Tag Archives: cookbook

Five for Friday: What I’ve been Reading

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Here’s what I’ve been reading/listening to lately… Things I may not have read had a known more about them!

The Bafut Beagles
by Gerald Durrell 
(non-fiction) – skip

Remember this book that I DNF because I left it behind in Michigan last fall when visiting my in-laws? Well, it was still on the night stand right where I left it when I returned over Memorial Day! I picked it back up because I really did want to finish it despite my first review:

 It was the last book I was reading on our trip to Michigan and I was having such a hard time pushing through it. It is an account of the author’s trip to the Cameroons in the 1949 for the collection of zoo specimens. I believe that is is non-fiction; but the book reads more like a novel and some of the accounts just seem unbelievable or embellished. But what do I know about such things or that era?

It was a difficult book for me to read because of some of the treatment of the animals, but would we know about so many animals in the world today if someone had not collected specimens?

I tried to take a different approach to reading the remainder of the book. Perhaps this could be one of the first travelogues! I tried to look at it from the perspective of someone visiting a new land. I got more of out of it this way, but it still wasn’t my favorite. Somehow, someway, another one of Durrell’s books ended up on my bookshelf. I just noticed it the other day. I wonder what that one will be like.

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Pride & Prejudice
by Jane Austen 
(fiction, audiobook) – worth a read/listen

I will admit that I had never read Pride & Prejudice until now. And this audio-version was highly recommended. I’ve shied away from audiobooks as of late just because I won’t be commuting for the next six months and won’t have too many long stretches alone in the car.

Still, when I learned that there Audible.com has free channels that Prime Members can listen to, I jumped on board! I don’t want to pay for an audible subscription, so this option was perfect for me. If you are an Amazon Prime member, you can download the free Audible App and after signing in with your Prime credentials, go to Channels. There are podcasts and such, but if you scroll down to the bottom there is a link to Audiobook Collections. Pride and Prejudice can be found under Celebrity Voices / Classic Stories. You can only stream books; however, you cannot download them, so keep your data plan in mind if you somewhere without wi-fi. (I downloaded this one only for walks, so that I’d want to get out there and walk so that I could listen!)

I will admit that this took me a bit to get into this book and my mind sometimes drifted. But I still followed the storyline without absorbing every word. With Audible, you can also slow down or speed up the audio. I find that depending on the book, 1.25 to 1.5x speed works well for me. I have no idea how anyone can listen to a book at 3x the speed, but I’m sure you can train your brain to get used to it!

I find that the book is a little slow-moving at first, but I do love the story! Coincidentally, I discovered the 5-hour, 2 CD British television version of this book (starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth) sitting on our shelf in the weight room in the basement. My friend Jen lent it to me back when I had my back surgery back in 2013! It was time to return it. When Rob was out of town for a weekend, I watched it all… and this was during the time that I was listening to the book! I’d go for a long walk and listen and then I’d watch a section. I really did absorb more that way. And I will tell you that this is not an adaptation of the book like most movies are. This is almost word-for-word. I loved it and highly recommend both!

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Lucky Boy
by Shanthi Sekaran 
(fiction) – must read

I need to write a post about how I don’t like movie trailers because they reveal too much. I think the same is true for me and books. If I know too much about a book’s plot or premise, it may actually deter me from reading it. I’ve found there are many books that I never would have chose on my own have been some of my favorites!

This book is no exception. I read the book’s description after picking up the book from the library where I had it on hold. Hmmph… I thought. It was about two different mothers and their relationships and journeys through motherhood. There was no way that I was going to be interested or able to relate to this, having never been a mother myself.

But I was so wrong. 

This is one of those books I couldn’t put down. One of those books where when I was interrupted, I didn’t even realize that I was reading a book or that there was anything else going on around me – I was that present. I had to be jolted back to real life.

The thing that maybe I forgot when reading the description is that I didn’t have to relate to enjoy the book. It just has to be a well-written book that takes me to another time, another place, another life, another world. I mean, I loved Imbolo Mbue’s Behold the Dreamers and as an American-born woman, I obviously can’t relate to the immigrant experience. And Lucky Boy is about so much more than motherhood.

I highly recommend this book.

~

Eating in the Middle: A Mostly Wholesome Cookbook
by Andie Mitchell (non-fiction, cookbook) –worth a read

I read Mitchell’s memoir It Was Me All Along about her struggle with weight after having followed her old blog Can You Stay for Dinner? (It’s where I found this recipe!) Her writing is so heartfelt and her insights are so helpful having dealt with my own struggles on and off over the years.

