Monday, February 28, 2011

Funeral Food

I really debated about whether or not I should do this post.  I mean, does anyone want to read about funerals on a food blog?  In the end, I decided that this was something important I wanted to pass along.  I had a funeral to attend this weekend, and I brought food with me this weekend.  I'm really glad I did.  Food is comforting, and in times of need it is a nice way to show you care.  Plus, family and friends usually pop in out of town, so it is nice for the bereaved to not worry about what they will feed all the people suddenly in their house.  Below are my tips on what to bring when someone has had a loss.
  1. Bring something, even if you don't cook.  If you cook great, but if this is not your strong suit then go to the grocery store and pick up a veggie/fruit tray, or see the tip below.  Now is the time for your most comforting recipes.  Bring what you love.  Bring cookies, brownies, casseroles, veggies, fruit, chips and dip, bring something.
  2. If you don't cook, consider bringing paper plates, cups, utensils, etc.  When my grandfather passed, someone showed up with paper plates and cups.  This wasn't traditional, but it was very welcome.  No one wants to do dishes when they are in mourning.  I think someone also brought toilet paper, which was also a great idea.  It's easy to run out of essentials when your house is crowed.  Beverages are also a great idea.
  3. Add freezing instructions.  Sometimes people are overwhelmed with the amount of food they are given, and they cannot possibly eat it all.  If your food can be frozen then print up some freezing and reheating instructions with the food.
  4. Consider bringing individual portions to freeze for later.  This is especially helpful for those who will be living alone, maybe for the first time.  My grandmother hated to cook for herself, so it was nice knowing that she had homemade freezer meals waiting for her.
  5. Bring food in a pan you don't need returned.  This should be a no-brainer for me, but I find that I have to take special care to remember this.  When someone is grieving and possibly receiving many dishes, they should not have to keep track of what plate belongs to whom. 
I hope this post has been helpful.  To those of you who have lost those you love, my thoughts are with you, and I hope you are eating well.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Simple Garlic Pasta

If you've been following this blog for any length of time, you may have noticed that I love garlic.  My husband said that when he goes home for the week (we live a couple hours apart) he notices that he smells like garlic.  I eat a lot of garlic, and I always have.  I also really love pasta, so it only made sense to combine my two loves into a tasty and easy dish.

Don't be afraid by the amount of garlic in this recipe.  When cooked slowly and for a long time, the garlic takes on a very mild, sweet flavor.

The following pasta really only has to have three ingredients: garlic, olive oil, and pasta, but you can add anything else you like.  It also tastes better the next day when all the flavors have begun to meld, so make a big batch, and take it to lunch all week.

Simple Garlic Pasta

1/2 cup olive oil
10 to 20 cloves garlic, peeled
salt and pepper
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes (optional)
1/4 cup pitted and chopped kalamata olives (optional)
16 oz pasta, any shape

1. Cook pasta according to package directions.  Set aside 1/2 cup pasta water. The goal here is for the pasta to finish cooking right after the oil mixture is completely finished.

2. place olive oil and garlic cloves into cold pan.  Heat over medium low heat until garlic is golden brown.  Watch and turn garlic frequently during this process because the garlic will burn and become very bitter.  This will take between 5 and 10 minutes.  Remove garlic from pan and set aside to chop.

3. Add the cherry tomatoes to oil, they will pop.  Cook until tomatoes start to burst open.  Add kalamata olives and chopped, cooked garlic.  Add reserved pasta water, stir.

4. Add hot, drained pasta to large bowl.  Pour oil, tomato, garlic, olive mixture over pasta.  Toss.  Check pasta to see if it needs salt and pepper.  This can be served with or without grated parmesan cheese.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Vinegar Slaw: the Easiest Slaw Recipe Ever

Truth be told, my husband requested a "Dixie" (Mayo based) coleslaw Sunday night for supper.  I forgot about that until I had already mixed this slaw together.  I know he was disappointed, but I was happy because I love this coleslaw.  The vinegar and oil can be changed to whatever you're in the mood for.  I did not take a picture of the finished slaw because I forgot that green cabbage with balsamic vinegar looks a little muddy and unappealing, but I promise it tastes great.  The dressing can also be used with roasted beats, which I think I like better than the cabbage.  Maybe next time I'll make a mayo slaw for my husband, but right now I'm enjoying the leftovers from this.

