what’s cookin? spinach edition

Thanks for the kind feedback on my last post. Sometimes I feel like such a child when things like that happen and I get so upset, but writing them out really helps calm me down, so there that is. And maybe I am a child. So what.

Remember the Great Cookbook Challenge? Well..I keep forgetting to restart that. I will one day, but I think I’ll always prefer online recipes. I love seeing a photo of the finished dish. Even if mine doesn’t look like it (nor do I necessarily aspire to), I need to see a picture to see if it looks worth my time.

A few things I’ve made recently:

Roasted Red Pepper and Sausage Alfredo

I love italian sausage. It is probably my favorite meat. I would eat it 2-3 times a week if I could. Keith is not a huge fan, but I can sneak it in 1-2 times a month. I hadn’t made it in a while, so when I came across this recipe, I was sold.

It combines pureed roasted red peppers, pasta, spinach, sausage and goat cheese to make a creamy and super flavorful pasta.  We don’t eat pasta too often, so when I do eat it, it has to be worth my while and this definitely was.

alf

If you don’t like goat cheese or are not familiar with it, I think this would be a great starter recipe because it’s not very in-your-face. I didn’t even tell Keith there was goat chese and he probably had no idea. You could also definitely leave out the sausage for a vegetarian version.

The best part is it is all made in one pot!

The second best part is I finally have a use for the rest of the goat cheese when I make another favorite dish:

Chicken apple burgers with cranberry and goat cheese.

These are based off a burger Keith and I had in NYC many moons ago, sometimes I will go all out and shred a granny smith apple, mix into ground chicken, make burgers, top with sliced granny smith apple, cranberry jam* and goat cheese. Other times I totally cheat and buy Johnsonville Chicken Apple Sausage and put those on a bun with the apple/cran/goat cheese. They are a super delicious and quick meal. It probably only takes 10 minutes total when I use the sausage. The problem is, you only use a little bit of goat cheese and then the rest of the tube lingers in the fridge until I become afraid of it and have to throw it away.

This recipe solves that! It calls for 8oz of goat cheese but I used the partial tube in my fridge and it was still great! So now those are going to be two back-to-back recipes in my arsenal. Love when stuff works out like that.

The only critque from Keith about that pasta was that it needed more meat. Of course. Every recipe I make I usually add 50% more meat for him and it’s still not enough. I got about 6 servings from this, so on the 2nd and 3rd go-rounds for Keith, I just gave him less pasta with a piece of chicken on the side and he was happy.

Another recipe I’ve tried is these Spinach Enchiladas.

One morning, on a mad dash to the grocery store for lunch, I grabbed Amy’s Enchilada Verde. It wasn’t until I went to heat it up that day that I realized that they were spinach enchiladas, but I shrugged and soldiered on. AND THEY WERE SO GOOD. I have no idea what they do, maybe it’s the queso fresco, but I like spinach well enough and I love cheese, but somehow this combination is SO MUCH BETTER THAN THE SUM OF ITS PARTS. Sorry to yell, they are just that delicious.

But at $5 a pop, a little too expensive for my tastes, so I figured I would try my hand at making some. I googled til I dropped trying to find some sort of copycat recipe, with no luck. Finally I just settled on the above linked recipe. It calls for ricotta, which Amy’s enchiladas don’t have…but I love ricotta, so I went with it.

I subbed verde salsa for the enchilada sauce, regular onion for green onion and only used half the cheese. I only got 6 enchiladas out of the filling. They were not *quite* Amy’s, but they were still great. Keith didn’t eat these, I took them all for lunch. I think next time I will add more spinach, and maybe some chicken. Also queso fresco to see if I can get closer to that taste.

What are you cooking?

 *I still don’t know the difference between jelly and jam but I said jam so you know it’s not a gross can of cranberry jelly, but rather something spreadable from a glass jar. The original burger used cranberry spread but I’ve used cranberry/raspberry spread as well as black raspberry. I don’t think anything super sweet like grape or strawberry would work but anything tart like raspberry/cranberry is great.

