Tag Archives: Food

Rainbow Pasta

Michigan has graced us with four consecutive days of beautiful Springtime weather.

This wouldn’t be such a big deal, except, this time last year it snowed for the last time for the season. And it snowed a LOT.

I know it’s coming. I know it. We always get one more dump of snow and then winter is officially over (usually) the second week of April.

I’m not going to go over the logistics; I’m thoroughly enjoying this weather and hope to continue doing so for a few more days.

In lieu of the warm weather I made a most delicious pasta dish full of roasted vegetables. It just makes me think of Spring and warm weather!

You’ll see why I call it Rainbow Pasta if you keep reading.

Rainbow Pasta starring:

•1 pound Farfalle (bow tie) pasta (or any pasta of your choice)
•3 carrots, peeled
•1 red bell pepper (or 2..they roast up beautifully!)
•1 yellow bell pepper
•1 green bell pepper
•1/2 cup grape tomatoes
•1/2 red onion (or a whole one if it’s on the small size)
•1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasonings (marjoram, thyme, oregano, basil, parsley)
•1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
•1 cup pasta water
*S&P to taste

Start by preheating your oven to 450ºF

Peel and cut the carrots into thin strips. Do the same with all the other vegetables.

See why I call it Rainbow Pasta?? So many pretty colors! Makes me antsy for Spring!
You could also use summer squash, zucchini, eggplant…whatever you like! I haven’t met a roasted vegetable I didn’t like.

Place all the vegetables onto a baking sheet in their own little piles.

Drizzle some olive oil all over the vegetables and season with salt and pepper. Toss them carefully and lightly, but try to maintain their little piles as best you can.

Put them into the oven and set the timer for 10 minutes.

While that’s happening, start boiling your water and cook your pasta. I used Farfalle pasta, or bow tie pasta. Really, you can use any kind of pasta you like. Penne would work great, or rigatoni. I just had bow tie in the house and it’s one of my favorite kinds of pasta, so that’s what I used.

After 10 minutes, check on the vegetables and stir them around a bit. At this point, sprinkle the herbs on top and put them back into the oven for another 10-15 minutes.

This is what they look like when they come out of the oven. The vegetables are done when 1). you can smell them (and believe me, you can!), 2). they look a little wilted, which lets you know they’ve roasted beautifully. More importantly, the carrots are tender and soft.

Let them cool while the pasta finishes cooking. You can also get your grape tomatoes ready. The ones that were bigger, I cut in half. But for the most part you can leave them whole. When they’re in the pasta, they’ll burst in your mouth with amazing flavor – so delicious!

You can also grate your Parmesan cheese.

I buy the real stuff. I’ve said it before, but it’s true: using quality ingredients makes a world of difference. I’m also a food snob when I want to be ;-)

When the pasta is done, measure out 1 cup of the pasta water. The starchy water will help mix all the ingredients together and since we salted the pasta water when it came to a boil, it’ll intensify the flavor of the dish even more! Mmm! Mmm!

Drain your pasta and return it to the same pot (no use dirtying a new dish). Pour all your vegetables (carefully!) into the pot and stir.

Pour a little bit of the pasta water and stir a bit more. Add in the cheese, tomatoes and the rest of the pasta water, and give it one more good stir.

Grate some more cheese on top – honestly, you can’t have enough cheese – and enjoy!

It’s such an easy dish to prepare and it’s colorful, fresh and flavorful. I’m sure you’ll love it!

How To Make Chai

Having the sniffles, stinks.

I woke up this morning feeling as if I’d swallowed a softball. Blech. My nose was pretty stuffy and my sinuses ached. I stayed home from work and did nothing all day.

Then it occurred to me: What is the one thing that could make me feel better? My mom’s Chai.

Well, my mom lives an hour away and I needed the Chai right then and there.

So I made some. And it was amazing. Chai is the traditional spice tea that people in India drink almost every day instead of having coffee. It’s delicious and so easy to make at home.

And now I’ll tell you how to make it at home, too.

My moms Chai is the cure for the common cold. I’m not kidding. It’s spicy so it clears up your sinuses, it’s hot so it soothes and it makes you sleepy so you’ll rest.

If I don’t fall asleep halfway through writing this entry, please applaud me.

Here’s what you’ll need for 1 serving of Chai (I’ll explain each ingredient after):
•Black Cloves
•Cardamom (in the pod)
•Cinnamon stick
•Black peppercorn
•2 tea bags

I use a British tea, often referred to as Darjaleeng, which is what you see above. It’s the most common type of tea used. You can use loose-leaf tea if you want, but tea bags are much easier (and easier to dispose).

