Follow me as I dive into the world that is cooking! There will be mishaps, burns and feasts as you watch my progression from college-student fare (pizza rolls and ramen noodles) to (hopefully) goddess of the hearth! I am always open to new recipes and ideas, so feel free to contact me.

July 30, 2011

Christmas in July: Unwrapping Salmon and Green Beans

My husband has a thing for opening presents.  It isn't necessarily what's inside of the box, but the mini-adventure of tearing away the paper and knowing something awesome awaits.  I know, a bit adorable.  With this in mind, I knew whatever I put inside this parchment paper tonight was gonna taste great to him, simply because he got to unwrap a "food present".

I'd had a long day today, and was not feeling that great when I got home to make dinner.  Unfortunately my husband had a longer day than me and needed to eat.  I opened the fridge, debated the leftover turkey burgers, then peered behind them, begrudgingly acknowledging the fantastically on-sale, wild-caught Alaskan salmon that needed to be cooked soon.  Crap.  I scrambled around in some books and came across this recipe for salmon and green beans baked in parchment.  Damn I love Martha Stewart sometimes.  Just put everything in some paper, fold it up, and cook it.  Easy enough.  May I puff up my feathers for a second to say that I had everything ready right when he walked in the door AND managed to use up a few lemons. Huzzah!

This one's a healthy bundle of joy in your face that's easy to make and tastes amazing.  Cooking in parchment paper is not only a healthy alternative to pan-frying, but it is also a SUPER easy cleanup in both prep and consumption.  Just plop the little parchment envelopes on a plate and voila!  I haven't tried it with farmed salmon ( I'm scared to because this spoiled me), but I imagine it's good.

Confessions of a Breakfast Addict: Blueberry Banana Smoothie

How my smoothie appears when I'm bleary-eyed.

I am an avid drinker of the smoothie.  My good friend Katy bought me a blender back in college, and I'll admit I survived a few empty-pantry nights thanks to that contraption and some frozen bags of fruit.  My husband is a freaking amazing Smoothie MASTER and I have been secretly trying to thwart him in his skills...  Thus, when I came across this recipe, I grinned to myself and thought, "Aha!  At last!" My morning routine got a whole lot sweeter.  Literally.

This smoothie is loaded with good stuff:
Blueberries (fiber + vitamins C and K)
Almond milk (protein, vitamins and calcium)
Greek yogurt (protein, calcium)
Honey/agave nectar (mmm)
OJ (vitamin C, calcium)
Bananas (fiber, protein, and potassium)
Flax Seed (great source of Omega-3)

The bananas are optional, as I prefer mine without but others have said they like it with as well.  So choose your weapons and start your morning - or have a tasty snack - with your friendly neighborhood blender!

July 26, 2011

Blueberry Fruit Crisp

I love summer fruits.  I have a habit of walking into the store to get this that and the other, and coming out with 3 to 4 pounds of various seeded things I didn't intend on purchasing.  And then I eat them all.  Since I've recently started this blog, however, I've tried to implement some of these fruit impulse purchases into recipes.  So today I scoured the cookbooks for a recipe to use up 2 1/2 cups of blueberries I had sitting in the freezer.  I don't even know why I freeze them.
Better Homes and Gardens puts out an amazing cookbook every so often aptly named "The New Cookbook," and I was given my great aunt's copy when I went to college.  Unfortunately my puppy ate it (seriously) and I had to purchase a new one.

Anyhoo, that book has been one of my main teachers - that and lots of flaming, smoking, or just gross mistakes - in the kitchen.  It has become my cooking "Bible" if you will.  This recipe serves 6, but since I only had half of the blueberries/fruits required, I halved it.  AND that gave me the chance to use my super-awesome-from-Nana's-kitchen 1 quart baking dish.  Sweet.  Now, what to do with those 8 lemons...

July 23, 2011

Baked Egg Enchilada Casserole

This is one of those recipes I struggled to name.  I found a version of it in a "Food" magazine (one of Martha Stewart's many enterprises) and made a few changes.  My husband is the kind of guy that needs meat in almost every meal, so for me to serve this for dinner was a little scary.  He accepted though, and ate with gusto.  He even ended up laying down on the couch to avoid a food coma.  I would call this one a success.

