Monday, April 27, 2009

Soyaki Chicken

I went to a healthy cooking techniques class at William Sonoma this weekend, and while I enjoyed myself, I didn't really learn anything new. Also, I was a little irritated, I guess you can say, that the main flavoring ingredient was one of their own simmering sauces. I wanted to learn how to make my own flavorful and healthful sauce. But, really, what can you say? It was a free class put on by William Sonoma, so of course they are going to push their own product line.

The chef made grilled chicken, which was later simmered in their Japanese 20 minute simmering sauce. It was accompanied by wild brown rice, grilled bell peppers, and grilled zucchini. It was good food (except for the too hard rice...ouch!...and the over-grilled zucchini), but nothing too special and nothing that I couldn't recreate, but better.

So as I was driving home from work tonight, pondering what to do with the chicken defrosting in my fridge, it hit me...recreate that WS meal, but better. My final result: Soyaki chicken, brown rice with scallions, and roasted red bell pepper and yellow squash. The verdict? Incredibly simple, very easy, and the most important part, flavorful and tasty. This will be going in the rotation. :)
Soyaki Chicken with Oven Roasted Veggies
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • Trader Joe's Soyaki
  • Assorted veggies (I used yellow squash and red bell peppers.)
  • Pepper
  • 1-2 tablespoons Olive Oil

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Defrost chicken and spray small baking dish with non-stick spray. I always use my small glass pie pan (9") when I am only cooking 2 chicken breasts. It's much smaller than my baking dishes, which means less cleanup.

Place the chicken breasts in the baking dish and pour Soyaki over them. I poured enough to generously coat them, but not completely cover the breasts.

Slice your veggies, toss with olive oil and salt, and place on a cookie sheet in one layer.

Put both the chicken and the roasted veggies in the oven and set your timer for 30 minutes. Check the veggies around 20 minutes to make sure they don't burnt (I roasted mine for 25 minutes).

Plate chicken with roasted veggies and spoon Soyaki over chicken breasts. I served with brown rice topped with sliced scallions.

Sunday, April 26, 2009


I love pizza. I think it just might be the world's most perfect food. I mean, who doesn't like a good slice of gooey hot cheese with an assortment of toppings? Pizza, in my opinion, should be its own food group.

When I was growing up, my parents didn't cook dinner on Friday nights. It was usually tuna fish sandwich night, but every once in a while we went out for pizza. THOSE were my favorite Friday nights.....coming home after 2 hours of swim practice, tired but excited for the weekend, and finding out that instead of eating tuna we were having pizza!

Now that I am an adult, I still have the same passion for pizza. In fact, that was one of the best parts about going to college in San can buy pizza by the slice there! The guys who worked at my local SF pizza joint even knew me by name. :)

Recently I decided I wanted to try to make pizza at home. I thought it would be fun, impress my husband, and I could make it a bit healthier (always a bonus right?). I swapped regular fatty pepperoni for turkey pepperoni (only 80 calories verses 140), low fat mozeralla and a whole wheat crust. Here's my recipe for a healthier take on my Friday night favorite.

Healthy Pizza

Whole Wheat Pizza Crust (adapted from this recipe)
1/2 cup warm water
1 envelop instant quick rise yeast (about 2 1/4 tsp if you are using jarred yeast)
1 1/4 cups water, room temp
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp salt

Pour the warm water into a bowl (I use my 6 cup liquid measuring cup) and sprinkle the yeast on top. Set aside for 5 minutes, allowing the yeast to dissolve and react with the water.

Using your stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the flour and salt together until just combined.

Add the room temperature water and olive oil to the yeast water. Gently mix together and then pour into the flour. Fit the mixer with the kneading attachment and knead until it forms a ball and all the flour is incorporated (about 5 minutes). The dough should be smooth and elastic.

Spray a large bowl with nonstick spray (I use Smart Balanace Omega spray). Place the kneaded dough in the greases bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside and let rise, until the dough has doubled in size (about an hour or so). If you are NOT using quick rise yeast, it will need about 2 hours to rise.

Place your pizza stone in the oven and preheat to 500 degrees. You will need to preheat the stone for about 30 minutes.

Push the dough down with your hands so it deflates. Tear the dough into 2 equal pieces, shape them into balls, and cover with a damp towel to rest for about 30 minutes (do this while the oven is preheating).

