Friday, February 29, 2008

Pakistani Dahl

I've recently began browsing vegweb for some new recipe ideas. I found this one for Pakistani Dahl in the massive list of favorite recipes. It was very easy, and I even already had all the ingredients. So, I made it for dinner last night. It was really, really good. When I first tasted it, it seemed to be missing a little something. I added another pinch of chili powder, and a tiny pinch of garam masala. That did the trick! I also used 2 cups of no-chicken broth and one cup of water for cooking the lentils. Sleek thinks this one should become a regular. It's so easy and good, that I must agree with him. I'm really liking the vegweb site right now, so you'll be seeing more recipes from there.

Wednesday night, I decided to make some french toast. It's something I just don't make very often. I bought a loaf of french bread to use since my attempts at french toast with sliced sandwich bread were disastrous. It turned out really good using the french bread. I wanted something other than maple syrup to top mine with. I had some dried cherries, so I was thinking of some type of cherry sauce. I pretty much just went for it, and put the cherries in a pan with some water and a sprinkling of sugar. I boiled them for a while, then added a splash of brandy. Boiled some more until it got thickened up a little, then added a little almond extract. It turned out to be a great topping for the french toast. I think it would be really good on pancakes too. (Okay, when I typed "pancakes" my stomach started to rumble!)

I've been listening to the soundtrack from the movie Once. I listen to it nearly every day. It seems like I've found so much new music recently that I'm just really loving. It's crazy! I'm still frequently listening to The Water and Emotionalism a lot too. This afternoon, I kicked it super old-school and listened to Licensed to Ill. That album is timeless! I can't believe it's been over 20 years since it was released. Crazy.

Oh, and I must say happy birthday to Hannah. She's two in leap years, 8 in human years and 56 in dog years!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Lots of Cooking, Not Much Blogging

I haven't been using the computer much in the last several days. I managed to finish the Stephen King book late last week. Annelies has been home from school and sick since last Wednesday. I haven't really been feeling 100% myself. I have, however, done lots of cooking.

Let's see...I think last Wednesday evening I made some baked ziti. I actually used penne pasta because I couldn't find whole-wheat ziti. This time I also made my own sauce using crushed tomatos, Italian seasonings, salt and pepper. I mixed it up with a small container of ricotta, and topped it with some shredded mozzerella. That's always an easy dinner that the kids will actually eat. Of course, they wouldn't touch the sauteed spinach, garlic and onions that I made to go with it.

Thursday evening, I was really feeling like some good comfort food. I decided on homemade macaroni and cheese and some baked beans. I used this recipe from Ina Garten for the mac n' cheese. It's definitely an "Ina recipe". Not lacking in fat or deliciousness! It's pretty easy to make, and easily the best macaroni and cheese I've ever had. For my baked beans, I make them the way my Mom taught me. I use two large cans of Bush's Vegetarian baked beans. To those I add a jar of salsa, a can of rinsed kidney beans, ketchup, mustard and molasses. I bake them at 375 for two hours, covered. Then I remove the foil and bake them uncovered for another hour or so. They're very good, and super-easy.

On Saturday, I made a very labor-intensive meal of Curried Tofu in Coconut Sauce. (Thankfully, Sleek was in the kitchen helping me on that one!) I found the recipe in my mom's America's Test Kitchen cookbook. It was good, but like many of ATK's ethinc recipes, it slightly lacked flavor. It would've been much better with a little dab of Thai curry paste mixed in. I'll definitely do that next time. To go with it, I made the Cornmeal-Masala Roasted Brussel Sprouts from V-con. They were really different, and really good. I'll definitely make them again.

