcohol infusions going on, and we tried many differnt options involving the cherry liqueur, seltzer water, and milk.  not gonna lie, the milk was pretty weird.  (aaaaaaaaaaand, I don’t really like cherries, but this was still fun).  by a landslide the best combo involved the cherry-infused brandy.  but I think we can all agree that the frozen version with vanilla ice cream was our favorite.

I love my friends.  and I love that we do crazy stuff like this.

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so….as promised, I will tell you how the various oatmeal stuffs turned out.

in a nutshell?  not good.  here is my summary:

1.  overnight oatmeal:  I ate the apple cinnamon for breakfast on monday.  it was fine while I was eating it, and it kept me SUPER full all morning (something that never, ever happens with anything else), but…….every time I thought about the cold oatmeal I got really grossed out.  does that ever happen to you?  something is fine when you are eating it, but then thinking about eating it sounds gross?  just me?  so the next day when I tried to eat the other kind I was just too grossed out at the thought of cold oatmeal to stomach it.  so, this is not something I think I will be doing again, but I think I am going to make an effort to eat more oatmeal (just hot like normal, not cold).  usually I don’t go for oatmeal because I always want more than one packet (yes packet, they have some good healthier ones now that come in tall pouches that will measure the water too), but I think if I did go ahead and eat two packets, it would be okay, because it would keep me full enough to not want to go in search of candy by 3rd hour (and extra oatmeal calories is probably way better for me than the junk food calories I’d go looking for later).

2.  oatmeal smoothies:  I have nothing good to say about these.  the texture was pretty offensive and I couldn’t stand to drink more than one sip.  I love smoothies, but to me these were more like slime or slop than what I think of as a smoothie.  a few weeks ago in sunday school I was telling the kids about the prodigal son and how he ate the pig’s slop, and these smoothies seemed just like what I always imagined “slop” would look like.  gross.  I have no desire to eat something that I might associate with slop.  I’ll stick to smoothies that get their texture from frozen fruit or ice.

so….sorry.  no glowing reviews here today.  stick with the coconut limeade!!

ps–side note:  I do think the chia seeds added to the oatmeal helped with the staying full aspect, so I might add those to hot oatmeal as a boost (plus I still have a ton since I had to buy them in a bag).  also, I am very excited about the powdered peanut butter, and maybe using it with my standby peanut butter chocolate banana shake that’s my all time favorite.  that’s my favorite flavor combination, so it will be nice that it won’t be so calorie-spendy when I enjoy it (which is….all the time).  I don’t think I would want to use it to like….make a sandwich or something (the label says you can mix it with water and that sounds a little sketch to me)….but I think it is super suited to something like a smoothie (or baking/cooking).  over and out.

so…pinterest.  honestly, I don’t get it.  I mean, I get it, but….it has no power over me.  which is strange, because it seems like something that is SO up my alley that would suck me in for hours.  and I read about how it does that to pretty much everyone ever, and how it takes up all their time, and makes them feel inadequate, and inspires them, and blah blah blah.  I mean, it’s a great idea and all, but I spend maybe ten minutes a week looking through it and that’s it.  and if this is you, I’m sorry, but if I see one more stupid picture of a little kid’s birthday party with little labels on the cupcakes and flag bunting on the wall and fancy kool-aid in mason jars wrapped in burlap….let me tell you.  I mean, seriously.  to me, that is not something I aspire to.  I digress.  I think that I have mostly pinned food stuff and quilts.  (sorry for the rant.  I waste plenty of time doing nothing so I am not one to judge you if you feel like cupcake labels are the greatest).  (BUT SRSLY, COME ON).

and this weekend?  kind of on accident, I made like four things I had pinned on pinterest.  it wasn’t like my goal or anything, and it was actually a really busy weekend, but I did a little cooking and it was all from pinterest.  I will report on two of the things and get back to you on the other two.

also, disclaimer, I did not take a single photo of either of these.  pictures link to original source.  

first:  mini chicken pot pies.

