Spring-Time Food

As the days of the year pass by, it continually gets warmer and the pollen count increases. It’s miserable to be honest. Even though I am not that greatly affected by allergies, I am surrounded by people that are, and I feel for them-it has to be miserable. BUT the weather is as gorgeous as it has ever been, the sun shines, the birds sing (except that’s not so cool at 5:30 on Saturday and Sunday mornings when I greatly need sleep), the back-yard fires burn, the grills grill, and the students stir with the hopes of persuading teachers into holding class outside.

But all of these things cannot compare to the spring food that happens. Whether it’s strawberry cupcakes or caprese chicken, even the food is light and springy.

Let me tell you about this caprese chicken, though. It’s great. That’s all.IMG_7306

Just kidding, not that it’s not great, but that is not all I’ll tell you about it. The recipe comes from Iowa Girl Eats. Have I told you that I greatly enjoy her blog? I really do.

I pretty much did everything that she did, but I didn’t do it in the same order, so my chicken looks a bit different. To start, you’ll need as many chicken breasts as you have mouths to feed (unless you have a guest that has two mouths, then you should ask them how many helpings they want, ’cause who knows how many stomachs they have?!?). Make sure these are defrosted, then pound them out so that they are nice and flat.

While this is happening have your kitchen buddy wilt down some spinach with some olive oil and minced garlic. Once it’s wilted, let it cool until you need it.

So the chicken is nice and flat, the spinach is wilted, and magically the mozzarella and tomatoes are sliced. Make sure everything is in close reach, because your hands may get messy. To start, place some of the spinach mixture on one side of the chicken, then lay a piece of basil on top of it. Then a couple of tomato slices, and a couple of moz slices right on top of that. Fold the chicken over and stick a toothpick or two in it to secure the chicken.IMG_7298 Salt and pepper them a little and pop ’em in the oven at 350 until the chicken is cooked.IMG_7304

We ate it with roasted broccoli, just like Kristen did in her post. The whole thing was wonderful. I love how light and springy it was. I don’t know what I’ll do in the summer when I want to make it but don’t really want to turn the oven on. Hmm. Oh well, I’ll make it work.

Twice-Baked Taters

I think the entire world knows how much I love potatoes. It’s true, I love them so much that I want to move to Idaho to and marry a potato farm so I can take care of them to maturity, then cook them and eat them. I doubt I’ll ever actually live in  Idaho, let alone visit the state, so that’s not really a possibility but still I love me some potatoes.

In the process of branching out my potato cooking skills, I have developed the ability to bake potatoes like it’s no one’s business, except mine (I could probably make a job out of it). This comes in handy when you want to make bake potatoes, potato skins, or twice baked potatoes. I have told you about all of the above except the twice-baked potatoes. This is because I have never actually made them with my own hands until last night.

To start you need to bake your potatoes. If you are planning this as a side dish, bake half as many potatoes as there are people, plus one incase you mess up, if you want it to be a meal do one per person. Wash and dry the potatoes, then rub them in some canola oil and salt the outside. Also poke a few holes on each side with a fork so they can vent.

They should bake for at least an hour, to an hour and fifteen minutes, at 350 degrees. then pull them out of the oven. Keep the oven on, though.

Let them cool for 10-15 minutes, then slice them in half. Let them cool just a bit more (like 5 or 10 minutes) and then scoop ou the insides and put them in a mixing bowl, leaving a potato skin boat. It should be about a quarter-inch think, it needs to maintain its structural integrity.

Now you have a bowl of hot potato guts, add some cheese, some sour cream, and a couple of tablespoons of butter. Salt and pepper to your taste. If you are doing this not on a Monday, throw some bacon bits in there too. Mash this stuff up, making sure that the butter is completely melted and distributed evenly.

