Category Archives: Food

Saturday Cooking #2

I like to try new things.  Just ask my poor husband.  Lately, I’ve been on a quest to prove that there is delicious vegan food out there.  I know, crazy thing for a non-vegan to do but bear with me here.  For awhile, I was a vegetarian.  I just wanted to try it.  Now, I’m not anymore.  I generally stay away from red meat (occasionally we’ll have a steak or burgers, but I just don’t crave it too much. Give me a chicken breast any day!) and I, on the whole, just don’t eat a lot of meat.  I’ve found a lot of ways to eat delicious other things instead.

Anyway, what I’m trying to get to, really, is the delicious pasta dish that I made tonight–that happens to be vegan. And *gasp* the hubby liked it. He even said he’d eat it again!

Creamy Avocado Pasta
Adapted from Oh She Glows

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. brown rice vermicelli
  • 2 TBSP lemon juice
  • 4 tsp minced garlic
  • 3 TBSP olive oil
  • 1 TBSP dried basil
  • 2 “dashes” of salt
  • 2 ripe avocados
  1. Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, combine in the EVOO, garlic, and lemon juice in a food processor. (Or, if you’re me, the 3 cup food chopper that you own) Blend until well-mixed
  3. Add the avocado and basil.  Blend again until creamy.  Add a few dashes of salt and blend some more.  Use a spatula to get some of the stuff from the bottom up and blend some more!
  4. Drain your pasta, add the sauce, and enjoy!

This was a DELICIOUS pasta dish! I doubled the recipe as provided by OSG, because the pasta was difficult to divide into servings.  Consequently, we ate a tad more than we really should have.  Nevertheless, it was quite good.  The avocado flavor was there, but not too strong, and melded well with the garlic and lemon juice.  I actually think that I’ll use less olive oil next time.  OSG also called for fresh basil leaves, which I hope to try next time I make this.  The basil flavor didn’t come through really at all, but I didn’t have access to fresh basil this time of year.  Definitely a delightful, refreshing dish that we’ll make again.

Happy weekend!


Dan Cooks Too

Dan made this delicious gyros a week or so ago, but has been too busy to blog about it.  So, I’ve given up on him “getting around to it” and decided to go ahead and post the pictures and the link myself.  All credit goes to my hubby for this delicious meal!

Homemade Gyros

Dan made the gyro meat, tzatziki sauce, and hummus all from scratch.  The picture doesn’t do the food justice.  It looks a tad bland because we didn’t have any color for the gyro (you know, lettuce or tomatoes…).  But believe me….it was delicious.  The gyro meat and tzatziki recipes were from Alton Brown.


Pumpkin Pie Cinnamon Rolls

At my new job, we have a breakfast tradition that I have swiftly been incorporated into.  We rotate through the admin staff (alphabetically) and each person brings in a Monday morning breakfast.  Well, it’s my turn!  Not one to ever take the easy route (apparently) I decided weeks ago that I was going to make cinnamon rolls…from scratch.  My original plan was to make some from my Betty Crocker cookbook using the sweet roll dough that I made rolls from not too long ago for Christmas. However, in my endless blog surfing, I came across a recipe that I simply couldn’t resist trying. So, without further ado, here it is!

Pumpkin Pie Cinnamon Rolls

I got this recipe from OnSheGlows, a food website that has mostly vegan recipes.  I adapted it to use non-vegan ingredients (e.g. regular skim milk and butter), but other than that, I pretty much followed the recipe exactly.  It’s pretty complicated, so I’m not going to reproduce it all here.  Definitely check out the link! She has a ton of good looking stuff that I’m planning on trying in the (near) future!

I made her sweet dough to a “T” with three minor exceptions. I substituted skim milk for the almond milk, regular unsalted butter for the Earth Balance, and instead of using Egg Replacer, I used 1 TBSP cornstarch and 2 TBSP water.  Well, actually, those were the only things I really changed basically throughout the recipe.  Whenever she used almond milk, I used skim milk and vegan butter was always just regular butter (with the exception of the frosting….because I was out of butter!)