Last night, I made my best pizza yet. I can believe how it gets so much easier to stretch the dough each time I make it. I was getting everything ready, and realized I didn't have any sauce left. All I had was a large can of tomato puree, which I accidentally picked up instead of crushed tomatoes. I opened it and tasted it. It was horrible and flavor-less. I spiced it up with some garlic, Italian seasonings, salt and pepper. It actually may have been the best pizza sauce I've made. I'll definitely plan on using the tomato puree for pizza sauce in the future. I made the kids a cheese pizza, and for Sleek and myself, I topped it with fresh spinach and banana peppers. I left half of it cheese-less since I'm seriously trying to fit back into my jeans. :)

Sleek and I watched a fantastic movie on Saturday night. It's called Once. The soundtrack is unbelievable, and one of the songs won an Oscar for "Best song in a film". I highly recommend the movie. I've been listening to as much of the soundtrack as possible online, but Sleek purchased it from iTunes yesterday, so I've got the whole thing on my iPod now. Can't wait to give it a good listen today!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Black-Bean Burgers

I had some black beans in the freezer that I needed to use up. I was leafing through V-con, and saw a nice looking recipe for black-bean burgers. I had all the ingredients here, so I decided to make them. They came together in a total of 15 minutes. So it's a super quick and easy recipe. They were really, really good. Probably the best bean burgers I've ever made. Like the chickpea cutlets, they use vital wheat gluten to bind them and give them a bit of a chewy texture. That texture is a little difficult for me to get used to. It wouldn't bother me in a store-bought product, but for some reason it's a weird texture for food that I make at home. The bean burgers (and the chickpea cutlets), are both fantastic, though. I guess it will just take a little getting used to. I definitely plan on making these again. They're just so easy. I topped them with a little sour cream and salsa, and I ate mine sans buns. I roasted some asparagus to go with them. Honestly, finding a nice variety of veggies in WV in the winter is not easy. I feel like it's always broccoli, asparagus and brussel sprouts!

The previous night, I made some baked ziti. I used to make it frequently, but realized that I hadn't even made it since I started this blog! I used whole-wheat penne pasta, some ricotta, and some crushed tomatoes which I seasoned with garlic and other Italian spices. I topped it with mozzerella, and baked at 350 for about 30 minutes. It was pretty tasty, and it's something the kids will actually eat!

I have to say, I haven't been using the computer or listening to music much this week. I bought the latest Stephen King book, Duma Key, last weekend. I started reading it Monday, and it has pretty much consumed every spare minute. It's very, very good. Then again, I've never read a Stephen King book that I didn't like. Duma Key has really gotten rave reviews, though. I'll probably finish it sometime today.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Taco Salad, Panini, and Birthday Parties

Last week on Carrie's blog, she posted about a taco salad she made. It looked so good. It was also super-easy to make. I made it Friday night since I was tired from making cakes and cupcakes for Annelies's birthday party. It was really easy to put together, and so tasty. I hadn't had a taco salad since I gave up meat over three years ago. I saw Carrie's, and immediately began craving it. I made it exactly the same way she did, except I added a dollop of sour cream and used blue corn chips. They're the only corn chips I've ever been able to eat right out of the bag. (Well, except Doritos.) Garden of Eatin' brand is my favorite.

I didn't do any cooking at all over the weekend because we were so busy. The birthday party took up much of Saturday, and honestly in just wore me out. We had it at Valley World's of Fun, which is a really great place for kids. It's the type of place that gives adults a headache almost instantly, though. All the kids had a great time, but Annelies started getting overwhelmed toward the end, as you can see in the picture below.

Last night I was still feeling a bit lazy, so I just made some paninis. I got some good Italian bread, and made them with spinach, roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts and fresh mozzerella. They were really tasty.

I've still been hooked on the Avett Brothers Emotionalism album. It's crazy good. Also, Sleek saw Jessica on Saturday night, and she had burned us some CDs of music she played during our weekend at Canaan. So, I've been listening to lots of BR549. It's really great stuff too. It seems that I'm on a bit of a country/bluegrass kick recently. (With the exception of The Water, of course. It's still seeing a good bit of play too.)

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day!

Six years ago, I had the best Valentine's Day surprise ever! My little girl was born. The reason it was such a surprise was because she was nearly three weeks ahead of schedule. On top of that, she was almost born in the car! In a matter of hours, Sleek and I went from thinking we had a few more weeks before the baby came, to holding her in our arms. I had one of those fast, painless labors that women hate me for. I wouldn't change a thing about it. She was healthy, and I was like: "Wow! That wasn't bad at all!" It was the best Valentine's Day ever!

