Wednesday, July 30, 2008

YouBars are here!

No pictures, and no taste-reviews yet, but I just wanted to post that I received my YouBar samples!

I was one of the lucky individuals who received a box of 4 YouBars to sample, courtesy of YouBar and BlakeMakes!

Reviews on the flavors and pictures coming soon!

Gnocchi with Sausage and Spinach

When I saw this recipe I knew we had to try it --  DH LOVES gnocchi. And it looked like another fast weeknight meal. I'm ALWAYS up for fast weeknight meals!

And I share the blogger's agony with a tiny kitchen. :-) 
Her pictures are much better than mine -- it was dark by the time I was done cooking, so no natural light!

This was very tasty. I used the good old parmesan in the green can, because it's what I had, and it worked just fine. It probably would've been better with fresh, though.

DH also requested that I add some tomatoes next time. Works for me!

Gnocchi with Sausage and Spinach
(Two Novice Chefs, One Tiny Kitchen -- adapted from "Real Simple")

2 (9-oz) or 1 (17.5-oz) package gnocchi (you can use fresh or frozen. We used frozen, and ended up adding 2 16 oz. packages. that's a whole lotta gnocchi!)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 pound italian sausage, casings removed (we used sweet italian sausage)
1 clove garlic, finely chopped (i used 1 tsp. pre-minced)
1 5-oz bag baby spinach
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
3/4 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for garnishing

- Cook the gnocchi according to the package directions; reserving 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid
- Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium/medium high heat.
- Add the onion and cook until softened
- Add the sausage and cook, crumbling it with a spoon, until browned and cooked through
- Add the garlic, spinach, salt, and pepper and cook, tossing frequently until the spinach wilts
- Add the drained gnocchi, the reserved cooking liquid, and the Parmesan cheese, and toss.
- Divide among bowls and sprinkle with additional Parmesan.

"Daddy D's" Creamy Shells and Cheese

Well -- mine aren't shells, but they are creamy and cheesy! DH is always requesting a "creamier" mac and cheese when I make baked... so I thought this time I'd make stove-top style mac and cheese with a little velveeta to make it creamy.

I halved Katie's recipe, and still have enough macaroni and cheese to feed an army. The recipe below is what I made. If you feel a compelling urge to make 2 pounds of macaroni and cheese, you can double it (that's also the original recipe on Katie's blog).

DH said it was a little too "cheese" tasting. I'm really not sure what that means. Perhaps next time I'll use some velveeta to make it creamy, but I'll also include some "real" cheese to make it taste better.

"Daddy D's" Creamy Shells and Cheese

1 pound of shells (I used whatever I had on hand...and the name totally escapes me at the moment)
16 oz. block of Velveeta cheese
1/2 stick butter
3/4-1 cup milk (I used 1%)
1 tsp. garlic salt (I used powder)
ground black pepper

- In an extra large pot 3/4 full of boiling water and a pinch of kosher salt, cook the shells until just past al dente
- Meanwhile, chop the block of Velveeta and butter into 1 inch cubes
- When the pasta is done, drain, rinse, and toss with a bit of hot water, then put back into the pot
- Toss in velveeta, butter, and about 1/2 of the milk
- Gently fold in ingredients until beginning to melt and becoming creamy
- Add garlic salt, and as much ground pepper as you like
- Slowly add the remaining milk until desired texture is reached
-Serve and enjoy!

I served mine with open-faced turkey burgers and steamed broccoli.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Menu Monday

Monday: Steak(Free Omaha Steaks! Woohoo!), veggie

Tuesday: Turkey Burgers and Cheesy Macaroni

Wednesday: Gnocchi with Sausage and Spinach

Thursday: Spaghetti

Friday: Leftovers

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Fiesta Rice

This rice dish looked like it was right up my alley -- unfortunately, I didn't particularly care for it.
I found it to be a little too spicy for my tastes (that could probably be remedied with a few ingredient changes, though!)
I may try it again...we'll see.
I served it as a side to some ground-turkey-taco's. THOSE were delicious! :-)

Fiesta Rice

*Warning: This recipe makes A LOT of rice -- Tori says 8 cups prepared -- so if you don't want leftovers, or aren't sure...I highly reccomend making half.

