Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Sometimes You Just Really Need a Loaded Baked Potato

I've been thinking about baked potatoes since lunch.  I had a semi-disappointing experience with box-mix meal last, and ate the leftovers for lunch today.  Even though I doctored up said box mix with fresh produce, it still tasted wrong to me.  Not terrible, but not satisfying either.  It was just something to fill my stomach last night (and since I won't throw out perfectly good food, today and tomorrow for lunch too).  As I've stated in previous posts, I am moving in a week, so I don't want to go grocery shopping.  I kept thinking about what I had in the pantry, and I remembered a big bag of potatoes.  I cleaned, dried, and then rubbed the potatoes with olive oil and coarse kosher salt.  They went in the oven for an hour until they were perfectly soft on the inside and a little crispy outside.  I filled my potato with crispy bacon, caramelized onions (cooked in the bacon grease), pepper jack cheese, and sour cream.  The potato was filling and delicious.  I baked two, so I could have one for lunch soon.  Oh, and no more pre-packaged meals for me.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Homemade Pizza

I've been meaning to post this for awhile, but I'm moving in a little over a week, and I have end of the semester grading.  I will be posting at least once a week (hopefully more), but if posts are a little sporadic don't worry, I haven't left you readers, and I will be back.  In the meantime: Pizza
This pizza turned out a lot messier than I had intended, but I still consider it to be a triumph.  I didn't make a menu plan for this week because I'm just eating what I have on hand.  I've been doing pretty good at working through my pantry, but there is still a lot of stuff left.  I wanted pizza so badly, and I strongly considered going out for it.  At the last minute I thought to look and see if I could make a pizza.  Low and behold I had a box of crust mix (I plan on making mine from scratch when I move), pizza sauce (will also make from scratch), mozzarella, and plenty of veggies, so homemade pizza it was.  This came together in less than half and hour, and was just as good as driving to pick something up.  In fact, I wish I had another slice right now.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A Salad

At first glance this salad may not seem too exciting; however, the lettuce that you see was cut from my garden hours before going onto the plate.  I'm moving in 13 days and even though I'm going to have a small container garden, I know I will miss the variety and abundance of what I have now.  My pantries are not as cleaned out as I would like, so I'm going to try not to grocery shop (except for some mangoes that are on an exceptional sale this week) until after I move.  It may make for some interesting dishes.

The salad below contains lettuce, grape tomatoes, cucumber, more ranch roasted chickpeas, and some ranch dressing I mixed up.  Really, when I move I need to remind myself not to buy bottled salad dressing.  It looks so tempting in the store, but I can't even use half a bottle before I'm tired of it.  Homemade dressing is so much tastier and very easy.  If you can buy ranch seasoning in bulk, I highly recommend doing so.  You won't regret it.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Ranch Roasted Chickpeas

In my mission to use as much of the food in my cabinets before I move, I've been trying to think of creative ways to use beans.  Honestly, I love beans, but I didn't grow up eating them, and so I'm just now trying to figure out how to properly season them.  I had cooked up a pound of chickpeas last week.  I made hummus out of part of them, but I still have a lot of leftovers.  I knew about roasted chickpeas that get crispy and delicious in the oven, but I didn't feel like seasoning with salt, pepper, cumin, and red pepper flakes like I normally would.  I buy ranch seasoning in bulk, so I decided to toss the chickpeas in the seasoning and see what would happen.  These turned out great!  I roasted the ranch powdered chickpeas at 400 degrees on a lightly oiled cookie sheet for about 25 minutes, stirring halfway through.  They should be crispy and have a few dark brown spots.  I could see myself making a big batch of these for a party snack.  I ate these with some rice (which I am also learning how to deal with).