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pluses and minuses

+ I can’t stop watching this trailer from my friend Jason. It is so great. It makes me so happy. I’m going to watch it every day for the rest of my life.

Also would you believe it’s the first wedding video he has made? He already shot another wedding, so it was the boost of confidence he needed but man I need to think of other life events for him to film, since I’ve decided he’s my personal videographer. I also told him he needs to get business cards that say

Jason Martin

Photographer/Videographer

I get paid to make you cry.

– Attempting to change my name is turning out to be a HUGE pain. I naively thought I could go to the SSA office on my lunch break Monday and do it. I opened the door, saw a sea of people and turned around and walked right back out. I tried to make an appointment and the lady on the phone would NOT let me make an appointment at that office, I had to make it downtown. And the first appointment? July 24th. Uh, nope. So now I’m going to the DMV on Thursday to try to get a certified copy of my license. Then I just have to wait for the certified copy of my birth certificate (which cost $20!) to come in the mail and then I can mail it all out. Ughhhhhhhhhh.

+ I went to a #bloggerdinnerparty #bloggerdanceparty on Saturday hosted by Alex. We have been internet friends for a while, he is the mastermind behind all the blogger swaps and he invited me and a few others to get together to discuss some fun creative endevours. Since it was a small group, I pretended to be a (brave!) grown up and went. And it was so much fun! I got to meet my favorite internet baby, Finn (sorry other internet babies) and a few other bloggers and it was just great. There was also pizza and cupcakes and will eventually be an awesome collaboration, can’t wait!

– After the #bloggerdanceparty, I offered to drive one of the other guys home, since he lives downtown and I was already headed north. As I made my way up 19 into the city, a man ran out into the road in front of me. It was after 10 p.m. and really dark and I saw the guy with plenty of time to slow down, but was really annoyed and beeped my horn. The guy then proceeds to stop, flick me off and scream at me. Dude, I just very graciously did NOT run you over, do not tempt me.

– After the GPS for some reason took me on 279 and back to get downtown, I dropped off Mike and headed home. And drove right into a DUI checkpoint. I immediately starting freaking out. Not because I was drunk but I had had a beer or two earlier in the night and what if they could tell? And what if, even though I was not even remotely impaired, they thought I was? And made me take a sobriety test and failed me because I am nervous and uncoordinated? But I finally got up to the guy he said “We are checking for impaired drivers, you don’t look impaired, have a nice night.” And then I drove off, heart still pounding. No WONDER I never leave my house.

+ I signed up to this website CookSmarts which is a meal planning website. What makes it different than other meal planning sites is each recipe you can adjust to be paleo, gluten free or vegetarian. The thing I liked best was that you are able to sign up and get 3 free weeks of plans and don’t have to enter your credit card or anything sneaky. We’ve tried out 2 meals so far and they have both been hits! I made a chicken basil stir fry on Sunday and last night we had panko-crusted fish tacos. I really dug both meals and Keith did too! It seems like most weeks have something we’d definitely like, something we might like, and something I have no idea if we’ll like. The stir fry and tacos will definitely be made again. Additionally this week I’ll make apple-fennel turkey burgers (we *should* like these) and butternut squash curry (this is the wild card. I’ve never made curry before – I’ll definitely also have to make some meat on the side for Keith.) I’m really digging it so far, probably going to sign up for the paid service! If you use that link up there, you can get $5 off and I’ll also get a couple bucks, but check out the free plans first!

pierogi class!

On Tuesday, Ryan and I went to a pierogi class at S&D Polish Deli. I saw a groupon for it and bought it almost immediately. I love pierogi, I love cooking, it sounded like my idea of a wonderful time.

I had no idea what to expect and we got to the strip WAY too early. We had a nice dinner at Chicken Latino, since I have been wanting to try it. Then we literally walked in circles for 80 minutes. I didn’t realize the strip DIED completely at like 4pm on weekdays, but it does. At one point we even went back and sat in the car but it was too hot, so we resumed our circling.