I assure you that mine were not nearly this pretty.  but they were very, very tasty, and tonight they reheated pretty well.  I did reheat them in the oven, so we’ll see how it goes on the microwave train tomorrow.  I used plain buttermilk biscuits, the little wimpy ones, so they didn’t go up so high on the sides.  but they were fine and not too crazy overflowing.  as per my usual, I did not measure anything, so I used WAY too much chicken and WAY too many veggies.  so I had a ton of filling left over.  lesson learned.  (well…as in, I’ll know not to use so much next time, not as in I’ll start measuring).  my favorite thing about this was that I was smart and only used veggies I love.  chicken pot pie was my favorite meal at the derb, but somehow I always ended up with the one with the most carrots and green beans (ugh).  so it was nice to use peas, corn and broccoli.  I also used cream of chicken soup with herbs, YUM.  so this is not exactly a meal of real food, but it was pretty easy and satisfying and not super high in calories.  I may count this as one of my new standbys.  we’ll see.  I would totally recommend this.  I think it would be great for kids too.  or…picky eaters in general.

next….HUGE SUCCESS!!!!!
with….limonada de coco!  (coconut limeade)

so…this looked pretty delicious, but I was pretty unfamiliar with cream of coconut.  coconut is not my favorite thing in the whole world–I enjoy it sometimes, in some foods, but not always.  I do, however, love the smell, and it’s pretty easy to claim coconut lime verbena as my favorite smell from bath and body works.  I wanted to try this…so I looked at the store and it took me FOREVER to find the cream of coconut.  heads up to you, it’s by the drink mixers (like for margaritas or bloody marys) and it is DEFINITELY not the same as coconut milk.  it came in a can, or in a squeeze bottle, and I (very wisely, I learned later) chose the squeeze bottle (hy-vee had this kind, way cheaper than amazon).  so when I get home and check out this bottle, I’m like “this is SUPER heavy.  what the heck is in here?”  so I check it out, and the recipe calls for ONE CUP of this stuff.  I check out the nutrition info, and find out that the serving size is 2 oz, which is 1/4 cup.  AAAAAnd, in that 2 oz, there are 267 calories.  ummmm….WHAT IN THE FREAKIN HECK.  I do not want a drink, no matter how refreshing, that costs me more than a thousand calories.  so, I decided to try changing it based on what I had on hand, and seeing how it worked out, and OH MAN.  I hit the jackpot.  you guys.  this is SO. GOOD.  for real.  it was such a treat and it was so tasty and fantastic.  bobby and lindsey showed up ten minutes later and I made them some and they agreed.  delicious.  we all agreed that it had plenty of coconut flavor, even with using so much less cream of coconut.  although none of us are huge coconut fans anyway, so maybe you would disagree.

so…here is what I did to change it (and lose about 800 calories–this one should be less than 200):

mix:
about 1 cup vanilla almond milk, (or more)
one or two tablespoons cream of coconut (which is why you want the squeeze bottle and not the can…save it for next time)
about 2 tablespoons lime juice (which would probably be better fresh, sorry I was lazy today)
if you need it sweeter add some sugar or truvia or agave or something.

mix it up with a shaker and ice, OR, if you have a magic bullet or a blender, blend it in there with a few ice cubes to make it all nice and cold.

grab a straw and enjoy your summer.

next up:  overnight oatmeal and oatmeal smoothies.  in the fridge now!  look for opinions soon.

so…..THIS IS THE BEST SOUP YOU WILL EVER EAT.  fyi.

disclaimer:  I have no idea where this recipe is originally from.  I got it from one of my students who is in the culinary program at school.  he brought me some the day he made it and it has changed my life.  oh it is so good.  and so far, everyone else that’s eaten it agrees.  best soup ever.  I will say that this is not a super simple or fast recipe.  it involves a fair amount of prep with all the produce  but it is SO worth it.

here is most of the stuff you will need, plus one more apple and some milk.  fyi:  this is a double recipe, because I always want more of this stuff and it’s not super quick.  you could definitely cut it in half if you didn’t want as much.

peel and cut up two apples, a potato, and an onion.  if you are like me and got one of these guys for christmas (yes!) you can use it to help you with the apples.

and even with the potato!

cut up the butternut squash too.  you’ll need about a cup and a half.  and it is SO worth it to buy it already peeled and cut up, or frozen.  (both tj’s and whole foods usually have it prepared or frozen for you).

melt 6 tablespoons (ish) of butter and throw in the apples, potato, onion and squash in a big pot.  season it with salt and pepper (I do quite a bit of both) and cook until the onion is soft (about 8 minutes).

stir in 2 teaspoons sage and 2 tablespoons flour, then add 6 tablespoons cider and cook over medium heat until thickened.  it will look pretty dirty.