Take a scoop of this mixture and put it back into the potato boats, making sure that they are full. Top it with some more cheese, and bacon bits or whatever, and then pop them back into the oven for another 10-15 minutes. After the cheese has melted, turn the oven off, turn the broiler on, and let the top brown just a little. Do not let them go too long.IMG_7217

Serve with whatever you would like, they go great with almost anything but pasta or other carb-y food.IMG_7220

You can take a number of different paths with twice-baked potatoes. You can go with a Mexican flavor, throwing in some salsa in with the inside mixture and doing mexican cheeses, or you could do a jalapeno popper potato with cream cheese instead of sour cream and diced bits of jalapeno on the inside and on top with a crunchy bread crumb topping (you might want to keep those small, and they might not be that great anyway, I’ll have to try someday when I have extra time (HAHAHA time?)).IMG_7223

Anyway, you can make a meal out of these if you really want, but mostly they are just wildly delicious.

Sick Days are Miserable

This last weekend I was pretty sick. I had a fever and my throat was really sore. turns out it was only a virus so we couldn’t get anything to treat it and it had to run its course on its own. That was all fine and dandy until Wednesday when my eyes started to get gross, I got some eye drops for them, and things are all starting to be much better for me. I still have a bit of a cough, but I feel so much better and by energy is back. I had an energy burst Monday night though, and even though I had been home all day, I made some soup.

AND IT FOLLOWED MY MEATLESS MONDAY! I honestly thought I wouldn’t be able to stick with it while I was sick because it would be too hard to cook, but I really didn’t eat much anyway.

In the past my family had bought soyrizo, which is the soy alternative to chorizo, and it was a good way to get some great flavor into the black bean soup that I made.

It turned out pretty good. I haven had many black bean soups, but I’m pretty happy with the way that this one turned out and that I actually gave it a shot.

Before I tell you more about it, this is the recipe I followed, from My Recession Kitchen.

I pretty much followed the recipe exactly. Except I did use the can beans and pureed it at the end so that it was a bit more smooth.

I sautéed up some onion and garlic, until the onion was translucent and before the garlic burnt (oh my goodness, do not let it burn!! (I almost did, I wasn’t paying attention…))

Then cook the soyrizo, to get it warmed up and a little color on it. Make sure to break it up. Don’t laugh at what it looks like when it comes out of the tube.

Then you add your beans, and the stock, and let it cook.

Then finish it off with the cumin, oregano, and cilantro.

I pureed it a bit, I don’t know if that was the best thing to do, but hey, it still tasted great.

This is how it looked. I wish I would have some guacamole or cheese or something to top it with, but I wasn’t 100%, it’s okay.IMG_7190

I like the flavor, I would make it again, with less pure action. My mother also liked it, so maybe once it’s cool again.

Rainy Day Mac

After some really bad few days that I had over the weekend I really needed some good hot comfort food. Of course macaroni and cheese is at the top of the list for comfort food, along with white chili, and seeing as we made white chili about two weeks ago it was time fore the mac. Also, while in Ireland I had a couple of tuna melts and fell in love and I had a partial craving for tuna also. Of course you can put tuna in mac and cheese and so I did that. Also I used my cast iron skillet, which made it a whole lot more comforting.

To start you should boil some water and salt it, then throw a couple cups of elbow mac in and let it cook to al dente.

While the pasta is cooking, defrost about a cup of peas, or clean the fresh ones and set them aside. Also, get your tuna out of it’s pouch or can and fluff it a little bit with a fork. The next step you cannot skip so read carefully…

Give a small piece of tuna to each cat in the house and watch them be so happy about fish out of a can/pouch.IMG_7191

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Now, once the pasta is going and your fish and peas are ready, start to cheese sauce thing. Melt a couple of table spoons of butter IMG_7193in a skillet and add the same amount of flour. IMG_7194Whisk it into a nice little roux and cook it until it smells nutty. IMG_7196Then add half a cup of milk to the roux and two ounces of cream cheese, whisk this until the cream cheese is melted and then add another half cup of milk.IMG_7197

From here you should probable let it cook for a couple minutes so that it thickens up, but it won’t need much time.

