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

Finally!

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
6.
7.

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

Friday, January 13, 2006

Veggie Thursday

Photo Courtesy Everyday Food


At least once a week, I make an effort to eat vegetarian/vegan. I typically choose Thursdays, as R. has gaming and isn't home for dinner. Last night found me home alone for dinner, and lacking inspiration. I remembered coming across this recipe while browsing the Everyday Food website, for Sauteed Sweet Potatoes and Spinach. The recipe was listed as a side dish, but I thought I could make it work easily as a main dish for just me. I halved the recipe and made a few tiny changes - subbing veggie broth for water and using white onions instead of red - and the end result was surprisingly tasty. The tiny bit of balsamic at the end really made it special - adding just a hint of acidity and another layer of incredible flavor. Considering the fact that spinach and sweet potatoes are two of my absolute favorite foods (could eat them every day, and do eat spinach almost every day..), this shouldn't have been a shocker. I just never thought to put the two together. They make just a wonderful veggie combo - I can't believe I was missing out on this! I think the two would also partner up nicely with a silky, spicy coconut curry sauce... Mmm, time to go buy more sweet potatoes...

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Technical Issues

If you're having problems viewing my blog, clicking on links, viewing pictures, or even if you find a spelling error (gasp!), please let me know. I'll do my best to fix it right away. Along those lines, if you have any suggestions or recommendations, forward those along as well. I'd love to have them!

PS - I'd like to add pictures to my sidebar and a recipe index. If anyone has any suggestions or advice, please pass it along. Thanks!

A Night Off

But first, a quick dinner report:
I made Cooking Light's Spaghetti Carbonara. I had high hopes and was left a bit disappointed. The sauce was heavy and greasy-tasting. I should've acted on instinct and added some frozen peas or broccoli to the pasta mixture for some added color and a lighter, fresher flavor. It wasn't terrible, just rather underwhelming. Given the huge stack of recipes in my To-Try pile, this one won't be repeated.
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For R. and I, most of our lives revolve around a computer. He works in IT and does a lot of freelance networking and computer set-up work. I was a student when we met (lots of computer time there), and my jobs since then have all revolved around a computer monitor. I also spend tons of time researching recipes, learning about new cuisines, and working on my own freelance projects (mainly copywriting/editing). Lately though, we've really upped the ante. R. is studying for a new certification program, and I have been studying to take the GRE (yes, I want to be a student again...). It really feels like we've been spendingmore time staring at our computer screens than we do talking to each other. (Granted, we share our office at home, and each have a home pc, but still... listening to each other type and click isn't exactly quality time, y'know?) I always used to think that since we live together and have no kids/pets/etc to distract us, spending time together wouldn't be an issue. Then it occurred to me that being in the same room, on the same floor, or even under the same roof as someone doesn't neccesarily mean spending time together.

So, last night I made an executive decision. No computers for the rest of the night. Instead, we snuggled on the couch, had some wine, caught up on some TiVo, and actually had a conversation. It. Was. Wonderful. And definitely worth missing out on Quantitative Reasoning.

On deck for tonight:
I had a plan for chicken stir fry, but R. went out for Chinese for lunch, so that idea is shelved for now. I just might declare a Fend for Yourself night...

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Comfort Food in a Bowl


With the fridge full of leftovers from last night's tacos, I couldn't resist making a Taco Salad for lunch. Fresh tasting and perfectly spicy, this salad was just what I needed for some midday nourishment.

Once lunch was taken care of, I had to deal with the package of beef stew meat taunting me from the refrigerator. I went to the Cooking Light website for inspiration, but for once I just wasn't inspired. Feeling frustrated (how can CL let me down?!), I printed off a recipe for quantity guidelines and headed for the kitchen. After fumbling around a few minutes, I got into a rhythm (chop, chop, stir, taste, season, chop...), and what appeared on the table 2 hours later was this wonderfully rich, flavorful, hearty stew. R claims it is my best stew ever (and he doesn't even like stew). I served it over CL's Creamy Mashed Potatoes (rich, buttery potatoes with plenty of horseradish stirred in), but I think it would be even better served on it's own, with lots of crusty bread for dipping.

Here's the official lineup for tonight's dinner:

Green salad, topped with dried cranberries, scallions, shredded cheddar and a dijon vinegarette
Christina's Beef Stew
Creamy Mashed Potatoes

R. claims he's having a craving for a vanilla malt, so it looks like we might get to go on a field trip in a little bit... :)

Tune in tomorrow for a recipe and pictures of tonight's dinner. Until then...

Monday, January 09, 2006

One of those days...

You know those days that just start off bad and get worse? This was one of them... It all started when I was making my morning cup of tea. Poured the boiling water into my favorite mug and... crack! That's right, boiling water and shattered glass all over my kitchen and me! Things only went downhill from there...

I had big plans for the stew meat defrosting in my refrigerator, but it just wasn't going to happen. Instead, I thawed some ground turkey, browned it up w/ Penzey's Taco Seasoning (the only taco seasoning R will touch), got out the rest of the fixins, and we had Taco Night. I found a box of Zatarain's Spanish Rice mix in the back of the cupboard, so I made that up, too. Rounded the meal out w/ yummy Manny's chips and salsa (and some of the awesome homemade salsa my sister gave me for Christmas - thanks Am!). A nice, quick, throw together kind of meal.

Off to find a recipe for that stew meat for tomorrow..

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Back in the Kitchen

After the holiday hiatus, I am thrilled to be back in the kitchen! I thought I'd try something a little lighter than all the the heavy fare we've been subjected to for the past two weeks. Tonight on the menu: Chicken-Bacon-Ranch Pizza. I took the pizza dough recipe from the Betty Crocker Cookbook and tweaked it just a little bit. Used garlic salt instead of regular, and added a good shake of Italian seasoning and grated Parmesan cheese. Prebaked for about 12 minutes, then topped with Ranch dressing, minced garlic, onion, cooked and crumbled bacon, cooked shredded chicken and cheese. Verdict: yum-o! I might have prebaked a little too long, but R ate every last morsel from the pizza pan. I think I might try adding diced tomatoes to the topping next time.

That's it for tonight. Tune in tomorrow to see what's up next.