add one box (32 oz) chicken stock and a cup of milk.  bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the potato is soft (8-10 minutes).  then add two cups shredded cheddar, stir it in til it melts, grab your immersion blender and puree the whole mess.

eat some now!  if you have some chives throw them on top.  I didn’t have any and it was still excellent.

and put some in jars to give to your friends and family.

in summary:

6 tablespoons butter
1 onion, chopped up
2 apples, chopped up
1 potato, chopped up
1 and a half cups butternut squash, peeled and chopped up
salt and pepper
2 teaspoons sage
2 tablespoons flour
6 tablespoons apple cider
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup milk
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

1.  melt butter in a large pot over medium-low and add the onion, apples, potato and squash.
2.  season with salt and pepper and cook until the onion is soft, about 8 minutes
3.  stir in the sage and flour
4.  add the cider and cook over medium heat, stirring, until thickened.
5.  add the broth and milk, cover and bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring, until the potato is soft (8-10 minutes)
6.  Add the cheese and stir until melted.
7.  Puree until smooth; season with salt and pepper.
8.  don’t eat all of it at once.  unless you really want to.

so this is actually a bunch of recipes all together, but they are so similar I’m going to count them as one.

2011 continues to be the year of soup.  maybe I should rename it as “winter 2011/2012” because I have a feeling this is going to continue past the new year, but that is pretty wordy.  last week I had three kinds of soup–all made by someone else.  my mom’s chicken noodle, and then one of my culinary kids brought me two kinds on different days–a tomato basil that had some crazy cheese in it that was literally the best soup I’ve ever had, and a chicken corn chowder that was excellent but not as good as the tomato.  score!  thanks kid!

after a few failed attempts in the past to make soup in my blender (bad news bears) my friend stephanie told me I must get an immersion blender.  YOU GUYS.  I am obsessed.  this thing is the bomb.com.  this is the one I got (only I KNOW I paid less than it is showing, I think like $24 or something?  and look at all those awesome colors they have now!  where were those a few months ago??) and I love it.  it makes beautiful creamy soup.  but I haven’t had much luck using it unless I have a pretty deep batch.  I guess I could use a smaller pot if I wanted less, but it works better when you have deeper stuff to work with.  hey, I have no problem making a lot.  I’m guessing my family has no problem with it either.

so here is my basic process.  this is by no means specific or precise or anything like that.  I think this is why I cook more, and don’t bake much.  I don’t like to measure stuff.  this “recipe”/process is adapted from this recipe (too thin, needs more potatoes or less liquid) and a recipe for potato, leek and fennel soup from this cookbook (which I also think I paid way less for–maybe today is overcharge on everything day on amazon).

First, chop up a lot of vegetables.  I insist that you at least use potatoes and leeks.  I would go with five or six potatoes, depending on how big they are.  I hate peeling potatoes so I’ve been getting bigger ones lately.  and I love the veggies at trader joe’s.  they are so affordable and so good.  if you get smaller potatoes you will need more.  also get at least two leeks.  leeks are the main reason I love veggies at trader joe’s right now.  they are already pretty clean (HUGE BONUS) and they’re trimmed pretty well so they’re easier to deal with.  after potatoes and leeks you can also add fennel (I don’t love fennel but it is AWESOME in soup), probably one bulb or a little more, OR, asparagus.  my soup tonight was supposed to have asparagus, but I bought it a week ago and it didn’t last until today.  it was very sad and I only had potatoes and leeks.  which is still excellent.  use at least a pound of asparagus.  snap the ends off first, duh.  if you like carrots (I HATE them cooked) they would probably work well in a recipe like this too.  or any other root vegetable, really.

put a few tablespoons of evoo in a big pot.  you can use butter too.  heat it up and throw in the sliced leeks.  if you weren’t paying attention and put the potatoes in too (oops) it’s no big deal, the world will go on.  cook the leeks for a few minutes til they are a little softer.  add a spoonful of minced garlic and cook for a tiny bit, then toss in the potatoes (and other veggies) and pour in a carton of chicken broth.  I love salt but I get the low sodium kind and season it on my own.  you actually probably need about six cups of chicken broth–which is about a carton and a half.  but err on the side of less–you can always add more later if it’s too thick (but you can’t fix it if it’s too thin).

then cover it and let it simmer for oh, half an hour?  let it do an easy simmer and you’ll like it better.  I usually have the burner on 6 or 7 til it starts to get pretty bubbly, then turn it down to 4 or so.

