Monday, November 24, 2008

It's not your beauty, it's your bootie

What a fabulous weekend in the STL! :) I got to spend some QT with some of the most wonderful people I know, all of whom I see very little of these days.... making weekends like this the highlight of my life.

I also got my first christmas present. I wouldn't call myself scrooge-like (except maybe when Susan Lucci did that scrooge movie, she was pretty fabulous)... but I am pretty anti-christmas (decorations, music, etc.) for all things pre-thanksgiving. However the gift of shoes can put anyone in a joyous and festive spirit, no? Behold the reason for the season '08 : my new booties. *dreamy sigh*

But back to the party, we were so prepared for the evening (fully charged camera and all) and I walked away with just a handful of pictures, and zero group shots. dang it. However I did manage to snag one with two of my besties.
In other news for dinner the other night (..with traveling and drinking there are massive amounts of food on the go, and going out to eat delicious and unhealthy things) I decided to make something Vegan. This yummy zucchini did not disappoint.

Zucchini Boats: (from vegesphere)
  • zucchini
  • gala apple
  • onion
  • toasted bread
  • seasoning
  • pinch sea salt
  • pinch pepper
  • chopped walnuts

deeeeeeeeeeeeee-- lish

Happy Thanksgiving week peeps! I cannot wait to spend tons of time with the family and completely over-do it on mashed potatoes :)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Show-stopping and spaghetti casserole

Okay so technically no show was getting stopped... but in honor of our Broadway evening that seemed a little classier of a title to use... while still keeping it real. Mom, sister and I made an impromptu appearance at the last weekend of the traveling Lion King show while it was in town... it was pure fabulousness. I freaking love musicals.. particularly ones where i can and do occasionally sing the entire musical score from the comfort of my own shower (a whole new world anyone?)
In other recent events, the other day I happened upon a dessert that literally knocked my socks off. First of all... I am weak. Pomegranite seeds are too delicious to not be fully taken advantage of when in season, despite their price tag for a singular piece of fruit. Below is a mixture of NF plain yogurt, pure maple syrup, dark chocolate chips and pom seeds. Trust me, once you have this you will never want your unnecessary sugar intake any other way. socks... knocked.. off.It is cold, I have been fretting about all kinds of things (school, loans, work, global warming, how badly i need to exfoliate in the winter, will denim jackets ever come back in style? etc.) and nothing can replace the joy derived from comfort food. An old standby in our house growing up was spaghetti casserole. I realize many families have a variation, after all it is just baked spaghetti with cream cheese. For the self induced health food guilt I often have when I go to all the trouble of actually cooking something, I attempted to healthify it a bit-- although I didn't quite go all the way. For instance instead of using the enriched white flour varity, I opted for whole wheat organic spaghetti noodles. I used all natural sauce and lean ground turkey burger instead of beef. However... I could've gone all of the way and used soy crumbles and fake cream cheese. The particular grocery store I was at wasn't very health-food friendly and an entirely separate shopping excursion would've removed some of the comfort aspect of the dish. I give this meal a solid B, for better than it used to be, but barely improved.

Spaghetti Casserole:
  • one container cream cheese (it was reduced fat, does that count?)
  • one container spaghetti sauce
  • 3/4 package spaghetti noodles
  • 1/2 lb lean turkey meat
  • 1/2 cup love (secret ingredient)

cook spaghetti until al dente, drain and mix in 1/2 the bottle of sauce. Brown the turkey meat, drain, and then add 1/4 bottle of sauce. Spread noodle mix into baking pan. Soften cream cheese and spread onto noodle mixture. Top with turkey/spaghetti mix and pour the remaining sauce over the top. My mom usually sprinkles parm on the top before baking, 375 degrees for 35 minutes. Easy peasy and total comfort deliciousness.

sooooo delicious.. doesn't cheese just make everything better? *sigh*

another comfort food basic that i vamped up a bit the other day was the 'ole PB & J. I used almond butter and some all natural berry jelly. The kicker was the pom seeds though. I sprinked them on and each bite had a burst of juicy seeds and tangy juice (that's right.. tangy). Completely amazing.

