Sunday, January 31, 2010

HOW TO: amp up the nutritional value of instant mac & cheese

I finally indulged that lingering craving this weekend!

Organic or not, instant mac is still instant mac -- junk food, in a BAD way! (Yum!) I can't leave well enough alone, though, and I felt compelled to slightly improve upon the nutritional value of our lunch today. Dan and I split the box of Rising Moon Organic "Original" mac and cheese I bought yesterday, and I made the following additions:
1. Added about 2 cups of small broccoli florets to the macaroni during the last 2 minutes of boiling
2. Added an extra 1/4 cup of milk to the "cheese sauce" (to "stretch" it a bit)
3. Placed 2/3 cup white beans in the bottom of the colander, before draining the mac and broccoli. The beans warmed nicely this way, before being combined with the cheese sauce.

This lunch made me very, very happy. :)


Other happenings in my kitchen this weekend . . .

Saturday Night Pizza Feast:

I made two pizzas this week, since Dan's friend Mike joined us for dinner. Both pies started with my ususal half-whole wheat Artisan Bread crusts, and were smeared with homemade tomato sauce (using fire-roasted tomatoes this time!) The front pizza was topped with roasted red peppers, (frozen, home-roasted peppers from the FM,) broccoli, mushrooms, diced red onion, and sliced garlic. The back pizza was topped with canned artichoke hearts, kalamata olives, sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, and feta. Mozzarella and parmesan on both, as usual.

I finally got around to continuing the bake-a-long today! I had made up a batch of the "Oatmeal Bread" dough last weekend, but never baked any off. Tragedy! Rectified this afternoon:

Gorgeous, non? Tasty, too! I enjoyed a slice this afternoon, still slightly warm,with a little butter, cinnamon, and sugar, when I got home from my walk to the library. Divine! I can't wait to see how this will perform in our grilled-cheese sandwiches planned for dinner tonight. I'm starting to think this loaf might make it into "everyday bread" rotation!

While I was busy in the kitchen, I worked on a few other cooking projects as well:

Inside that blob of foil is a whole head of roasted garlic, to be pureed into a bean soup later this week. I also cooked up nine cups of (very plump!) chickpeas, and eight cups of kidney beans. My freezer has been looking a little empty as of late, so I felt the need to fill it up with something. :)


Chocolate? Vanilla? Yin? Yang? Well, when I asked Dan if he wanted chocolate, vanilla, or butterscotch pudding this week, he replied, "um, chocolate or vanilla." Why not both? Some in glass cups for enjoying at home, some in to-go containers for packing in lunches! I love pudding, and it's so freakin' easy, why not make a double-batch, right?


So, what would your vote be: chocolate, vanilla, or butterscotch?

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Bill's Imported Foods

Courtney and I took a short journey to Bill's Imported Foods this morning! I'd heard about Bill's for years, but never actually ventured in there until a couple of weeks ago. Dan and I popped in there on MLK day, after we finished lunch at Bryant-Lake Bowl, and ended up jumping around like crazy people at the vast selection of awesome stuff, affordable prices, and amazing-looking feta cheeses! ALAS . . . Bill's does not accept credit cards! Blah! We had no cash! We spent a long time putting back a big basket full of tasty deliciousness. :(

Well, I went armed with a modest amount of cash this weekend, and came home with the following:

Top-bottom, left-right: dried cranberries, hazelnuts, dried coconut, gigantic jar of kalamata olives, gigantic jar of capers, dried blueberries, dried red plums, dried peaches, gnocchi, and roasted, salted pistachios! YUMMMMMMMMM!!!! The plums and peaches are especially exciting finds for me. Bill's also has dried papaya, dried guava, dried mango, and a whole host of other dried fruits, all at pretty reasonable prices. I could have spent twice as much money as I did, but I had to exercise SOME self-control! (And budget-consciousness!)

All of that shopping makes a girl hungry:

I'd realized we hadn't had this brunch in quite some time, and boy were we due! I love potatoes so, so much, and poached is about the only way I like my eggs. (Well, and hard-boiled. And scrambled, but only "hidden" in a breakfast burrito-type concoction.)


Pizza's on the agenda for dinner tonight, but we have to go collect the car first. Car problems sure do suck, and are mighty expensive! BUT, Dan's car is all fixed up and ready to go, so I guess that's a good thing!?!?


The past few nights have been filled with VERY good food -- indulgent, cheesy goodness, and healthy, creamy goodness!