once the potatoes are soft (test them with a fork), do a little seasoning.  salt and black pepper, and some herbs.  super green ones like parsley.  no dill.  thyme is okay.  I love fresh herbs but haven’t been to the store in awhile, so I’ve been using my parisien bonnes herbes from penzey’s.  yum!  I actually also like ground coriander an awful lot in these soups.  throw some in.  do whatever you want.  I inherited a ridiculous love of black pepper from my mom so I do a lot of that.  and I probably add more salt than I should.

now, this is optional but I am into it, pour in some heavy cream or half and half.  maybe half a cup to a cup.  depending on how thick you want it.  again, start with less and add more if you need it.

now turn off the heat, grab your immersion blender and go to town.  you’ll be glad you did.  if it’s too thick add some more chicken stock or cream.

now if you’re like me, you are obsessed with mason jars and you can fill up a bunch and stick it in your fridge to take to your family.

eat some now too!  put some cheese on there.  go with either a hard shredded cheese, like parmesan or romano or asiago, OR, if you want to get really crazy, grab a wedge of soft herbed cheese like laughing cow and mix it in when it’s hot.  unreal.
so, to summarize:
1.  chop up a lot of potatoes and leeks and other veggies
2.  saute leeks in evoo or butter for a few minutes
3.  add garlic and cook for a minute or so
4.  add potatoes and chicken stock and other veggies
5.  simmer for awhile
6.  season and add cream
7.  blend it up
8.  serve hot with cheese (hard shredded or creamy herbed)
9.  store in mason jars.

do you have any good soup recipes I should try?  I am so game.  next I need to learn panera’s chicken wild rice.

in case you ever feel like a failure in the kitchen, I will share that I made this to go with dinner last night…and…..YUCK.  it was not good.  nobody liked it and it was icky.  you have let me down pioneer woman!  doesn’t it look so good?  don’t be fooled.  I think it was the velveeta that sent things down the tubes.  no good at all.  (all pictures hers).

but don’t worry, I will keep coming back for stuff like this.  (best dessert ever).

ps–I was laughing today telling my stepmom about these.  that was a funny, and ridiculous day.

I love to try new stuff.  sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn’t.  here are my five favorites that worked, courtesy the triple dubs.

1.  avocado chicken via martha

this is a crowd-pleaser.  and it is SO. freakin. easy.  it has like 4 ingredients.  okay, seven, but why count all the spices.  caveat:  it doesn’t keep very well.  have company over; you won’t need to.  this is such a good meal…especially in the summer.  the buttery avocado is a good balance with the cayenne pepper on the chicken.  avocados are the best thing ever.  If they were smaller or more portable I would seriously eat one every day at lunch.  I always, always serve couscous with this meal.  couscous is one of my most favorite foods.  it is like candy.  this kind is my favorite.  so, so, very good. I could eat it all day long.

2.  sloppy joes via ellie krieger

I LOVE sloppy joes.  like a whole lot.  they are so delicious.  and they make EXCELLENT leftovers.  I will usually put a serving in one of these little guys, the perfect size, and take it to school for lunch with a bun.  and this recipe can handle a wimpy little whole wheat bun, healthy and cheap.  it heats up really well as leftovers, and makes an excellent alternative to lean cuisine or cafeteria pizza.  this recipe is a really healthy one too, and I love that it includes beans.  I love beans.  they are one of my favorite foods (along with couscous, obv.)  I do make a few adjustments…I don’t include the bell pepper (yuck) but instead replace it with celery and/or carrots.  I have to chop the carrots real small because I don’t like them when they’re cooked (if they’re really tiny I don’t notice them).  I do think that having one of these guys helps it to seem less like chili and more like sloppy joes.  this is just a great recipe overall.  love it. and it’s a good way to get some hidden vegetables in.

