Dec 042013
 
The to do list on Thursday...and my amazing timer that I'm in love with

The to do list on Thursday...and my amazing timer that I'm in love with

Two weeks ago, Adam and I decided that as my crazy season kicks off the day after Thanksgiving that we would just go with flow that all the plans we had half made for Thanksgiving had fallen though and kind of ignore the day. I had to get ready for the weekend anyway. Then three days before the actual day, there was a conversation between Adam and one of his friends who had custody of his son for Thanksgiving this year, and a turkey in the freezer, that we should have it together. This could have been a simple decision and we should have just made a few side dishes and called it a day.

The Turkey brining, cranberries boiling, green beans draining and pie dough ready to roll

The Turkey brining, cranberries boiling, green beans draining and pie dough ready to roll

 

However, 10 years ago I had hosted my first Thanksgiving and decided to fry our turkey. Unfortunately, no one thought to check the fryer box after purchase (because who does that?) and when we went to set it up a few hours before dinner, realized that a crucial part was missing and no stores were open to get the missing part. There were many methods attempted to rig it, which all failed and my mom ended up hacking off parts of the raw turkey and microwaving them...which was as bad as it sounds. My ego would not let another horrible Thanksgiving dinner ever happen again on my watch so last week I went into hyper crazy holiday mode.

Chilled pie dough about to be rolled out

Chilled pie dough about to be rolled out..this is my first attempt at pie crust and making an apple pie!

I started planning out the timing for cooking the many, many dishes (that I had never cooked before) being prepared with one oven and braved the grocery store with the masses. I asked Adam what had to be present to make it feel like Thanksgiving, and he listed every generic dish there is and insisted that they should all be prepared from canned goods. Um, no. We compromised...I made all the dishes he wanted but with no canned goods...because ew, they're like 88 cents a lb, thats cheaper then a can of them! Anyway...I had researched and found recipes for everything and had them all printed out and everything ready to go on Wednesday night. At about 5:30 after I got home from my run, I popped into the kitchen to brine the turkey. That's when I realized what a mammoth challenge I had taken on.

The bottom of the pie crust laid out in the pan

The bottom of the pie crust laid out in the pan

Let me preface this by saying that in my family, I am the cleaner. My sister Gillian is a chef and cooks everything with my mom, with the help of my other sisters, Holly and Thea. I help clean as they go and then organize/clean the entire kitchen at the end of the night. I do nothing with the food. Wednesday night I realized this and started to panic. I ended up making the pie dough, apple pie, cranberry sauce and green beans for the casserole that night. I also laid out the buffet table, decided on serving dishes and set the table for our 2pm dinner. At 1am, still in my running clothes I finally left the kitchen.

Laying the top crust over the apples

Laying the top crust over the apples

Adam got home 20 minutes later just as I was getting out of the shower and said that our friends who were on the fence confirmed that they were coming the next day as well. Then he let me know that 3 others were coming as well. I kind of freaked out at that point and started texting his phone with things that he had to buy first thing in the morning so we had enough food as we went from 4 to 9 people.

My first apple pie, ready to go into the oven!

All ready to go into the oven!

I also was going to have to unset the table, take down the buffet as it was blocking the door to the garage, bring in our bigger table from the garage and redo everything. Lets just say that I couldn't even pretend to sleep that night, I tossed and turned and kept texting his phone so I could double the potatoes, make another pie...etc. I got up at 8:30 to start cooking the next morning (I usually get up at 11, so that was ROUGH). I cooked the turkey, made a pumpkin pie, reset the table, cooked 2 types of stuffing, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes and candied yams. I set the table and set up the buffet again. By some miracle, everything was ready at exactly 2pm and perfect!

I am so proud of my first apple pie!!

I am so proud of my first apple pie!!

The only down side was the 3 guests who we had to move furniture for canceled at 1:55. They will not be invited to dinner ever again. No matter, we had a lovely time without them. Our friends 3 year old son terrorized Faye, the guys watched football and the massive amounts of leftovers due to 3 people not showing up were forced on our friends when they left. I was in the kitchen cleaning until about 9pm and then had to work for a couple of hours.