I was feeling sort of icky when I got home from work on Thursday night, so I didn't bother eating dinner before we went to the co-op to pick up our week's worth of food. By the time we were done shopping, I decided I'd maybe eat something after all, so I picked up a small treat for myself:

I hardly ever have bread and brie for dinner, (or lunch, or breakfast, for that matter,) but what a treat it was! I think I'd take slices of baguette and good brie over any dessert you can name, any day of the year. (Isn't that strange, given my sweet tooth?)

And last night, after a long week, I decided I needed to make something healthy and "meditative" for dinner --

Making risotto, with all of that stirring, is kind of meditative, isn't it? I made this barley risotto recipe from Real Simple, with a few changes . . .

1. I didn't use any wine; subbed an extra cup of vegetable broth and a splash of white wine vinegar
2. I rehydrated about 8 dried mushrooms in the vegetable broth for about a half-hour, before mincing them and adding them to the recipe with the asparagus
3. I added about a dozen white button mushrooms, sliced, with the chopped onion

I think I might prefer barley risotto over "regular" risotto! I like the denser, firmer texture of the barley better, and it has a nice, nutty flavor, too! Yum!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

kids say the darndest . . . again!

(I'm not sure what we're going to do if the kids get any cuter . . . )

From today . . .

We were reading our daily message at morning meeting, and I pointed to a question mark. I asked the kids, "does anyone know what this is called?" After a few moments of silence, one of my girls pipes up,"OH! I know! It's a MYSTERY POINT!"

I love it. WAY better than calling it a dumb ol' "question mark!"

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Vermont Cheddar Bread

I'm really enjoying this bake-a-long that Victoria, Crystal, and I are busy with! It's been a very casual, fun, and low-pressure way to try out a bunch of new bread recipes.

Like . . . last night's Vermont Cheddar Rolls:

Oh, so yum! Still warm from the oven and slathered with butter, these were just about the best thing in the whole wide world. The dough might even need more cheese next time . . . :)

Served the rolls alongside . . .

"Smoky Split Pea Soup," from the most recent issue of Vegetarian Times. Pretty quick and easy for a weeknight, given I used split peas from the co-op, (high turnover means quicker cooking times, I've found,) and dang tasty, too! I especially enjoyed the sweet potato instead of the more traditional carrot -- I love sweet potatoes, and don't love carrots! Isn't that weird?

Tonight, I wanted even faster, less-complicated fare:

Pasta and salad never fail to satisfy.

AND NOW . . . I need your help! I have been dealing with a monster mac and cheese craving for days now . . . I'm talking, instant mac-in-a-box type craving! I might try making some stovetop mac from scratch this weekend -- anyone have a good recipe they love?? Please share!

Monday, January 25, 2010

kids say the darndest . . .

From last week . . .

The kids were hanging out together, looking through toy catalogs. They kept asking my coteacher and I, "can we get this? Can we get this?" We kept reminding them that we weren't going to buy any toys any time soon, but wasn't it fun to look?

One of the girls pipes up, very matter-of-factly, "yeah, sometimes you just have to wish for dreams to happen."


Sunday, January 24, 2010

more whole grains

I checked out Lorna Sass's Whole Grains Every Day, Every Way from the library last week, and have finally had a chance to get into the book and get cooking!

I made "Brown and Wehani Rice Casserole with Tomates and Feta," except that I couldn't find Wehani rice at Mississippi Market, so I used Bhutanese red rice. We enjoyed some Mediterranean-marinaded tofu and veggies on the side for dinner tonight:

SO deliciously tasty! The only adjustment I'd make to the recipe is omitting the added salt next time -- the feta and olives bring plenty of savoriness to the party! Yum!

I also made "Granola Revisited."

Not a "weeknight" granola recipe, since it takes about an hour and a half in the oven, but definitely the best granola I've made to date. The long roasting time at a low oven temperature guarantees perfectly toasted oats! Delicious!

And, here's something that made me laugh today:

Other than the recipe for fruit crisp, I pull Joy of Cooking off my shelf most often to serve as a tofu weight. I'm guessing that's not what Irma had in mind when she put the book together, but, well, there you go. Made me chuckle!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

dinner and dessert, plus yoga update

I spent a good chunk of today in my kitchen, (wee!), getting busy prepping ingredients, marinades, bread doughs, etc. for our upcoming week's meals. Result?

Fajitas for dinner!

Whole-wheat tortillas stuffed with queso fresco, chipotle-lime marinaded tempeh, peppers, and onions, fresh tomatoes, guacamole, lettuce, and salsa. YUM! I didn't eat much for lunch today, so I enjoyed seconds of this fantastic dinner!

AND, gigantic cookies for dessert!

Every once in a while, I want to exercise my "lazy" bones and make gigantic cookies, just so I don't have to pull quite so many trays in and out of the oven.

