Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween! On Halloween for the past few years we have ordered pizza for dinner, but each year we wait at least an hour to get our pizza. I guess it is one of the most popular nights to order pizza. This year, instead of ordering I decided to make my own. I did not go the way of getting a premade crust and adding toppings. I made the dough from scratch and then added the toppings, etc.

I am giving the credit for this pizza dough recipe to a friend of mine's mom. Sarah is one of my closest friends up here. When I went to her parents' house for the first time, her mom made us pizza using this dough recipe. Me, being the baker, I asked her for the recipe and she very willingly gave it to me. It is so easy anyone can do it. So, in honor of Sarah and her wedding I am dedicating this post to you and your mom's pizza!

Homemade Pizza

2 c. all purpose flour
1 c. whole wheat flour
2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp sugar
1 package yeast
1 c. warm water

1/2 c. pasta sauce
1 1/2 c. shredded italian cheese
1/2 tbsp olive oil
toppings of your choice (we picked italian sausage, green peppers, onions and mushrooms)

1. mix warm water and yeast together
2. add flours, sugar, and olive oil to water and mix together until it forms a ball.
3. cover dough and put in warm location and let sit for 1/2 hour

Preheat oven to 425.
1. Once dough has set, roll it out to approximate 15 in circle, and pinch edges to form a rim for the crust
2. Place dough and cookie sheet or pizza stone that has been sprayed with cooking spray
3. Spread olive oil on dough, then add pizza sauce to the top and cheese
4. Add whatever toppings you want to the pizza. (If you use meat on your pizza, make sure to cook the meat ahead of time)
5. Bake for 15 - 20 mins, or until crust is a golden brown.
6. Let sit for 5 mins, and slice as you desire.

I guess this pizza was so good, that TS asked me if it was actually cheaper to buy the ingredients for the pizza and make it ourselves than to order it. I told him it probably was, but making pizza is time consuming (actually it only took me an hour - including the time that it had to rest for 30 mins, and baking for 15) whereas ordering it is easy. However, on nights like Halloween when it would take you an hour to get a pizza delivered, making it is just as good. We will definitely make this again as the winter goes on.

Enjoy your pizza! Here's too good eating, and a Happy Halloween.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

A Typical Weekend

While Friday night I made a pretty good dinner, Saturday and Sunday night we went out. This is fairly typical. I think it is probably typical of everyone I know. The only thing I really made this weekend was I cooked some tomato-basil soup that I served with cheese-bread for lunch on Sunday.

Sunday afternoons we usually eat at home. It is also typically a fairly easy and quick meal. As it gets more and more into the winter we will turn to soup and sandwiches for lunch on Sundays. I guess we are getting into winter season seeing how I made soup today. Today, I didn't really want a true sandwich to go with the soup, so I made some cheese bread. Yes, I did get the soup premade. If I remembered the brand, I would let you know. All I know is that it comes in this tanish-colored box and it is organic and I can find it at Target. The cheese bread, I made myself. It was pretty good if I do say so, and the perfect accompaniment to the soup.

Cheese Bread

several slices of Italian bread
1/2 c. Italian shredded cheese mix
1 Tbsp hot pepper olive oil
2 tsp dried basil

1. preheat oven to 350.
2. place your Italian bread slices on a cookie sheet
3. drizzle olive oil over each of the slices (distributing the 1 Tbsp evenly among your slices of bread).
4. sprinkle cheese evenly on each slice of bread.
5. sprinkle basil on top of cheese.
6. bake for 10 mins.

At this point, I would like to talk about one of TS's and my favorite local restaurants - Lowbrow. We turn to this restaurant on nights like tonight where we have no plans for dinner and I didn't have anything in the house I wanted to cook. We don't know what Lowbrow is supposed to be, but that is just fine with us. It is a little bit of everything. A few salads, great burgers, sandwiches, a pasta option, etc. It has a great local beer selection, several decent wines and Killebrew root beer. I am not a root beer drinker, but every time we go to Lowbrow TS always will order one, so I guess it is good. It is also a super family-friendly restaurant. They provide mini Etch-A-Sketches for kids to play with while waiting for food. (I love that idea!). I have never had a bad, or even mediocre meal there. It has always been good, no matter what I order and I have tried many things.

Dinner tonight was great and just what we were in the mood for. We had hamburgers and fries. They make their own hamburger patties and serve it on a fresh bun (not one of those mass produced commercial buns that you get at most burger joints). I love that one of their cheese options for a cheeseburger is chipotle gouda. Adding this to a hamburger adds a spicy hint to the burger. I love a "spicy" cheese option that is not pepperjack. You do have the option of getting a pretty hot burger if you go with the chipotle gouda, sauteed jalapenos and spicy mayo. I have not had that burger yet, but that does not mean I will not try it in the near future. Mmm. Just thinking about this meal makes me want to go back soon.