In other news there isn't a lot going on in my kitchen. This week I've had a smorgasboard of free meals. Between Sunday funday at a local brewery, being treated to lunch by a vendor I use at work, and hosting all sorts of catered meals for work events this week I am having an excess of food.
*warning political rant coming in 5......4......3.....2.....
soo.... my brother who works in DC walked past Hillary Clinton yesterday in a hallway and I am still ridiculously jealous. I fully realize that she is a polarizing figure for a lot of people (and to a certain extent... to each his own), but to me she nothing short of a brillant and competant female who is fully deserving of the respect and admiration I have for her. Last year on SNL's weekend update Tina Fey put it best: 'a lot of people think Hillary is a bitch..... and she is. but guess what? So am I, and so is she (ponts to amy phoeler) ...but guess what? Bitches get shit done.
Amen sister.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

like getting punched in the face with a lemon

So.. my BFF's Boss and small company are moving into my building. This is MUCHO exciting because it means I can see this BFF all of the time, and because her boss and his wife are fun. Because nothing says 'welcome to the hood' like baked goods, i resolved to bake something spectacular, despite the fact that baking is more like chemistry, where I have historically received a 'C'. The results below probably deserve that grade too. Fail cat. I decided to make lemon and orange crisps-- supposedly like sugar cookies but healthier and full of flavor. Boy were they full of flavor. The pucker I had after tasting a few morsels of these babies nearly sucked my entire face in. Quite tart.. quite. I feel like the problem is in the zesting. I know a little goes a long way but I use this grater where, like, 1/2 of the zest gets stuck in the grates and so i think: self, you should just grate a whole other lemon just in case this isn't enough. self: it was enough.

Lemon and Orange Crisps (SELF mag, 06, epicurious hyperlink above)
  • flour
  • baking powder
  • baking soda
  • salt
  • lemon
  • orange
  • butter
  • sugar
  • egg
  • vanilla extract

I also made another stab and the infamous black bean brownies that had terrorized my kitchen on round 1. A few cooking lessons I learned with this one: follow the recipe in the order in which is it listed (it sounds so obvious, and yet i'm cracking eggs here, and whisking there, and can get so mixed up... it can happen to anyone, right?) two: no eyeballing ingredient amounts.. period. three: when a gooeyish brownie batch comes directly from the oven, don't cover it immediately and set it in the fridge overnight to cool... because when you unover it in the morning it is a pile of overly moist mushiness.

Behold the mushiness below (use your imagination as my photography skills cannot adequately capture the chocolate/bean gurgling quicksand substance you could see upon further inspection):

Black Bean Brownies: (Heidi Swanson)
  • black beans
  • unsweetened chocolate
  • unsalted butter
  • chopped walnuts
  • honey
  • vanilla extract
  • instant coffee
  • eggs
  • sea salt

Yes, I hear you. Black bean brownies? Woof. Except that the review had one million people who said this was a baking genius and that they'd been fooling loved ones and taste testers with this hidden ingredient for ages. Apparently the bean flavor doesn't come through and only lends texture and nutrition, supposedly making it more fudge-like... how could that be bad? The result? meh. I blame myself and my self induced accidental mushiness. I feel an accomplished chef could really put one over on someone. My accomplishments do not as of yet, nor does the future look so bright as to include.. baking.

The question then becomes, to serve or not to serve? I wanted to provide from scratch baked goods. However..... the cookies tasted like drinking straight lemon juice and the fall apart not so secret bean brownies were, well, a hot mess. Deciding that it was the thought that counts I gave them away anyway... but made sure to hand them off with a few disclaimers. If the thought really does count I hope they don't take one sniff and decide the gesture is grossness. For dinner last night though I ignored the still over stuffed contents of the refrigerator and whipped up a little something something. Stuffed Portabella.... Yummmmmm :)
Random Stuffed Portabella:
  • 1 portabella
  • 1/2 cup diced carrot
  • 1/2 cup diced green pepper
  • 1/2 cup diced cherry tomatoes
  • 2 Tbsp diced onion
  • 2 Tbsp ricotta (oh haaaaaaaaaaay)
  • 1 Tbsp bread crumbs
  • 1 dallop butter

Delicious, I would've made five more had I the shrooms. Unfortunately when I had finished this and was still hungry I went straight for the wings. Oh snap.