There are probably like 5-8 whole black peppercorns in there. Now, this ingredient is totally optional. In fact, my mom told me she only uses peppercorns when she’s sick since the spice and heat from the pepper helps clear the sinuses. So obviously, I used some today.

5-6 pieces of cardamom, in the pod.

Cardamom is a staple ingredient in Chai. If you don’t have any of the other ingredients, this is the one you should have if you want to make Chai, or garam masala. It’s spicy, sweet and smokey. I love it! Now, a lot of people will wonder why you need the pods because if you open the pod, you get cardamom seeds that look black like what I used when I made garam masala. I use the pods because I like the flavor even from the skin so it’s not just the seeds that help create the distinct flavor of Chai.

Cinnamon stick. Powder won’t cut it. This adds another spicy-sweet flavor. A “mulling” spice, if you will.

You need a pinch of whole black cloves. This adds a SUPER intense smokey flavor that I just love.

Let’s make some Chai! Because I’m still surprised I’m awake…

You’ll need a mortar and pestle. If you don’t have one, they aren’t expensive to buy. You could grind everything up in a grinder, but I don’t think having a powder works quite as well.

I’ve mentioned before how much I love mine. It was a wonderful gift from my parents and a perfect use for making Chai.

Since I made Chai only for myself, this is 1 1/2 cups of water I put into a sauce pan to heat. Let the water get a little hot before you add in the tea.

So while that’s happening, you can make your Chai mixture.

Break up the cinnamon either with your hands or with the pestle (the “bat” used to crush things)

Place all the ingredients into the mortar and pestle and go to town to crush it all up!

This is what you end up with. I inhaled this mixture about a million times, and that alone made me feel a ton better. All the oils were released and it smelled so wonderful.

When the water is hot (not boiling), add in the tea bags and stir. Let it steep for 5-10 minutes.

It’ll turn a lovely mahogany color as it’s steeping. Soooo pretty!

Add in the Chai mix to the water and tea bags. Let it heat through another 5 minutes or so and stir well. As you do, you’ll really smell the Chai and your nose will grow impatient.

When it’s all done, pour the tea into a measuring cup. This will make for easy pouring into your cup.

Using a strainer, pour the tea into your cup.

The strainer will catch all the tea mixture, but leave the great intense flavor in your cup.

Traditionally, Chai is served with milk and sugar. It’s how I’ve always had it growing up, so having tea just straight black, tastes horrible to me.

You really only want enough milk to turn the Chai into a beautiful chestnut color. You’ll need to add quite a bit of sugar to help sweeten it. If you don’t, it’ll be REALLY strong. I mean, I guess you could leave it that way, but I like it sweet.

So there you go! It’s definitely not hard to make your own Chai and beats what ever they serve you at your local coffee shop because that’s almost always pre-made. That’s definitely not my BAG. Heh heh. Sorry, the puns are thanks to the cold. Although, my sniffles have reduced a ton thanks to this tea. I’m not kidding: cure for the common cold. Well, at least I like to think so.

How To Make Garam Masala

Garam masala is the one spice mixture you need for Indian cooking. Store-bought doesn’t cut it for me. Call me high maintenance, but you can’t skimp on good flavor and spice!

I make a lot of curries and most every recipe,  if not all of them, requires 1 tablespoon (I like my curries spicy!) of this incredible spice. This is actually a combination of six different spices ground together into a fine powder.

Up until now, my mom made the masala for me because she makes huge batches and loves to share. But now I’m a grown up, so making it at home is super simple and now I’m going to let you in on the secret of how to make it!

Now, you could use the old fashioned method of making your own masala with a mortar and pestle. However, that isn’t ideal if you want to make big batches, like I did tonight.

This guide will show you how to make your own at home! It’s super easy and believe me, once you make it, you won’t ever buy store-bought again.

What you’ll need:
•2 tablespoons black cardamom seeds
•2 tablespoons whole peppercorns
•2 tablespoons cumin seeds
•2 tablespoons coriander seeds
•1 cinnamon stick
•2 whole dried red chilies

You also need a grinder. Like I said, you could use a mortar and pestle, but a coffee grinder would be a better choice. My mom actually has two: one for grinding coffee, and one for spices. Great investment.

Beautiful sight isn’t it? These are the spices you’ll need to make this masala. There are many variations to this recipe and I’m sure you can find them all online, but this is what my mom uses. So by default, this is what I use ;-) It’s all relative (ba-dum-bum pssh!)