Sweet Potatoes with Blue Cheese and Caramelized Onions

When looking through my refrigerator the other day and wondering what I could throw together, I looked at the very sad sweet potatoes.  Why were they sad?  Because I had bought them about a month ago, and if I didn't use them soon I knew they would be lost, so I through them whole into a pot of water and boiled them until they were tender.  Meanwhile, I chopped up an onion and let it caramelize for about 15 minutes until it was soft, sweet, and brown. Adding a little salt helps the caramalization process because it draws the moisture out of the onion and helps it brown.   I through a few tablespoons of vodka into the pan with the onions to deglaze it and get all the lovely burnt bits from the bottom.  If you don't have vodka you should get some, but I guess you could also use white wine, chicken stock, vegetable stock, or water.  I peeled and cut up the cooked sweet potatoes and added them to the onions.  This was cooked for a few minutes to let the potatoes crisp a bit.  Finally, I through in 1/2 a cup of blue cheese and let it melt over the mixture.  This was delicious.  I've been thinking about it for days, and if I wasn't trying to use up as many pantry items as possible because of an upcoming move, I would have bought more sweet potatoes and have eaten this every day since.  

Monday, May 9, 2011

A Hummus Recipe

I remember making hummus a few years ago for a family gathering, and the reaction was "What is that?"  To make it a little more MidWestern friendly, I told them it was a bean dip.  A few tried it, and out of those few, a few even liked it.  They thought the cumin to have a weird flavor, which once again makes me truly believe that the only spice most of us Mid Westerners use is pepper.

Something about this time of year makes me want hummus.  I guess it's because I like to eat it in wraps with lots of veggies.  Tonight I had hummus, calamata olives, Italian bread, tomatoes, and strawberries for supper. It was a nice plate and a very satisfying supper on a muggy night.

I've never tried freezing hummus, but I plan on doing this is the near future.  When I do, I'll let you know how it turns out.


1 and 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas
1/4 cup water from cooked chickpeas
2 or 3 garlic cloves
juice from 1 lemon
4 Tablespoons tahini (sesame seed paste)
4 Tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt

  1. Put chickpeas, garlic, lemon juice, and tahini in a food processor.  Pulse until ground.
  2. Add olive oil and pulse until smooth.  If the hummus does not look smooth and creamy add some cooking water and pulse until desired consistency is reached.  
  3. Add cumin and salt to taste.
  4. Serve and enjoy!
Note: this can be made in a blender if you do not have a food processor, but it won't turn out as smooth.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Banana Bread: Problems Solved

I read a lot of vegan cookbooks and blogs.  This reading has lead me to the discovery that banana can be used as an egg replacer.  When I was looking for a banana bread recipe to use up the three sad looking bananas in my refrigerator I refused to use a recipe that contains eggs because they aren't needed.  I looked through my vegan cookbook stash and turned to The Alternative Vegan.  It contained a banana bread recipe that of course contained no eggs, but also no fat other than peanut butter.  I was intrigued.  The recipe also suggested not baking the bread in a loaf pan because the middle might not get cooked through.  Brilliant!  I've had so many loaves of zucchini bread that were not all the way cooked through because they were loaves.  I mixed up all the ingredients for the bread and popped it in a greased pie plate.  I was a little concerned about the bread because it came out of the oven very dark, and I thought it had burned.  However, when I tasted a piece I realized it was fine.  This was a great banana bread, and I wrapped it up as a Mother's Day gift for my mother-in-law.  I will, from now on, bake bread like this in pie pans rather than loaf pans, and I will not use egg in recipes that call for bananas.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Weeknight Kitchen: Crispy Chicken Cutlets on a Heap of Spring Salad

Wow, yet another recipe from The Splendid Table's Weeknight Kitchen.  For those of you who are new around here, The Splendid Table, a weekly show about food on NPR, puts out a newsletter with an easy week night recipe once a week.  You can go here and sign up if you're interested.  

