Monday, November 29, 2010

Menu Item Numero Uno

If I ever open my own restaurant I think I found the first thing that will definitely be on the menu, especially during the winter. This Butternut Squash Soup will warm you up on even the chilliest of days. It's the perfect menu item, no matter what type of restaurant - little soup and sandwich bistro, specialty baked goods and treats, five star gourmet. I could see people coming back again and again just for this soup.

It would be a great appetizer as it wakens all your taste buds. At first you taste the sweet butternut squash and coconut milk, then you get a hint of thyme and sour cream before the heat of the jalapeno fills your mouth. Every bite is a journey for your mouth.

Quick & Dirty

  • I didn't remove ALL of the jalapeno seeds because I wanted to make sure it had enough "kick".  I left about half of them in, and it was just about perfect for my taste buds
  • Sprinkled some dry thyme on top, didn't have any fresh
  • Also ate it with whole wheat crackers mixed in, very very tasty
  • The mix of sweet and spicy is my favorite, and this is a new combo of the two for me
  • Both the warmness and the spiciness of the soup is perfect for a cold winter day
  • I ate it all too fast to try it, but this would probably freeze well if you made a huge batch of it
  • I was selfish and ate it all myself, next time I'll try to make enough to share
  • Butternut squash is kind of a pain to work with, otherwise I would make this all the time
  • Making soup like this makes me want to get an immersion blender...just what I need, another kitchen gadget!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Eating an Identity Crisis

For about the last year and a half the project I've been working on is for a client out in Boston. We finally went out there a couple weeks ago to do on-site training and implementation. The clients were nice enough to provide muffins and other goodies throughout the day and in the morning I helped myself to what looked like a Boston Cream Pie muffin. They raved about how good these muffins are and how we wouldn't be able to get anything like them back in Minnesota. Well, I didn't think mine was that great. In fact, I didn't really like it at all and was glad I only took half. It had some weird flavoring that I wasn't expecting (orange flavored custard?). So after a long day of training and an awesome but not quite satisfying dinner, we went in search of dessert. On a dark, cold and rainy night we were lucky enough to wander into Quincy Market which was lined with various restaurants and bakeries. After walking up and down the aisle checking every place out, we finally picked out a couple creamy pies and sat down with forks at the ready. Only to be disappointed again. It was at least better than the muffin; the custard was pretty tasty. But there wasn't enough of it and the cake wasn't very flavorful. I guess that's what you get when you buy something that's probably been sitting out on a shelf all day.

I didn't get my craving satisfied while I was out in Boston, so I decided to satisfy it myself in my own kitchen. I've actually had this recipe for at least a year now, thinking I would make it when the project was over. Well, it's pretty close to being over now (crossing my fingers) so I thought it was finally time to celebrate. It took me almost all day on Sunday to make (scratch-made yellow cake, scratch-made chocolate cake, vanilla-rum custard, chocolate glaze, and assembly) and I was so worn out by the end of the day that I ended up having cold waffles for dinner (homemade buttermilk waffles that I had made the day before, don't worry they weren't frozen Eggos). It was all completely worth it though, especially getting to share it with everyone at work. I brought it in and everyone was so excited that I had made cake. But, I said, it's not a cake - it's a pie! Or is it a pie-cake? One thing is for sure, it was absolutely delicious!  And it's the least I could do to say a big Thank You for all the hard work everyone has put in.

Unfortunately I got this from a free preview issue of Cuisine at Home and they don't have the recipe online.  I'll have to type it up soon and post it so everyone can share in the goodness!