Using your hands, stretch out the dough to the desired shape and size of your pizza. I stretched mine a lot to make a thin crust pizza. Top with pizza sauce and your desired toppings.

Here's my pizza before going in the oven. It's topped with my pizza sauce (see recipe below), fresh basil from my garden, low-fat mozzerall, and turkey pepperoni.

Sprinkle the heated pizza stone with cornmeal and place the pizza on top. Cook for about 8 minutes....until the cheese is melted and slightly browned.

Here's the finished product. I had some trouble getting it in the oven, so the ingredients slide all over the place, leaving a not-so-pretty pizza, but the end results *tasted* great!! My husband even said he liked it almost more than our favorite local pizza joint. :)

Homemade Pizza Sauce
(I decided to whip up some semi-homemade sauce to take advantage of my herb garden)
1 can tomato paste (plus half a can of watter)
2 handfuls fresh oregano leaves
7-8 fresh basil leaves

Heat the tomato paste and water in a saucepan. Stir to combine the water and tomato paste, thinning out the paster to a sauce-like consistency (add more or less water based on your desired thickness.)
Chop the fresh herbs and add to the tomato paste. Add a dash or two of pepper. Stir to combine and heat through.
Set aside until ready to spread on the pizza.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Turkey of a Sandwich

I set out to make Rachel Ray's Spicy Meatball Sandwiches (from her "No-Recipe Zone" recipes) for dinner a few nights ago. I love sandwiches and was very excited at the thought of a warm, saucy, slightly spicy meatball subs.

Well, just as the poster in my 5th grade classroom said "If all else fails, read the directions.", I failed and then read the directions. The recipe calls for ground meat, so I defrosted my ground turkey, threw it in the skillet to brown and added a bunch of spices. THEN I decided I should check the recipe to see what was next. Except browning the meat wasn't first....or ANYWHERE? UGH, I was suppossed to mix the raw meat with the seasonings and form them into meatballs, then add them to the sauce to simmer. Never did it say to brown anything.

Rather than waste a perfectly good package of ground turkey, plus a bunch of seasonings, I just continued with the recipe and threw the browned turkey into the sauce. I wound up having to add another can of tomatos (probably should have added two additional cans) to get a sauce effect with so much surface area of meat to cover. So my meatball subs turned into a flop, which I righted into something new.

Turkey Un-Meatball Sandwiches
(There are a several adaptations from the RR recipe. Enough that this isn't even really the same thing anymore... Also, I am giving you the recipe with my mistake of not making meatballs. Eventually I plan to try again and will post the real thing.)

1 package ground turkey (about 1.25 pounds)
1 onion sliced
1 cup smashed Fritos (I used more like 2 cups)
1 tablespoon chili powder (I think I used closer to 2)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 28-ounce can chopped tomatos (I wound up using 3 14.5 ounce cans diced tomatos.)
1 can black beans
1 red bell pepper, diced (my own addition)
Salt & pepper
Cayanne (my own addition)
Oregano (dried or fresh. I used a lot of both)
Sandwich rolls
Grated cheese

Brown the turkey in a skillet with the chili powder and cayanne. While the turkey browns, heat the olive oil in a heavy bottom pan (I used my Martha Stewart enamaled cast iron pot). Add the sliced onions and cook until they are translucent and soft. Then, add in all of the cans of diced or chopped tomatos, the oregano and the red bell pepper.

Once the turkey is browned, drain any fat and mix in the smashed Fritos. Add the turkey and Frito mix to the tomatos and let simmer for about 10 minutes. Dump in the can of black beans (do not drain want to add the bean juice as well) and stir. If you want these to be really saucy sandwiches, add in another can or two of tomatos. I would have, except I didn't have anymore.

Stir until heated through. Turn the heat down to low.

Turn on your broiler. Toast the sandwich rolls under the broiler until they are slightly browned...I put mine in on high and left them in slightly too long. It would probably be best to out them in on Low and then check after a minute.

Spoon the meat mixture into the sandwiches and sprinkle with the grated cheese. These are messy, but so good (even if they are not meatball subs)!!