This weeks recipe was Crispy Chicken Cutlets on a Heap of Spring Salad.  I don't really think I make cutlets but more of chicken strips.  I was very worried when I first began breading these because they seemed to have an abnormal coating, but once I started frying each juicy strip on chicken I realized they would be wonderful.  The chicken strips were extremely crunchy, moist, and tender.  The buttermilk added a tang that eggs alone would not have had.  I will use this method next time I want chicken strips.  As for the greens, I just used bib lettuce and romaine.  A tiny package of arugula is very expensive, so I wasn't about to use that as my primary green. I didn't add the dill either, but I chopped up some parsley in the lettuce.  I started added herbs to salads last year, and I really like the flavor it adds.  The dressing for this salad is extremely versatile with the herbs as well.  I had rosemary instead of tarragon, so that's what I used.  I would have like a thicker dressing, so next time I may add some arrowroot powder to thicken it.  The dressing would make a great dip or sauce on fish.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Simple Things

I had leftover to eat tonight, and I wasn't very excited about them; however, it was getting late, and I was hungry.  I remembered the pretzel bread I had stashed away in the freezer, so I popped that in the oven.  I ate it still warm with some sharp cheddar.  It was a moment of perfect bliss and happiness.  It really is the simple things in life that make everything great.  I've always been told it takes so little to make me happy, but I don't think that's a bad thing.

What are your simple pleasures?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Black Beans to the Rescue.

I didn't feel like eating the leftovers in my fridge tonight, but I wanted something quick that didn't involve anything from the freezer.  I had a batch of cooked black beans that I've been adding to a batch of pinto beans and ham that I thought had too much ham, so I decided to do something with the beans.  I added a roma tomato, a clove of garlic, a quarter cup of onion, a few pickled jalapeƱos and some of the liquid, siracha, cumin, chili powder, and salt, and I simmered this for about 20 minutes.  It was served with two cheese quesadillas on corn tortillas.  It was a quick meal that was spicy, delicious, and filling.  This meal makes me think cooked black beans would be a good addition to my refrigerator at all times.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

More Asparagus

One of the many things that makes me feel apprehensive about my upcoming move is leaving behind the garden.  I know I can do a container garden for a few years until we actually buy a house, and yes, I can go to farmer's markets, but what about this huge asparagus harvest I got this weekend.  You can see pictures below with the soda can added for scale.  I'm trying to be good and share it; I really am, but part of me wants to be greedy because I don't know if this is something I will ever get to experience again.  Don't be too sad for me though because there are good things about the move (living with my husband, going back to school), and I get to stuff my face with asparagus at least one last Spring.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Weeknight Kitchen: Pan-crisped Deviled Eggs on Spring Greens

Wow!  Two Weeknight Kitchen posts in a row, and I have a third one planned for this weekend!  When I saw this recipe for Pan-crisped Deviled Eggs I was intrigued.  My dad and I had just had a discussion about deviled eggs and egg salad.  My statement on egg salad was that I really liked it because it was like deviled eggs you could eat on a sandwich.  This recipe was for deviled eggs that were stuffed, pan-fried, and then put on a salad.  How could I resist?

My family has always made standard deviled eggs: a bit of vinegar, some Miracle Whip, and the egg filling.  When I saw this recipe had ham and dried apricots I was a little apprehensive, but I'm willing to try anything once, and I'm still trying to use up my Easter ham.  The combination of ingredients turned out very similar to the traditional egg I'm used to, but a little better.  The salt from the ham and the occasional sweetness from the apricot was lovely.  I will be making these again.  I put way too much oil in the pan, and even though I liked the flavor change crisping these eggs gave them, I will broil them next time or skip the step completely.  The idea of using extra egg filling to make a salad dressing made a delicious, creamy, dressing.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Weeknight Kitchen: Saute of Seafood with Garlic Orange Glaze

It's been awhile since I've done a Weeknight Kitchen post.  I meant to do one every week, but honestly, it seems like for months the recipes either didn't appeal to me, or they had ingredients that I couldn't find in my area.  When I saw the recipe for Saute of Seafood with Garlic Orange Glaze I knew I needed to make it.  I already had all the ingredients in my house except for the fish.  I went with tilapia for this because I wanted a mild fish that would make the sauce shine through.  I will definitely be making this again.  It was great with the tilapia, but next time I'll probably use salmon or seared tuna.  This would also taste great with chicken or pork.  This meal came together very quickly.  I pealed and tossed a few sweet potatoes in the oven with salt and olive oil and roasted until browned and crispy.  Then I lightly steamed asparagus while preparing the fish. The fish came together in about 20 minutes.  When I handed my husband a plate he exclaimed "We have food already?"