We brought in the big dinning room table and it looks so pretty set for dinner

We brought in the big dinning room table and it looks so pretty set for dinner (excuse the photo)

 

Lets just say that this weekend was spent in a zombie state, which is unfortunate as I was so busy with holiday orders coming in (yay!). Fortunately though, I think after a good long sleep last night  though that I am finally recovered...and have started planning the party for 25 at our house Christmas night. You can start thing positive thoughts for me now please...

Quite the spread!

Quite the spread!

p.s. don't forget to checkout Manic Trout for the perfect holiday party accessories and presents!

 

Oct 162013
 

Basil in the garden

I was thrilled when we moved into this house this past July to discover that there was a little garden in the back yard and it had basil in it. I loooove basil, I eat it like lettuce and often grew it when I lived in NY. At first the plants were a bit sad...I'm sure this has to do with it being about 110 for most of July and August, but we watered them every night and I diligently pruned them. They perked right up to glorious heights and to my delight, our long summers also mean long grow season, and I still have abundant basil out there. I've been wanting to make pesto for a few weeks, and last nights rain made me crave pasta and finally take the time to do it. I was also way over due for a pruning which was even more motivation.

basil

I searched a few weeks ago for a recipe with almonds instead of pine nuts as I had a bad reaction to a batch of pine nuts a few years ago and have been wary of them ever since. I however, collected about three recipes which all used different ratios of the same ingredients and made my own up. Besides the almond switch, I also prefer my pesto on the thicker side...more of a paste then a sauce as I find it make its easier to cook with later in the week as you can oil in if needed down the road.

parmesan
I opted to toast the almonds for about 10 minutes (keep on eye on them so they don't burn) on a dry half sheet pan in an oven at 350. Also note that this is a huge batch as I was pruning/harvesting leaves and went a bit over board...I'll be freezing pesto, that's for sure! (freeze it in ice cube trays as a great way to freeze portions)

pesto pasta

Basil Almond Pesto
Number of servings: approx 30 2 tbsp servings

Ingredients:
4 cups fresh basil leaves
1 cup olive oil
3/4 cup whole roasted almonds, freshly toasted
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
1. In a food processor, blend the almonds and garlic until ground well.
2. Add basil, cheese and oil and pulse together until well combined, but do not over mix.
3. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste.

Last night I served it simply over whole wheat rotini, and it was delicious! Today however, I got a bit crazy...

leftover pesto
I sliced a leftover cooked hot italian sausage  and heated it in a pan with a handful of the rotini, a couple of tbsp of pesto and a diced beet! It looks and sounds a bit odd, but it was pretty amazing!

Any recommendations of what to make with pesto are appreciated!

 

 

Sep 252013
 

post shopping fridge

Try as I might to change, I can't seem to shake being a serial monogamist when it comes to what I eat. There are meals I can eat daily for years and years...such as an apple and peanut  butter before bed, my favorite watermelon salad when in season or frozen blueberries with milk and sugar in the summer. Besides these staples in my snacking repertoire, I pretty much will make the same few meals over the coarse of a week and repeat them for a few weeks until I'm bored of one or two of them. Then I break out of my rut and try something new and just swap it into the rotation.

post shopping pantry
I don't mind eating like this but I've been trying to get a bit creative with at least the ingredients I normally shop for and mix it up, but sometimes, it's just easier to go with what you know. I believe in baby steps, so my new favorite thing is to buy something totally random that I normally would never get and force myself to cook it that week.  That's actually how the Turkey Chili came about last week, and it went over so well that I made it again today. See, it's just so easy it to fall into a routine! This week, I have added steel cut oats to the pantry...although I'm sure if I will do anything other than breakfast with them, but its at least something.

