Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Skinny Garlic Mashed Potatoes

I had bought some Laughing Cow Garlic and Herb Cheese a month or two ago and then couldn't remember which recipe I bought it for. I found the recipe and decided to try it today.

The recipe I found on Recipezaar called for chicken broth, but I was making meatloaf to go with it, so I decided to use beef bullion cubes instead.

The mashed potatoes were good, but my boyfriend said they were a bit salty and I think it was too much of the cheese. I'll try these again but will try it with about half the cheese next time.

Here is my adaptation of the recipe found on Recipezaar.

Skinny Garlic Mashed Potatoes

2 cups beef broth
2 beef bullion cubes
1 cup instant mashed potatoes
4 slices of Laughing Cow Light Garlic and Herb Cheese
1 clove garlic
2 teaspoons parsley

  1. Boil water and add bullion cubes. Once cubes are dissolved, add mashed potato flakes, garlic, and parsley, whisk together.
  2. Once blended, break up cheese wedges into pieces and add to potatoes. Mix together and serve.

Oreo® Cake...Decadence on a Plate

After postponing our night out on Saturday due to my boyfriend's later shift at work and last night due to me not feeling well, we finally managed to make it to dinner at T.G.I. Fridays®. I got my usual mozzarella sticks appetizer (part of my boyfriend's three courses for $12.99 meal deal) and Jack Daniel's® Chicken dinner. I must say I was disappointed in the mozzarella sticks. I usually love them, I preferred my homemade ones! I hope I'm not spoiling myself to the eating out experience by making so much at home!

Anyway, with dessert we split an Oreo® Chocolate Cake. I thought it was good, but extremely rich. I usually love cake and Oreo® desserts, but this was too much for me, there was no way I could have finished it and it's good that we shared it.

I think I'll make my own at home sometime...now I just need to try to make that copy cat recipe I have for their Jack Daniel's® Chicken!

Sunday, January 27, 2008


I haven't done a breakfast recipe yet, so I decided to try one today. I was looking through the America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook that I borrowed from the library and came across a recipe for frittata.

I saw a recipe variation that included tomatoes, and decided to go with that and use the plum tomatoes I had, rather than the sun-dried tomatoes the recipe called for since I didn't have any. I also left out the onion since I only had a red onion and I thought a while would have been better.

This was a lot easier to make than I thought it would be. I wasn't able to get the tomatoes and herbs on the bottom of the frittata, but it still tasted very good.

Here's my version of the recipe:

Frittata with Tomatoes and Basil

6 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons basil (I used dried), chopped
3 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. In an oven proof, nonstick skillet, heat up to medium and put in olive oil and heat.
  3. Mix eggs, basil, salt, pepper, and tomatoes in a bowl. Once skillet is hot, pour in the egg mixture.
  4. Once the bottom has set (about 30 seconds) start lifting up the bottom and allowing the uncooked egg to run down. Keep doing this until the frittata is mostly set but still soft.
  5. Place in oven and finish cooking until completely set.
  6. Invert onto serving dish and slice for serving.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Pretzels, Pretzels

Well, after a tutoring job this morning, I was looking forward to coming home to bake some brioche as I've eaten the last of the rolls I bought in England. Alas, I could not find a recipe online that had the ingredients listed on the Tesco bag and I've decided to wait until a day when I have a bit more courage and time, maybe during February vacation in a couple of weeks.

In my quest to find inspiration for a baking challenge today, I came across the Daring Baker's Blogroll and saw that they were first started by a pretzel competition. I love the big, soft pretzels and try to get them whenever I'm in a mall with an Auntie Anne's or other pretzel shop. Since none of the malls closest to me seem to have an Auntie Anne's, I vowed to learn to make my own and I felt like today was the day!

I tried to find a pretzel recipe that was easy to follow, being the pretzel-making virgin that I am, and came across this recipe on Recipezaar.

Before I started the pretzel dough, I got started on the pizza sauce since I love to dip my pretzels in that. I've found that the quick sauce recipes I've tried just don't have much flavour and that they taste better the next time I use it, so I wanted to give the sauce as much time as possible.

I didn't have any bread flour, so I just used regular all-purpose flour for my pretzels. My dough still looked pretty floury when mixed, but the recipe said not to mix it too much, so I just tried to trust the recipe.

While the dough was rising, I preheated the oven and added some extra tomato paste and Italian Seasoning to the sauce since it didn't have a lot of flavour. I also prepped the baking soda and water mixture. I always read all of the reviews on Recipezaar before I try a recipe because there tend to be helpful tips and a few people said they halved the water mixture or thought there was too much. I didn't find that to be the case. I have plenty left over, but I felt I needed that much water and baking soda to easily dip the pretzel.

I saw that the nutrition facts on Recipezaar said a serving size is 70g, so I took out my scale and measured each wad of dough as close to 70g as possible. I then tried rolling the dough into ropes. That wasn't very easy. In my mind, rolling meant that the dough had to roll completely over since the ropes are round. I found that the key to rolling them easily was to just rock the dough and not completely roll it. By rocking it, I got that round, rope shape and didn't break or squish the dough.