Vinegar Slaw

1/2 large head cabbage shredded
2 carrots shredded
2 Tablespoons sugar
2 Tablespoons oil
3 Tablespoons vinegar
1 teaspoon salt

Mix together wet ingredients, toss in cabbage and carrots.  That's it.  Enjoy!

What I ate today:

9:45: Colby Jack cheese and wheat thins, black coffee

12:00: hamburger with mustard and Gorgonzola on a onion bun, vinegar slaw, banana.

4:30 pm: experimental stir fry with onion, cabbage, mushrooms, and celery over red rice.  (The stir fry was good, but the rice needs work.)

9:30 pm: Colby Jack cheese, crackers, an orange.

Monday, February 21, 2011

More from the Veganomicon: Jelly Donut Cupcakes

My husband loves sweets.  He also loves cupcakes and jelly donuts.  When I gave him the Veganomicon and told him to choose a recipe, of course, he choose Jelly Donut Cupcakes.  He's been very patiently waiting for me to make them during the last three weeks.  I finally made them last night.  Here's what happened.

Here I am mixing the cornstarch, apple cider, almond milk mix.

Mixing the wet and dry ingredients.

Filling the cupcakes.  I've found that a scant 1/3 cup will fill the cupcakes about 3/4 full

Filled cupcakes awaiting the jelly

I didn't quite get the jelly in the center of the cupcake, but it still looks good.

Cupcakes waiting to be put in the oven.

Finished cupcakes.  It's slightly magical how the jelly sinks and the batter covers it.

All they need is powdered sugar.

As the recipe states, these cupcakes are much better the next day after the tops harden.  I didn't care for these because they were too sweet for me, and I didn't like the nutmeg.  My husband thought the nutmeg gave them a more authentic donut flavor, but wants me to make another batch without the nutmeg just to be sure.  I will be making these for my husband again, but I probably won't eat any.

Veganomicon Review: Part I

This review is a few days late, and I apologize for that, but I figured it was better to put this up late than never at all.  Here are my thoughts on The Veganomicon.
  • Is the layout clear?
    • Yes, I thought this book was very clearly divided into different sections such as introduction, recipes, and meal plans.
  • Are you able to easily tell the ingredients apart for the instructions and the notes?
    • Notes and ingredients are written in a different font and tips are boxed off, so this was very easy to follow.
  • Are the instructions easy to follow?
    • Yes, I did read a few of the instruction wrong, but that was my fault for not turning the page.
  • Are the recipes numbered or is the section labeled?
    • Sections are labeled and easy to use.
  • Does the cookbook feature photos?
    • In the middle of the book there is a photo section.
  • If yes, is there a photo for every recipe?
    • No, I love cookbooks with a lot of photos, but for a book this size a photo with every recipe cannot be expected.
  • Do the photos of the recipes look like the actual results?
    • Yes, the photos are very realistic and not fussy.
  • What kind of paper is the book printed on?
    • The paper is thick and off-white.  It has a nice feel to it, and unlike the glossy paper in many cookbooks, I can actually write notes in this book without smearing the pen.
  • How is the quality of the photos?
    • The quality does not look professional, but I really like that.  These are realistic looking photos, and I appreciate that.
  • How many recipes are in the cookbook?
    • I didn't count, but I think around 250
  • What kinds of recipes will you find in this cookbook?
    • There is a little bit of everything here: brunch, sandwiches, pastas, desserts, etc.
  • Is there a theme to the recipes?
    • No theme, but the recipes are all dinner type dishes to be served in a home.
  • Are the recipes complex or simple? would they be good for seasoned cooks and/or beginners?
    • I thought most of the recipes were fairly simple.  I've been cooking for a long time, but this is only my second vegan cookbook.  I think this book is appropriate for anyone.
Ingredients and supplies
  • Are the recipe ingredients easy to find?
    • I live in a really tiny Mid Western town, and I did not have any problem finding any of the ingredients.  I also like that some of the recipes are marked supermarket friendly for people in my situation.
  • Are there any items that stand out as being expensive or specialty?
    • Rice paper and a bamboo sushi mat would be difficult to find here, but other than that, no problems.
  • Are there particular appliances that will be required such as blenders, juicers, dehydrators, ect?
    • Occasionally a food processor is suggested and the above mentioned rolling mat.
  • Does this cookbook provide additional useful information?
    • I use this book all the time as a reference for cooking grains.  I can never remember how much water and time rice requires, so this book is pulled out every time.
  • What additional information beyond recipes does this cookbook include? Is it easy to follow?
    • This book has a section at the beginning about grains and vegetables.  I think the instructions are great and would be helpful for people who are afraid to cook without a recipe.
Recipes I've made:

I've made several recipes from this book, but only have pictures of a few.  Here's what I made and what I thought:

Creole Stuffed Peppers
I thought these stuffed peppers were amazing.  I come from a family who has always made very traditional beef-stuffed peppers.  These were just as good if not better than the original.  The recipe had a lot of steps, but it was worth it.  Next time, I might make the filling and add stuffing to it to get rid of a few steps.

Chocolate Chip Brownie Waffles
My husband is a huge fan of dessert for breakfast, so I knew I had to make these.  They were too sweet for breakfast for my tastes, but I will be making these again and serving with ice cream for a dessert.  These had a great chewy brownie texture and were very easy to make.

Banana-Nut Waffles (Pictured below)
I'm not a huge fan of walnuts because I think they're bitter, so next time I'll use pecans, but these were a great breakfast.  They made a very large batch, so I froze most of them, and they will be quick toaster breakfasts in the future.  Like all of Isa's waffle recipes, these were easy to make.

Black Bean Burgers
Yum!  I was surprised with these at first because I was expecting more of a burger texture, but after the first few bites I decided I loved these.  I had trouble getting them thin enough, but I have a burger press now, so I will be remaking these this week to see if I can get a crispier texture.  I think this an excellent burger alternative.  This was my first time working with vital wheat gluten, I really like the texture it has, and I think I'm ready to try making seitan now.

Snobby Joes
My husband requested these, and I was out of chili powder.  I subbed a hotter pepper powder, so I wasn't able to eat very much of these sandwiches.  I liked the texture and flavor.  It was very close to a sloppy joe with meat that I'm used to.  I will make these again with the correct ingredients.

Lemony Roasted Potatoes (Pictured below)
If I had correctly read the recipe these would've been great.  I didn't look at the second page, and as a result, had underdone potatoes.  We ate these with supper and were very underwhelmed.  However, I had these leftover the next two days at lunch, and they got better each day.  I think this would be a great side for a Greek meal.  I will be making these again.

Smlove Pie
There are a lot of steps to this pie, but it is worth the time.  My husband requested this recipe.  I ended up making him 2 of these in one weekend because he polished off the first so quickly.  This was fed to many people who had never had, and couldn't believe there was tofu in it.  I sometimes make the maple pecans and put them in salads.  This will be a favorite dessert for many years to come.

Jelly Donut Cupcakes (full post on this next time)

Lemony Roasted Potatoes, underdone here.
I can never make "pretty" waffles.

My overall impressions of the book are good.  This is a book that I will go to time and time again.  I feel this way about all of Isa's books.  I think this book is easy to use and has a variety of recipes and tips that make it an important addition to any cookbook collection whether vegan or not.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Thyme Square Cafe: Eggs Benedict

I love Eggs Benedict, but the truth is that I almost never order them when I go out because the hollandaise is often questionable. However, I always get delicious Eggs Benedict from Thyme Square in Quincy, Illinois link here.  In fact, I've had everything on the breakfast menu except for the house made granola, and it is all wonderful.  My husband loves the bread pudding, and I agree, it's the best I've ever had.  He often thinks about ordering it with a side of bacon for breakfast.  The atmosphere at Thyme Square is great, and the staff is always friendly.  They make just about everything on the menu from scratch, and the extra effort really shows in the food quality. They also catered my wedding rehearsal, and bridal shower, and both were fantastic.  I highly recommend this place for breakfast or lunch.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Cream puffs

There was a carry-in at work today, and I wanted to take something easy, but that was a crowd pleaser, so I immediately thought: Cream Puffs.  What?  Cream puffs are easy?  Yes, they are.  The actual shell only includes 4 ingredients and can be made in advance.  They taste delicious, and they are very impressive to those who have never made them.  I use the Better Crocker cookbook for the shell, and then I fill them with fresh cream whipped with a little powdered sugar.  I've also filled these with pudding, ganache, and chicken salad (not all at the same time though).