Monday, November 10, 2008

My Fridge Overfloweth

To the naked eye this may appear like any 'ol refrigerator. But to me it means I have some serious eating to do before I can cook again. 2 kinds of homemade soup, 2 pasta dishes, 2 home-made dips with a zillion fresh things with which to dip, endless amounts of sandwich/wrap ingredients and many many bottles of wine. Okay, Okay there is some pizza hut pizza and wings too. Don't judge, the college roomie and I decided that in our Saturday laziness we would recreate our standard sorority house meal that we ate on the floor in front of the TV while we gossiped and continually complaining about the lack of sauce and condiments provided by said Hut. ahhhhhhhhhh good times. That said, I may have to take a hiatus from cooking until later in the week. That or somebody needs to come over to dine with me. Any takers? :)
There was one meal that I made on my Thursday night cooking extravaganza that didn't make it to the blog. I took a lovely photo diary of the steps to take to make this yummy ellie krieger dish. The pictures, they were beautiful.. Glorious I tell you. Unfortunately as I was recapping Saturday morning and in a frenzy of deleting some seriously unflattering pictures (why do i always make ridiculous faces, when 1 in 10 are funny and the rest look like something that would give Tyra, Miss J, and Jay heart attacks) I accidentally deleted the photo explanation of the above Portabella Lasagna Roll Ups. It had ricotta, mushrooms, WW lasagna noodles and some organic pasta sauce. It was also lunch today... not too shabby!
In other news Friday was SO FUN. We met up with lots and lots of fun college friends, and the night ended something like this. Yikes.
In case you're wondering it's a piggy back ride of people making tina-fey-on-SNL-as-sarah palin impressions... as promised.
I got to see friends, family, and even had Sunday Funday realizing I really AM as bad of a bowler as I had previously thought. WHEW, good thing that's settled. Tonight is class (boo) but the teacher is giving us Pizza (yay). Despite the other extremely healthy (think tofu and fresh foods) in my fridge dying to be eaten...... does this make me off the health-food band-wagon lately? eh... it's arguable.

Friday, November 7, 2008

She's a maniac, maaaaaaaaniac on the floor

and she's cooking like she's never cooked before!

Okay, you saw that coming, right? It conjurs up all sorts of images of me doing that running-in-place flash dance thing with a sweatshirt half off my shoulder and leggings. Come to think of it, a little dance and soundtrack probably would've only enhanced last night's QT in the kitch. Note to self for next time. So on my recent trip Bret introduced me to the fabulous, Melissa Ellen, who so graciously gifted me a couple of her cooking light magazines. I was making a grocery list on the plane ride home I was so excited. One of the things it featured was a TurkeyRicotta meatball. I am not really a ball-of-meat kind of girl (is there such a thing?) well that I'm not. However I am intrigued of late of the versatility of this cheese for all things desert/italian/etc etc. Turns out, this was pretty Delicous. The ricotta makes the meatball kind of light and sweet.

It'z-a Turkey/Ricotta Meat-ball-a (cooking light)
  • lean ground turkey
  • ricotta
  • bread crumbs
  • basil
  • egg
  • S&P

The picture totally doesn't do it justice for how tasty it was. I had it with some Newman's own spaghetti sauce (yes i realize how ridiculously easy it is to make your own sauce with a can of chopped tomatoes and some seasoning... lay off) WW spaghetti noodles, and sauteed zucchini seasoned with some pepper & sea salt.

Next on the agenda was this baked artichoke dip. Too bad I realized it called for 2 cans of artichokes instead of one.... so I added some spinach and more parm to supplement... Also I ran out of NF yogurt (which is pretty much devastating to me) which probably doesn't bode well. I had a quick bite which was artichoky and yummy, but plan on spending more time with it later this week in experimentation. Particularly I'd like to recreate my favorite Panera turkey/artichoke Panini with this healthier-organic-ish version. Keep you posted.

Despite having incorrect amounts of the ingredients, which usually results in disaster, I haven't been lead astray by Heidi, so here is her recipe:
Baked Artichoke Dip: (Heidi Swanson)
  • cans artichokes
  • silken tofu
  • garlic
  • parm, freshly grated
  • plain yogurt
  • Tsp sea salt
  • cayenne
Next up was my hummus which I feel like I haven't made in AGES. When I have it in the fridge I will eat it non-stop every day until it's gone. Things like yummy veagan hummus keep the pizza rolls at bay.
I use a variation of a super simple recipe from this 365 days of vegetarian recipes cookbook I got on sale at Barnes and Noble for like $3 last year. It has no pictures, which means it rarely gets used.
Lauren's bomb-tastic roasted red-pepper hummus:
  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 4 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 Teaspoon EVOO
  • 4 tablespoons water (i like it creamier than pasty)
  • 1/4 jar organic roasted red peppers
There are kalamato olives and paprika on there just DYING to be eating with some carrots and cucumbers. Dying I tell you.
Amidst all of the cooking I did last night I also managed to get to Yoga again (whoop whoop) where we practiced back bends. How cool is that? Then I ran home to cook for the week/weekend and feverishly clean my mess of an apartment. All of the preparation is for one of my college roomies who is back in town (she just couldn't quite get enough of me in her visit a few weeks ago) and tonight we are heading out with a slew of our college friends. Dresses, dancing, food, airport runs, boots, more dancing, getting into some political conversations which will ultimately end in an Obama-victory-booty dance and many... many sarah palin impressions. But you saw that coming too, right? TGIF!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

It's a burrito conversation... nachos!