Monday, April 20, 2009

One year later

Yesterday was my husband and I's first wedding anniversary. I can't believe how fast the year has gone... it feels like our wedding was yesterday. I kept thinking about little details throughout the day, remembering peeking around my hotel room door and seeing my soon-to-be husband walking down the hallway (and me quickly jumping back into the room!), getting ready with all of my best friends who had flown from hundreds of miles to be there with me, taking tons of photos throughout the day, and just being so excited after the ceremony was over and we were Married!!

Now a year later, not only are we married, but we've bought a home together and are building tons of new memories everyday. It's been a great year of married life and I can't wait to celebrate many more with my husband!

We decided to celebrate our anniversary in a low-key, but fun fashion. We packed up our cooler with hot dogs and sodas and set out to a local state park, where we grilled our lunch in the shade of the trees. The weather was hot and tons of families were out with same idea: enjoy the weather in the great outdoors with the people you love. After a lunch of 3 hots dogs each and a bag of chips, we spent some time reading in the shade, before walking over to the large lake and renting a paddle boat. That was a lot of fun, but more work than I anticipated! We paddled around for an hour, enjoyed the breeze coming off the water, and then decided to head home.

Here' s where the cooking part of my blog comes in. :) We purchased 4 lobster tails at Costco the day before for about $50 and grilled them up for a special anniversary dinner. SOOOOOOO good!! I didn't take any photos (sorry!) as they smelled SO good I didn't want to take the time to plate them and make sure they looked nice. We just wanted to dig in!

Next time you find lobster tails on sale, I highly recommend you try out this recipe. It is so flavorful, fragrant, and easy. In fact, I will be making these again in just a few weeks for my husband's birthday (and I will add photos! Check back in mid-May).

Grilled Lobster Tails
  • 4 lobster tails (they were about 3 pounds total.)
  • White wine
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Green onions, sliced
  • Parsley, coarsly chopped
  • Garlic, sliced or chopped
  • Butter (not melted)

Heat your charcoal grill (if you have a gas grill, put it out for trash and go buy a charcoal grill. The flavor is SO much better! Or just turn the gas grill onto high.) You want your coals to be nice and hot for the lobster.

Place one lobster tail on aluminum foil and cut the top of its shell in half, right down the middle, using scissors. (Cutting through their shells is kind of difficult, but stick with it! I found it was easiest to slide the bottom scissor blade under the shell, then push the top blade down with my palm, to crack through the shell.)

Using a knife, cut into the lobster meat, making a slit 3/4 of the way through the meat, all the way down the tail. Rub salt and pepper into the meat. Rub the garlic into the meat. I also tucked some sliced garlic into the space between the top of the shell and the meat. Sprinkle the green onions and parsley into the cut portion of the meat. Pour some olive oil down the length of the tail, into the meat. Push tabs of butter into the sliced section of the tail. Pour white wine across the entire tail (be generous here!).

Wrap the foil around the lobster, making sure the entire tail is covered. I double wrapped mine to prevent the liquids from spilling out.

Repeat with the remaining lobster tails.

Place the foil-wrapped tails on the grill over high heat and cook for about 8 minutes, depending on their size. I wound up cooking mine for about 10 minutes. Take one packet off the grill and carefully open the foil using tongs (don't let all the juice slop out!!). Check that the meat has turned an opaque white. If it is still translucent, cook for about 2 more minutes.

Once they are done, remove the packets from the grill using tongs or a pot holder and carefully unwrap. Plate each lobster tail and pour any juices in the foil packet over the top of the lobster. Serve with additional butter pats and crusty bread.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Zucchini Boats

I have no witty repartee for you today, just a good, filling, tasty recipe. This looks time-consuming and laborious, but it’s really not. It also looks very impressive on a dinner plate. Don’t be surprised if you come to my house for dinner and this is what I serve; my husband gave it his stamp of approval, “Put it in the rotation.” (I also learned there are several different dinner rotations in his opinion….but that is another story for another day.)

This recipe was created after I read several other recipes online, including one by Rachel Ray, for stuffed zucchini. I wasn’t in love with any one recipe, so I combined elements of various recipes, added in other ingredients I like, and voila, came up with my own creation. Unfortunately for my kitchen, I made the changes, tweaks, combinations, and such as I was cooking, which meant a bigger mess than usual.

