Learning each and every day

My quest to edify myself a bit every day

Archive for the month “August, 2012”

Day 257 – August 30

So far, I’m really liking my new vegetarian cookbook. Yummy recipes that aren’t terribly difficult to make. Today I tried out a pasta recipe: Artichoke and olive spaghetti. Really delish, and it was even better the next day. I didn’t take a pic since it’s the type of thing that doesn’t photograph well. But the pic wouldn’t really how shown the yummiliciousness, anyway.

And, the recipe.

Artichoke and olive spaghetti
Slightly modified from Vegetarian: a collection of over 100 essential recipes

Serves 4
2 T olive oil
1 large red onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 T lemon juice
4 baby eggplants, quartered
20 fl oz strained tomatoes
salt and pepper
2 t superfine sugar
3 T tomato paste
14 oz canned artichoke hearts, drained and halved
4 1/2 oz pitted black olives
12 oz dried pasta
a few sprigs of fresh thyme

1. Heat 1T olive oil in a large skillet and gently cook the onion, garlic, lemon juice, and eggplants for 4-5 minutes, or until lightly browned.
2. Pour in the strained tomatoes, season with salt and pepper, and add the sugar and tomato paste. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and let simmer for 20 minutes. Gently stir in the artichoke halves and olives, and cook for 5 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, bring a large, heavy-bottom pan of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the pasta, return to a boil, and cook for 8-10 minutes, or until just tender, but still firm to the bite. Drain well, toss in the remaining olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.
4. Transfer the pasta to a serving bowl and top with the vegetable sauce.



Day 255 – August 28

Sometimes, I just don’t feel like making dinner. At least nothing that requires too much effort. Tonight was one of those nights. My first thought was to have bread with peanut butter and applesauce. Then I remembered seeing this smoothie recipe on Pinterest, and decided to go with that.

I made a few changes.
– full fat regular plain yogurt
– 4-6 T of honey
– 2-4 T of powdered sugar
– 2-3 T of cocoa powder
– 1 t cinnamon
– 1 t vanilla extract

It was pretty good. The babes drank it up with no complaints. The person that pinned it before me claimed that it was very filling and kept them going all morning. Maybe it’s because I’m incubating a human, but this definitely didn’t keep me full for long. I’ll try it again in the morning to see how it works out. All in all, it worked out great, the kids were full, and it was healthy! Win-win!

Day 254 – August 27

It seems like I go in spurts. Nothing for a few days, and then in one day I learn/try a ton of new things. Today is no exception. So, let’s get started.

This morning at Meijer’s, I found some zucchini in the clearance section. I got 4 or 5 for about 88 cents. They needed to be used up today, so I tried out this braised zucchini recipe. After making this I realized that unless you cook veggies until they are limp, it’s pretty hard to mess them up and they turn out quite good most of the time. The zucchini was so very yummy! Not really something the kids loved . . I think it was the cooked tomatoes that got them. But, it was a very easy recipe to make and I thought it was delicious!

During our weekly grocery trip to Meijer’s yesterday (yes, we go there several times a week), I happened to see the Pillsbury crescent rolls on sale. I remembered that there had been something on Pinterest I’d been wanting to try with that as the main ingredient, so I picked them up. This danish recipe from the blog Lauren’s latest was the one I’d been thinking of. The verdict? Well, DH asked if I had made the filling.

Me: Yeah. It was just cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and fruit.
DH: But what did you do to the fruit?
Me: Nothing, just dumped the blueberries on top of the cream cheese mixture.

So, there you have it . . . .amazing! I’m going to experiment with the cream cheese filling, adding different spices and things to change it up a bit. I also plan on trying one with fruit and a bit of chocolate. I see lots of possibilities with this one! And it was very, very easy!

One thing I forgot to note. The topping required powdered sugar, which I forgot to buy this morning. I thought I’d try to make my own using a blender, 1 1/2 cups of sugar and 1 T of cornstarch. It was nothing at all like actual powdered sugar. Granted, I could have blended it longer to get rid of the graininess, but I wasn’t feeling all that patient. But it wasn’t just the graininess that bugged me, the flavor was strange. That was the ONE thing that I didn’t like about the danish. But, it’s a super easy fix, and now I know that DIY powdered sugar is a bust!