Spreading the second layer of custard

I thought it kinda looked like a hamburger at this point

Final chocolate glaze

Quick & Dirty

  • Will try to use real vanilla bean in the custard next time (I had a couple but I didn't realize they went bad!  The ones I had were stiff as boards and there was no way I could split them and get the goodness out of them)
  • After making the cakes, I think I should've stored them in airtight containers instead of letting them sit out all day to cool.  I think they may have dried up a bit.
  • I used 8x3 pans instead of 9x2 because that's what I had.  I think it made the cake taller but not a big deal.
  • The chocolate glaze was amazing
  • Everything...even though this was quite a bit of work I could definitely see myself making it again.  I only got one little piece!
  • The Vanilla-Rum Custard was pretty tasty, I could see making it for other things (maybe some custard filled donuts?)
  • I think fresh vanilla bean really would've helped the custard pop even more
  • Did I mention I only got one piece?!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

WPF Ribbon Control officially released!

Word 2007
It's about time that I write a post about programming instead of cooking and what better way to start than a control I swore I would never use: the Ribbon Control. Those of you who have used the new Office 2007 or 2010 know what I'm referring to. Microsoft decided to switch up the normal menus across the top in 2007 and make us wonder why we could no longer go to File > Print and sent us searching for the Print button until we realized there was a big flashy round button that we were supposed to click on that held enormous power.
Word 2010

And then right away in 2010 decided this was a bad idea and gave us our File menu back.

Like most people, I hate change. If I have to go hunting for something as simple as Print or Save when I knew exactly where it was in the old version then it was a bad change. The thought of adding such a control to one of my own applications did not appeal to me at all. With the ribbon control, it felt like you were hiding functionality instead of giving more power right at your finger tips and making things more intuitive. I was also afraid of making an application that looked and felt exactly like Microsoft Office because this is the only place so far that the control is widely used.

Then one day a few weeks ago I was watching a demo of a competitor's new product that happened to use a ribbon at the top for it's main navigation.  And you know what?  It looked frickin' sexy.  They had a black theme going (similar to my 2010 screen shot above) and I fell in love.  About a week later I saw the announcement that the control had finally been released in all it's glory and I couldn't wait to get my hands on it.

So last weekend I finally got VS 2010 and Expression 4 installed on here and then downloaded the Ribbon Control and sample files.  As usual, my high levels of excitement led to quick disappointment.  I want everything to be easy to use right out of the box.  I started a new project in Blend and added a ribbon control and was overwhelmed by all the new controls and properties.  What's the difference between a RibbonGroup and a RibbonControlGroup?  What's the control in the upper left hand corner called and how do I add text to it instead of an icon?  Why are all the default colors so hideous and hard to change?  Oh yeah that's right, because Microsoft wants it to be difficult to style the ribbon and hopes we're all too lazy to figure it out.

After messing around with styles and colors for a while in Blend I decided it was going to be a lot of work to get my cool black theme going.  Next I thought I'd try to research some of these questions but this just led to more frustrations.  Of course there's only very basic documentation on MSDN:

"A RibbonGroup represents a logical group of controls as they appear on a RibbonTab."  Whereas "a RibbonControlGroup groups a set of ribbon controls into a visual and conceptual unit."

Well of course!  That clears it right up!  Some of the new controls actually have pictures which are very helpful, but it looks like very few do.  With such a visual control like the ribbon showing how a control will look and feel is kind of a necessity I think.  Then I remembered the guy's blog where I originally heard that it was released and read through that which was very helpful.  Yet I still didn't have any of my initial questions answered.  So I decided to check out the sample projects that I had downloaded earlier.  Surely they would lead me to the light of the ribbon. 

Sample Word App
Unfortunately I was quickly discouraged again because of the hideous UI in the sample apps.  The whole reason I wanted to use this control was because of how pretty I could make it.  I don't think their sample app really showcases those possibilities.  Really Microsoft?  You couldn't even include large icons that aren't extremely pixelated?

In the end I think I answered most of my own questions.  You can't easily put text instead of an icon on the application menu.  You have to override about 20 default colors to get rid of the blue/orange default theme.  I haven't given up yet though.  I've been working on my first ribbon app today and will be writing more later on some of my discoveries.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Gremo-what?? Gremolicious!

