Thursday, December 17, 2009


Like many baking friendly college/graduate students (and I guess many others, though this is particularly common in school) instead of buying gifts for friends, I make candy.  I do not make cookies, just candy.  This year I cut back a little: only truffles and toffee.  I made the truffles mostly because I had a number of special requests for them.  And really, they are the easiest things in the whole world.  The key is using good chocolate.  I use Ghiradelli because, well, I'm a graduate student and it is good enough and readily available.  Also, the recipe is from the bag of Ghiradelli 60% chocolate chips.  I do however, have trouble rolling them into spheres.  I even used a melon baller, but sometimes a chunk just popped out and it was to firm to roll, so those ended up being oddly shaped.  Maybe I should have warmed the melon baller, but all truffle making tips seem to recommend the opposite: dippping the baller in ice water.  Then again, I think this might be a more firm mixture than other truffles.  Oh well, I'd say I shaped more of them well than last year, so next year I'll try to do even better, I guess.  Or maybe I'll change recipes to something easier to roll.  I made raspberry truffles a few years ago that had a nice soft center that I dipped and those turned out much more attractively.  I didn't think they were as good as the pure chocolate ones though, but I also used bulk dark chocolate, rather than Ghiradelli and it probably had a lower cocoa count.  Here's the recipe:

2 cup chocolate chips (Ghiradelli 60%)
1/3 cup cream
6 Tbsp butter cut in small chunks

1. Bring cream to a simmer.
2. Stir in butter until melted.
3. Add chocolate and stir until smooth
4. Remove from heat, pour into shallow bowl.  Refridgerate for at least two hours until firm.
5. Lick pan and spoon used for cooking chocolate mixture.  This can be messy, but is totally worth it.
6. Using a mellon baller, scoop truffles, roll into balls and roll in choice of toppings: cocoa, cinnamon (which may be intense, so maybe a cocoa/cinnamon mixture), almonds or other nuts, coconut.  I tried powdered sugar one year, but that was not preferred, made them too sweet.

See, I told you it was easy.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Pumpkin Risotto

I've been making lots of pumpkin things this fall because I've felt festive.  So for Thanksgiving yesterday, I tried making risotto for the first time and I thought it was a success, though if you have to reheat it, I would suggest undercooking it slightly, as the reheating made it a little too sticky and soft.  I combined two recipes, a vegan one that I didn't really like the spices of and one with sage and thyme but made with chicken broth, butter and cheese to get a vegetarian (but not vegan) option which I think took the best flavor but that my brother could still eat.  So here it is:

  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 4 cups vegetable stock (not bouillon, this is the kind of thing where you really can taste the stock, so use the good stuff)
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 cup uncooked Arborio rice
  • 1 cup LIBBY'S® 100% Pure Pumpkin (I used more to finish off a can)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves or chopped fresh sage leaves (I used dried)
  • 1/2 cup BUITONI® Refrigerated Freshly Shredded Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Ground black pepper to taste


  1. Heat oil in large, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic; cook, stirring occasionally, for 4 minutes or until onion is tender. Stir in rice; cook, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes. Stir in pumpkin and thyme.
  2. Stir in wine. Reduce heat to medium; add broth, 1/2 cup at a time, allowing each addition to be absorbed before adding more broth. Rice should be tender but firm to the bite and mixture should be creamy. This should take 20 to 25 minutes. 
  3. Stir in cheese and butter until melted. Season with pepper.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Restaurant Review: Rosa Mexicano

So tonight I tried Rosa Mexicano, which is supposedly a pretty authentic Mexican restaurant (I don't tend to believe that, but I guess I was told if a "Mexican" restaurant does not have burritos, it is a good indication that it is the real thing, however, I take the fact that we are not actually in Mexico with a grain of salt).

First of all, the service was phenomenal.  Extremely fast.  We were starving, so we put in the order for guacamole as we sat down and it was there no more than a minute after the waiters (yes, waiters, one was in training) left.  And it seemed like we had barely finished that when our actual food came.  The waiters were attentive, and had good recommendations.  When I asked about the mole (how do you put accentuated characters in posts?) sauce he offered to bring me a sample.  Honestly, I was too hungry and too focused on the food to notice much, but the whole dinner seemed to fly by, which in this case, speaks well to the efficiency of the restaurant.  Also, with my take home box, they included fresh rice and beans, rather than the leftovers from dinner, which ensures that it will be a complete second meal, rather than the smaller half that I sometimes end up with.  They had some Dia de los Muertos specials (yes, that was 18 days ago) that sounded fantastic, but way to big, like an 18 oz steak with sides... yeah, that's like a week's worth of meals for me...

The guacamole is one of their specialties, they make it at the table, which is pretty cool, and the guacamole maker has 90 seconds to make it, he told me.  And it was awesome, probably because it was so fresh.  And because we were famished.  They also included two salsas, I liked the spicy tomatillo one, it had a hint of mint.  By the time we were done, bam there were our entrees!  I got the Mole de Xico beef enchiladas because I was craving steak and the mole sauce was fantastic, like hot chocolate with cinnamon and nutella (which is a basic version of what it was).  Very filling and very complex.  And I don't know that I've had a good mole before this (the waiter said they are all the same and I probably just didn't like it, but I tried the sample and knew that they are NOT all the same).

Dessert really would have rounded off the meal, especially something Mexican chocolate, but we were just too full.  So that would be my recommendation.  I probably would have gotten the you pick 3 ice cream/sorbets.

In summary: great food, some of the best Mexican I've found north of, well, Mexico, awesome service, interesting ambiance.  My only complaint was it's a little pricy, but hey, the exceptional food alway is, right?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Double Broccoli Quinoa

I just made the best dinner.  Seriously, an awesome, awesome dinner.  You look at the title and probably think I'm crazy, and I probably am, but it is seriously awesome.  And pretty easy too, if you have a food processor (or I'm sure a large enough blender would work).  Using a food processor for the first time was the hardest part.

I think it's the garlic that makes this recipe, or maybe the parmesan cheese.  Or maybe, it's the broccoli.  I say that I don't like vegetables so I hide them places... recently that hasn't been true, as I brought back the Carrot Chile and Cilantro Soup and plan on making veggie salads for lunch over the weekend.  Also, broccoli is an exception to that rule.  I love broccoli, I crave broccoli with lemon.  I've been reading "Alone in the Kitchen with An Eggplant," thanks ctheflute, which is basically people gushing about their favorite foods to eat alone.  And these are people who can actually write, so I'm in a gushy mood, especially over food.

Anyway, the point is, I love broccoli so double the broccoli and I'm a happy camper.  And this is a great vegetarian meal because (as I recently learned) quinoa is a complete protein (cough, cough for any vegetarians or people who feed vegetarians, they should include quinoa as a great protein source).  And it is so tasty.  Broccoli pesto?  One of the best ideas ever.  This is from 101 Cookbooks.

3 cups cooked quinoa (one cup dry)
5 cups raw broccoli, cut into florets and stems

3 medium garlic cloves
2/3 c sliced or slivered almonds, toasted
1/3 c grated Parmesan
2 big pinches of salt
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 c olive oil
1/4 c heavy cream (I used vanilla soymilk because I didn't have cream)

Optional toppings: slivered basil, fireoil, sliced avocado, crumbled feta
(note, I used avocado and it didn't really add anything and I think I used extra Parmesan so feta was unnecessary.

