Wednesday, February 22, 2006

I'm still here...

...just very distracted by life. As previously mentioned, I've been out of work for the past few months. Well, the budget was getting a lot tighter than we'd like, and we decided I couldn't hold out for the "dream job" and really needed to start making some money. Thankfully, I was just offered a position yesterday and start next Monday! I'm so excited :) I can't wait to have an income again!!
Because money has been a little tight, my cooking has been pretty uninspired as of late. Last night I made a huge dish of Easy Layered Beans and Rice, a great recipe I got from the CLBB. The recipe is *very* forgiving, and I change it around every time I make it. This time, instead of using a jar of spaghetti sauce, I made my own "Mexican" concoction using a small can of tomato sauce, a drained can of diced tomatoes, a couple chopped chipotles in adobo, and about 2 teaspoons of the adobo sauce. I added some of Penzey's Adobo seasoning and a couple pinches of ground coriander. It turned out wonderfully, as usual! I just love this dish :) I'll try to get the recipe up later today.

Well, I'm off to clean the house. I'm trying to get as much done as I can before I go back to work, as I know I'm going to be too overwhelmed/tired to deal with it next week. Have a happy Wednesday!

Friday, February 10, 2006

Hamburger What?!?

I wasn't expecting R. to be home for dinner last night, so I just planned on eating some of the leftovers that have been accumulating in the fridge. So imagine my surprise when R. walks through the door at 4:30 with a grocery bag!!
Hi honey!, he says. Guess what? I'm making dinner tonight! Aren't you excited?

Um, sure. Let me preface this by saying that R. never cooks. Never. In fact, I don't think he's cooked more than five meals for himself since we moved in together a year and a half ago. Seriously. When I'm out of town, he excitedly goes through all the take-out menus and plans where he's going to order food from while I'm away. There will inevitably be a stop to KFC somewhere in there, you can be sure of it.

However, wanting to encourage him, I responded with enthusiasm, hugs, and lots of "I really appreciate that." He quickly shuffled me out of the kitchen because he was "making a surprise." At this point, I'm afraid. I go in the other room and secretly call my sister.

Me (whispering): Hey sis, R's making dinner for us tonight.
Amber: Oh my God, he is? Are you in a fight? Did he do something wrong? Wait! What's he making??
Me (still whispering): I don't know... He said it was a surprise...
Amber (groaning): Ooooh no! Good luck...
So, what graced the table a la Chef R.? Hamburger Helper. Yes, that's right. Hamburger Helper's Cheeseburger Macaroni something or other. No salad, no veg. Just a heaping plate of HH. It was pretty awful - overly salty with mushy noodles and not a lot of flavor. Still, I put on my brave girl face and dug in. I didn't want R. to think I didn't like/appreciate what he had done. But then I notice that R. stopped eating. When I asked him what was wrong, he made kind of a grimace and said, "It's not as good as I remember it... I think I like your cooking better." Poor guy! He tried so hard! I told him that we could probably find a really easy recipe that would be similar to this kind of food but would have more flavor, etc. And it would be un-complicated enough for him to try, if he wanted. He seemed to agree to that. We tossed the rest of dinner and he took me to Qdoba for chicken quesadillas instead. Yum!

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Life, a wedding, and other distractions

So, obviously I've been gone for awhile. I've been trying to get back here and catch up on some blogging, but life has just been getting in the way. First off, my little sisterAmber got married last weekend. As I've mentioned before, my sweet sister is a bit lacking in the organization department, so much of the past few weeks has involved me trying to think of everything she could possibly need to have planned/decided, finding out she hadn't done it yet, then doing it myself (with her dragging her feet the whole way... "I'm not worried about the ceremony music, we'll just play something nice..."). Yeah, it was stressful, to say the least. On top of all that, I had 200 wedding favors to make (involving assembling 200 tiny boxes, filling each with tissue paper and candy, and topping each box with a tiny bow I made from teeny tiny ribbon) and writing two speeches. The first speech was for her during her wedding ceremony. See, we had a little sister that passed away when we were kids (Amber and I were 9 and 10, my sister that passed away was 7). Amber wanted to make my sister an honorary bridesmaid, so we had a bridesmaid's bouquet, candles, and a picture of our sister on the mantle near where I was standing. I gave a speech about how we wished she could be there and how happy she would be for Amber and Bryan. It was, I think, the most difficult thing I have *ever* done. I was bawling, the other bridesmaids were all sobbing, and my poor dad just broke down. It was really beautiful, though, and it meant a lot to everyone that mattered. Second speech wasn't so bad - just the Maid of Honor speech for the wedding reception. That one went really well - a little humor, a few anecdotes about Amber when we were growing up - and she really liked it. So all in all, the wedding really came together. My sister looked like a princess and everyone had a fantastic time - what more could you ask for?