Also, I totally cheated with the cream cheese icing.  She has you mixing it by hand.  I gave it a go…and gave up.  I got it to the right consistency, but I couldn’t get all the butter lumps out….so I busted out my hand mixer.  Whatever. I’m lazy, so sue me! 🙂 This cream cheese frosting is DELICIOUS.  I’m totally going to use it again to frost cupcakes or something because YUM.  (Oh, and I suppose I should mention that I didn’t use the vegan cream cheese…just the regular stuff from a tub…light).


Lasagna without Pasta?

Yep, that’s right: lasagna WITHOUT pasta. No pasta of any kind.  I made it with this:

Yep, this officially marks my first (and more than likely not last) time I have ever used spaghetti squash. I’ve seen it a lot on food blogs that I read and on SparkPeople, so I finally decided to try it out with this recipe:

Zucchini and Spaghetti Squash “Lasagna”

(adapted from GreenLiteBites)

Ingredients:

  • 1 spaghetti squash (about 2 pounds)
  • 1 medium zucchini
  • 1/2 cup reduced fat shredded mozzarella
  • 1/2 cup fat free ricotta
  • 14 oz can crushed Italian style tomatoes
  • Italian seasoning
  • Parsley
  • Black pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. Poke holes in the rind of the squash and microwave for about 10 minutes (4-5 minutes for every pound).  Allow the squash to cool for a few minutes and then cut it in half (long ways) and scoop out the seeds/pulp.  Be careful not to scoop out the squash flesh!
  3. Using a fork, remove the squash flesh.  It really does look a lot like spaghetti noodles! (see above picture)
  4. Slice the zucchini as thin as you can.
  5. Using an 8 1/2″ x 11″ pan, put a little bit of the crushed tomato sauce on the bottom (to keep the zucchini from sticking)
  6. Layer the zucchini, squash, sauce, and cheese until you run out.  Sprinkle a little Italian seasoning on top of each layer of sauce (optional). Top with crushed black pepper and parsley.
  7. Bake in the 350F oven uncovered for 45 minutes.  Because there is no pasta to soak up the water, you will want to use a turkey baster to remove the water every 10 minutes or so.

First layer:

Completed, before baking:

Done!:

This was DELICIOUS! I will totally make it again.  Hubby thinks maybe a little more sauce next time, but it might be okay as is.  We may use actually sauce instead of crushed tomatoes next time; we just used what was on had this time! I’m actually really excited to try more recipes with spaghetti squash! It was SO much easier to work with than I expected!


Saturday Night Cookin’!

It was my week to cook, again, and this time I remembered to take pictures! Woohoo! (Also, the last thing I made was NOT very…photogenic, to say the least.) Anyways, without further ado…DINNER!

Butternut Squash & Blue Cheese Casserole

Ingerdients:

  • 3 cups butternut squash, peeled and cubed
  • 1 medium onion, cut into strips
  • 1 TBSP olive oil
  • 1 TBSP sugar
  • 1 pkg Buddig Honey Roasted Turkey (could totally be left out to make vegetarian)
  • 1/4 cup + 2 TBSP crumbled blue cheese (Maytag or Gorgonzola…or whatever floats your boat)
  • 2 TBSP dry white wine
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  1. Preheat the oven to 400F.
  2. Put the squash in a single layer on a baking sheet and mist with olive oil (or brush each piece). Put in the oven to roast for about 30 minutes, until the squash is tender
  3. While the squash is cooking, caramelize the onions.  Saute them in a saucepan/skillet with the 1 TBSP olive oil and 1 TBSP sugar. Cook them until they are brown and sticky. Set aside.
  4. Cut up the turkey into small pieces.
  5. Prepare a small baking dish (loaf pan size works well) by spraying with nonstick spray.
  6. When the squash is done roasting, remove from the oven and turn the temperature down to 350F.
  7. Put the squash in the prepared baking dish. Add the turkey, 1/4 cup blue cheese, onions, and wine . Mix well. Top with the extra blue cheese and put back in the oven. Bake for about 20 minutes. Then, turn on the broiler and bake another 5 minutes to brown the cheese on top.
  8. Serve warm!