Heat (or cook) quinoa and set aside.

Barely cook broccoli by bringing 3/4 cup water into a large pot to a simmer.  Stir in broccoli, cover and cook for a minute, just enough to take the raw edge off.  Transfer broccoli to a strainer and run under cold water to end cooking.  Set aside.

Make broccoli pesto: puree two cups of broccoli, the garlic, 1/2 almonds, Parmesan, remaining salt, and lemon juice in a food processor.  Drizzle in olive oil and cream and pulse until smooth.

Just before serving, toss quinoa and remaining broccoli with 1/2 for the broccoli pesto.  Adjust to taste as needed.  Serve with serving toppings.

It was especially nice in comparison with my lunch (Bulgar salad), which didn't turn out as well as I hoped, but am stuck with eating.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Pineapple Rice

I haven't been posting because I haven't really been making anything I deem as interesting, but maybe you will.  This is what I would call a pretty standard meal: it's fast, relatively healthy, cheap and will serve me for several days (and I can transport it easily during those several days).  I was inspired from some recipe I found online over the summer that combined sausage and pineapple in rice, but I couldn't find the recipe and I replaced black beans with sausage from what I remembered (or maybe there were black beans in the recipe?  I don't remember), though I'm sure it would have been great with some of the Trader Joe's jalepeno (precooked) sausage I just bought.  This kind of reminds me of pizza, but that is probably because I usually put pineapple, peppers and onions (and last time I added jalepenos) on my pizza, so this is more or less the same flavors in a different form (plus black beans).

1/2 c brown rice
1 can black beans
1 can tomatoes con chiles
1 chopped green pepper
1 chopped onion
1 diced jalepeno
1/2 can pineapple

Cook the rice according to package directions until almost done (so there is still a little water left), add onion and green pepper so they soften.  When water is absorbed add black beans, tomatoes (I didn't drain them, but maybe I should have) and pineapple.

Wow, that was easy.  It's not spectacular, I'll give you that, but it's decent, and it is a nice change of pace to have the spicy sweet of the chilis with the pineapple.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Pumpkin Brownies

So I still had a little pumpkin (and it was presweetened, oops) pumpkin leftover from the cookies I made a few weeks ago.  I also made muffins, but they were extremely ordinary, so I didn't post (though they were best about 2 days after I made them, so make note of that if you ever want to make pumpkin muffins).

But I thought pumpkin swirled brownies would be the perfect way to use up the remaining pumpkin.  The other option was apple cake with a pumpkin sauce, but I thought brownies were more shareable to bring in to the math department tomorrow.  While trying to come up with a way to make these brownies, I realized something: as much as I'm developing a kind of food sense, I am clueless when it comes to brownies.  I have no idea what proportions to use or what adding more flour will do to the texture, when a brownie should be made with butter versus oil or cocoa versus melted chocolate.  I'm great with cookies, and I'm starting to get muffins down, but brownies?  I have no idea what makes a good brownie.  This is probably why the experimental brownies (sweetened with fruit juice) I made last year had a funny texture.  I had no idea what I was doing.  I don't make brownies very often because, well I don't want to eat the whole pan in 2 days, which is certainly likely.

So there's the story of the brownies.  I searched for pumpkin marbled brownies and I didn't find exactly what I was looking for which is basically a way to use half a cup of prespiced pumpkin puree.  So I turned to my favorite blog, to see if she had any thoughts.  And voila!  Pumpkin swirled brownies from the Martha Stewart website.  But those were not what I wanted, those actually made a separate brownie batter and pumpkin batter and swirled them.  I just wanted to mix the pumpkin in to the brownies like those marble cheesecake brownies you see everywhere.  So I looked into those.  But that wasn't quite right either.  I want a great brownie with just a little pumpkin flavor.  So finally, I settled on making Deb's (from Smitten Kitchen) favorite brownie recipe and swirling pumpkin on top.  This did not work well.  They baked unevenly and even after an hour in the oven, didn't seem completely done (well, done by my eating brownie right out of the oven standards, but I think they won't travel well because they are kind of gooey).  Also the taste had room for improvement: one should add half a teaspoon of cinnamon and a pinch of cayenne pepper to the brownie batter to make it meld with the pumpkin better (or even without the pumpkin, I think this is a great addition to anything chocolate, from cookies to pudding).  Anyway, here is the recipe I used, plus my recomendations:

1 1/4 cups (5 ounces) cake flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped fine
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into six 1-inch pieces
2 1/4 cups (15 3/4 ounces) sugar
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
dash cayenne pepper
1/2 cup pumpkin pie mix (spiced pumpkin puree, they sell cans of it)
  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 325 degrees. Cut 18-inch length foil and fold lengthwise to 8-inch width. Fit foil into length of 13 by 9-inch baking dish, pushing it into corners and up sides of pan; allow excess to overhand pan edges. Cut 14-inch length foil and, if using extra-wide foil, fold lengthwise to 12-inch width; fit into width of baking pan in same manner, perpendicular to first sheet. Spray foil-lined pan with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. If using nuts, spread nuts evenly on rimmed baking sheet and toast in oven until fragrant, 5 to 8 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  3. Whisk to combine flour, salt, and baking powder in medium bowl; set aside.
  4. Melt chocolate and butter in large heatproof bowl set over saucepan of almost-simmering water, stirring occasionally, until smooth. (Alternatively, in microwave, heat butter and chocolate in large microwave-safe bowl on high for 45 seconds, then stir and heat for 30 seconds more. Stir again, and, if necessary, repeat in 15-second increments; do not let chocolate burn.) When chocolate mixture is completely smooth, remove bowl from saucepan and gradually whisk in sugar. Add eggs on at a time, whisking after each addition until thoroughly combined. Whisk in vanilla, cinnamon, cayenne pepper. Add flour mixture in three additions, folding with rubber spatula until batter is completely smooth and homogeneous.
  5. Transfer batter to prepared pan; using spatula, spread batter into corners of pan and smooth surface. Spread pumpkin on top and swirl it with a spatula.  Bake at 325 or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes (I think the pumpkin topping requires a longer cooking time or a warmer temperature, if I ever make these again, I'll get back to you on what that should be). Cool on wire rack to room temperature, about 2 hours, then remove brownies from pan by lifting foil overhang. Cut brownies into 2-inch squares and serve. (Store leftovers in airtight container at room temperature, for up to 3 days, or, ahem, in the freezer until your resistance gets the better of you.)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Chicken Pot Pie

So I've made a few changes in my eating patterns in the past couple weeks.  But the relevent one is keeping vanilla soymilk onhand.  I bought it to make cornbread and tried to come up with ways to use it and found I prefer soymilk on cereal and in pancakes, and by the recommendation of ctheflute, in chicken pot pie as well.  And I figured, soymilk has so many advantages: it has the same calcium as regular milk, but lower sugar (granted it is added sugar while regular milk's sugar is natural), slightly few calories and higher protein, it tastes great in lots of baked goods, it doesn't bother my stomach before runs, and it lasts longer.  The longer refridgerator life is probably the most appealing quality given my weird schedule this semester (I don't always eat any meals at home, which means I don't drink any milk all day).  Of course it has it's disadvantages, most notably, I can't just drink a glass of it.  Also, the soybean industry is pretty corrupt, on the level of meat manufacturers (only with less problems with foodborne illness).  However, the problem with soybeans is the wind mixes seeds of the big company (yes, there is only one, which is one of the big issues) and the smaller farmers, so you can't buy pure, fairly raised products.  This should almost be enough to not eat soyproducts, but if I'm honest with myself, I'm not going to give up edamame or putting tofu on my thai food at restaurants (although these wouldn't be huge sacrifices), so it would be kind of pointless to not drink soymilk in the name of supporting local farmers.  But my point is, I'm not going to drink it exclusively.  I'm thinking of switching to buying a half gallon of milk at a time and drinking that, while using soymilk for cereal and baking.  It might limit the issues I have with milk going bad before I can finish it off.