These are something I've been making since Jr. High, so I've learned a few tricks.  First, no matter what, do not open the oven door during cooking or the puffs will fall.  For really firm puffs, shut the oven off a little before the cooking time is finished, and leave the cream puffs in until they are completely cool.  I left mine in the oven overnight and filled them in the morning before work.  This kept the puffs from getting soggy.  Unfortunately, I forgot to take any pictures of my first batch.  The two pictured below are left over, but you get the idea.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Chicken Enchiladas

I was still snowed in yesterday, and it doesn't look like I will be getting to the grocery store for at least a few more days, so I'm continuing to cook what I have on hand.  Fortunately, I have a few well-stocked pantry and freezer, and improvising in the kitchen is something I have a talent for.  I also get a little nervous when people ask me what my specialty is.  I really don't have one, and sometimes I feel like that makes me a sub-par cook.  However, I know I'm really great at looking what I have on hand and making a delicious meal out of it.  This is what happened with the chicken enchiladas.  I knew I wanted enchiladas, and I kept thinking about the leftover roast chicken with garlic.  I decided to throw something together and see if it worked.  The result was delicious.

Chicken Enchiladas

1 large onion, chopped
1 large bell pepper, any color, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 dried hot peppers (I used Anaheim and Serrano)
1 cup water, boiled
1 tsp. dried coriander
1 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. salt
3 cloves garlic
1/2 cup tomato puree
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup veggie or chicken broth
3 cups cooked chicken, chopped

To assemble:
tortillas, flour or corn
2 cups shredded cheese (I used cheddar and fontina, but Monterey Jack would be great)

1. Pull the stems off the dried peppers and take out the seeds.  It's okay if a few seeds are left in.  Tear peppers into small pieces and place in a bowl.

2. Place boiling water over peppers and let soak for 10 minutes.

3. Heat oil in skillet while dried peppers are soaking.  Add onion and bell pepper to pan and cook until the peppers are tender and the onion is translucent.

4. Add cooked chicken to onion/pepper mixture.  Cook for a few minutes to heat chicken and blend the pepper and onion flavors.

5. After the dried peppers have soaked, remove from liquid and place peppers in blender.  Add cumin, coriander, salt, garlic, tomato puree, and tomato paste.  Blend to make a sauce.  Add the sauce to the pan with pepper, onions, and chicken.  Stir and add broth.  The mixture should be like a very thick stew.  Cook on low heat for 5 minutes to blend flavors.

6. Add about 1/2 cup of mixture to tortillas and add around 1/8 cup shredded cheese or to your liking.  Roll tortillas and place seam side down in baking dish.  Top rolled tortillas with any leftover mixture and cheese.

7. bake at 350 for 20 minutes.
 8. Add toppings of your choice.  I used tomatoes, lettuce, avocado, sour cream and hot sauce.

What I've been eating and baked chicken with garlic

I've been neglectful about posting what I eat lately.  I've been reading through some blogs lately because I'm snowing in, and I realized that I enjoy other blogger's food journals, so I need to get back to posting mine.  Here is a recap over the past 2 days.  Scroll to the end of this post for the Baked Chicken with Garlic recipe.


9:00 am: Hershey bar with almonds (this is disgraceful.  I really need to start eating breakfast).  Coffee.

12:30 pm: We were dismissed from school early today because of the incoming blizzard, so I ended up eating my packed lunch at home.  I had a grapefruit and the lovely salad you see below consisting of romaine, tomato, cucumber, carrots, celery, Gorgonzola cheese, hard boiled eggs, and agave mustard dressing.  I got a little overzealous with the salad and almost couldn't eat it all...almost.

 7:30 pm: The dinner below:  baked potato with broccoli cheese sauce, and a fried chicken breast.  This was a delicious comforting meal to have on a snowy night.  For the broccoli cheese sauce I just made a white sauce and added Velveeta and steamed broccoli.  If anyone wants an actual recipe just leave a comment and I will post one.


9:00 am: breakfast tortillas with eggs, sharp cheddar, avocado, tomato, and BBQ sauce.  This seems like my go to breakfast when I'm not working.

12:30 pm: Spiked hot cocoa.  You can find the recipe here.  I wasn't hungry for lunch, so this is all I had.

3:30 pm: wheat thins and cream cheese.

8:00 pm: baked chicken with garlic (recipe below), baked potato with broccoli and cheese.