And, for the record, this is the best oatmeal cookie recipe EVER, gigantic or normal-sized! Here goes . . .

Best Ever Oatmeal Cookies

Cream together:
1 cup butter
1 cup packed brown sugar

Beat in:
2 eggs

Combine, then stir into above:
2 cups regular rolled oats
2 cups AP flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 1/2 cups "stuff" (I used 1/3 cup unsweetened coconut, 2/3 cup dried cranberries, 3/4 cup chopped walnuts, and 3/4 cup chocolate chips.)

To make giant cookies, I used my #16 disher and scooped them out in about 1/4-cup mounds, then pressed them flat with the palm of my hand. Baked for about 13 minutes at 375, and I had (about 20) awesome cookies to rival any coffee shop!


Just a quick update on my New Year's resolutions -- I'm remembering to take my vitamin most days, (Dan usually still has to remind me,) we have a permanent large container of ground flax seeds that now live in our refrigerator, and the yoga is going well, as you can see from my sidebar. I'm enjoying committing that time each week, and I think what is helping the most is I set a VERY reasonable goal -- about 60 minutes per week, for 50 of the 52 weeks this year. I'm all about making lifestyle changes, instead of setting unrealistic goals that I'll give up on too quickly!

How are your New Year's resolutions going, if you made any?

Friday, January 22, 2010

no cooking = no posting

Sorry for the lack of posts this week . . . we've been working our way through the mountain of leftovers from last weekend's cooking extravaganza! At this point in the week, however, if I have to look at one more serving of leftover dal, I might just . . . not feel all that hungry. :( I hate this about myself, but I just don't do very well with leftovers! Drat.

What did I have for dinner tonight? Leftover waffles, with peanut butter, sliced bananas, and maple syrup. Not the healthiest option, but the most palatable, given my choices! And I did manage to clean out one more leftover thing lingering in the fridge. And eat up the slightly bruised banana that went to and from work with me today.

Hopefully I can convince Dan that he's not sick of dal yet. :)

How do you do with leftovers?

Monday, January 18, 2010

the last of the Olive Oil Dough

I used my last glob of "Olive Oil Dough" to make a batch of gorgeous, puffy pita tonight!

Really, other than convenience, WHY have I been buying pita? (And since it only takes, like, fifteen minutes to make pita from refrigerated dough, why have I been buying pita at all?) YUM.

Stuffed the pita with . . .

. . . falafel, expertly cooked by Dan, chopped veggies, and yogurt-tahini sauce. Deeeeeeeeelicious!

Oh yeah . . . and before Dan cooked up the falafel, he cleaned the bathroom! (We're talking, dusted between the radiator slats, scrubbed the floor on his hands and knees, etc.) Not that I'm bragging or anything . . . !


Dinner last night was a winner!

"Chickpea Cutlets" with "Mustard Sauce," both from Veganomicon, with sides of garlic-mashed potatoes and lemony chard. I wasn't completely sold on the whole chickpea cutlet idea at first -- my first couple of tries with the recipe yielded slightly gummy, mushy centers. My trick to perfect cutlets? I divide the recipe into six cutlets (instead of the suggested four,) and press them as thin as I possibly can. Voila! Fully-cooked, crispy goodness all around! P.S. the mashed potatoes were worth writing a song about -- I had a few tablespoons of leftover sour cream in the fridge, and holy cow! That was a great thing.

Breakfast this morning was also a winner!

"Amazing Overnight Waffles," from Mollie Katzen's Sunlight Cafe, made with all whole-wheat pastry flour and topped with peanut butter and maple syrup (shout out to Ann!); pineapple and blueberries on the side. YUM! I'm so glad I bought a new waffle iron!

And, I forgot to mention yesterday that I made some muffins last night:

"Barley Spice Muffins," from the back of the Arrowhead Mills barley flour package. When did I last buy barley flour? Who knows. What did I buy barley flour for? Again, who knows. There was just about a cup left, though, and it didn't smell or look funny, so I figured, why not use it up? And as you can see, even non-vegan muffins suffer from the "pits" sometimes! Oh well; at least they are whole grain, healthy, and delicious!

Stay tuned for the last of the "Olive Oil Dough" useage later tonight!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

bread & more whole grains!

I've been on a "more whole grains" mission lately -- resultingly, a lot of oatmeal for breakfast. Oatmeal never does look like much, does it?

This was an awesome bowl yesterday morning, despite its appearance -- regular ol' rolled oats made with soymilk, containing ground flax seeds, unsweetened coconut, and chopped dried apricots! Yum.