Let’s talk about those spices in detail, shall we?

Coriander seeds are little tan seeds, which add a super strong, pungent taste to your masala.

Whole peppercorns don’t need any explanation. They’re spicy and necessary.

One whole cinnamon stick. This is going to add a spicy-sweet flavor to the masala. Don’t worry, you won’t use the whole thing (that would be WAY too overpowering), but this will add just a hint of sweet spice in the background. I guess kind of like nutmeg, but not as mild.

Whole dried red chilies. Yum! These will add such a kick. There is no such thing as “mild” garam masala, so don’t skimp. Add the heat.

Cumin seeds add a lovely smokey flavor to the masala. It’s not quite spicy, but it’s not bland either. I can’t explain it, except that it’s wonderful. Cumin seeds are used a lot on their own in other curries.

And finally we have black cardamom seeds. Cardamom is a very distinct spice used a lot in Indian cooking. Most people know cardamom as one of the main ingredients in Chai. That kind is the green pods, but these black seeds are used in garam masala. The more you know.

So those are the spices! They’re lovely and don’t fret. They aren’t as expensive as you might think. Most Indian grocery stores sell them in decent-sized bags for between $3-7. And believe me, they’ll last a long time, so it’s well worth your money.

To prepare the garam masala, you simply dry roast all these ingredients in a skillet over medium heat for 15 or so minutes.

Dry roasting is essential when making this. This will release all the oils in the spices and will create and incredible depth of flavor.

Every few minutes, lift the skillet off the heat and swirl it to stir the spices around. You want to dry roast the ingredients for up to 15 minutes, or until the air is aromatic. And believe me, you’ll know when it’s done.

Once it’s finished, turn off the stove and place the skillet on a cool burner. Let it cool completely (5-10 minutes) before you grind it.

Remove the cinnamon stick from the skillet and if you have a mortar and pestle, break it up and place only a few pieces back into the spice mixture. So basically what I did was roast the cinnamon to infuse the flavors into the skillet and then only using a little bit of it in the actual mixture so that it’s not overpowering. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, just use a rolling pin or anything hard to help break up the stick. Save the rest of the cinnamon, too! You can use it in another dish or grate it over tea or cider.

Once the spices have cooled, you can take a little bit at a time and grind it down to a fine powder as shown above. Do this until the entire mixture is a fine powder.

The end result is this amazing little spice mountain of decadence. Store it into an jar or air tight container and it’ll keep for up to 6 weeks! You only need to use about 1/2 a tablespoon at a time when you add into your curries. Unless you’re me. Then you’ll be adding 1 tablespoon or more for that heat.

So that wasn’t too hard, right? The hardest part is finding all the spices, but once you get them, it’s smooth grinding from there.

Baked Mashed Potatoes

So simple, so sinful.

I love potatoes. I really don’t think “love” is a strong enough word for how I feel about these starchy roots of heaven.

One of my coworkers and friends JLN told me how he made these mashed potatoes that were to die for, and then he 1-up’d himself and baked them.

That was enough for me to want to try this. I knew the basic recipe had to be easy. But what I really needed from him was the temperature to bake the dish. There are also a ton of recipes around the web about this dish, but I decided to take what I had and make it with those ingredients. Funny enough, the recipe he used, actually used the ingredients I had to use up! (I just said “use” a lot in that phrase..)

So yeah, if you have stuff in your fridge you need to use up, make this dish! It takes up to an hour from start to finish, but it’s well worth it.

Here’s what we used:
•5 russet potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces. Leave the peels on! I love the potato skin
•5 oz. 1/3 less fat Neufchatel cheese (basically 1/3 less fat cream cheese. It’s what I had leftover from the cinnamon rolls)
•1/2 cup chopped chives (about 15 “strands” of chives I had leftover from baked potatoes we made a few days ago)
•1/4 cup light sour cream (this is optional. We didn’t end up using a lot of this)
•S&P to taste
•1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
•2 tablespoons margarine or butter

Boil the potatoes until their fork tender. Then drain them and transfer them back to your boiling pot (no need to dirty a new bowl)

Add in your cream cheese, sour cream and mash ‘em up! I don’t know why my masher decided to go MIA the one time I needed it, but fear not! Since the potatoes were so tender, we used a fork and it worked just as well. If you want yours super creamy, use a hand mixer if you have one. Would work beautifully for an extra creamy texture.

Then add in your chives and cheese. Chives add a lovely, mild onion flavor. You can totally take this out if you don’t want that. …But why would you NOT have sour cream and chives on a potato…? That’s just crazy talk.

