Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Coffee Cake

The squash recipe from earlier did not turn out to be so great, so to make up for it, some kind of dessert had to be produced. We managed to pick out the only recipe that was not Christmas-y from a magazine of Holiday recipes - a recipe for Coffee Cake. Without reading past the ingredients, I ran to the Giant to get sour cream and unsalted butter.

½ cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2” pieces and chilled
½ cup pecans
2 large eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ¾ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
½ cup granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon table salt
5 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks and softened

When I got back, I actually read the recipe and realized what I had gotten myself into. After two hours and a third trip to the grocery store, I finally was able to sit down with a cup of coffee and enjoy my hard labor...

It seems like I never end up doing exactly what they tell me to - you can see that my cupcake has almonds, not pecans - but the actual recipe is below...

1. FOR THE STREUSEL: Pulse 5 Tablespoons granulated sugar, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and butter in food processor until just combined. Reserve ¾ cup sugar mixture for cinnamon filling. Add pecans and remaining granulated sugar to food processor with remaining sugar mixture and pulse until nuts are coarsely ground. Transfer to bowl and set aside for streusel topping. Do not wash food processor.
2. FOR THE MUFFINS: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Grease muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray and line with paper liners. Whisk eggs, sour cream and vanilla in bowl. Pulse flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and butter in food processor until mixture resembles wet sand. Transfer to large bowl. Using rubber spatula, gradually fold in egg mixture until just combined. Place 1 tablespoon batter in each muffin cup and top with 1 tablespoon cinnamon filling lightly into batter.
3. Bake until muffins are light golden brown and toothpick inserted into center comes out with a few dry crumbs attached, 22-28 minutes. Cool muffin tin for 30 minutes, then carefully transfer to rack to cool. Serve. 

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

I was really buying into the Clean Eating Diet - a diet of unprocessed, unhydrogenated, simple foods, full of whole grains and a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. The magazine  called to me, as food magazines do in the grocery store, but it was not until now that I had the opportunity to test any of the recipes out. Maybe I picked a really boring recipe or something - Squash and Chicken Casserole - but it really needed a lot more "Oomph". Of course, I ate it anyways, but I really wish I could find that dish that everyone loves, is healthy,  looks marginally impressive and I can get right every time.

Just compare the recipe from Clean Eating -  a healthy version of a "Georgia Church Picnic" Classic - to a version of the real thing:

Healthy Squash & Chicken Casserole
Chicken Yellow Squash Casserole
10 slices whole wheat bread
Olive oil cooking spray
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
3 medium yellow squash, thinly sliced (about 4 cups)
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
½ lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, pounded to ¼” to ½” thickness and cubed
1 cup pre-shredded low-fat mozzarella cheese
2 tsp Italian seasoning
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
2 ½ - 3 lbs chicken
2 lbs yellow squash, cut into ¼” slices
½ cup broth
2 large carrots, shredded
1 medium onion, chopped
8 oz carton sour cream
10.5 oz can cream of mushroom soup
½ cup chicken flavor stuffing mix
¼ cup butter, melted
Salt and pepper
1. Cut bread into cubes, spread out on a cookie tray and bake at 350° for 10 minutes
2. Sauté onions, add squash and garlic
3. Remove veggies to a bowl and cook chicken until golden brown
4. Mix together bread, vegetables, cheese and chicken and sprinkle on spices
5. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes or until lightly browned
1. Cook chicken, cool and remove from bone
2. Bring squash to boil in broth and cook 8 minutes
3. Drain and combine all vegetables
4. Combine sour cream, soup and salt and pepper
5. Add chicken and veggies
6. Spoon into 9 x 13” baking dish
7. Combine stuffing and butter
8. Sprinkle over casserole
9. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes

**In my opinion they are barely the same meal. Butter, sour cream and cream of mushroom soup would have made this dish totally moist and creamy - although it would probably make me sick. 

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Getting More Crafty

Knitting is something that I always seem to do in spurts. I will do it for a month and then put it down and forget where I was entirely. That is why my next project is one that I could finish before I go back to school at the end of January. I had started knitting a small wristlet from the book Boutique Knits by Laura Irwin using a skein of red yarn I had bought from the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival over the summer, but the skein was not long enough and I had to start over. Luckily, I had bought this Manos del Uruguay yarn to start another project the day before...and started up again right away...   
Manos del Uruguay Kettle-Dyed Pure Wool-Multi Color Stellar (110)
I always feel good about buying Manos Del Uruguay because it is Certified Fair Trade and is handspun by rural women in Uruguay. But it is a little tricky to use because it does not come in dye lots. Because of the artisan-like style that the yarn is dyed, the solid-colored yarns can have a large variation in color. My mom ending up making a striped scarf out of some yarn from them after trying to make a sweater and ending up with a line in the middle where the color had changed suddenly. 

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Merry Christmas

It's been a while since I posted. Two big food holidays have passed and much food has been made.
There were carrot cake cupcakes...

There was a cake for Thanksgiving...

And some mini holiday fruit pies...

As well as a "College" Thanksgiving...

...and two pre-Christmas dinners with friends...

