Thursday, March 31, 2011

Paella, Sangria, and a Mystery Salad

The plumbers are here as I write this, fixing our sink so we can finally use the kitchen again.  Hope I didn't forget how to cook.  Or how to do dishes.  My husband will argue that I never knew how to begin with, and that is a mean thing to say so maybe I'll let him do them for now on.  That'll show him.  And also, that would be SO different than how things were before.

Anyway, I promised a post about my Mom's paella.  Growing up, there was a period of time where my Mom decided we needed more variety in our diets, and she implemented "recipe of the week" concept.  I don't know what kinds of cookbooks she was looking at, or what on earth her inspiration was, but the recipe of the week concept was a resounding flop and did NOT resonate well with the fam.  No one got excited about "recipe of the week" day, and quite literally the word "recipe" struck fear in our hearts and we begged our friends to invite us over for dinner or even feigned illness a time or two.  It didn't last long, thank goodness.  Now, I should give my Mom more credit that the recipe of the week story indicates.  She is actually a very good cook (recipe of the week IS the exception) and has quite a few specialties that we ask for every time we go home for dinner.  Paella is one of them.

My husband and I were home visiting with my parents this past weekend and paella and sangria were on the menu.  Score!  I told my Mom that she better make it a good batch because I'd arrive with my camera and would be posting about it on my blog.  I am pretty sure she thought I was kidding, but I wasn't.  Blogging is SERIOUS business, people!  Too bad she doesn't have a recipe written down and I was far too busy enjoying sangria and joking around with everyone to pay any attention to what was happening as this meal came together.  I seriously have no idea how you make paella, and when I asked my Mom for the recipe, she was like, "ohhh, you just sautee some chicken and scallops and sausage and throw them together with some spices and some rice". 

So, um...if you want a recipe for paella, I suggest you google it. 

Monday, March 28, 2011

Cheddar Meatloaf Muffins and Plumbing Issues

Not THOSE kind of plumbing issues.  Geez people, try to have some class.

The other day I went to the basement to do some laundry and noticed it smelled funny.  Funnier than basements usually smell, even.  I mentioned it to my husband and he was like, "yeah, there is water coming out from under the stairs down there, too".  Great!!  I automatically see millions of dollar signs and start panicking about how we might have to cancel our trip to Italy if we have a putrid sea of water under the house and it floats away or something.  Or just molds over and rots completely.

Evidently we have a hole the size of Texas in the pipe connected to the kitchen sink, garbage disposal, and dishwasher.  So everything that went through that medium for the past couple of weeks had ended up in a sea of putrid water under the basement stairs.  This is heresay, mind you.  I never saw it because THOSE sort of house issues (purchasing a wet-dry vac and then contacting a professional) are a good example of a man's contribution to the household.  This blog is an example of MY contributions to the household. 

Anyway, the good news is that the plumber told us it could be easily fixed and would not cost one million dollars.  Italy trip is still on and the house isn't floating away!

That said, he can't come fix our little issue until Thursday, and in the meantime, we can't use any water in the kitchen.  That sort of puts a damper on cooking, so this week will be an "eating takeout on paper plates" kind of week.  Or, a "go to happy hour with friends" kind of week.  Or perhaps a combination of both. 

Luckily, I have a few posts saved up for an occassion like this.  So I'll be indulging in Pho Tai, wine and cheese, sushi, and maybe some pizza, you can read about stuff I made awhile back and forgot to blog about.

First up is cheddar barbeque meatloaf muffins.  Enough said.  They are like BBQ cheeseburgers in a muffin formation.  So good.  I may have eaten 2 cold ones the next day for breakfast. 

Next up is my Mom's stay tuned for that!

BBQ Cheddar Meatloaf Muffins

1 lbs lean ground beef
1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 cup breadcrumbs, fresh not hard
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/3 cup onions, diced
1/4 cup BBQ sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix all ingredients together. Spoon mixture into a 12 cup muffin tin and press down firmly with back of spoon. Top with remaining BBQ sauce and place in oven for 25-35 minutes. Sprinkle remaining cheese on each muffin and bake additional 5 minutes. Allow to cool 5 minutes before removing from tins.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Most Delicious Chicken in the Whole Wide World

Before we met, I'm pretty sure my husband ate either takeout or chicken and rice for every. single. meal. I actually don't cook chicken all that much because I am sure he's had enough to last a lifetime plus a little more.  But when I saw a recipe for Rosemary Ranch Chicken, I just had to make it, chicken overload be darned.  Because grilled chicken that has been marinating in ranch dressing all day?  Yeah Buddy!!! (said in the Pauly D voice). 

