Thursday, January 31, 2013

Easiest Sunday beef stew

Hey, I like you!  I like you a lot. :)

So, it pains me to say that I'm really sorry to do this to you.  I'm about to confuse the heck out of ya by raving about the most delicious and utterly simple stew.

Ready to be befuddled?  It's called Sunday beef stew.  But, I made it on a Monday.  And today is Thursday.  So, really, there's nothing Sunday about this stew matter.

Maybe we can learn something from my terrible timing.  I've always thought of myself as an optimist.  A positive thinker.  A "hey, let's find the silver lining somewhere... seriously, it's gotta be here" kind of gal.  So let's see if we can't turn this negative Nancy situation upside down.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Ho Ho cake

Let me clear up something right now -- this is not a Christmas cake.  Get those visions of a rotund man in a red and white suit out of your head.  If I wanted you to think of Santa, I would've named it a Ho ho ho cake.  Everyone knows that Santa's hos come in threes.  You know what I mean.  No disrespect, Mrs. Claus.

Anyway.  While this isn't specifically a Christmas cake, it could be one.  It could also just as easily be an Easter cake.  Or an Earth Day cake.  Or a "hey it's Tuesday!" cake.  Maybe that's what I should've titled this post because, by Tuesday, aren't we all totally over that Monday morning resolution to eat really healthfully and purge our systems of all junk and sugar?  Mm hmm.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Fast Friday: Hot chocolate affogato

IOTWIFTGIF -- It's only Thursday, wait, it's Friday! Thank goodness it's Friday!

I love utterly ridiculous abbreviations, don't you?  Especially considering that abbreviations are meant to save time, not require more to explain them.  Meh.  I'm not too concerned about it.

Just like I'm not too concerned about the fact that I've had no idea what day it has been all week.  With the holiday on Monday and getting back to my healthy self, this week has zipped right past me... and that's a good thing.  Hello, Friday!  Greetings, weekend! :)

I'm planning (for once, I use the word loosely) on making up for last weekend's couch marathon and doing oodles and oodles of fun things because I simply want to.  Those are the best kinds of fun things, right?  On tap so far: baking a cake, ordering pizza, watching two Penguins hockey games, a dinner and movie date with Matt, and maybe even a trip to the Strip District for play food shopping.  Play food shopping means I take no list with me -- watch out, world, there's a rebel on the loose!

While I'm aiming to be out of the apartment for much of the weekend, I'm surely going to make time for a quick dessert at home.  When I say quick, I should be saying lightning fast.  Two ingredients and about two minutes from start to slurping.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Peppery garlic parmesan chicken

I'm a pretty happy person by nature.  Not much gets me down for long, but things can certainly bum me out momentarily.

Like wicked cold weather without snow.  Snow just makes cold weather more bearable, and it's so gosh darn pretty!

And library fines.  The.absolute.worst!  Finish the book and incur more fines or return it early and risk waiting a few more weeks before finding out the ending?  Rock and a hard place, folks.

Or, gosh, what's really rocked my world as of late.  Ready for this nugget of information?  The Dairy Queen in the local mall food court has closed.  Oh, this makes me sad.  Super sad.  Because my mall ritual is the following: shop a little, eat nuggets from Chick-fil-A and a mini Blizzard from Dairy Queen, and fully energized, shop a lot more.  The lack of a Dairy Queen really throws a wrench in that pasttime.  Bonus sadness: It's the only Dairy Queen within a 15 mile+ radius!  [shakes fists at the heavens] Whyyyyyy?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Homemade marshmallows

What would you do if you were sequestered at home, sick with the "death flu" as my pharmacist friend has been calling it, for days with nothing to do?

Make marshmallows, of course!

That's what I did, anyway.

What?  Don't give me that look.  I had to do something.  I was losing my mind!  I hadn't left our apartment in 72 hours and hadn't talked for almost the same amount of time thanks to coughing fits and the loss of my voice.  I felt useless.  I just wanted to create something... have something to show for my long holiday weekend.

Thankfully, the death flu had no effect on my stomach, so my appetite was relatively undisturbed.  At first thought, I wanted to make chocolate cupcakes.  I'd halve, no, quarter the original recipe because surely only one person would enjoy the products of my flu-ridden baking adventures.  There was no way anyone I loved or loathed would get germy cupcakes.  Those would be all mine... in one sitting.  But, that's just what changed my cupcake tune.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Hibernating & stockpiling dinner

And we're back!  [cough cough]  To be frank, I never left.  Remember that trip I had planned to Chicago this past weekend?  Unfortunately, the universe had other plans for me.