I put them in the oven and found that portions of the parchment paper seemed to burn. I was worried at first that 500F was too high, but then realized it was water spots from the dipping mixture. My fears over the parchment paper made me take the pretzels out of the oven a little earlier than I probably should have, but they looked done and I thought it had been 4 minutes. As I was dipping them in the butter, I realized they were a bit sticky and soft still, but I didn't think I could put the back in the oven at that point. I didn't have any large pretzel salt, but I did just use some regular coarse salt and that seemed to work just fine.

Even slightly undercooked, these pretzels were so good that I ended up eating all five! My boyfriend was still at work, so couldn't help me and they are best when hot. I have a lot of dough left over, but I'll save that for dessert tonight and will just leave them in the oven a bit longer this time, when the whole pretzel is golden brown instead of just portions.

This was so easy once I got the hang of the rolling that I will definitely plan to make these again!

Updated to add that the second batch turned out better than the first. I cooked the remaining six pretzels at 475°F just in case the oven had been too hot. They turned out perfect and my boyfriend enjoyed them as well.

Jerk Chicken, The Pampered Chef Way

Last night I had my first Pampered Chef party. I had never been to one before and didn't know what to expect. It ended up being fun, but a bit cheesy as I'm sure they all do.

Anyway, I was wondering what I would do for my new food for the day. I was going to cook something to leave here for my boyfriend, but didn't get around to it. Then I was going to bake cookies when I got home, but we stayed to chat after and I didn't get home until 11:30. Luckily, we made something at the party that I've never had before!

Jerk Chicken Nachos were on the menu. Of course they wanted to show off their items, so we used a chopper to cut up cooked chicken, and a santoku knife to chop a pepper (should probably have been the other way around if they wanted to show off the chopper's powers...but I'm not in charge!). They then used a pizza stone to lay out the nachos. We used a juicer to get the lime over the nachos, and used the mandolin to slice some limes paper thin for margaritas. The only thing they didn't have was a special pastry bag for the sour cream over the nachos, but they used a plastic bag for that. They also had a special Jerk Chicken spice mix that they sprinkled over the nachos and mixed in with the sour cream. It did taste good and I don't usually like sour cream. I think mixing in the jerk chicken spice helped it. It was also lightly drizzled, so it wasn't too heavy.

These Pampered Chef parties are so cheesy. I won a small little "Qwickcut Paring Knife" for putting the most names on my catalog (of who we thought could use certain products like their knives, stoneware, or cookware. I thought that might be the point to it, so I put a reasonable amount that might get me to win ;-) ). They also tried to get us all to have parties and to work for them. I did end up buying a stoneware oven and a fat separator for gravy. I wanted the mandolin, but had to stop myself...maybe at the party my other friend signed up to have next month!

Anyway, I didn't take a picture at the party, and I didn't get the recipe, but trusty Recipezaar to the rescue!

Jerk Chicken Nachos

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Gone in a Curry

In case you haven't noticed, I'm really trying this whole curry thing a lot lately. We bought more jars than I realized in England and it does seem to be an excellent way to use up leftover meats. I also am trying to get more veggies in our diet since I'm not used to eating them and my boyfriend doesn't feel like it's a meal without them. I know his way is healthier and better, so I'm trying to rework my mind and get in the habit of always having a vegetable.

I wanted to use the rest of the roast beef. Tomorrow is pizza night and we're going to treat ourselves to a meal out on Saturday, so it needed to be used up today. I sliced up the meat into ½ inch cubes, put it in a small pot with some Tikka curry sauce, frozen corn, and frozen peas. I let that heat up and made some basmati rice to go with it.

I'd never had basmati rice. It was more expensive than the regular long-grained rice I usually buy. I found a huge bag of it at Sam's Club for $12 and ended up going with that, so we now have plenty of rice for curry! I didn't notice a taste difference between the long-grain and basmati rice, but the texture and shape of the rice was different. I liked it. I'm definitely becoming used to curry. I used to feel the mildest one was too hot and I easily ate this, which has medium heat.

I think I'm embracing my boyfriend's British side and becoming a curry convert...at least for the ease of using up leftovers. The taste is growing on me.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Leftover Roast Beef?? Rissoles!!!

I posted the other night about the roast beef I made in the crock pot. We had a roast that was over 3 pounds, but it was just the two of us, so we had quite a bit left over. I wasn't sure what to do with it, so I asked around and rissoles was one of the recipes recommended to me.

I wasn't given a real recipe, I was just told to take the leftover roast, an onion, parsley, a pinch of cinnamon, breadcrumbs, and an egg, mix it, coat with flour, and fry in a bit of oil. I'm a budding cook, and that sounded simple enough, so I went with it and just gave it a go.

