Archive | February, 2011

First Bento!

23 Feb
This will be a short short short entry. Its midterms, and I’ve got a paper due :(. BUT good news! My bento box that I ordered off of iloveobento.com came in the mail today!
So this means that I just prepared my first bento. Its not too cute. And I have to learn how to best utilize space.
The bottom tier has about 5 potato perogies that I sauteed with a frozen veggie mix. The top tier (with the spill-proof lid) has vanilla yogurt and frozen red raspberries.  I figure I’ve got protein, veggies, fruits, and carbs. Seems good to me, we’ll see how it goes 🙂
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This Year’s Valentine’s Day Dinner

16 Feb
So, yesterday was Valentine’s Day. The past few years, we decided to cut down on the gifts, and focus on dinners. Eat in, of course. We go out enough. So. He bought the out-of-season expensive ingredients, and I cooked. Fair trade 😀
I usually use a recipe but this year I decided to wing it, based off of a meal we had at Olive Garden, actually. What ended up on the plate: a pile of delishiousness. Harmony of flavors. Music to my TASTEBUDS. 😉 It doesn’t look all that great, but you get the idea- it was freaking fantastic.
It consisted of: cheese filled tortellini. I bought the fresh, refrigerated (not frozen) kind. Worth it. Alfredo sauce, from a jar. Next time I’ll try to make my own, but it was still great. Chopped, cooked pears. I’ve never cooked pears before this. So I chopped them up, without the skins, and threw them in a pan with a cup and a half of water and a tablespoon of sugar. I covered the pan and let them boil/simmer on medium heat until they were soft. Sauted shrimp. You know the drill; butter, pepper, frying pan. I did get the kind without tails and whatnot. And finally, a balsamic vinegar reduction drizzled on top. I’ve never made this before either. I basically put a cup of water and some balsamic vinegar with a few tablespoons of sugar. I let this simmer down until it was a bit thicker, and all the water had “steamed out.” It was great. Perfect touch, particularly with the pears.

Layers: tortellini, alfredo, pears, shrimp, balsamic vinegar reduction. Garnish: pears dipped in dark chocolate 🙂

Meatloaf for Picky Eaters

16 Feb
Meatloaf looks gross, there’s no getting around that. But this meatloaf is not only gluten-free, its healthier (it uses ground turkey meat), and GOOD. My picky eater loves it. Which is weird. There are very few meals that I can repeat once a week.
Ingredients:
– 1.2 lbs ground turkey meat (I suppose you can substitute ground beef if you really need to. ;))
– about 1.5 cups cooked rice
– 1 egg
– 2 tbsp ketchup
– 1/2 cup chopped onion
– 2 tbsp sugar OR 3 tbsp molasses. (I normally prefer molasses. Turkey when cooked is whiter than ground meat, molasses darkens it. And it makes a pretty awesome glaze on top. But in the batch featured I used sugar)
– dash of pepper

Ingredients

Preheat oven to 350*F. Mix all of the ingredients together in a largish bowl. It looks gross. I refuse to show my picky eater this step, in fear of refusal to eat the result.

Mixed Together....yummmmm hahaa

Put the mixture into a loaf pan. Shape/smooth it the best you can with the spoon/spatula. Place in oven, uncovered*** for about 45 minutes.
***Covered in foil if you used molasses. Take off the foil for the last 15 minutes, and drizzle a spoonful of molasses on top for a glaze.

In the Oven

Take out, let sit for about 3 minutes. Cut and serve :). We like ketchup on ours, but honestly this recipe is sweet enough so that you don’t need it.
I use the same basic mixture for my meatballs, as well. Substitute the ketchup for whatever marinara sauce you want, and throw in some Italian seasoning. Roll into balls. Smother in marinara sauce.  Bake covered for the same time and temperature.

Slice & Serve

P.S. I apologize for my blurry pictures! I had to use a phone camera for these.