One of my roommates gave me a HUGE Martha Stewart Cookbook for Christmas, and Christmas Eve Dinner consisted of her glazed carrots and striped sea bass...I still have to upload those...
At first I was unsure how much I could really use Martha's book because a lot of recipes seemed unapproachable, but now that I have tried two of them...Glazed Carrots with Whole Spices and Rosemary:

and Roasted Sea Bass:

The carrots are definitely going to be repeated, and the Sea Bass was pretty good too - although the fennel and white wine did little to add to the flavor. I think the cookbook is just right of amount of challenge to help me learn new things.
I have said before how I am a fan of going to company websites to find recipes... well while we were snowed in last weekend we made white chocolate chip macadamia nut cookies with the ghiradelli recipe and they were delicious...

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Apples to Apples: Braeburn

Color(Skin): Streaky/Blotchy Pale Red
Color(Meat): Pale Yellow-Green
Skin: Waxy, Thin
Meat Texture: Dense, not grainy, but almost
Flavor: Sweet with hint of bitter
Sweetness: Medium
Shape: Tall, thicker on top, narrowing to base
Weight: 9 oz
Price: $1.19

Additional Comments
- A little difficult to cut
- Did not stand out as amazing, but was not bad either

College Students are kind of like Pilgrims, right?

One of my good friends is going to Paris over Thanksgiving break, and I promised her I would make her a Thanksgiving dinner to make up for the one she will miss. There definitely has to be turkey, sweet potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce and gravy. Pumpkin pie is also a possibility if there is time. In order to make this dinner without missing class I am breaking the preparation up into phases.
Phase 1: Weekend Before

-Celery and Onion Stuffing: My mom's classic stuffing is just a cup of onion and celery per serving, the instructions are on the bag. If the stuffing has actually been inside the turkey it can last for a few days in the fridge and I think the condensation from the plastic wrap adds moisture, somehow.
-Cranberry Sauce: I have never made this before but Alton Brown always makes recipes in a classic sort of way, and classic seems to be the theme.

Phase 2: Day/Night Before

-Cook Turkey: My turkey is coming from Whole Foods, but I think the most important thing is that it has a plastic popper to tell you when it's done cooking. Even a small turkey takes several hours, so I will put it in the oven as soon as I get back from class the night before and refridgerate it over night.

Phase 3: Day of the Meal
-Bake sweet potatoes: My friend is in charge of sweet potatoes; she covers them in maple syrup, brown sugar and mini marshmellows -delicious!
-Make instant gravy: Because it's necessary, but a pain to make.
-Buy fresh bread: Optional, but I think every good meal could use some good bread.

Dinner is planned for Wednesday night, so I will be recording all my problems and successes for the first thanksgiving dinner in my own apartment.

Comparing Apples to Apples: A Fall Series

With the wide variety of apples available in any and every supermarket, inquiring minds want to know if we should stick by our old standbys or try something new. This series will go through at least 13 varieties of apples and evaluate them according to their texture, color, flavor, shape, cost and any other ridiculous property I can think of. My boyfriend and I bought these yesterday and over the next few days we will be doing taste tests and I will post our findings.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

A Repeat Performance

A few weeks ago, I made up a recipe for squash casserole. Today, I made it again, except this time I used 3/4 of the milk it asks for and I used a much smaller casserole dish. Now that I think I have finalized the recipe I am going to officially post it, and it's nutrition info - of course!

Zucchini Casserole

Serves 2 Hungry people
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes


1 Zucchini, sliced
2 Cremini Mushrooms, sliced
1/2 onion, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
1 can of condensed cream of potato soup
~1 cup 2% milk
2 cups pepperidge farm stuffing
1 cup vegetable broth
1/2 Tbsp butter


1. Saute onions and celery until brown, add zucchini and mushroom

2. Heat up cream of potato soup (in the microwave or on the stove, see the directions on the can), adding only enough milk to fill the can 3/4 of the way

3. Pour veggies into casserole dish, preferably small and deep

4. Pour soup over top of the veggies, and bake at 350 degrees for 5-10 minutes while the stuffing is prepared

5. Make stuffing in a saucepan with the broth, butter and stuffing

6. Take dish out of the oven, pour stuffing over top and bake for another 15 minutes

7. Serve!

Nutrition Info

Compare these values to the recomendations for a woman ages 19-30:

  • Estimated Energy Expenditure: 2403 calories/day

  • Amount from 1 serving: 18.8%

  • Fat (g): 27 g or less

  • Amount from 1 serving: 37%

  • Saturated Fat (g): 9 g or less

  • Amount from 1 serving: 56%

  • Sodium: 1500 mg/day

  • Amount from 1 serving: 143%

  • Fiber: 25 g/day

  • Amount from 1 serving: 32%

Hmmm... Not as healthy as I was hoping. I think the salt content could go waayyyyyy down, and the fat leaves something to be desired. I guess this is not the last word after all....I will be back with some calorie-cutting methods to make one of my favorite new dishes a better frequent flyer :)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Mysterious Case of the Missing Meringue

My first attempt at lemon meringue pie was only passable. But at least I can tell you WHY my meringue was nonexistent!