Now add your cheese, about a cup to a cup and a half, and stir it until it melts. Add the tuna now.IMG_7200

Drain your pasta if you haven’t already, and pour it into the cheese sauce, and mix it all together.IMG_7201 Finally add the peas.IMG_7202

Top with some bread crumbs and shredded cheese and pop it into the oven at 375 for 10 minutes, turning the broiler on for a minute after and letting the top just slightly brown.IMG_7205

Take it out of the oven and let it cool for a few moments, then serve._MG_7213

Enjoy on a dark rainy day, when it has rained for like 30 hours straight, and you really don’t remember what the sun looks like. Share it with your loved ones, but not your cats because they don’t deserve people food because they scratch at the bedroom doors at night to get attention.IMG_7203

Now We’re Grillin’!

Last week I was out of the country, I was eating awesome Irish food, and it was rainy and cold. But this week I am home, and I’m eating great American food, and it’s actually kind of nice outside. To be honest, I missed cooking my own food while I was gone, so to be able to come home and make what I want (in the fashion that I want) is really nice. Plus it’s been warn enough to grill, so I was pretty pumped about that.

But I didn’t know what to make, I wasn’t in the mood for burgers or chicken and we had a plan to have pork chops the next night, so I was stuck. Then I saw a post on reddit.com/r/food about a personal pizza made on a mushroom and I became very inspired. I tried making one before the poster commented on how she made her’s so mine came out really different, but it was still pretty good.

Also, this meal is really easy to make vegetarian while still using the grill (once summer parties start happening, having a veg option is really nice and people appreciate it). And it’s low carb, so woo-hoo! And finally, they’re really easy to personalize and make unique.

To start, you want to make sure you rinse your mushrooms well. Them mix up a marinade  whatever you would normally use for grilled veggies is good. I used one with worcestershire sauce, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and some oregano and basil. Let them soak it up for at least half an hour, but they can go up to an hour if you are willing to wait.IMG_7113

While they are getting wonderful, heat up the grill and put down a cast iron griddle if you have one, this makes it easier on the fragile mushrooms and it gives some really grill lines. Also, if you spill cheese on it, it’s easy to take inside and clean up.

Once everything is hot and the mushrooms have soaked in their nice bath long enough, put them on the grill for about 10 minutes, flipping twice. IMG_7120Once they are tender, you can start to top them (you’ll need to watch them for their tenderness, if the grill is really hot, they’ll get there really quick, if not, it will take longer; it’s best to have your grill set in the middle though).IMG_7121

You can use whatever type of pizza sauce or cheese that you want, but I used sauce from a jar and some fresh mozzarella.IMG_7124 Once you top them, close the lid and let the cheese melt. If things get drippy, oh well, it’s taste good anyway.

Take them off the grill and let them cool for just a couple minutes and then dig in!IMG_7131

I’m not a huge mushroom person, but I really liked trying these. They’re a relatively healthy take on something extremely unhealthy, so no complaints. I hope you enjoy the grilling weather, and if you  get a chance to try these, do it!

Spinach Artichoke Mac & Cheese

Last night my mom and I were on our own again for dinner (yes, it was a supper bummer that she and my dad couldn’t spend Valentine’s Day together, but it happens, his schedule is crazy). We couldn’t go to Newbo or go out because it would have been crazy to try to go where hip young couples go, so we stayed in and made a warm, creamy pasta.

The title is misleading, there was to macaroni in this dish, it was penne. The whole thing was super grown up and would have been perfect for a date night, we definitely  enjoyed ourselves.

A while back I made Ree’s Spinach Artichoke dip, and fell in love with the stuff, so when I found this recipe I knew that I had to try it sometime. Except we messed up the directions, so I will tell you how we made it, and offer some advice on alternative ways of making and or serving it. I hate to say that someone’s directions are terrible, but they are and they will mislead you.