And, we definitely suggest serving it with this:

Walnut-Cranberry Couscous

Ingerdients:

  • 2/3 cup couscous
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 4 TBSP walnuts, chopped
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • Cinnamon
  1. Cook the couscous according to package directions.
  2. Add oil, cranberries, and walnuts; mix. Top each serving with a sprinkle of cinnamon

(*This is how I cooked it this time, but I would definitely recommend LESS couscous. I adapted from an internet recipe and I was using dry measurement, but I think the original must have meant cooked. Oh well, live and learn.)

**Both of these recipes came from Healthy Girl Cooking.

Oh, and this is how I spent my Saturday night:


Blizzard Baking

For some reason, being snowed in and off of school/work for two days gave me the urge to bake. Like, seriously bake. Actually, it took about an hour of being snowed in for the desire to hit, but a day and a half to decide what to make and to act on it. As anyone who followed on Facebook knows, I faced a serious baking dilemma: no eggs. Yep, none. No egg substitute, liquid or powdered. Nada. Hmmm…how bad did I REALLY want to bake? Well, apparently bad enough. I decided to experiment and go for it…with a1956 Betty Crocker cake recipe. So, with no further ado, here it is:

Betty Crocker’s Burnt Sugar Cake (with Burnt Sugar Frosting)

Cake Recipe:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup boiling water + extra
  • 2 1/4 Cups Softasilk floud
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 shortening, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla (optional)

Grease and flour 2-8″ or 9″ pans (or one 9″x13″ pan). Preheat the oven to 350F.

Caramelize the 1/2 cup sugar, melting over low heat until medium brown (shaking pan to keep from burning). Remove from heat. Slowly add 1/2 cup boiling water (be careful – will splatter!). Return to head and stir until all lumps are dissolved. Remove from heat and measure; add enough water for a total of 1 cup of carmel-water mixture.

Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the shortening and 2/3 cup of the cooled carmel-water mixture. Beat 2 minutes. Add the rest of the caramel-water mixture, eggs, and optional vanilla. Beat 2 more minutes. Pour into prepared pans and place in hot oven. Cook the cakes for 25-35 minutes, depending on the size of your pan.

Frosting Recipe:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 2 1/2 TBSP Softasilk flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • +/- 3 TBSP water
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

Caramelize the sugar (same as cake) and add 1/4 cup boiling water, stirring vigorously. Set aside. (Heat further if you need to dissolve any lumps)

Melt 1/2 cup shortening in saucepan. Add 2 1/2 TBSP Softasilk flour and 1/4 tsp salt; stir. Slowly stir carmel-water mixture into shortening mixture. Return to heat and boil. Boil for one minute and remove from heat. Stir in (alternately) 3 cups confectioner’s sugar and about 3 TBSP water. Put in bowl of cold water and continue beating until spreadable consistency. Stir in vanilla.

    How I Changed It Up:

    • First off, I halved the cake recipe. We didn’t need that much cake for just the two of us, not really (we would have eaten it…but the fact remains that we didn’t need it!) Quite the adventure in math (1/6 Cup = how much? (2 TBSP + 2 tsp, in case you’re curious))
    • Second, as previously mentioned, NO EGGS! I did some research online and came across a lot of different options. I ended up going with a cornstarch water combo to make up for my lack of eggs. (1 TSBP cornstarch + 3 TBSP water)
    • Third, since I halved the recipe, I used two 6″ round cake pans. These are my new favorite! I pretty much never need to make full-size cakes so I finally made the investment in these. I used them earlier on the strawberry birthday cake as well.
    • Fourth, I added a LOT more water to the frosting recipe. It was WAY too difficult to spread. Actually, it was practically to thick to beat with my electric hand mixer, let alone spread with a knife.