Sep 182013
 
Hot Sauce

The staples of my pantry

I love hot sauce. I put it on just about everything, except eggs...which I realize is odd as that is where most people prefer theirs, but whatever, I prefer pepper on mine. I'm a fan of the normal run of the mill sauces, not the crazy hot ones that make you cry. When I was in college, a friend of mine made a weekly pilgrimage to the local hot sauce shop...The Hot Shop (if you've been to Syracuse, I'm sure you know how amazing this place is, and if not...you can shop it online!) with it's rows and rows of hot sauces. Each week he selected something new and made us all try it. Most of those sauces were insanely hot and I quickly realized that I preferred the more pedestrian flavors...the ones that add a touch of spice and were more of a flavor additive rather than a torch your mouth and prove how manly you were variety*.

Pictured above, are the staples of my pantry: Cholula, Valentina, Louisiana, Franks and both red and green Tabasco. I go through an embarrassing amount of them and always have a backup ready when one is low. There are very specific foods like I like with each one and I rarely substitue. For example, both Tabasco's help make the best guacamole over, but I don't like the flavor of any other hot sauce in it when I make it myself. Another fav and no substitutes recipe is to sauté zuchinni in Frank's Red Hot with fresh basil, evoo and janes krazy mixed up salt (my other pantry essential) and it's ahhhh-mazing!

At one point I was so obsessed with Cholula that I shared with a stranger that I dreamt of a way of carrying it around in my bag without the fear of it breaking or leaking. I later dated that guy and he had hunted down a gross of Cholula packets and presented them to me for Valentines Day. It was a very appreciated gift, but kind of creepy as he bought them long before we dated, just in case we ever did and it tipped me off that he was sort of psycho/stalkerish...which was REALLY proved when I broke up with him shortly thereafter. But ANYWAY. Even though I can no longer look at a Cholula packet without getting creeped out, I still douse everything I eat with it.

How about you? Are you obsessed with hot sauce? What's you fav?

*with the exception of Torchys Diablo Sauce...that stuff makes my ears hurt when I eat it and yet it's sooooo tasty!

Sep 112013
 

White Bean, Sweet Potato and Turkey Chili

Throwing out food in the fridge because I never cooked it is a huge pet peeve of mine. There have been a few battles in the house recently because someone cough Adam cough, will insist that I buy something and then never use it. A few weeks ago, I think a lesson was learned though when uncooked and past it's date chicken was thrown out in our garbage bin by this same person and after being in the garage for a few hours of 100+ heat, smelled as bad as you can image it would. This of course was 5 days before garbage pick up and even after the bin was put outside it took days for the house to stop smelling and even our yard stank. No bueno.

So with that disaster still fresh in our minds, yesterday I suggested Adam cook the ground turkey in the fridge as it only had a few days left. He though about it, but became overwhelmed about to do with it, so it was up to me.  I went into the kitchen with the intension to just cook it up in a pan with some whole peeled tomatoes and white beans, when I thought I remembered seeing something like that in the Gwyneth Paltrow cookbook, It's All Good.

Let me state at this point that I LOVE this cookbook, its the first cookbook I've seen that is similar to how I normally eat. I have made maybe 20 recipes from it and they have all been fantastic. If you are drawn to super healthy, yet flavorful food, I cannot recommend this book enough. So anyway, I flip through it and BAM! there it is, exactly what I wanted, basically everything I was going to use with the addition of sweet potatoes. The only difference in what I did was substitute cannellini beans for black beans as I had my mind set on them and it was the night before shopping day and I was out of black beans. I also made short grain brown rice to go under the chili as if I don't eat enough carbs I get all whiney. It was delicious...so good, that I actually went back and snuck spoonfuls throughout the evening AND today there is no stinky poultry in our garbage.