After losing over 100 pounds, Mitchell found that her new challenge was to learn how to eat healthy but not deprive herself of the foods she once loved. This is what she describes as “Eating in the Middle”. You will find healthy recipes and tips on things she learned alongside recipes for sugary-made-from-scratch-make-for-company-or-share-with-friends indulgences. Still, I found that only a handful of the recipes appealed to me. Not always in terms of if they sounded good or not, but whether or not I’d actually make them. (I don’t bake, for example.)

One of the best parts I find about cookbooks, though, aren’t always the recipes, but what you can learn from the recipe creator. I love how Mitchell declares that she found that eating healthier in the morning set her up for a healthier day in general. Or that by making a point to eat a big healthy salad at lunch, she’d be sure to get her veggies in! Or that if she wants to eat something indulgent (like a pizza, which is tempting to overeat) to always fill up with veggies alongside.  All of these things aren’t new concepts; but when you hear them again, reiterated in how they were incorporated into someone’s life (not just as a “tip”), I think it goes a long way in seeing how it can be incorporated into your own.

~

Truly Madly Guilty
by Liane Moriarty (fiction) – worth a read

 

This is the second Moriarty novel I’ve read. What I love most about her novels – every character is flawed. Nothing is cut and dry. But with this book, all I kept screaming in my head, “So tell me what happened at the barbecue already!!” I may have felt that way for a good while; but you do eventually find out. 🙂

~

Does a book’s description deter you from reading a book?

 

Cheers~
Carrie

Skinnytaste Fast and Slow – Recipes I’ve Tried

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If you read any of my book posts, you may have learned that after checking out the cookbook Skinnytaste Fast and Slow from the library and reading it (mostly out loud to my husband!) on the way to Green Bay, I decided to buy for myself and give it as Christmas gifts.

I love and follow the Skinnytaste blog, as well as covet some favorites from her site, such as this Zucchini Lasagna and for me, this Crockpot Turkey White Bean Pumpkin Chili.

This post was inspired by Kat of Tenaciously Yours who asked if anyone got this cookbook yet. {She does a Friday Food Roundup!, which I love and have considered doing something similar myself.} Still, I didn’t have a quick and easy answer. We are still working our way around the Skinnytaste Fast and Slow cookbook; but I thought I’d post what I think thus far.

I apologize for the lack of pictures in this post! I hadn’t intended to write this post while I was cooking up…

skinnytaste-fast-slow

What I like about this cookbook:

  • I’ve learned that I’m attracted to books with blue covers. So there you have it.
  • There are so many things that I’m dying to make! It’s one of the reasons I decided to purchase the cookbook. I was flagging so many pages in my borrowed library copy!
  • The recipes are meant to get a meal on the table easily any night of the week be it fast (30 minutes or less) or slow (in a slow cooker).
  • For many of the slow cooker recipes, she’ll give hints on how to accommodate it to the stove top. I forgot about this and needed the reminder!
  • There is a whole section titled “One-Bowl Meals”. You know how I love my bowls!
  • It’s a healthy cookbook – a lot of recipes are lightened up, but while using real food.

~

What I’ve made so far:

  • Slow Cooker Hamburger Stroganoff – My husband prefers ground beef stroganoff over chunks of beef. He liked this recipe more than I did. I think my MIL’s is better and would come to better pretty easily. I’ll have to get that recipe from her.
  • Egg Roll Bowls – I gave these a shot since the recipe only made two servings – perfect for Rob and me! Surprisingly, they didn’t have much flavor. 😦 I used my leftover ingredients to make these soups.
  • Slow Cooker Beef Ragu with Paparadelle – My husband was hesitant on thins one because he is not a fan of flank steak; but it falls apart so tenderly in the slow cooker! That being said, the flank steak was surprisingly pricey, even at Aldi. He also seemed to enjoy this more than I did.
  • Slow Cooker Lasgana Soup – Okay, so I didn’t really make this one. I came really close. But in the end, I already had a similar stovetop recipe I really like and made that one instead.
  • Slow Cooker Creamy Tomato Soup – This book is supposed to include what I would consider easy meals – either fast (under 30 minutes) or slow (in a slow cooker); but I found this recipe to be very labor intensive! I did a lot of prep and cooking before putting it into the slow cooker, then pureeing the contents afterward, then creating the creamy sauce on the stove to add to the soup. All that for a result that wasn’t very flavorful {despite the fresh basil!} nor satisfying. Not worth the hassle. We are still on our quest for that perfect-go-to make-at-home tomato soup. We have yet to find it. But I think I’ve perfected the grilled cheese in the meantime!

