Monday, November 3, 2008

Misc Pictures

I'm finally updating my blog with pictures from past meals. Here are some ones my husband dug up on his camera. I don't remember the recipes, but most of these are simple meals that I made. My husband grab the camera, b/c he liked the way they looked.

Roasted Vegetables (red bell peppers, eggplant, asparagus)

This was good. You could try it yourself by cutting up any veges you like and tossing them with olive oil and a bit of salt and pepper. Throw in a hot oven to roast.

Oatmeal Bread

I don't remember where I got this recipe. It was only so so. Definitely edible, but the hunt is still on for a better oatmeal bread.

Steak, Red Potatoes, and Creamed Spinach with Red, Yellow, and Orange Bell Peppers

My favorite part of this meal was definitely the spinach. I was craving creamed spinach one night and put this together. It was also the product of my having red, yellow, and orange bell peppers in my fridge and not knowing what to do with them. I cut up a quarter or each and sauteed them on the stove (butter only please). Then, I threw half a bag of baby spinach in the pan with them. I cooked them down a bit, and then I added a little more butter and some cream. Sprinked with salt and pepper and they were done. Very simple and Very yummy.

I have more pictures floating around. Hope to grab them soon :-)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Tahiti or Bust

One of my favorite sites to visit daily is the kitchn at Apartment Therapy. It's a cooperative blog that has people who posted on living and cooking in small places. My kitchen definitely fits the bill with eight square ft of counterspace!

Last week, I was curious about this post, Buying Food On eBay. I've brought many things on Ebay but never food. I've been reading this blog for many months now, so over time I've grown to trust time. Isn't it crazy that you can develop affinities for people in cyberspace you've never met and will likely never meet. Anyway, I discovered that the company, The Organic Vanilla Bean Company, also has their own website. That's what I used instead of Ebay's site.

I paid 10 dollars for 20 pods. It was an unbelievable deal. They shipped that same day and I got them US Post within another couple of days. Great service, great price, and great beans. Now, I just have to figure out how to properly convert all my recipes that require vanilla extract to use vanilla bean instead. I've got some work cut out for me.

New Blog

Today, I have a brand new blog. I'm an organizing freak and dislike the seemingly random nature of some of my posts. I've decided that I want a blog just devoted to cooking, my favorite hobby. I'm keeping this seperate blog now about my family life. In time, I hope to add blogs on stuff dealing with children and home decorating and crafts.

Yeah, for getting it together!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Beauty in the Pie (Spinach Feta Quiche)

Yesterday, I was in the mood for a quiche. I searched for some good recipes and decided to go the easy route so I tried to find simple recipes that would taste great. I have tons of feta cheese left over from making the stuffed mushrooms for the wedding, so I went with a spinach and feta quiche. In my request to keep it simple, I went with a fuss free oil pastry crust. You mix it together and pat it in the pan. Mistake number one.

Excited that my cursory blog search turned up several recipes using feta, an ingredient I've never used in a quiche before, I picked two to work with. One added a couple more cheeses to the mix, cream cheese and parm. I decided to use that idea, but since we are out of parm I went with mozzarella. One of my recipes caused for 4 ozs of feta, so I broke off half a package of the yummy feta in my fridge and crumbled it over the bottom of my crust. Mistake number two.

The quiche was absolute beautiful. I took it out of the oven and loved it's beautiful colors and textures. For once, I also didn't make more custard than necessary for the filling. I actually had to mix up a bit more, b/c I ran out. The filling had the perfect custard to topping ratio. It would have been wonderful... Except for the gummy, oil crust and overabundance of tart feta cheese. Sighh. Yet, it was edible though. I took it to work the next today, and the cheese had mellowed a bit. It heated up well in the microwave and was fairly passable. I will definitely try it again, with a real crust (butter please!) and about half as much feta crumbled more fine.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Win some lose

This past weekend my sister in law got married. Everyone was really excited for her. She dated her husband for a long time and they were engaged for a year and a half. Tying the knot was extra cause for celebration. The longevity of their courtship definitely put me and James to shame. Still, we wouldn't have done it any other way :-).

James' little sis made our wedding cakes and they were incredibly yummy. I wanted to help her out too, so I volunteered to make her an appetizer and side for her wedding. I catered my sister's entire wedding, so I felt it was the least that I could do. I also agreed to help coordinate food and serving, so I spent most of the afternoon and evening in the kitchen. I made the stuffed mushrooms for my sister's wedding that went over so well. They disappeared and everyone raved about them, so I requested to make those. Everyone seemed to enjoy them and I got a lot of complements. Score one :-).