As is usually the case in my cooking, measurements are not exact (I just throw in more ingredients as I go, seasoning to my tastes), so feel free to tweak this for yourself.

  • 4 zucchinis (5 or 6 would probably work better though…I had leftover filling)
  • 1 package ground turkey (omit if you want a vegetarian meal)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, drained (save the juice though!!)
  • ½ an onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 6 cloves of garlic, smashed
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons fresh oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 10 fresh basil leaves, torn
  • Crushed red pepper flakes (use however much you like. I used about a teaspoon or so)
  • Cayenne pepper (again, its up to your desired heat level. I gave the jar two good shakes)
  • ¼ cup white wine
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 ½ cups panko bread crumbs (you can use regular or Italian bread crumbs…I only had panko on hand)
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Parsley, roughly chopped
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Wash the zucchinis and slice them in half lengthwise. Using a spoon, scoop out the flesh and save it in a bowl. Place each zucchini half on a cookie sheet and pour a bit of olive oil in each half. Put the zucchinis in the oven and let them roast while you make the stuffing. I left my zucchinis in the entire time, which was probably 30-40 minutes.

Here are my zucchinis, drizzled with olive oil, and ready to pop in the oven.

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Pour in 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Once the oil is hot, add in the onion, bell pepper, the zucchini flesh, a few shakes of the red pepper flakes, the fresh basil, the fresh oregano, and the smashed garlic (I like to add this last to prevent it from burning). Cook for about 5-7 minutes, stirring often. Add in the diced tomatoes.

Meanwhile, in another pan, brown the ground turkey with some salt, pepper, a dash or two (or three if you like it hot!) of cayenne, and the dried oregano. Once the meat is browned, drain it of any fat. Don’t wash this pan yet; you are going to need it again in a minute! (Skip this step if you are omitting the meat. Just add the seasonings directly to the veggies.)

Add the white wine to the cooked veggie mixture, and cook about 2-3 minutes. Next, add the meat and the reserved tomato juice to the veggies. Turn the heat down a bit (about medium-low) and continue cooking until the tomato juice evaporates. Be careful though, you don’t want it totally dry so the food is sticking and burning.

While you wait for the tomato juice to cook off, add about 2 tablespoons of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the pan you cooked your meat in over medium heat. Once the butter melts, throw in the panko bread crumbs and the 2 cloves of chopped garlic. Cook for about 2 minutes, just until the bread crumbs get toasted (feel free to add more butter if needed). Throw in the Parmesan cheese, the parsley, and season with pepper. Give it a good stir and then dump the whole thing in with the meat and veggie mixture. Stir that up, check that it is seasoned to your liking, add more seasonings if needed, and then pull your zucchini out of the oven. They should be nicely roasted at this point.

Using a spoon, fill the stuffing into each zucchini boat. It’s ok if it slops all over the place! Sprinkle a little grated Parmesan cheese on top of each boat and put the zucchini back in the oven for about 5 minutes. You just want to crisp the bread crumbs up a bit and melt the cheese.

Here are the zuchs, stuffed, waiting to be sprinkled with cheese & put back in the oven:

Remove from the oven, plate, and garnish with a fresh spring of oregano. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

It’s 5 o’clock and I haven’t made dinner...

Who hasn’t been there? The dinner hour strikes and you realize, not only have you not begun cooking dinner, but you never even took any meat out to defrost. This is doubly bad as I am on spring break this week (yay for teaching!!) and I have nothing but time.

What can you do, other than get take-out or hit up the local sushi joint? Well, this is where I love the fact that my husband is a simple man when it comes to food (as much as he appreciates my actual cooking skills as well).

Pull some baking potatoes out of the cupboard, scrub em clean, and rummage around for any toppings. It’s time for Potato Bar Night!! This is the easiest way to throw dinner together on the fly, and it is currently one of my husband’s favorite meals. Double score!!

Quick, Easy, Down and Dirty Baked Potato Bar
**Note: This is also really good as a casual get-together meal with friends. Cook the potatoes and then let your guests load them up with their own toppings.