Start by cooking a box of penne pasta, making sure to salt the water enough. Set it aside once it’s done.

Then wilt some spinach or defrost the frozen spinach (either is fine, honestly). And chop up the canned artichoke hearts, make them pretty small. If you don’t want veggie hunks in your sauce, you can throw each into the food processor separately and puree them (just mix them into the sauce really well).

Make the topping thing, mix the cream cheese, half the spinach and artichokes, the parm, the onion, and half of the garlic, and put it in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until it just starts to get brown on top.

Start the sauce with a roux, make sure to not cook it too long or too short, you want it to just start to smell nutty but don’t let it burn. Then mix the milk in slowly, then the mustard and the cheeses.

Then mix the rest of the spinach, artichokes, and garlic into the cheese sauce. Then mix the pasta in, making sure to that the spinach isn’t in clumps or only on one side of the pan.

This is where I didn’t follow the instructions, I just scooped the oven stuff out of it’s pan and mixed it right into the pasta, and it was nice and creamy. If you want to be like the other recipe, you would scoop up the pasta, then top it with the oven dip. We didn’t do that though, and it still really tasted wonderful.

Another way of serving it would be to not ever put the oven stuff (I DON’T KNOW WHAT ELSE TO CALL IT!! I’m sorry.) in the oven and just set it aside until the sauce is made and pasta’d. Then you dish each serving into an oven-safe boul or ramakin, and then top each one with a little of the mix. Top with some bread crumbs or panko and pop it under the broiler untill the top gets melty and crispy.

That presentation sounds awesome, I’ll upload pictures if I ever get to that. I told my mom that I would make it again for my brother sometime, so I might do it that way when he is home next.

AHH! I keep forgetting to upload photos for this. I’m sorry, follow the link if you want to see stuff. So I just posted it the way that it is now, I’ll edit the pictures in soon.

Quinoa Salad

Saturday was a day of firsts, first time seeing Les Mis, first time making quinoa, and…… Actually that was it for firsts, sorry. It was a normal day other than those things, but honestly, those two things were really different and I enjoyed them, so I thought I should tell you.

My mom and I were on our own Saturday, so we decided to make something new for dinner. We did the honey glazed salmon,  and this quinoa salad. The recipe calls for fresh mint and pears. We couldn’t find any fresh mint at Hy Vee. And I hate pears with a passion (don’t ask, just accept it). So we subbed dried mint for fresh and a couple of apples for the pears.

Other than those two things, we got some quinoa, some olive oil, some lemon juice, some garlic, some green onions, some oregano, and some feta cheese (I love the stuff, by the way, it’s the bomb).

You will need to cook the quinoa, two parts water to one part quinoa, for as long as the package says (we went about 9 minutes, it think). You should also rinse your quinoa in some cool water before you start to cook it so that it won’t be bitter.IMG_6922IMG_6923

While you cook the quinoa, cube the apples into bite-sized pieces, slice up the green onions, and mince the garlic.IMG_6930

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Make the dressing with the oil, some salt and pepper, the garlic, the lemon juice, the oregano, and the mint if you are using dried(if not, put it in with the green onions); and whisk it all together.IMG_6932

Once the quinoa has absorbed all the water, set it aside and let it cool (or not, and the feta will get a little melty and nice).IMG_6929

Mix everything together in a big bowl, making sure to distribute the dressing evenly and break up any clumps that may have formed.

Put it in the refrigerator to chill for a little while, while you finish making dinner, and serve when you are ready.IMG_6945

I honestly can say that I am happy with my first quinoa experience, the salad was pretty good. It is good to make ahead of time, and get one part of the meal out of the way. It would also be pretty easy to take it to a picnic or potluck, and might be a good way to shake those meals up.IMG_6944

I hope you can try this salad along with the salmon. They were both very yummy, but I don’t know if I actually believe that they belong together. that’s just my two cents.