I am just going to say it.  Its a gutsy statement but it must be put out there for the world 8 people who read this blog to see.  This was the best chicken I've, like, ever had.  It was so juicy (the good kind of juicy, not juicy due to undercooked chicken juice) and flavorful and delicious and I kind of dream about it sometimes.  Make it right this second.  I had humongous chicken breasts (what is UP with the huge slabs of chicken in the grocery stores these days??) so I cut them in half so they'd cook faster and not dry out on the sides.  You should do that too.

I served this with roasted cauliflower.  My husband claims he hates cauliflower because it is white.  Let's take a pause while I give him a HUGE side-eye from across the room.  This is an interesting statement coming from a man whose diet consisted entirely of chicken, rice, and milk for years on end.  If you don't get the irony of that, close your eyes and picture a plate with filled with chicken (they don't call it white meat for nothin'), white rice, and a glass of milk (white, not chocolate).  Riddle me THAT.

Rosemary Ranch Chicken
Source: The Plain Chicken

1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup ranch dressing
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon dried rosemary (I used fresh)
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, or to taste
1 tablespoon white sugar, or to taste
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Bit of Montreal steak seasoning

In a medium bowl, stir together the olive oil, ranch dressing, Worcestershire sauce, rosemary, salt, lemon juice, white vinegar, pepper, garlic, steak seasoning, and sugar. Let stand for 5 minutes.

Pound chicken breast to 1/4" thickness (I didn't do this). Place chicken in the gallon size ziplock bag, and stir to coat with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours.

Preheat the grill for medium-high heat. Grill chicken for 8 to 12 minutes, or until the chicken is no longer pink in the center, and the juices run clear.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Steaks with Garlic Topping

I love a good steak.  We never used to cook them at home because I was convinced that only fancy restaurants could prepare a good steak.

I used to work in an industry where I attended a ton of dinners with clients, and they were often held at a steakhouse.  No wonder I had trouble maintaining my ideal weight...eating steak twice a week isn't necessarily the diet of supermodels or anything.  I don't really know what my excuse is NOW, since its been awhile since I've done these dinners with any frequency, but that's not really the point of this story.  The point of the story is that I got very, very spoiled when it came to steak, and any cut of meat besides a nice filet paid for on someone's corporate account just didn't feel right.

But since no one has offered to give me access to their corporate account lately, I decided it was time to try cooking our own steaks.  We bought some nice strip steaks and paid for it with our own credit card.  If you have a corporate account and like my blog, totally let me know and I'll let you pay the credit card bill.  I'm just saying.

Anyway, while these steaks weren't QUITE as good as a fancy, buttery (free) filet, they were still pretty good.  They were made better by two facts.  First, my husband cooked them.  Second, they were topped with garlicky cream cheese.  Can't beat that, my friends.  Can't beat that.

Steaks with Garlic Topping

4 strip steaks, 1-inch thickness, trimmed
2 tablespoons canola oi

For the topping:
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons part-skim ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons snipped fresh chives or chopped green onion tops
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
To prepare the topping, in a small bowl, combine the garlic, cream cheese, ricotta, chives, and pepper. Using a fork, mix until smooth. Set aside.
Rinse the steaks and pat dry with paper towels In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add the steaks and cook, turning once, for 2-3 minutes per side for medium-rare, or until desired doneness.
Using a wide spatula, place the steaks on serving plates.  Immediately top each steak with about a tablespoon of the topping.  Let steaks stand until topping melts slightly, then serve.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Salami Skewers, Roasted Corn Crostini and Shrimp Kebabs for the Porch Drinkers

I have these two friends.  I mean...I have MORE than two friends (or at least I like to think so!), but two in particular that have a special place in my heart.  This is because they are part of a 3-person wine club (of course I am the third...have you been READING this blog??) called the Porch Drinkers.  This name is a bit curious, because I can't remember the last time we actually drank wine on a porch, but its March and its been pretty cold lately, so I guess its more like the kitchen drinkers.

Anyway, we always mean to get together more often than we do, but you know, we are all very busy and VERY important, so sometimes we'll go a month or so between get-togethers.  This is not a good idea if you're planning on getting enough sleep and feeling tip-top the next morning.  We have so much to catch up on, so often times our little "happy hours" last until midnight and then we have to calls the hubbies to come pick us up.  And we do have food at these little shin-digs, but the focus is always a little more on the wine and a lot more on the gossip, so sometimes we forget to eat enough.  And I don't know about the other two, but I always find myself over-compensating the next day and spend the better part of my work day dreaming of cheeseburgers.