    Turkey and Black Bean Chili With Sweet Potatoes

Makes 6 1/2 cups (4 servings)

Ingredients:

  • 14 ounces sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch chunks
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Coarse sea salt
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced (1 1/2 cups)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin, or more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon sweet Spanish smoked paprika (pimento dulce), or more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon mild chili powder, or more to taste
  • 1 pound ground turkey, preferably dark meat
  • 28 ounces canned, no-salt-added whole peeled tomatoes, plus their juices
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 14 ounces cooked or canned no-salt-added black beans (if using canned, drain and rinse)
  • Chopped fresh cilantro, for serving
  • Chopped fresh scallions, white and light-green parts, for serving

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone liner. Toss the sweet potato chunks with 2 tablespoons of the oil until well coated, then spread on the baking sheet in a single layer. Sprinkle with a good pinch of the sea salt. Roast for about 20 minutes or until softened, stirring a few times. Let cool.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the onion, garlic, cumin, paprika, chili powder and a big pinch of salt, stirring to coat. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until softened.

Add the turkey; cook, stirring a few times, until the meat is cooked through and its moisture has evaporated, which should take about 20 minutes. The turkey should be well incorporated into the onion mixture. Add the tomatoes and a big pinch of salt; increase the heat to high and add the water.

Once the mixture comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low and cook, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Stir in the beans and the cooled sweet potatoes; taste, and adjust the seasoning as needed. Cook for 15 minutes to blend the flavors. Divide among individual bowls; top with the cilantro and scallions. Serve hot.

Recipe from "It's All Good: Delicious, Easy Recipes That Will Make You Look Good and Feel Great," by Gwyneth Paltrow and Julia Turshen

Sep 042013
 
The usual salad that I would make for dinner

An example of a salad that I would make for dinner

I have always been a "throw everything that looks good into a bowl" kinda gal (see the salad above for proof), but since I began watching Chopped, I've taken it to a new level. Actually, I believe half the blame can be put on not having a microwave. But it's more fun to say it's all because of Chopped. Now before it goes in the bowl, everything goes in one big pan. The only way I even know that I've taken it to a new level is the look that Adam has been giving me when I make and eat things. I think they are fabulous, but then again, I eat salads like the one above regularly. I like the everything but the kitchen sink approach to salads...and apparently all my other meals as well. I think I would have throughly enjoyed the casserole era. Unless there was warm, soggy bread involved...like stuffing, yuck. If I could plan more then 10 minutes ahead with cooking, I would utilize my slow cooker more...but alas, I can't seem to think far enough into the future about what to eat to do that.

rotini surprise

My most recent creation was the perfect example of my new found ability to see beyond what foods normally play well together...and it was delicious! While the whole wheat rotini was boiling, I heated evoo in a pan and sprinkled in some salt and garlic powder (I know, ick, but I was too lazy to cut up actual garlic).  I added rinsed garbanzo beans and rolled them all around in the oil/garlic goodness. Then I emptied a can of white albacore tuna in water (not drained) and stirred the mess around. Once the pasta was drained, I threw some into the pan, added a large handful of baby spinach and tossed in the pan until the spinach was wilted. Once all on the plate, I added crumbled feta and hot sauce. Voila!

I do believe Adam actually gagged at this one and opted to instead enjoy a salami sandwich, but more due to the tuna aspect than any thing else. I throw tuna in all sorts of things though, so I just ignored him and smiled that it made so I would have leftovers too.

 

Aug 232013
 
leftovers

Leftover rice, beans and sausage with sauteed spinach added the next day

After tossing out both restaurant to go boxes and the remains of last weeks dinners that Adam insisted he wanted to eat, more times then not, I have drawn the conclusion that as far as leftovers go, I am the only one who loves them in our house. As I work from home, I eat three meals and two snacks a day here and most of the time, the quicker and easier they are, the better. This means a lot of cut up fruit, salads, sandwiches and many meals of leftovers. I think it's largely due to my living alone for so long and an inability to cook for one. I became used to making enough for a few meals when I did actually cook and eating them for the next few days.

