Friday, April 26, 2013

Reality Check

Pictured above is my ill-fated attempt to make healthy peanut butter bars.  Every way it was possible for them to go wrong, they did go wrong:  the graham cracker crumbs weren’t crushed small enough, so they were lumpy; I didn't make enough to fill my 9 x 13 cake pan; the chocolate topping was clumpy; they were too rich.   I‘m pretty sure I dirtied every kitchen device I own trying to save them, but it was not meant to be.  Were they inedible?  Not at all, in fact they were eaten up in two days, but they were not the perfect peanut butter bars I had been dreaming about for weeks.  

I feel that when you read food blogs, you are only given one side of the story, when things turn out perfectly and are made even more perfect with styling the food and editing the pictures.  I realize that not many people would have an interest in looking at blurry pictures of burnt scrambled eggs, but you never see when the soufflĂ© collapses, the roast burns, and when no matter how much blending you do, there are still lumps of tofu in your berry smoothie.  That is real life cooking; when things don’t go as planned.  I feel that most food bloggers have (or at least should have) a passion for food, cooking, and experimenting.  When you don’t know how things may turn out, that’s what makes it an adventure.  But it can also be very frustrating, as I found out with my bars.  A good cook will scrape the burnt bits out of the pan and try again tomorrow.  Someday, I will have a post about healthy peanut butter bars on my blog, but it won’t be today.  For now, all you get is a picture of... I don’t even know what to call them.  Oh wait, I know, they’re called real life.  

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Spaghetti Bean Soup

While most of the country is enjoying April showers and May flowers, the upper Midwest has been hit by snow almost every day over the past few weeks.  So, while it may officially be spring, it still feels very much like winter here.  I normally really enjoy the snow, no matter what time of the year it falls, but even I’m starting to get spring fever.  *sigh* I realize that complaining won’t make the whiteness go away any faster, so I made this a perfect excuse for me whip up a big pot of soup and get nice and snuggly in my little apartment.

Note: This is unusual meal for me because of the fact that there’s meat in it.  It wasn’t in my original plan, but as I was gathering ingredients to put in the soup, it occurred to me that some ground turkey would be a wonderful addition.  I feel that the meat adds an important flavor to the soup.  If you don’t want to add meat, you could try some Veggie Crumbles (from Morningstar Farms, or some other brand), but I doubt it would have the same great flavor that a meaty version would have.

Spaghetti Bean Soup
1 pound of ground beef or turkey
2 large onions
2 14.5 ounce cans of diced tomatoes
1 15 ounce can of tomato sauce
2 cans of great northern bean
3-4 cups of water
Uncooked spaghetti noodles
Salt and seasonings

1. Dice the onions and put them in a large pot with the raw meat.  

2. Cook on medium heat until the meat is well done and the onions are translucent.  

3. Add the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce and beans.  Then, add about three to four cups of water.

4. To make this a bona fide soup rather than a watery chili, I took about four small handfuls of spaghetti noodles, broke them into one inch long pieces and added them to the soup.  I brought the soup up to a rolling boil and then let it simmer for about 10 minutes.  The little noodles remind me of the ones in a Lipton soup packet. So fun!

5. Finally, season with some oregano or whatever other herb or spices you prefer.  

I don’t mean to brag but, this is one of the best soups I have ever had in my life.  And I’ve eaten a lot of different soups in my years.  I feel that the hardest part about making this soup was coming up with a name for it.  Hamburger Noodle Soup?  Tomato Bean Soup?  But don’t worry, in the end, I feel like I came with a winner.  Now that I’ve done all the strenuous mental labor, you guys get to do the fun part: making soup!  You’re welcome!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Potato Curry Mash

Before making this dish, I had never used curry before.  I don’t even remember having tasted curry before, it just isn't something my parents cook with.  I have a few friends who use curry regularly in their cooking and I was inspired to give it a go.  Now that I’ve tried it, I’ll definitely be doing more experimenting with this spice.

Potato Curry Mash
4 carrots
1 onion
4 potatoes
2 cups of veggie or chicken broth
15.5 ounce can of chickpeas
6 ounces of tomato paste
1/4 to 1/2 cup of milk
Curry powder to taste

1. Dice up the carrots, onion, and potatoes.  This smaller you chop them, the faster they cook, so I went pretty small.

2. Put all the veggies into a pot with the broth.  Cook on medium heat until they are soft.  I put the pot lid on and just let them boil and steam.  

3. Next is adding the chickpeas, but the exact moment is up to you:  if you want them to be soft, like me, add them soon so they have time to cook.  If firmer chickies are more your style, add them at the end.

4. When your veggies are soft and chickpeas happy, turn off the heat.  Add milk, I used soy milk, to your desired consistency.  Then start adding the curry powder.  I used the method of adding a spoonful, stirring it up and taste testing; adding a little more, then test testing again.  You don’t want to get ‘curried’ away!  (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.)

There you have it!  It’s so simple, delicious and a great way to get some veggies into your diet.  I was originally planning on putting bell peppers in as well, but ended up using them to make fajitas.  Next time I’ll definitely be putting them in!  

Friday, April 12, 2013

Heaven in a Photo

If you could capture heaven in a picture, I think it would look something like this:

Every aspect of this photograph is gorgeous! *swoon*

Anyways, I was thinking about doing a recipe post for today, but I'm getting some new equipment next week, so want to save the recipe for then.  I hope you all have a good weekend!  