*Warning #2: Tori also says it took her forever to get her rice cooked. As I was short on time, I cooked up some quick-cooking (<10>

2 teaspoons olive oil (I omitted)
1 (10 oz.) package frozen whole-kernel corn, thawed (I omitted because of DH's aversion to corn as a filler in recipes)
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup chopped green onions
1 1/2 cups uncooked brown rice (I used half white and half brown quick-cooking rice)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 cups fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
dash of salt
1 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomatoes with chiles, undrained (I couldn't find that size, so I used 1.5 10 oz. cans)
1 (15 oz.) can black beans, drained and rinsed (Tori recommends -- even if you halve the recipe -- keep the entire can of black beans. I agree!)
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

- Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat
- Add corn to the pan, cook 10 minutes, or until corn starts to brown, stirring occassionally
- Remove from pan and set aside
- Melt butter in the pan, add onions and saute for 5 minutes or until tender
- Stir in rice, cumin, and garlic; cook 1 minute
- Add chicken broth, black pepper, salt, and diced tomatoes to pan; bring to a boil
- Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occassionally
- Remove from heat, stir in reserved corn and the black beans
- Cover and let stand 10 minutes
- Stir in cilantro and lime juice

Monday, July 21, 2008

Menu Monday

Nothin' fancy this week -- short week for DH and I, and we go visit my family and friends back home on Friday!

Monday: Steak, broccoli, pasta
Tuesday: Spaghetti w/ meat sauce (DH has a meeting in the evening)
Wednesday: Tacos with Fiesta Rice
Thursday: Tacos and Fiesta Rice leftovers
Friday: Half day of work -- probably fast food on our way out of town for dinner!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Cheesy Cauliflower Gratin

I got this recipe from Better Than Takeout -- and since our local Farmer's Market has had some really nice cauliflower lately, figured we'd give it a try.

It really is a tasty dish, I just think the cheese I used didn't have enough bold flavor. Better Than Takeout reccommends Gruyere, or White Cheddar and Mozzarella. I used a mexican blend and a little mozzerella, and the cheeses just didn't have enough sharp flavor. I'll definately try it again with a bolder cheese!
Cheesy Cauliflower Gratin
1 1/2 cups milk (I used 1.5%)
1 bay leaf
1 clove garlic, split (I only had pre-minced on hand, I used that)
3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp flour
1/2 cup grated cheese (recipe originally asks for Gruyere)
salt and pepper to taste
1 lb. cauliflower florettes
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
2-3 tbsp grated parmesean cheese
- Bring the milk to a summer in a saucepan with the bay leaf and garlic. Cover, turn off the heat, and let infuse for approximately 10-15 minutes.
- Melt butter in a saucepan (make sure you use a good sized one so you can mix in the milk, and then the cauliflower!)
- Whisk in the flour and cook for a minute to remove the raw flour taste
- Gradually whisk in the milk (I removed the bay leaf at this point)
- Cook, stirring, until thick
- Stir in the cheese, and season with salt and pepper
- Set aside
- Heat the oven to 425 degrees F
- Bring a large potof water to a boil, salt it (as for pasta), and blanch the cauliflower florets until just shy of being tender (about 5 minutes)
- Drain well and pat dry with a tea towel
- Season with salt and pepper
- Toss with the sauce and dump into a gratin dish (I just used a round Corningware baking dish because I didn't have a "gratin dish")
- Scatter breadcrumbs and parmesean over the top and bake until bubbling and lightly browned (approximately 15-20 minutes for me)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Roast Beef Blintzes

This is another recipe my DH has requested, and that his grandmother used to make. I really love these -- they're just delicious!

The roast beef and onion combo inside the delicate crepe is probably the "lightest" feeling beef dish I've ever eaten.

And, of course, sour cream never hurt anyone!

Roast Beef Blintzes
(My recipe)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 cup all-purpose flour
- Place eggs in a small bowl and whisk well
- Add salt and milk
- Add flour gradually, stirring to make a smooth batter (You should do this by hand...the batter is thin enough that the KitchenAid isn't needed)
- Heat a non-stick skillet until it is hot (Work over medium-high/high heat)
- Using a quarter cup measure, pour 2-3 tablespoons of the batter into a skillet and work quickly: Tilt the skillet so that the batter covers the bottom. When the bottom of the crepe is golden, flip over and cook the other side.
- Recipe makes 9-10 thin crepes.

I can't cook crepes to save my life. Not even 8 years of french, being forced to try and make them EVERY YEAR in class, gave me the skill. I also can't cook pancakes. I have no idea why.
So my DH is responsible for all of the crepe-and-pancake-making that occurs in our household. *Tips hat to DH* Thanks!