My sister in law was trying to think of another vege for her menu and I suggested roasted vegetables. Now, normally, I don't eat roasted veges, but they went with her menu theme perfectly. Volunteering to make it, I asked her what kind of veges she wanted. She requested in season veges like squash, etc. I ended up with squash, zucchini, portabella mushrooms, onions, red bell pepper, brussel sprouts, and carrots. I definitely had the rainbow covered, lol.

James laughs at me, because I can get on weird ingredient kicks. Browsing blogs, I came across a few extolling the virtues of duck fat. Yes, I really did say duck fat. Unbelievable, I know, but it was supposed to be the best thing ever. People using had an insatiable appetite for it despite their certainty of its artery clogging potential. To roast my veges, I absolutely had to use duck fat. A fairly rare ingredient, I thankfully had to look no farther than my local Central Market, which stores in frozen in the meat section. They also quite unbelievably sold it rendered. So, for 6.99, I got to try heaven in a tiny, greasy bucket. Did it work? Well, yes. It did an admirable job at browning my veges and oddly enough despite its greasy feel on my fingers didn't taste greasy on the veges at all. However, it was flavorless to me. I couldn't see any real benefit flavor wise over vegetable oil. Olive oil would have probably been better. Will I keep using it? Most definitely. Lol, largely because I still have close to a pound of the stuff.

My recipe was complicated for the veges. It called for separately blanching them and then browning them in oil on the stovetop, then roasting them all together in the oven to finish. A good method that surprisingly didn't overcook them, but way more effort then it was worth, especially considering I had 30 lbs of veges to make my way through. Sadly, while my mushrooms were a big hit, the veges were a flop. No one touched them. Sighh.

One fun thing about the whole experience is the flowers. I have recently discovered I have a small flair for flowers. I love flowers and I love art, so it's fun to combine the two. While I'm neither a florist nor an artist, my sister in law appreciated my talent enough to let me do all the bouquets and table decorations for her wedding. It was great fun and something I would love to do again.

Pictures to come.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Sweet and Sour (Chicken :-)

Last week, my husband had a craving for sweet and sour chicken. Being the wonderful, sweet wife that I am I had asked him what he wanted for dinner. Now normally, I would say, "Sweetie, I'm am making... How does that sound?" Then, my wonderful, sweet husband says, "Honey, that sounds great!" For some reason, however, my brain was functioning on low power and I didn't give him an option to approve as normal. So, out of the blue, James decides that sweet and sour chicken would be nice for dinner. "Sweet and Sour Chicken!", I exclaimed. "Sure," James says, "I have been wanting some good sweet and sour chicken for a while. You know most places around here just don't make it well." Sighing, I could not help, but agree. If you have lived/worked/visited China and had true sweet and sour chicken, anything served here woefully disappoints. Typically, I would be up for the challenge of duplicating a more complex dish (that I have not eaten an authentic version of in almost six years) than hot pot or simple stir frys. That night, though, I was in a lazy mood and complained (sadly I must admit) up until the very end. And then, I took a bit and was transported through time and space as my taste buds luxuriated in the ecstasy of my husband's favorite Chinese dish. Yes, it really was that good, lol.

Sweet and Sour Chicken

5 chicken thighs, skinned and cubed
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup cornstarch
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup chicken stock
3 cups peanut oil or flavorless vegetable oil

Sauce Ingredients:
3/4 cup pineapple juice (reserved juice from canned pineapple)
4 tablespoons white vinegar
4-6 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 3 tablespoons water


Prepare ahead:
1. For the chicken: In a large bowl, mix together the egg, cornstarch, flour, chicken stock and salt. Set aside.
2. For the sauce: Mix pineapple juice, brown sugar, vinegar, soy sauce in sauce pot. Have cornstarch mixture within easy reach.

To fry the chicken:

1. Just before cooking add the chicken cubes to the egg and flour mixture and stir until each piece of meat is well coated.
2. Preheat the oven to 250°F/130°C.
3. Pour the 3 cups of oil into skillet or wok and set it over high heat. When the oil almost begins to smoke or reaches 375°F/190°C on a deep-frying thermometer, drop in half of the coated chicken cubes one by one. Fry for 5-6 minutes, regulating the heat so the chicken turns a crisp, golden brown in that time period without burning.
4. Remove chicken with a strainer or slotted spoon to a small baking dish and keep warm in the oven.
5. Continue the process with the rest of the chicken.

To make the sauce:
1. Bring pineapple juice mixture to a boil. Boil rapidly for a few minutes, stirring constantly. Make cornstarch slurry with 3 tbsp water and add enough cornstarch mixture until sauce thickens to appropriate constancy.
2. When the sauce is thick, pour the entire contents over the fried chicken and serve at once.