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What I’ve learned:

  • I thought using the Crockpot would be a great thing to have going now that I have a commute 3 days a week. However, I’m gone from the house for 10 hours on those days. There are not many 10-hour + crockpot recipes. Instead, I found myself using the slow cooker on the days I work from home! Maybe it’s time for an Instant Pot. She’s got some recipes that’ll work for that, too! {I have two friends who each just got one. I’ll wait for their reviews and then put one on my wishlist!}

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Here are just a few more recipes from this cookbook that I want to make:

  • Banana Almond Smoothie Bowl – I’ve done smoothies, but never a smoothie bowl. This one has all the right yums. I want it on a hot day this summer, after a run.
  • Savory Quinoa Breakfast Bowls – Why didn’t I think of this one? Softboiled egg, quinoa, spinach, tomato, avocado? DONE.
  • Slow Cooker Chicken Taco Chili – I’ve made this Mexican Chicken Stew before. Perhaps similar?  You really can’t go wrong with anything Mexican, nor anything chili, though…
  • Kale Caesar and Grilled Chicken Bowls – This recipe serves 4. It’s hard to justify a 4-serving salad when Rob is allergic to chicken. I’ll just have to halve it or make it for the girls for our monthly dinner night in some time!
  • Chicken and Couscous Bowls with Piri Piri – I don’t think I’ve made couscous since college, when I ate it ALL.THE.TIME. Couscous was my ramen. Plus it helped me get my veg in – I usually sauteed some mushrooms and zucchini and mixed them in. But what intrigues me most about this recipe is making my own Piri Piri sauce, which I haven’t had since we’ve been to Australia.
  • Shrimp and Artichoke Quinoa Bowls – This dish is for me only since Rob can’t eat shrimp. But it makes 5 servings and I hate reheating shrimp. Maybe I’ll keep the leftover shrimp cold and just serve it on top after reheating. This might be another good one for the girls.
  • Sunny-Side-Up Egg and Avocado Rice Bowls – Enough Said.
  • Slow Cooker Chicken Burrito Bowls – I’ve been meaning to make some version of this for some time. I’ve got about 1001 recipes pinned.
  • Some of the spiralized meals –  I’ve made zoodles {zucchini noodles} before, but with a julienne peeler, which can be a bit labor intensive. I would love to get a spiralizer, but don’t want to spend the money if it’s not going to be a good one. I want it to be soooo easy that I want to spiralize everything! I was just about to request recommendations, when I realized that there are recommendations for two durable ones in the cookbook {Inspiralizer or Paderno}! Thanks, blog post for forcing me to re-read! Anyone have a preference?
  • Asiago-Crusted Chicken Breast – Why not?
  • Santa Fe Turkey Egg Rolls with Avocado Ranch Sauce – Is it weird that Santa Fe is on my travel bucket list? I have no idea if this type of food is truly indicative of the location, but it looks good anyway.
  • Fork and Knife Cheeseburgers – You would never know unless you read the recipe that the burger in this beautiful photo is between two portobello mushroom caps. Why? She sprinkled the top “bun” with sesame seeds!
  • Perfect Medium-Rare Roast Beef in the Slow Cooker – They say that a way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, right? Well, I think I’ve already got his heart. So maybe it’s just that I’ve never made anything like this before.
  • Slow Cooker Pernil – I’ve just always been curious about this dish.
  • Baked Fish and Chips – I think I should make this for the girls. We’ve all been known to order the fried version out on occasion!
  • Grilled Vegetable Caprese Salad – Summer, here I come!
  • Greek Panzanella Salad – Now I know how to make that soft, boring pita bread taste good – you grill it first!
  • Zucchini “Meatballs” – I’m always curious of vegetarian spins on meat {I love a good black bean burger!} and this one sounds up my alley.
  • Slow Cooker Loaded “Baked” Sweet Potatoes – This one is two-fold: 1) I’ve heard baked potatoes are great in the slow cooker, 2) I am not a huge fan of sweet potatoes; but I feel I could enjoy these with all the Latin toppings!
  • Slow Cooker Chana Masala – I made chana masala on my own once, but didn’t get the method down. 😦 My favorite version is a single-serving frozen meal at Trader Joe’s. Still would like to make the real deal on my own.
  • Burnt Broccoli – Yeah – I’ve been eating broccoli for almost two years now. CRAZY.
  • Spaghetti Squash with Garlic and Oil – Yes… a great side dish to get some veg in… I always forget how much I love SS until I eat it again!

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In sum, what I can tell you is that I still have a LOT of recipes I’d like to try out of this cookbook. But, of the ones I’ve made, I just haven’t found any I LOVE yet. Would you like me, to perhaps, give you another update in the future? Tell you when I do find a keeper?

What recipe from this list would you most like to try?

 

Cheers~
Carrie

Where to Buy Chicken Casserole Supplies?