My only complaint about this recipe is it's huge.  It makes what Martha says is four servings, but I think it's more like eight.  I guess if you were going to have some folks over for a hearty brunch or are in need of leftovers (or have a full house), then this is the recipe for you!  It was cheap, easy, and fast (I'm not going to say it).

Overall though, I enjoyed it thoroughly as a comfort food, and the eggs came out semi-firm and full of flavor.  If you want to try it with "over-easy" eggs, you could take it out of the oven a bit earlier.  This is a flexible recipe  and could be easily changed to your family's liking (i.e. add pork, subtract onions, add veggies etc.).

July 22, 2011

Blueberry-Pineapple Smoothie

As stated before, I am indeed a breakfast-loving woman.  I also am a huge fan of smoothies.  I've been reading more and more lately how important it is to incorporate raw fruits and veggies into our diets to get them there vitamins.  So I gave this smoothie from Better Homes and Gardens a shot and it was quite tasty!  I used coconut  milk in place of the yogurt since I'm a bit sensitive to dairy, but it was still awesome.  This is also a great way to get rid of that extra spinach that always seems to linger in the back of your fridge...
(photo not by me)

Blueberry-Pineapple Smoothie
Takes: 5 min
Makes: 2 servings
You Need: (make at least 2 items frozen if you can!)

  • 2 C fresh baby spinach, big stems removed
  • 1 C fresh or frozen blueberries
  • 1 fresh or frozen banana
  • 1/2 C vanilla yogurt or coconut milk
  • 1/4 C chopped pineapple
  • 1/4 C frozen dark sweet cherries, pitted
  • 1/4 C orange juice
1. BLEND well.  Garnish with extra blueberries and pineapple.

Cooking with Frankie: Accidental Chocolate Dip and Coconut Brigadeiros

There are times when cooks should ban together, and throw out the notion of too many chefs in the kitchen.  Frankie of Frankie Fights Food came to join me in an adventure last weekend where we each tried a brand new fancy dessert recipe, and ended up with two tasty sweets.

Frankie's No-Bake Chocolate Cake came out more like a chocolate dip (which tasted amazing), and my brigadeiros were super sticky but tasty nonetheless.  Needless to say, it was an enjoyable event, and my first time having someone shooting tons of photos of food beside me!  Ah, to feel somewhat normal (or at least like I'm not alone in photography geekery).  I look forward to our next food encounter when we have a Food Blog WAR (more to come soon).
Anyhoo, the recipe I used for the brigadeiros (a Brazilian children's treat) came from one of the best food blogs out there, Smitten Kitchen.  NOW don't go leaving me due to the fact that her blog is awesome!  I'll get there soon enough...
Ehem... I did change the cooking temps and times a bit and used different toppings, so I'll list it below for you to see.  These are very rich and gooey, and should be enjoyed slowly.  Mmmm.

Roasted Shrimp with Broccoli and Garlic-Basil Corn

My dad was in town recently, and being the great dad and Cajun fellow he is, he left us with some Gulf shrimpies.  I’m not sure where I found this recipe, but it was easy and turned out great!

Roasted Shrimp and Broccoli with Garlic-Basil Corn

Takes: 25 mins. total    Makes: 4 Servings 
Stuff you need for shrimp and broccoli:
  • 5 Cups broccoli florets
  • Large bowl of ice water
  • 2 Tbsp grated lemon rind, divided
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 lbs peeled and deveined large shrimp
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
For the corn, you need:
  • 4 ears fresh or frozen shucked corn
  • 2 Tbsp softened butter
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh basil, or 1/2 Tbsp dried basil
  • 1 minced garlic clove (roasted optional but is good for flavor!)

1. Preheat oven to 425º and set a large saucepan of water to boil. Instead of watching the pot, prepare the butter for the corn!  Mix softened butter with basil and garlic in a small bowl.   Easy nuff. 
2. Once your water’s boiling, add broccoli and cook 1 minute.  Drain and plunge into ice water; drain again.
3. In a medium bowl, combine 1 Tbsp rind, juice, 1/4 tsp salt, and1/4 tsp black pepper.  Add shrimp and toss to coat.  Grease a large jelly roll pan with cooking spray and put shrimp on one side of the pan, broccoli on the other.  Bake at 425º for 8 minutes or until shrimp are pink and done. 
4. While the above is baking, take the saucepan from the broccoli and refill it to boil the corn.  Once it hits boiling, add the corn and cook for 4 minutes if fresh and 6 to 8 if frozen.  The best way to check if it’s done is its color and also the heat on the core of the ear.   Drain when done and cover to keep warm.
5. In a large bowl, combine oil, remaining 1 Tbsp rind, 1/4 tsp salt and1/4 tsp pepper, and the crushed red pepper.  Add broccoli; toss to combine.  
6. Top corn with garlic-basil butter (about 1 tsp each) and consume the madness!