Dinner tonight was bean salad and cornbread. I tried out a new cornbread recipe and it was a complete winner. I was a bit skeptical at first because the batter was SOOOO runny! I thought, “This is NEVER going to cook!” But it was done in 30 minutes and it was very yummy. Sweet, but not too sweet, and moist. This is now my new favorite cornbread recipe!

Day 249 – August 22

New foods was the name of the game today. For some reason, I had a bunch of new recipes to try out.

First up: Camp Corn Salad from the blog The Mother Huddle The kids really love corn, and it looked like a nice and refreshing salad that was easy to make. So, I gave it a whirl. I was in a hurry, so I took a few shortcuts and made a few changes:

After cooking the corn, I dumped it in a bowl of ice water to quickly cool it down.
Once everything was mixed, I stuck the bowl of salad in the freezer for about 10 minutes to cool it down. Hey, I didn’t have 2 hours to let it sit in the fridge!
I added some freshly ground black pepper and because I had it on hand, some fresh thyme.
A yellow bell pepper was the stand in for the green bell pepper.

All in all, it was pretty yummy. I have no idea what the babes thought . . .. they didn’t appear to be all that hungry at lunch today! But, DH thought it was great, as did I. I’m now trying to think of what protein I could add in so that it could be a stand alone meal.

Next up: Pasta with Tofu and Peanut Sauce

Adapted from BH&G “Pasta – cooking for today”

1 lb angel hair pasta
28 oz broth (28 oz water plus 4t McKay’s Seasoning)
4T water
4T soy sauce
2T cornstarch
1/2t cayenne pepper
1 cup smooth peanut butter
2T olive oil
2 medium onions, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
6 cloves garlic, minced
2t grated gingerroot
1 package tofu, wrapped in paper towels to absorb the water, then cubed
1-2t salt
1/2-1t black pepper
1t marjoram
1/2 t garlic powder
1T olive oil

Preheat oven to 400. Place tofu in a bowl along with the salt, pepper, marjoram, garlic powder and olive oil. Shake to coat tofu. Place the tofu on a baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes, until the tofu is firm.

Cook the pasta according to the directions. Drain and keep warm.

In a medium bowl, stir together the broth, water, soy sauce, cornstarch and red pepper. Stir in peanut butter and set aside.

In a large skillet heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic and gingerroot to hot oil; stir-fry for 2-3 minutes until onion is crisp-tender. Remove onion mix from skillet.

Add the sauce to the skillet, stirring until the peanut butter has dissolved into the sauce. Continue cooking and stirring until thickened and bubbly. Remove tofu from the oven and add to the sauce. Cook and stir for 2 minutes more. Return onion mixture to the skillet; stir all ingredients together.

Add the pasta to the skillet.

We like to have more sauce than pasta, so I didn’t actually use the entire pound of pasta, it was more like 3/4 of the pound.

The verdict . . . . . mediocre. My family would disagree. DH ate a ton, and all three babes asked for more, even though they complained about it being a bit to spicy. I wanted it to have a stronger peanut flavor, and it seemed to be missing something. I don’t know, I’ll probably make it again since everyone else loved it. Not really a fav with me, though.

And finally, dessert. Triple Berry summer buttermilk bundt from the blog smitten kitchen. I’ll skip to the verdict, and then tell you what I changed. Uh, delicious! Super moist. Loved it!

I added chocolate chips because, well, why wouldn’t you add chocolate chips? I think I only added 1/3-1/2 a bag, so not a ton, just enough to be noticeable. The glaze was a total flop, but that was totally on me. A) I used margarine instead of butter. B) I didn’t have enough powdered sugar so it was quite lime-y (didn’t have any lemons). See the little clumps on top of the cake? That’s the margarine that didn’t get mixed in very well. I wonder if I would have had enough sugar if the margarine would have mixed in a bit better.

In any case, I’ll definitely be making it again!

Day 246 – August 19

Well, we are back from vacay, so I’m hoping to get back on the “daily” blogging bandwagon!

Chocolate and raspberry are about the best combination out there. Pretty much, give me chocolate raspberry anything and I’ll be a happy camper. Soo, when I saw this recipe for Raspberry Dark Chocolate Banana Bread pop up on Pinterest, you KNOW I had to try it out!

Happily for me, Meijer’s had some raspberries that were on their last leg, so they were on clearance. I picked up some Ghiradelli bittersweet chocolate chips, and we already had some mega ripe and mushy bananas in the fridge. Most banana breads are super easy to make and this was no exception.