1. Even the slightest bit of yolk will prevent foam formation - naturally there was the slightest bit in mine I could not fish out

2. Once the foam has started to form peaks (it's ready), it should be poured immediately on top of the filling and thrown in the oven to achieve maximum volume

3. More egg whites would have helped too...apparently two are not enough to significantly cover a 9'' pie

All of which I knew from food science but failed to apply.

Sent on the Sprint® Now Network from my BlackBerry®

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Eat this not That Part II

Another example occurred to me when I got back to my apartment-coffee creamer can be so bad for you but it doesn't have to be! DO use half and half or milk in your coffee, DO NOT use non-dairy creamers, such as Nestle coffeemate. The difference is astonishing. Half and half in a carton:


Land O' Lakes Mini Moo's:




More later...back to studying for my exam tomorrow...

Eat This Not That Part I

I recently saw a copy of the book, Eat This Not That, and I thought it was a cool idea, so I am starting my own version with products I use at home rather than at restaurants. First on my list is Eat ReddiWhip not Cool Whip. Cool whip is delicious, especially when frozen, but it was not until I bought some for myself to go with strawberries that I realized how horribly fake it is. According to, they include:


So, they don't actually have any milk in them, they have less than 2% of one milk derivative and a bunch of additives to maintain freshness and composition. We all know hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup are bad for us, and that is pretty much all this is!

Reddi Whip, on the other hand, is a little more real, and I bet you could do even better if you shopped around.

INGREDIENTS:Cream, nonfat milk, corn syrup, sugar, mono- and diglycerides, natural and artificial flavors, carrageenan, nitrous oxide (propellant).

First of all, the first two ingredients are cream and milk - good sign! Second, there are fewer ingredients overall. Third, there are no hydrogenated oils or high fructose corn syrup.

Also, I came across this article when I was looking for pictures. Interesting.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Pie, pie, pie!

My boyfriend's dad is away on a business, so he and I cooked dinner for his mom. He made asian chicken stir fry and I made pear pie - wow that is actually kind of asian themed without trying but not really hehe...I used a pillsbury crust with layers of apricot preserve, crushed nilla wafers, tons of thinly sliced, peeled pears, and then cinnamon, 1/3 cup brown sugar and raisins. And of course, a lattice top! It got better the second day too because the pear was cold from the fridge and the crust was sugary sweet!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The exam went pretty well and the dinner plan went even better! In anticipation of dinner plans, I had bought cream of potato soup and pepperidge farm stuffing mix, and I sauteed the zucchini, mushrooms, celery and onions before baking it all together.
I put the full cup of milk in the condensed potato soup, but it ended up being a little watery, so I left it in the oven for a little while before putting the stuffing on top. Stuffing is so much better when it is made with broth, and this stuffing was delicious! Definitely going to make it again! My roommate and I gobbled it up in about 20 minutes!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Some how the Easy Chicken Bake on the back of the Stovetop Stuffing box turned into something pretty inspiring. Well, the chicken was not all that amazing, but the recipe made me realize that soup can bring flavor to almost any dish.

Think of green bean casserole, a dish my family makes fun of but at the same time can't resist. I believe that the traditional recipe uses cream of mushroom soup, but my family uses cream of potato instead. I think the starchy creaminess of the potato soup goes better with the french fried onions.

Combine these two ideas together (Chicken Bake and Green Bean casserole) and who knows what might happen? I am imagining green and yellow squash, onions, celery, carrots and mushrooms sizzling underneath a layer of campbell's cream of potato soup...With a thin layer of herb stuffing layered over top (and the rest on the side). Seasonings might include garlic and thyme, and a healthy amount of pepper.

Yep, that is what I am making Tuesday night after my biochemistry exam :)
P.S. In case you are actually curious what my pretty average but inspiring lunch was:
Ingredients: Celery, Onion, Mushrooms, Zucchini, Vegetable broth, Chicken Breast, Herb Stuffing
1. Cook the stuffing, chop the veggies and chicken into small pieces
2. Combine chicken and veggies in the bottom of a casserole dish
3. Pour broth over top of chicken and veggies
4. Layer on the stuffing and pour some broth over that too to keep it moist
5. Bake 30 minutes at 400 degrees

Monday, October 12, 2009

Mission Tomato: Part III

Attempt #2

Recipe: Barefoot Contessa's Roasted Tomato Basil Soup

Servings: 6 to 8

Number of Grilled Cheeses so Far: 4

After trying the Cream of Tomato soup, and not being impressed, I decided that maybe I am not a creamy soup girl after all. The heavy cream pretty much grossed me out. However, my passion for all things tomato has not ceased and thus the Roasted Tomato Basil Soup was attempted. You can be sure it went better the second time around because I am not too ashamed to show you a picture of it. (Or did you not notice that?) It was actually quite pretty and relatively tasty too! I had a food processor at hand, but I realized that I am going to have to invest in a food mill if I really want a soupy consistency. There were definitely chunks of basil and chunks of tomato. But I do like how Ina Garten roasts her plum tomatoes before putting them in the soup. I think that really adds flavor. Now that I have made the
extravagant recipes, and learned the tricks, I want to see how I can apply those tricks to other recipes...tomato soup recipes of course!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Mission Tomato Part II