Better Living through the Great Outdoors: Green Bean, Bacon and Potato Mash

June 13th was our 2-year anniversary (w00t!), so to celebrate we went camping at an amazing spot in the Texas hill country.  Funny thing is, I realized that both years we’ve celebrated by eating outdoors.  Last year was at Salt Lick BBQ in Driftwood, Texas, and this year was… I’m not telling you where we went because it’s awesome and I’m keeping it all to myself.  So there.  

But anyhoo, amid the rock squirrels and natural springs (and 100 degree Texas heat), we cooked up a great dinner for ourselves on our propane stove.  We discovered it cooks better than our shabby glass-top electric at home (big surprise, right?)!
The meal of the night was potatoes, green beans and bacon mashed together in loveliness, accompanied by chicken that had been salted, peppered and fried up in all that greasy, heavenly bacon fat.  Originally, this recipe calls to cook the potatoes in olive oil, but that’s a pain in the ass to bring along camping, so I used butter instead and MAN was it GOOD.  Take it for what it was: awesome and fattening as hell.

A DIY That Doesn't Suck: Make Your Own Granola!

My favorite meal of the day is, and always has been, breakfast.  I wake up hungry, don’t go a day without it and will eat waffles at any time if presented with the opportunity.  This does not qualify me as a morning person.  Not at all.
In fact, I’m quite terrifying if you wake me up before I’m ready to climb out of hibernation.  The only thing that can calm my inner beast is BREAKFAST.  Not a turkey sandwich, not leftover spaghetti from last night (although I do consider cold pizza an acceptable breakfast item for some reason), but something with eggs, bacon, cereal or syrup.  Hence, one of my favorite recipes I’ve worked with so far:  A hearty, healthy granola! Ehem, as healthy as you want it to be.
This recipe is fantastic because you can essentially add anything you want and make your very own granola recipe!  I have done everything from dried apples to toasted coconut, depending on what’s cheap at the store…  Plus it’s so easy to do!  Prepare to impress yourself and others in your vicinity! 

Holy Moley, Guacamole!

Guacamole is what got me eating avocados, but only when it’s done “right” in my book!  Here’s how I normally roll:
  • 2 avocados, sliced, peeled and seed removed
  • dash of olive oil
  • juice of 1/2 a lime
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • garlic powder (be generous!)
  • onion powder (optional)
Mash the avocados with a fork until you have the consistency you like.  Add olive oil and lime and mix.  Season to taste.

*Some people add tomatoes (blek.), onions (ick), etc. but I enjoy it without, plain and simple, especially if you are using it in the Turkey Burger recipe!

Father's Day and Turkey Burgers with Avocado and Salsa

I love family traditions.  I think it’s so interesting to see what each family practices on special days.  Getting married and coming into a new family has been very exciting for many reasons, and finding out what their traditions are is one of them.  On Father’s Day, they make homemade peach ice cream from Texas peaches.  Yes.
Neither my husband nor I like peaches but we looove homemade peach ice cream!  Such a good celebration with ribs, ice cream, and great company!But ONWARD, to turkey burgers!
This recipe has become a family favorite for Jhet and myself.  My brother, who as a child ate nothing but bread and cheese and never let his food touch, lived with us for several months and devoured these burgers whenever we made them.  They’re healthy, tasty, and very easy to make!