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My husband loves reading Lamebook and other sites that show funnies from around the web. Here’s one of his favorites:

Well, my friend Stacy was over for dinner this week on a night that my husband was out for his Fantasy Football Draft. So you know what that meant?

I could make a chicken dish!

Why not a Chicken Casserole dish?

I’ll tell you where you can find Chicken Casserole Supplies:

My Pantry!

I had all but two of the 18 ingredients needed for a Chicken Casserole dish from – you guessed it – The Homesick Texan. {As much as I love them, I don’t keep corn tortillas on hand, nor did I have half and half.} After picking those two items up from the nearby Cub Foods, I had the components to make:

Slightly Fancy-Pants King Ranch

Chicken Casserole

from The Homesick Texan

Eighteen ingredients may sound like a lot, but it really wasn’t. And if you want to make the easier, old-school version with cream of  mushroom and cream of chicken soup, Lisa includes that recipe on her website, too.

I started by seasoning and cooking up the chicken, which took more time than anticipated:

Chicken seasoned with lime, chili powder and salt

Then I shredded it:

Shredded Chicken

Next time, as a time saver, I’d have the chicken done ahead of time or just buy a rotisserie chicken and add the spices.

Then, I sautéed the onions and peppers. The recipe called for a poblano and a red bell pepper, but I had some small Anaheim peppers left from my last CSA box, so I used that instead of the red bell:

Poblano (1) and Anaheim (2) Peppers

I added the spices:

Spices: garlic, flour, cumin, cayenne, chili powder

After thickening the mixture with the chicken broth, I added the half and half. And since I didn’t have a can of Ro-Tel on hand that the author is so fond of, I put in 10 ounces of canned tomatoes along with a chopped jalapeno and serrano pepper, yet again from my CSA box. {Do they expect me to make Tex-Mex and Mexican food all summer? Aha! How did I forget about the serrano peppers used in Indian Food!? Note to self…}

After some simmering {not me, the sauce mixture}, I added the remaining lime juice, sour cream and some cilantro and seasoned it with salt and pepper:

Creamy mixture for the Chicken Casserole

With the oven heated, I began assembling the Chicken Casserole with layers of  the sauce mixture, corn tortillas, shredded chicken, cilantro and shredded cheese.

Layering of the Chicken Casserole…

Unfortunately, you don’t get a picture of the finished product. But with all the bubbly, golden brown cheese on top, it looked just like The Homesick Texan‘s Tex-Mex Squash Casserole that I made.

The Verdict? This King Ranch Chicken Casserole is the perfect combination of chicken, ooey-gooey cheese and heat. We thought it would be nice if it were a just a tad creamier, so maybe I’d add a little more sour cream next time. {Or I’d have some leftover to dollop on top. I finished off the container of sour cream for this dish, so we didn’t have that luxury.}

So where did I find my chicken casserole supplies?

  • Mostly my pantry and fridge
  • My CSA box
  • Cub Foods for the missing ingredients

Hopefully, that’ll help out Mr. David D. 😉

What is your favorite casserole dish?

Please include the recipe or a link to the recipe!

Cheers~
Carrie

My Weekend Pantry Challenge

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My husband went out of town this weekend. So, I decided to give myself a challenge:

Cook only from my pantry, fridge and freezer.

This meant no eating out nor buying of any groceries. The only exception to the rule:

I could buy any fresh produce.

I still wanted to limit buying produce as much as possible because I needed to use up what was already in my fridge and from my last two CSA boxes. However, a trip to the farmer’s market on Thursday afternoon overstocked me even more. It’s just too easy to get carried away when I’m there!

The purpose of the challenge was to use up items that seem to be wasting space in the fridge, freezer or pantry. In particular, I wanted to use up the ones that I don’t use very often because either:

  1. My husband is allergic to them.
  2. He’s just doesn’t like them.

My CSA box the week before came with several jalapenos:

jalapenos and serrano pepper

I hadn’t had a chance to use them, so they were starting to shrivel. This photo was actually taken over a week before using them, so you still get the fresh look. However, the serrano pepper was from the week prior to that and had not only shriveled, but turned from green to the bright red color you see above.

I made sure to get out my trusty Homesick Texan Cookbook to put these little babies to good use.

Note: Slightly shriveled jalapenos pack nearly as much heat as fresh ones! {Or so it seems to me.} I’m so glad that I didn’t toss them!

On Thursday night, I started with:

Tex-Mex Squash Casserole

from

The Homesick Texan Cookbook

The chopping of all of the squash, onions and jalapenos was the most time consuming. Even with the Knife Skills Class that I took at The Kitchen Window that completely changed my life {not kidding!}, it got a little old after a while. The cookbook recipe calls for everything to be diced. However, I just noticed that the online recipe I linked you to suggests just slicing the squash. I think that may have saved some time with no effect on the outcome.