Attempt #1

Recipe: Barefoot Contessa's Cream of Fresh Tomato Soup

Servings: 5 to 6

Number of Grilled Cheeses so Far: 1

I heard that this recipe was really delicious and amazing, and since one of my main goals is to make a healthier creamy tomato soup, it seemed appropriate. I did not do much modification, I just didn't add any sugar, and used half as much heavy cream. And trust me, half was more than enough, just the 3 fluid ounces I used gave it a creamy appearance (and presentation is half the battle, right?). However, it also did not turn out the best that it could have. I do not own a food mill, the necessary tool to puree such a large amount of soup, and using our tiny food processor seemed quite tedious, so I ended up with a rather chunky cream of tomato soup. Although, the positive side of a chunky tomato soup is that it is great for dunking grilled cheese in. A large portion of the recipe is in my fridge waiting to be leftovers, and I am curious to see how it holds up, because quality of leftovers is an important factor to consider when recipes make 5-6 servings!

Next on the agenda, I will give the Barefoot Contessa one last chance to prove herself by making her Roasted Tomato and Basil Soup, which uses plum tomatoes and has no cream or sugar. (I may even invest in a food mill - it's only $30 from Target)

Mission Tomato Part I

My Favorite Soup by far is Tomato Soup. So naturally, I have to learn how to make it. My first thought is to go to the supermarket and see what is in canned tomato soup. Let's see there is:

"tomato puree (water, tomato paste), water, wheat, flour, high fructose corn syrup, contains less than 2% of the following : salt, ascorbic acid (added to help retain color), flavoring, citric acid"

Not very helpful, Campbell's.
As promised, here is a picture of the squash risotto recipe. I have started to get into uncharted territory with this recipe, but I invited over my good friend who makes butternut squash all the time.
What really threw me off about this recipe was that even though we halved the recipe, we still needed a lot of broth to cook the risotto. We used all 2 cups of the broth plus some cooking wine, and still the risotto was burning and sticking to the bottom of the pan. I think this is one recipe that cannot be cut in half, or else you can't skimp on the broth. Instead of mixing in the parmesan cheese, we sprinkled it on top at the table, and it really had a big impact on the flavor. For dessert, we had more butternut squash with cinnamon, sugar and nutmeg - yum!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Exams begin this week, and I am not going to be able to write as much, but I hope to still post recipes, starting with this squash risotto from Giada. I have been making super large cheese-filled Italian dishes that are not the healthiest, and I need to switch gears and start eating more vegetables and fruits. I have really gotten into making one big dish and having leftovers for the week, even though I was so against leftovers before. So far, both my stuffed shells and baked ziti held up really well, so we will see how the squash risotto holds up.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

It seems as though I am on an Italian streak. I have been making so much pasta lately, and one of my favorites is Baked Ziti. But this time, I am going to make it healthy BEFORE I make it. The recipes is as follows:

1 pound dry ziti pasta
1 onion, chopped
1 pound lean ground beef
2 (26 ounce) jars spaghetti sauce
6 ounces provolone cheese, sliced
1 1/2 cups sour cream
6 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add ziti pasta, and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes; drain.
In a large skillet, brown onion and ground beef over medium heat. Add spaghetti sauce, and simmer 15 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Butter a 9x13 inch baking dish. Layer as follows: 1/2 of the ziti, Provolone cheese, sour cream, 1/2 sauce mixture, remaining ziti, mozzarella cheese and remaining sauce mixture. Top with grated Parmesan cheese.
Bake for 30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until cheeses are melted.

My first issue is the sour cream, I probably would skip that all together. In my experience, oil, butter and sour cream can be cut in half, if not taken out entirely. I am not sure how I feel about the ground beef either, aside from the fact that it is almost impossible to buy on campus. So...this may recipe may have to be on hold till I can find a subsitution for the ground beef...I'll think about it...

Later in the week...

I officially have though about it, and I decided I am going to not use any meat at all. I can always have some on the side, or add it in, but my roommate is vegetarian and I need her to help me with leftovers :) The Food Network suggests putting Crushed Red Peppers, and Fresh Basil and Thyme, so I have to remember to put those in. I am making the Ziti tomorrow, so I will post nutrition for my end product then.

Friday, September 18, 2009

I used the recipe calculator from Spark People and it says that my stuffed shells recipe had roughly 1900 calories and 70 g of fat. Assuming that I eat 1/6 of the whole, that is about 315 calories (which is fine) and 12 grams of fat, 6 of those 12 being saturated fat (which is not so fine!).

This is a cause for concern for me, so I thought I would go through and see what is so bad about this recipe. Well, first of all, the biggest calorie contributor is actually the pasta shells. The 12 oz box of shells had 480 calories, but I know that I had at least 10 shells left over, so let's cut that down to 2/3 of that - 320 calories.

Next in line is the parmesan cheese - 332 calories, but no surprises there. I already cut back by not adding a whole cup of cheese to the top.

The crushed tomatoes weighed in at 256 calories, I guess just from shear volume of tomatoes? Not sure how I can help that.