Add some salt and pepper to taste.

Pour the entire pot of mashed potatoes into a lightly greased 9 x 13 glass baking dish (just spray with some cooking spray). Spread the mixture out evenly.

Take the 1-2 tablespoons of butter and break it up to spread evenly across the top of the potatoes.

Sprinkle some leftover cheese (or additional cheese in my case. ahem.) on top

Bake at 350ºF for 25-30 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the potatoes are golden brown.

Mmkay. I clearly don’t need to explain what’s going on in that picture. Did I mention how much I love potatoes?

Just little bites of heaven. Sigh. Love, love, love.

Unfortunately, using up those ingredients to make this dish only created more leftovers for me to get rid of… (–_–;  Ah well. All in the name of love.

Cinnamonamonamonamon buns

Gooey, delicious, and guaranteed to be horrible for you, these cinnamon buns are amazing.

I can’t in any way take credit for this recipe. My future bro-in-law makes these buns and they are to DIE for. He uses the recipe off King Arthur Flour’s web site. And since that just so happens to be the flour we use, of course we had to try this recipe. He did offer some alterations and some tips for us that is different than the actual recipe, which I’ll talk allllll about here.

Warning: Butter WILL be your best friend in this recipe. So if you’re on a diet, I suggest turning away now. …But I hope you don’t, because it’s so delicious! Also, this recipe will make you lethargic. True story.

OK, so now that I’ve done my part and given you the warnings, we can go ahead and talk about how to make these rolls of heaven.

Cinnamonamaonamonamon buns starring:
The Dough:
•4 1/2 cups King Arthur All-Purpose Flour (or all-purpose flour if you don’t use this brand)
•1/2 cup of granulated sugar
•1 3/4 teaspoon salt
•1/3 cup unsalted butter, cut up
•2 large eggs, room temperature
•2 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast (we just used Red Star-brand active dry yeast)
•1 cup milk (lukewarm – just stick it into the microwave for 20-30 seconds. This is to help the yeast react properly)

The Filling:
•1 cup packed brown sugar (we used dark – more depth of flavor)
•1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened (just leave it out for 1-2 hours)
•3 tablespoons ground cinnamon

The Icing:
•3 oz. plain cream cheese (we used the 1/3 less fat neufchatel cheese, which isn’t as bad for you and has a lot more flavor)
•1 1/2 cup powdered (or confectioners) sugar
•1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
•1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened (that’s 1/2 a stick)

Start to make your dough by adding the milk, a little bit of the sugar (like 1/8 teaspoon) and the yeast to your mixer bowl. With the paddle attachment, start mixing the ingredients.

If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can use a hand mixer, or a wooden spoon.

Next, add the flour, rest of the sugar and the salt. Let the entire thing combine until it’s “cohesive” as the site would suggest. Then you can take it out and knead on a well oiled surface for 5-8 minutes. Or, you can attach the dough hook to your KitchenAid and knead it that way for 4-7 minutes on low-to-medium speed.

This is how the dough will look when it’s all nice and combined

Put the dough into a separate bowl, so you can clean out the metal mixer bowl and oil it. Then put the dough back into it and turn it around to oil it well. Next, turn on your oven to the lowest temperature (100 or 150ºF for maybe 1-2 minutes and then turn it off). Instead of just covering the dough with a towel or something, we put ours in the oven to rise. Just cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put it in the oven for 60 minutes so it can rise.

Go do your laundry, or play a video game or something for the hour while you wait for the dough to rise. It’ll go by quick, though!

When the dough is ready, oil a surface (or a few cutting boards in our case) and dump the dough ball onto it. Roll it out to 16 x 21 inches.

With your softened butter for the filling, spread it all over the dough. I know how horrible this looks, but believe me, you want it to look like this. It was a bit overwhelming, not going to lie. Now, I guess you could melt the butter first and then pour it onto the dough. Our butter was soft enough, so this worked just as well.

Then you want to sprinkle the entire thing with the cinnamon and sugar mixture. Get it all on there, too!

From the shortest end, start rolling the dough up into a tight log.

Cut the roll log into 12 pieces and place into a lightly greased 9 x 13 baking dish. It’s easiest to the cut the log into half, and then each half into six pieces.

Once you get all the pieces in your dish, you have to let them rise again. Cover the dish with plastic wrap, proof your oven again (set it to the lowest temperature for 1-2 minutes) and then turn the oven off, place the dish in there, and let them rise for 30 minutes.