Here's to good eating out!

Friday, October 28, 2011

A Special Dinner

Tonight I thought I would make a meal that I had never made before - homemade gnocchi. TS and I love gnocchi and I have a cooking magazine which had a recipe for homemade gnocchi with pesto sauce. Well, my mom sent me a jar of her homemade pesto, so that part of the recipe was taken care of and all I had to do was make the gnocchi.

I have so many gnocchi recipes, but I always buy pre-made gnocchi. This was my first attempt at making this potato pasta. Yes, you did read that correctly - another meal with potatoes as a base. But, this one I turned into a pasta. I would not recommend trying this recipe out on a weeknight unless you are (1) not working that day or (2) do not mind eating dinner late. I did not know this when I started preparing dinner at 630. We did not sit down to eat until 815. TS and I normally do not eat until late (I think I have said this before), so eating at 815 isn't that big of a deal, but I wish I had known this tidbit in advance. While it took some time, the results were very good. TS said it was "delicious!"

Homemade Gnocchi

1lb potato (peeled and cut into quarters)
1 1/4 c. semolina flour (plus more for dusting)
2 eggs, lightly beaten

1. Set potato in a large pot to boil. Once boiling, turn heat down and simmer for 25-30 mins, until potato is very soft.
2. Remove potato from water and set in a bowl and mash thoroughly, you do not want any chunks of potato.
3. Let potato cool so you can comfortably touch it.
4. Once cool, add flour and eggs to potato and mix until it forms a dough.
5. Turn dough onto a floured surface (use semolina flour) and knead a few times.
6. Separate dough into 6 balls and roll each ball into a "rope" about 1/2 inch in diameter
7. Using kitchen shears, cut 1/2 inch pieces of dough from rope and set on plate. Repeat until all your dough has been cut. (I put parchment paper/wax paper between layers of cut up dough).
8. Set pot of salted water to boil. Once boiling add 1/3 of the dough pieces to the boiling water and cook for 5 mins (your gnocchi should be floating at the top). Remove from water with slotted spoon and place in a bowl. Repeat process until all dough has been cooked.

At this point I added my mom's pesto sauce and some freshly grated Parmesan cheese to the gnocchi. Serve with a vegetable and you have a good meal.

I will definitely try this recipe again later on in the winter. If I have hours to kill one night, I may even try to make homemade gnocchi to go into the gnocchi mac n' cheese recipe I have. Mmm. You'll get that recipe one night this winter.

Until then, good eating!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

McDonald's Meats

For several years when we have driven up to TS's best-friend's cabin we have passed by this little butcher shop called McDonald's Meats in Clear Lake, MN. This summer, during a torrential downpour TS and I stopped in to buy Italian sausages and beef jerky. Once we tried the Italian sausage, we were hooked. Now, whenever we drive through Clear Lake, we always stop. During TS's last trip through Clear Lake he stopped and bought salsa brats. We decided since it was "warm" enough tonight for grilling, we would grill these brats.

All day I was trying to think about what would go with salsa brats. Something along the "Mexican" line of cooking, but what? I had some red potatoes (if you haven't figured out already, I always seem to have small red potatoes in my house) and I had half an onion from last night and I had a green pepper. I realized if I combined these three ingredients I would have a perfect side to our salsa brats. Here is my take on "Mexican Potatoes."

Mexican Potatoes

5 large red potatoes, sliced into thin disks
1/4 large onion, chopped
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
hot pepper olive oil (my mom makes this stuff and it is fantastic!)
shredded cheddar cheese (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 400. Coat bottom of 9x9 pan with a drizzle of hot pepper olive oil.
2. place sliced potatoes, chopped onion and chopped green pepper in pan and mix together.
3. sprinkle salt, cumin and cayenne pepper over potato mixture, then mix together.
4. cover pan with foil and cook for 15 mins.
5. remove foil from pan and stir mixture, place back in oven, uncovered, for 20 mins.
6. when ready to serve, sprinkle a little cheddar cheese on each portion.

It turned out to be a tasty side dish to go along with the salsa brats, which by the way were really good. We will be buying them the next time we drive through Clear Lake.

On a different note, we are having a Halloween party at work tomorrow. I decided to make "brain" treats for my co-workers. How do you make brain treats? It involves, popcorn, marshmallows and red food dye.

