Thursday, February 28, 2008

New New New!!

Last week I inadvertently made a meal with not one, but TWO new foods. The biggest one was quinoa - I've been reading up on the health benefits of the grain and decided to start working on convincing Mike to let me try making it.

You should know that last time I made a new side dish, it was couscous and I didn't tell him that it was made from pasta and he was a little mad at me. But he was a good sport and gave it a shot. N0t only that, he also tried the edamame I made...I had to wipe away a few tears of joy...

The quinoa and edamame together with pork tenderloin (red ribs crock pot recipe). The quinoa was prepared fairly plain - I cooked it in chicken broth and seasoned with salt and pepper with a little butter on top. It had a slightly nutty taste. I plan on trying some more interesting if you have any, please share :) The edamame was delish, although I think next time I buy it I'll get the shelled variety. The experience of putting the fuzzy pods in my mouth to get to the yummy soybeans was a little unnecessary to me. After the end of this meal, I felt very nutritionally satisfied, but I swear the quinoa expanded in my stomach, because I kept feeling fuller and fuller until I was afraid I might explode!

Here's to expanding our nutritional horizons!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Buffalo Burgers! (aka, The Battle Between Good and Evil)

I went to a place called The Uncommon Market in nearby Minneola last week and came home with some ground buffalo meat. I decided to give it a try because I've heard that it's a very lean meat with lots of flavor. A nice, healthy indulgence, right? The lady pulled it out the the freezer in a little vacuum-sealed package that was so hard I could have used it to knock someone out, and it lived in my freezer until the weekend, when Mike discovered it and decided to give buffalo burgers a try. Thus the battle began.

These are my nice, healthy buffalo burgers. With ground bacon mixed in!! So much for healthy! But when Mike volunteers to cook and wants to try something new, I want to be a good wife and support that, so I just took all the rage I felt towards Mike for ruining my dream of a healthy indulgence and took it out on my body. How did I do that? I ate a bacon-filled buffalo burger. With cheese. And after I was done, I felt a little like this:

Some other dinner pictures Mike took:

The veggies on the Big Green Egg. Locally grown corn and zuchinni from the new produce stand in Yalaha.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Key Lime Cake

I usually don't use boxed cake mixes, but this recipe intrigued me, and I decided to give it a try. The recipe includes a box of lemon cake mix and a box of instant lemon pudding, and it's been my experience that adding pudding mix can really improve the texture of a recipe. I got a mini bundt cake pan over Christmas, and this is the first time I've been able to use it, and I really like how they turned out. The first time in the oven, I overfilled the pan a little, and I had to trim off the tops. Guess which two members of this household were standing ready to take care of the excess cake? I'll give you a hint: one has four legs and is slightly more hairy than other one.

The only thing I might change about this recipe is the glaze. The above picture is right after I poured on the glaze, but after it cooled it seeped into the cake, making it very moist. But it was super-sweet, and I would have preferred a glaze that hardened over the cake and wasn't quite so hurt-your-teeth-sweet. If anyone has one that might work, I'm open to suggestions!
I figured out why my pea plant isn't growing:

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

It's All Who You Know

I have gotten some awesome gifts lately. First, I had mentioned to our salesman, Ray, that I have always wanted to visit Robert is Here, which is a legendary fruit stand in the Southern tip of Florida. Today Mike brought home a gift for me from Ray: a jar of black raspberry preserves from Robert himself!

I have some bread in the bread machine so we can enjoy this stuff tomorrow! My mouth is watering just thinking about it! Thanks, Ray!!