It may not look like they’ve risen a ton, but they have.

Next, set your oven to 400ºF, and bake the rolls for 15 minutes. They won’t take long! So once the rolls are baking away, you can make your icing. You want to make the icing while they’re baking so that you can spread it on each bun as soon as they come out of the oven.

Mix the cream cheese (softened), butter (softened), powdered sugar and vanilla extract. You just use a fork and mix it well and you’ll end up with the most amazing cream cheese icing. Zomg. It took a lot not to eat the lovely forkful REB held up for me…

Moving on…

Spread the icing on the buns as soon as they come out of the oven. They’ll be all golden brown when they’re finished. The icing will instantly melt on top of each of the rolls. Must…contain…self.

If you notice one is missing, it’s because I snagged to take a photo of it. …or eat it. Ahem.

It’s OK to be jealous. Enjoy!

Jerusalem Garden

Every few days, REB and I have a date night. A lot of people do it, and we do too. It’s nice to be able to forget about work, other people, any thing else really and just focus on spending time together. I love when it happens all the time, though. OK enough gushy stuff.

We went to a place in downtown Ann Arbor called Jerusalem Garden. It’s located right off Liberty St. and is next to another favorite restaurant of mine, The Earthen Jar. We have never been to Jerusalem Garden and I was in the mood for some Middle Eastern food. There aren’t many places around here that have that kind of cuisine. I gave Palm Palace one chance and the place was the biggest disappointment, so we’ve never gone back. Though, I know my close friend B is all about that place.

Anyway, we loved Jerusalem Garden! It’s a quaint, little place that doesn’t seat a whole lot of people, but the prices are very reasonable and the portions are great. It reminded me of my favorite Middle Eastern place in East Lansing, Woody’s Oasis.

When you walk in you’re in the kitchen! You have the option of being seated (sign not pictured, but is to the right), or you can eat at the bar or order take out. If you go past that wooden post on the left, there are high-top tables if you choose to eat up front near the grill.

Should you choose to dine in (which I recommend), simply wait to be seated. You’ll be taken up three little steps and then into the back of the tiny building to the seating area. Bathrooms are located all the way in the back behind the curtain. There is additional seating outside, which is of course used during the warmer months.

As you can see from the prices, this place isn’t that bad at all. And, like many places in Ann Arbor, they have an entire section of vegetarian dishes. This place already was a winner for us!

We decided to get an appetizer and ordered the hommus served with warm pita. We also each got the lentil soup (which to me, is basically like eating dal straight up).

This portion was enormous! Granted, it was the large, but we didn’t expect it to be this much! Overall, it tasted really good. I could definitely taste the tahini and garlic. I wish it was a little more spice though. Fear not! They have hot sauce sitting right on the table. I had to add a few dashes of that into my soup. I love dal, but I need the heat.

I ordered the falafel sandwich with fattoush. I was in heaven. This was an amazing sandwich! It was warm, flavorful, fresh and seasoned so well. All the vegetables tasted fresh and crunchy and the hommus was an excellent condiment. I could only eat half since I was so full from everything else, but the other half came home with me to be eaten later. REB got the plain falafel sandwich, which he gave two thumbs up (and a big satisfying smile).

Overall, I give this place two very big thumbs up. The service was outstanding and our server was really friendly. The prices are more than reasonable. We got all that food for around $20. Not bad at all. Location can kind of stink, since it is downtown, so you either have to find street parking (unless that’s all for residents living on that street), or park in any of the parking garages in downtown Ann Arbor (which isn’t horribly priced for the amount of time we spent downtown after dinner).

Definitely give Jerusalem Garden a shot! I was really pleased with everything there and will most definitely make a trip back!

Easy Peasy Baked Mac and Cheesy

The ultimate comfort food, and just so happens to be one of (out of many many many) my favorite foods EVER. Pasta and cheese? Yes, please!

I don’t make it that often because it’s obviously not the greatest thing for your figure. But when it’s the weekend, and I need that ultimate comfort food, this is what I make. REB also loves it, so anything I can do to please my man, the better.

Here’s what you’ll need:

Aren’t they all cute lined up and ready for roll call?

•1/2 cup of butter. That would be a whole stick. Hey, I already said this wasn’t healthy. So deal with it, people!
•1 pound of pasta
•2 1/2 cups shredded cheese of your choice. I used half a block of extra sharp cheddar and also bought brand-name Colby-Jack mix.
•1/4 teaspoon nutmeg. As my favorite goat-woman Rachel Ray would say, it’s the thing that makes them go, “Hmmm…what IS that?”
•1 teaspoon Dijon mustard. Pardon me…would you happen to have any Grey Poupon? Why yes, I do!