I had about 2 pounds of meat left, and figured that would make too much rissole for tonight, so I took out my new chef's knife and minced about half the meat. (It was recommended that I use a food processor, but I didn't have one so I had to do it the old-fashioned way. It wasn't bad mincing the meat, I just sliced it thinly in two directions so it looked shredded, laid the shreds flat and pressed my knife over them. I could not have done this with my old knives!) I then minced the onion, put in about a tablespoon of parsley, about 1/2 cup breadcrumbs, one egg...and a little too much cinnamon. I didn't have my computer in the kitchen and I remembered there was cinnamon, but not a pinch. I put in about a teaspoon, which was too much. I then mixed it and made patties, which I coated in flour. The patties were fried in a coating of oil in a skillet until brown on each side.

My boyfriend thought they were brilliant. I liked them, but will try to remember to only use a pinch of cinnamon next time. I tried them plain and found them a bit dry, but that may be the extra cinnamon and maybe too much flour? I tried a bit of ketchup on them, but don't think they tasted right with ketchup (although my boyfriend did like them with ketchup). I finally ate them with some heated up leftover gravy. Lee ended up eating his on a bun with some cheese and ketchup on top, like a cheeseburger. For a side dish I put some salt and pepper on the leftover vegetables, put them in a 450°F oven and heated until browned and sizzling.

I'll definitely make these again and keep it as a possibility for using up leftover roast beef.

The Missing Post

I noticed that there isn't a post per day so far, I'm on the 23rd day of the month, but this is post 22. Something is not right. I noticed it a while ago, but couldn't think of what was missing. I just realized I forgot to post about making Jello/Jelly!

Looking back at the pictures, they say I took them on January 8th.

England's version of Jello is jelly. I think it is a bit different, it feels like it's a bit of thicker consistency. It actually comes already in a gelatin cube, unlike the American Jello that comes as a powder.

It's actually made in a very similar way to Jello. I usually love Jello and it doesn't last long. I had a bowl of the jelly and the rest ended up going down the drain. I just don't like the thicker consistency. We bought two more flavours of this while in England, blackcurrant and tangerine, so we'll see what I think of those. To be honest, I think the strawberry was the most hopeful candidate for me to like!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Baked Mac and Cheese...Take 1

My boyfriend doesn't like macaroni and cheese, but thinks part of it is due to the texture, so I'm on a mission to find a recipe he likes. I'm a huge mac and cheese fan, so I really want to be able to make it! I'm trying curries for him, so it's only fair. ;-)

I borrowed the America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook from the library and found a recipe for baked macaroni and cheese and thought I'd give it a go.

Yesterday I had the day off for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, so I decided to do as much prep as I could. (One thing I like about this cookbook is that it has a section for many recipes that tell you how to make it ahead of time, the mac and cheese was one such recipe.) Well, I'm glad I did. My boyfriend ended up slicing his finger on the new chef's knife while cleaning it at 11:30 last night and we ended up going to the ER just to be sure it didn't need stitches. Luckily they didn't even end up registering him and just gave him some strips to keep the wound closed, but we still didn't get to bed until after 1:30. Needless to say, I'm exhausted today! I was so relieved to just mix the breadcrumbs and butter and put on the mac and cheese. I also made some small salads for sides and dinner was done.

The verdict?

This recipe didn't convert my boyfriend as a macaroni and cheese lover. He thought it was better than Velveeta, but still felt like it didn't have enough substance. He said he was tempted to put it between two slices of toast and put some ketchup in it...but he didn't end up doing that. I think he just feels like he should have to chew it...I only served him a little bit in case he didn't like it. He did end up eating a little more, but I think I'll be able to eat loads of leftovers!

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

The recipe calls for chicken broth, which was a surprising addition for me, but America's Test Kitchen says they found it to be the best way to keep the macaroni and cheese creamy without becoming too sweet or dry.

8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter
2 cups breadcrumbs
1 pound elbow macaroni
1 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dry mustard, dissolved in 1 teaspoon water
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3½ cups whole milk (do not used reduced fat milk)
1¾ cups low sodium chicken broth (can use vegetable broth for vegetarian)
1 pound Colby cheese, shredded (about 4 cups)
8 ounces extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (2 cups)

  1. Make sure the oven rack is in the middle and preheat the oven to 400°F. Melt 2 tablespoons butter and mix with the breadcrumbs.
  2. Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Stir in 1 tablespoon salt and add the macaroni. Cook until almost tender, but still firm to the bite. Drain the macaroni , leave in the colander, and set aside.
  3. Dry the pot, add the remaining 6 tablespoons of butter and melt on medium heat. Stir in the garlic, mustard mixture, and cayenne pepper. Cook about 30 seconds, until fragrant.
  4. Stir in the flour and cook until golden brown, about 1 minute. Stir in the milk and broth slowly and simmer, whisking often, until the mixture is slightly thickened. This should take about 6 minutes.
  5. Take the pot off the heat and slowly whisk in the cheeses until completely melted. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the macaroni, until well mixed. Be sure to break up any clumps.
  6. Pour into a 9" x 13" baking dish. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs evenly over the macaroni and cheese. Bake until golden brown and bubbling around the edges. this should take about 25-30 minutes. Cool about 10 minutes before serving.
To make ahead:
Follow steps 2-5. Cover dish and put in fridge for up to three days or freezer for up to three months. If frozen, defrost for 24 hours before setting out at room temperature for an hour. If refrigerated, set the dish out at room temperature for an hour before cooking. Mix the breadcrumbs and sprinkle over dish just before baking.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Simple Crock Pot Roast Beef