After everything was cooked up and put in the casserole dish, I covered it in cheese:

Cheesy goodness!

When I pulled it out of the oven, I started to divide the dish into six servings, when I realized that you might want a photo of the finished product:

Golden brown cheesy goodness!

While I now notice that the online recipe calls for a can of Ro-tel tomatoes, Lisa’s cookbook recipe calls for “canned tomatoes, preferably fire roasted”. Oh, yeah, baby! We keep stashes of these on hand:

If you have never had these canned fire-roasted garlic tomatoes, you are missing out. When I open the can, I put my nose in. I can smell garlic. I get hungry.

Yes, when I open a can of tomatoes, my mouth waters.

They are that good. So naturally, those went in.

Flavor: Wow. This dish has the perfect amount of heat. I don’t know how she does it, but all of Lisa’s recipes that I’ve tried in her cookbook seem to hit that ideal spice level. Don’t get me wrong, I could go spicier. But I’m not necessarily sure that I want to do that now. There is something about finding that exact level of heat that gives a dish flavor, but not so much that you can’t taste the other ingredients. It’s magical when you you discover it.

Other notes: Despite the fact that this dish is composed of vegetables; it still was filling enough to be a main entrée. The tortilla chips didn’t give it a crust or a crunch; however, they served as a binding for the bottom, and that lovely corn flavor came through. The abundance of cheese adds a bit of protein. However, to add even more, I may cut back on the squash a little in the future and add a can of black beans instead.

I also made:

Mexican Corn

from

The Homesick Texan Cookbook

Despite the link to the recipe above, Lisa’s book recipe illustrates how to do this with or without corn on the cob. I used corn on the cob, but cut it off the cob first.

Flavor: There really wasn’t much flavor here, despite the overabundance of butter and mayo. It just made it high in calories and fat. Even the cilantro and lime didn’t give it that zest that that I’m used to. I think I’ll just keep my regular old buttered corn on the cob for now. Wait! I just realized, I forgot the cayenne. DOH!

Friday morning I made:

Green Monster Smoothie

from

Kim at Living, Laughing, & Losing

Kim loves to throw together her own smoothies. I made this one because I love the fact that it’s one of the few in the blogosphere that doesn’t have protein powder! {Seriously, I still don’t understand the stuff. If one is on a health kick, why eat processed protein?}

In any case, I didn’t take a picture because, hey, it was 6:30am on Friday. Do you really think my brain is functioning yet? Nope. I made a half-portion of her concoction and was sure to use this as suggested:

Another reason why I chose to make this smoothie is that she said that her boyfriend claimed it was the best smoothie she’s ever made.

He was right.

Uh, well, I don’t know Kim personally and hadn’t had any of her other smoothies prior to this. But this one made me “Mmm…” out loud. In fact, I loved it so much that I made another after yoga in the evening, but added blueberries as she did in a later post. Just as good, if not better! These may become a staple for a while.

Flavor: I think what makes this smoothie so great is the cinnamon! I would have never thought of adding that to a smoothie and I just may do it all the time. I’m sure the maple almond butter gave it a hit of sweetness, too.

Friday night’s dinner included:

Green Beans with Cilantro Pesto

from

The Homesick Texan Cookbook

Leftover Tex-Mex Squash Casserole with Cilantro Pesto Green Beans

Flavor: Just what you’d expect from a cilantro pesto! The serrano pepper gives is just a little kick. The recipe calls for pecans which I didn’t have on hand, so I threw in some toasted almonds instead. I saved some leftover pesto with which to:

  1. Coat more veggies or pasta.
  2. Top a burrito or even a crepe like Kat did.

Saturday’s eats:

I was cleaning like a mad woman, so mostly fruit and snacks were consumed during the day. One snack included:

Wholly Guacamole, jalapeno and tomato

I have about three more of those Wholly Guacamole packs left and they expire sometime this month. I thought I’d mix one with a bit of the leftover chopped jalapeno, some chopped tomato and garlic powder to make:

Jazzed Up Guacamole

I grabbed a handful of tortilla chips leftover from the bag I bought for the Tex-Mex Squash Casserole. This was a perfect-sized snack that carried me over during my complete overhaul of the office. In fact, I didn’t even think about starting to make dinner until 7:30pm.

I knew that I wanted to use up the Rob-unfriendly chicken that I put in the freezer a while back. Then I remembered this:

Kitchen Stash Supper

from

Iowa Girl Eats

I love this flexible recipe because it gives me a chance to do exactly what I needed to this weekend – use up items in my fridge, freezer and pantry.