This gift is from my mom and dad, who recently returned from a trip to California. They visited a winery that also grows olives, and brought me back some olive oil. One of them is lemon-infused, and I couldn't resist opening that one and putting a drop on my tongue. It was awesome! I tasted olive, then lemon, then olive, lemon! Olive! And the bottles are so pretty! The only thing is, I don't have a whole lot of ideas as to how to use these high-quality oils. With good bread and dipping spices, yes, but what else? Suggestions are welcomed and appreciated :) Thanks, mom and dad, for for bringning me such a great gift!
Good Booty

Mom took me to the World Market yesterday, and I went crazy in the food section. It made me miss the Fresh Market in Gainesville :-( I like living in Leesburg, but one thing I don't like is the lack of places to get good food. Take a look at some of my "booty:"

Stir-fry sauces. I had ordered the black bean sauce from a Thai market online previously, and I think with shipping and everything I paid about six dollars. Both of these cost me five. SCORE!!

They had an entire section of little sample-sized bottles that were like a dollar, and the raspberry conserve is from that section. I hope conserve is a fancy word for jam :) I almost got a little bottle of the garlic oil, but I decided on the big one. It's not like we're not going to use it all! The roasted garlic salsa was calling my name, and the fact that it was on sale did not help matters!

Tonight's dinner - chicken stir-fry using the garlic oil and chile garlic sauce. I found out too late that we're very low on frozen vegetables, so this stir-fry is a little unconventional: corn (I much would have preferred baby corn), green beans (not exactly a Chinese vegetable), baby carrots, yellow onion, and some red pepper strips. I followed the recipe on the jar, and this dish packed some HEAT!! I was glad I had milk to drink! My lips were burning after eating, but Mike enjoyed it. He's more couragous in that department. I think next time I'll cut the amount of sauce used in half.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Weekend Breakfast

Last night I came across a new blog that had a yummy-looking recipe for blueberry pancakes that made me wish I had some blueberries. BUT, I realized, I do have some strawberries, so I decided to give the recipe a try this morning.

Sizzling on the skillet. The first time I overloaded the panckes with berries and they almost didn't cook all the way through, but this recipe was amazing. It's a little different in that it has cornmeal in it, and the change was refreshing and light-tasting. I decided to take the blog owner's suggestion and use sour milk instead of buttermilk, and it was easy to make and lended a nice flavor to the pancakes. I wonder if I can do that in other recipes, too? Instructions on making the sour milk can be found along with my version of the recipe here.

I also made a potato casserole, Mike's favorite, which I don't make very often. I shredded the potatoes, then tossed them with olive oil and mixed in some swiss cheese. After baking for 40 min at 350, I sprinkled some cheddar on top and let it brown, and the result was a simple, cheesy dish that Mike put away quickly, making me glad I only made a little!

pancake recipe adapted from Carrie's Kitchen Creations
Garlic-Grilled Game Hen

Mike made dinner Friday night on the Big Green Egg. He also made the baked french fries and broccoli with cheese sauce (by Green Giant - yummy!) The Hen was excellent; garlicky and moist, with a bit of smoky flavor from the Egg. Mike got the recipe from a Better Homes and Gardens grilling cookbook, but it was originally for a whole chicken, so it required a bit of adaptation. All he really did was work some minced garlic and salt under the skin of the hen, then stuff the insides with lemon slices, red bell pepper slices, and garlic. The skin was brushed with lemon juice and oil, which gave it a lovely golden color. Beautiful. So as to waste nothing, I cooked the bones and what little meat was on them in the crock pot to make a nice broth for cooking rice at a later date.

Having a Cornish Game Hen so close to Valentine's Day made me smile. Our first Valentine's Day together, Mike requested one of these for his dinner, and I had no idea what is was. After a panicked phone call to my mother, the hen actually came out pretty good, but not as good as this. I've come a long way since then, but this dinner was all Mike! Way to go, hon!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Valentine's Day Dinner!

I decided to make fondue for our Valentine's Day dinner in favor of going out somewhere, since a) any restaurant would be way overcrowded; and b) there are no good restaurants in this town! I decided to do it ALL myself, even make the french bread for dipping!

For the bread, I decided to try the dough hooks on my Kitchen Aid mixer for the first time, and I really liked it! It's a happy medium between doing it by hand and letting my bread machine do it. I may never use my bread machine again!

After kneading, before the rises (there were a total of three!)