    Overall, it tasted pretty good. I actually quite enjoyed the cake. The frosting was a bit…strong for me. It complimented the cake well, but it tasted just a tad too…burnt. I had some difficulty with the caramelization of the sugar (I burned it a bit too much). Woops. If it was just a little more mild, I probably would have thoroughly enjoyed it. The hubby enjoyed it, but also agreed that the frosting was a bit much. I am glad that I opted not to frost the sides of the cake.


      Hubby’s Birthday Cake

      So, anyone who knows my husband is well aware that his favorite type of cake is strawberry. Yes, pink, girly strawberry cake. And I love him for it. So…for his birthday, I made it my mission to make a strawberry cake from scratch (how hard can it be?) and to hunt down a good “white wedding frosting” for it (because, again, his favorite type).

      After sifting through many, many strawberry cake recipes that involved strawberry jello, strawberry extract, and red food coloring, I finally cake across a recipe on a food blog that caught my eye. No strawberry jello. No extract. No food coloring. Just strawberries. (In case you’re wondering it is from the blog “Confections of a Foodie Bride” here) The comments on the post all sounded good so I decided to give it a shot. The batter was pretty pink color and had a definite strawberry flavor to it. Now, one thing that I did change a little was the strawberries. The strawberry puree in the original was no sugar added organic frozen. Well, we bought the sugar added HyVee brand….because it was the cheapest! *duh*

      Anyway, moving on to the frosting, I know how to make basic buttercream (thanks to my cake decorating for beginning Wilton class). However, it’s never “quite right.” So, I commenced again with searching to find a worthwhile recipe. The one I ended up settling on was from the website/blog Dine & Dish. It looked simple (read: EASY) and not THAT much different that what I normally. The only differences were milk instead of water and half butter/half shortening instead of all shortening. They taught us that this was an option in class…but then your frosting is, well, perishable.

      The frosting turned out pretty well. I was quite happy with it (and so was the boy). I took a little bit of the frosting and added a bit of powdered sugar and some of the juice drained off the strawberries and made a thinner strawberry frosting for between the layers.

      Well, the only real problem I encountered while making the cake was….the middle. I wanted to make the center section just a tad thicker, so when I made my dam with the white frosting, I doubled it up (something they taught us that we could do in class). The problem: my white wasn’t thick enough to support this. I definitely needed to make a thicker frosting and maybe double the width of the dam as well. Perhaps needless to say, the cake did a fair amount of sliding as I attempted to frost the cake.

      In the end, I couldn’t get the frosting as smooth as I like (because of the sliding)…so I covered it with sugar sprinkles and threw it in the fridge in hopes that it would get a bit more solid. It didn’t…not really. The top tried to slide off when you cut it!!

      The cake was pretty good overall. The strawberry icing in the center was FANTASTIC (too bad I have no idea how much strawberry stuff I put in). The cake didn’t have a very strong strawberry flavor to it. The flavor was there, but it wasn’t very prominent. If you are looking for a strongly flavored strawberry cake, you probably should just use the box mix! However, it was delicious–rich, dense, and moist! I’d make it again in a heartbeat, especially with the frosting.


      Not Your Average Pumpkin Bread

      Beacuse it has Nutella in it! No, seriously, this was delicious. The Nutella honestly doesn’t add a whole lot of flavor, in case that freaks you out or something, but it was so moist and delicious!

      I can’t take ANY credit for coming up with this recipe, however much I may like to. I have to give all of the credit to Kelly of No Empty Chairs (see blog for recipe). She came up with this delightful recipe! The only thing that my hubby and I noticed (and continue to notice as we eat the frozen mini-loaves)–it’s overly oily. We’re talking grease on the paper towel kind of oily. I’m not sure exactly what we want to change next time we make it, but we’d like to use significantly less oil–maybe even substitute applesauce. Seeing all that oil just makes it seem so…unhealthy! (which, let’s be honest, the recipe used a whole container of Nutella–it wasn’t healthy to begin with!)

      Also, Quentin = big kitchen “helper” 🙂

      Well…that’s all for now. I do have a couple of other pictures and recipes to share, but for now…I think it’s simply time to hit the hay! Job interview tomorrow! Wish me luck!