At the end of work on Thursday, I suddenly got a severe case of the chills and skipped the gym to head home and take my temperature.  Turns out this girl was rocking a temperature of 102!  To make a long (and unpleasant) story short, that was only the beginning of my bout with the flu, as I went downhill quickly.

On Friday, Matt and I made the tough decision to cancel my ticket.  Lest you guys think he is some kind of monster, I want to publicly state that I forced him to go because.  Otherwise, he would've surely caught what I had and missed spending rare quality time with one of his best guys.  Before he departed for the windy city, Matt was such a saint and set me up with plenty of tissues, blankets, medicine, and even ran out to a local restaurant to get a quarter of my favorite lemon chicken and rice soup :)

So, I was "stuck" in Pittsburgh for the weekend, and it had nothing to do with winter weather.  Unlike my respiratory system, the skies were as clear as can be!  Homebound and down, I napped, watched Food Network and the return of NHL hockey, made myself many pancakes, and slept some more.

Come Sunday night, I was feeling better but didn't have the energy to visit the grocery store.  After some foraging, I realized that I had all I needed to whip up five delicious and balanced dinners for the week ahead!  Let's hear it for freezing leftovers and keeping some basic pantry staples on hand.  Hooray!  Matt did make a quick stop for some fruit, but that's all we needed.  Here's what's cookin' (or, thawing, in some cases) in our kitchen this week:

1. Split pea and ham soup with pumpkin corn muffins - I had both in the freezer, but could've just as easily made the latter since Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix and pumpkin puree are almost always in my cabinet.  Long shelf life, baby!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Friday five: Chicago!

It's Friday, and I'm so ready to ditch this town!  Whaddya say?  You, too?  If you can fit in our very small carry-on luggage, you've got a deal.  Because we're heading to Chicago for the weekend!


We've had this trip planned for a few months, and I'm so excited to be returning to Chi-town five years after my very first visit.  It is one of my top three favorite cities to visit.  One of Matt's best friends recently moved there with his wife and gave us an open invitation.  We couldn't resist, so we immediately accepted their offer.

While we're simply looking forward to spending quality time with them and their super cuddly cat, I know they're going to show us the hot (and sweet) spots about town.  Here are a few things that may or may not be on our itinerary.  It's Friday five: Chicago edition!

1. Millenium Park -  No description necessary because that picture says it all.  Okay, maybe just this: I don't care that it's called Cloud Gate because I just want to call it "the bean."

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Chicken, chick pea, and collards soup

Happy Thursday, friends!  Yes, of course, I consider all of you friends, not simply readers all over the globe.  Because I tell you guys things that I'd tell the friends that I see in my everyday life.  Like how I'm awful at packing for trips and that I ate Christmas dinner in flannel pajamas with cats on them.  And that I, quite openly, love routines.


Why does that word seem to get such a bad rap?  Nowhere in that definition is there anything negative.  You won't see the words "boring" or "dull" anywhere in Webster's dictionary.  (Trust me, I checked.)  Routine merely means something that's habitual or a regular.

Whether or not even my most laid-back friends would admit it, they, too, enjoy the occasional routine.  They also constantly rag on me for having way, way too many routines.  But that's for another post :)

Monday, January 14, 2013

Bacon, cheddar & spinach pinwheels

Sometimes, despite my best efforts to plan ahead and make life easier, I find that I didn't actually plan very well at all.

Like the time I was so nervous about spending the weekend with a boyfriend's family.  I wanted to make the best first impression and spent an embarrassing amount of time picking outfits for every possible social scenario since I didn't know our agenda.  Believe me when I say that each wardrobe change was simply spot on, and I felt confident; the whole weekend couldn't have been more perfect!

Or could it?  Yeah, it could've been if I'd remembered to pack any underwear at all.  Seriously, I did not pack a single pair.  To this day, this is one my lowest points.  Yikes.  Thankfully, I realized very shortly after we arrived so a quick trip was made to the nearest store to remedy that problem ASAP.

Lesson: Don't let vanity overpower practicality, kids.  It's mighty awkward explaining to your future mother-in-law why, after a 4 hour drive, you must get back in the car to run an errand that simply can't wait another minute.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Fast Friday: Open-faced egg BLT sandwich

Oh gosh, this feels like cheating.  Is it cheating?  I mean, giving you a recipe when it's not really a recipe.  Or even something new.

So, I won't call it a recipe.  I'll call it an idea.  A humble suggestion.  A glimpse into my real life kitchen.