Today I decided to to a roast dinner since I had the day off from work. I was busy all weekend so didn't really cook. I heard that roast beef in the crock pot is supposed to be really juicy and tender, so I thought I'd give it a go. I found a simple recipe on my trusty ol' Recipezaar and got to work.

Easiest Pot Roast Ever

The meat was very tender. I got nervous about the amount of water the recipe called for, especially with the bullion cubes, so I added about an extra cup. I shouldn't have done that and won't do it next time. The only thing Lee and I felt was missing was some garlic or pepper, which we both like in roast beef. I added some garlic powder and ground white pepper. My boyfriend would like for me to use less onion next time, so I'll probably just use half an onion.

The other negative to this dinner was I really was looking forward to making Yorkshire Puddings since I love them and we haven't had them in a while. I forgot to buy eggs, so no puds. :-(

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Milky Way Hot Chocolate

I love Milky Ways.

I love hot chocolate.

A Milky Way Hot Chocolate from Dunkin' Donuts?!?! Has to be a dream come true, right?


I was very disappointed with this concoction. While the concept was nice, the hot cocoa had a fake caramel taste to it and this hot chocolate lover didn't even finish the whole cup. I'll stick with the regular cocoa.

A Feast to Die For

A couple of weeks ago, or maybe it was just last week...my boyfriend suggested getting new knives because ours are horrible. We then happened to see Alton Brown's Good Eats episode American Slicer where he talked about the types of knives and knife skills. I heard about knife skills classes and decided I wanted to try one. My birthday isn't until May, but he said I could take one as an early birthday present. I was excited to see a class at Johnson and Wales for this Saturday and quickly signed up.

Well, the class wasn't what I expected. We were taught some skills, but then we cooked for half the class and we needed more help with the recipes and finding ingredients and didn't get the attention on knife handling skills that I hoped to get. It was still a fun class and I got to try some FABULOUS new recipes!

I don't have pictures because I was at the class, but here is what we had:

Corn Chowder
Stuffed Mushrooms
Chicken and Herbs in White Wine
Tomato Basil Pork Chops
Baked Salmon with Pecan Crunch
Sun-Dried Tomatoes Risotto with Mozzarella
Sweet Peas and Spinach

My favorite out of everything was the risotto. it was INCREDIBLE!!! I'll definitely make it at home sometime.

The stuffed mushrooms were marinated in some balsamic vinegar in class, but it's not in the recipe. I don't really like balsamic vinegar and that was what put me off of the mushrooms, so I think I'll try it at home and follow the recipe they gave us.

So...while it wasn't what I was expecting, I did enjoy the class and was able to taste some amazing food.

In the end, I bought a set of Calphalon Contemporary knives. The Shun knives were my favorite, but way out of our price range. I liked the Calphalon Katana knives, but didn't like the handle. I much preferred the handle of the Calphalon Contemporary, and my boyfriend felt the same, so we went with the 17 piece set and I immediately had to try slicing some vegetables to try them out. I used to be unable to cut parsnips, and even my father and boyfriend had trouble cutting them with the old knives. With the new chef's knife I was easily able to slice through a parsnip! I love my new knives!!!

Pizza and a Movie

Well, my boyfriend does not want me to mess with the Friday night pizza and mozzarella sticks. I think I'll have to plan different deserts or something on Fridays instead. For now, I'm just trying to perfect the pizza and mozzarella sticks.

This week, I used some mozzarella sticks that had been frozen since last week. Like before, I fried them for a few minutes and then finished them off in the oven. They turned out the best I've made them this week. I have enough mozzarella sticks for next week, but I think after that I'll try frying enough for a month or so, freezing them, and then just heating them in the oven each week. I feel like I'm wasting a lot of oil, and if you buy frozen mozzarella sticks at the store, that's what they are anyway. I've also learned that canola oil tastes better for these than vegetable oil.

Lazy Cooking Day

Tonight I took the lazy way out of dinner. I've had a long week and just was not inspired to cook when I got home from work. I need to get back to planning out the meals for the week, it makes it so much easier since I just don't feel like thinking about dinner when I get home.

Tonight I just tried the cheaper store brand chicken cutlets instead of the name brand for chicken cutlet sandwiches. I also cooked the rest of the seasoned curly fries. Delicious meal, but hardly exotic. I didn't taste a big difference between these sandwiches and the name brand...