Baked Chicken with Garlic

1 whole roasting chicken
1 lemon, quartered
3 bulbs garlic (yes, bulbs, not cloves)
2 tsp. dried basil
2 tsp. dried thyme
2 tsp. salt
2 cups broth (veggie or chicken)
1/2 cup red or white wine
1/4 cup olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Place quartered lemon in side chicken cavity.

2. rub chicken with basil, thyme, salt, and olive oil.

3. Cut the tops off garlic bulbs keeping the bulbs intact, you just want the tops exposed.

4. Place chicken in roasting pan, breast side down.  Add broth, wine, and garlic bulbs to pan.  I used red wine and the chicken does look a little pink.  If this bothers you, make sure to use white wine.  You could also omit the wine and add more broth.

5. Place a lid on the pan and cook for 35 minutes.

6. Take chicken out of oven and flip breast side up.  Turn up the oven to 450.  Put chicken pack in oven and cook for 35 to 45 minutes or until a thermometer in the thigh registers 140 degrees.  Check the chicken to make sure you have liquid in the pan.  If skin begins to burn, tent with foil.
 Chicken waiting to go into the oven
 I included this picture to show my frozen cube of broth.  I forgot to defrost the broth ahead, but it turned out just fine this way.
Finished chicken.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Weeknight Kitchen: Stir fried cabbage, chicken, and bean threads.

I know I'm behind on my Weeknight Kitchen posts.  I have not abandoned them, but I've just had a hectic few weeks.  I'm also looking for some substitutions for one of the recipes.  The grocery stores here do not carry a wide selection of bitter greens, so I'm researching, and I will present my findings soon.  I was able to make last week's recipe for Stir fried cabbage, chicken, and bean threads.  You can subscribe to this weekly recipe service by going here.

This recipe was extremely easy.  I was able to make it in my husband's kitchen.  My husband and I live apart during the week, and he doesn't cook much, so his kitchen equipment in minimal.  To give an example, his knife collection consists of steak knives and a serrated bread knife.  We eat out a lot when I come over.

 Showing off my husband's steak knife and cutting board (I use the term cutting board very loosely here)
 Minced garlic and ginger.  I did okay.
Everything cooking.  You see carrots here because we bought a pre-shredded coleslaw mix.  I wasn't about to break down a head of cabbage with a break knife.

The finished product tossed with cilantro and served over white rice.

The Verdict:

This was...okay.  That's it, just okay.  I wasn't horrible, but it was too bland for my tastes.  I added more soy sauce and if I would've been at home, I would have added hot sauce as well.  It is a great way to use up leftovers, but I wouldn't go out of my way to make it.  My husband enjoyed this more than I did.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Spiked hot cocoa because what else are you going to do on a snow day?

In case you didn't know, the Midwest is in the middle of a snowpacalypse. I love winter and happen to be in the teaching profession which means I get snow days!  As long as the power stays on and no one gets hurt I say: Let it snow!

 I've been snuggling in the recliner with my over-sized dog for the last few days watching the snow, reading, and staying in pajamas when suddenly today I got a craving for hot cocoa.  I've never liked the pre-packed cocoa mixes, and I figured making my own wouldn't be too difficult.  Turns out I was right.  I will be making this again, and I think it would keep well in a crock pot during parties.

Snow Day Spiked Hot Cocoa

1/4 cup cocoa powder
6 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 cup heavy cream
2 cups water
2oz coffee liqueur (in the bottom of each cup before serving the hot cocoa)

1. In a pan whisk together the cocoa powder and sugar.

2. Whisk constantly while slowly pouring in heavy cream and water over the cocoa powder and sugar mixture.  This is to prevent clumping.

3.  Heat on medium low heat while whisking constantly at first and then occasionally as everything looks blended.

4. Heat until bubbles form on the edges of the pan.  Be careful not to scorch cream.

5.  Pour in coffee mugs over the coffee liqueur.  Enjoy!

Of course, this recipe could stand a lot of substitutions.  I need to use what I have on hand because I am not driving the 15 miles to the nearest grocery store.  Any kind of dairy, soy, almond, or coconut milk could be substituted for the heavy cream, but omit the water.  Obviously, the alcohol could also be left out.  Irish cream or vanilla vodka would make a nice replacement for the coffee liqueur.