Even with all the cooking shows I watch on Food Network and the recipes I peruse online and in my magazines I don't remember much talk of gremolatas.  According to my friend Wikipedia it's a "chopped herb condiment typically made of garlic, parsley, and lemon zest" and used in veal and seafood dishes but tonight I tossed it with my farmer's market fresh summer squash and ended up with an amazing side dish to go with my tuna cakes.  

Roasted Summer Squashes with Caper Gremolata

I *have* however, heard of pattypan squash.  I watched a repeat this morning of Iron Chef America: Battle Butter and the challenger used it in one of her dishes.  Alton said pattypan so many times I just had to try it and was super excited to see someone offering it at the farmer's market this morning.  They are very cute and colorful little vegetables.  I got a mix of light green and bright yellow and even one that was half and half.  I also got little zucchinis which I used a few of in this dish but also hope to make some spicy pickles out of.  This dish was bright and citrusy and an easy new twist on summer squash.

Quick & Dirty

  • Accidentally bought regular parsley instead of flat parsley but I don't think that made much of a difference
  • I did slice up my zucchini because I don't think they were as small as the recipe called for and I was afraid they wouldn't get soft and tender if I didn't chop them up into bite size pieces
  • Cut the recipe in I have to decide if I should make this recipe again to use up the rest of my pattypan or if I should venture out and try pattypan recipe #2!
  • The capers and lemon juice really make the veggies pop
  • Pattypan has a pretty similar taste to other yellow summer squash, but the unique shape makes for a very pretty dish, and they're good for you too!
  • Have I mentioned how super easy the whole dish is?  Just chop up the veggies and pop them in the oven and while they're roasting you can mix together the gremolata
  • Nothing, really....this was a very sunshiny summery smiley side dish

Ssssssssspicy Shrimp Tacos

Last time I made a dish with salsa (the Avocado Salsa) I was very disappointed in the lack of heat. Most recipes tell you to remove the seeds and membranes from jalapenos because that's where most of the fire is and I've always followed that advice.  This time around I wanted the spice that the title of this recipe implies so I just sliced up the jalapeno before throwing the whole thing into the food pro (even though the recipe calls for a half of one with the seeds removed).

Spicy Shrimp Tacos with Grilled Tomatillo Salsa

And wow did it work!  The salsa was pretty amazing and maybe just a tad too hot for my taste buds (which are pretty wussy).  I wanted to devour all of it with chips before I even put it on my tacos.  Now my mistake with this dish came when I coated the shrimp with their spices.  I only used half a pound of shrimp but did the full amounts of hot pepper sauce, ancho chipotle chili powder, and ground cumin.  Yowzers were these some spicy tacos.  I could barely make it through two.  Luckily I listened to Cooking Light and served them with sliced cantaloupe which did help a little.  I would like to try making these again, cutting back on the spices and using fresher shrimp (the frozen shrimp ended up super rubbery).

Quick & Dirty


  • One whole jalapeno with seeds in the salsa, I think with only a half and no seeds there wouldn't have been much heat at all
  • Cooked and frozen little shrimpies, this one was not a good change, can you say rubber bands?
  • Halved the amount of shrimp but covered them in the full recipe of spices, they were HOT!
  • Used chipotle chili powder instead of ancho because that's what I had on hand
  • The tomatillo salsa was really good, it was my first time using the little green tomato-like fruit (although they are related to the gooseberry and not tomatoes) and I will definitely be making more salsa verde in the future
  • Cantaloupe is a good side for these spicy wraps
  • Ground chipotle chili powder is still my favorite spice of the summer
  • Too hot to eat although I (wo)manned up and finished it all off
  • Didn't make enough salsa!  Finished off what was left after eating the leftover shrimp taco stuff with yellow corn tortilla chips, yum
  • I wanted to smother these in sour cream because that really balanced out the spice but I also knew that would just be piling on the calories so I tried to be careful and just toughed it out

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Cinnamon Applesauce + Chocolate Cake = Nummy

I was in the mood for a dense chocolate cake that I could really sink my teeth into and satisfy my sweet tooth without adding a lot more pudginess around the waist so I hit up All Recipes in search of the perfect thing.  I came across this, which didn't sound real appetizing at first (oil cake?) but got pretty good reviews and starts out with a pretty low calorie count at about 200 a piece which isn't bad for a delicious decadent dessert.