Here’s what was in the mix of the version I made:

  • Half of an onion, diced – I never have shallots in the house, but always have onions.
  • Chopped Veggies – I used about three cups instead of two. I had so many options to choose from including red peppers and anaheim peppers from my CSA box, zucchini from the farmer’s market… But I ended up choosing the ones that I didn’t see myself using up later or that made the dish more varied in color:

onion, bok choy, canned fire-roasted garlic tomatoes, yellow squash

    • Bok choy from my CSA box
    • Garlic fire-roasted canned tomatoes – Half of a can was leftover from the Tex-Mex Squash Casserole. I drained the juices, though, so it wouldn’t make my dish runny.
    • Yellow squash from the farmer’s market
  • Chicken – I used the entire 15-oz package instead of the 12 ounces suggested in the recipe. I cooked it in this microsteamer instead of cooking it in olive oil.
  • Elbow Macaroni – I only had about 3.5 ounces left, but knew the extra chicken and veggies would make up for it.
  • Shredded cheddar cheese – I thought about using the last of the Chipotle Laughing Cow wedges I had or leftover Cojita cheese from my Homesick Texan recipes, but decided I wanted a different flavor from all the wonderful Tex-Mex ones I’d been having lately. I do not want to burn out on them!

The cooked chicken, sautéed veggies and sauce all mixed together looked like this:

Kitchen Stash Supper

Flavor: I wish it had more! Despite the fact that I used roasted garlic grapeseed oil to sauté the veggies and added a hefty spoonful of minced garlic, something was missing. Maybe I didn’t salt the dish enough? Maybe I should have used a more flavorful cheese? {Maybe I was just comparing to those wonderful Tex-Mex flavors I’ve been experiencing lately.} I didn’t add any fresh basil or parsley as suggested either. But the chicken was juicy and I loved the different textures of all the vegetables. And the sauce was creamy, too!

Notes: You know what I love most about this recipe? It’s another step to learning how to be flexible and creative in my cooking, to improvise. I’m really trying to learn to use recipes as guides and become more instinctive when I cook. If I would have tasted this before plating {Food Network 101, right?}, I would have thought to salt the dish a bit more or add another spice. I can’t wait to try it out next time!

But before I made that Saturday night Kitchen Stash Supper, I put together a Sunday salad that needed 24 hours to marinate:

Corn and Cucumber Salad with Fresh Blueberries

from

A Veggie Venture

The blueberries that I had picked up earlier in the week as a BOGO special are some of the best I’ve ever tasted. I found myself munching on them while putting this salad together. Mmm. Antioxidants!

When Sunday came around, I gave in and made this to accompany my salad:

Corn & Cucumber Salad with Blueberries and Hard-boiled Egg and Tomato Sandwich

Yes, that is Benny in the background eyeing my creation, hoping to get a bite!

I first saw the Egg, Tomato and Scallion Sandwich at Gina’s Skinny Recipes (aka Skinnytaste.com). Why didn’t I think of that? I thought. I had those ingredients on hand already. I felt directed to act. But I didn’t…

Until… Racheal at Running with Racheal posted pictures of the ones she made on her blog four different times in four days! Okay, so it was time. {Even if I was now out of scallions.} And I now realize why marketers say that you have to see or hear a message a bunch of times – even if we are interested in a product – before we take any purchasing action.

Verdict?

Let’s start with the Corn & Cucumber Salad with Blueberries.

Flavor:  My first bites… Mmm… good, fresh flavors. However, after a few more, I realized that I couldn’t really taste the blueberries. It could have been a corn and cucumber salad for that matter. And because I thought those blueberries were the absolute best I ever tasted, I decided to take some fresh ones and sprinkle them on top. Nope, the salad flavors still overpowered them.

Notes: I was curious to see how corn and blueberries would pair together, but I’m not sure that I could tell here. You could make this with just corn and cucumbers and still have  refreshing salad! However, the blueberries give a nice color contrast.

As for the Hard-boiled Egg & Tomato Sandwich:

Flavor: What the heck have I been waiting for!? No wonder Racheal had been making these four days in a row! I’m entirely positive that it’s not just because she is pregnant. 😉 When I saw this sandwich on Skinny Taste, I knew that eggs and tomatoes are flavors I loved. I knew that this would be simple to put together. So, I don’t know what took me so long. Thanks, Racheal for unintentionally kicking my butt into action!

