Monday, July 27, 2009

Beautiful Disaster-Curried Winter Squash Soup

Looks good, doesn't it? Sadly, it was terrible. So bad I couldn't eat it. But don't blame the recipe, this disaster was purely operator error.

This was supposed to be Curried Winter Squash Soup from The 15 Minute Gourmet, a book I reviewed back in June. The ingredient list sounds wonderful--winter squash, onion, garlic, curry powder, brown sugar, half-and-half--and the directions are pretty much just throw it all in the pot and simmer for a few minutes. How could it go wrong?

I managed.

The recipe also calls for oregano, 2 teaspoons fresh or 1/2 teaspoon dried. I couldn't find fresh at the store, and when I measured out my dry oregano I had "2 teaspoons" stuck in my head.


It was beautiful, though (don't you love my little baguette toasts? And, yes, that's thyme up on top for some green, not oregano), and I'm going to try it again because I just know it's got to be wonderful when you read the recipe right :)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Mushroom myth debunked

I see it written in recipes all the time: Don't wash mushrooms because they act like sponges and soak up the water (which I guess is supposed to make for mushy mushrooms). Well, I've never believed it, and decided to do a test.

Here are 4 oz of crimini mushrooms, dry and straight from their package, weighed on my digital scale.

Then I put the mushrooms in a bowl of water for 10 minutes--way longer than they would be exposed to water while being rinsed.

Here are those same mushrooms, weighed after they soaked. In the picture the readout says 4 oz, but in the spirit of full disclosure, the readout did waffle between 4 oz and 4 1/8 oz. Now, I suppose if the mushrooms were open and their gills were exposed, water could have seeped into the cap, but that's not the same thing as the mushroom itself soaking up water.

According to my teenage daughter, I'm wrong about a lot of things these days, so it was nice to be right about my mushrooms :)

Grilled London Broil

This London Broil was so good! I got the recipe off one of my favorite blogs, The Noble Pig. The marinade has ingredients like brown sugar, sesame seeds, soy sauce, and dry mustard, and it made the meat so tasty....we loved it :) I used a smaller piece of meat because that's what I could find at my store, and I marinated it in a zip-top bag (my usual way to marinate things) instead of a dish. It was wonderful! Thanks, Cathy!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Lentils and Rice with Vegetables

Sorry about the lack of prep pictures...with all my visitors right now my kitchen is too crazy to take pictures during the process (and I'm loving it!).

This recipe is a variation on a recipe from a Weight Watchers book called Take Out Tonight, a cookbook that has a surprising number of really good recipes (I'm usually disappointed by low-fat/diet cookbooks).

Lentils and Rice with Vegetables

3/4 cup Basmati rice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 large carrots, peeled and diced
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1/4 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 tablespoon peeled, minced fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic, pressed in a garlic press
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 cups bite-sized cauliflower (I used frozen)
1 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup dry red lentils, picked over and rinsed
1 teaspoon coarse (Kosher) salt
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

1. Put the rice in a bowl and rinse with water several times, until the water is mostly clear. Cover the rice with water and soak for 20 minutes; drain.

2. Heat a large non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium, add the oil, and heat the oil for about 10 seconds. Add the onion, carrot, cumin seed, and mustard seed. Cook until the onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Add the ginger, garlic, turmeric, cauliflower, and peas; cook for 2 minutes. Add the drained rice, peas, lentils, salt, and 1 2/3 cups water. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer until all the liquid is absorbed, 15-18 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let the rice sit for 5 minutes (don't remove the lid). Stir in the cilantro.

Makes about 4 (1 1/4 cup) servings

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Tartar Sauce

So, my sister is visiting from Texas with my two nieces and two nephews, and we have been going non-stop. Between our touristy adventures and three teenagers (one mine, two hers) wanting to be on the computer (constantly) my blog has been severely neglected. But I did take advantage of a meal we fixed a few days ago and took some pictures of my homemade tartar sauce. This sauce is better than anything you can buy at the store. It's simple, easy to make, and delicious--the perfect accent for seafood. We had it with breaded, baked cod. Yum.