Anyway, the point of this entry is I made chicken pot pie.  Only it was more like veggie pot pie with chicken.  By the recommendation of Runner's World, an easy way to get more veggies in is to switch up the classic casserole by amping up the veggies and cutting back on the meat.  So I used ctheflute's recipe as a starting point, but the final product was really nothing like that.  Also, her recipe calls for a double crust, but after making the pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, I was out of shortening (and don't really like buying more since I rarely use it) and had milk that was about to go bad, so I made a biscuit top instead.  I threw together a bunch of veggies, some fresh, some frozen, and honestly, I didn't measure, so these are approximations.  Also, I had chicken stock (as well as chicken) in the freezer from the free rotessarie chicken I got from Whole Foods on Labor day, so I'm not exactly sure how much of that I used, maybe a cup of stock?  Well, I guess the best advice I have is make this to the appropriate texture, rather than following my advice carefully.  Oh, this made a 9x13 pan

4 stalks celery, diced
3 carrots, sliced
1 onion, diced
1 1/2 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup flour
1 cup vanilla soymilk
1 cup chicken stock
1 tsp sage
1 tsp tarragon
1 tsp basil
ground pepper, to taste
1/2 cooked, shredded chicken
1 1/2 cup frozen vegetables (I mixed peas and leftover frozen veggie blend)
1 1/2 cup instant biscuit mix
3/4 cup milk

Melt butter in large saucepan, add onions, celery, carrots, and 1/4 cup of soymilk, cook until tender (or tenderish).  Add flour, sage, tarragon, basil and pepper.  Stir until blended.  Add rest of soymilk and chicken stock and cook until thick and bubbly.  Add chicken and frozen veggies and season to taste.  Mix and remove from heat.

Preheat oven to 400.  Make biscuit topping as directed (mine said 2 to 1 ratio of mix to milk, no egg needed).  Pour veggie/chicken mix into 9x13 pan.  Top with biscuit mix.  Bake for about half an hour or until golden.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

So the news of the week: it's fall.  It's definitely fall in Atlanta.  Highs have been in the mid-50s-low 60s, but that means we don't see those highs until late afternoon.  The rest of the day is, well chilly.  Plus the sun hasn't been out much lately.  It feels like October in Wisconsin for goodness sake.  So I've been feeling fall-y.  And my old aversions to things like pumpkin and fall type spices are disappearing (as witnessed by the apple spice cake trifle I have yet to post about).  But this means I've really been craving pumpkin lately.  However, Publix has been out of pumpkin (they just restocked VERY recently) and then because of the reduced pumpkin market, Target was also out.  So I ran to Kroger and grabbed a can without much though.  I brought it home and opened it and... it was a little runnier than usual.  And it smelled like... spices.  It was pumpkin pie mix, oops.  So this works in cookies, but now I'm stuck trying to figure out other sweet things I can make with pumpkin pie mix (I was planning on using it to make pumpkin black bean soup this weekend, but I don't think I want pumpkin pie mix in that!)

In spirit of fall, I think I might attempt an apple cake with pumpkin carmel (and yes, "carmel" is a two syllable word in my world) sauce.  I just need to find someone to feed it to.

But anyway, here are the pumpkin cookies.  I brought them around in the math department and everyone really liked them.  I grabbed the AXO recipe, but it's pretty much the same as all the others you will find out there.

This one is from Maura O'Beirne-Stanko and these cookies are fabulous!! I know pumpkin and chocolate aren't an obvious combination but at my house these are a favorite year round - not just in the fall. Maura just made them for ZU Initiation last week and the sisters raved about them.

1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup shortening (or butter)

1 cup pumpkin

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla
6 oz bag chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Cream together the sugar, egg and shortening. Add the pumpkin. Blend well.

Stir together flour, baking soda, salt, baking powder and cinnamon. Add to pumpkin mixture.

Add vanilla, chips and nuts (if using).

Drop in rounded teaspoonsful on a greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 for 10 minutes. Do not overbake. Cool and store in an airtight container.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Restaurant Review: Panahar

What can make a long day of working a homework set better? Taking a "break" by trying a new restaurant of course! And by "break" I mean we did math while waiting for our food. We were too hungry to really be productive though.

Panahar is a Bangladeshi restaurant, and let's be honest, the food isn't that different from Indian. Maybe someday I will know what makes it different, but I do not claim to at this point. But I do know it was delicious. And possibly more importantly: it was cheap! Each dinner was $9 including tax. Granted, we ordered the obligatory naan (and the rice might not have been included either, or maybe Basmati rice was more, I'm not sure), but I came out with $12 after tip, which is certainly not bad for a dinner out. Granted, that did not include a samosa. And the manager is a somewhat pushy salesman, always offering the most expensive suggestions and suggesting add ons. But hey, he's just doing business, right? The service is not particularly fast, which is okay if you brought work with you and don't feel the time pressure; it's probably a cultural difference.

But the food was definitely good, the menu was huge, and when there are huge menus, of things that all sound somewhat familar (which at this point most Indian food does and Bangladeshi sounded similar enough), I usually ask for suggestions. The manager suggested the Chicken Tikka Masala (noting this fell into the most expensive category of dishes, I think this was about $12 for just the meal as opposed to my $12 with naan and tip), which I never order because it's too "safe." I usually like to get something a little more special to a particular restaurant. I ended up setttling on Daal Mahkani, a creamy lentil dish which was very tasty. My friend ordered Shaag Maang-sho, chicken with spinach, which was very good. I've had some spinach dishes I wasn't too keen on (sometimes they are too sweet), but this one was very good. The portions were large, too, which made them definitely worthwhile. I've found that often large portions correspond to lower quality Indian food, but this was not true here. So I'm happy and although, I know, it's Bangladeshi, it's probably the better (at very least a better value) than the Indian food I've had or heard of in Atlanta.

Oh, and the dishes weren't very spicy. I didn't really look into ordering them hotter, but they didn't ask how hot we wanted them.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The secret to good cornbread (even if it's from a box)

So chili night was tonight and after all that cooking and cleaning and preparing, I'm exhausted. I need to finish washing dishes and do some homework before bed, so I'll keep the post short and focus on possibly the simplest dish I made: cornbread. It was just from a box, but with my own touch. And now it is confirmed by people other than me: the secret to good cornbread is vanilla soymilk. I discovered this cooking with people allergic to milk in college, but it could just be my preference. But two others complimented me on my cornbread, noting that they usually don't like cornbread, but that this was better. I also put a can of corn in the cornbread because I like it that way.