So while all of that was going on, I've been also trying to find a job. Three months ago, I left a job that was treating me really badly and I was really unhappy at. I really thought I'd find something else right away, but I'm still looking... I've been mooching off of R. since my savings had pretty much dwindled, and it's starting to really wear on both of us. I'm hoping something comes up soon...

So, enough with this boring life stuff. My next post will be totally food-focused (I promise!)

Thanks for sticking around... Tune in tomorrow for a recap of what's been going on in my kitchen :)

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Stupid ISP...

Due to an unfortunate internet outage last night (I'm still grumbling about it...), I was unable to post about my ARF/5-a-day dinner last night. Ah well. Too late for Missindi's lineup, but I'll tell you all about it anyway.

Chickpea and Sweet Potato Stew graced the table last night, served over couscous. This was a real first for me, as I don't ever cook with "sweet" spices or dried fruits. I was a bit skeptical, but am really trying to challenge myself and try things I would normally pass on. So, when flipping through A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen by Jack Bishop for the ninetieth time since I received the book for Christmas, I paused on this recipe yet again. I felt drawn to it. Challenged by it. I had to try it. And last night, I did. The flavor was really interesting: warm, smoky, and not-quite-sweet from the cinnamon-cumin spice mixture; a great variety of textures: toothsome chickpeas, tender sweet potatoes, and prunes that practically melted into the sauce. It was quite good!

I had a craving for something sweet after dinner last night, and pulled out another cookbook I recently received that's been getting rave review over on the CLBB: One Smart Cookie. There are quite a few recipes I have earmarked to try, but I settled on Chewy Chocolate Chip Bars. They came together very quickly, and after a quick 25 minutes in the oven, I was wishing for a cold glass of milk to enjoy with my treat. Yum! They taste just like the ones my friend Laura's mom used to make when we were in elementary school. Nice and chewy, full of chocolate chips. These bars were a welcomed blast from the past. I stuck a few in the freezer for later and am really trying not to sneak down to the kitchen for another one to nibble on right now!

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


I made the pasta w/ garbanzo beans!!

After my failed attempt to get this on the stove Friday, I tried again Saturday. R. just wasn't having it, claiming that he doesn't like chickpeas. (Since when?!) Saturday's dinner ended up being Dijon Baked Chicken Breasts from a cookbook I've had for awhile but rarely used, The Big Book of Easy Suppers. I served the chicken w/ pan roasted potatoes, spinach sauted w/ garlic, olive oil, and red pepper flakes, and green beans. It was sooo good! The chicken was moist and flavorful, and super quick to put together. I'll keep it in rotation for those nights when my chicken needs a little oomph.

Sunday, I find out R. has plans w/ some buddies for dinner. Hooray! I get to make my pasta w/ garbanzo beans! Was it worth the wait? Absolutely!! This dish was so quick to put together, so warm and comforting, so filling. At first I was hesitant, because I was afraid it would be too soupy. I soldiered on, though, and by the end of the 15 minute simmer, I had perfectly cooked pasta with soft, tender, creamy garbanzos and a rich, flavorful, not overpowreing sauce. And the bonus? It reheated perfectly for lunch on Monday. I can't wait to make this dish again!

Last night for dinner, I tried another chicken recipe out of The Big Book of Easy Suppers - Chicken Florentine. This is a rice-based casserole filled with chicken and spinach and topped with a dusting of parmesan cheese. Halving the chicken and doubling the spinach were the only changes I made. After a 45 minute bake in the oven, it was time for dinner. The casserole was studded with beautiful emerald green spinach and chunks of white chicken breast. It smelled fantastic. The taste, though, didn't meet my expectations. It was pretty bland. We tried adding salt, red pepper flakes, more cheese. It just wasn't working for us. R. did finish his plate without complaining, though. (I think he feels bad about giving me a hard time w/ dinner Friday night...) With my to-try pile growing more every day, I can safely say we won't be repeating this one. There are just too many other wonderful combinations to try!

Tune in later tonight to find out what I'm making in honor of Sweetnick's ARF/5-a-Day Tuesday...

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Change of Plans...