We were the second people to get to the class so we had prime seating. We sat for a bit entertaining ourselves until everyone else arrived. I think our class tally was 17 people + 2 instructors.

ryan

supplies

pierogi class

acting busy

getting ready

fool

And that’s when I realized how ridiculous I looked posing with a rolling pin, haha.

setup

Marta was our main instructor and she introduced herself and told us a little bit about her background before class started. I liked her immediately. (“Like Martha Stewart, but without the H. And I don’t have her money. Or her attitude.”) She was hilarious. Agnieszka was also there helping and she was equally awesome.

Marta first showed us how to make the dough, but she made it in her stand mixer, so we just watched. Then she made the filling and had a little help from people in the class.
dough

 cheeeeeeseCheeeeeeeeeeeeeese.

filling

rollin
Then we each got a portion of filling to roll into balls.

balls of deliciousness

balls

dough
And then we got some dough.

dough

rollin'

smoothin

flour child
Flour child.

circles

getting ready

almost ready

pinching
She showed us 4-5 different ways to pinch the pierogi.

ugly pierogi
Mine were pretty ugly.

ryan's pierogi are out of focus, sorry boo
Ryan’s were better looking but this picture is out of focus so hah!

boiling

scooping

boiling

even more delicious

yum
Yum.

We did have a groupon so the class was essentially half-off, but in hindsight I would have absolutely paid full price for it. It was really fun, Marta and Agnieszka (sp?) were so nice and hilarious and we learned a lot! It was a 2 hour class and you left with a dozen pierogi (minus whatever you ate there). I’d highly highly recommend it!

 

(Also my pictures are way darker on this monitor than they were on my computer, so pardon the moody lighting that begins halfway through.)

Grocery template

So there is a whollle bunch going on in my life right now which will have to be a series of other posts but for now I have an extremely nerdy update to share. This picture I posted on instagram got a lot of love (way more than ever expected), so I figured it deserved a post. I present to you, my grocery shopping template.

officially a #granny with my grocery list template.

I had seen something similar on either BoingBoing or The Consumerist, but it was just a picture, no link or anything. I thought “Oh, what a great idea!” and then went on my way. A few weeks later, a few grocery trips later, where I accidentally deleted things off my phone while shopping and I realized I needed to make it a reality.

A few minutes in Word, and I had it. I did a mental walk through of my Giant Eagle and made a list of all the things I buy over and over again. Going through and checking things off/circling them is so much easier than writing things down. And also I think makes me a little less prone to forget something. If I see onions already there on my list, I can remember to check it off easier than I can remember to write it down.

I also left lots of spots for “other” so that I can add the random things I need to buy that week. I emailed it to a bunch of people yesterday but finally figured out how to include it in the blog post so anyone can download it.

After I print it and fill it out, I fold it into thirds and just slip it into my wallet. Then, when I am shopping, I can just follow along as I walk through the store. I only had to backtrack once yesterday and that was because I was at a different store where the bread is in the middle, not at the end.

It’s just a simple word document, so it can be edited very easily. So feel free to download/edit/use and if it saves you even 5 minutes in your list writing/shopping, that’s pretty awesome.

Grocery Template

cookbook challenge: episode 5

Moving right along, the 5th book I decided to tackle was Bobby Flay’s Bold American Food. My mom bought me this book a few years ago and it’s got a lot of great looking recipes. A lot of different meats and veggies and things I never eat, so it was hard to find a recipe. I wanted something exciting. But I also wanted easy.

I ended up picking Grilled Yucatan Chicken Skewers and the book recommended you make Papaya Tomatillo Salsa to accompany. So I went to the grocery store beforehand, and forgot half the ingredients. And couldn’t find a papaya. (Big surprise! It’s February! In Suburban Pennsylvania!)