Then I read through the reviews and found an interesting an idea - substitute the vegetable oil for a cup of applesauce!  Crunching the numbers as I like to do, adding a cup of oil is almost 2,000 calories whereas a cup of applesauce is around 100.  Which means if the cake is cut up into 24 servings this would save almost 80 calories a piece!  Well, I had some cinnamon applesauce in the fridge so I thought what the heck, let's give it a go.  And the results were fairly amazing...

Quick & Dirty

  • Obviously as mentioned above, substituted the cup of vegetable oil for cinnamon applesauce
  • Since we saved all those calories...I didn't feel as guilty breaking up the cake on top of some vanilla ice cream and drizzling caramel sauce on top.  This is definitely the recommended way of eating this cake.
  • This cake is very dense and has an almost fudgy brownie-like consistency which personally I love
  • I'm sure this recipe would make great cupcakes and the addition of a light frosting would probably elevate it to a whole other level 
  • Another thing to note is the cake is egg-free in case anyone has allergies out there
  • I was greedy and kept this cake all to myself instead of sharing and sadly I didn't make it through the whole thing before it went bad...I definitely learned my lesson there!  
  • I tried making a homemade caramel sauce to drizzle on top but ended up burning it...guess it's not as easy as they make it look on TV

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mom's Stroganoff

What's more appropriate for Mother's Day than a recipe that was passed down from my grandma to my mom to me?  My grandma could whip this together from memory so my mom made her write it down.  My mom made her own changes and this is the version she gave me last time I asked for it.  I've made it a couple times now, so maybe it's my turn to put a twist or two on it!  Although it's already a five star dish just the way it is.  Thanks Mom!

Beef Stroganoff

1 1/2 lbs round steak
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 cups beef broth
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 small can sliced mushrooms
1 can Cream of Mushroom soup
16 oz sour cream
3 tbsp cornstarch
Wide egg noodles

Brown steak and onion in vegetable oil
Once meat is browned add beef broth
Stir in mushrooms and Worcestershire sauce and dash of salt
Simmer for at least 2 hours

When meat is tender and ready to eat:
Cook and drain noodles
Stir in Cream of Mushroom soup and sour cream to beef mixture
Dissolve cornstarch in 1/4 cup cold water
When beef mixture starts to boil, add cornstarch water to thicken the liquid

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Welcome Spring!

Say hello to spring with this easy grilled chicken recipe. The earthy green of the avocado and bright red tomato make a beautiful and delicious salsa and is definitely the star of the dish. Cooking Light suggested to serve this with saffron rice...well good luck finding such an exotic flavor in the minute-rice section! And I wasn't feeling ambitious enough to make my own that night so I just went with some easy Spanish Rice (one of those 5 minute Fiesta Sides) which was actually pretty tasty for how quick and easy it was.

The first night I had this I made everything pretty close to what the recipe called for and felt that it needed a little kick. The salsa was kind of oniony instead of spicy. So when I had the leftovers I chopped up a whole jalapeno (membranes and seeds removed) and threw it in with the second half of the salsa. It still wasn't very hot so I was kind of disappointed. The other thing I did the second time around to kick up the flavors was serve the chicken and salsa over some salty yellow corn tortilla chips. I really liked this addition because it gave the dish a crunchy texture which really helped because the avocados were pretty mushy a few days later.