…ahem…moving on…

•1/2 cup flour
•3 3/4 cups milk (the only healthy thing in the bunch as I used the fat free variety)
•1/2 teaspoon black pepper
•1 teaspoon salt
•Half a small bag of Goldfish crackers

Let’s get cheesin’

First preheat your oven to 350ºF. You want that thing waiting for you, not you waiting for it.

Then cook the pasta. I went ahead and boiled my water and when it came to a boil, I dumped the pasta in and then started making my sauce. It’s totally fine if your pasta cooks first. You want it to cook to al dente since it will finish cooking in the oven with the cheese.

I used Cavatappi pasta.
This is hands down my favorite kind of pasta. I tried this recipe with different kinds of pasta: Elbow, Farfalle, Shells, etc. But, I love Cavatappi. I love the way it sounds when you say it, and I love the shape. Plus, it’s got those sweet lines to help the ooey-gooey cheese stick to each lovely noodle. Ah, bliss.

As your pasta starts cooking, get to making your sauce.

Melt the butter over low heat. I cut it up to help the melting process go a little faster.

Once it’s all melted, or just about there, you can add in the flour.

Add the flour a little at a time and raise the heat a little. Stir the roux until it is smooth and bubbly.

Remove the roux from the heat, and add the milk. Return the saucepan to the stove and heat to boiling, stirring constantly.

….and I mean that.

Keep stirring! It’ll take about 10-15 minutes. You want to keep stirring it and raise the heat every few minutes so it helps quicken the process. You’re basically making a bechamel sauce, but you want it to thicken a lot.

You know it’s done when the sauce coats the back of your spoon like so. Let it come to a bubble for a minute.

While the sauce keeps thickening, grate some cheese. We bought a block of super, extra sharp white cheddar. Basically amazing. It was also kosher (fun fact) and wasn’t made with animal rennet (good for vegetarians!)

Told ya. Amazing.

Before you add in the cheeses, add the nutmeg and Dijon mustard. I wish I had whole nutmeg. Pout. However, ground nutmeg works just as well. Give that a good stir.

Add in the cheddar. Ooooh-weee! Look how thick that sauce is now!

Took some help from the store and bought a package of finely shredded Colby-Jack cheese. Choose any cheese you like, though: Gruyere, Swiss, Provolone, Jalapeño cheddar, smoked Gouda…mmmm! Even Bleu cheese would probably work (Um, can’t believe I just said that…)

Now tell me that isn’t beautiful. Go on. Try. I won’t believe you, though.

Pour the cheese over the pasta and give it a good stir.


Pour the entire pot o’ mac’n'cheese into a 9 x 13 ungreased glass dish like so.

Pour half the bag of Goldfish crackers into a food storage bag and then with a pan, your hand, a rolling pin, whatever…smash ‘em!

Just like that. Yup. That looks about right.

And because we didn’t have enough cheese in the dish already, sprinkle the top with just a touch (or handful) more.

Then top it off with the crushed Goldfish crackers.

Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Then you end up with this, glorious, delicious dish of heaven. This clearly makes enough for about 10-12 people, but that’s why leftovers are a wonderful thing.

Mmmk, now it’s OK to start drooling.

Sigh. So, so glad I’m not lactose intolerant. Heaven. Just…heaven.

Stir Fry on the Fly

Being vegetarian can sometimes be hard. Since we don’t eat meat, we have to find other ways to get protein into our diets.

Good thing we love tofu.  (^_^) Tonight REB and I felt a little Asian (a little easier for me than him. Bahahaha) and made a super easy tofu stir fry for dinner. If you’re not a big fan of tofu, you can of course use chicken, beef, pork, whatever you want.

What you’ll need:

For the stir fry:

•1 cup red bell pepper, thinly sliced – we just used one medium red bell pepper
•1 cup red onion, thinly sliced
•1/2 package of firm Tofu – this specific tofu we used was actually made and manufactured here in A2! All about supporting our local people!
•1/2 bag of frozen stir fry veggies
•2 cups brown rice (get that going before you start making your stir fry. Even with my awesome rice cooker, it took about 40 minutes for the brown rice to cook. It takes a lot longer than regular Basmati white rice)

For the sauce:
•1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil
•1/2 tablespoon Hoisin sauce
•1 tablespoon minced garlic (I have the jar kind. Feel free to use fresh though, if you’d like!)
•1/2 tablespoon grated ginger (give or take. I love ginger)
•1 1/2 teaspoons Siracha (about 4-5 good squirts)
•3 tablespoons peanut butter
•1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
•1 1/2 teaspoons honey (I love my honey bear!)