I ended up being short on chili powder for the marinade, so I threw in some other spices. I also used chicken breasts instead of thighs, since I had planned on using thighs later in the week and Keith is not a huge fan of thighs. The marinade came together quickly in my mini-blender and I threw the chicken in for ~5 hours.

marn

I decided I was going to just make a tomatillo salsa since I had everything on hand for that. It literally took 10 minutes and it is amazing. So fresh! So bright! I will probably never buy it again. I used this recipe from Simply Recipes (they post great recipes).  I halved it and roasted the tomatillos. (Side note: I love buying tomatillos. No one ever knows what they are.)

When it came time to eat, I cooked the chicken (didn’t grill, too lazy), made up some quinoa and topped everything with the salsa. Served with my favorite canned green beans.

chick
As much as I loved the tomatillo salsa, I was a little disappointed by the chicken. While it was cooking, it smelled amazing, but the taste left a little to be desired. I would probably try it again, but cut the chicken into smaller pieces in an attempt to impart more flavor. Loved the salsa though.

I should call this “Katrina finds a recipe to try, changes everything and then complains about it challenge.”

Final score 3/5.

cookbook challenge, episode 3

I realized I’ve been slacking on my cookbooking, so I pulled two recipes this week. The first one I made on Sunday, from Rachael Ray 30 Minute Meals 2. I kind of can’t stand Rachael Ray, but this book was given to me by my friend/old roommate Elyse because she somehow ended up with two copies. It took a bit of flipping to find something that sounded appealing and I finally settled on Lamb Pitas.

This is probably not the best review of the recipe because the whole point of this recipe was to make the lamb the night before for dinner, and reserve part of it for the pitas. I didn’t want to make an entire leg of lamb, so I just bought some lamb chops and chopped them up. It was also an expensive recipe, I bought $20 worth of lamb for this.

She calls for you to reheat the cooked lamb in chicken broth to keep it from drying out. My lamb was raw, so I seasoned it with some salt/pepper/coriander/cumin and sauted it.

photo 3

It also called for a yogurt sauce, pretty much yogurt mixed with mint, coriander, and cumin. I mixed that up and popped it in the fridge.

photo 2

Cooked up the lamb.

Pitas in the oven to heat.

I then again veered off the recipe by not making the scallion/tomato stuff. Cooked tomatoes on a pita sounded gross to me so I just skipped that step and sliced the tomatoes to put on raw.

photo 4

Final result…underwhelming. The lamb was nice and tender (I was terried of overcooking it) but it didn’t have much flavor. Probably my fault as the initial recipe may have imparted more flavor. I still think the raw tomatoes was a better idea, but I should have thrown some scallions on anyway. The yogurt sauce was okay, but nothing incredible. Also warming the pitas in the oven was a terrible idea. The other meal I make with pitas I toast them in a pan with a little butter and they turn incredible, so I was really bummed I didn’t do that.

Overall, I wouldn’t make this again. It was expensive and underwhelming. I much prefer The Halal Guys copycat meal I make with ground lamb, I should probably make that soon and share. Yum.

monday prepper

So I was off work yesterday and accomplished so much that I deserve another day off just to keep my momentum.

Yesterday I was woken up by Daisy/the smoke alarm. A few weeks ago one of the smoke alarms in the basement was dying and it took me a little while to get around to changing the battery. Daisy acted weird that entire day, hiding and shaking and I never connected it to the smoke alarm until she followed me down to change the battery, it beeped again and she took off running. Poor baby.

So yesterday the alarm started chirping and Daisy was in our bedroom and freaked out. I went down to get a new battery and figured I’d let her out while down there, when I unhooked her from her lead to come back in, she bolted back into the yard. Pretty sure her thought was “I’d rather live in the yard than go back in where that terrifying noise is.” I finally got her back inside, changed the battery and went back to sleep.

Woke up at 9am, did a little reading, made myself a delicious breakfast of leftover carnitas topped with dippy eggs, some guacamole and tapatio.

leftover carnitas + dippy eggs + guacamole + tapatío.

I had a million things I wanted to do yesterday but I figured I’d do some food prep and laundry first. In two hours in the kitchen I was able to make breakfast/lunch/dinner for the entire week.