I haven't done too much cooking this week, as Sleek has been working late again. I just can't stand making a big meal and sitting down to eat it all by myself. Monday night, I made some really good veggie burritos with a sour-cream sauce. For the filling, I sauteed some carrots, onion, red pepper and broccoli. I added some black beans too. I seasoned it with the same taco seasoning I used for the veggie tacos. For the sour-cream sauce, I used about a cup of "Lite" sour-cream, some no-chicken broth, and a can of green chiles. It was really good, but didn't have the super-smooth texture I was hoping for. Maybe because I used "Lite" sour cream? I served them with a side of Mexican-style rice, which is brown rice cooked and tossed in a pan with sauteed onion, garlic and a can of diced tomatoes. Throw in some Chili powder and cumin for flavor.

Last night, I made some pasta pomodoro and roasted asparagus. I was worn out from making so many heart sugar-cookies for Annelies's V-day party at school, so I kept it simple. The heart cookies came out looking so good! I hope the kids like them.

I think I've listened to The Water about 10 more times since my last post. I'm still loving it like crazy, but I've also been listening to The Avett Brothers, and that album is just out-of-control as well.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Sunday Brunch

Yesterday we had some friends over for brunch. The Getto-Dillons were here with three of their four kids. Olives and her girls were supposed to come, but one of the girls wasn't feeling well, so they didn't make it. Olives was stuck at home, forced to eat the entire french-toast souffle that she had prepared. (She says she didn't eat all of it, but I'm not sure...)

Anyway, I made a crust-less spinach quiche. It's so easy to make, and just amazingly good. I've made it several times before, and I'll definitely be making it again. It's really dense, and really cheesy. How could it not be good? I also made two kinds of scones: Blueberry lemon cream-cheese and cherry almond. They were both awesome. I used this recipe, and tweaked it as needed. For the cherry almond, I just added a scant teaspoon of almond extract, a handful of dried cherries, then topped them with sliced almonds. For the blueberry, I subbed 1/2 cup of softened, reduced fat cream cheese for part of the heavy cream. I tossed in a handful of dried blueberries and maybe 1.5 teaspoons of lemon zest. I sprinkled the tops of them with a little sugar before baking.

The Getto-Dillons brought some roasted potatoes and the absolute best banana bread I've ever tasted. So, we had quite a feast. I can't even imagine if Olives would've come with the souffle and also the cheese grits she was planning to make! That would have been quite a spread. I definitely plan on getting together with friends for Sunday brunch. It's a fun way to share food and hang out, and for some reason it just doesn't seem as labor intensive as dinner.

I can't stop listening to The Water. I had to force myself to not play it twice in a row yesterday. Sleek suggested I try The Avett Brothers, and I did. I really liked it on the first listen, and Sleek said it gets even better the second or third time around. I'll listen to it again this evening when I'm making dinner. (Wow! They're pretty cute, huh?)

Oh, on Saturday evening, I made pizza again. Same crust recipe as always. You may remember the last time I made it, I wanted the crust to be more crisp. Well, this time I preheated my pizza stone and got it really hot. The pizza was perfect! My best yet. The crust was perfectly crisp.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Sweet Potato Pecan Pancakes

Last night I decided to make some pancakes for dinner. The kids love them, and I must say that I do too. I wanted to try something different, and realized I had a couple of sweet potatoes that I had meant to make earlier in the week. So, naturally I thought I'd try some sweet potato pancakes. I used this recipe from Alton Brown for the mix, and then kind of adjusted the wet ingredients for the sweet potato cakes. (I made plain pancakes for the kids. They'd never consider trying sweet potato pancakes.) As far as cooking the sweet potatoes, I peeled and chopped them. Then I put them in a pot and boiled them with water, brown sugar and about 1 TBS of Earth Balance. When they were soft, I mashed them.