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So, did I make a dent in my pantry, freezer and fridge? All that cooking made me feel like I did… but I still have the following perishables to use up with only one day to cook this work-week and another CSA box to arrive on Wednesday:

  • Tomatoes (3)
  • Red Bell Peppers (2)
  • Cucumbers (3)
  • Bok Choy
  • Hard-boiled Egg (1) – uh, it’s obvious what I’ll be doing with that!
  • Anaheim peppers (2)
  • Cilantro (about 1 cup)
  • Zucchini
  • Wholly Guacamole (two 100 cal packs)
  • Diced jalapeno
  • Cilantro pesto
  • Head of cabbage

I have lunches of leftover Tex-Mex Squash Casserole and Kitchen Stash Supper set to take with me to work all week. Red peppers and cucumbers were cut up as a snack for dipping in hummus. I can make another Hard-boiled Egg & Tomato Sandwich as well as another helping or two of Jazzed up Guac. But the rest? When will I use it all?

Sure, it may sound like all I did was cook and eat this weekend, but it didn’t really take up much time. I also cleaned, dog-sat, did a couple of 4-mile runs, attended three yoga sessions and participated in the Homegrown Experience… But that’s for another post.

Do you have a favorite go-to dish when you need to clear out the fridge, freezer and pantry? If so, please share!

Cheers~
Carrie

Cooking Like a Homesick Texan – Part 2

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This past weekend, I had time to really dig into The Homesick Texan Cookbook and try out some flavorful recipes. I spent Friday night making my own Mexican Chorizo and along with some Poblano Mac and Cheese.

But I wasn’t about to stop there!

Sunday morning’s menu included Breakfast Rellenos!

It had been ages since I’d had a chile relleno. When I saw Lisa Fain’s recipe for a Breakfast Relleno in The Homesick Texan, with my adoration for eggs, I knew immediately that they’d be one of her recipes I would attempt to make.

As I began to roast the poblanos and gather the rest of the ingredients, I noticed that at the end of the recipe, it stated to serve with salsa.

WHOOPS! I didn’t have any. However, I did get a tomatillo in my CSA box this past week. And while I couldn’t find a recipe that used just one tomatillo to make a salsa verde, I did see a few that used a combination of tomatoes and tomatillos. And because this recipe online looked pretty easy, I used it as a guide:

Tomatillo Salsa recipe I found at TheKitchn.com

In my half of the CSA box this week {I share with my friend Jen}, I received one tomatillo, a red tomato {well, many red tomatoes, but all but one were already consumed!}, a yellow tomato and a green tomato. That’s how I decided what I would be using to create my salsa. Let me remind you that I’m not much of an impromptu cook, so this is a big deal!

So once the poblanos were roasted, the tomatillo, tomatoes and seeded serrano chiles took their turn under the broiler. Then they went into my beloved food processor:

Pretty darn colorful, don’t ya think?

After puréeing the ingredients together, I tasted the salsa. It was a bit runny; I like my salsa chunky. I also thought that something was missing. So I added a touch more salt, a spoonful of minced garlic and a chopped {non-roasted, non-CSA} roma tomato that I found in my fridge.

While my friend Cinia makes the best salsa of anyone I’ve ever known, I do have to say that this one was still pretty darn good. In fact, Rob loved it. When I served it alongside the relleno, I didn’t think he’d comment on the salsa. I thought it would be more an afterthought. But the salsa is what he complimented me on first, without me even asking what he thought of it.

Breakfast Relleno with Roasted Tomato & Tomatillo Salsa

Okay, so sometimes I get too excited and start eating my creations before I remember to snap a picture for y’all. The relleno stuffing included some of the Mexican Green Chorizo that I made on Friday night along with onions, eggs, spices and cheese. Boy oh boy, was this tasty! And pretty darn easy to make, too. What takes the most time is roasting the poblanos, but very easy to do!

Later in the day, I wanted to make a snack {which ultimately became lunch}. I still had some serrano peppers to use and I wanted to try my hand at making my own Chile Con Queso instead of buying the cheese sauce that my husband so loves. It was actually very easy to make!

Tomatoes and cilantro added to the chile base of the sauce.

Adding the cheese 1/4 cup at a time:

Cheddar and Monterey Jack are used in this queso

Once melted and gooey, we enjoyed tortilla chips with the Chile con Queso and leftover salsa from the a.m.:

Tortilla Chips, Chile con Queso, and Roasted Tomato & Tomatillo Salsa

The queso was good, but could have been a bit spicier. Maybe I should have thrown that last serrano I had in there! Would I make it again? Probably not. Only because I don’t make nor buy cheese sauce like this normally. And it’s not a good thing to have around the house when I’m trying to shed a few pounds. 😉

That being said, we have a ton {not literally} of queso left.

What would you do with leftover queso besides eat it with chips?