Breakfast = Pumpkin protein muffins

pumpkin protein muffins

They aren’t the most amazing thing in the entire world but they are good enough that I ate them every day last week and plan on eating them all this week as well. Seven ingredients (because I add chocolate chips) and made in one bowl. I also was able to get 12 muffins, using a 2TB scoop. They are best if you pop them in the microwave for like 30 seconds before eating. I’m a fan.

I also made lunch for myself for the week = Honey Sriracha chicken thighs + cauliflower rice

sriracha honey chicken thighs + cauliflower rice + broccoli

I’ve also made these before and they are great. I doubled the sauce this time and didn’t baste them, just saved it to pour over. (That broccoli is frozen, not moldy, haha.)

Dinner for last night was Smoky Maple BBQ chicken + veggies.

photo

smoky maple bbq chicken + onions, peppers, sweet potatoes

Basically marinate the diced chicken in 1/3 bottle of sauce. Cook with chopped veggies (I like doing onion, pepper, zucchini and sweet potato but I forgot the zucchini) in oven til chicken is cooked through. Once chicken is done, take it out and broil veggies for a few minutes. It is seriously the easiest thing I make but seriously delcious. “Recipe” from The Dolce Diet book.

I also made Southwest meatloaf for dinners. It’s similar to my beloved Pioneer Woman cajun meatloaf but paleo. (I don’t eat totally paleo but lean paleo-ish.)

southwest meatloaves after

I couldn’t yet make the guacamole to top them with because my avocados weren’t ready.

So there we go. A week’s worth of food in two hours. If only I had every Monday off to prepare like that.

After that I finished up some laundry and even whipped out the paintbrush. I did another coat of white on the living room bookcases which haven’t been touched since January of last year. I figure I won’t be able to spend an entire day painting anytime soon, but I can spend like an hour every weekend and maybe finish painting by 2018. It looks like the bookcases are going to need yet another coat and that is kind of infuriating, but whatever. One coat at a time.

cookbook challenge: episode 2

The second recipe I decided to try out for my cookbook challenge came from the January/February issue of Cooking Light. Cooking Light is the only magazine I actually subscribe to and I enjoy it. 90% of the food blogs I follow are very decadent, so I like that I have an alternative, since it is more in line with what I like to/try to eat. I’d say from every magazine I probably find 2-3 recipes I’d like to try, so it’s worth it.

The recipe for this issue that stuck out the most for me was Stuffed Chicken & Herb Gravy with Polenta.

We like chicken, we like gravy. I hated polenta the time I had it at home, but it was from a tube so I had higher hopes for this one.

chickrec

I actually cooked up the chicken/gravy on Tuesday while I was making chicken for something else and made the Polenta last night. We also had green beans from a can because we are classy. (And I hate bacon. And hate fresh cooked green beans.)

I didn’t use fresh thyme and probably accidentally used too much dried thyme to replace it, my grave tasted a little grassy. I added some sage to it and that seemed to help. Also added way more salt (and pepper) to the polenta.

chicminePardon the iphone photos, if I was pulling out my real camera, these would never get posted.

We were fans! The prosciutto got a little lost in the chicken and if I hadn’t known there was provolone in there I probably also wouldn’t have noticed. Maybe double those amounts, or use thinner chicken.

The polenta was creamy and wonderful. The gravy was good, it was my first try at real gravy and it came out well! The sage even helped tame the grassiness of the thyme. Looking forward to leftovers tonight.

Also – all that for under 500 calories? Two thumbs up!

2014 cookbook challenge

So I stated one of my 2014 resolutions was to cook at least one recipe from each of my cookbooks/cooking magazines. I did some cleaning/organizing on Saturday and pulled all my books together, here’s what we’re working with.

my new best friends

my new best friends

I have quite an assortment of books there. Some new ones, some old ones (hello, 1997), some healthier ones (Living Lean/Four Hour Chef) and then 2 versions of Cupcake Heaven, haha. I haven’t quite decided how I’ll go about picking the books, but I figured I’d blog about it, so I could check them off.