Mysterious sideways naan:

I promise blogger did this for me. :) Not a whole grain, but damn tasty! Lump #3 of the "Olive Oil Dough," and even though we smoked the heck out of the apartment and set off the fire alarm, a tasty use for the dough!

We served the naan with some potato, tomato, and spinach dal:

ANOTHER shout out to Dan's Aunt Mary! Last time we saw them, she forced us into an Indian grocery store and bought us curry leaves, asafoetida, (I just know I didn't spell that correctly,) and a couple of spice mixtures to lend more authenticity to my homemade dal. Thanks, Mary! This was the best batch yet!! (I'm all for "forced" shopping any time!)

AND, more bread baking this afternoon:

Sometimes, you just need a basic sandwich loaf. I've made this recipe before with good results, and was pleasantly surprised that it even froze well! (Hence, two loaves.) I used agave this time instead of honey, and smartly turned the oven down 25 degrees to prevent over-browning. Success! I'm trying really hard NOT to hack into one of these loaves right now while they are still warm . . . !!!!!!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

haircut, food

First, as promised, a glimpse of the new haircut:

It's basically a "bob" -- longer in the front, shorter in the back -- but because my hair is "weird" (not really straight, not really curly,) it does its weird "flippy" thing. Oh well! I like it a lot -- much lower maintenance, much less static-y, and takes a lot less time to wash, too!

Here's what I made for dinner last night:

A frequent and favorite repeat at our house -- red curry! Same sauce as always, (can of coconut milk, 2 tbsp each soy sauce and red curry paste, and water to thin it out,) this time made with tempeh, garlic, ginger, potato (I precooked it at the same time I simmered the tempeh,) broccoli, red pepper, and a few mushrooms, served over brown rice. Yummy! The only thing that would have made this even tastier would have been a squeeze of fresh lime juice at the end -- must remember for next time!

Dan and I were originally planning on going out to see a friend's band play last night, but you know how hard it is to go out on Friday night! We ended up staying in, watching a movie, munching on popcorn (a whole grain snack!) and having treats!

Virgil's rootbeer and Alden's organic vanilla ice cream . . . YUUUUUUUMMMMMMM!!! Rootbeer floats hit the spot any time, if you ask me!

What's your all-time favorite movie treat?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A break from bread

I had kind of a funny day today -- I had the day off from work! It's a little weird to have a TUESDAY off, but heck, I'll take my comp day when I can get it! (I had 8 hours of training on Saturday, and since the economy's so bad, my work can't pay me overtime, so there I go!)

I was very busy today. I visited my dentist, chiropractor, AND fabulously amazing haircutting lady, (Dan says that my new haircut makes me look like I just stepped out of a shampoo commercial! Ha!), and also did loads of laundry, mountains of dishes, and visited one of my new favorite places, Penzey's!

I did go with a list, but a few things, ahem, accidentally fell off the shelves into my basket, so I HAD to buy them! I have heard wonderful things about Penzey's "Baking Spice" blend, so I decided to pick some up and give it a try.

What to bake? I thought about apple oatmeal muffins, but decided I wanted something more dessert-y. Solution? I made a most basic brown sugar shortbread, (1 cup butter, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 2 1/4 cups flour), and added 2 tsp of baking spice. Results?

I can't stop eating these. If somebody wants to sneak into my apartment and eat half the batch for me, I'd be thankful! Even Dan likes these, and he claims not to like "crunchy" cookies.

I also made a more labor-intensive dinner for us tonight, since I had plenty of extra time:

"Mushroom Potato Stroganoff," from The Cheese Factory Restaurant Cookbook, (no, not the Cheesecake Factory . . . this place is in the middle of rural Wisconsin, completely vegetarian, and fantastic!), buttered egg noodles, and a big, green salad as an attempt to offset all of that fat. :) Mmmm, fat! This recipe is such a winner, I really wonder why I haven't tried any of the OTHER recipes in the book yet???

What would you do if you had a random day off in the middle of your work week?

decadently delicious pizza!

I realize that "real" pizza is all about the crust, with very minimal toppings.

I guess I don't make "real" pizza, but it sure is tasty! (What can I say . . . I like toppings!) Check out this bad boy:

Lump #2 of the Olive Oil Dough as the crust, topped with a "sauce" of caramelized onions, three cheeses (mozzarella, parmesan, and FETA!), mushrooms, diced canned tomatoes, artichokes, spinach, kalamata olives, and slices of fresh garlic.

Usually, I enjoy two pieces of pizza; this pie was so loaded, one slice was sufficient for me! :) And I almost had a panic attack when I thought Dan had finished up the leftovers for breakfast AND lunch today . . . and then I noticed stuff just got pushed to the back of the fridge. WHEW! Pizza panic averted!