Large baking potatoes (I use one per person)
Assorted toppings (Feel free to use whatever you want. Here is what we put on our potatoes tonight. If you like caviar and blue cheese, go for it! The potato is your oyster):
  • Light sour cream
  • Bacon bits
  • Yogurt butter (feel free to use the regular stuff or margarine. I like to pretend to be healthy by eating butter made from yogurt. Plus it just tastes good.)
  • Sliced black olives (sooo gross, in my opinion. Husband loves them)
  • Green onions, sliced
  • Canned chili (I used 98% fat free turkey chili. Again, I like to at least pretend to be healthy!)
  • Shredded cheese (I used cheddar. Use pepper jack for some added spice, if you like)

Scrub each potato clean with some warm water. These things grow underground; so make sure you wash the dirt off. I don’t want you people getting e-coli or anything now.

Stab each potato several times with a fork so it doesn’t explode in the microwave. Throw the potatoes in the microwave and nuke them for about 10 minutes. You may need to add a few minutes if you are doing more than 2 potatoes at a time. You can also cook them in the oven or on the grill, but as this is supposed to be an “OMG, I forgot to make dinner!!” post, I am going with the microwave here.

Meanwhile, open you fridge and pantry and pull out the toppings you like. Slice up your green onions, throw them in a bowl, get spoons out for the sour cream and butter, and dump the chili into a bowl.

Take the potatoes out, put the chili in the microwave (make sure you cover it with a paper towel or something. I forgot to do so and wound up with chili sprayed all over my microwave), and slice open those potatoes.

Fill em up with all the topping goodness you’ve assembled and enjoy. You might want to add a side salad or something to get some veggies into this dinner; just don’t load it down with Ranch dressing, ok? Remember, we want to be somewhat healthy.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Yummy Enchilada Casserole

I looooove Mexican food. When I lived in San Francisco there was a Mexican joint across the street from my apartment and another one just around the corner. I was a frequent visitor to both eateries, as well as the campus burrito joint at SF State. Go Gators!! I make Mexican cuisine more than any other type of food. It is usually really easy, full of cheese (yum!), spicy, and just all around delicious. Tonight I decided to make enchiladas for dinner and this was so super easy. I didn’t use any set recipe for this and threw it together in about 40 minutes. I defrosted the chicken earlier in the day and then went to the library around 3pm, went shopping at Borders, and then ate a delicious crepe, before realizing it was after 4:30pm and I still had to cook the chicken, let alone make the entire dish! Thankfully I was right around the corner from home and this dish came together quick and easy.

I've also submitted this recipe to Joelen's Foodie Film Contest. Check it out on her page. :)

Enchilada Casserole
  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • Corn tortillas (you can use flour, but why would you? Corn has such a better flavor and holds up to the sauce really well)
  • Your favorite cheese shredded (I used a combination of pepper jack and cheddar)
  • The big can of enchilada sauce (I can’t remember the number of ounces…check back for an update…The first time I ever made this I used Las Palmas mild sauce. It was WAY too hot; even my Mexican friends who are used to super hot food thought it was too hot. This time I used La Victoria mild….it was better but not quite hot enough. It’s almost like Goldilocks and the 3 Bears here.)
  • 1 can of chicken broth
  • Pepper (optional)
Heat your oven to 375 degrees. Defrost your chicken breast and then throw it in a pot with the chicken broth. You want the liquid to cover the chicken….feel free to add some water if the broth doesn’t cover the chicken. (You can boil the chicken in just water, but the broth adds a lot of flavor to the meat.) Add in pepper to suite your tastes. Bring to a boil and let boil for 15-20 minutes.

While the chicken is boiling, shred the cheese and spray a glass pie pan with cooking spray (I use Smart Balance).

Once the chicken is cooked through, drain the liquid and shred the chicken using 2 forks.

Line the bottom of the pie pan with corn tortillas, cover them with half of the shredded chicken, and heavily sprinkle with the cheese. Pour about a cup of enchilada sauce over the chicken and cheese.

Here is the first layer of tortillas, chicken, and cheese:

Cover this layer with another layer of corn tortillas (I like to tear mine in half for better coverage.) Pour more enchilada on top of the tortillas, spread the rest of the shredded chicken on top, and cover with more cheese.

This is the second layer, before adding cheese:

Place another layer of corn tortillas on top of the chicken and cheese and cover with the rest of the enchilada sauce.