Baked Ziti

I know, I know, I've been horrible about posting still...but oh, well. I'm still doing the challenge. :-)

Wednesday night I made baked ziti. Usually I make baked ziti with no meat in it. I decided to do it a little different this time, I used some hot Italian sausage in it. I first tried to cut up the sausage before cooking it, but it only took a bit of a slice before I realized that wouldn't work. So...out comes the skillet to fry up a couple of sausages. I'm not usually a fan of spicy foods, but DB likes them and I must admit, I'm beginning to have an easier time with the heat. The sausages didn't taste too hot for me.

I also was able to use up more of the pasta sauce I made last week.

Baked Ziti
1 package ziti with ridges
3 hot Italian sausages
3-4 cups pasta sauce (to taste)
1 bag mozzarella cheese

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil.
  3. While the water is heating up, cook the sausages in a skillet, turning occasionally.
  4. When water is boiling, add pasta and cook until softer, but still firm.
  5. Cut the sausages into bite-sized pieces.
  6. Strain the pasta and mix in sausage.
  7. Pour pasta, sausage, and sauce into a baking dish (I used a 9"x13" pan), making sure the sauce is over all the pasta.
  8. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese over pasta until covered.
  9. Spray aluminum foil with non-stick spray and cover dish. Put in oven for approximately 30 minutes or until cheese is melted. Foil may be removed for final minutes to brown the cheese.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Curry in a Hurry

Tonight I needed something I could just throw together quickly. I had some errands to run and didn't have much time for cooking. We still have a few jars of curry sauce in the cabinet, so I thought it would be a good way to use up some of the roast chicken from Sunday's dinner.

After I got home from work, I threw a jar of tikka masala, ½ cup frozen peas, 1 cup chicken, and ½ cup frozen corn in the crock put and put it on low. When we got home from errands about 2 hours later, I cooked some rice. The curry was nice and hot and it was actually spicy, unlike the korma we had last week!

I'm still not sure about this whole curry thing. I ordered a curry cook book online since Lee likes it and really wants me to like it too. I guess I'll have to develop a taste...I've heard it can take up to 10 times...I'll give it at least that, maybe 20 for an honest-to-goodness try before calling it a loss. If I expect him to try a bunch of macaroni and cheeses, I guess I owe him that...

Monday, January 14, 2008

Not So Spicy Chicken and Mashed Potatoes

Today was just not my day cooking wise. I wanted to bake some chocolate chip cookies, but I'm trying to clean my oven and the Easy Off is sitting on it. I was cooking some chicken in the crock pot and I remembered to turn it on, but not plug it in. To top it all off, I forgot to turn on the burner when I was trying to make the mashed potatoes.

It all ended up ok in the end. I got the recipe for South of the Border Chicken from the chicken I cooked yesterday. I figured it would be spicy. Last time I made the mashed potatoes, they were spicy, so I was expecting a spicy meal. I guess we don't always get what we expect.

The meal was good, but last time I made the mashed potatoes, I didn't have any hot sauce, so I put in some red pepper flakes. This time I had some hot sauce, but didn't know how hot it was and didn't put in as much as the recipe called for. They weren't spicy at all. The chicken wasn't even spicy, and it smelled like it would be very hot...Next time I'll add some more pepper to the chicken and hot sauce to the potatoes.

South of the Border Chicken (from Perdue)

1 Oven Stuffer Roaster (I used two bone-in, skin on chicken breasts)
1 tbsp cumin
6 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp Kosher salt

  1. Put chicken in the crock pot. If using whole chicken, remove giblets first.
  2. Sprinkle cumin, garlic, pepper, and salt over chicken.
  3. Cook for 8-9 hours on low or 4-5 hours on high (times are for whole chicken)
I think I already posted the recipe for the Mexican Mashed Potatoes.

Hopefully I'll have better luck with the cooking tomorrow. At least my oven is clean now!

Roast Chicken

Since he does the clean up, my boyfriend had asked me if I could cook chickens in aluminum foil to make the clean up easier on him. I didn't think it would work very well because there would be no browning and didn't know how the drippings for gravy would work out either. When we were in England for Christmas, I saw a Delia Smith episode where she cooked her turkey completely wrapped in aluminum foil and still was able to use the drippings for her gravy. I figured if Delia could do it, I could do it!
I spread a bit of butter over the chicken and sprinkled some Bell's Poultry Seasoning over it as well. I put my family's recipe for stuffing inside and cooked it at 350°F. When I figured there was about an hour left, I cut away the top part of the aluminum foil so it could brown. The only problem was I accidentally cooked it upside down the whole time, and since I didn't take off the bottom part of aluminum foil, it never browned at all. Oh well, the meat tasted delicious!

I've heard of people making stuffing in a crock pot and thought I'd give it a go with the extra I mixed up. I had to put about a quart of stock to make it moist enough, but it did end up working, although it wasn't as good as what usually comes out of the bird.

I also served some cranberry sauce and steamed some carrots and green beans.

It's Football Time!!!