Tartar Sauce

1/2 cup mayo (I used light)
1 tablespoons dill relish
1 tablespoon minced onion
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon coarse (Kosher) salt

Combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight (the longer you let it sit the more the flavors blend).

Makes about 1/2 cup sauce.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

My speech is here somewhere...

So fun! FoodTravelDiva from Food and Travel has given me the Kreativ Blogger award! Des was one of the first people (in fact, I think she was the 2nd person I didn't know) to leave a comment on my blog when I first started it back in May, and better yet, she has continued to stop by. Now it's my turn to give the award to seven blogs, which is even more fun! Thanks so much, Des!

Here are the rules:

  1. Thank the person who has given you the award (goes without!)
  2. Copy the logo and place it on your blog
  3. Link to the person who has given you the award
  4. Name 7 things about yourself that people might find interesting
  5. Nominate 7 Kreativ Bloggers
  6. Post links to the 7 blogs you nominate
  7. Leave a comment on the blogs to let them know about the award

So, without further ado, I'd like to present the Kreativ Blogger award to the following bloggers, who have all informed and inspired me in one way or another:

  1. The Noble Pig
  2. Amanda's Cookin'
  3. Closet Cooking
  4. Gina's Weight Watcher's Recipes
  5. La Table De Nana
  6. Smitten Kitchen
  7. In Fine Fettle

Now, seven things you may not know about me:

  1. When I find spiders and other bugs in my house I pick them up with my hands and put them outside.
  2. Two houses ago we had six chickens, called The Girls. They would come running when you called them, and they gave us the best eggs!
  3. I know how to fix and re-set Barbie hair.
  4. I hate mayo and don't eat it unless it's hidden and undetectable in a food.
  5. My dream is to have lots of acreage and raise buffalo or some other large animal.
  6. I started cake decorating when I was 14. My first cake was a Garfield cake, and I still have the pan and the plastic eyes/nose piece.
  7. When I was growing up I wanted to be a marine biologist. The beach and ocean is still my favorite place to visit.

Happy blogging, everyone!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Strawberry Smoothie

When I started doing Weight Watchers back in August 2007 one of my staple snacks were the Yoplait Light Smoothie's. I tried all the light smoothies at my store and the Yoplait brand was the only one that was thick, satisfying, and not gritty. It was also only 1 Weight Watcher's point, which was a big deal. There were days that I'd drink 2 or 3 of the smoothies over the course of the day, and at over $1 each, it added up.

It took way too long for it to occur to me that I could come up with my own smoothie, for way less money. Ah, well, better late than never :) This recipe uses frozen strawberries, but I've used raspberries, blueberries, and a berry mixture. They were all good.

Note: the recipe calls for 1/4 cup sugar. You can use more if you want the smoothie sweeter, but it makes the points go up to 2 points. You can also add sweetener (I've used Splenda--1/4 cup), which won't make the points go up.

Strawberry Smoothie

1 32-oz container plain, non-fat yogurt
1 generous cup frozen sliced strawberries (they break up better than frozen whole ones)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup sugar
2 cups cold water

Combine all of the ingredients in a blender canister and blend until smooth. If you don't want the seeds, you can strain them out using a fine-mesh strainer (I take out the seeds).

Store the smoothie in a pitcher that has a cover or lid because you need to shake it before pouring yourself a glass. 6 oz of this recipe is 1 point. If you want, you can use all artifical sweetener and have 8 oz for 1 point. I use sugar because the fake-sweet gets to me after a while.

My toddler thinks this smoothie is awesome, which would save me from buying Danimal drinkable yogurt, except my 6 year-old doesn't like the flavor. Sigh. I guess she prefers the fake strawberry flavor to real strawberry flavor.