Quick & Dirty

  • For the chicken I used dried cilantro instead of dealing with fresh cilantro that I'd end up throwing away most of a few days later
  • I pounded the chicken breasts a little so they'd cook faster on the grill
  • I also used bottled lime juice because unfortunately my lime went bad really fast :(
  • I tried adding some jalapeno to the salsa for a bit of a kick but I think I should've left some seeds in
  • The chicken came out pretty good, a bit of a crispy skin but moist on the inside
  • Mixing the chicken, salsa, and some crunchy chips together in one bite was the best way to eat it
  • Once in a while mix in a little spicy Spanish rice and it was a pretty good dish overall
  • The salsa needed more flavor...and I wonder if you actually marinaded the chicken for longer than 3 minutes if it would have had more flavor as well
  • I couldn't get my chicken to get real pretty grill marks like in their picture...I always just seem to brown the entire side and it makes it hard to eat
  • I was kind of hoping this would compare to Applebee's Fiesta Lime Chicken because that is definitely a favorite of mine but it didn't even come close

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Bugs Bunny's Dessert

What's up Doc? A carrot a day keeps the doctor away, you say? Well I don't think Bugs is the only one who'd like to eat this dish every day. I made this for a side dish to go along with the turkey rolls but it doubled as dessert as well. So much more do I need to say?

The color and texture will remind you of sweet potatoes but surprise surprise, it's carrots! There's so much sweetness added that there's not a lot of carrot taste left, so this is perfect for those picky eaters who insist they don't want to eat their veggies. It does take a while to bake in the oven so make sure to plan ahead so it comes out hot and ready when everything else is ready to go.

I'm pretty sure Bugs was talking about this dish when he said "Carrots are devine... You get a dozen for a dime, It's maaaa-gic!"

Quick & Dirty

  • I cut the recipe in half because I didn't think I needed 8 servings of it...but I probably could've made the whole thing because Cooking Light's definition of a serving is a little different than mine
  • Used regular sour cream...another thing I'm not a fan of fat-free
  • Next time I might try putting the servings into individual souffle dishes
  • Creamy
  • Sweet
  • Nutritious!
  • That I didn't make the entire 8 servings because leftovers were just as delicious!
  • Some people may think it's a little too sweet...especially as a side dish.  Personally I could eat this for the main course, side dish and dessert!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Turkey Dinner all rolled up!

The weekend before Easter I was craving a full turkey dinner for some reason. We normally have ham for Easter so I knew if I wanted to fulfill this craving I'd have whip it up myself. I've never made a whole turkey before...actually I've never done much with turkey myself other than some delicious sandwiches. I looked to see what I had marked for turkey recipes in my Cooking Light magazines and apparently this is the only one that had piqued my interest. It actually turned out to be the perfect thing for a whole turkey dinner for one. I think the only thing missing was the mashed potatoes!

Whenever anyone cooks with turkey on TV everyone is always worried about how dry it's going to be, so I didn't go into this one with real high expectations. I've also had back luck with "rolled up" or "stuffed" things in the past because I can usually only get a little bit of the stuff stuffed into the meat and that ends up being the best stuff...I mean part. I decided to give a shot anyway because it looked fairly easy and if it turned out to be pretty good it'd be a nice dish to add to the rotation because it'd be nice change from the usual pasta and chicken dishes. It took me forever to find anything resembling a "turkey cutlet" in my mega mart and I think I end up buying turkey tenderloins. Turns out these don't really pound to be really thin and then have something rolled up in them very well, but they worked. Wonder if I could find turky cutlets anywhere else in town. I've been settling with whatever ingredients I find at this store (it's literally just a couple blocks from my house and I've walked over there on numerous occassions) but I may have to venture farther in the grocery store world as I continue to further my food adventures!

The Quick & Dirty

  • Used turkey tenderloins instead of cutlets just because that's all I could find, cutlets probably would've worked better
  • Didn't use any dried sage...pretty much just forgot to buy any, probably would've helped spice up the stuffing mixture
  • Used regular chicken broth instead of the fat-free, less sodium stuff...this is one place where I don't think losing the few extra calories is worth the taste that's lost
  • The chicken actually came out pretty moist and not dry at all!  Some people suggested cooking the turkey in the chicken broth which probably wouldn't be a bad idea
  • I kept the extra stuffing that wouldn't fit in the turkey and just served it on the side which turned out to be a great plan
  • I made a few rolls and had the extras for dinner a few nights later and I think it was even better warmed up the second time around!  I kept the cranberry glaze in a separate dish and warmed that up again too and all the flavors seemed to be even stronger after sitting together in the fridge
  • The stuffing tasted pretty strongly of onion and not a lot of apple, but that's probably my own fault in not cutting back on all the ingredients in equal proportions when halving the recipe
  • I think the sage would've helped so next time I'll have to make sure and get some
  • The stupid roll up concept really wasn't necessary and seemed to add extra stress to the prep.  Next time I might just try making everything separately and piling it up together at the end