Roast Beef Filling
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 1lb beef roast
2 teaspoons salt (or to taste)
1 teaspoon pepper (or to taste)
1 cup beef broth

- Lightly salt and pepper each side of the roast
- Add it to a hot skillet and sear both sides (about 3 minutes each)
- Meanwhile, add diced onion and 1 cup beef broth to your crockpot
- Add the seared roast to the crockpot and cook on high 4-6 hours, or low 8-10 hours
- Remove the roast and shred the meat, using two forks
- Add the meat back to the crock pot, mixing together the shredded beef and onion
- (You may want to drain out some of the juice -- you don't need a really wet beef to make these)

- Lay out a crepe and add 1-2 tablespoons beef/onion mixture to the middle of the crepe.
- Fold the crepe around the meat -- you can fold it like a burrito, or, you can fold in each of the sides, then fold in the top and bottom, making a square
- Sit them seam-side down
-Heat a skillet with 1 tablespoon butter
- Add all of the filled crepes, seam side down, and brown the bottom, searing them shut. Then flip them over and brown the top.

Serve warm, with a dollop of sour cream!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Menu Monday

This week actually has some blog-able recipes! Rock!

Saturday: Fruit Salsa

Sunday: Banana Bread Muffins


Monday: Steak and corn on the cob

Tuesday: Roast Beef Blintzes and broccoli

Wednesday: Spaghetti with meat sauce

Thursday: Roast Beef Blintz leftovers and cauliflower gratin

Friday: BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwiches

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Family-Recipe Banana Bread

Mmmm...I've made many an internet-recipe-banana-bread --- but nothing tops the family recipe!

I made this banana bread into muffins (So DH could easily share with co-workers), but it makes a darn good bread loaf as well. I've included baking instructions for both.

Banana Bread

(Family Recipe)

1/4 cup soft shortening (I used butter)

3/4 cup sugar

1 egg

2/3 cup mashed bananas (I used about 3 bananas)

3 tablespoons sour milk/buttermilk (I used regular milk today and it was fine)

2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup finely chopped nuts (optional)


- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

- Mix together shortening and sugar

- Add egg, mashed bananas, and buttermilk

- Add flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt

- For 1 loaf of banana bread: generously grease a bread pan (grandma's directions say to then line the loaf pan with two-thickness of wax paper, and grease the wax paper.) Add batter. Bake 1 hour (start checking it at about 50 minutes)

- For 12 muffins: line muffin tin with paper liners, or, grease generously. Load tins with batter and bake for 25-30 minutes.

I sprinkled mine with a little bit of large-granule sugar to make them pretty

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Fruit Salsa and Cinnamon-Sugar Tortilla Chips

This recipe was recently posted on the What's Cooking board that I frequent. Everyone was asked what their "best" item was -- and Robyn said hers was fruit salsa.

We all begged for the recipe, and this was what she told us!

This is AMAZING. Eating the fruit with the chips, it tastes like healthy apple pie! It's deeeeelicious!

Warning: This makes enough to feed an Army. I didn't stop to consider this when chopping the fruit, so now I've got enough fruit salsa for the Armed Forces. If you're making this for 2 people (like I did) you may want to halve everything. If you're making it for company -- make the whole thing. They'll eat every ounce!

Fruit Salsa
(Robyn, on What's Cooking)

2 red apples
2 green apples
2 pears
2 peaches
1 carton raspberries (I used blueberries because DH doesn't like raspberries)
3 tablespoons orange juice
2 teaspoons honey
2 lemons (or equivalent in juice)

- Dice all fruit very finely and put in a large mixing bowl
- Squeeze 1/2 a lemon's worth of juice after each addition (1/2 lemon after adding all red apple, 1/2 lemon after adding all green apple, etc)
- Whisk together the orange juice and the honey and pour it over the fruit. Carefully mix together

**It's best made the day before, and as long as you use plenty of lemon and orange juice, it won't brown**

Cinnamon-Sugar Tortilla Chips
10-15 10" flour tortillas (I had enourmous burrito time I'll use smaller ones for smaller chips!)
melted butter
cinnamon/sugar mixture

- Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F
- Brush melted butter on whole tortilla and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar mix
- Use a pizza cutter and cut into 8 sections
- Fill up a baking sheet with them
- Bake at 350 degrees for 10-11 minutes, or until crisped up

Tortilla-Crusted Fish

The desire for this recipe actually originated with a Lean Cuisine meal. Yes, you read that right...there's actually a lean cuisine meal out there delicious enough that I attempted to re-create it for dinner.