So that's one of my favorite cooking/baking secrets, which I guess is no longer a secret. Oh and you know what you do with the leftover vanilla soymilk (if you don't like to drink it)? Make pancakes. Same thing, they are so just a little sweeter and more moist with the vanilla soymilk.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Italian Rice

I've had THE WORST marinara cravings lately. Not pasta, just marinara. So I've been trying to come up with ways to shake it up (i.e. not eating pasta 4 times a week). I sometimes do meatballs in marinara with no pasta for lunch, but I'm trying to go meatless this week, so that's out of the question.

So what's kind of like pasta only not? Rice! I mean a tomato based rice dish is pretty standard, and it's not too hard to adjust the seasoning. It's not authentic in any way, but it's slightly healthier than spaghetti (rice is less processed) and more importantly, heats up a little better (which is super helpful for a grad student with limited time and/or needing easily transportable meals. Plus is super high in veggies!

Marinara Rice
Oil for heating
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
Frozen stoplight peppers
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup rice
1 8oz can no salt added tomato sauce
1 1/4 c water
1 can no salt added tomatoes with juice
One roasted red pepper
Fresh thyme, to taste
1 frozen basil cube (from Trader Joe's), approximately 1 tsp fresh basil
Italian seasoning, to taste
Parmesan cheese

Cook pepper and onion in oil.
Cook rice with water and tomato sauce. When almost done cooking, add tomatoes, garlic, and stoplight peppers.
Puree red pepper in blender and add to rice, then add seasonings and cook until water is evaporated, then check the taste. You might want to add more water and continue cooking until flavors blend more (or until garlic cooks more) or adjust the seasonings. I added some parmesan cheese and garlic powder and cooked a little longer.

I served with mozzerella cheese. Mmm! Satisfied my craving perfectly!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Root Vegetable Soup

The rainy weather last week made me feel like fall was really here, so I was craving fall type foods. And I thought, what better than making a root vegetable soup? I was going to follow a recipe and then didn't really follow it at all. I was at Whole Foods, appreciating the selection of vegetables they just don't have at Publix (at least not the tiny one I do most of my shopping at). Rutabaga? Sure, I'll figure out something. Parsnips, they're kind of like carrots, right? So I found a soup recipe, after buying these things, that called for turnips, so I ran to Publix (turnips are normal enough to have at Publix, especially at this time of year). The recipe I was following didn't have any seasonings besides onions and garlic, and I just didn't that would do. I had some leftover fresh thyme from my ratatouille (which I still need to post, oops), added that, but it didn't seem, fall-y enough. So I dug up a little fennel (my spice cabinet is full of useless spices), but only put a little in because I'm not a huge fan of the fennel flavor, I just wanted enough to make it taste like autumn. And what else tastes like autumn? Cinnamon of course! (Actually considering I put cinnamon in everything from chili to chocolate pudding to stews, cinnamon tastes like all seasons, but I guess I especially associate it with the cooling temperatures). And I also added my other go to ingredient when something is bland: red pepper flakes. Oh, one more thing, I forgot to buy celery, but I happened to have a can of tomatoes with celery and green peppers, so I used that instead of regular tomatoes, but more celery would have been better.

The soup is decent, I'd say it was better today then Saturday when I first made it. If the pot had been larger, I could have added more water and hence cooked up some Trader Joe's Harvest Grain Blend in it, but there just wasn't room in my 5 quart pot.

On a more personal note, I've never cooked with rudabagas before and had little experience with them. I did not try a raw piece, but they smelled very much like colarabi, which I think I remember liking last time I had it. But my goodness is rudabaga hard to chop. Definitely get small ones so you have less to cut through.

Root Vegetable Soup
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 small rudabaga, peeled and cubed
3 turnips, peeled and cubed
3 parsnips, peeled and sliced
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 vegetable boulion cubes
1 can tomatoes with celery and green peppers with juice
5+ cups water
Fennel, to taste
1/2 tsp+ cinnamon
Red pepper flakes, to taste
Thyme (optional)

Prepare veggies
Heat up oil in large pot, then add onion and garlic and cook for a while. Then add tomatoes, veggies, boulion cubes, and enough water to make a soupy consistency (I didn't have room in my pot to add enough to make it true "soup" rather than stew). You might want to add more boulion if you are adding lots of water. Add spices and cook until vegetables are tender (my recipe said 45 minutes, but it was less than this because I cut most of the vegetables pretty small). Check the taste midway through to determine if you need more of any spices. I always can go for more cinnamon personally, and I think I added extra garlic powder midway through because it wasn't garlicy enough (even though I upped the recipe from one clove to 3).

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A graduate student dinner

So I had a big lunch out packed with protein and carbs so I tried to take it easy for dinner. I had about a pound of green beans lying around, plus 5 pounds of apples I got a Whole Foods for only $4 (they have some good deals there if you know what you are doing). So I ate an apple and made some balsamic green beans, graduate student style. Plus some milk for protein and calcium. But I accidently ended up eating all the beans. Oh well. Here are my grad student style balsamic green beans. Technically you are supposed to use balsamic vinegar, but I used balsamic vinegrette and that's what makes them grad student style! I actually don't like balsamic vinegarette very much, but I went through this bottle pretty quickly and used it up tonight.

1 lb green beans, rinsed with ends chopped off
2 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp (plus or minus) sliced almonds
1/4 light balsamic vinegrette (I had some organic Newman's Own because I had a coupon and they were on sale and I love anything Newman's Own)

Heat the oil in a pan. Smash the garlic cloves and throw them in the oil when hot. Brown a little then add the green beans and balsamic vinegrette and cover. I stirred them every few minutes. Cook for a few minutes until the beans are almost tender then add the almonds and cook until tender.

Seriously, after that I'm a happy camper and I feel like they almost made up for my huge, fattening high carb lunch of jerk chicken with black beans, rice and cornbread.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Restaurant Review: Ecco

Okay, I was supposed to be saving time and doing homework (and I think my homework might actually be fun if i can figure out how to do it). But I'm just too food-blissful that I need to post this blog before I can focus.

Randomly, my dad was in Atlanta tonight. He has a business meeting tomorrow and was only supposed to be here for about 6 hours tomorrow, but the bad weather forced him to fly in early, which meant we got to meet up for dinner. And his company would pay for his, so we were getting two for one... or less, so we could really go anywhere. So I asked around and did a few internet searches and made a list of about 5 restaurants. But the leading candidate, and the one I eventually chose, was Ecco. Plus it's near the Midtown MARTA station so it made it easy to meet up there and walk over.

This may have been one of the best dining experiences I've ever had (and mind you, I eat well when I am with my parents). The waiter was attentive but not lurking, and very helpful. He greeted us and asked if we had been there before, and when we said no, he explained the philosophy of the restaurant was to make very fresh food and use local and organic food whenever possible. I really try to stick to these principles, but it's hard when you do not have much money. However, it is something I appreciate in a splurge restaurant (especially when I'm not paying). He then went over the menu with us in detail of all dishes, which I really like sinc ei have a hard time making decisions (and I like to know what's good and what's popular). The service was very prompt; we had barely looked at the menu when he asked if we wanted to start with a meat and cheese plate. Having not looked at it, he offered that some people say "surprise me," so we agreed to that. He asked if we have any preferences and I noted that I do not like Bleu Cheeses. We ended up with Smoked Gouda (I've decided I really like a quality Gouda), some Italian sausage (I'm not a huge sausage eater and they all kind of taste the same to me), and Robiola 3 Milk, a blend of sheep, goat, and cow milk cheese. The cheeses were fantastic and went extrodinarily with the crusty bread. I'm trying to develop my cheese palate, but right now I'm just working on getting "this tastes like this," and "I like this" down. One of my favorite parts of the cheese palate (besides you know the surprise!) was the waiter explained what all of them were and where they were from. Actually, the menu had the origin of all of the meats, cheeses, and wines (and fun fact: in Atlanta, it is more sustainable to drink European wine than wine from California, but probably barely, the boundary is Columbus, OH). Early on I was very impressed.