Popcorn Brains

1/2 c. unpopped popcorn
3 tbsp oil
5 c. mini marshmallows
3 tbsp butter
red food dye
cooking spray

1. pour oil into large pot and add unpopped popcorn and cover pot.
2. constantly shake pot over the heat until all popcorn is popped (this will prevent your popcorn from burning.
3. pour popcorn into a large bowl.
4. Clean out pot, if necessary, and melt butter in pot.
5. Add marshmallows and stir until melted. Once melted add one drop of red food dye to marshmallows.
6. Pour melted, dyed marshmallows over popcorn and stir together with a spoon coated in cooking spray until cool enough for you to touch the popcorn mixture. (Be careful, the top may be cool, but the bottom of the mixture could still be really hot - I learned the hard way).
7. Once mixture is cool enough to touch (it will still be really warm though), spray hands with cooking spray and being to form the popcorn mixture into a ball.
8. Place balls on cookie sheet to cool completely.

Enjoy eating your brains! I don't know if eating brains is good eating - wait I do. I once ate fried lambs brains. It tasted liked fried oysters - Yum! But eating popcorn ball brains are good too! So, here's to good, creepy eating!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Its A Soup Day

I looked at the weather forecast this afternoon and saw snow is predicted for overnight and tomorrow morning, nothing accumulating, but still there is the chance of snow. To me, this calls for soup for dinner. An easy soup recipe that I turn to on nights like this, when I want to make soup from scratch, is broccoli-cheese soup. This is a soup I used to eat in the fall and winter when I went over my friend Marisa's house. Her mom made the best broccoli-cheese soup. We would sit at her kitchen table, eat broccoli-cheese soup, drink diet Dr. Pepper and hang out. I don't have that recipe, but my recipe isn't all that bad. Serve it with warm bread and you have a great dinner.

Broccoli-Cheese Soup

1 16oz bag frozen broccoli
3 c. chicken broth
1 c. fat-free half and half'
1.5 c. shredding sharp cheddar cheese (I prefer to buy a block of cheddar and grated it myself, but you can use the preshredded stuff)
1/2 large yellow onion finely chopped
3 cloves garlic finely chopped
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
3 Tbsp flour
3 Tbsp butter
Tabasco sauce (if you like a kick)

1. In a large soup pot, melt 2 Tbsp butter.
2. Add chopped onion and garlic to the melted butter and cook until fragrant (about 2 mins), stirring so as to not brown the onions.
3. Add salt, pepper, thyme to the onion and garlic and stir together. Cook about another 1-2 mins.
4. Turn heat down to medium-low and add the flour, stirring constantly until all mixed together, then continue stirring for another 2 minutes making sure to not brown the flour.
5. Turn heat up to medium-high and slowly pour chicken broth into onion mixture, whisking constantly until boils.
6. Turn heat down and let simmer for 5 mins, whisk every minute or two.
7. Add bag of broccoli to soup along with a pinch of salt and let cook for 10 mins, stirring every now and then.
8. If you have an immersion blender then take the soup off heat and use your immersion blender to blend the majority of the broccoli into the soup (be careful for splattering). If you do not have an immersion blender, then pour 1/2 soup (with a large amount of broccoli) into a blender and blend the broccoli, then add back to the soup.
9. Put soup back on the heat and add half-and-half to to mixture, stirring constantly for 2-3 minutes.
10. Add 5-6 drops of Tabasco sauce if you like a bit of heat to your soup and stir until blended.
11. Add cheese and 1 Tbsp cold butter to soup and stir until all cheese is mixed in and butter has melted.
12. Serve with warm bread

NOTE: if you have left-overs it will only really be good for a day or two.

TS and I enjoyed our broccoli-cheese soup with warm bread, followed by apple crisp. What a great fall meal! Here's to good eating!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Monday Night Quick Meal

Sometimes even I surprise myself with how quickly a healthy dinner can be made. Tonight was one of those nights. I had a Junior League meeting until 745p which meant that dinner would not be started until at least 8p. TS and I are used to eating dinner around 745/8 so eating at 830 isn't that big of a deal. With a little planning, I was able to get dinner on the table in 20 mins.