The latest meeting of our little wine club took place at my house and I spent an inordinate amount of time planning the menu.  I had found an old copy of Rachael Ray's magazine under my bed and they had 50 ideas for grilling food on a stick!  And we all know how much I love food on a stick.  When I ran across the idea for fig and salami skewers, I was heck-bent on making them and they were even better than I imagined.  I even let my husband stay to eat before he was banished to his brother's house for the evening.  No men allowed in the wine club (except to drive us around).  Enjoy!!

Fig and Salami Skewers
Source: Rachael Ray

12 Slices Salami (Genoa works well)
Fig Preserves
Crumbled Goat Cheese
Garlic Powder
Italian Seasoning
4 metal skewers

Heat grill to medium high.

Lay the salami slices flat on a cutting board and spread with a thin layer of fig preserves, stopping about 1/2 an inch from the edge.  Sprinkle about a teaspoon of crumbled goat cheese on top of the fig preserves, and then sprinkle with garlic powder and Italian seasoning (just eyeball it).  Fold the salami in half and then half again, so its in a fan shape.  Then thread the top of the folded salami through the skewers to secure.

Grill for 2-3 minutes on each side.

Cool and serve.

Corn and Goat Cheese Crostini
Source: Adapted from One Hungry Mama

olive oil, to brush on bread and drizzle on cheese
1/2 loaf Italian Baguette
3 tbsp butter
1/2 c shallots, finely chopped
3 ears fresh corn, kernels cut from the cob
1/4 cup soft goat cheese
salt & pepper, to taste
basil or chives, for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In the meantime, lightly brush top side of bread slices. Toast until light golden brown.

While bread toasts, heat butter in a large skillet. When sizzling, add shallots and saute until they just start to turn golden brown. Add corn and continue sauteing until corn is cooked through and you get a nice, light carmelization.

Spread goat cheese on bread—the exact amount depends on your taste. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Top with corn and shallot saute. Garnish with fresh herbs

Shrimp, Veggie and Pineapple Kebabs
Source: I threw some random stuff into a plastic bag for a marinade, but I'm sure its similar to 1000 marinades out there....

1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 zucchini
1 large green pepper
2 cups pineapple, cut into chunks
Soy sauce
Red wine vinegar
Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons minced garlic
few shakes of sesame oil
Montreal steak seasoning
bit of rice wine vinegar

Mix all ingredients starting with the soy sauce in a large plastic bag.  Add shrimp and marinate in fridge for 4-6 hours.

Heat grill to medium high.

Thread shrimp on skewers, alternating with the veggies and pineapple.  Grill for 4-5 minutes on each side or until done.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Judgey McJudgerson Makes Crab Cakes

The other day I was doing my weekly grocery shopping and at one point I looked down into my grocery cart and thought to myself, "Daaaaang girl, that is one healthy-looking grocery cart you got rock!".  It was filled with colorful fruits and veggies and lean meats and there was not a single sign of a processed food to be found.  It was like a rainbow of food-snobby deliciousness.  And wine-snobby deliciousness, too (if we're going to be really honest here).  There MAY have been 6 bottles of wine in there as well, and the checkout girl MAY have mentioned that I'm probably having a party or something because, "I sure hope you're not drinking all of that by yourself!"  Heh, heh....of course not!  And she was 16...what does she know about wine anyway?  But, I digress.  The wine was in there because if you buy 6 bottles, you get 10% off.  And also, have you been living under a rock along with the checkout girl?  Red wine is good for you!

Anyway, so I started checking out other people's carts to see if they were as awesome as mine were.  Um, they weren't.  Unless by "awesome", you mean, "consists only of Lucky Charms and Lil' Smokies sausages"  In as much of a non-judgemental way as I could muster, I wondered what on earth these people were thinking.  Some of these carts were filled with really atrocious things, and they probably weren't even cheap!    Now, as you can probably tell from my blog here, I'm not always the epitome of healthy eating and I certainly have been known to eat a frozen pierogie or two (mmmm.....pierogies....), but I like to think that I have a good grasp on general nutrition and was appalled at the stuff people would bring home to their families.  And yes...there it is....judgement.