I must say, the pancakes turned out very well. I added a small handful of toasted, fine-chopped pecans to the batter. I used a dollop of mashed sweet potatoes and a sprinkling of pecans as a garnish, and topped them with maple syrup. They were great, and I'll definitely be making them again.

Okay, so yesterday I listened to Colin's new album, The Water, six or so times. It is IN-SANE. It's crazy. I haven't fallen this hard for an album for a long, long time. (And y'all know how bad I had it for Beirut a couple months back!) Just so you know what level this is on, I'll throw out a couple of albums that have had a similar effect on me: Radiohead's OK Computer (Yes, seriously), Jeff Buckley's Grace, and Joseph Arthur's Big City Secrets. I loved Colin's last album, This is Hope, but I have to say that The Water is on a completely different level. He MUST tour the US soon. I'm really going to be talking this album up on here, so get used to it! Now, I want you all to head over to his myspace page and listen to Future Gods and Past Kings and Stalker.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Chickpeas Romesco With Garlic-Saffron Rice

Wow! I chose this recipe from V-con just because I had so many chickpeas in the freezer. Little did I know that I would be making a classic dish. It was amazing. Definitely dinner-party worthy. Super easy to make too. To get started you make the sauce with roasted red peppers and canned fire-roasted tomatoes. Get it all pureed and cooking, then add some white wine, thyme, rosemary and red wine vinegar. At the end, you stir in the chickpeas and some ground almonds. It's a Spanish-style dish, and it definitely has some new and different flavors going on.

As the cookbook recommended, I served it over garlic-saffron rice. I had never used saffron in cooking before, but I always noticed it in the spice section at the grocery store. It's pretty expensive, but if it keeps relatively well, it will last quite a long time. I loved the rice. It turned out beautifully. I made some roasted asparagus to go with the chickpeas and rice. Just drizzled with a little olive oil and sprinkled on some salt. Perfect.

So, I finally listened to Colin's new album yesterday. Wow. It's definitely different than his previous works. That is to be expected though, since this is his first time working with a producer. His three previous albums were written, performed and produced by him. That is certainly impressive. So, The Water definitely sounds more "produced", but it's still awesome. I'll be listening to it daily for a while for sure. Now he just needs to get a US tour organized!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Snobby Joes

I know it's getting redundant with all the V-con recipes I've been doing recently. The only thing I can tell you is...Expect them to keep on coming! LOL There are lots of recipes in there I want to try, and it's a big cookbook. Tonight I made the Snobby Joes, which are a lentil-based version of sloppy Joes. I made up my own sloppy Joe recipe last summer, so I was sort of hesitant to try these because I was afraid they'd be a lot better than mine. I definitely wouldn't say they were "better". They're different for sure, but as far as goodness goes, I'd say mine are right on par with them. I'll definitely make them again, but I'm not replacing my own recipe with these.

To go with the Joes, I made some sauteed onions and spinach with an Asian-style peanut sauce. I mixed a little peanut butter with some shoyu, rice vinegar, agave nectar and Thai chili paste. I just poured the sauce over the spinach and onions when they were softened. It's really easy, and delicious.

Still haven't listened to the new Colin MacIntyre album yet, but it will be on tomorrow. Probably all day. LOL While I was cooking, I checked out a band called Reigning Sound. Sleek put it on my iPod a while back, so I decided to check them out today. Good stuff.

BBQ Black-Eyed Pea Collard Rolls

Another recipe from V-con. These were really, really tasty. So easy to make, too. Just mix a can of black-eyed peas with some sauteed mushrooms, chopped collards and bbq sauce. (I used leftover bbq sauce that I made last week.) Roll the mixture up into boiled collard leaves. The recipe didn't call for it, but I poured some extra sauce over the top and baked them at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes. I have to say I was impressed. I wasn't convinced these would be that good. Sleek and I both really liked them. I was going to serve them with mashed sweet potatoes and a salad, but I forgot about the sweet potatoes! Oh, well. We were both pretty full by the time we finished, so we probably didn't really need them anyway. I'll definitely be making these collard rolls again.