Sunday night I put chicken in the fridge to thaw. I always have chicken or shrimp in my freezer for nights like tonight. Normally, I turn to shrimp but I only have enough for one portion in my freezer right now. (Guess I will be going to Sam's soon to buy shrimp). Anyway, when I ran home after work to let the dog out I took 2 chicken breasts which were thawed and set them to marinate. The beginning of Chicken & Spinach Pasta

Here is the recipe for chicken & spinach pasta:

2 chicken breasts
2 cups fresh/frozen spinach
1 1/2 c. pasta sauce
120 grams pasta
1/2 tsp garlic powder
3/4 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
olive oil
Parmesan cheese

1. Marinate 2 chicken breasts:
a. put 2 chicken breasts in a ziplock bag with 1/2 c. pasta sauce (we use Newman's All Natural Tomato & Basil), 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 3/4 tsp dried basil, 1/4 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
b. let marinate in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours.
2. When chicken has finished marinating, set a pot of water on to boil and drizzle olive oil in a pan and heat olive oil for 1-2 mins on medium high heat.
3. slice chicken into strips and place in pan with olive oil.
4. cook chicken on each side for 4-5 mins.
5. add pasta when water starts to boil and cook for 7-8 mins.
6. after cooking chicken, leave chicken in pan and add 2 cups fresh or frozen spinach on top of the chicken and cover the pan. Add 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes and a pinch of salt to spinach. Let steam until spinach is cooked (about 3-4 mins).
7. When spinach is finished cooking add 1 cup pasta sauce to chicken and toss together.
8. serve chicken mixture over pasta and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

The whole meal takes about 20 mins, at the most. So easy, healthy and good. On a Monday night, when I don't get home until late, this is the perfect meal. No take out for us! And it makes dinner a success.

Here's to good eating!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Those Darn Red Potatoes

I left work today at 530p (which by the way is late for me since I start at 7/715). I then had to come home, drop some stuff off then go out to pick up a bridesmaid dress and parts of my Halloween costume. Needless to say, when TS and I got in the car after picking up the Halloween stuff it was 630 and we had no clue what to do for dinner. We literally sat in the car for 10 mins debating if we should go out or pick something up and go home and eat. Finally, after realizing it would be 7p by the time we got anywhere and we would wait an hour to get a table, we should just go home. Since all my protein was in the freezer still we stopped at Kowalski's (our local grocery store) to pick up some type of protein.

We walked to the back counter of Kowalskis with the intention of buying fish, but for some reason we were drawn to the meatloaf. It just looked so good and so different from what we have been having recently. You will come to find out, as you read this blog more and more, we rarely eat red meat here. We eat a lot of seafood. We did take a stroll down the rest of the meat/fish counter and came back to the prepared meatloaf. The bonus: I had the red potatoes at home that I could use to supplement the meatloaf.

I put the meatloaf in the oven and opened my Joy of Cooking (aka the world's best cookbook) to potatoes and decided to make homemade mashed potatoes. I didn't really need a recipe for this, but the JoC was more for ideas with what to do with the potatoes. Here is homemade mashed potatoes:

Homemade Mashed Potatoes
6 red potatoes diced
2 cloves garlic thinly sliced
2 large pinches of salt
garlic olive oil

1. put the potatoes, salt and garlic in a pot and cover the potatoes with water
2. boil the potatoes until they mash easily with a spoon (about 10-15 mins).
3. drain the potatoes well, then shake them in the pot to start breaking them up
4. mash the potatoes with a fork or potato masher adding about 3 tsp olive oil while mashing
5. pour about 1/2 c. milk in with the potatoes (or more depending on how creamy you want them) and mash the potatoes more
6. add salt and pepper if desired

It was quite a good dinner: meatloaf, mashed potatoes, broccoli . With 2 glasses of wine and ending with chocolate-strawberry cake, I cannot complain at all. We didn't need to go out after all!

Here's to good eating at home!!

Eating American Style

I have not cooked since Tuesday night. This was not the plan. I have a bowl sitting in my kitchen of small red potatoes that I want to use and a 12lb bag of apples that I want to bake with. However, life rarely goes as planned.

On Wednesday evening, by Brother-In-Law was sworn into the Bar. The legal bar that is. He is now the 3rd attorney in the family. So, congratulations! With the swearing in ceremony, came the Grandparents. They were up north visiting family and decided to drive down to see their grandson be sworn in since it is "kind-of" a big deal. (I have recently noticed that midwesterners never say "It was a big deal" but "It was kind-of a big deal"). Since it was the BIL's day, he got to choose what was for dinner. What did I write about the other day? Famous Dave's. Well, I had to laugh when he told me that is what we are doing for dinner.

Now, don't get me wrong, Famous Dave's is not awful food, or is it bad food. It is just generic bbq. But, it is a good place to order the "party platter" for a group and do take-out. One party platter usually will feed about 6 average adults. There is very little bbq sauce on it so you can add either the mild or hot sauce of your choosing. TS and I always choose the Devil's Spit Fire (hot) to put on our food. It is a pretty good bbq sauce and usually the one I use when I make stuff with bbq sauce at home. One day I'll put up my bbq chicken dinner. Overall, I enjoy hanging out with TS's family, and this was a celebration, so I did not mind eating Famous Dave's.