And you know what's funny?  I should totally be judging myself half the time, too, especially when I'm in a restaurant.  I keep processed foods and snacks out of my house and everything we eat has to be prepared from actual ingredients, but put me in a Chick-fil-A, and I'll gobble up those waffle fries faster than you can say "muffin top".

Oh well.  I guess I'll try to keep my grocery shopping gloating in check and try not to worry about what other people are buying at the store.  I'll do it in exchange for your promise to look the other way in case you ever see me in Chick-Fil-A.

Okay, back to cooking talk.  My mother in law Mona makes the best crab cakes in the world.  Actually, she's one of the best cooks in the world for just about anything, and when I married her son, I was terrified at the thought of cooking for him because there was no way I was going to be able to produce anything even remotely as good as what he ate growing up.  But the cool thing about Mona is that she's a lot nicer than I am.  You read about the time I beat my friend Kara in a cook-off and then rubbed her face in it and then blogged about it for all the world to see.  Instead of doing THAT, Mona graciously offered to share her best recipes with me so I could make them myself!  And she's never publicly mocked my cooking!  Like I said, she's a lot nicer than I am.

Anyway, the key to these crab cakes is (unfortunately), the quality of crab meat you use.  You really should use jumbo lump.  I mean, I know its expensive, but crab cakes are a special occasion, and its still cheaper than going out.  And they're just not as good with claw meat.  Sorry.

I am drooling just thinking about them...

Crab Cakes
Source: My Mother-in-Law!

1 pound fresh LUMP crabmeat
16-20 saltine crackers, crushed
1/2 cup mayonnaise (I used light and it was still delicious)
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard 
1/2 - 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 Tablespoon minced fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce

Drain crabmeat, removing any bits of shell.

Stir together mayo & rest of ingredients.

Fold in crabmeat & saltines.  Be careful not to break up lumps.

Shape into about 8 patties.  Place the patties on wax paper-lined baking sheet; cover & chill about 1 hour.
This seems to make them hold together better while frying. 

Brown in 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil & 2 Tablespoons butter 4-5 minutes per side.

Drain on paper towels.

Lemon-Dill Sauce

1 cup mayonnaise
2 tsp. grated lemon rind
1 Tbs. lemon juice
3/4 tsp dried dillweed
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. hot sauce (optional)

Stir together.  Chill

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A Blog Award!!!

My blog got an award!  Can you believe that??!?  I know, me neither!  I started this blog to have all my recipes in one place and to share with my friends and family who are always asking for dinner ideas.  Oh, and also because the status update portion on Facebook is just NOT big enough for all the things I feel like saying.  I didn't think anyone but my Mom and my husband (and he only reads to make sure I don't say anything bad about him) read this blog, and now I have an award.  Who woulda thunk it?!

The award came from Christina at This Woman Cooks.  She is great and has wonderful recipes!  I'm so flattered that she deemed my blog award-worthy...thanks Christina!

So here's how the award works:

1.  Thank them, make a post, and put a link back to the person/s who gave us this award.
2.  Share 7 things about ourselves.
3.  Pass the award to 10 recently discovered great bloggers.
4.  Contact these bloggers and personally tell them about the award.

Seven things about me, huh?  Here goes:

1) I am TERRIFIED of pigeons.  I could go on and on forever about how disgusting they are and how any human who deigns to FEED ONE should be throat punched.  I'd rather sleep in a pit of spiders than have a pigeon touch me (or even look at me with their beady little eyes).  Also, have you ever noticed that there are never any baby pigeons around anywhere?  I don't know about you, but that seems like a CLEAR indication they are not hatched from an egg, but rather spawned straight from the devil himself.

2) When I was little, I used to sit in the gravel driveway and suck the dirt off of the rocks.  I think that explains a lot.

3) I am entirely too wrapped up in my frequent flyer status with airlines.  I know that in the grand scheme of life it doesn't really matter all that much, but I know there's a part of everyone who feels cool going through the special security line and getting on the plane before the overhead space is taken up, even if you don't get upgraded to first class every time.  People who don't think status is important clearly don't have any.

4) I have the attention span of a hummingbird with brain damage.  I literally cannot complete a task without getting distracted by at least 4 other tasks that make me think of something I forgot to do, which makes me think of something I've been meaning to look up, and OMG its been an hour since I checked Facebook and I'm almost going to beat Rori in Words With Friends FINALLY, so I should probably just look at my iPhone real quick and now I have a meeting so I'm sure I'll just finish up that powerpoint slide before I leave work for the day.  But I actually have to leave work on time so I can wash the same load of laundry for the third time while I FINALLY clean out my closet, and....oh look, a squirrel!