The smell coming from the oven was glorious and I couldn’t wait to try it out. . . . . . The verdict . . .. . not as delicious as other chocolate raspberry combos I’ve had. Maybe the bananas needed to be sweeter . . .maybe it needed more sugar . . .either way, it wasn’t terribly sweet. I also would have liked to have more chocolate and less moisture in the bread. I think the fresh raspberries made it super moist, not really a texture I like in my banana bread. I suppose I could have cooked it longer, but then the top would have been REALLY brown. I’ll probably try the recipe again using frozen fruit, or maybe cutting the fruit up smaller, and using more chocolate! But as my mom is wont to say, “It’s edible!” =)

Day 238 – August 11

I’ve been on vacation this week . . .hence, the lack of learning. We are staying in a timeshare, so I thought I would ry out a little cobble recipe that I’d spotted on Pinterest. For some reason I didn’t actually Pin it, but the recipe was super easy:

2 packages of frozen berries
1 box of cake mix
1 can of clear soda (Sierra Mist, 7-up, etc.)

Place the berries in a 9×11 dish.
Pour the cake mix over the top.
Slowly pour the can of soda over the cake mix.
Bake in a 350 oven for 35-40 minutes.

Sounds simple, right? Well, it WAS simple, but it wasn’t very good. At least I didn’t think it was good. For one, one can of soda didn’t seem to be enough to cover all of the cake mix, so I ended up with little spots of dry cake mix. For two, it still tasted like dry cake mix over fruit . . . not exactly thrilling if you ask me!

You can see the bits of dry cake mix here.

The babes and DH ate it, and DH ended up finishing it up for dinner, so it can’t have been terrible. But, I don’t think I’ll be making this again. Really, it’s just as easy to make real cobbler from scratch.

Day 232 – August 10

Boy, it’s been slim pickings around here this week. I didn’t watch the Olympics much this wee (NBC’s prime time coverage was less than thrilling), so I’m not sure why there wasn’t much learning. Maybe I was busy putting into practice all of the new things I’ve learned. (ha ha)

So I bought a vegetarian cookbook at an estate sale today, and I’m pretty excited about it. Good vegetarian cookbooks are hard to come by. Either they call for vegetarian “meat”, which is expensive, or they call for obscure ingredients that are tricky to find and expensive. This particular book is quite promising: great photos, easy to find ingredients, a good variety. I just wanted to go home and cook a whole bunch of the recipes in the book, that’s how great they looked. I settled on “Mexican 3-bean chili stew”. It was pretty good. I like a bit more flavor in my stews, so I may tweak things a bit next time. I didn’t have all of the ingredients (shocking, I know), so I’m sure that made a difference. Maybe next time I’ll try it as written=)

Mexican 3-bean chili stew (from vegetarian: a collection of over 100 recipes

Serves 6
5oz/3/4 cup each dried black beans, cannellini beans and pinto beans, soaked overnight in separate bowls in water to cover (I used canned beans)
2T olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 red bell peppers, seeded and diced
2 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
1/2 t cumin seeds, chopped
1 t coriander seeds, crushed
1 t dried oregano
1/2 – 2 t chili powder
3 T tomato paste
lb 12oz/800 g canned chopped tomatoes
1 t sugar
1 t salt
2 1/2 cup vegetable stock
3 T chopped fresh cilantro

1. Drain the beans, put in separate pans, and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and boil vigorously for 10-15 minutes, then reduce the heat and let simmer 35-45 minutes until just tender. Drain and set aside.

2. Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottom pan over medium heat. Add the onion and bell peppers and cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes, or until softened.

3. Add the garlic, cumin and coriander seeds, and oregano and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds until the garlic is beginning to color. Add the chili powder and tomato paste and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, sugar, salt, beans, and stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover and let simmer, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes.

4. Stir in the fresh cilantro. Ladle into individual warmed bowls and serve immediately.


Day 228 – August 6

Today was a bread-making day. I didn’t particularly feel like making a regular loaf of bread, so I took a quick peruse through my breads board on Pinterest and found two candidates: whole wheat pretzel bites and bacon and gruyere scones.

First up, the scones (I was hungry and they were quick). The recipe came from the blog A Cozy Kitchen. I don’t eat bacon, so that was the axed from the recipe right away. I pretty much followed the rest of the recipe (shocking, I know!), but I DID add about 2T of chopped jalapeno that I had sitting in the fridge. Scones, in general, are pretty easy to make. This recipe was no exception. They turned out quite good, and the jalapeno gave it just a bit of a kick. I do think they are better after they’ve sat for about an hour or so. Fresh out of the oven was good, but they were even better and hour later.