      Veggie Casserole

      My DH hates the word “casserole.” So, needless to say, he wasn’t too excited when I announced that my dish of choice for the week was “Vegetable Casserole with Herb Dumplings.” His response: “There are three words in the title of that dish that I do not like.” (Those being vegetable, casserole, and dumplings, in case you were curious. I’m fairly certain the word “with” doesn’t bother him nor does the word “herb” since he uses them quite frequently in his own cooking.)

      But, really, my husband’s reaction to the dish is beside the point. The point is that I tried and almost successfully made a new dish. I got the recipe for the dish from Vegetarian Cooking: A Commonsense Guide. So, without further ado, here it is:

      Vegetable Casserole with Herbed Dumplings
      from Vegetarian Cooking: A Commonsense Guide

      1 TSBP olive oil
      1 large onion, chopped
      2 garlic cloves, crushed
      2 teaspoons paprika
      1 large all-purpose potato, chopped
      1 large carrot, sliced (we sliced up some baby carrots)
      1-14oz can diced tomatoes (no salt added)
      1.5 cups vegetable stock/broth ( I just used water)
      1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
      2.5 cups broccoli florets (I used less….you know, Dan just LOVES broccoli…)
      2 zucchini, thickly sliced
      2 TBSP sour cream (I used light)

      Herb Dumplings:
      1 cup self-rising flour
      3/4 oz cold butter chopped
      2 tsp chopped flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
      1 tsp thyme
      1 teaspoon chopped rosemary
      1/3 cup milk
      *I used dried herbs for all of these and cut the measurements about in half.

      1. Preheat the over to 400 F. Heat olive oil in a LARGE saucepan (and deep, if possible). Saute the onion over medium for 5 minutes (or until soft). Add garlic and paprika and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
      2.  Add the potato, carrot, tomato, and stock. Bring to a boil, the reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the sweet potato, broccoli, and zucchini and simmer for a further 10 minutes (or until all veggies are tender)
      3.  Meanwhile, make the dumplings. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and then using a floured surface, divide the dough into 8 balls. (Now, the book gives crazy details but this is basically what I did!)
      4. Stir the sour cream into the casserole. Transfer to a large baking dish (8 cup) and top with the dumplings. Bake for 20 minutes or until the dumplings are golden and cooked. Serve hot!

      Overall, the recipe turned out well (I thought). The veggies cooked well and were tender and not mushy. The dumplings were the big issue for me. They didn’t really cook up the way I would have liked them to. However, I think part of the problem might have been that I didn’t have self-rising flour (and didn’t want to spend the money to buy yet another kind of flour–we already have white, wheat, bread, and rye flour in the house). I read up on dumplings a little (I’ll admit–on Wikipedia) and it seems like the British version at least relies on that rising agent to give them the right texture. Live and learn, right? Dan (oddly enough) didn’t seem to have a problem with the dumplings.

      So, the verdict: I would make this again but make sure that I actually buy self-rising flour.


      Let Them Eat Cake

      So back in August, I took a cake decorating class at Hobby Lobby with a friend. You know…one of those “Decorating Basics” courses.  Of course, it made me want to make/decorate cakes! Problem: I’m trying to lose weight and so is my DH. So…now I’m on the hunt for fun excuses to practice my skills. (lol, just pretend with me that I do in fact have said skills) So, without further ado, here is the first cake I’ve made since class.

      I made this cake for a coworkers 4th wedding anniversary. It’s is a chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream frosting. I used the chocolate buttercream frosting from the Wilton method book that I have and it was delicious. It’s really too bad that I don’t have any pictures of the kitchen as I was going because it made quite the mess! Disposable decorators bags filled with frosting everywhere!

      Tomorrow I’m trying out a new recipe. Dan and I have decided to try to do this on the weekends so that we can try some new things from the plethora of cookbooks that we own. We’ll rotate weekends and I get to go first! I’m planning on making a vegetable casserole with herb dumplings. Dan is not all that excited, but I think it will be delicious. We’ll see, I suppose!