Then came dinner, which is obviously the most important part of a restaurant experience. My dad asked for a wine recommendation for his entre and I guess I can't tell you how that went because I don't know anything about wine (that's something else I'm working on, but I'm going to start with Trader Joe's 2 3/4 buck chuck and using it in food). I ordered the Chili-braised pork with garlic and homemade pappardelle because it sounded interesting and the waiter said it was a favorite and "kind of [their] signature dish." My dad had also been looking at it, but he let me get it and I told him to work around me. Fortunately, he chose my other top choice, with minimal prodding from me: organic chicken thighs with salsa verde. For both my dad and I, if you say "salsa verde" it is not a very hard sell, and for me the word "organic" helps a little. But neither of us likes dark meat, though I said it was probably worth a try and that I had also been looking at it, when he said that was his next choice (see, that is minimal prodding). He ended up with that. We both loved, LOVED our meals. My dad's comment was "I will never look at a chicken thigh the same way again," since it was so flavorful and slightly crispy with the salsa, and did not have any of the properties that he dislikes about dark meat (personally, I dislike that it tastes like iron and this certainly didn't). I actually ate very little of mine so I could bring it home with me (since i knew there would be an abundance of food, I tried to consolidate so there was enough of one thing to bring home). But it was slightly spicy, served with sweet juicy tomatoes, and deliciously pulled pork. Oh, and there was basil, which made me love it even more. I just hope it heats up well for lunch tomorrow. And the homemade pasta was also delicous. We also ordered green beans, which were served with rum infused raisins and honey with a pinch of cinnamon to give it a little spice. These beans were seriously amazing. I would consider buying rum (and raisins, for that matter) just to try to recreate them. The flavors blended so well, though I couldn't really place them. I even ate all the raisins.

And then there was dessert. Oh dessert. This almost merits it's own blog entry. Because the company was paying and because we couldn't decide and because we were both enjoying the dinner, as well as the surprise time together so much, we ordered three desserts. Three desserts! At a nice restaurant! We both eyed the Red Plum Sorbet immediately. We both love sorbet and have had a great sorbet experience in the past together (guava sorbet at Coquete Cafe in Milwaukee). And it just sounded interesting and unusual, but still delicous. He saw fresh figs and gravitated towards that immediately. And I... couldn't decide, go figure. The dish that caught me as possibly tasty and unusual was Honey Basil ice cream. There was a chocolate cake with pine nuts, which sounded fun because of the pine nuts, but very typical of what I get. And then I saw olive oil and chocolate ice cream with sea salt. This also sounded wonderful and interesting, so I figured I'd have the waiter make the ice cream choice for me. I asked him about both the olive oil and chocolate and the honey and basil ice creams and he said the olive oil and chocolate was "just about the best ice cream anyone has ever had," which if that's not a glowing endorsement I'm not sure what is. So I ordered that. The plum sorbet came out first and it was spicy and sweet. It tasted like all things that should go with plums: cinnamon, ginger, perhaps a dash of nutmeg and I swear there was a touch of wine in there, but I only tasted it when I switched between my chocolate ice cream and the sorbet later. It was very flavorful and the texture was so soft and creamy. It was light like sorbet should be without being crisp to the touch of the spoon like it often is. Possibly the best sorbet ever. And the ice cream was also up there. I don't think there were almonds in it, but it tasted like almonds. But the blend of sea salt and chocolate was just... magical. I am convinced sea salt and chocolate is one of the most understated but perfect food, or at least dessert, combinations ever. Then again, I say the same thing about chilis and chocolate (and chocolate with chilis and sea salt is also phenomenal, they have dark chocolate, chili and sea salt bars at Wal-Mart down here, as well as dark chocolate with sea salt and pop rocks, which are also unbelievable).

This was one of the most amazing meals I have ever had, for sure in Atlanta. I loved every bite of it. The restaurant was great, a nice ambiance, sustainable, and professional yet friendly. The food, as I just spent the past hour describing, was phenomenal. I would definitely recommend it to anyone in Atlanta. And I don't often return to restaurants (I'd rather try something new), but I would go here again for a special occassion.

Saturday, September 12, 2009


I have not been cooking. Yay grad school! Fortunately, I had a huge stock of frozen leftovers. Unfortunately, I've gone through most of it.

So based on my blog reading, it has come to my attention that a good pudding recipe is hard to find online. They are all complicated and require food processors or strainers or all sorts of other weird things (or strange ingredients, like sweetened condensed milk or chocolate syrup, that just don't belong in pudding). Well, my mom made pudding from scratch for my family while I was growing up and her recipe is really not that difficult. And it's delicious. When I was a kid, she put animal crackers in chocolate pudding and called it "tar pit" dessert. It was one of my favorites.

And those of you who are grad students might ask why you need to make pudding rather than buying that junk you get in the store. Well, just ask anyone I've made pudding for, it is far superior. But it is time consuming. It's a special treat my friends often beg me for. I don't remember how to make butterscotch offhand (you use brown sugar, but I'm not sure how much).

1 egg
1/2 c sugar
2 Tbsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
2 c milk
2 Tbsp butter
1 tsp vanilla
(For chocolate pudding make it 1 c sugar and add 2 oz baking chocolate or 6 Tbsp cocoa powder and a Tbsp butter)

First, take out an egg and let it reach room temperature. This is critical to ensuring your pudding is not lumpy. In fact, go ahead and beat the living daylight out of it now. I usually require a friend help me as a condition of me making pudding. I put him or her in charge of warming and beating the egg while I do everything else.

Blend 1/2 c sugar, 2 Tbsp cornstarch, 1/4 tsp salt in a saucepan (if you are making chocolate, add the extra ingredients here as well).
Add 2 cups milk and cook and stir (make sure to scrape the bottom of the pan very well!) over medium heat until it is bubbly. Once bubbling, cook for two minutes.

Here's the tricky part, which I like having an extra set of hands for. Make sure the egg is beat in a heat proof bowl. Carefully stir the warm pudding mixture into the egg. The more mixture you stir in, the less lumpy your pudding will be, so go ahead and fill that bowl (but slowly, and beating the whole time). This is called tempering the egg.

Slowly mix the egg mixture back into the pudding and return to heat. Cook for two more minutes, then stir in vanilla and butter. If you are making vanilla pudding, use the best vanilla you can find. For the years following our trip to Mexico, my mom used Mexican vanilla and the vanilla pudding was amazing, almost better than chocolate (and coming from me, that means a lot).

I suppose you could strain it, as there will probably still be a lump or two, however, if you are careful with tempering the egg, there shouldn't be many. My dad commented on how smooth my pudding is (in contrast with my mom's). I'm not sure they let her make it after trying mine, although it's the same recipe.