Note: this recipe can also be made with pork.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


I've been a bad girl I know. I haven't blogged in a couple of weeks after getting so excited about starting one. I obviously have some catching up to do. I will start with last week's adventures.

We went camping for a few days at Lake Murry in Oklahoma. It as wasn't nice as I had hoped but still quite acceptable. The park was huge and we were camping light, so we had to rent an RV site to get water and electricity. The tent only sites had one or the other but not both. I am completely baffled why. It was fine though. My sister and her two little girls came with us. Our tent is appropriately huge and has two rooms. My husband has been camping lots of times before, but I am still relatively a novice with only one real attempt under my belt. He asked me to prepare a menu for the weekend, so I got online and researched so rather inventive options (aka code for some of them don't work). James was rather skeptical but willing to let me go for it. I found some things that work great and one that wasn't so fantastic. One thing I will be sure to think about next though is when I plan my menu to be sure if adequate fuel sources are available. I had hoped to roast hot dogs over the fire for lunch one day, but we didn't have enough wood (who burns a fire in hot weather anyway). It's still early enough in the Spring though for mornings and evenings to be nice and chilly. Perfect campfire weather. Next time I will adjust accordingly.


Crescent Rolls roasted on a stick

(This may have be sabotaged by the fact that our fire was too hot. We didn't properly let it burn down to coals before tempting it. My husband thinks that it have worked accordingly, especially if we tried biscuits instead. I'm not so sure. We'll probably end up trying it one morning for breakfast eventually [with a cheap can no doubt, lol]. It was a cool idea though.)

Up for debate:

Pan fried frozen Pizza

(It had defrosted and cooked up okay. I think I was turned off by the fact it had gotten cold by the time we were ready to eat it. It was also a bit "crisp" on the bottom. My husband and niece had no problem finishing it off though)


Eggs in a Bag

(Strange I know but it sounds exactly as it is. I should have used freezer bags but I didn't want to waste more expensive bags. Instead I used regular zip lock bags. They were fine, but you have to be careful. Half of mine ended up of the ground. Eggs are quite slippery :-)


(The little one loved making them and they're just as easy as at home. We froze cut up rotisserie chicken, shredded Mexican blend Cheese, Sauteed Mushrooms, and chopped spinach for a filling. By the second day, they had defrosted in the cooler and were ready to use.)

All in all, our meals were not too bad. I'm excited about trying other options next time and I will be sure to plan more thoroughly. My nieces and sister had a great time and that's the most important thing :-).

Friday, March 7, 2008

Making Up (Chicken Marsala and Asparagus Risotto)

This past weekend James and I struggled to find appropriate ways to communicate with each other. By Monday, we were both especially miserable after such a rough weekend. Thankfully, we were able to make up over email during work that day. Expecting a snow storm in DFW (yes I know ???), we made a grocery store run before heading home.

I decided to go all out and make a recipes for Chicken Marsala and Asparagus Risotto I found. Asparagus was on sale for 1.28 a lb. Practically irresistible. You can't say no to that price :-). It caused for white wine though. I am not a wine drinker at all. It just doesn't appeal to me, but I like to cook with it. Once the alcohol flavor evaps off, it can really enhance certain dishes. With only 20 dollars in our pockets to expend on groceries for the week, we opted to buy just one bottle. I figured the chicken would be fine with white wine but red would overwhelm the asparagus, so we splurged on the cheapest (5.98) bottle of Chardonnay they had.

At home, we started cooking our beautiful meal loaded with things I love like aparagus and mushrooms. In the end, we ended up with a delicious meal in just an hour.

A great thing too, b/c when James went to check the car it was covered in snow. A perfect night to snuggle after a very enjoyable meal.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Blend Baby Blend

Yesterday, I had a half hour of time to burn, so I decided to go to one of my favorite stores to buy a few things from our registry. Armed with a gift card, I made a list of what we really needed and set off. Some things alas, this location didn't have, but typical of me I found others that I decided I just couldn't do without. Once such thing was two Quick Blend Shakers. I was unbelievably excited to discover these.

For quite some time, I've been wanting a magic bullet. How wonderful they've seemed. My heart aches a little every time said infomercial comes on. They just call after my heart... Twyla buy me, buy me. don't you want the ability to blend small portion sizes? wouldn't you like to make individual portion size smoothies right in your glass without dirtying a whole blender? wouldn't you like the flexibility of multiple cups to easily switch out and blend different things. "YES!", I say "YES!"

So, when I discovered a cup that you could pop the lid off of and screw onto your blender, I could barely contain my excitement. I'm sure a store employee had to show up after to me to clean up my drool. I picked my husband up from school gushing about my newfound treasured discovery. He laugh and laughed at my delight and said that I just had to blog about this thing.