So the BFF and I relish in finding obscure holidays...i.e. reasons to have a celebration (ordering fancy food, purchasing expensive shoes, and you know the other one). Today is apparently Nacho day. Happy Nacho day people. Ironically, the rest of the post is in no way related to goo-ey mexican food goodness. Sorry in advance, amigos.

The east coast was fabulous! Okay, minus the work part, that is always less fabulous. The brother and I were the Harlem Globetrotters for Halloween, and succeeded in performing tricks throughout the evening. That is if your definition of tricks include unsuccessfully trying to balance and/or spin basketballs on our index fingers, fake pumping up our tennies, getting weird looks on the subway before other costumed transit riders were out, taking shots, and making friends in line for the bathroom. Mad skills.

The food on the trip wasn't too notable in terms of healthiness. Company dinners tend to not be in healthy veg-friendly territory and I end up ordering things that are drowning in butter and cheese. I hate every minute of it. Sort of. On my own I ventured to a Thai restaurant and the brother and I even serendipitously happened upon a Sushi restaurant where the food comes on a conveyor belt through the restaurant and you pick up your selections a la cart. What a fabulous idea! Man... I love spin-offs of my beloved buffet concept of eating.

But I digress. Last night was the first evening where I could actually cook (whoop whoop!) I found this soup mix in the pantry I've been wanting to make. Does it technically count as 'from scratch' when the seasoning and grains are pre-packaged? let's just say yes.

Squash & Lentil Soup:
  • butternut squash
  • onion
  • veg broth
  • orange juice
  • can mandarin oranges
  • fresh green onions
  • Mystery Ingredients (of which I have zero idea the quantities) include red lentils (1 cup or so?); Bulgar, Red pepper, onion, orange peel, cayenne & other spices.


For lunch I threw in some Kashi crackers and a small spinach salad. Besides my adventures in peeling a butternut squash-- where I literally got on Youtube and followed someone's home instructions for cutting and seeding the vegetable -- my new exciting produce was a Pomegranite!
All I know is that these things are titans in the world of anti-oxidants. For cancer-phobes like me, that is sweet, sweet music to my ears. Although I've had Pom juice, which might as well be laced with gold or cocaine for how much more expensive it is than other kinds of fruit juice, I've never picked one up from the grocery store. I finally decided to pick grab one. Thankfully they had that lovely pamphlet on how to open them for remedial cooks like me.

The seeds are DELICIOUS and I'm slightly concerned I have developed another expensive habit in liking them so much. I already have enough of the 'this pair of shoes or paying the electric bill' decision making moments. Knowing I will be bankrupted my an additiction to this antioxident gem is just bad news bears.

Breakfast. Can I just say Pom seeds and bananas (there was plain NF yogurt and some granola in that mess too) are the move over strawnanna.... pomnanna is the stuff dreams are made of.
More cooking tonight! get excited. And go have a Margarita, Nacho day comes but once a year.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

oh no you di'int

yes. we. did.

i have drank the kool-aid, i am filled with euphoria and hope and all of that other wishy washy nonsense that has plagued the country for the past 20 months. I feel like for the first time in my adult voting life i have had a serious emotional connection with a candidate/movement/vote ---not to mention my candidate won, that never happens.

tonight is the first night in ages that i'll be able to add food-isms to the internet world, but probably every moment until then I will sit here at my desk and daydream for all of the things that we can be: restored image in the world; helping the poor/needy/helpless; again becoming the wonderful nation i know that we are; dare I say... simmering the crazy partisan atmosphere that makes me want to slap my conservative friends; has them threatening to disown me; and makes me fantasize about sucker punching Bill-O and Karl. Okay minus those regrettable semi-violent sentiments, I am filled with patriotism and am feeling only slightly guilty that I skipped class to go to the Obama watch party downtown (which was pure pandemonium when the results were announced). But an election of this magnitude--HISTORY--only happens once in a lifetime.... and this class happens every tuesday.