I’m not limiting myself to one recipe from each book, but I have to do at least one recipe. I’m also not going to be all food bloggery with nice photos and step-by-step directions, but I figured I’d stick up at least a photo of the end game (most likely from my iphone) and some basic ingredients/directions if I like the recipe.

The first book I chose was Living Lean. Keith bought me this book and requested a few recipes. He really really* misses pasta, so first up was:

Power Pasta Sauce

(slightly adapted from Living Lean)

Ingredients

1 bell pepper – chopped
1 medium onion – chopped
1/2 small zuchhini – chopped
2 cloves garlic
2 – 15oz cans diced tomatoes
1 – 28oz can crushed tomatoes
pinch – salt, pepper, basil, oregano
1-2T grapeseed oil

The recipe didn’t call for the zuchhini, but I had it in the fridge and figured it couldn’t hurt. Also called for all diced tomatoes, but I wanted something a little more saucy. Next time I’d sub actual tomato sauce for the crushed tomatoes.

pps1

It was pretty simple. The recipe calls for cooking the turkey and veggies separately, but that seemed like a waste of a pan. I browned the turkey with the oil, when it was almost ready threw in the veggies til softened, then threw in the tomatoes and let simmer for 30 minutes or so, salting as needed.

pps2

Served over thin spaghetti.

Keith liked it, although he requested it be more saucy next time. I didn’t actually eat it, I was eating leftovers, but will eat it tomorrow night.

One book down, seventeen to go!

 

*I don’t miss pasta at all. Definitely not traditional spaghetti. I have never been a huge fan and the spaghetti squash we eat completely takes care of that.

**Post contains affliate links. Not that anyone will ever click them/use them but I figured why not.

new year’s resolutions 2014

People are pretty divided on New Year’s Resolutions. Some people are all about them. Some people eschew them. “Start today! Don’t wait until the 1st!” (Except when today is the first and then you should have started weeks ago. I think they are a convenient way to make goals and look back at them. Especially if you have a blog where you record them. If I would just make them, I’d likely forget them. That being said, I have a few goals for 2014.

1. Get stronger. I’ve been weight training with Keith for a few months now. My goal at first was to just keep adding weights. I’ve since knocked down my weights in order to perfect my form and now I’m working on adding more weight to them. I’m not trying to win any competitions or anything, but I do have a few modest goals in mind.

2. Lose weight. The most cliche resolution of all time! I have lost a fair amount of weight in the past few years. I remained steady for a while but have since dropped a few more pounds and I’d like to continue that trend. Ideally another 15-20 would be fantastic. Not going to kill myself trying, though. If I ever reach my ultimate goal, I promised myself I’d do a weight loss post.

3. Eat cleaner. When I first started to “diet”, it was that. I’d do 100 calorie packs and Lean Cuisines and diet pop. While that helped in regards to weight loss, it eventually made me feel pretty gross. I have since cut out all of those things. I’ve spent the latter half of the year focusing on cutting out most starches/grains and I’d like to continue that for the new year and focus on eating cleaner. It makes me feel better mentally and physically.

4. Try new recipes. I have a confession. I don’t really read cookbooks. I have quite a few and I love the idea of cookbooks, but when I am looking for a new recipe, I go straight to the internet. While I don’t see that ever stopping, it’s my goal this year to try at least one new recipe from each of my cookbooks and cooking magazines.

5. Get married! Have to throw that one on there for an easy one. Unless that doesn’t happen and then my life will be ruined and I will never blog again so I won’t even remember it was a resolution.

Sorry, things just got a little dark.

6. Maybe run another 5k. I HATE running. I LOVE the idea of running. I thought that if I did more weight training, my legs would get stronger, I could improve my running. I don’t ever see myself running a marathon or a half marathon or probably even a 10k. There is something very appealing to me about 5ks though that I think I want to try again.

Do you have any goals/resolutions? Do you like the idea? Hate the idea?