Who'd have thought.

I found a Tortilla-Crusted Tilapia recipe at recipezaar, and figured I'd give it a go!

I liked this recipe, but I think next time I'd use a different fish -- and I'd buy a food processor so I can break up my chips properly! (You'll see large pieces of chip because I got tired of trying to do it the way the recipe instructed -- with a blender!!)

All-in-all it was tasty...but it wasn't as good as Lean Cuisine's (must be all those chemicals they put in!), and I think DH loved it A LOT more than me.

Tortilla-Crusted Fish

4 tilapia fillets (I used flounder because it was on sale)
6 corn tortillas, torn in pieces (I used corn tortilla chips)
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon lime juice
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon seasoning salt (I omitted)
1 egg, beaten

- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F -- coat a baking sheet with cooking spray
- Place tortilla pieces, jalapeno, lime juice, cilantro, and spices in blender -- pulse until the mixture is uniform small crumbs. (Seriously? Use a food processor. All the blender did was make the ground stuff get stuck in the bottom) Spread on a plate
- Dip each fillet in egg, then in crumbs, patting crumbs to adhere, please on baking sheet
- Bake until fish flakes, about 15 minutes, depending on the thickness of your fillets

I served the fish with mexican sour cream rice, and broccoli

Mexican Sour Cream Rice

I saw this recipe at Brooke's website -- and I actually browsed on by. It had corn in it, and DH has an aversion to corn as a "filler" in foods.

But when we decided to make Tortilla Crusted Fish -- well, I wanted that sour cream-y rice! So I caved, and left the corn out.

Original recipe below. I thought it was only so-so (it bugged me that I could tell the chiles were canned), but DH said it's the best rice he's ever eaten, and he wants it again, immediately.

Mexican Sour Cream Rice
(Brooke's Blog)

1 cup uncooked long grain white rice ( I used a mix of white and brown rice)
1 (14 ounce) can chicken broth
1 cup reduced fat sour cream
1 (4 ounce) can diced green chile peppers
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese, divided (I used a Mexican Blend because I had it on hand)
1 (8.75 ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained (I omitted)
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro (I used about 1/8 cup...DH was leery of it)
salt and ground black pepper to taste

- In a large pot, bring the rice and chicken broth to a boil -- reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 20 minutes
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F -- lightly grease a 1 1/2 quart casserole dish
- In the pot with the cooked rice, mix the sour cream, green chile peppers, 1/2 cup cheese, corn, and cilantro -- season with salt and pepper
- Transfer to the prepared casserole dish and top with remaining cheese
- Bake uncovered 30 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and lightly browned

I served it with broccoli and the tortilla-crusted fish

Monday, July 7, 2008

Menu Monday

Monday: Steak and corn on the cob (DH's weekly request)

Tuesday: Spaghetti with meat sauce (Quick, so DH can cook and eat before his evening work meeting)

Wednesday: Tortilla-crusted tilapia and mexican sour cream rice

Thursday: Turkey sausage sandwiches with peppers and onions, baked beans

Friday: Not sure yet...either leftover tortilla-crusted tilapia, or something else. I'm kind of hungry for shrimp.....

Saturday, July 5, 2008

I Swore I Wouldn't Bake

I swore I wouldn't bake. I swore I wouldn't make anything "picnic" or "get-together"-worthy this weekend. I told myself it was because DH and I didn't have any plans...and because we've both been carrying an extra 3-4 pounds lately that won't budge.

But that was really only half of it.

On some level, it was my rebellion against living far away from my family (who always gets together for holidays in some form) and living near my in-laws (who never celebrate holidays, it seems). It was my rebellion against my tiny 1-bedroom apartment on the third floor of a building that doesn't allow grills. My rebellion against a kitchen that makes a sailboat galley look enourmous. My rebellion against being able to celebrate the 4th of July outside, in the country -- no sounds but the animals and friends and family laughing, and the crackle of a bonfire that we'd roast marshmallows on later.

And I was doing pretty well. Until this.

S'mores bars? Could it be??? Could it be that I could have a s'mores this weekend? Sure, it wouldn't be charred -- but it has to be better than a microwaved s'more, right?!

With renewed hope, I flew to the store, bought the three things I didn't have (graham crackers, chocolate, and marshmallow fluff -- all the actual s'mores pieces), and promptly made these.