Ready to be rolled out!

Right before visiting the oven.

The beautiful final product!!
We really enjoyed our cheese fondue, with the bread in cubes and pieces of carrot and celery (hey, we had to have vegetables somewhere!) Mike said, "I'm not trying to flatter you or anything, but this very well may be the best French bread I've ever had." High praise from Mr. Picky himself!

On to dessert: chocolate fondue, with strawberries, pineapple, banana, and angelfood cake. I used Hershey's Dark Chocolate chips instead of bittersweet chocolate like the recipe calls for, and it was soooo good!

This is Mike's version of eating fondue: with a spatula, to slop on even more chocolate! Coming from the guy who won't even use the trainer chopsticks at a Japanese Steakhouse, I shouldn't be surprised!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

I've been trying to take steps towards a simpler life, and the steps are manifesting themselves mostly in the way I eat. So Friday night, when I had to leave early for class, I decided to pack myself food instead of picking something up on my break:

Peanut butter, 5-grain Triscuits, an apple (brushed with lime juice to keep it from browning), a Laughing Cow cheese wedge (garlic and herb), and peach yogurt. To drink, fresh squeezed orange juice and water. Oh, and that MIGHT be a piece of Ghiradelli chocolate behind the peanut butter. Maybe. No comment. I didn't even have to buy a soda from the machine! Not only did I save money, it was much healthier than anything I could have gotten on the road. Maybe I'll bring my lunch when I have class on Saturday. There's at least one other person in my class who brings food in favor of going out, so maybe this will be a chance to make a new friend as well!
Mediterranean Focaccia

My new favorite website is the King Arthur Flour home page. I spent way too much time going through their recipes and pulled out several, including this one. It caught my eye because the dough can be frozen, and I've been trying to build up my stock of meals in the freezer.

The recipe tells you to mix the ingredients together until you have a "shaggy mass," but I wasn't sure exactly what a shaggy mass is. So, after I did the mixing, I took a picture so I can remember exactly what a shaggy mass looks like:

After the rising, ready to be rolled out:

I decided to make two small focacce so we would have leftovers, so we had to do them in shifts. Mike grilled the first one until it was slightly crispy, then brought it inside for me to top while he put on the second one. I decided to make them like a pizza - with Newman's Own Vodka Sauce applied sparingly and an Italian Blend of cheese. Then I put on thinly sliced garlic and pepperoni strips. After topping, they went back on the Egg until melty and cheesy! Mmmmm...

The focaccia was healthier than pizza because the crust is much thinner. I think next time I'll try to find ways to make it more flavorful - maybe brush it with garlic butter before topping it? At least around the edges? Also, the garlic slices were not as soft as I would have liked. Next time, I'll roast it! Mike must have liked it, because those leftovers I was hoping for? Not so much. There are two more balls of dough in the freezer for another time. We'll see how they turn out!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Steelhead Trout with Brown Jasmine Rice and Vegetable Medley

This was the most well put-together meal I've made in a long time, but I didn't really plan it that way. I dusted the trout with Penzey's Black and Red Hot & Spicy Salt-free seasoning and some coarse kosher salt, then Mike cooked it on the Big Green Egg while I prepared some brown Jasmine rice and a veggie. The vegetables were a new blend by Green Giant called "Healthy Weight." It seemed like a ploy to make more money to me, but hey, I had a coupon! It was a blend of sliced carrots, sugar snap peas, black beans, and edamame in a light butter sauce. It was quite tasty, and a good way to introduce Mike to edamame. The spiciness of the fish paired well with the mild taste of the rice and vegetables. I love it when we have a satisfying, delicious, yet healthy meal!
updated 2-11: Apparently there was a problem with the photo - I think it's fixed now!
Classic 100% Whole Wheat Bread

I got this recipe from the back of the King Arthur Whole Wheat Flour bag, and since the flour is so good, I figured the recipe would be good, too. I was not disappointed - the loaf was slightly nutty and moist, and was wonderful with my mom's homemade peach jam. I decided to mix the dough by hand, because there is nothing quite so satisfying as doing it yourself. That is, when you're not in a hurry! I had the choice of adding either honey, maple syrup, or molasses to the dough; I chose molasses because it has the most nutritional value of the three. It imparted a nice, slightly sweet flavor. I think I'm going to go snack on a toasted slice now! Maybe with some Canadian honey this time...