Now, we didn’t have any peanut butter. …But we did have peanuts and we did have vegetable oil. So we used about 1/2 cup of dry roasted peanuts and about 1/2-to-1 tablespoon vegetable oil. Then we used my handy dandy mortar and pestle and ended up with this:
Prettttttty amazing!

Along with peanut butter, I loooove ginger. I’m pretty sure I’m having a secret affair with ginger (and garlic…….and Siracha. I’m thinking of seeing someone about this…). REB tells me that ginger looks like little babies or humans.
Hmmm, he may be onto something here…

Here’s a tip about ginger. If you buy a bunch of it and aren’t sure if you’re going to use it all within a week, have no fear! Peel the ginger and cut it up into medium-size pieces (like the one pictured above). Then you can put it into a food storage container and put it in the freezer. It’ll keep for up to a month! Then when you’re ready to use it, take out a piece, let it sit on the counter for about 5-10 minutes, then you can cut it, or grate it, and use it in your recipes! The more you knooooowww!! -star-

OK, enough rambling, let’s get stirring already!

Like I said earlier, get your brown rice going before you start making the stir fry. You can, of course, use white rice, but brown rice is high in fiber, the oil in it is very low in cholesterol and it’s vitamin-rich!

Heat a large, deep skillet on medium high. Put about 1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil on the bottom of the skillet and wait for it to get warm. While that’s happening, cut the tofu into 1-inch strips about 1/4-inch thick. You don’t need to use the entire tofu container! You can use half, and store the rest to be used at another time.
Carefully place each tofu piece in the skillet. Be reaaaaally careful because the pan will be hot! But you want that kind of heat.

So while that’s spittering away, make the sauce:
Pour the vegetable oil, minced garlic, grated ginger and Hoisin sauce into a small bowl. If you’ve never had Hoisin sauce before, it’s got the consistency of ketchup so it’s a little thick, but it’s really sweet and savory in taste. A must-have in Asian cuisine!

Next, add the honey, Siracha and the peanut butter. Give it a good stir.

Last, add the soy sauce (since it’s your salt ingredient) and stir. You may need to grate more ginger into the sauce, which you know I fully support. Stir the entire sauce and taste it. It should be sweet and spicy, which ours was. You shouldn’t need to add any salt to this sauce since the soy sauce more than makes up for it.

Don’t forget about the tofu!

You want the tofu to be golden brown. This will take about 4-5 minutes on each side

Transfer the tofu to a plate that has a little water on the bottom. This will help keep the tofu moist while you continue making your stir fry

In the same, hot skillet, add in your red bell pepper and red onion. Let them cook for a few minutes so the onions start to get translucent

Add in the frozen veggies and let them heat through – will take about 5 minutes or so

Scoot the veggies to the side of the skillet, making a little “hole” in the middle. Pour in your stir fry sauce

Stir the sauce around to mix all your veggies. Since you’re keeping the skillet on higher heat, it’ll start kind of bubbling away – you want this!

After about another 5 minutes, add the tofu back into the skillet

Carefully stir it into your stir fry. You want to be careful so the tofu won’t break apart. You shouldn’t really have to worry about this too much with firm tofu, though. If you’re a fan of silken or soft tofu, you’ll want to be extra sure not to tear or mush it up while stirring!

Serve it over brown rice and…om nom nom nom!

Told ya it was easy!

Pizza Party

REB and I were waffling between making stir fry or pizza for dinner. Since there was football on TV, I think the obvious choice was pizza. However, my thoughtful sweetie said it might be fun to make our own dough. So we did, and it was amazing.

I can’t take any credit for this recipe. We used Ina Garten’s recipe for pizza dough. I mean, she can be really annoying and she says smarmy, cheesy things, but she has some OK recipes. If you don’t know who she is, she’s the Barefoot Contessa lady on Food Network.

We just used one of her pizza recipes for the dough. It can be found here. We didn’t make California grilled pizzas, but the dough recipe was outta sight! Now, we have a stand mixer so we used that (as the recipe will note to use). However, if you don’t own one, I imagine using a hand-mixer with dough hooks would work just the same. Or use your best tools: your hands.