1 1/2 cups of cottage cheese has 244 calories. I only had a cup of cottage cheese, but then again, I didn't have enough filling to make all the shells, so not sure this is a good way to cut back. Plus, its delicious :)
At 239 calories, the olive oil is the last major contributor to calories. Makes me wonder if I could have just used Pam. If you also are wondering about the healthiness of olive oil - read this.

Let's see our total savings:

Pasta - 160 calories (1/3 not used)

Cottage Cheese - 80 calories (1/2 cup removed)

Olive oil - 230 calories (replaced with pam)

470 calories saved

That brings us down to 1430 calories for the whole dish. It would probably bring down some of the fat too without the olive oil and cottage cheese. But I never know how accurate these recipe calculators are anyways because they ask for some foods in grams and some in ounces and some in cups, and that is not always how I originally measured them.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

While reading the Food Network magazine for October, scavenging for cute halloween ideas for our October 30th party, I stumbled upon this recipe for Cheesy Stuffed Shells. Well, after being sick for so long, I was craving comfort food, and thought of those jumbo shells that my mom used to fill with tomato and ricotta cheese, so I bought some from the grocery store last weekend. I had to get creative with a few ingredients and I left a few out, but it I think it turned out pretty okay.


Active: 40 min Total: 1 hour, 25 min

Serves 4 to 6


Kosher salt
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup grated carrot
1/2 cup grated zucchini (I didn't have any :( so I left it out)
1 small onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup chopped celery
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
Freshly ground pepper


1 12-ounce box jumbo pasta shells
8 ounces silken tofu (skipped the tofu too)
1 10-ounce box frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry (I used fresh)
1 1/2 cups cottage cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 1/2 cups shredded mozarella cheese (Too much in my opinion, I left some out)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 clove garlic, minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Cooking spray

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Make the sauce: heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the carrot, zucchini, onion and celery and saute until soft but not brown, 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the basil, oregano, tomato paste, crushed tomatoes and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

2. Meanwhile, prepare the shells. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook for 8 minutes; drain. Mix the tofu, spinach, cottage cheese, parmesan, 1/2 cup mozarella, the egg and garlic in a medium bowl and season with salt and pepper.

3. Mist a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Spread about 1 cup of the sauce in the dish. Stuff the cheese mixture into the shells and place in the baking dish, open-side up. Pour the remaining sauce over the shells. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle with the remaining 1 cup mozarella and bake for 15 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving.

- First of all, this recipe took a lot longer than an hour and 25 minutes. It took me like two and a half hours to make. Mostly because I have never made anything this complex before.
-The recipe calls for a cup of mozarella cheese to spread on the top, but I think that is an obscene amount of cheese; I just sprinkled some on top
-I didn't have any tofu or zucchini, so those will be absent from the photos. I know the purpose of the recipe is to sneak in protein, but I don't have that problem, so I would probably leave out the tofu in the future.

ALSO, I would like to note, I did have to make a sauce for this recipe and it turned out fine...I think the other recipe (the tuna fish one) didn't use enough liquids.
It seems like I have been sick so long, Halloween is quickly approaching! My roommates and I are planning a "classy" Halloween party to be held on October 30. Something very relaxed, and well-planned with lots of food with which to impress our few select guests. We have to plan out what we need way in advance since it is right around exam time of course. So I thought I would use this space to do some preliminary planning.

1. There must be a punch bowl with jello eyes or a frozen hand (I saw an idea to make and ice cube with a latex glove)

2. There must be some kind of dip - there are so many good ones and we can either make it really healthy with veggies, or go in the opposite direction with chips. (We do have an unhealthy obsession with spinach artichoke dip)
3. Something with pumpkin, be it pumpkin pie, pumpkin soup, or pumpkin cookies

4. Caramel apples are a fall classic - our guests can even help make them and add toppings like nuts or sprinkles (Peanut Butter Crunch Caramel Apples)

5. Little cute hor d'ouevres, like little cucumber sandwiches or crostinis or a cheese plate with little cubes of cheese and gourmet crackers
6. Bowls of Candy - Candy Corn, Marshmellow Pumpkins and lots of chocolate!

Monday, September 7, 2009

I came home for part of the labor day weekend, and I thought I would take advantage of the most convenient proximity of an actual grocery store :) While reading Oprah's magazine last night I found an article about cooking for one. It reaffirmed something I already know but I wasn't sure how widespread this belief is - that you are worth cooking for. Just you, by yourself, deserve a good, healthy, satisfying meal. Well, with that in mind, I tried one of the recipes made for one and now want to share it.