There you go: simple ingredients and all you need is a pan and a bowl. And a friend (or three to help you eat it).

As a warning: the chocolate pudding is extremely rich, which is perfect for me, but hard to eat after a big meal. Also, I've mixed a little cinnamon and cayenne pepper into the chocolate pudding for something a little different, and both chocolate and vanilla are great with banana slices.

Sunday, August 30, 2009


So I took my second qual on Friday and it didn't go so well. What is the easy solution to a bad mood? Baking of course! So I called a friend and we decided to make some cookies for our friends at Case to welcome them back the school year. They are two recipes I've been meaning to make, but haven't really had a reason to make 3 dozen cookies. Because if I had 3 dozen cookies in my apartment, I would eat them in about 3 days, which probably isn't healthy.

Black Forest Cookies

These might give a run for my favorite cookies except for the f
act that the chocolate chunks melted a little too much and you couldn't tell they were in there. Maybe we overbaked them a little? I usually bake my cookies a little less than the suggested time so they are still kind of goopy and half crumbly, but we had to bake the full time since they are traveling cookies. Oh well, they are chocolatey with a the tartness of dried cherries and I just love that.

Cinnamon Swirl Cookies

These did not turn out well, but they taste good. They just look bad. My friend may have forgotten some flour because the dough was extremely sticky and then didn't hold together when they baked. Also my recommendation for these is to either do it in a cool place, or stick the dough in the fridge after you put the crumblies on top, immediately before you roll it. It's easier to roll when it is cold (roll the parchment, not just the dough). Then refridgerate it (or even freeze it a little) before cutting it, and use a sharp knife. I did this and mine turned out better than my friend's. Also, you might want to make more filling, I didn't feel like there was enough. The picture shows the goopy messiness. But like I said, tasty. And you can definitely taste the orange, so you might want to put a little less in so it is more subtle.

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for surface
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 ounces (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup light-brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup dark-brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted (1 1/2 ounces)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon


  1. Make the dough: Sift flour, salt, and baking soda into a large bowl. Beat butter, sugar, and orange zest with a mixer on medium speed until smooth, about 3 minutes. Beat in eggs. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture gradually, and beat until just combined. Divide dough in half, wrap each half in plastic, and refrigerate for 1 hour (or overnight).
  2. Turn half the dough onto floured parchment. Roll into a 10-by-12-inch rectangle, then trim edges straight. Repeat with remaining half of dough. Transfer rectangles on parchment to a baking sheet, and refrigerate until firm but pliable, about 10 minutes.
  3. Make the filling: Mix all the ingredients in a small bowl until well combined. Crumble mixture evenly over rectangles. Starting on a long side, roll 1 rectangle into a log, and wrap it in the parchment. Repeat with remaining rectangle. Refrigerate logs for 1 hour (or overnight).
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut each log crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Transfer to parchment-lined baking sheets, and bake until edges are golden brown, about 19 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire racks. Cookies will keep, covered, for up to 3 days

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Peanut Chickpea Stew

I made a tasty stew today that probably isn't fitting for summer, but it is loaded with veggies and protein and it sounded good, so I made it. Again, I don't have pictures, but honestly, the pictures for this are not particularly appetizing. It was made from lots of canned food, but this makes it easy and fast (and I used dried chickpeas that I rehydrated and cooked last night, so slightly less fast). I used no salt added tomatoes, low sodium black beans and did not salt the chickpeas and found the salt level just right, but I don't really like salt, plus I thought the peanut butter took care of it pretty well (I have a slightly saltier jar of peanut butter I've been trying to use up, so I use it in baking/cooking a lot)

One onion chopped
1-2 chilis, diced
1 bell pepper, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 zucchini (I sliced it very thinly and then chopped it into little tiny pieces so I didn't know it was there but you can cut it however you want)
vegetable broth
one can of tomatoes
one can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
one can black beans, rinced and drained
5-6 Tbsp peanut butter
1 tsp tumeric
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
salt and pepper

Cook the onion in a broth or a little oil until almost soft. Add vegetables and garlic and cook for a few minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients and cook. Use enough broth to make it stewlike.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Pasta with Pork and Veggies

So this isn't the kind of thing I usually post, it was just a concoction to use up some of the loose ends (in particular, we had a small amount of past left from spaghetti yesterday, enough I wanted to save it but not really enough to be a serving of pasta). But it was super tasty and there was a secret ingredient: red wine vinegar. It was a great way to use some leftovers and it went together very well.

I cooked some chopped onions and green peppers in just a touch of olive oil for just a few minutes, not enough to soften them, just enough to make them a little less pungent. I added some red pepper flakes, cumin, dried minced garlic and a little paprika, and then shredded half a large carrot on top. I added leftover pulled pork and cooked until that was heated, then added the leftover pasta (maybe 1-2 ounces max, there really wasn't a whole lot) and a dash of red wine vinegar. It was spicy, a little tangy, slightly sweet, and downright delicious. This coming from someone who doesn't really like pork. Then a tiny piece of leftover peach crisp for dessert. Yum!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Peach Crisp

I apologize for not having pictures.

Crisps and cobblers are classic in my family in summer. I don't remember my mom ever making pie (it bakes too long, over an hour), but she makes a fruit dessert almost weekly. But it's always one of two recipes with slight modifications: crisp or cobbler. I make berries into cobblers and peaches, pears, and apples into crisps (I like crisps better, there is nothing better than oatmeal, cinnamon, and brown sugar). So here is the peach crisp recipe, but you can use apples, pears, or plums I suppose. Apricots might also be good, but probably mixed in with the peaches.

4 c (about 4 large) peaches, sliced thin, skins removed
1/2 c oats
1/2 c flour
1/2-3/4 c brown sugar (adjusted based on sweetness of fruit)
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp salt
1/3 c butter (softened)

Preheat oven to 375. Lay peaches in layers in 8x8 or 9x9 pan.
Combine oats, flour, sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Fold in butter and mix until blended. (You could use a pastry blender, but I find it easier just to use my hands). Sprinkle on top of peaches. Bake until fruit is tender, about 35-40 minutes.

Note: To help remove the skin from peaches, place the peaches in simmering water for about 30 seconds. Technically, you are supposed to place them in cool water immediately afterward, but this isn't necessary when making crisp as you are just going to bake them. The skins peel right off!
If using pears, you probably don't need to remove the skins, especially if you are using Bartlett pears. The same technique as peaches probably works for plums, but you could probably keep plum skins on as well. I'm not an expert, I just have learned a few tricks that I think I should share because I don't always remember.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Restaurant Review: Waterhaven

Note: pardon my spelling, spell check didn't seem to work. I know there are mistakes, but there are just too many and I am too lazy to check that many words.

So as part of Atlanta (ha, I almost said Cleveland) restaurant week (well, there were two Atlanta restaurant weeks and this was part of the first one) you could go to a variety of restaurants and get a 3 course meal for $25. Now this is certainly more than I usually spend on a meal, but I will splurge from time to time. We chose Waterhaven since it seemed to be what we could most agree on. Plus it's very near the Georgia Tech campus, making convenience a plus. However, we don't think it will do very well with business since it is in "Tech Square" a primarily student oriented block, and it is out of the price range of your typical college student. At least for your typical college student to patronize regularly. But it was good. I would give it an "above average" rating.