Tonight, I just tried a new packaged food. We had a friend over to watch the Patriots and Jaguars game. I set out some snack food and among the foods were two things I hadn't tried before.

1. Hidden Valley Cracked Peppercorn Ranch Dressing
2. Laughing Cow Garlic and Herb Cheese

I must admit, we all had to get used to the flavor of the peppercorn ranch dressing. None of us were fond of it at first, but it grew on us. I still prefer the original.

The cheese was a bit tricky to open. I didn't notice the red tab until the second wedge, but it was so much better once I found it! We all loved the cheese and were so glad it came in small wedges because we could just stop opening them once we became full. It's delicious for a cheese platter. If it was a larger gathering, I would open the little wedges ahead of time instead of having us open them one by one.

Pizza Night!

Friday night is pizza night for us. I decided to try homemade pizza one time and we both had fun making it and thought it would be a great inexpensive date night.

I have been using this recipe for our pizza nights. I hadn't had Pizza Hut pizza in a while, and when we were in England I noticed that their pizza was a bit greasier than ours turns out, the crust a bit thicker, and it was a little more buttery (I don't use the butter flavored Pam the recipe recommends because I don't have it and don't feel like buying it). I would like it to taste as authentic as possible, so I think my mission for the next couple of weeks will be to perfect it! I also used the RagĂș pizza sauce instead of the one in the recipe.

I've used a baking sheet for cooking these pizzas. That's not the same type of pan that Pizza Hut uses, and I'm wondering if it makes a difference. Either way, this week I put a little bit of artificial butter flavour (I had that for making cake icing) and it did add a bit of buttery flavour, although it still wasn't quite what I was hoping for.

I also forgot to get some things for the toppings, so my boyfriend had to make do with cheese (my favorite!). Anyway, we both enjoyed the pizza and the mozzarella sticks I made to go with it and I'll try again next week!

I forgot to take pictures again. I'll try to be better, I promise!

Tomayto, Tomato, Pahsta, Pawsta...

However you choose to pronounce it, we had homemade tomato sauce with ziti and italian style ground beef for dinner/tea tonight. I meant to make this Wednesday, but forgot to get up early enough to chop everything and put it in the crock pot. I got home early enough, I could have made it when I got home, but I really wanted to use my crock pot, which took longer than the two hours I had. So...I made it Thursday.

I've been making homemade tomato sauce a lot lately. It saves money and I can suit it to our tastes. I have been using powders instead of the real thing because it cooks faster, but since I was doing the crock pot, I wanted to do the fresh ingredients! My boyfriend said he really noticed a difference and it had a much fresher, more vibrant taste.

Pasta Sauce (in a 5 qt. slow cooker)

1 part diced tomatoes to 2 parts tomato sauce (I can't remember the can size I used, but it pretty well filled my crock pot)
1 can of tomato paste
I medium white onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced (we love garlic flavour)
1 bay leaf

I didn't have these fresh, so during the last two hours of cooking I added:
2-3 tablespoons parsley flakes
2-3 tablespoons Italian seasoning

Put ingredients in crock pot and cook on low for approximately 10 hours. This made a lot of sauce and we put the extra in a container to freeze and use later.

Garlic Bread:
1 Italian loaf of bread
garlic salt (I have the kind with parsley)

1. Slice the bread in one inch sections.
2. Leave the bottom crust intact, don't slice all the way through.
3. Butter each side of the slices.
4. Sprinkle garlic salt to taste on each side of the slices.
5. Wrap in aluminum foil and heat in 350°F oven until butter is melted and crust is crispy.

Italian Style Ground Beef:

I hadn't made pasta in a while and both Lee and I are pasta lovers! We didn't realize how much we missed it until tonight!

Some Cheesy Goodness

Ok...I'm not too good about posting every night, but I am still keeping with this and taking pictures. I just don't always feel like hooking up the camera to my computer every night. I figured out how to edit posts later, so maybe I'll do the posts each day and go back and add pictures later. It's probably better to have the posts without pictures than no posts even if it would have had a picture...

Anyway, so I'm on this quest to try a new food or recipe each day, but my boyfriend is just being a bystander in this. Sure, he gets to try the recipes, but he just has to show up at the table. He doesn't have to do anything special. I've decided it's his turn. Tonight HE gets to try something new.

Apparently he's never had a good ol' grilled cheese! I guess it's just not as popular in England. The Welsh have cheese on toast, and when I was talking about my craving for grilled cheese, that's what he thought it was. So, on Wednesday he got to try grilled cheese.

Now, I know there are some variations on the actual grilling method, but I prefer my mom's way of doing it. My dad puts some butter on the pan and then puts the white bread and American cheese on it. He squishes the bread and it ends up being quite flat. My mom, on the other hand, butters the bread and then grills. they both have both slices of bread on the sandwich the whole time. The heat is so low, that the cheese is usually melted by the time it's ready to turn, which makes it a lot easier. I like my grilled cheese to be very cheesy so I always put on two slices of cheese. I prefer white cheese to the orange stuff.