Penne with Tuna, Plum Tomatoes, and Black Olives (Oprah Magazine, October 2009)

- Salt
- 3 ounces penne (or fusilli or shell pasta)
- 1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
- 1 small onion or fat shallot, thinly slices (about 1/4 cup)
- 1 clove garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
- 2 large, ripe plum tomatoes, cut into rough chunks
- 1 Tbsp. white wine
- 2 1/2 to 3 ounces canned tuna in olive oil
- 10 Italian or Greek black olives, pitted and quartered
- 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1. Cook pasta, add a 1/2 Tbsp. of salt to the boiling water
2. Saute onion 3 to 4 minutes, add garlic and tomatoes and saute for another minute
3. Splash in wine and cook down, about 4 minutes
4. Break up tuna and drop chunks into the pan. Stir in olives. Add at least 1/4 cup of pasta water to the sauce.
5. Drain pasta when al dente and combine with tuna mixture in bowl, scatter parsley on top

I thought the end result was quite delicious, but some how I didn't end up with any thing that slightly resembles sauce. This is probably due to the fact that I don't have any kind of wine around, being under 21 and living in a completely dry house. I am sure adding the wine would have helped. And maybe if I used a taller skillet, not the shallow iron caste skillet I use frequently when I'm home. I did try to add pasta water to the skillet, but I just ended up getting burned when the oil attacked me.

This leads to the question - how does one go about making a sauce from cooking wine and pasta water? Well, I am no expert I don't know the answer, but I think this means I have to learn more about thickening sauces and reducing sauces. I'll let you know what I learn...

Thursday, September 3, 2009

I just made pizza, like I said I would. (I don't always follow through on these things, but it helps to already have the ingredients.) On the whole, I learned a lot. Mistake #1 I know that the crust gets less soggy if you cook it a little before, but I left it in for like ten minutes or more, until it was already golden brown. I should have left it in for five minutes and taken it out no matter what my gut told me because the end result was SUPER CRISPY crust. It had a CRUNCH. Mistake #2 The crust is my favorite part, so I didn't cover as much with sauce and ended up with EVEN MORE CRUNCH. Mistake #3 Don't skimp on the cheese. It looked like I ran out of shredded cheese and it barely had that stretchy, gooey-ness I crave from pizza cheese. Mistake #4 I forgot how hot the juices in tomatoes get when you cook them, they definitely need to be thinly sliced if you are going to put some fresh tomatoes with the sauce like I did. Any finally, it's not exactly a mistake, but the more toppings the better. If you are making veggie pizza, the toppings are one of the healthiest parts - load them on!

Don't laugh at my cooking skills - the pizza was more than edible, it was actually pretty tasty. It just doesn't look exactly what a tasty pizza should look like. My roommates are not going to appreciate me skimping on the cheese and thinly spreading the sauce if it means that the pizza looks nothing like what they know and love. Hopefully, I will get a second chance to try again but I definitely learned something!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Classes started yesterday and already I am regressing to a meat and cheese diet! What happened? How did I suddenly forget the wonderfulness of salads and the simplicity of stir-fry? Why does heating a sandwich in the George Foreman make me feel like a chef? Some how I decided our group dinner this week is going to be pizza...PIZZA! And I am so stuck on it too! I am craving it!

There has to be a way to make this college pizza easy and healthy! Maybe use tomatoes instead of sauce?Throw on some mozzarella, sauteed onions, peppers, mushrooms, black can't be too bad, right? Well, it seems like I have been suckered in to the easy, uncreative approach of going to the product website and finding recipes, but I appreciate the fact that the nutrition info is listed, so I am going to have to look through...

The Margherita Pizza looks so gourmet...I even have every ingredient except the all-important basil. They use the pizza dough to make calzones, and they tell you how to make stuffed crust! OOOOoooo...and flatbread! I will have to make my decision and post pictures at the end of this week! I am so glad I decided to be lazy!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

In my search for easy recipes, I ended up on quite a few emailing lists - Better Homes & Gardens, Food Network, Tastebook all have the privilege of spamming me. At work today, I was browsing through recipes for "Crisp Summer Salads" and I was shocked at what passed for a salad. The first "salad" - The Layered Spinach and Pot Sticker Salad - on the list included potstickers, strawberries and strawberry jam as ingredients. Then to add insult to injury, they tell you to whip up a recipe of "Spiced Chips". As is frozen chicken pot stickers weren't unhealthy enough. It isn't a salad just because it has spinach!

Next is the Southern Cobb Salad, and to it's credit, it looks like a salad. However, I don't even want to think about what constitutes the "cheese

I'm terribly confused by the Smoked Salmon and Melon Salad. I guess it counts as fruit salad, but why I would mix salmon with cantaloupe, honeydew and blueberries I don't know.

There is even a Steak and Potato Salad - it consists of steak and potatoes on top of some lettuce. I imagine most guys presented with this dish would consider the lettuce to be a garnish, an afterthought. What is wrong with this picture?

Why does every salad they produce contain blue cheese, bacon bits, croutons, chips, crispy wontons, noodles, rice or some other unnecessary addition? Meanwhile, some of their salads contain only 1 or 2 actual vegetables. I love salads because they are tasty and filling and are low in calories. If you want steak and potatoes, you should just eat steak and potatoes and not pretend that your "salad" is going to make up for a day's worth of poor food choices.

Honestly, I plan on making some of these recipes, but very few of them really deserve the name "salad".

Monday, August 17, 2009

I've been home for the summer for a few weeks now, and my dad being the health freak that he is, confronted me about the high salt content of some of the pre-prepared foods that I eat. One of my favorite is Near East Mediterranean Curry Couscous. It is so delicious and takes five minutes to cook! However, it does have 550 mg of sodium per serving. With three servings per box, that is a lot of salt (69% of your Daily Value).