We then get a text from TS's dad (who is OBSESSED with sending out mass text messages) saying the Grandparents are leaving on Friday, so if we want to see them, we can go over to their house for dinner. Now, in true American eating style, what would a group of people getting together eat? From take-out that is. Pizza, of course! When I walked in from yoga Divanni's was sitting on the dining room table.

Divanni's is a local pizza chain here. It is better than your national chain pizzas, definitely. Living here you can get any type of pizza depending on what you are in the mood for. TS and I have our places for thin crust, deep dish, excellent sauce, super cheesey, specialty pizzas, wood-oven pizzas, etc. Divianni's is where we go when we want normal, every day, decent pizza. Last night there were 2 pizza ordered: pepperoni, mushroom and green pepper & sausage and pineapple. Divanni's uses diced fresh green pepper and not those stringy slices you can get from other chain places. So there is some crunch to the veggies. Their sausage actually has some flavor to it too. Overall, not a bad dinner.

Tonight, there will be home cooked food. Probably using those red potatoes sitting on my counter. Now what to do with them.

As always, here's to good eating! (And great family).

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Tuesday Night At Home

Tuesday night I finally get to make a real meal. It is breezy and cool outside and it makes me want warm comfort food. I also wanted something quick and easy since I wanted to go to the gym and to bake strawberry-chocolate cupcakes. I was at the grocery store and realized that TS and I have not had Sausage and Artichoke pasta in a long time.

When got home and told TS that I bought spicy italian sausage and artichokes he started jumping up and down. This is his reaction EVERY time I make this meal. So you know it is a good one. It is SO easy too. I think I have gotten this meal down to where from start to table it takes 20 mins.

Sausage and Artichoke Pasta

1lb spicy Italian Sausage
1 tsp garlic olive oil
1 jar marinated roasted red peppers
2 cans quartered artichoke hearts
1 c. chicken broth
4 oz. mozzarella cheese, cubed
1 c. halved grape tomatoes
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
200g pasta (I prefer rigatoni or bow-tie - oh and I measure all my pasta in grams, so if you get a pasta recipe from me you will always get it in grams)

1. In a LARGE pan heat the garlic olive oil for a few minutes then brown your italian sausage.
2. Meanwhile, start a pot of water to boil for your pasta.
3. Chop the roasted red peppers and set it aside.
4. When the italian sausage is cooked, take it out of the pan and put it in a bowl to the side.
5. Add your chicken broth to the pan the italian sausage was in along with the thyme and red pepper flakes. Cook for about 2-3 mins.
** by now your water should have boiled so cook your pasta for 7 mins**
6. Add your artichoke hearts and chopped red pepper to the chicken broth. Break up the artichoke hearts while in the pan and cook for about 5 mins.
7. Add the italian sausage back to the pan with the artichokes and red pepper and let cook for 5 mins.
** by now your pasta should have cooked, drain add a drizzle of olive oil and let sit until the italian sausage has cooked in with the artichokes/red pepper for 5 mins**
8. Add pasta to italian sausage mixture (are you seeing why you need a LARGE pot?) and let cook for 2-3 mins constantly incorporating the pasta in with the meat mixture
9. Add cheese and tomatoes and mix until cheese is just melting
10. serve.

This recipe makes enough for 4 healthy servings. Since it is only 2 of us, we have leftovers. Yea! It freezes wonderfully so on a night when I am not home or TS is not home, we have a home made meal.

This was the perfect comfort food for tonight served with some crusty bread for dipping in the sauce. Mmm.

Here's to good eating and dreaming about left-overs.

Oh, and I did make the strawberry chocolate cupcakes, went to the gym and wrote 2 blog articles and it is just now 10:10p. Not so bad for someone who got home at 6:15. Go me.

Bad Food, Then Good Food, But Always Great Company

I haven't posted in a few days, I know. But if it is any comfort to you, I also have not cooked anything since Saturday. Welcome to my real-world life where I go over to my inlaws' for dinner and then out with a friend.