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Do you know the muffin man? What about the muffin Woman??

I always have a banana or two left at the end of the week and sadly they usually end up going in the garbage. This weekend I decided to turn them into yummy muffins. These taste way better than a plain banana (even though I eat one every morning at work I'm not really a fan...) but I'm sure they have a little different nutritional value. It was funny going from ooey gooey banana mash, just like I probably spit up when I was little, to delicious chocolately muffins.

I followed the recipe exactly on this one and they came out perfectly.  There are definitely some changes I want to try next time though, and like I said I always have bananas left at the end of the week so I'm sure I'll get a chance for a next time.  Nuts in addition to or instead of chocolate chips...a lot of reviewers said they used half or all whole wheat flour....low-fat yogurt probably wouldn't make a difference in taste.  Next time I want to fill the muffin pans more for a little bigger muffins because I'm sad after they're gone in a few bites!  Overall they have a great taste and texture....I almost don't want to share them at work and keep them all for myself!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Nutty Irish Ice Cream

A new signature creation at Cold Stone? Nope...but it should be. Although not having to get into my car, drive however many miles (the Cold Stone a couple blocks from my house closed right before I moved in, so sad), and pay whatever crazy amount they're charging these days is definitely a bonus. I wonder how much they pay for new signature creation ideas...

3 scoops homemade Chocolate Guinness Ice Cream + a dollop of whipped cream fresh out of a can + chopped up butter toffee peanuts = Sweet Crunchy Chocolately Perfection

I mean...Nutty Irish Ice Cream!
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Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Best Thing I Ever Made!

Ever since I saw this dish on The Best Thing I Ever Ate - Totally Fried I really wanted to try it but didn't think I'd ever get the chance unless I made the trip out to Cleveland. Aaron Sanchez said this was the best fried dish he's ever had and I'm guessing he's had the opportunity to try a lot of dishes. It's an appetizer on Michael Symon's menu at Lolita (although I just checked out their menu online and I don't see it...would be such a shame to actually make it there one day and they no longer serve it). I'm just surprised the recipe doesn't call for bacon or any other pork product since Michael's involved, although I think he mentioned his sous chef is the one that came up with the idea of fried brussels sprouts.

Fresh brussels sprouts are a lot of work but they're one of my favorite veggies so it's usually worth it. As usual I had to buy some new ingredients for the dish...anchovies and capers. I was proud of myself for actually locating them in the grocery store on my own, although the bottle of capers that I picked wasn't in the system so somebody had to go look up the price and key it in for me. So much for the self-checkout. I decided to do the frying in my dutch oven instead of the snack fryer in hopes that I could do more at a time and I think that was a good decision. I was able to do over three pounds of sprouts in just three batches, although the temp went below 350 degrees right away. The first batch browned up in under a minute but the other two took a few minutes. The things splattered oil all over the place! Next time (and there's definitely going to be many more times..) I think I'm going to try just roasting them instead because I don't think the deep frying is what made this dish so delish. The flavors of the dressing are amazing with the red wine vinegar, saltiness of the anchovies and capers, and the crunch of the walnuts. Soooo good...