We ordered everything on the restaurant week menu: lamb sliders, calamari, fried green tomatoes, lemon caesar salad, and hummus plate. The lamb sliders were awesome and came with a yogurt sauce with a little flavor (I do not remember what the flavor was, but it complemented the lamb very well) and coolness on the lamb patty. The fried green tomatoes were pretty average, at least from my experience with fried green tomatoes. They basically tasted fried. The lemon caesar salad was fantastic and very summery. The lemon covered up the excessive anchovy taste that I hate and made it taste very fresh. Speaking of lemon and freshness, the hummus was very lemony, and we all loved that. It was refreshing without being compromising the essence of hummus. And we are all big hummus fans.

Between the six of us, we only ordered three entrees: Trout, Steak and Oxtails. I'd say the two I tried, Steak and Oxtails (I ordered the oxtails) were very good but relatively safe. The steak was topped with carmelized onions, which are a pretty classic pairing. The oxtails were tasty, I had never had oxtails before. They taste like red meat, but are very, very tender, they basically fall off the bone. They came with herbed potato dumplings which were a nice texture, less dense than what I've had before, which was good because the meat was plenty filling, though they were still pretty firm and cut well which was good for sharing. But like I said, there was nothing exceptional about either dish, they were just very well done, but obviously not that memorable.

Clearly I judge restaurants based on their desserts. There were only two (at least on the special menu): Chocolate Icebox Pie and Creme Brulee. Two of the six ordered the creme brulee and claimed that the rest of us would wish we had chosen that and want to eat lots of theirs. Of course I knew this was false since I always like dessert with chocolate, especially when I go out. When we got our desserts, the creme brulee enthusists admitted that the creme brulee was great and they were not disappointed with their choice, but that ours was better (though somewhat rich). And the creme brulee was good. Sweet and warm with a creamy, consistent texture. But the chocolate icebox dessert was awesome: a nice thick chocolate mousse with a tasty oreo crust. Delicious, but again, very safe, nothing that unique or memorable.

Oh, and as I type this, I'm watching Food Network as it advertises the new show with Melissa, the winner of Next Food Network Star, who is doing $10 dinners for 4 people, while still making them healthy. She may become my new favorite since that is the type of cooking I try to do (and write about) except when it comes to dessert. Plus she's and AXO.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Summer Staples

Quite possibly my favorite food in summer is my mom's Summer Spinach Salad. I'll try to come up with the dressing from memory (since that is what makes it awesome!)

Poppyseed dressing:
1/2 c canola oil
1/4 cup chopped onion
2 Tbsp+2 tsp red wine or cider vinegar
2 Tbsp +2tsp sugar
1/2? tsp salt (I'm not positive that it is a half, but I think it is)
1 1/2 tsp ground mustard (I use a little less since it is often too strong with that)
~1 tsp poppyseeds

Combine first six ingredients in blender. Blend until sugar is dissolved (or until there are no more onion chunks). Then add poppyseeds and mix thoroughly.

Technically you are supposed to make the salad all at once, but I just make up the dressing and make single serve salads (since not all of the ingredients keep fresh at the same rate) and I am not serving 4-6 at once.

Summer Spinach Salad
10 oz spinach washed and dried with stems removed
4 green onions, chopped
1 pt strawberries, quartered
1-2 bananas, sliced
Toasted almonds slivered or sliced
Poppyseed dressing (probably not the whole container)

Mix everything and toss. Or if you are serving yourself and yourself only, just throw what you want on it at any given time and toss.

Also, my mom makes this great, tasty, healthy black bean salad, which to me tastes like summer. And is a good use of leftover veggies, as I discovered on Thursday when trying to plan a dinner that would get rid of my green onions, peppers, and tomatoes. Again, I am approximating, but I think it's close.

Colorful Black Bean Salad
2 cans black beans
1 green or yellow bell pepper (my mom prefers yellow because it makes it more colorful), chopped
2 green onions, chopped
1 pt. grape tomatoes, cut in half
3 Tbsp+ cilantro, chopped

Combine beans and veggies and stir to mix well.

3 Tbsp fresh lemon (I use lime) juice
3/4 tsp cumin
1 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Stir dressing and add to bean and veggie mixture. Stir and enjoy!

They are both fresh and tasty and I make both frequently in summer. Actually, I always keep poppyseed dressing on hand in summer and just throw it on spinach anytime I have spinach. It keeps me eating my greens when I would much rather eat corn.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Steak Week

So on the theme of eating well on a budget, even though it was a few weeks ago, I divulge my secrets. Well, not really.

I really like steak, but I am on a pretty tight budget. So what's a girl to do? 1. Wait for a sale. 2. Stretch the steak. I bought and Eye Round Steak when it was on sale, cooked it on Sunday and had steak salad and steak tacos for the next few meals.

Steak tacos: tomatoes, onions, avacado, purple cabbage and steak on a corn tortilla.

Steak salad: tomatoes, onions, avacado, cilantro, and steak on romaine lettuce with a dressing made from chilis in adobo sauce, lime juice, cumin, cilantro, honey, and olive oil. I didn't really like the smokey flavor of the adobo sauce.

So the two dishes were kind of similar, but definitely satisfied my steak craving while still being healthy and relatively cheap. I'm actively working to incorporate more vegetables into my diet, and did pretty well during steak week.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A better ratatouille

So I attempted ratatouille last fall and it was okay, but it made a lot and I got sick of I finished it off. Also, I'm not a huge fan of squash/zucchini/eggplant (haha, which is what ratatouille is) unless they are sliced very thinly so you don't notice their texture. Or at least that's what I learned when I made ratatouille last fall.

So I followed this recipe because Smitten Kitchen does everything well.

But I made obvious grad student changes, for instance, I don't have an oval pan. So I put it in an 8x8, which was too small so I layered a layer of tomato puree (with a little olive oil, the chopped onion and thinly sliced garlic mixed in), then the extremely thinly sliced eggplant, zucchini, squash, and red pepper rings. So I put another layer of puree with some salt and pepper, rosemary, and thyme (I used powdered thyme before remembering that my roommate had leftover fresh thyme), another layer of veggies and topped with fresh thyme. Baked for about 45 minutes and yay! I will only eat it if all the veggies are covered with tomato sauce though so I just kind of mushed it up and serve it on quinoa. A nice healthy dinner, which of course, merits dessert :)

I made peach cookies for the class I TA today. They were more like cake than cookies, so that might be looking into making a peach cake in the future. Then again, I always say this, but never repeat a recipe to make it better, I just stick to my classics when I actually need to serve it to people, which is the only time I make most of these bigger things like cake or pans of brownies. Man, I wish I saw my friends often enough (and could afford) to make all this food.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Meringue fail, Jam success

So I tried making Brown Sugar Meringues, but apparently when it says to beat until soft peaks form, it means until firm peaks form. There were definitely peaks, but the batter was certainly too soupy. I thought they would rise, but they didn't. Fortunately, I have the equivalent of 6 more egg whites and I can try again. I am however out of almonds, so they will just have brown sugar or will I add almond extract? Ah, well, I'll eat the goop anyway.