Sunday evening started out wonderfully with our kickball team winning our game and moving to the playoffs! (STEVE HOLT!) The team was all invited over to my inlaws' for a BBQ and to watch the Viking's game. I came prepared to my inlaws with my copy of Gone With the Wind. I rarely watch football. I use that time to catch up on my reading. But, you do not care about what I am reading, only about what I ate, right? Well, the BBQ ended up being dreadful for me. There are very few foods on this planet that I just cannot stand. Sometime this summer I realized that I hate hot dogs. I never go out of my way to eat them, and when I do they have to be burnt beyond recognition for me to even thing about ingesting them. What makes hot dogs even worse? Adding chili on top of it. What was served at this "BBQ?" Chili dogs. Yup, I went over expecting a hamburger, a brat, sausage, something besides just hot dogs. In a situation like this I normally would just eat the chili; however, the chili was just a can of chili heated up. Yeah, I'm not going to eat that either. So, my dinner on Sunday night, was oh-so-healthy - chips and carrots. I survived. Not an eating success, but not every night can be.

Monday night made up for Sunday night. A friend of mine from high school is back in the US for a month and we decided to spend Monday night hanging out. What do people do when they get together? They talk and eat. We did just that. We first started out with coffee, backwards, yes, but we both wanted caffeine and something warm on a blustery fall day. I took her to Anodyne the home of a fantastic latte and a warm environment. If you are ever looking for good oatmeal, go to Anodyne and order their Anodyne Oatmeal. It is fantastic! All of the food at Anodyne looks really good and smells really good. But, all I have had is their Oatmeal and their coffee. After we spent 2 hours drinking coffee and talking we decided to move on to dinner.

I asked my friend what type of food does she not get when she is abroad. Barbecue. Well, I refuse to take anyone to Famous Dave's because that is just ordinary American-eater barbecue. Meaning large portions of just average flavored food. I decided we were going to Brasa. It turned out to be a success. We knew we wanted their pulled chicken and gravy, the baked beans and cornbread special and the jalapeno creamed spinach. We put our second meat in the hands of our waitress. She picked out the pulled pork for us. The chicken and gravy was out of this world good. Normally, I stay away from white gravy, but my friend really wanted it and she does not ever get it. However, the gravy was so light and the flavors were perfect. Just enough heat to not overcome the other flavors. The jalapeno creamed spinach had only a kick to it and no jalapeno flavor. We decided that was a good thing. The cornbread which came with the baked beans was SO good we asked for more. Each piece of cornbread was slathered with a honey butter. To me, cornbread is always better with honey butter. I was not so impressed with the pulled pork. It was missing some flavoring and was fairly dry. Oh well, you can't win on them all. Plus, the chicken was so good it did not matter. Brasa is always a win. If you have not been, you should definitely make the trek to NE Minneapolis or St. Paul and try it out. Be prepared to wait in line most of the time because each restaurant is small.

After the failure that was Sunday night's dinner. Monday turned out to be a win. So, here's to good eating!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Game Night, always a delight

It is looking like the trend for this blog is turning out to be "how food brings people together." Last night, was girl's game night. This involves some friends coming over bringing wine or something to eat and playing games. Well, the intention is to play games. The last two times it has been more, we ate, we drank and we chatted. We only realize that games were supposed to be played when people get tired and are ready to go home. Oh well, it is a really fun evening either way.

Being the hostess for this little get together, I provided several different food choices in case some people came only bearing wine (which is perfectly OK with me since I love to play hostess and cook). One friend walked in and we realized we made basically the same thing, a take on caprese salad. Her's was delightful and had wheat berries in it. Mine was grape tomatoes, basil and mozzarella. Here it is (it will feed about 6 as an appetizer or small salad):

1.5 pints grape tomatoes (halved)
4 cloves of finely chopped garlic
15 basil leaves (yes I did count them as I was using them)
4 oz. mozarella cheese
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil

1. Mix your halved grape tomatoes, chopped garlic and a pinch of salt in a bowl
2. make a chiffonade with your basil (yes fancy word to mean roll your basil leaves like a cigar and slice your basil into fine strips - video here I take no credit for the video besides finding it online).
3. mix your basil in with your tomatoes and drizzle a bit of olive oil over the mixture.
4. cover the tomatoes/basil with Glad Press 'n Seal (world's BEST food storage wrapping), or you can use any other plastic wrap. Let your tomato mixture sit in the refrigerator for 6-8hrs to marinate.
5. Just about when you are ready to serve your salad slice the mozzarella into 1/4 inch cubes and mix in with the tomato mixture.
6. Add a bit of fresh black pepper to the tomato/mozzarella mixture and serve!