Finally, sprinkle about a half a cup of cheese on the top.
I put the pie pan with the enchilada casserole on a cookie sheet, just in case some of the cheese or sauce slopped out. I hate when that happens because my oven gets smoky and our smoke detector is EXTREMELY sensitive….and loud.

Ready to go in the oven:

Cook for about 20 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the top layer of tortillas are crispy. Let sit for about 5 minutes and then serve. We had a can of refried beans and (strong) margaritas with our enchiladas. Ole!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Herbs de Provence Chicken

I buy a lot of chicken. Mainly because Costo sells these huge packs of Foster Farms chicken that are already wrapped in packs of 2 breasts. There is no need for me to unwrap the chicken, re-wrap it in plastic wrap, wrap that in foil, and then label and date it with a Sharpie. Nope, I just pick up these packs of chicken, seperate the two packs from each other, and then throw them in my freezer. I am incredibly lazy, so this is just perfect for me. It requires pretty much no effort on my part, and I still have easy to defrost, just the right amount for 2 people, packs of chicken. Seriously, check it out. Also, I do not buy red meat or pork (except for baby back ribs....mmmmm), so we are stuck with poultry.

Anyway, as a result, we tend to have a lot of chicken in our freezer, so I am always on the lookout for new chicken recipes. While scanning The Nest for recipes today (another thing you should really check out), I came across a recipe for chicken made with herbs de provence. It looked really yummy and easy to prepare, so I figured today would be a god day to try it out.

The chicken came out really moist and juicy and had a nice crisp to the crust. My husband and I both really enjoyed this recipe and I plan to make it again. It was super easy to prepare, which is always a plus since I commute 30 miles each way to work.

Thanks Rookie Chef!

Herbs de Provence Chicken
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (exactly what comes in my Costco pack!)
  • 1 cup of all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 2 teaspoons herbes de provence (go buy them if you don't already have them in your spice rack. They smell and taste amazing!!) ** Next time I think I might up it to 3 or 4 teaspoons. Their flavor was too faint in the final product for me; I prefer strongly seasoned food.**

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Spray a baking dish with non-stick spray (I use Smart Balance). Since I was only cooking two chicken breasts, I used a glass pie dish to cook them in. I needed my 9 x 13" pan for the asparagus.

Line up three bowls for coating the chicken. In the first bowl, combine the flour, salt and pepper. I just mixed the ingredients together with a fork.

In the second bowl, beat the egg. Make sure you use a bowl big enough to put the chicken breast in!

In the third bowl, mix the panko crumbs with the herbs de provence.

First, dip one chicken breast in the flour mixture. Turn to coat both sides. Then dip it in the egg, again coating both sides. Lastly, dip and coat both sides of the chicken in the panko and herb mix. Lay that chicken breast in your baking dish and repeat the process with the second chicken breast.

This is what the chicken should look like once you have coated the breasts.

Bake uncovered for 40 minutes (Turn chicken over half way through). Let sit a few minutes after you take out of the oven, so the chicken can reabsorb its juices.

Herbed Asparagus

Growing up I was a fairly picky eater, with a long list of veggies I Asparagus was definitely on that list. I absolutely *hated* asparagus! My mom steamed it and served it plain; just limp, ugly green spears that tasted bitter (sorry Mom!). I vowed never to eat asparagus once I grew up and I knew that I would never force my children to suffer the same fate as I. Of course, life can be funny and according to my mom, I wasn’t really picky, I just wanted to be in control…

It wasn’t until I was at a wedding as an adult that I willingly tried asparagus on my own. Oh my goodness! These spears were soooo good! They had been oven roasted with rosemary, and probably some olive oil. I actually wanted seconds of this once taboo veggie!

Now, I make asparagus quite often (I buy huge bags of it at Costco), and I usually either grill it on the barbecue or I just throw it in the oven with some salt and pepper. It’s one of the few veggies my husband will eat, and often requests.

I decided to try dressing it up a bit recently, and since I was making herb de provence chicken, I decided to throw some of the same herbs on my asparagus.