I explained to my boyfriend that some people like to dip their grilled cheese into either ketchup or tomato soup. He thought that tomato soup sounded better, so I heated up some of that. I also made some curly fries to go on the side.

He says he isn't much of a cheese person, but he liked grilled cheese! He preferred it dipped in the tomato soup to being plain. He said it is much better than he thought and much better than toasted cheese sandwiches he had before.

I did forget to take pictures that day.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Pasty Potatoes

I've always made mashed potatoes from a box. I'm trying really hard to learn to make mashed potatoes from fresh potatoes, but haven't had much success. I really should just follow a recipe until I get it, but that would make too much sense! The first time I made them, they tasted good, but were fairly lumpy.

This time, I think I was ok with the boiling part. I used my new immersion blender to mix them and that seemed to work well (I don't have a potato masher). I think I put in too much milk and butter. I didn't measure the milk and put in two tablespoons of butter. I was using up the rest of the small white and red potatoes I had here, so I think it was about 10-15 in all.

Luckily, I planned them to accompany some reheated Salisbury Steak I made in December and the gravy helped make the potatoes edible! Not every meal is going to be a success, and I guess this was a miss for now.

Vampires Beware: Garlic Roasted Vegetables!

When asked what he would like for his mother to send to the US from England, Lee asked for her garlic roasted vegetables. Since customs may have an issue with that, she sent the recipe. I tried to make these once before, but I didn't see a container marked "mixed herbs" at the grocery store and wasn't sure how much of a difference there was, but used Bell's Seasoning. I didn't have any fresh garlic, so I used powdered. DB tasted a difference and said that, while they were still good, they were nothing like it was supposed to taste.

When we went to England I picked up a tub of mixed herbs so I could have the right combo. I also made sure to get some fresh garlic this time. The fresh garlic makes a huge difference! I'm not so sure about the herbs, but it doesn't hurt. I figured that Sunday would be the perfect day to try them since they take a bit of time. My boyfriend said they were much better this time. I served this as a side with meatloaf. I've never measured out the ingredients for my meatloaf, it's purely by sight so I won't post a recipe for that.

Garlic and Herb Roasted Vegetables

medium sweet potatoes, wedges (peeled & cut into 1 inch(2.5cm)
small whole carrots
small whole parsnips
medium red onions, peeled & cut into quarters
2 medium white potatoes (peeled & cut into wedges)
4 large garlic cloves, crushed
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped mixed herbs (including thyme,rosemary & sage)

salt & fresh ground pepper
  1. Pre-heat the oven to highest setting.
  2. Need a solid baking sheet 16x12 inches.
  3. First scrub the carrots & parsnips, dry them well & place in a large bowl with all the other prepared veg.
  4. Now add the crushed garlic, olive oil & mixed herbs, then mix to make sure they are covered well with oil.
  5. Arrange on baking sheet, sprinkle with salt & pepper & cook in pre-heated oven on a high shelf for 35-40 mins or until they are cooked through.

The Amazing, Disappearing Apple Crisp

I love apple crisp!! I have heard some people compare apple crisp to what is called apple crumble in the UK, but to me, there is no comparison. Crumble is not as sweet and satisfying as crisp, but I do accept it as a nice dessert as long as I think of being as different from a crisp as chocolate chip brownies are different from plain fudge brownies. It's just another layer of goodness! I'm happy my boyfriend agrees. Maybe I spoke too soon though....

I have always made apple crisp with the topping mix that is sold in the fruit section of the grocery store. I'm trying to keep away from box mixes now for several reasons

  1. It's usually cheaper and we're trying to cut spending.
  2. When we move to England they don't have all the same products and I want to learn how to make it on my own while I have the "real" thing available for comparison.
  3. It can be fun!
I love Cortland apples, so those are my go-to apples for baking. I found a recipe that had excellent reviews on Recipezaar and decided to give it a shot. My other prerequisite was that oats had to be an ingredient. I've usually had apple crisp with oats in it, so I bought a container just for the crisp. Not only did I buy the container, I forgot them on my first trip and made a special trip out to make sure I had them since I was so excited for this dessert! The first couple of recipes I looked at (including the cookbooks I have at home) did not have oats in them. I was having none of that. I finally found this one: http://www.recipezaar.com/20591

I decided to leave out the lemon juice. I'm not a big fan of the lemon taste and I worked quickly enough that the apples didn't brown too much either. Plus, I didn't think I had any.

This turned out amazing! I will double the batch next time since we ate it all that night. That's why I'm not so sure I'm happy Lee likes it...he eats so much of it!

Sipping Chicken Soup with Rice

Every winter, I get the poem "Chicken Soup with Rice" stuck in my head. When I was sick, Lee kept offering to make soup for me, but we didn't have any except tomato, which I don't like. Since I'm now feeling better, but DB was starting to sound congested again, so I decided to make some chicken soup on Friday.