This last move though had a twist thrown in. When we moved in together last year, we moved into a house with no storage other than the closets in the bedroom. There also was a microwave built into the kitchen. This meant that the microwave coming from my house had no where to go. We had a friend who going through a divorce and dealing with leaving his home with just the personal items (as happens often when there are kids), so it made sense to just hand over the microwave and be done with it. Well that was great and all until we moved last month into a house without a microwave...or a place to put it that would not take up precious counter space. I explained this dilemma to Adam. He said he had never once used the microwave, did we actually need one? I gasped at the thought as I didn't think I could possibly survive without it, but after giving the counter top vs microwave debate another thought, I decided to give it a try. After all, if I felt the overwhelming need to have one, I could just zip on over to bed bath and beyond and have one in 15 minutes. I have to admit that not only do I not miss it, but it has brought my love of leftovers to a new height. As I need to heat everything up on the stove now, I end up transforming things into new creations, really its been a win win!

We're not really a meat and potatoes, three squares house to begin with, instead I am a fan of putting a big pile of what sounds good at the moment (sometimes this does, but most of the time does not include meat) all in one bowl and calling it dinner...and Adam is beginning to agree with me on this concept as it usually tastes so good! Usually we have leftover rice, cooked veggies, chicken or sausage in the fridge. So perhaps I am already the perfect candidate for leftover love, but I have to say that when I posted the above photo to instagram the other day while Adam was at work, he got mad at me that I made it without him. To me, this proves that if done right, everyone can love leftovers! It also helps to keep a stocked pantry and to always have rice, beans, oil, salt, pepper, spinach, veggies, cheese and hot sauce on hand as with these items, you make anything taste good and fill you up!

Are you a lover or a hater of leftovers?

 

 

Jun 262013
 

water melon salad

I tend to latch onto food that I really like and eat it over and over again until I can't the sight if it. Some of these  meals happen for only a brief time and never return, some are in constant rotation for basically my entire life (apples and peanut butter before bed, I'm looking at you) and some are seasonal. My very favorite seasonal meal is this watermelon salad. Its basically like eating candy and cheese. But much more amazing then that sounds. It's thirst quenching, filling and so very easy to whip together. Although I should warn you that it 's highly addictive...but its basically fruit and tiny bit of dairy, so go at it. I eat is basically every day right now and may have eaten it twice one day last week. Consider your self warned.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 personal watermelon (or whatever they call the little ball melons at your store). If I get the tiny melons from the Farmers Market, I use two as I loose so much of it trying to get the seeds out.
  • 2-3 sprigs of fresh mint leaves ripped up into little pieces
  • tbsp or so of goat cheese or feta cheese
  • tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • healthy pinch of coarse sea salt

Directions:

The measurements on this are mere guidelines, its the one dish where I never measure anything, but I figured if I wrote everything as "to taste" like my nana always did,  you would get mad at me like I would at her as how the heck do you know what that means???

Cut the melon off the rind and into cubes, de-seed if necessary. Toss together with the rest of the ingredients and like magic, you have the most incredible meal ever.

This amount feeds me as a meal in itself or 2-3 if on the side of something like a sandwhich. No judgement if you feel your melon is small enough to double the recipe and eat the whole thing at once...I've totally done it.

Jun 182013
 

egg

Yesterday I was trying to hard boil eggs for lunch. I say trying as it was an epic fail. Usually they turn out perfectly as I have this blog post printed out and follow it to a T. The last two times though, not so much. The weird running egg phenomena was realized yesterday, thanks to instagram and explained by a friend who is a chef. The culprit is too fresh or too young eggs resulting in a thin membrane around the yolks.  Farmers markets are apparently the bane of the hard boiled eggs existence. Any way, I got over the kitchen fail and went on with my day. Until dinner when the quinoa (also cooked with a no fail technique) was still had water in the pot at the end. WTF. Two fails in one day. For a brief second I wanted to burst into tears and yell "I'm never cooking again!!" but I quickly got over myself. I instead laughed and thought of my studio where I fail at things so often I don't want to admit. However, I tend to have less confidence in the kitchen than the studio ...so today I think it's salad for lunch.

Jun 042013
 

wheat grass

I attempted to juice wheat grass last week. Meh. It tasted fine and all but my goodness do you need to stand there feeding grass into the juicer for-ever to get just a teensy amount of juice. I don't have the patience for it. Are you a wheat grass fan?