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Edible Perspective's Spinach and Lentil Pasta with a Lemon Olive Oil Sauce

As long as I'm on the topic of lentils, check out this Spinach and Lentil Pasta with a Lemon Olive Oil Sauce by Edible Perspective!  It looks so good and I really want to make some this weekend.
Ashley's photographs are so beautiful, and her recipes are very tasty as well.  She is one of my favorite food bloggers and I really look up to her as I start my own food blogging journey!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Carrot and Lentil Soup

I have always looked forward to grocery shopping, even when I was a kid.  It’s like a treasure hunt; combing the aisles, you never know what you might find!  Now that I’m older, I enjoy it even more because I decide what gets to come home with me and what stays at the store (yes, I’m talking about you, Malt-o-Meal).  The other day while I was in the produce section, something caught my eye: a bag of steamed lentils.  Honestly, at that moment, lentils kind of intimidated me, they didn’t sound overly yummy and I’d imagined they would be tricky to deal with.  I decided to buy the lentils anyway, just to be adventurous and to try something new.  

Over the next few days, I looked around online to find ideas on what to do with these lentils, but nothing really tickled my fancy.  I found many recipes for Spicy Lentils and Curry Lentils, but I wanted to save experimenting with curry for another time.  Then, I remembered that my dad used to put lentils in soup.  Bingo, that’s what I would do!  So I gathered up what I had in my kitchen and made one the most easy and tasty soups ever.

Note: Since my lentils were steamed, I didn’t need to cook them before putting them in the soup.  If you buy dried lentils, you will need to cook them first, but it’s pretty easy.  Here’s a quick article on how to cook lentils.  Dried lentils are more pocketbook friendly than their pre-steamed friends.  Also, if you are watching your sodium intake, you’re controlling how salty the water you cook the lentils in is.

Another thing that should be noted, is that there are many types of lentils.  Some stand up well to cooking, while others become soft and mushy while being cooked.  Since this is a soup, it doesn’t matter if the lentils stay firm or become soft, unless you have a preference.  Because it doesn’t matter, this is a great time to experiment!

Carrot and Lentil Soup
5-6 medium carrots
1 large onion
2-3 Tbsp of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
14.5 ounce can of veggie broth
14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes
Roughly 4 cup of cooked lentils
1 cup of milk, or to your liking
1 cup of water, or to your liking
Salt and seasonings to your liking (I used Rosemary and a gourmet seasoning packet)
Shredded cheese (optional)

1.  Peel and chop your onion and carrots.  Add them into a large pot with the olive oil and sautĂ© until the carrots are soft and the onions are translucent.

2. Turn the stove’s heat to medium and add the diced tomatoes, veggie broth and lentils.  Then, add milk, water, and seasoning to taste.  

3. Bring the pot up to a rolling boil, then let simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.  

4. Serve.  Garnish with shredded cheese on top if desired.

(Not to point out the obvious, but by using a non-dairy milk and cheese will keep this soup vegan friendly.)

Up close and personal...yummy!

There you have it and it’s so simple!  This soup isn’t the most photogenic dish I’ve ever made, but it makes up for it with how good it tastes. And when I had leftovers the next day, the soup was even tastier, so make yourself a double batch and save some for later.  Enjoy!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Pioneer Woman’s Olive Cheese Bread

My family and I have been Ree Drummond, aka the Pioneer Woman, fans for quite some time.  We laugh at Charlie the Basset Hound’s antics, swoon over the cowboys on her ranch (okay, I was the only one swooning), and gain plenty of calories from her out-of-this-world recipes.  Her photos are amazing, her children are adorable, what’s not to love, people?!

One of my family’s favorite recipes of her’s is her Olive Cheese Bread.  It is truly a combination of good and evil crammed into a slice of french bread.  One of the ingredients is real mayonnaise and in her recipe, she specifically says not to use low fat or fat free mayonnaise.  But being a health conscious person and bit of a rebel, I couldn't help but ask “What would happen if I ‘accidently’ used low fat real mayonnaise?”  Between the butter, cheese, and olives, I don't want to know how many calories are in this and using low fat mayonnaise probably isn't going to save me many calories, but every little bit helps, right?  So with that on my mind and the spirit of adventure in my heart, I made Pioneer Woman’s Olive Cheese Bread, with low fat mayonnaise.

Original recipe here.  It’s a great read and I highly recommend it.

Pioneer Woman’s Olive Cheese Bread
1 loaf French Bread
6 ounces, weight Pimiento-stuffed Green Olives
6 ounces, weight Black Olives
2 stalks Green Onions (scallions)
1 stick Butter, Room Temperature
1/2 cup (low fat) Mayonnaise,
3/4 pounds Monterey Jack Cheese, Grated

1.  Drain the cans of olives, place them on a cutting board and give them a good chopping.
Note:  If you don't like green olives or black olives, you can use two cans of the kind you do like.  Also, if you don't like olives at all, sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, or cooked bacon chopped into small pieces could be a good replacement.

2.  Dice up the green onions.

3.  Put the butter, mayonnaise, cheese, chopped olives, and green onions into a mixing bowl.  Stir them up real good.  

4.  Take you french bread and cut it lengthwise, so you have two long have pieces.  Place the bread onto a cookie sheet.  Spread your cheese mixture on both pieces of bread.  It’s going to seem like a lot, but don't worry, it will melt down into the bread.

5.  Put the bread into an oven which has been preheated to 325 degrees and bake for 25 minutes, or until the cheese mixture is melted and the bread is a light golden brown.

6. Let the bread cool and then slice it up anyway you want... or don’t, you could eat it all in one foul swoop.

So there you have it!  I couldn't taste any difference from using low fat mayo, but if you are an Olive Cheese Bread connoisseur, perhaps you can. Though, I doubt it’s very noticeable. Unless you don't like olives, I have never met a person who could say no to this Olive Cheese Bread.  It’s perfect for a girl's night in, or by yourself on a rainy evening.  Actually, don’t make it for yourself, because you risk eating the whole loaf.  Enjoy!