My dad insisted it would be simple to replicate the combination of spices that I love so much - "Just had some curry and turmeric and it will taste the same!". But I am sure there must be more to it. The ingredients list includes "salt, peas, molasses, spices, carrots, garlic, turmeric spice, natural flavors, parsley, honey and onions."

This is where the research comes in. I have to figure out what those ambiguous "spices" are. Possibilities include:

- Cumin

- Curry powder (Duh, this probably should have been first in the list), which can include coriander, turmeric, cumin, fenugreek, ginger, garlic, fennel seed, cinnamon, clove, mustard seed, cardamom, mace, nutmeg, red pepper, tamarind, or saffron

- Garlic (Yummy!)

- Parsley seems pretty obvious too since it's on the box

- Onions are also on the box, but I would just use fresh onions, rather than the sketchy dried onions in the "Spice Sack"

It seems like the "spices" may just be curry powder. How dull. Most every recipe I have looked at just adds curry powder. And none of them add molasses or honey - it must be one of those sneaky things they add to make stuff taste better that is totally unecessary, just like adding more than a gram of salt.

Next time I make couscous, I will have to make my own "Spice Sack" filled with curry powder, turmeric, garlic and parsley.

Also check out this article from the Seattle Times about curry :)

Friday, August 14, 2009

One of my goals for the summer was to build shelves - shelves in the kitchen, shelves over my desk and book shelves for my bedroom....well, none of them were actually built. With just 8 days before I move in to my new apartment, and one roommate already moved in, I decided to just bite the bullet and buy a shelf for the kitchen. Without some kind of shelf, we would have small kitchen appliances all over the counter tops and pots and pans overflowing from their respective cabinet.

I guess I really just wasn't meant to have this shelf because before I could even get it out of the store, I had already forgotten to use my 20% off coupon. I could barely lift the box into my cart - a man who worked at bed, bath and beyond had to help me. At my apartment, my roommate and I spread out the pieces all over the floor.

Adjustable shelves are supposed to be a good thing, but the way they made these shelves adjustable made it painful to put them together. We attached the plastic clips where we wanted the shelves to rest, but they kept falling off. Of the few clips that would stay on, only one side of one of the shelves was able to slide on top of it and lock into place. After two hours of struggling with it, we moved on to other projects, and when I came over a week later, I returned it to the store in pieces. It may be a bad product, but at least customer service took it back with no complaints!

Now playing: Incubus - Love Hurts
via FoxyTunes

Friday, August 7, 2009

I was making macaroni and cheese for lunch today, and I thought maybe I could make up for the unhealthiness of it if I added some vegetables to it. When I looked online for recipes that other people had made, I found so many with broccoli, carrots, cauliflower and peas - some of my least favorite vegetables. They brag that you can barely taste them! They tell you to chop up the broccoli nice and small so you can't hardly taste it. But I like vegetables, I don't want to hide the taste.

I did find one recipe from fitness magazine that was to my liking. It had zucchini, peppers and sweet onions, with a Parmesan and ricotta cheese sauce I believe. I wonder how it would go with my boxed white cheddar spirals...

Monday, July 27, 2009

13. Try some new kind of food - Vietnamese? Middle Eastern? CRAZY Sushi?

Well, I definitely have eaten vegetable dumplings before, but I feel like making dumplings merits crossing #13 off my list. When I found dumpling wrappers in the Asian market near my house, I knew that I had to try and make them! But when I thought about it, I didn't really know what vegetables you wrap inside. Upon investigation, I found pre-made dumplings in the freezer aisle made with carrots, celery, mushrooms, sesame oil and taro powder.

I bought celery, carrots, scallions and and a mixture of maitake, cremini and portabello mushrooms to stuff the dumplings. Not sure how to combine the ingredients, I tried chopping the carrots and celery in a food processor. Before I knew it, the entire package of dumpling wrappers had disappeared into the steamer basket - probably 50 dumplings!

I was trying to think what the insides of vegetable dumplings look like when you go to a restaurant, and really all that comes to mind is a dark mass of unknown ingredients. I want to learn more about what goes on when a person makes dumplings who knows what he/she is doing....looks like I wasn't totally off.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

My new favorite organizational tool is definitely the itso storage system from Target. (That's pronounced tar-jay :P) I had this grandiose idea of building shelves that could hold books or have foldable fabric shelves to tuck away clutter, but it turns out Target read my mind and made itso! I already bought two of the white plastic ones, and they got filled up almost inmediately. And for $13/box - I find it hard to believe I could make my own much cheaper. Especially considering how prone I am to making large mistakes...Unfortunately, the plastic version has a lot fewer options, but I don't think a college apartment merits anything sophisticated.

There is something so exciting about re-organizing! I love knowing where everything is and spending the time to explore under the bed and beneath piles of old magazines and school binders to find that long-forgotten necklace or an old pair of knitting needles that are still perfectly good. I have been searching everywhere for this skein of deep red yarn that I want to make a wristlet out of, and I could not find it until I braved the tower of cardboard boxes in my room. The ones that were packed at the last minute, the ones that do not have a list of contents on the outside. They are a total mystery until you open them up again, only to find a six-pack of toilet paper and the charger to your vacuum cleaner. Woohoo!