Here’s what you’ll need (if you don’t want to visit the link):
• 1 1/4 cup warm water
•2 packages dry yeast (we used Red Star brand dry active yeast)
•1 tablespoon honey
•3 tablespoons olive oil
•4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for kneading
•2 teaspoons salt

Add the warm water, olive oil, honey and yeast to your mixer bowl

On low speed, mix the ingredients to combine

With the mixer still on low speed, slowly add 3 of the cups of all-purpose flour and the salt. Add the flour slowly so it combines slowly and you’ll see it start to look like dough!

Reserve the last cup of flour to sprinkle little by little to help the dough become smooth and not so sticky. You may not end up using the entire cup (we didn’t…I don’t think)

Once the dough is smooth in the mixer, stop it and take it out. Place it on a lightly floured cutting board or counter and continue to knead it until it’s smooth.

Oil a large bowl and place the dough in the bowl. Roll the dough around so it gets lightly covered with the oil

Cover with a dry towel and let it sit for 30 minutes so it can rise

After 30 minutes, uncover and you’ll see that the dough has risen! Take it out of the bowl and place on a cutting board.

Cut the dough into six pieces (we cut it in half and then cut each half into thirds) and place on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Don’t they look like cute little pillows of nomminess? Cover the cookie sheet with a damp towel and let it sit for 10 minutes

While the dough sits under the damp towel, prepare your toppings

We used some roasted red pepper cut into thin strips, sliced black olives, Roma tomatoes and fresh basil

I love, love, love the way fresh basil smells. Mmmm! So fresh and so fragrant!

Preheat your oven to 500ºF (Yowsa! That’s hot!)

When the dough is done sitting, take a piece and pull and stretch into a 6-to-8-inch round

First ya sauce it (I lightly brushed the dough with olive oil before spreading the sauce)

Then ya cheese it

Then ya top it

Then ya bake it for 10 minutes until the crust is golden brown and the cheese is fully melted

REB let out his non-existent Italian and decided to be a pro

(….it worked…)

His was quite happy to have been created – smiiiile!

Voila! This was mine. A simple Caprese with Roma tomatoes, cheese, fresh basil. It was delicious!

His was an “everything veggie” with the black olives, roasted red peppers, tomatoes, cheese and basil.

What we learned after making mine was that the basil almost got burnt. It didn’t taste bad whatsoever, but it was a little darker than I wanted. For his pizza, we put the basil on 5 minutes into baking so it wouldn’t crisp as much or as fast. Worked like a charm!

The third one we made was sliced and put into the fridge for leftovers. We only used half the dough pieces. The rest were put into the freezer to be used at another time!

Like I said, I can’t take any credit for this dough. It turned out so well and I can’t ever imagine ordering pizza again. It was so simple to make and so delicious to eat.

I got the bleus

I might be one of the only people who doesn’t like bleu cheese. I mean, I don’t hate it, but I prefer other cheeses. Give me cheddar, mozzarella and gouda any day over the bleu. When I ate meat, I was the girl who dunked her Buffalo wings in ranch. Bleu cheese is just so pungent and sour-tasting. For some foodies, they can go on and on about how it “melts” and “crumbles” and the “tang” can be the element that makes the dish. Not for me.

I never could wrap my head around eating a food that has mold on it. When I was younger, my mom would put Mr. Yuck stickers (remember those? If not, this might jog your memory) on things I shouldn’t touch or eat. OK, maybe it was used for poison and not bleu cheese, but still. Maybe she should have put it on that cheese because it has mold on it…and mold is bad, right? Right?? I was told it was. Apparently not, though, because many people devour bleu cheese on a daily basis.

REB, B, JoP, and many other friends of mine looooove bleu cheese. I know for a lot of recipes melting it over meats or vegetables is the way to go. And yes, in the past I was lectured by my roommates on how Buffalo wings just aren’t the same unless eaten with bleu cheese. I may not be joining a 12-step program to accept this cheese, but I am trying to open my palate to it (in moderation, of course).

Yesterday I made a harvest salad (We call ‘em Michigan salads here) with field greens, dried cranberries, walnuts, raspberry or balsamic vinagrette and…bleu cheese. I ate the salad and when I was finished, looked down in my bowl and saw that I ate everything but the bleu cheese. There was a beautiful pile of them on the bottom of my bowl.

I made the same salad tonight….

And it was divine (not really a religious experience, but it was good). And look! Four little crumbles of bleu cheese are there, and I ate every single piece. I kind of cringed…but I still accepted it. Step 1, complete. Next foods to conquer: Portobello mushrooms and eating olives whole (I just can’t do it!)