I'm still missing the bonfire, the friends and family, and the 4 different kinds of meat and pasta salad -- but at least I had a s'more for the 4th of July. :-)

And you're getting no-natural-light pictures, because I couldn't wait until tomorrow :-)

S'mores Cookie Bars
(Found at Lindsey's Blog -- Originally a Hershey's recipe)

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 (1.55 oz each) Hershey's Milk Chocolate bars
1 cup marshmallow creme (or Fluff -- as I call it!)

- Heat oven to 350 degrees farenheit
- Grease an 8-inch square baking pan
- Beat butter and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy
- Add egg and vanilla; beat well
- Stir/sift together all-purpose flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder, and salt; add to butter mixture and beat until blended
- Press half of the dough into the prepared baking pan
- Arrange the chocolate bars on top of the dough, breaking as needed to fit
- Spread with marshmallow creme (I took Lindsey's advice here and sprayed my spatula with Pam -- made a HUGE difference!!)
- Scatter bits of the remaining dough over the marshmallow; carefully press to form a layer (I think next time I might try to gently roll out this half of the dough and lay it over the creme...that would make my top layer more even and smooth) **Make sure you really press this down -- I had some trouble with my top layer separating from the fluff.
- Bake 30-35 minutes or until lightly browned
- Cool completely in pan on wire rack
- Cut into bars

Recipe Exchange: Watermelon and Basil Salad

Here is my recipe exchange recipe -- thank you to whoever included it!

This was my first recipe exchange, and I was excited to get a recipe I probably would've NEVER chosen on my own -- that's the fun of it, right?

This salad has beautiful presentation with the fresh ingredients and colors.

AND it took me a whopping 5 minutes to put it together. ALWAYS a bonus.

However...I don't think this one is for me. I excluded the goat cheese (replaced it with mozzarella) because goat cheese and I...well..I hate the stuff, to be honest.

I know. I know. I should've told the coordinator that. But I was so excited to participate, I couldn't think of anything I didn't like!

Anyway -- I also discovered I don't like the raw flavor of the basil with my watermelon. I LOVE mint on cantaloupe, and I figured it was the same idea -- but the flavor just wasn't for me.

I fed it to friends and everyone else liked it -- so I'm probably just an oddball. I highly reccommend this recipe (even if *I* didn't like it....because I know I can be difficult!)

Watermelon and Basil Salad

(Recipe Exchange)

1 medium seedless watermelon, cut into 1-inch cubes

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1/2 cup basil leaves, cut chiffonade style

1 log of chevre (I replaced with fresh mozzarella)


- In a large bowl, toss to combine the watermelon, lime juice, and half the basil

- Divide onto four plates, scatter pinches of chevre and the remaining basil on top

**At Joelen's suggestion, I've entered this recipe into the Fruit Frenzy blog event! How fun!

Market Day

I grew up on a farm, and while I miss the serenity and peace of the country something fierce -- there are benefits to living in the city.

I walk to work. That, with the price of gas, is awesome. But the best part, by far -- is Central Market. It's less than a block from my apartment!

I'm no photographer, but I thought I'd share some images of the place I buy most of my fresh foods. Unfortunately, I was a little late this day, so no delicious meat-counter shots!

(P.S. I also bought everything for my recipe exchange recipe at market this day!)
Florist outside my apartment

View of my street

Local art bar -- you can purchase items, or, arrange for groups to create art you can take home!

Local eatery

Central Market

Central Market

Local soap shop

Local shop

Local shop

Beautiful building across from market. It's currently a youth mission, but it was originally the first post office in town.

Local theatre, behind my apartment building. We saw Ricky Skaggs and Bruce Hornsby here recently, but there are shows every weekend.

Full shot of central market!

Sushi restaurant at market

Welcome to Central Market!

Eatery inside of market

This is Mezzogirno's area

Local fish market. We're about 45 minutes from the Chesapeake, so we always have fresh seafood in the area.In the center of market is a little piano. There's always a gentleman or lady playing it. Occassionally somebody comes along and sings a song as well.
Vegetable stand! These guys are fantastic, and it's where I get most of my fruits and veggies

The Gypsy Garden -- every dried spice you've ever wanted or needed
Can't forget the soft pretzels, of course!
tThe alley behind market is called Cherry Lane. This sign designates a small park, called Cherry Court.
There are many murals all over the city. Two types -- above, the more modern style. This one portrays Pfaltzgraf dishes, which were made here until recently.
The second type of murals are colonial-style murals -- often depicting historical events, and including a scrawled poem or message.