You know, the kitchen in which oatmeal and pancakes are acceptable dinner offerings just as often as fancy French dishes and homemade sauces.

Somewhere between no-think breakfast food and multi-dish masterpieces is this sandwich.  Last night, this sandwich that saved me.  Saved me from an evening of grazing on cheese balls, almonds, carrots, and probably a scrambled egg.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Roasted kale, tomatoes, and potatoes with chicken

For the most part, I've become a fairly disciplined cook when it comes to dinner.  It's only taken me a few years to learn that, if you sample the food nonstop while cooking it, you don't have much of an appetite when the final dish is plated.  Makes perfect sense, right?

I mean, as much as I love staring into Matt's dreamy eyes without distraction, sitting across the table as he dives into a plate of delicious food isn't much fun when I'm already full and sipping on water.

So, I've managed to curtail my snacking as dinner roasts, simmers, or sautes right before my eyes.  Instead, I only poke my head into the kitchen as soon as I get home from the gym to gulp a glass or two of water and occasionally nibble a handful of cheese balls

(And yes, they are amazing.  You can pick up a giant tub of them for around $6 at Sam's Club.  One serving is something like 32 balls and only 140 calories.  There's just something about that salty cheesy crunch of puffed air that's addictive and hits the spot after a sweat session!  No judging.)

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Pizza with Brussels sprouts, bacon, and goat cheese

I don't know about you, but I'm constantly amazed at what we're able to do with the help of technology.  I can Skype with my friends halfway across the world in Germany and China.  I can could deposit checks into my bank account without ever stepping foot into a bank... if I had a smart phone.  I can even share my daily adventures and misadventures in life and food on the interwebs with any sweet soul who wishes to read them.

But, with all of that and so much more, there is still one big void.  I can't actually share the food with y'all.  Not the recipe, but the real deal.  The food.  Like hot and tasty pizza, fresh out of the oven.

Eat your heart eyes out!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Friday five: Shiny new things

Let me happily be the first to wish you the very first TGIF of the new year!  Have you adjusted to writing 2013 yet?  Normally, it takes me a week or two at least, but this year my brain must have been ready to usher in the new year, and I haven't had any trouble at all making the switch.  As of today when I clicked "publish" I haven't mistakenly written 2012 yet.  But now that that's out there, I'm sure that's bound to change at any moment.

As soon as I toss my old calendar and hang up the new one, I can't help but make plans for the year ahead.   Travel here!  Call this person!  Buy that article of clothing!  And, of course, cook that thing!

Trying new things isn't exactly one of my strengths, but I'm making a conscientious effort to do so more often.  You never know until you try, right?  For example, I was once verrrrrry hesitant about Indian food but have totally become a convert; chana masala is one of my favorite dishes ever!  Positive reinforcement at its finest.

Here is the first Friday five of 2013, full of new things that may become old favorites!

1. Risotto - I buy it out at a restaurant any chance I get, but I'm still unreasonably nervous about making it at home.  I tried last year, and it was just... okay.  Rather than trying again, I simply gave up and moved on, which is very unlike me.  This year I'm going to conquer it, required patience and all, and I'll start with this recipe.  Shrimp and asparagus and cheese?  Yes, please! 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Homemade cranberry sauce

There's something about New Year's Day that puts me in the most productive mood ever.  Though we've typically entertained friends with a crock pot full of sweet pork and sauerkraut in years past, this year we kept things quiet and had a party for two.

I use the term "party" loosely.

For him, "party" meant relaxing on the couch, playing with his remote-controlled helicopter from Santa, and watching TBS's back to back showings of The Hangover while nursing a tiny one of his own.

For her, "party" meant organizing random sections of the apartment, nibbling frozen Christmas cookies, and readying things before returning to work the next day.  The latter was done in an effort to ease the surely rude awakening that would come from showering and wearing grown-up clothes before 10am.

I cleaned out and organized the cutlery and kitchen gadget drawers.  I sorted through the highest and least accessible cabinets that had apparently become a black hole for unused items and made a bag of items to take to Goodwill.  I did three loads of laundry and emptied the overflowing basket... for at least 12 hours.  I introduced my post-Christmas shopping trip haul to the rest of my wardrobe.  Hooray!  I even made Matt dizzy with all of my flitting about, and I did it without even trying.  How's that for multi-tasking?

I sort of got lost in my organizing bliss and, before I knew it, dinnertime was calling my name.  Matt was happy with his, cough, third helping of pork and sauerkraut, but I wanted something different.