What's that saying? The roads of life are paved with the best of intentions? Yeah, something like that... As you all know, last night I had plans to make Pasta with Garbanzo Beans (and what quite excited about it, I might add). Well, R. came home last night and was in *terrible* spirits. A real Crabby van Crabstein, if you ask me. Apparantly the universe fell apart while he was at work yesterday, everyone in the world is against him, and servers go down just to piss him off. Seriously, it was bad. Well, R. took one look at the recipe I had planned to cook and, um, not-so-sweetly "requested" that I make something else. Something with meat.

Sure. No problem. I can easily adapt. Besides, I have a half-package of orzo that's been floating around for awhile. I'll make Cooking Light's Orzo with Chicken and Asiago (or in my case, parmesan).

The Plus: It was really a quick and easy meal to put together.

The Minus: Kind of bland. Actually, more than kind of. I think R. emptied our salt shaker trying to give this one some more flavor. I think I could doctor it up, maybe toss in some fresh basil to give it more oomph. Or maybe some sun-dried tomatoes.

I'm not sure if I'll make this one again, but if I do, it will be with some major revisions.

Not sure what our plans for the rest of the weekend are. It's been kind of a long week (for R. especially), so we'll probably just take it easy and hang out. I need to finalize menu plans for next week, and I'm hoping to try some new spinach and sweet potato combinations - yummy! Stay tuned :)

Friday, January 20, 2006

I've been MIA!

I can't believe it's been a whole week since I've checked in with you all. First, let me apologize. My little sister is getting married in 2 1/2 weeks, and she is unable to plan a single thing to save her life. Needless to say, I've been doing a great deal of the detail-sorting-out and crisis-intervention these past few weeks. It's been one crisis after another for the poor thing (wedding officiant cancelled, our bridesmaids' dresses weren't in, etc etc..) so I had to rush to her side for some much needed hand-holding, back-rubbing and words of assurance (and terse phone conversations w/ those causing my dear baby sister such stress and agony). It was exhausting, and I'm so glad I'm back!

I received a nice little note from a fellow CLBBer wondering what my Thursday Night-Veggie Night dish would be this week (hi Mari!). I decided on a yummy veggie-laden pizza: pesto, roasted red peppers, red onions, garlic, and a barely-there sprinkling of mozzarella. It was soooo yummy, albeit a bit odd-shaped (still can't figure out how to make a round crust..) I wish I had a picture to show you, but our digital camera seems to have run out of batteries :(

I posted a plea for bean recipes on the Cooking Light BB the other day, in an attempt to put a dent in the plethora of dried beans in my pantry (we're talking black, pinto, white, garbanzo, and split peas - lots of beans). I received some great suggestions, including a recipe from the epicurious website: Pasta with Garbanzo Beans. It sounded so hearty and yummy, I just have to try it. So that's what I have planned for tonight. Tune in tomorrow to see how it turned out!

And finally, I've been tagged by kayaksoup for my first MEME. How exciting! Without further ado, here are my responses:

Seven Culinary Things to do Before I Die:
1. Go on a Napa Valley wine tour
2. Eat in Italy
3. Travel to Germany and eat the food of my heritage
4. Grow my own herbs and vegetables
5. Cater a large event
6. Go to Culinary School
7. Write a cookbook

Seven Things I Can't do in the Kitchen:
1. Open jars
2. Cook a pork chop that isn't dry and tough
3. Chop onions without crying
4. Walk by my KA stand mixer (Betty) without smiling
5. Cook and not have leftovers
6. Clean as I go (not possible, especially when we have guests)
7. Cook without listening to music

Seven Things that Attract me to Food Blogging:
1. It legitimizes my obsession
2. Food porn
3. New recipes
4. Inspiration
5. It challenges me
6. Community feel
7. Food porn :)

Seven Things I Say Most Often While Cooking:
1. Can you open this?
2. You've had ___ before. You like it!
3. Ouch!
4. Don't touch that!
5. Dinner's going to be a little later than I said...
6. Do do dooo (apparantly I say this without knowing it..)
7. I think we should have wine with dinner.

Seven Cookbooks I Love:
1. A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen
2. Everyday Italian
3. Small-Batch Baking
4. The Weekend Baker
5. Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook
6. From Asparagus to Zucchini
7. Cooking Light mags/CLBB

Seven Cooking Shows I can Watch Over & Over Again:
1. Everyday Italian
2. 30-Minute Meals
3. Good Deal with Dave Lieberman
4. Barefoot Contessa
5. Two Fat Ladies

Seven Food Bloggers I Want to Join In:
1. Busy Nights Real Food
2. Chef Michele
3. Sweetnicks
4. Lick the Spoon
5. Savory Notebook
6. Sarah Discovers How to Eat
7. Gluten-Free Girl