Speaking of strawberry "flavor", the Yoplait smoothie lists strawberries as one of it's ingredients; it also lists "beet juice, for color". My smoothie is pretty pink. If Yoplait needs beet juice to make their smoothie pink, exactly how many strawberries are in there? Enjoy!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Storing cut lettuce

Pre-cut lettuce is a gift. I love to open the fridge and see a bag of it waiting for me to throw together a salad or a quick turkey wrap for lunch. Why having the lettuce ready to go makes such a difference is a mystery, but if the lettuce is still whole and in the store bag, I'm much more likely to skip the salad.

But how to have pre-cut lettuce without having it get gross before you get around to using it? Between my sister and I, we came up with a nearly perfect way to have your lettuce waiting on your beck and call. I say "nearly perfect" because, while lettuce stored this way will stay good for 5 or 6 days, it does eventually get gross--nothing lasts forever.

First, wash and spin dry your lettuce. I love red leaf and use it almost exclusively. If your lettuce is a little bit limp, soak it in cold water (add ice cubes if necessary) after cutting it to help it re-hydrate. To dry lettuce, I like a salad spinner over paper towels because it removes most of the surface water, and moisture is a death sentence to lettuce while in storage.

Put the washed and dried lettuce in a gallon sized (or other appropriately-sized) zip-top bag (don't pack it too tight), and tuck a paper towel on each "side". The paper towels will absorb any left-over moisture. After using some of the lettuce, change out the paper towels if they're at all damp.

Finally, squeeze out most of the air and seal the bag. I also use a permanent marker to label the bag. Maybe it's just me, but I need to be reminded what's in my paper towel-lined bags.

If you ask my kids they'll said I don't promise anything (except I'll promise I love them, that's easy to follow through with). So I'll almost-promise that you'll have less lettuce go bad in your fridge if you store it this way because you'll be much more likely to use it up fast. More salad is good for everyone, and you're bound to eat more of it when the lettuce is ready and waiting for you.

Fruit and Grilled Pork Salad

What is it about moving that makes you fall into a black hole, where nothing exists except towers of boxes, lists of services to setup, change, or cancel, and decisions about countertops, carpet, and paint?

I'm still here, and even though I finally have internet service, my kitchen is not especially cooking-friendly. Soon. I hope. I'm really tired of eating out, and am itching to start cooking real food.

In the mean time, here is something I did before the chaos started. If you remember, I was a contestant in Foodie Fights #4 with my Grilled Pork and Cantaloupe with Spicy Balsamic Glaze back in the beginning of June. After all the excitement of the competition wore off I had some yummy left-overs in the fridge and decided to have them for lunch. But instead of just warming them up, I used them to make a scrumptious salad. It was so good, that after I enjoyed mine, I felt very obliged to make my husband, who was working from home that day, a salad, too. Besides, he would have seen the evidence in the sink ;)

For my individual salad I started with a simple oil and vinegar dressing:

In a medium bowl, whisk together 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil, 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar, about 1/8th teaspoon coarse salt, and about 1/8th teaspoon fresh ground black pepper.

To the bowl I added 3 handfulls (about 3 cups) washed, cut lettuce (I love red leaf), and then used tongs to gently turn the lettuce to coat it with the dressing.

Then I warmed the pork in the microwave, just to take the chill off, brushed it with left-over Spicy Balsamic Glaze (also warmed slightly in the microwave), and sliced it thin. I used half of the chop for my salad and half the chop for my husband's salad (though he would have liked more, I'm sure).

When I assembled the salad I added sliced cucumber and tomato to the left-over strawberries and cantaloupe. I would have added some thinly sliced red onion, too, if I'd had some. To finish it all off I drizzled some more of the Spicy Balsamic Glaze over the sliced pork.

I love it when I can use left-overs from one meal to make a totally different meal. And with the fruit, pork, and simple oil and vinegar dressing, this salad was perfect for summer. Yum!
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