I did however make peach "jam" for the Daring Baker's Bakewell Tart I'll be making tomorrow. I needed a cup, so I cut up 3 peaches, with maybe 1/8 cup brown sugar (it was to taste, I didn't measure) and a squirt of lemon juice. I cooked until the peaches were soft and mushed them. So it's not real jam, but I think it will work for the fruit layer of the tart. I'll fill you in on that tomorrow. I also made the tart tonight, so yeah, it was a busy night. Tomorrow morning will also be.

Birthday Bread

So I have this friend who doesn't like bananas, but likes banana bread. But she really likes oranges, so she likes the idea of orange bread (I also know she likes the nutmeg, cloves, allspice, etc flavors). Knowing her birthday was coming, I've been keeping oranges in the fridge so I could make orange bread at the drop of a hat. This is the recipe I found: Orange Bread. Cheap, easy, and tasty if you like those flavors. No pictures, I mean it looks like bread, though the batter was (obviously) orange. Oh, but I threw the zest of the orange in too to add a little extra kick.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Last Week's Meals

So none of last week's meals were particularly complicated, but they were tasty! I bought a few magazines on summer healthy cooking, and they made all the difference. Lots of citrus and mint flavors, which were used in ways I wouldn't think to and made everything a lot tastier.

Chicken Pasta Salad with Almonds
Basically chicken salad on whole wheat penne rather than bread. Also, it uses fat free plain yogurt rather than mayo to give it creaminess without the fat (and for those of us who have plain yogurt but not mayo in the fridge, it works well), with a little lemon zest to add some kick. Also, mint helps with adding a little extra freshness. I added grapes because I like grapes in my chicken salad. It also had mint for freshness and almonds for crunch. Oh, and parsley, but I substituted cilantro. Talk about a well organized description :-P

Stuffed Turkey Burgers
Use 1 1/4 pound of ground turkey, shredded mozz cheese, roasted red peppers cut into small pieces. Pack the turkey into 8 (I made 10) small patties and put shredded mozzerella, and a few red peppers on half paties. Place remaining on top and seal in the cheese and red peppers, sprinkle with ground pepper and sea salt, then grill until brown. These are super tasty with sprouts :). I also added cilantro, but couldn't taste it. Also, make sure you seal them complely, that's probably pretty obvious, but I thought I did a good job but most of the cheese oozed out. Actually, I probably didn't add enough cheese, you can probably fit a whole tablespoon in, I was worried it wouldn't fit so just put a pinch in.

Grilled Veggie Wrap
Cut 2 zucchini in thin strips lengthwise and grill until translucent and tender. Cut two roasted red peppers in quarters (or chop in little pieces because you are just using leftover from your turkey burgers). Toast a quarter cup pine nuts. Cut 1/4-1/2 a red onion into thin slices. Chop a little mint and spinach. Take whole wheat wraps (I just used tortillas) and spread your favorite hummus on them, sprinkle with pine nuts and put 3 strips of zucchini (well, a fourth of what you have, this is supposed to serve 4, I just ate one every day and prepared them in the morning), two red pepper pieces, a few onion slices, spinach and mint. Then wrap and eat! I used alphalfa sprouts again for this, in place of spinach because I had another spinach recipe in mind:

Cumin Chickpea and Spinach Salad
This was my favorite meal of the week.
One can chickpeas (or 2/3 cup dried and prepared), 2 tbsp parsley (again, I subbed cilantro!), 1/4 cup diced red onion
Mix above.
Dressing: 2 tbsp olive oil, 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice, 1/4 tsp finely ground lemon zest, 3/4 tsp (or more if you are me!), cumin, pinch cayenne. Freshly ground salt and pepper. Mix these and pour over chickpea mixture
Yogurt sauce: 1 tbsp orange juice, 1/4 finely grated orange zest, 1/4 tsp honey, 3 tbsp plain yogurt.

Serve chickpea mixture over spinach garnish with mint and yogurt dressing.
So tasty! Extremely refreshing and it tastes like summer!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Oatmeal Cookies

A few months ago, I made Chocolate Banana Oatmeal cookies that turned out okay, but tasted like they were missing something. Well this time I had Skippy Natural Peanut Butter which has a little too much salt for my taste, so I figured it would be tasty for baking while just leaving out the salt (which is probably something you aren't supposed to do, but I thought it worked pretty well in this case) and a bruised, but not too overripe banana, which I thought would be perfect for making something peanut butter/banana-y. So I looked up my old recipe and found some places to make modifications. With all the extra peanut butter, it required a lot more oatmeal, but I think they turned out great! Plus, they are decently healthy, at least for a recovery after run snack. Again, I approximated, but it went something like this:
1 mashed banana
1/2-3/4 c peanut butter
1 egg
2 tbsp butter
1/2 c brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1-2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 c flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 c cocoa powder
~1 c oatmeal
Chocolate chips/chunks to taste

Beat mashed banana, peanut butter, egg, butter, brown sugar until smooth. Add in vanilla and continue beating. Add cinnamon, flour, baking soda, baking powder, cocoa. Blend well. Then slowly add oatmeal until it reaches the desired consistency. Add chocolate chips if desired.

Bake for about 10 minutes at 350.

Yield about 24 cookies.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Cookie Dough Ice Cream Cake

I've been slacking, and I apologize. The heat has made me unmotivated to both cook and write about it. But I did have a birthday cake that I made. And none of my friends are huge cake fans, like actually cake. Plus it's hot out. So clearly ice cream cake was the way to go. My mom usually makes the "Peanut Buster Parfait," but I have friends allergic to peanuts, so that was out of the question. Plus my friend Shelley's favorite kind of ice cream is cookie dough... so a cookie dough cake seemed fitting. So it's a pretty basic concept: cookie crust, cookie dough ice cream, covered in hot fudge and cookies on top. And I used the classic (and my favorite) Nestle Tollhouse cookie dough recipe. But it was exactly what she wanted, though maybe a little too sweet... :P

I made two half batches of cookies, one with egg to be the crust and cookies on top, one without egg to go in the ice cream

Cake (divide everything in two, except the egg):
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large eggs
  • 2 cups chocolate chips (I love the ones from Whole Foods, they are cheaper, yes that's right cheaper, and tastier than regular ones)
  • Half gallon vanilla ice cream
  • Hot fudge (recipe below) cooled
Preheat oven to 375
half of each: flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl in two separate bowls. Beat half of the butter butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy in two bowls. Add egg to one and beat well. Gradually beat one flour mixture into each butter mixture (one without egg, one with egg). Stir in morsels.
Pack down the dough with egg to the bottom of a greased 9 1/2 springform pan to make the crust. Drop the remaining dough by rounded teaspoons onto a cookie sheet. Bake the crust for about 20 minutes until golden and the cookies 9-11 minutes. Let both cool completely before proceeding.

Allow the ice cream to soften slightly, then fold in the non-egg dough by small pieces at a time. Alternately, you could use cookie dough ice cream, but where's the fun in that? Allow this to refreeze while the crust cools.

Once the crust is cool, cover it with ice cream so it does not go over the top of the pan. Pour hot fudge over. Freeze overnight

Top with cookies before serving.

Hot fudge:
1 c. white sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/ c. cocoa (Hershey's)
2 tbsp. flour
2 tbsp butter
3/4 c. water
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. vanilla (added later)
In a saucepan - mix dry ingredients. Add butter and water. Bring to a boil, and continue boiling for 10 minutes, or slightly longer. Remove from heat and add vanilla.