Cheers~
Carrie

Cooking Like a Homesick Texan – Part 1

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This weekend, knowing I had ample time so I wouldn’t feel rushed, I decided to finally make an attempt to cook from The Homesick Texan Cookbook.

You are probably thinking, What?! She cooks?”

I don’t blame you after all the posts I’ve done about restaurants and dining out. It’s understandable that you might think that I don’t/can’t cook. But that’s just not the case. I’m still quite the novice and I’ve had some absolute disasters in the kitchen {just ask my husband}, but I do like to cook on a semi-regular basis.

I love coming up with wine pairings for all types of cuisine, but for some reason, I decided I wanted to pick up some Coronas instead. It’s summer and we’d be enjoying some Tex-Mex, so I thought it was only natural:

Poblanos ready for roasting, Coronas with lime and The Homesick Texan Cookbook

When it comes to beer, Corona is pretty much the only lager I’ll drink. And it can’t be done sans lime. I’m not so much into light beers either, but I suspected with Corona that it couldn’t make much of a difference. So I decided to do a side-by-side taste test. And I was right; there was no difference. Well, except for the approximately 50 calories per bottle, of course.

Earlier in the week, I asked Rob to thumb through The Homesick Texan and mark any dishes that looked good to him. I had already marked a few myself:

But I wanted him to have first pick of what I’d make. His choices?

Poblano Mac and Cheese

and

Sausage Balls

I told him that the Sausage Balls would have to wait. They are more of an appetizer and the recipe makes 36 balls. Rob is not one for leftovers, so I didn’t want those hanging around the house, or wasted. So, if you invite us to a party anytime soon, let me know if you’d like me to make them!

Still, I did have an idea.

When I was thumbing through the cookbook, I saw recipes for Mexican Chorizo. I can make my own chorizo?!” I thought. I looked at the ingredients and the instructions. It didn’t look too hard. That’s when the idea hit me: Rob loved the Adult Mac & Cheese with chiles and andouille at the Burnsville Ale House. I could add chorizo to this Poblano Mac and Cheese!

I know, I’m just Brilliant. Yes, with a capital B.

I thought these recipes would be a little labor-intensive {for me}, so I picked a night when I didn’t have anything planned to do after dinner. I didn’t want to feel hurried. I wanted to enjoy the cooking experience rather than be stressed out about it.

And I think that in total, without rushing and while taking plenty of sips of my Corona, making dinner from The Homesick Texan probably took me about an hour or so. And if I had made the chorizo in advance, the mac and cheese would have been even easier.

To make the Mexican Green Chorizo {aka Chorizo Verde}, I roasted an extra poblano, but also needed two serrano chiles. Luckily, I got a bunch in our CSA box last week:

CSA hot peppers

Yes, Featherstone Farm said they put “hot peppers” in the CSA box this week. How did I know they were serrano peppers? Well, I wasn’t completely sure. I’ve cooked with serranos before, but they do look very similar to jalapenos. However, they are five times hotter! Luckily, I had a leftover jalapeno from my CSA box the week before to compare:

jalapeno vs. serranos

I am grateful for the food processor I bought last year so I could whir together the roasted poblano, spinach, cilantro, serranos and spices:

spicy paste for green chorizo

All I had to do was mix that with some ground pork and cook it up:

Mexican Green Chorizo

Oh boy! The flavor in this chorizo! Talk about well-seasoned! I just made my own chorizo! Yeehaw!!!

Then I put together everything for the Poblano Mac and Cheese and popped it into the oven:

Poblano Mac and Cheese

When it came out of the oven, I served the Poblano Mac and Cheese with a crumbling of Cojita cheese and some of the Mexican Green Chorizo on the side. This way we could taste the mac and cheese without the chorizo first and then mix it in if we desired.

The Verdict?

I don’t think I’ve ever made anything this flavorful at home! Rob had a second helping later in the evening. I was quite proud of this dish and am excited for leftovers for lunch this week. I didn’t ask Rob how it compared to the Adult Mac & Cheese with andouille and chilies at the Burnsville Ale House. I didn’t want to risk bruising my ego. 😉

My only wish was that this Mac and Cheese was a bit creamier. However, this may have been my fault. Author Lisa Fain of The Homesick Texan recommended to add more milk, a little at a time, if when mixing the sauce, it got too think. I didn’t follow this advice because Rob doesn’t like runny, thin sauces. I decided to refrain. Perhaps if I added a little more milk, it would have been creamier?

Come back tomorrow to find out how I used up the rest of Chorizo Verde. I’d like to give a special shout out to Kat, who sent me the cookbook as a giveaway from her blog. She cooks from the book often and I’m often drooling over her photos. Thanks, Kat!

What new dish have you made lately that made your taste buds sing?

Cheers~
Carrie