To the Caprese salad I also offered a roasted garlic olive oil to dip fresh french bread in. To make roasted garlic olive oil:

Roasted Garlic
1 large head of garlic
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp dried basil
3/4 c. olive oil

Pre-heat oven to 350.
1. Cut the top off of your head of garlic, leaving all the skin on the garlic, so that the very tops of the garlic cloves show
2. put your garlic in a shallow baking dish
3. sprinkle salt, pepper and dried basil over garlic
4. pour 1/4 c. olive oil over garlic
5. cover garlic in pan with foil
6. cook for 50-55 mins and when done let sit, uncovered in baking dish for 10-15 mins to cool.
7. when cool, squeeze garlic out of skin (your hands will get sticky and covered in garlic, but it is so good that it is worth it)
8. pour remaining 1/2 c. olive oil over garlic and mash garlic into the olive oil.
9. serve with fresh bread.

Finally, I served a dip that I found in my cabinet from Tastefully Simple. It was a cheddar and chive dip. I thought it was just OK, my friends really liked it. Basically, you take the premixed seasonings and mix it with some cream cheese. I had a block of cream cheese that I wasn't planning on using any time soon, so I figured I should use it with this. I served it with crackers and people were happy.

Well, that is the food I prepared and for which I can provide recipes. Needless to say, no one left hungry or unhappy.

I love a good get-together with friends! So, here's to good eating!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Chicago Style Food, but not in Chicago

Tonight, I thought I was "bach-ing it up" (as one of our admins said). I was supposed to be on my own and honestly looking forward to leftover pizza and wine. I will now admit that I do love leftovers and I have no shame in telling my readers that I am a real person who eats leftover pizza. But instead, I come home to find out that the spouse will be joining me for dinner. However, the dishwasher had to be run and would not fit another dirty dish and I was not in the mood to cook. Since he put the damper in my plans of sitting on the sofa and eating leftovers (yes, I was not even going to eat at the table), I made him choose where we were going to eat. He picked Chris and Rob's (

I had heard a lot about this Chicago-style eating establishment from the spouse after he was introduced to it by his boss. Picture a menu of Italian beef sandwiches, Chicago-style hot dogs and pizzas. Now, I actually hate hot dogs, so I was very skeptical if I would even enjoy this place. But, I will try anything once (after all Andrew Zimmern has my dream job). This joint is basic, basic, basic with rolls of paper towels on the tables and your food served in baskets, but with awesome food. I thought with the rolls of paper towels the food would be super greasy. However, it wasn't dripping-with-grease greasy, like college pizza greasy, but just the natural grease which comes off of a sandwich which consisted of Italian beef cooked in its own juices, spicy peppers and mozzarella cheese melted to perfection. If you go to Chris and Rob's, you will be looked down upon if you order your Italian beef sandwich with anything but hot peppers and mozzarella. Cheddar cheese and mild peppers are for wimps. We ordered our sandwiches with a side of fries and enjoyed the delight of eating such flavorful food. I must say, the fries were not greasy, as fries can be. Which is a sign of a good fryer. If you know anything about fried foods, left over oil is from an improper temperature. (Or that is what I have been told). After the sandwich and fries, I left feeling very full and happy. I did also get to eat with the spouse and hear about his day. He always has great stories, like the current downfall of the Boston Red Sox (which we are LOVING)!

So, while I did not enjoy leftover pizza on the sofa. I did enjoy an Italian beef sandwich, fries and a diet coke from Chris and Rob's. We will be going back again. Definitely.

Until I cook again, here's to good eating!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Food and Friends

On Thursday night, while I wasn't at home for dinner, I still ended up making something. Sushi. I went to this event for 20/30-somethings for an organization where I knew no one in their 20's or 30's. I figured this would be a good opportunity to meet people like me. Adventurous eaters who want to meet new people. This evening proved to be a success on so many levels.

The event was tagged as a sushi-making/sake tasting evening. The organization brought in 2 local sushi chefs and had several bottles of sake for us to taste. What the evening did not prepare me for were the great people I would meet.

We all gathered around the chefs and took our turns rolling sushi rolls. While it was not difficult (the chefs handed me the ingredients and told me what to do), it did make me stop and think. Here I am amongst people I had never met sharing something. Food. Which is kind of the point of this blog, as I said in my first post. Food is not just meant for nourishment. Food is something that brings people together and is a common bond between all people no matter what their background is. It is meant to be shared. I will share recipes as I create them, or as I prepare recipes that others have given to me, hoping that you will then share them with someone else.

That being said, Good Eating!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Chicken? That's a Challenge.

Yes, it is true. I love to cook, but coming up with a recipe that involves chicken breasts served by itself (not cut up and put into pasta/jambalaya) is always a challenge for me. Tonight I took that challenge head on. I had time to make dinner tonight, and something that I do not normally make.