The Quick & Dirty

  • Pretty much nothing...if you can't trust a recipe from an Iron Chef what in this life can you trust??
  • Didn't have quite 2 cups of parsley only because the package I bought was only about 1 1/2 cups
  • Pretty much everything!  Every bite is just an explosion of flavor in your mouth
  • If you're not one who usually likes brussels sprouts, I think you'd still like this dish because of everything else going on in it
  • The first time I've ever cooked with anchovies and it turned out great!  Although I couldn't really taste them with everything else, but hey you have to start somewhere
  • It is a quite a bit of prep work and clean up, but I made a lot so hopefully the leftovers warm up nicely
  • I spent so long taking pictures of my masterpiece that they weren't steaming hot anymore when I finally got to try them
  • With the deep frying and other ingredients all of the nutrition of the veggies is probably lost, but I am definitely going to try and make a "lighter" version and see if it's still as yummy
  • I wasn't sure what would taste good with it so I just made a simple breaded chicken breast but next to the sprouts it basically had no flavor.  Next time I'm thinkin' a juicy steak might actually stand up next to these bold flavors
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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

I scream, You scream, the Irish scream for...Guinness Ice Cream?

Who would've thought that chocolate and beer would make such a wonderful combination when frozen? I sure didn't until I tried the concoction tonight and fell in love. I made Bittersweet Chocolate and Stout Beer Ice Cream for our St. Patty's Day work Ceili (pronounced kay-lee and is basically just a traditional Gaelic social gathering) and can't wait for everyone to try it. I did a taste test tonight, and then another one, and a few more just to be safe, and definitely give it my stamp of approval.

A couple weeks ago I made my first ice cream, a Vanilla Bean Ice Cream with you got it...a real vanilla bean! I had bought a couple a while ago and at $8 for two beans I was hoping there was something magical about these strange skinny little black beans and I think there is because the ice cream turned out pretty delicious. I followed the recipe straight from the ice cream maker's manual. The consistency didn't seem quite right and I was afraid that's just how homemade ice cream is, but after making the chocolate ice cream which came out very smooth I think it's just because the frozen bowls for the ice cream maker weren't 100% frozen when I made the vanilla. Lesson learned on that one I guess.

Next up I'm excited to try a Mint Chocolate Chip that has gotten rave reviews and again looks simple enough. I also want to try a Cheesecake ice cream at some point because the Pie Who Loved Me is my favorite signature creation at Cold Stone even though I've only had it one time.
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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Crunchy Mac & Cheese?

Tonight I was in the mood for some nummy comfort food that wasn't a lot of work.  What could be more comforting than a steamy bowl of macaroni and cheese?

I've wanted to try something with Panko (a Japanese breadcrumb made from bread without crusts) for a long time because they're supposed to be even crunchier than regular.  This was the perfect recipe for a taste test.  They are definitely a different consistency than the traditional or Italian breadcrumbs that I usually use, not as finely crushed but a little bigger pieces.  I also added a splash of white wine to the cheese sauce and some cut up already cooked ham to make it a meal.  Overall it was pretty good, but not very cheesy.  Guess I'm still on a quest for a yummy homemade mac and cheese that's not out of a box and isn't 1000 calories per serving!

The Quick & Dirty

  • Added wine to the cheese sauce
  • Added chunks of pre-cooked ham when mixing the pasta and the cheese together
  • Used whole grain shell pasta instead of macaroni noodles
  • Used regular mozzarella cheese
  • Baked it in an 8x8 dish instead of individual ramekins (although this sounds like a cool idea if I were serving to other people)
  • The bread crumbs made it nice and crunchy
  • Not too much prep work
  • No crazy ingredients so it'd be good for those picky eaters
  • Not really very cheesy or creamy
  • Should've left it in the oven a bit longer to get even browner and crunchier on top
  • The recipe calls for way too many breadcrumbs...could've cut back on that
  • Not sure if buying a whole thing of bay leaves was worth it for the one that got cooked in with the cheese

Sunday, March 7, 2010

My First Chutney

I had a leftover pork chop calling me from the freezer so I decided to browse through my recipes and the March 2009 issue of Cooking Light actually featured many mouth watering choices.  I chose this one because I've always wanted to make a chutney ("A pungent relish made of fruits, spices, and herbs") and because I'd get to use my new grill pan.