I have not done nearly enough cooking since I have been home. Aside from making stir-fry and cutting up a massive amount of fruit salad for a barbecue, I have neglected my cooking aspirations. Good thing one of my summer to-do's is to cook a fancy dinner. I was thinking of something exotic like coconut rice....except I got the idea from one of those pre-prepared rice packages at the grocery store, so I don't know if I can truly call it exotic. I'll let you know how it goes...going to go explore TasteBook :)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

2. Pick fruit at homestead farm or butler's orchard

Wow, I have been going through my list faster than I thought! Last weekend I went blueberry picking at Butler's Orchard with my friend and her family. Normally, the season is halfway over about now, but there were barely any left! We had to comb over a lot of bushes to get the amount that we did. It seemed like an obvious choice to make blueberry pie since that is #23 on my list, but this recipe for blueberry crumble seemed so delicious. I will try and post the recipe; it was cut out from an old Washington Post article about blueberry recipes.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

1. Go on a day trip to the beach

With #1 on my to-do list under my belt, and summer classes behind me, I am feeling rather ambitious. I am due to do something crafty. After all, that is the point of this blog. Hopefully, I will be going berry picking on Saturday - #2 on my list - so maybe I will make a pie - #23 on my list :)

I think the most ambitious project I am going to be able to start is hemming my new pants. I have yet to find the perfect school bag pattern and I need the dimensions of the window before I can make curtains. It's a tough life keeping yourself busy!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Okay, I know it's finals time, but I made this wonderful list and I had to share. I am going to see how many of these I can cross of the list by the end of the summer.

1. Go on a day trip to the beach
2. Pick fruit at homestead farm or butler's orchard
3. Visit Boston
4. Go to the pool
5. Visit Eastern Market
6. Take a day trip to a pretty nature place (PA, WV)
7. Make sweet plantains
8. Go to a water park - Hershey/SixFlags/Bush Gardens
9. Go running
10. Catch a free concert in Bethesda/ Rockville
11. Get crabcakes from the crabcake place
12. Watch free movies at Strathmore
13. Try some new kind of food - Vietnamese? Middle Eastern? Belly dancing place? CRAZY Sushi?
14. Couples massage
15. Go clubbing?
16. Sell stuff on ebay
17. Look at Carnival Cruises
18. Picnic in the Park
19. Dance in the Rain
20. Catch a great sunset
21. Go paddle-boating at Rio in Gaithersburg
22. Go antiquing in Leesburg, VA
22b. Go outlet-shopping in Leesburg VA
23. Make pie
24. Test drive fancy cars
25. Dress up, go to dinner, see a play like a fancy pants
25b. Kennedy Center concert

P.S. The picnic basket is so cute, but it's £ 68.95 so I guess I will have to go without :(

Monday, June 29, 2009

Just 10 days until summer session is over and my projects go into full swing...well after I go to Ocean City...see you in two weeks y'all!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

I have had the same school bag for about two years now and it is showing its age. I think Vera Bradley bags are so cute and fun, but the problem is that I keep wearing them out. The foam is popping out of the shoulder straps where they rub against my shoulder and the outside pocket is falling apart from my butt rubbing against my iPod inside. Well, I just so happened to be at the Maryland Sheep and Wool festival with my cousin and she said I should knit my own bag. I found this amazing brilliant turquoise wool that I want to use; I just need a pattern. My cousin even offered to show me how to felt it so it would hold up better to my heavy abuse. The only problem is that I need a pattern. So many patterns are for purses or do not have enough space for all my books. If I am going to knit a bag, it better be practically perfect in every way. Whatever pattern I choose to follow, I will most certainly have to add pockets all around the inside of the bag because that is what I love about Vera Bradley's bags.

Pignoli Bag
Pros: It is big and easy
Cons: No flat bottom, possibly awkward to wear

Toshiko Tote
Pros: It is big and very easy. Knit in the round, which I like :)
Cons: I doubt the handles on this bag will hold up to my abuse

BYOB Mesh Bag
Pros: Big enough for groceries should be big enough for me, pretty
Cons: The handle looks nonexistent

I also really like some of the patterns from Black Sheep Bags, but I would have to track down a store that sells them. The Sophie Bag looks so simple and sophisticated, and only uses one 1 skein. They advertise the Elizabeth Bag as larger and more sophisticated than the Sophie, so how can I go wrong?

I hate how so many pattern samples are in colors like neon yellow and hot pink, or even worse a multicolored yarn with several colors that make me want to scream. It is okay to have a matching hat and scarf in one of those colors, but does anyone really want this bright blue and green pillow in their grown-up living room with matching poofs? I thought this pillow was only lewd by accident, but it was totally on purpose. (See Blog Post) .

As soon as school ends in three weeks, I am going to have to dig up all my knitting needles because I can't wait to try out so many patterns! I can't wait to try my hand at pillows, hats, evening clutches and finally a durable school bag!