We arrive home and I got to. I grab my blender and find that I am unable to unscrew its base from the jar. Seeking my husbands help, he manages to get it off. I'm a bit puzzled, b/c my wonderful blender base doesn't look quite like the picture. In fact, it's quite unlike the picture. Unfazed, I take the blade assembly and slip it onto the quick shaker bottle. Sighh... It doesn't work. I have an extra capacity blender with larger than normal blades. My new bottles are now quite an impossibility. How tragic! At least I have a receipt. They're going back this weekend, and maybe just maybe I can find something else to console my broken heart.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Belated Valentine

My wonderful hubby had class on Valentine's Day, so we agreed to postpone our day of love until the day after. We share a car, so I went to the library on the campus where I work until he was able to come pick me up. He showed up shortly after his class with a vase of roses and a box of chocolates. I was sweetly surprised that he was thoughtful to do so despite our agreement.

The next day was my day off. I spend a great deal of it running errands. Since we had already decided upon steak that night, I decided on a simple meal. At the store, I picked up some garlic toasts (James' favorite) and asparagus to cook with the steak and potatoes that evening. It was a very simple meal but yummy meal and only took about 30 minutes to prepare. James kept exclaiming throughout the meal of his surprise at our delicious meal. Being a good wife, lol, I enquired why he thought it might not be so. Diplomatically, he responded that it was not because he had any reason to doubt that I was a good cook, but that it was because he had never had them cooked as I did that evening. What strange and unusual ways did I cook our meal do you ask? After a quick marinade, I pan seared the steaks and threw them in a hot oven to cook to medium rare. The potatoes were scrubbed and cut into one inch pieces, skin intact, to boil in a pot. After a knife easily pierced the flesh, they were drained and put back on the heat to let the remaining water evaporate. Then, I added a couple tablespoons of butter and some garlic pepper seasoning and mixed. Nothing super fancy, but apparently highly unusual. It was all assuredly yummy :-).

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Happy New Year

On Sunday, we invited some friends, Terence and Becky, over our apartment to hang out. My husband wanted to get to know them more and have lots of time to talk. He gave me the challenge of discovering a meal that they could cook with us so we would all have more time together. Stumped for ten minutes or so I decided on hot pot, a traditional Chinese meal similar to a broth-based fondue. Since China just wrung in the New Year, it seemed perfect timing to make my favorite Asian dish. We went out and bought an electric wok and all sorts of yumminess to stick inside. We also invited our guests to bring over anything they wanted to as well. Good thinking b/c they brought stuff we would have never thought to add.

Inspired by a recent trip to Simply Fondue, we also pulled out the stops and made up some Tempura as well. Our good intentions were almost derailed when I discovered I didn't have the egg called for in the batter. I said 'oh,well' and made it without it. To make up for the lack of added moisture, I added a bit more water and some milk. It turned out just fine.

For our main course, we had mostly traditional stuff like rice noodles, sliced beef, carrots, eggplant, greens, and baby bok choy. We also got some non-traditional things to throw in that we thought our friends would like such as snap peas, broccoli, and okra. Our guests were truely inventive though. They brought a couple things that we suggested like chicken breast to slice up and potatoes. However, unencombered by previous expereinces of this traditional fare, they also delighted us with red bell peppers and corn on the cob both of which cook amazingly in the pot. Lesson of the day: Be bold!

For dessert, we enjoyed "Banana Spring Rolls w/ Caramel, Toffee, and Walnuts". YUM! I used plain old Smucker Caramel Topping to make it easy.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Bowled Over (Sopapillas)

Saturday we invited several friends over to watch the Patriots make history. We were so excited to have them over. We prepared for a yummy meal including James' Famous Chicken Quesadillas, Southwestern Salsa with Tomatoes and Guac, Pizza, and Raspberry Lemonade. It was great. John and Laurie even volunteered to bring (the most amazing :-) fried chicken and surprised us with grapefruit soda (w/ extra grapefruit for good measure). We put our beautiful wedding pictures (curtsey of Tricia who watched with us :-) on slideshow so people could glance at them now and then.

I wandered around the first half of the game chatting w/ people and quite annoyed at the Pats for keeping the game at 3:7 forever. For half time we prepared a sopapilla bar (Recipe in Comments section) w/ Cinnamon and Dark Chocolate Gelato from Central Market. The Pats didn't disappoint in the second half. They soon scored but in the final minutes of the game allowed the Giants to score (due to a terrific pass on their part) and lost 14:17. Alas, not all my guest were as broken hearts as I. Well, history was made indeed. The game will go down as the biggest upset ever, and I can tell my children I watched it.