Spiced Pork Chops with Apple Chutney

I followed this recipe pretty closely, except for the fact that I made a single serving.  So I cut the chutney ingredients to a third of the original but wish I would've done more like half because it wasn't quite enough to have a bite of chutney with every bite of pork chop.  I still mixed together the same amount of spices for the chop and really coated it with the rub instead of just sprinkling.  Wow was it spicy but delicious!  The guy at Cub helped me locate the more obscure spices and almost $10 later I'm the proud owner of ground chipotle chile pepper and ground coriander (I have coriander seeds but no way to grind them).  Definitely worth it...I'm going to start searching for more ways to use the chiptole pepper as soon as I'm done with this.  Next time I'll probably cut back on the spice just a bit and make a different side dish; the green beans didn't really do anything for me.

The Quick & Dirty


  • Made one serving but didn't adjust everything accordingly, result was a very spicy chop and not enough chutney
  • Used bottled minced ginger instead of messing with the stuff myself
  • A bite of spicy, juicy pork chop with a bite of sweet chutney...simply amazing
  • Homemade vanilla bean ice cream to help with the heat...perfect dessert
  • Only prep work is chopping up the apple and combining all the spices.....simply simple
  • May have been a bit too spicy
  • Pork probably could've used a little bit longer on the grill
  • Made the side dish with fresh string beans instead of haricots verts, were still very crispy and didn't really have any special flavor

    Light & Spicy Pasta

    Last night I made a pasta that was so flavorful and delicious I couldn't believe it was good for me!  I subscribe to the Cooking Light magazine and have tried many of their recipes with mixed results.  This one has earned an average of 5 stars by 55 people and I can see why.

    Ziti with Spinach, Cherry Tomatoes, and Gorgonzola Sauce

    I made mine with whole wheat penne pasta because I couldn't whole-wheat or multi-grain ziti at Cub and I keep hearing that this is supposed to be healthier for you.  I wish I knew the difference between whole-wheat and multi-grain but my 30 second Google search failed to give me a straight answer so I guess I'll have to continue to wonder.  This is one healthy choice that's easy for me to make because I can't tell the difference in taste between this and regular pasta.  I'll definitely try this one again with variations suggested in the reviews such as adding chicken or prosciutto and blue cheese instead of gorgonzola.

    The Quick & Dirty:


    • Whole Wheat Penne instead of Ziti
    • Little more red pepper
    • A lot more spinach
    • Added flour to the half and half in attempt to thicken the sauce
    • Little prep (just have to halve the tomatoes)
    • Easy to double and make lotsa leftovers
    • Spicy, sweet, cheesy...doesn't get much better than that combo
    • Burnt the garlic bread I attempted to make with it
    • Very sad because the sauce is amazing and needs bread to wipe it all up
    • Sauce didn't get very thick, will try adding more flour next time

      It's been a whole year!

      A whole year since my last post which I stated I was going to actually start blogging on a regular basis...does once a year count...?

      I decided to make a few "Beginning of March" resolutions because I hate that everyone makes random plans and goals on January 1st that they've probably already given up on. First goal, exercise more so I don't feel so guilty about all the food I want to make and eat. I plan on starting that one tomorrow...

      Goal numero dos, start planning meals for the weekend before Saturday at 4 so I can actually go to the grocery store when it's not crazy busy with hungry, crying little kids. Ok yesterday I had the meals planned out but I still went to the store at 4, thankfully it wasn't too busy yet. We'll continue working on this one.

      And for three/drei/C I really do want to take more pictures of the food I've been making and post a short blog about my triumphs, challenges and what I'd do differently if I were to make the dish again. This one starts right here, right now!  At least a blog a week, probably on Sunday nights after whipping up some good meals over the weekend.  Only problem is my camera has decided to only take matter what I try it's stuck in video mode and won't switch to regular camera mode. A new camera is moving up on the "next big purchase" list. So tonight I'll just try to describe the yumminess and put up links if you want to go look at a professional's picture :)