As a side, I made sweet potato chips from this guy’s site, who has tons of good recipes and a great demeanor!   Let me tell you though, I don’t own a mandoline (super awesome slicing device presently on my Christmas wish-list), and frankly, slicing sweet potatoes to an 1/8” consistently is a pain in the ass.  BUT I did it!  And they’re tasty! 
If you don’t want to trouble yourself with that, simply peel and cut sweet potatoes into long, fry-like shapes, throw 'em in a big bowl with some vegetable oil (bout 1 Tbsp per 2 big potatoes), ground comino (cumin), red pepper, and salt to taste.  Toss them well, then put them on a parchment-lined baking sheet and cook at 400° for 30 minutes or so depending on the cuts you did.  Just don’t let them burn or they’ll be bitter!  
I personally liked the chips more because they weren't soggy like the fries can be…But do what you will; the fries are still good!

Health factoid: Sweet potatoes are freaking tasty (okay, opinionated factoid) and are Alkaline, which means they are non-acidic and easy for your body to digest!  Great for tummy aches and such.

Squash Casserole of Comfort and Independence!

Independence Day has always been (in my eyes) a day of grilling a ridiculous amount of meat, eating it alongside tons of other delicious things, and sweating your ass off with your friends and family.  It’s remembering those who have fought for our country and thanking them for the freedoms we enjoy as Americans.  And fireworks.

Except this year, tons of major cities in Texas canceled their usual fireworks show due to the serious drought we’re suffering.  Our town of 26,000 said, “No way, we’re having us some big ‘splosions in the sky!”  So we got to enjoy a 20-minute celebratory show of booming lights-in-the-night with our tiny community.  This is the first time I’ve ever really felt proud to live where I do.  Seeing our daring little city hold its head high and entertain the masses put a big smile on my face.

Before the fireworks though, we ate.  Then we ate some more.  I’m not usually a gluttonous person (okay I do love food and am constantly snacking), but on the 4th I gorged myself on some tasty burgers, chips n’ salsa, and some awesome squash casserole.
Though it’s not the most aesthetically pleasing of the foodstuffs, it’s definitely one of the tastiest and is a great comfort food.  You can serve this year round and it makes excellent leftovers!

July 21, 2011

WHUT?! You've never heard of QUINOA?! guffaw.

...and I thought you were cool...

Most of the time when I tell people I like quinoa, they have no clue what I’m referring to.  Quinoa (keen-wah) is a seed from from a grain-like plant (though it is not a grain) that contains good amounts of calcium, amino acids, phosphorous and iron.  It’s super easy to cook and can be a great substitute for couscous since it’s lower in carbs and an ample source of protein.

My favorite (and so far only) way to cook it has been boiling it and adding feta, dill and chopped seedless cucumber.. YUM.

This meal is one of my tried-and-true recipes, and has been a hit every time I’ve made it.  It looks fancy, tastes great and is EASY to make.

Tilapia with Quinoa and Feta
Printable Version
Takes: 30 mins   Makes: 4 servings
You Need:
  • 1 C quinoa
  • coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 2 1/2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb or thereabouts of boneless, skinless tilapia fillets, rinsed, patted dry, and divided into 8 pieces
  • 1 Tbsp paprika
  • 1 C seedless cucumber (the long skinny ones that are usually wrapped in some kind of plastic), diced small
  • 1/3 C roughly chopped fresh dill, or a few good shakes of dried dill (1 T+)
  • 1/3 C crumbled feta cheese (1 1/2 oz)
  • juice of 1/2 lemon 
  • 1/2 lemon sliced for garnish and fish

1.  In a small saucepan, bring quinoa, 2 cups water, and 1 teaspoon of coarse salt to a boil over high heat.  Reduce to a medium simmer and cook until water evaporates, about 15 minutes.  You’ll see little bubble-like breathing holes come up from the bottom of the quinoa… fun!!!  Transfer quinoa to a 1 1/2 qt or so bowl and let cool 5 minutes.
2.  In a large skillet, heat 1 1/2 tsp oil over med-high.  Season fish pieces with salt, pepper and paprika.  Rub spices in slightly to ensure good flavor.  Cook fillets until opaque throughout, about 2 minutes per side.  They should flake easily with a fork test.  Remove pan from heat.
3.  Stir cucumber, dill, feta, 1 tsp oil, and lemon juice into quinoa.  Season with salt and pepper.  Divide quinoa among 4 plates and top with fish.  Garnish with lemon slices.
**I make this for the two of us, then eat the rest for lunch the following day.  This one reheats well.  Also, it doesn’t look like much, but the quinoa is VERY filling!**