5) I am obsessed with pasta and could eat it for every meal for the rest of my life and never get sick of it.  Unfortunately, avoiding these types of carbs is the only way I've ever gotten to my ideal size.  Le sigh.

6) I get very, very grumpy when I am hungry.  This charming trait runs in my family.

7) I don't recall a time in my life that I've been as happy as I am right now.  That's a pretty darn good feeling, if you ask me. 

Speaking of happy, it'll be fun to share a few of the blogs that I read that make ME happy.  Some of them have been around for awhile and are only recently discovered by me, but I hope you find the blogs as fun to read as I do, and I hope they are happy to get an award from little old me.  Enjoy!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Big News!!

We're expecting a little one!!!

Of the canine variety, of course.  Fooled you, didn't I?  Good gracious, I am funny.

Meet Lola, the newest addition (and only addition, I guess) to our little family.  We pick her up in 3 weeks and she's the sweetest little thing in the whole world. 

She's an Aussiedoodle, which sounds really prissy but Aussiedoodles are FIERCE!  Her mom is an Australian Shepherd and her dad is a Standard Poodle.  I'm allergic to all dogs except for poodles (my husband is THRILLED about this fact), so a Doodle was a must in puppy shopping.  And we went to visit this little lady yesterday and I picked her up and rubbed her all over my face to see if I broke out in hives and my eyes swelled shut and nothing happened.  So, she's ours!

We've been talking about getting a puppy for like a year now, and every time I'd talk about how excited I was, my husband would be all, "you know, Ann, a dog is a big responsibility.  You have to walk it and wake up early and pick up its poop".  Duh, like I don't know that.  Especially since we plan on having kids someday, and I'm pretty sure THEY are a big responsibility.  I mean, you have to walk them, wake up early, and pick up their poop.  Except that with a kid, they do all that and then they take all your money and leave you.

I don't have any food pictures or recipes to share today.  I didn't cook a darn thing this weekend.  I did, however, eat a variety of delicious sandwiches and think I gained 5 pounds. 

Friday, March 11, 2011

Life Lessons Learned in Spin Class (And Pineapple Chicken Kebabs!)

I went to spin class last night (third time so far this week - I rule!), and learned a very, very important life lesson:

Spin class isn't the appropriate setting for your Hooter's uniform.  And by "your" Hooter's uniform, I really do mean that this lesson applies to OTHER people.  I don't even know where MY Hooter's uniform is.  I haven't worn it in ages!  Maybe it got too dirty after I wore it to yoga last year.  Anyway, in class last night, there was only one new girl in the whole class, and the instructor nicely shows her how to adjust the bike and reminds her that when she instructs, "turn it way up!" and then requires that you pedal as fast as you can, new girl should go easy on turning the knob or she will throw up and die.  So she gets on the bike and removes her sweatpants and sweatshirt to reveal, wait for it..... a full-on Hooter's uniform, complete with the crop top, as her attire for the day's workout!!!  Well, color me impressed!  I know it gets hot in there, and avoiding loose-fitting clothes is good so they don't get caught in the spokes,  She just really doesn't care....I admire her guts!  However, I am baffled regarding the thought process that leads one to the decision to wear a Hooter's uniform to an intense exercise class.  And maybe she should have been concentrating more on her workout instead of her attire, as Hooter's girl left class in the middle, hyperventilating in a pool of sweat. 

I made it through the whole thing, and then ate delcious and nutricious chicken and pineapple kebabs and roasted broccoli for dinner after.  Gotta work on that Hooter's body, ya know.

I'm a huge fan of meat on a stick (or any food on a stick for that matter), and I am SO excited that grilling season is so close.  We can eat outside at the table on the deck (as opposed to hunching over coffee table, see earlier blog post), and I'll have actual NATURAL light to take my food pictures.  I can't wait!  Spring also means lots of shopping, but my husband reads this blog, so I won't elaborate on my plans....

Anywho, I loved these.  They were so simple to make and cooked in no time.  I'm excited to try wtih a bunch of different marinades and veggie combinations.  This will definitely be a staple for our warm weather menu!