The result: Let’s just say, that once I finally do have kids, they will never view asparagus as something to detest. ☺

Asparagus de Provence
*Note: There are no measurements in this recipe. While I usually find that annoying when I am recipe-hunting, I find it works best for this one to just use the amount that you like. :)

  • One bunch asparagus (feel free to use more or less depending on how much you want to make)
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Pinch of salt
  • Several shakes of pepper (my husband loves pepper. Use however much you want)
  • A small palm-full of herbs de provence
  • Parmesan cheese

Heat your oven to 375 degrees. (Perfect if you are also making chicken herbs de provence.)

Trim the ends from your asparagus and rinse them off. Pat dry with a paper towel and lay them in a 9 x 13" pan. Drizzle the olive oil over the spears. Don't douse them though! I like to shake the pan once I've drizzled the oil, so the oil spreads on all the spears.

Sprinkle the salt, pepper, and herbs de provence over the asparagus. Shake the pan again to help evenly distribute the seasonings. Sprinkle about a tablespoon or so of parmesan cheese over the asparagus.

Here they are raw, all dressed up and ready to go in the oven.

Throw in the oven and cook. I put mine in for about 15 min, so they are still crisp, but not raw.
Serve with your favorite entree and enjoy!

Better than Wetzel's Soft Pretzels

Mmmm, I absolutely *love* soft pretzels. Lately, whenever my husband and I are at the mall, I *have* to stop by Wetzel's Pretzels and buy a plain, original pretzel and a lemonade. They are SO good, but pricey, so I decided that I should try making them at home.

Total score!! These pretzels came out so good. My husband, who is not a huge soft pretzel fan, ate two of them! I didn't have any pretzel salt though, so I just used the regular fine grain table salt I already had, which worked just fine. I think I will be buying some pretzel salt on my next grocery store trip; I know I will be making these snacks again.

Thanks to Branny Boils Over for the recipe!

PS I promise to upload pics as soon as I find my camera cord!

Better than Wetzel's Soft Pretzels
Makes 8 pretzels

1 1/2 cups warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water
• 1 tablespoon sugar
• 2 teaspoons kosher salt (I used sea salt)
• 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
• 22 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 4 1/2 cups
• 2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
• Vegetable oil, for cookie sheets
• 10 cups water
• 2/3 cup baking soda
• 1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
• Pretzel salt (Again, I just used regular table salt for this)

Combine the water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and pour the yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam.

Add the flour and butter and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined. Increase speed to medium and continue kneading until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Place dough in a well oiled bowl (I sprayed mine with Smart Balance cooking spray) and cover with plastic wrap or a clean dish towel. Allow bowl to sit in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper and lightly brush with the vegetable oil. Set aside.

Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan or roasting pan. When you dump in the baking soda, beware of foamy overflow!

While the water comes to a boil, divide the dough into 8 equal pieces and place on the oiled parchment paper. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope. (I rolled mine between my hands, the way little kids make Play-Doh snakes. ) Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Place onto the parchment-lined half sheet pan.

Place the pretzels into the boiling water, once at a time, for about 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula. Return to the half sheet pan, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with the pretzel salt. Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes. (My pretzels were done right at the 12 minute mark.)

Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving. You can serve with mustard, cheese sauce, or whatever else you like to dip pretzels in; We ate ours plain. I plan on sneaking these in my purse the next time we go see a movie!


Blogging, Take 2

Well, I have tried setting up a food blog before, but didn't keep up with it. Now I am ready to actually blog about the food I am cooking and share it with you. I have been doing a lot of cooking lately, especially yeast breads, but I have been bad about taking pictures. :( I apologize in advance for my lack of pictures, but I promise, new creations will be photographed.

Anyway, can I just tell you how exciting I find it to make yeast breads?? I finally decided to give it a try after reading numerous other blog posts on the subject. I had always thought it would be this difficult, laborious process, and it is actually really easy!! I did have 3 fails when I first tried to make pizza crust, but as it turned out, the recipe failed me. The recipe I used only called for about 2 ounces of water in the *entire* recipe! Yeah, not nearly enough.

After consulting the cooking gurus on The Nest, I quickly learned *much* more water was needed. My fourth attempt was a huge score; I was so happy I was dancing around my kitchen while my husband played video games and bemusedly smiled at me. Unfortunately, I then burned the crust to death on my barbecue. Ehh, better luck next time, right?

Check back again soon for some actual recipes and cooking!


Blog Widget by LinkWithin