3. tuna noodle casserole via eating well (sorry, no picture)

tuna.  also one of my favorite foods.  I apparently have a lot of those.  I love tuna so many ways.  including in a dragon roll!  I should re-post that one from a long long time ago.  but this is a good way to eat it too.  I will say, this recipe is TOTALLY WEIRD.  I really, really like it, but I don’t know if everyone else would.  so try it at your own risk.  I like a traditional tnc too (let’s be honest, I really like tuna helper as well), but this recipe is definitely something different (hee hee, did you see that picture lindsey?)  this one uses sun-dried tomatoes (which, in general, I always think are weird, but don’t really have anything against) and pine nuts (which I am, in general, a huge fan of).  as per usual (you’ll see this again) I get rid of the peppers.  one time I tried using banana peppers.  that was ineffective, don’t do it.  successfully, however, I pretty much always add frozen peas.  I love frozen peas in tnc.  it is hard for me to eat tnc without them, in general.  I also sometimes use other cheeses, whatever I have on hand.  but let me tell you again, THIS RECIPE IS WEIRD.  but my taste in many things is questionable, so I like it.

4.  cheese grits via paula deen

I LOVE GRITS!!!!!  they are one of my favorite foods.  are you tired of hearing that yet?  I mean seriously, grits are so awesome.  I could eat them all day long.  I like them so many different ways.  I love them just with a little milk and honey, or with salt and butter, or cheesy like these, or cheesy with shrimp.  did you know how delicious shrimp grits are?  I mean seriously.  grits are so great.  I didn’t even know about how great they were til like a year ago.  I took them unrequested to our big family thanksgiving, and turns out EVERYONE loves grits and just didn’t know it til then.  it really had a positive effect on my family popularity.  I think I probably powered past like two of my cousins.  I am serious, if you don’t know yet how much you love grits, give me a call and I will make you some.  you need to know grits.  they will change your life.  in the possibly related category, grits and couscous.  also:  cream of wheat, oatmeal (steel cut or otherwise), malt-o-meal.  It might be best to say that I just love grains.  note:  I DO NOT love quinoa.  you’d think I would!  sadly, I do not.  it is so gross. I also love wild rice, and especially short grain brown rice.  but I love so many grains, and also legumes.  as previously noted, beans, but also: lentils.  I love lentils.  one of my favorite recipes is not from the webs, it’s from a cookbook, and it involves lentils.  I’ll share it sometime.  now I will stop talking about grains and legumes.  but not before I say again GRITS ARE THE BOMB.

5.  chinese lettuce wraps via eating well

this is probably my current favorite recipe.  it involves a lot of prep in terms of dealing with the fresh herbs and the lettuce, but it is so worth it.  and from a dietary standpoint it’s pretty rock solid, it has a good balance of a lot of stuff you need, and is really filling for as few calories as it has.  I usually end up making three or four wraps for myself each time I eat it, and it’s still only one serving.  it feels like you’re eating a TON of food for not a lot of damage.  and thus far these have also been a crowd pleaser.  my friend chad was so afraid of them the first time I made them before survivor that he had a pre-dinner dinner just in case, but I think it is safe to say now that he is a fan.  carrie loves them too, and she is a very picky eater.  this meal falls into the category of “I don’t like most of the things in here but I love them all together” for me.  (also in this category:  reuben sandwiches.  I do not like one single ingredient on a reuben sandwich, but all together, I love them.  thanks van zile).  these lettuce wraps have several things I don’t care that much for:  ground turkey, water chestnuts, and five spice.  I’m not in love with ground turkey, but it really, really works in this recipe, and I’m learning that it’s not so bad if you use it in certain places in certain ways.  chinese food is one of those places, I think that chinese food is teaching me to like ground turkey (and for me, ground turkey is SO MUCH easier to cook than most of the meat you’d normally use in chinese food).  I don’t love water chestnuts, and I really don’t like anise (one of the stronger flavors in five spice), but again, they really work in this recipe.  I do leave out the peppers (again) but I usually replace them with celery.  note:  it really does help if you can find boston lettuce as the recipe suggests.  or something with pretty big leaves. also, the fresh herbs make a big difference.  I usually go with basil and italian parsley since those are the two I typically have on hand, but mint is really great if you can get your hands on some.  I also advise buying shredded carrots!  it’s nice when you’re done chopping everything else to not have to worry about the carrots (and I HATE chopping carrots).   and these are pretty messy to eat, but I don’t care, they are so delicious.

there you go.  if you have any recommendations, hit me up.  today in my classes we shared three things we are good at, and three things we are bad at, and one of my things I said I was good at was trying new things in cooking.  and as per my goals, I need 5 new staple recipes!  happy weekend friends.  and happy mother’s day too.  I owe some of my adventurous cooking inclinations to my mom, even though I did not always appreciate it when she was feeling adventurous in the kitchen (sorry mom.)

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