Chicken and Pineapple Skewers
Source: Adapted from Clean Eating Magazine, May/June 2009, p. 50

2 green onions, chopped
2 tbsp low sodium tamari soy sauce
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp freshly grated ginger
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, cubed
1/2 pound fresh pineapple, cubed
1 tbsp agave nectar or honey

In a large bowl, whisk together onions, soy sauce, vinegar and ginger.  Add chicken and cover, marinating in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Drain chicken; discard marinade.  Skewer chicken, alternating with pineapple.  Grill until chicken is cooked through.  Serve with sauce (recipe follows)

Pineapple Sweet and Sour sauce (I didn't make the sauce and the chicken was still delicious)
1 pound fresh pineapple
zest and juice of one lime
zest and juice of one lemon
1 tbsp agave nectar or honey
1 tsp freshly ground ginger

Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender and process until well blended, about 1 to 2 minutes.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

These Are My Confessions (And Pumpin Pancakes!!)

Tonight my darling husband is on his own for dinner because I'm not feeling very hungry.   I alerted him to this fact, and he found this information very curious, if not downright shocking.  He was like, " do you MEAN?"  I've decided I'm not going to take it personally that the man almost dropped dead on the spot from shock when he learns that I'm not hungry.  Its not like its the first time this has happened in the 5 years we've know each other or anything!!  Its at least the third.  Geez.

Anyway, after he picked his jaw off the ground and found his words again, he asked why I didn't have an appetite for dinner.  I confessed that I went to Mexican with my friend Tina for lunch and I MAY have eaten almost an entire basket of chips in addition to my chicken fajitas (but I didn't eat the tortillas!  So that saves....carbs?).  I felt pretty ill afterwards, and I kind of still do.  So when I got back to my desk, I started adding up all the calories in my head and decided I would be having dry green leaves for dinner.  That isn't going to be nearly as delicious as, say.... the cheddar apple sausage meatballs (OMG, with ranch roasted potatoes and asparagus with goat cheese!!!) that we WERE going to have for dinner tonight, but it must be done.  And my husband?  He can either have dry green leaves or fend for himself.  Totally his choice, but if he interprets fending for himself as ordering something delicious (he mentioned Chipotle), he'll have to eat it in the bathroom so I won't be tempted to tackle him and forcefully trade dinners with him.

You know what would be the reasonable way to handle over-eating at lunch (instead of depriving my spouse)?  That would be, oh you know, exercising.  But today is my day off from spin class (because the Wednesday instructor is a major toolbag and makes me want to stab both eyes out with a butter knife every time I hear his voice), and working out on your day off is just not an option.  So instead, while I was sitting at my desk, adding up calories in my head, I found myself wiggling my foot really fast, at first subconsciously and then totally on purpose!  I was like, "surely if I do this for the next 3 hours until its time to go home, that would be like GOING to spin class without actually GOING!  Genius".  I know this is completely irrational and wiggling your foot doesn't count as exercise in the least, but I'm feeling skinner already.  I confess that I will probably be doing a lot of foot wiggling every Wednesday from now on.  You know, in place of an hour-long spin class. 

And since leaves are not very photogenic (and I'm pretty sure no one wants the recipe), today's post is from the other day when I made breakfast for dinner.  I used a different camera for this one (Nikon D200 instead of Sony Alpha A350)....can you tell the difference?  I think the pictures look better, but since we've already established that I'm often delusional, getting a second opinion probably wouldn't hurt.

I added pumpkin puree to the pancake mix and added some candied walnuts in there as well.  I thought they were amazing, and my husband agreed (even though he was put out about having to consume sugar-free syrup, oh the horror!!!).  I paired this with oven-baked bacon and fruit salad.  The bacon took way longer to get crispy than the interwebs told me it would, which annoyed me because it threw off my timing.  Oh well.  This meal was delicious, and I DID attend spin class on the day I ate this, so no foot wiggling necessary.

Pumpkin Spice Pancakes
Source: Loosely adapted from Pennies on a Platter

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (I used Bisquick pancake mix.  I know, its shameful)
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 tsp. baking powder (I left this out since I used the mix)
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
Dash of ground ginger
Dash of ground cloves
1 cup milk
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 large egg
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil or melted butter
1/2 cup walnuts

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt and spices and stir with a whisk to combine (or if you use mix, prepare pancake mix per package instructions)

Mix together the milk, pumpkin puree, egg and oil or butter in a liquid measuring cup.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and whisk together just until combine. (Or just add the pumpkin and walnuts if you used pancake mix)

Heat a greased skillet or griddle over medium heat.  Once the skillet is hot, add a 1/3 cup scoop of batter to the pan.  Let cool until bubbles begin to form on the top surface.  Carefully flip with a spatula and cook the second side until golden brown, a couple minutes more.  Repeat with the rest of the batter until it has all been cooked, re-greasing the pan as needed.  Serve with cinnamon sugar, maple syrup, and/or whipped cream.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Fat Tuesday - Then and Now

So, evidently today is Fat Tuesday.  I didn't even know this until I was walking back to my desk from a meeting and noticed 20 of my co-workers crowded around the "food table" in our area, arguing about how to ice a king cake.  My suggestion is that you should ice it with as much icing as you have.  That's probably not what they meant, but its my only contribution nonetheless.