I found a pack of vegetables and herbs at the grocery store that said it was for making stock. I figured I'd give it a go, and when else would I have tried dill or turnip in a stock since I wouldn't have thought of those? Anyway, I've been so excited to use my new crock pot and couldn't wait to put it to real use, instead of just warming things up.

I have problems with adding rice to soup, I always add too much and I end up with too little broth. This time, I added a little rice, but the crock pot was on low and it didn't get hot enough, so the rice didn't cook. The soup ended up taking a little longer to cook, and by the time I put it to high the rice really puffed up and sopped up the soup. Luckily, I had reserved some stock and was able to top it up and it turned out well in the end!

Chicken Soup

For the stock:

1 medium turnip
1 medium white onion
2 carrots
1 parsnip
1 stem of dill
1 stem of parsley
2 stocks of celery
1 chicken carcass

Place all stock items in a crock pot and cover with water. Simmer on low for about 12 hours or until the meat and bones fall away from each other. Strain the stock of all vegetables, meat, and herbs.

I had a lot of stock, so I reduced some and poured them into ice cube trays to freeze for later.

With the remaining stock, add desired vegetables, I used carrots, and cooked chicken. I also added a bit of salt and pepper to taste at this time. Simmer until vegetables are cooked.

I add the rice to the simmering stock and let it cook there. I had about 3 quarts of liquid and added about 1½ cups rice. I needed to add about a quart more liquid because the rice absorbed so much. I'm going to try to cook the rice ahead of time next time and add it at the last minute to see if that helps.


Between being very tired and falling asleep while watching TV, and losing our internet over the weekend (who'd have thought that you could have the wrong splitters and that they could die?!) I haven't been updating here. I have still been trying new recipes and foods, so my goal is to update tonight.

On January 3, I made Korma Curry. Lee made me try curry one night in England, I can't remember what kind it was, but it knocked me out. I'm not a spicy food person and I had to go lay down and fell asleep as soon as my stomach settled! On our trip to England for Christmas, he picked up some jars of curry sauce and he wants me to try them and like curry. I thought I'd be nice and make it for him.

The jar said that meat could be added, or vegetables. I know my boyfriend likes to have chicken in his curry, but I thought I'd try to get in a bit of veg too. I hadn't been grocery shopping since we got back from England except for some essentials, like milk, so I had no clue what I had. I found some baby carrots, a can of green beans, and a can of corn. I decided to use the carrots and corn. DB said it was a good choice, he thought green beans sounded gross with the Korma.

It turned out to be really good, but not spicy at all. I drained the corn before putting it in the crock pot with the sauce, so I don't think the corn diluted the taste... This was the next night after having chili and spicy mashed potatoes, so maybe it just tasted so much more mild in comparison? Who knows, all I know is that was our one jar of Korma and I should probably try to learn how to make curries since Lee likes them so much!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Spicing up our Night

I had some leftover white chili in the freezer and thought I'd make some of that for dinner tonight. Since that is technically not a new dish tonight, I needed to make something to go along with it. I've never really eaten chili much, so I have no clue what goes with it. I went to trusty Recipezaar and did a search for Mexican side dishes and came across a recipe for Mexican mashed potatoes. I had a plan!

The recipe called for white and green onions as well as some hot sauce. I didn't have any of that, so I improvised with onion powder and crushed red pepper for some spice. It ended up being a great side dish and I will make it again sometime.

Mexican Mashed Potatoes
Serves 4

4 cups mashed potatoes
1 cup diced tomatoes
1 tsp crushed red pepper
1 tbsp onion powder
1/8 cup shredded cheddar cheese
salt and pepper

Cook mashed potatoes.

While mashed potatoes are cooking, sauté tomatoes, crushed red pepper, onion powder, salt, and pepper. Cook until tomatoes are soft.

When potatoes and tomato mixture are finished, mix together. Sprinkle cheese over potatoes and let sit until melted.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Eating Babies-Jelly Babies, That Is

So...I planned to make a great first entry where I made a special New Year's treat, something along the lines of brioche. Unfortunately, I got a cold and haven't been able to stand very long. Onto plan B.
I belong to an ex-pat forum because my boyfriend and I plan to move to his home country of England. I saw people talking about a sweet/candy called Jelly Babies and decided I wanted to try them. We don't have them in the States, so I bought some on our trip to England this past week and decided today would be the day to try them.
I expected the Jelly Babies to look like Gummi Bears, but was surprised to see that they were covered in powdered sugar. I thought it would add an excellent flavor to the sweets and popped a red one in my mouth, one of my favorite flavors. I liked the taste, but not the texture. These babies were chewy at first, but then seemed to disintegrate in my mouth and there were little bits of jelly bopping around my tongue! The powdered sugar left a bland aftertaste.
I'm sorry to say that I am disappointed with these Jelly Babies. I even tried two more just to make sure that the bad texture was just the first one. Nope. The packet has been passed on to my boyfriend, who likes them.


Made by Lena