Sunday night, for the Super Bowl, I made some baked buffalo tofu. I think it's a fantastic substitute for wings. I'm sure many people would think that is absolutely ridiculous, but I think they're awesome. Actually, I think this tofu was the best I've ever made. I sliced the block of tofu into about 12 slices, coated them in a little peanut oil and shoyu, and baked them for 30 minutes, turning after 15 minutes. Then I poured on the buffalo sauce and baked them for 15 more minutes. The texture was just perfect. We had them with some raw veggies and ranch dip. A couple of years ago, I found a brand of organic buffalo sauce at Kroger. Fortunately, I stocked up on it. Unfortunately, I used my last bottle for the tofu on Sunday. It's called "Melissa's Organic Marinades". My Kroger no longer carries it, so I'll probably have to start making my own.

Oh, I forgot to mention that we were introduced to some awesome music during our weekend at Canaan. BR549 was my favorite, but I really liked the Gram Parsons too. Jessica is burning us some cds, and I can't wait to get them. Oh, I just remembered! Colin MacIntyre's new album is out today! I'm off to get it immediately.

On an unrelated note, I made our first payment for our CSA share this season. Only 3.5 more months until we're picking up a weekly bounty of local, organic produce. YAY!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Winter Fun

Sleek and I just got home from a nice weekend at Canaan Valley. Some friends of ours, Jessica and Pat, have a family place up there. We finally decided to take them up on an invitation to hang for a weekend. Olives and g2thelow went along with us. We left Friday afternoon, knowing we were going to hit some really bad weather. Much of the eastern part of WV was hit with an ice storm on Friday morning. It later turned to rain, then snow. Everything was fine until we were about 20 miles from Canaan. That's when the roads became snow-covered, and the snow was still falling. I creeped along at about 25 mph for that part of the trip. I even have a Subaru, but I can't help but be overly-cautious driving in those conditions. I was relieved when we finally pulled up to the townhouse.

We had a reservation to eat at the White Grass Cafe. I was super-stoked because I have made lots of fantastic recipes from their cookbook. For appetizers, we had some smoked-trout dip made with local trout, and some spinach artichoke dip. Both of them were amazing. I could've eaten them with a spoon! For dinner, I had a curried sweet potato soup and a hummus panini. They were both very good as well. Dessert, oh dessert. Olives and I both wanted to try the sweet potato cake with toffee frosting and the walnut and pecan pie. So, I ordered the pie and she ordered the cake, and we split them. The cake was really good, but the pie...Oh, the pie. Amazing.

The weather was just fantastic on Saturday, so a few of us went out for a hike and the others hung out while Jessica got started on dinner. We really ate well. Jessica is an amazing cook. She made some salmon cakes and what I would call a spanikopita casserole. Very much like spanikopita, but without all the butter and phyllo pastry. Much healthier and eaiser to make. I had made some chickpea gravy and mashed potatoes to bring along. (At the request of Sleek.) I also made a batch of apple scones.

Saturday night, Jessica, g2thelow and Sleek did some skiing and snowboarding. (Unfortunately, Pat stayed home nursing a cold.) Olives and I opted for something requiring less athletic ability. Snow tubing! It was really fun. It was super-icy, so it was like a luge. We were flying down the hill! After that, we returned to the townhouse and played several hours worth of board games. There were drinks involved, and lots of laughter. We had an awesome time.

This morning when we woke up, Jessica was already downstairs making breakfast. She made something I've always wanted to try, but thought it required too much work. Tofu scramble. It actually looked really easy to make, and I'm definitely going to make it soon. She also made some oven-roasted home fries. I wrapped it all up in a tortilla with some cheese and hot sauce. Wow. Very tasty.

On the way home we stopped at Blackwater Falls. They had the bottom part of the trail blocked off because the steps were too icy. We got a decent view from above, though. What a great weekend. We're hoping to do it again next year! (Oh, and I was too busy eating to take any pics of the food!)