Got me thinking about Mardi Gras and how the whole thing just doesn't feel very exciting unless you're actually THERE.  And then once you are there, you realize that its not exactly exciting, its actually quite terrifying.

When I was 20 and a junior in college, Mardi Gras happened to occur during our Spring Break.  This may SEEM like a lucky coincidence and an indication that going to Mardi Gras is a good idea, but that would be 100%  incorrect.  This fact, however, was lost on a bunch of 20-year-olds, so the decision was made to drive from Virginia to Louisiana in a 1992 Taurus and a 1981 Oldsmobile to attend the festivities.  For some reason the fact that we were underage and had nowhere to stay wasn't a concern in the least.

Now, its been 11 years since this experience, and I know I'm old and kind of lame now.  I no longer think big street parties are very much fun because I don't like when strangers get anywhere close to my personal space, breathe on me, or even talk to me.   And I find drunken college kids to be extraordinarily obnoxious.  Back when I was 20, I THOUGHT I liked these things (like street parties and drunken college kids, and the personal space thing wasn't such a big deal), until I found myself on Bourbon Street on Fat Tuesday.

Oh.  Holy.  Heck.  There are no words to describe the complete pandemonium of this place.  Personal space be gone...there were so many people that folks were actually piled on top of each other, and if you wanted to see where you were going, sitting on someones shoulders was a necessity.  I saw more....well, interesting....stuff....than I could ever imagine wanting to see.  I was ASTOUNDED at the entire scene.  I actually had to discard everything I was wearing on Fat Tuesday after I got home because my clothes and shoes were so dirty with Bourbon Street filth that they were completely insalvagable.  Now, I love a good party as much as the next person, but I was completely terrified.  Like, scarred for life kind of terrified.

New Orleans is a beautiful city, though, and I would totally go back at any other time of the year.  However, I also have much more expensive clothes and shoes than I did when I was 20, so I'll be staying away from Bourbon Street because I'd be real put out if I had to throw away a whole outfit because I stepped in something questionable.

This Fat Tuesday is sure to be a lot tamer.  I'll be on the couch with my husband, a glass of red, and The Bachelor on DVR.  Maybe I'll sit on his shoulders and scream at the neighbors to give me beads for old time's sake.  Or maybe not.

Now, let's talk about food, shall we?  I didn't plan anything remotely Mardi-Gras related this week (but now I really want a shrimp Po' Boy darn it), so we're going to make a 180 and talk about tuna steaks with Asian couscous salad instead.  I thought the tuna was super delicious and flavorful, and the salad was also quite good, but I think next time I'll do less "stuff" in there. I'll probably tweak a bit more and probably just do the couscous with a little bit of sesame oil and then garnish with peanuts and scallions.

Maple Soy Grilled (Sauteed?) Tuna
Source: Recipe Girl

¼ cup soy sauce
2 Tbs maple syrup
1 Tbs prepared horseradish
1 tbsp. minced garlic (I added this)
Four ¾-inch-thick tuna steaks (about 1½ lbs.)
Combine first 4 ingredients in a heavy-duty ziptop plastic bag; add tuna. Seal and chill 1 hour, turning occasionally. Remove tuna from plastic bag; discard marinade.
Grill tuna, covered with grill lid, over high heat (400° to 500°) 2 minutes on each side or to desired degree of doneness.  (It was gross out so I seared them in a pan for 4-5 minutes each side for medium rare)

Asian Couscous Salad

1 cup uncooked whole wheat couscous
1 1/4 cup water (I used chicken stock for extra flavor)
3/4 of 16 oz bag of pre-shredded coleslaw mix
2 carrots, shredded (I left this out and used coleslaw mix with carrots in there)
3-4 green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup sliced and toasted almonds (I used honey roasted peanuts)
1/3 cup crunchy chow mein noodles
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil (I used sesame oil)
1 TB hoisin sauce
1 TB honey
1-2 cloves minced or pressed garlic
salt and pepper to taste

In small bowl, whisk together rice wine vinegar, oil, hoisin, honey, garlic, salt and pepper. Set aside.