Stay tuned for more bread dough useage coming up later this week!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

welcome to the bake-a-long!

Victoria and I have started our Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day bake-a-long this week! We decided to start with the recipe for "Olive Oil Dough," which can then be turned into many different tasty concoctions.

Since choosing what to DO with the dough is up to the individual baker, I decided to take my first lump of olive oil dough and turn it into Olive Bread!

So beautiful! So easy! (As one comes to expect with AB.) So delicious!

Sliced up, ready to be enjoyed with dinner:

I served the olive bread alongside Corn Chowder with Roasted Poblanos, from The New Mayo Clinic Cookbook:

Best corn chowder recipe, I swear. Not too rich, not too heavy, and if you use local home-frozen sweet corn like I did, the corn practically tastes like candy! Yum.

And, what's dinner without dessert, right?

Mixed-berry crumble, to be enjoyed with vanilla ice cream here in a little bit, once we settle into the couch and a movie for the rest of the evening!

Stay tuned for more bake-a-long fun!

one of my favorite things

I don't usually spend a lot of time touting websites that I love, but I HAVE to tell you about vitacost, if you don't already know about it!

I just placed a roughly $200 order, and saved OVER $100 on retail prices!

What do they have?? Check out their website for full information, but I buy some of the following brands from them:

Natra Care
Seventh Generation
Burt's Bees
Nature's Gate
Thursday's Plantation
Earth Therapeutics (I've been searching for a retailer that sells their antibacterial body sponge for YEARS!)
Yogi Tea
Rainbow Light vitamins

They also have amazing prices on dried fruit, nuts, whole flax seeds, flax oil, hemp seeds and oil, chia seeds, herbs, supplements, and other great stuff!


Please go check out vitacost, if you haven't already, just because I think it's such a great place! Let me know what you think!

Saturday, January 09, 2010

I baked! I cooked!

It's been a weird week -- we had so many leftovers from the holidays, I barely had a reason to bake or cook! I did manage each, once, though:

Overripe bananas are always the best excuse:

This is the first time I tried replacing all of the oil called for in a recipe with ground flaxseeds, and it worked well! The recipe called for 1/2 cup oil, and I used 1/2 cup flaxseeds and 1/2 cup applesauce. The banana bread stayed nice and moist, even though I used whole-wheat pastry flour, too! Success.

Dinner Thursday night:

Pasta alla puttanesca! With a random 2 cups of white beans thrown in, since they were languishing in the fridge. Deeeeeeeeelicious. I didn't follow a recipe at all, and was very pleased with how this turned out. Success #2!

UGH -- I'm off to CPR and 1st Aid training from 8 - 4:30 today. Blah! (At least I get to take a day off next week to make up for it!) After I get home, though, it's grocery time! I'm excited to get back to meal-planning and cooking!

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Calling all "Artisan Bread" fans!

Are you a fan of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day? Please join Victoria and I in our quest to try out more recipes from this fantastically easy bread baking book!

Shoot one or both of us an email and/or comment to let us know you'd like to bake-a-long!

***UPDATE: We'll start on Monday, January 11th with the "Olive Oil Dough" recipe, page 134.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

hello, 2010.

Happy New Year! Hope you all found some kind of fun ringing in the new decade. We've been extremely busy these last few days, entertaining family in all forms, (my parents, Dan's brother, Dan's cousin, and a neighbor who I used to babysit for when I was in high school,) and a few friends, too! There have been a ton of people crowded into our tiny apartment, (thankfully, none of them sleeping here,) and lots of food coming and going. Whew! I took no pictures of the tasty things we've been eating, but I'll still tell you what we enjoyed:

New Year's Eve dinner: lasagna made with whole-wheat noodles, sun-dried tomatoes, smoked mozzarella, spinach, mushrooms, and bechamel, with Greek salad and wholegrain sourdough on the side; assorted NA bubbly to drink and leftover Christmas cookies for dessert!

New Year's Day breakfast: homemade granola, gigantic fruit salad, local plain yogurt, and blueberry muffins; coffee, spiced hot apple cider, and OJ to drink

New Year's Day dinner: chili, cornbread, and assorted cookies

Also, the dining out extravaganza has continued, and consequently we have tons of tasty leftovers tucked away in our fridge. Whew! Thankfully, we won't need to hit up the store for this coming week -- we're pretty set!


Here are my meager resolutions for 2010:

1. Get into the habit of taking my multivitamin.

2. Make sure Dan and I get our Omega-3s. (Dan's bad cholesterol is higher than it should be, and I figure, even though my numbers are fine, it can't hurt, right??)

3. More yoga.

What are your goals for the coming year?