The pretzel bites took more time since they are traditional bread that needs to rise twice. The recipe from Life Blessons used a bread machine. Since I don’t have one, I just made up the dough the old fashioned way, with my Kitchen Aid mixer. lol I have to say that I was not really impressed with the outcome. My family seemed to like them well enough, but I didn’t think they were all that great. The flavor was lacking and the shape was not at all pretzel bite-ish. Mine turned out a weird shape. They were nice, round balls after the 2nd rising. But when I scooped them up to dump them in the boiling bath, they got all wonky. I think brushing them with butter before baking them would have helped. At the 5 year old’s request, I rolled about half in a cinnamon sugar mix. Eh, just mediocre. Oh well!

Here’s a pic.

Day 227 – August 5

Today, the babes and I finally finished four skirts that we had been working on for the “Skirting the Issue” project. A project sponsored/run/invented (not sure which word to use here), by the ladies that blog at Simple Simon & Co. and Project Run & Play. When I learned about this project, I thought this would be a great project for me to work on with the babes for several reasons.

1. It would give us a chance to do some simple sewing using their sewing machines.
2. It would provide a great excuse to use up some of my ever-burgeoning fabric stash.
3. Most importantly, it would give me a chance to teach the babes a valuable lesson about doing kind things for others. DS1 was really quite into it. He wanted to make a whole bunch. Since I put it off until the last minute, we had to limit it to four skirts. DD was less excited at first . . .she didn’t think it was as much fun to make stuff for other people. But then she got into it and wanted to make shirts for the girls in foster care as well=)

The project definitely took me much longer to do since I was working with the babes. They have a woefully short attention span. The 5yo would run the hand crank for maybe 10 minutes, and then he’d be done. The 3.5 yo was more hit and miss. Sometimes she was good for 10 minutes, other times she wouldn’t even make it through one seam before getting bored. The 2yo had the longest attention span, strangely. But, sewing with a 2yo is harrowing and an exercise in patience. “Wait, don’t go yet!” “Whoops, you’re turning the crank the wrong way.” “Oh, not so fast!” “No, no! Don’t turn the crank, I’m trying to thread the needle!” In any case, we got the four skirts done over the course of about 3 days, working off and on.

This first skirt was super easy to make. My 5yo DS says this is the his favorite skirt out of the four. We used the ruched skirt tutorial from Begin with B.

I’ve always wanted to make something out of the vintage pillowcases that I have laying around. This project gave me the perfect opportunity. This is also the only skirt that I made on my own from start to finish. Presenting, the paper bag pillowcase skirt. The tutorial is from Jen who blogs at iCandy. Another super easy skirt to make. For some reason, I didn’t have any thick ribbon. So I took a wide piece of bias binding, folded it in half, then sewed the skinny ribbon onto that. I’m pretty happy with how it turned out.

This next skirt is one I’ve made before. This version was much easier since I only did one layer. The tutorial is here and it’s by LiEr who blogs at Ikat bag.

For the final skirt, I used a tutorial from Lindsay at The Cottage Home. She calls it the double layer twirl skirt. I didn’t use seersucker. Actually, I’m not exactly sure of the fabric content . .. I’m thinking it’s a lightweight polyester.

So now we just need to contact a Foster Care agency here in town. If there isn’t one, we’ll send the skirts to the ladies who put together this wonderful project!

Day 225 – August 3

For some reason, I was actually in the mood to cook, and I tried out a few new veggie recipes that had been pinned on my Veggies board. Boy am I glad I tried them out . . . they are delish!

The first was sauteed corn with basil butter. I used margarine since I didn’t have any butter. I’m sure it would have been even more amazing with real butter . . . more fattening, too! This was mega easy to make, that’s a winner in my book.

The second recipe was braised zucchini with cherry tomatoes. The person that I pinned this from claimed it was the best zucchini of your life. I’m not sure I would go that far, I mean, it’s zucchini. But, it was pretty good. The kids were less than excited about the dish, but I’m guessing that’s because it was new? Or maybe they just didn’t like them. In any case, I only used 2 zucchinis and doubled the amount of garlic (we like garlic around here). I also used regular red cherry tomatoes since I’ve never actually seen the golden ones.

And a little pic of our dinner, filled with the bounty of summer!

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