[logs off quickly]

Recipe can be found here at the King Arthur flour website.

Monday, February 04, 2008

The Best Things in Life are Free...

There are pros and cons to living in Florida, the cons including the heat, the humidity, the bugs, and the old people. But one of my very favorite pros to living in Florida is the CITRUS! My grandmother has a yard full of citrus trees, and I spent about an hour last week picking from the higher branches. I was rewarded with lots of free citrus which I have been squeezing like crazy since then. If you've never had fresh-squeezed orange juice, you haven't lived!!

mmmmm....oranges :)

Either a pink or red grapefruit, I'm not sure. I like to throw a few grapefruits in to the squeezing pile to mix in with the oranges.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is heaven.

Ah, the Super Bowl...

The only time I blog during the show and watch the commercials. In honor of the occasion, Mike made some ribs on the Big Green Egg.

Ready to go on the Egg!

So beautiful I just had to share a close-up!

What you don't see is Sophie just out of the camera frame trying her best to practice her telekinesis skills.

These were GOOD! Easily the best ribs I've ever had.

Pork, Full Slab
Pre-Cooking Rub: Kosher Salt, Penzey's Brown Sugar
Cooking (3-2-1 method): 3 hours over indirect heat at 250 degrees (with drip pan underneath). Then 2 hours wrapped in foil with beer and BBQ sauce over direct heat, still at 250. Then, 1/2 hour out of the foil and 1/2 hour basted in sauce.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Rosemary French Bread

Every once in awhile, even the best cooks have a misadventure in the kitchen. While I don't claim to be the "best" at cooking, I certainly had an adventure with this bread, if not a MISadventure. I found this recipe on, but it was originally meant to be done completely in the bread machine. Well, in my book, french bread cannot be square, so I decided to have the dough mix in the bread machine and follow directions for rolling up and baking the bread in the oven, taken from a recipe for plain 'ol french bread. Thus begins the adventure.

I put the ingredients in the bread machine and set it to start. A minute later, I take a peek to see how the dough is mixing up, and instead of a shiny ball of dough, I see something resembling flour soup. So I tried adding flour in small increments until I had added at least a half-cup more. Okay, crisis averted.

Or not.

I happened to glance at the bag of flour on the counter and realized that I had used AP flour, not bread flour. DOH! I guess that had something to do with it. The flour/liquid ratios sounded about right to me in the original recipe.

The dough finally came out of the bread maker and looked pretty normal to me. I had never done the traditional rolling up the dough to make a French loaf, but it was pretty uneventful. The second one came out of the oven looking a lot better, though, so I guess practice makes perfect!

fresh out of the oven!

With spaghetti, meat sauce (pulled out of the freezer from the last time I made meat sauce), and green beans. I realized too late that I didn't have the ingredients to make the traditional spaghetti side dish - salad. You can tell this is my plate because you can see the spaghetti peeking out from under the sauce - if this was Mike's (aka Mr. Picky), it would be sans pasta.

The thing about making bread at home is, I like to have the leftovers the next morning, slathered with Canadian honey or my mom's homemade jam. So, if I'm going to make a savory bread, it had better be
really savory to justify not being able to eat in the a.m. This bread was just mild enough to tease me into wondering if it would be good for breakfast. And for all those curious minds that just have to know, the answer is...not so much. Maybe it would have been more strongly flavored if I hadn't had to add so much extra flour. I definitely plan on playing with the recipe and making French bread again!

p.s. - I don't know why Blogger is making parts of this post all funky, but if I could figure out how to fix it, I would! Sorry 'bout that.