I had red potatoes, orange cauliflower and garlic that I bought at the farmers market last weekend. I decided to use all three of those ingredients at once. Roasted cauliflower is a favorite in our house. When I make it, I'll put the recipe up, but for tonight it was roasted potatoes and cauliflower.
4 large red potatoes
1 small head of cauliflower
4 large cloves of garlic
Olive Oil
1. pre-heat your oven to 400.
2. pour 1 tsp olive oil into the bottom of a 9x9 baking pan
3. chop the garlic cloves and put it into the pan
4. cut up your cauliflower and dice your potatoes (1/2 inch chunks) and put them into the pan.
5. sprinkle salt (I only use kosher salt) and freshly ground black pepper over the cauliflower and potatoes
6. drizzle 1 tsp olive oil over the cauliflower and potatoes and then toss the cauliflower and potatoes
7. cover the pan with foil and bake for 25 mins. Then remove the foil and cook for another 20 mins.
8. Let sit for 5 mins uncovered and serve

With this I served a boneless, skinless chicken breast. I was at work today and I had no idea how I should make chicken. My co-worker suggested thyme and pepper. I took it a step further. Even the spouse said the chicken was good. For those who do not know he typically really dislikes plain chicken, so this is a HUGE accomplishment.

1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp black pepper

1. Put these ingredients in a plastic bag and mix together. Then pour 1 tsp olive oil in the bag and mix the ingredients together.
2. Put 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts into the plastic bag and smoosh the mixture around to spread over the chicken breasts. Let sit for 10 mins.

3. Meanwhile put the following into a pan:
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 tsp butter
black pepper

4. Cook wine, butter and pepper over medium heat for a minute past the butter has melted. Then add the chicken to the wine.
5. Cook chicken for 5 mins on each side, then flip chicken every 2 mins until you have cooked the chicken for 20 mins over medium heat.

I served the chicken with the roasted potatoes and cauliflower along with a glass of sangiovese from Miner Family winery in Napa. Excellent wine.

Overall, a successful dinner! Everything was consumed and enjoyed.

Tomorrow night I am out for dinner, so I won't blog again about my dinner until Friday, maybe.

Until then. Good Eating!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

First Night was a Dud

My intention was to try to make something for dinner most nights, but my fridge is full of leftovers from my parents and sister visiting this past weekend. Today, I got home and all I could think about was eating stuff that was already prepared and taking up space in my fridge. I bought a bag of Dole's Spring Greens (great go-to premade salad mix) and a cucumber from the grocery store to add to the quiche that was left over from the weekend.

I made a salad first using half the bag of lettuce, tomato, cucumber and shredded Parmesan cheese. I first sliced the cucumber and tomato and let it sit for a few minutes soaking up a pinch (chef's pinch) of salt, fresh cracked black pepper, a bit of garlic powder and a handful of parmesan cheese. While that sat I made a salad dressing. The salad dressing was OK. 1 tsp of olive oil, 2 tsp white wine vinegar, 1 tbsp Dijon mustard, 1 tsp honey, a pinch of thyme and a pinch of salt. I then heated up some of the left over spinach quiche from Kowalski's grocery store. The quiche was decent, crust a bit to doughy for me, but the flavors would good despite that. The quiche did have the perfect amount of cheese to make it yummy. Anyway, I heated up the quiche, added lettuce to the tomato/cucumber mix and tossed the dressing in the salad.

Nothing too fancy, but it was satisfying for my mood. The spouse didn't complain, so it couldn't have been too bad.

Tomorrow night I am going to try to make a decent dinner and open a bottle of wine from Napa.

Until then, good eating!

The Reason Why

My friends are frequently coming to me for quick and easy dinner ideas because I tend to make dinner most weeknights. I am not saying I make a gourmet dinner every night, but I do pull out pots and pans and make something. Usually. Because of that, I decided to start this blog to give recipes out, and to encourage me to get out of cooking ruts.

I am a baker by hobby and passion. But, baked goods alone does not make for a healthy lifestyle. (Oh how I wish it did) You will rarely get my baked goods recipes. Sorry. The really good ones I keep to myself, as any true baker would. Why share the secrets?

That being said, I do not mind sharing my dinner recipes. This blog will not be one of those "365 Day" blogs. I am not promising that I make dinner every night or when I get home we don't eat a frozen pizza or leftovers. But those nights, I will tell you (if I get around to blogging) and I might provide a review of what product I bought and how it was.

This blog is meant for the everyday working person who does not want to eat out every night, or eat a frozen meal every night. It is a blog for the person who is trying to feed herself (or himself) and a spouse, or family. Enjoy! If you have questions or are looking for me to try something out, please let me know. I am always looking for good ideas too.

Here's to good eating.