Bring 1 1/4 cups water to boil. Add 1 cup uncooked whole wheat couscous. Take off heat and set aside for 5 minutes. Once couscous has absorbed water, fluff with a fork and let cool.

In large bowl combine shredded coleslaw mix, carrots, green onion and almonds (and crunchy noodles if adding). Add cooled couscous to mixture and gently combine. Add dressing to salad and toss. Taste for additional salt and pepper. Can be served immediately at room temperature or refrigerate for 1 hour before serving.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Flank Steak, Potatoes, and a Very Special Occassion

What is the special occassion, you ask?  Our second anniversary?  A promotion?  Another life-altering moment?  Nope.  This dinner was particularly special because we ate it at the dining room table instead of in the living room, hunched over the coffee table with the TV on, shoveling the food in as fast as humanly possible.

Its shameful, I know.  Often times, I will spend hours preparing, cooking, and photographing our dinner and then we'll eat it in 7 minutes while watching something really meaningful like the Bachelor or Tosh.0.  And really, the reason we don't eat at the dining room table is, well, because I don't want to mess it up.  I keep it set all the time with our wedding china, pretty placemats and various centerpieces.  I do this because if it wasn't set all the time, my husband people would put their crap on my nice table and my dining room would be so full of random stuff and we wouldn't be able to eat there and would be forced to eat in the living room, hunched over the coffee table.  Logic fail, I know.

Anyway, on this particular evening my husband insisted that we eat at the table so we made a date of it.  We opened a bottle of nice wine that we typically save for special occassions.  This concept means that we have 12 or so bottles that'll sit on the wine rack for years and years and we'll constantly pass on drinking them because they are too nice for regular occassions and we don't want to "waste" the wine.  Because, uh, refusing to ever touch it isn't wasting it at all. Logic fail #2.

This meal was delicious, and the best part is that there was steak on the grill involved, which means that my husband does most of the cooking and I get to drink wine while he does so.  It was even a nice bottle, and I we drank the whole thing.  You know, so it didn't go to waste.  And these potatoes kicked butt.  I could eat a whole bowl of them....I know this because I've seen me do it!  And mushrooms are super yummy when you put garlic butter on them. 


Marinated Flank Steak
Source: Adapted from All Recipes

1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 1/2 pounds flank steak

In a medium bowl, mix the oil, soy sauce, vinegar, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, garlic, and ground black pepper. Place meat in a shallow glass dish. Pour marinade over the steak, turning meat to coat thoroughly. Cover, and refrigerate for 6 hours.

Preheat grill for medium-high heat.

Oil the grill grate. Place steaks on the grill, and discard the marinade. Grill meat for 5 minutes per side, or to desired doneness.

Mustard Roasted Potatoes
Source: Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1/2 cup whole grain Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick or 1/2 ounce) butter, melted (I used about half of this amount and it was fine!)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon dried oregano (I left this out)
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
3 pounds 1- to 1 1/2-inch-diameter mixed unpeeled red-skinned and white-skinned potatoes, cut into 3/4-inch-wide wedges

Position 1 rack in top third of oven and 1 rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 425°F. Spray 2 large rimmed baking sheets with nonstick spray. Whisk mustard, olive oil, butter, lemon juice, garlic, oregano, lemon peel, and salt in large bowl to blend. Add potatoes; sprinkle generously with freshly ground black pepper and toss to coat. Divide potatoes between prepared baking sheets, leaving any excess mustard mixture behind in bowl. Spread potatoes in single layer.

Roast potatoes 20 minutes. Reverse baking sheets and roast until potatoes are crusty outside and tender inside, turning occasionally, about 25 minutes longer.
Transfer potatoes to serving bowl.

Garlic Butter Roasted Mushrooms
Source: Adapted from Gourmet

1 pound mushrooms such as cremini or white, halved lengthwise if large
3 large garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces (I used 1 1/2 and it was fine!)
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

Preheat oven to 450°F with rack in middle. Toss mushrooms with garlic, oil, 1/8 teaspoon salt and several grinds of pepper in a 1 1/2- to 2-qt shallow baking dish. Top with butter and roast, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are tender and golden and bubbly garlic sauce forms below, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in lemon juice and parsley. Serve immediately, with crusty bread on the side for swiping up the juices.