Experiment on Cream Puffs

12 Feb
I’ve been trying to make cream puffs, which a friend introduced me to. She saw them in this Japanese drama that was based on a manga, “Absolute Boyfriend.” She got me hooked on the show and wanting to try to make cream puffs (which were featured in the show).  I’ve never made pastries before this. Turns out, they’re actually a bit complicated to make and pretty sensitive (DO NOT open the oven while these are baking!). My first batch was on Wednesday night. They didn’t rise, I suspect because there was too much butter/egg in the recipe. So they ended up looking like small, flat cookie disks. Fail. I also made custard filling on Wednesday, which I wasn’t a fan of.
On Thursday, I resiliently bought more butter and looked up another, more complex recipe. It worked! They rose! I was seriously pumped. They were darling little puffballs. I did have a few technical mistakes and preferences that I hope to correct in my next batch. I think that the dough could’ve used more sugar, and more time in the oven drying out. (After they finish baking, you cut a small hole in the bottom of each one and put them back in the oven for about 20 minutes to dry out the inside of the pastry.) I would really really like a pastry bag to make filling these little pastries simpler. I had to cut my darling little puffballs in half to get the custard inside. And lastly, I really don’t think I am a fan of custard, and neither is my picky eater. I looked up another recipe Thursday night, and I tried it. And I’m not a fan of custard that other people make… I don’t know why I thought I’d be a fan of custard that I made. For a pastry, it seems like it’s just too heavy. I’d like to try folding in some homemade whipped cream into the second recipe that I tried, or even just making a vanilla cream filling.
Click Me! <- This is the blog that I took the second recipe from, both for the dough and the custard.
Overall, I am pretty proud of myself, knowing that I am capable of making awesome pastries (even if it’s only one kind as of now). And I am proud that I didn’t get frustrated with myself and quit after my first night of trying.

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Game Day Food!

7 Feb
Today is the Superbowl!! Being from the ‘Burgh, obviously I am rooting for the Steelers. Regardless of who you are rooting for, or even what sport you watch, there is usually game day food.
Chips, dips, pop, jalapeño poppers, chili, burgers, hot dogs, veggie trays, and tacos. To name a few. Today, my plan is reubens for the first two quarters, and sautéed shrimp for the second two.
Reubens are something relatively new to me, and I only recently started making them at home. But I’ve grown used to my process, and these sandwiches have become such a go-to meal at home that I thought I’d share it with you.
The essentials: rye bread (I use Pepperidge Farm’s seedless rye), sauerkraut (I prefer Bavarian sweet), thousand island dressing, swiss cheese and corned beef.
Ask your deli for the corned beef, and ask them to slice it very thin.
I use the griddle for mine, but you can use two skillets if you’d like.

Makes 2 reubens.

1) Spray one of the skillets with some non-stick spray. Drain the can of sauerkraut. Spread a bit more than half of the can as thinly as possible into the pan, and cook on medium/low heat. Use a spatula to flip/stir until it is throughly heated.
2) Butter one side of two slices of bread. Put them in the other skillet (at medium heat), butter side down. Put a slice of swiss cheese on top of each slice.
3) When the cheese starts to melt,  squirt some thousand island dressing on top of the cheese. Then put the sauerkraut on top of the dressing (spread over the whole piece of bread).
4) Next put a few slices of corned beef on top of the sauerkraut. Depends on how much meat you want, but I tend to only put two slices on.
5) Place one more slice of swiss cheese on top of the meat.
6) Butter one side of two more slices of bread. Place them on top of the sandwiches, butter side up.
7) Using a fork and a spatula, flip the whole sandwich to toast the other side. This is messy and hilarious. Be careful.
8 ) Toast for about 5-7 more minutes, and then cut the sandwiches in half and serve.
For reference, here’s how the layers “should” go on the sandwich: Bread, cheese, thousand island dressing, sauerkraut, corned beef, cheese, bread.

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After making these a few times, I discovered that I prefer yellow american cheese on my reuben. But my picky eater still prefers the swiss. And I prefer to “brown” my sauerkraut just a bit. So once you get the process down, experiment some. Reubens are really surprisingly good when made at home.

Rice Cooker Adventures

6 Feb
When I was younger, I practically never ate rice. We were a pasta family. When my sister and father were diagnosed with celiac, they ate rice, but I am pretty sure it was instant.
So my rice cooking skills are pretty much level 0.5. Cooking rice on a stove is practically impossible! I finally got a rice cooker. Compliments of one of my super awesome friends; who had a spare. I was eager to try it out: to have decent, not too mushy/hard/burnt rice, and not having a pot to scrape clean.
Basically. You put some rice in, and some water. Close the lid. Push a magic button. And that’s it! I kept checking to make sure that the rice wasn’t doing anything crazy. It didn’t. Rice cookers work. Who woulda thunk.
The rice paddle that came with the cooker worked excellently as well. You would be surprised at how much difference the shape of a spoon can  make.
In the pantry, I had some long grain white rice, some frozen veggie mix, and sweet and sour sauce. We didn’t even have soy sauce. Now that I have a way to make super easy and delicious rice, I will be expanding the Asian-style cuisine found in my pantry. Any suggestions? Our household is very Italian-food centered, so I’m not sure where to begin.
So. Our main meal this evening was white rice, with veggies fried up in canola oil. I got a thumbs up from my picky eater.
Eventually I want to use the steamer to cook some meat and veggies. And get some brown rice.
♄