Thursday, March 31, 2011

Looking Back: March 2011

Homemade Chocolate Pudding Pie, Just for the Husband
It's that time again. Goodbye, March. April is quickly approaching (which is exactly why I made a chocolate pudding pie tonight). I honestly can't even tell you where this month has gone. I guess that means the husband and I spent it enjoying ourselves - and eating a lot of corned beef. So as the month comes to a close, I thought I'd leave you with a look back at some of the things I've loved in - and out - of the kitchen this month. And you can stop by again tomorrow to find out more about that homemade pudding pie you just got a sneak peek at above.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Midweek Wrap-Up

pasta with roasted tomatoes
Shells With Garlic, White Beans and  Roasted Tomatoes
I know, it's Wednesday and I'm about to talk about Meatless Monday. (Bad blogging habits live here.) But I wanted you to know that Meatless Monday did, in fact, happen in our household this week. I picked another Ellie Krieger recipe, mainly because I had all of the ingredients in the house, but the recipe did sound good. Two birds with one stone? Sure thing. The husband didn't think the recipe sounded that bad, either. We were on a roll.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Happy BIrthday, You Get Brown Rice

brown rice pilaf and oven-fried fish
Brown Rice Pilaf and Oven-Fried Fish
It's my birthday. I tell you this not because I want you to wish me a happy day but because for the next two days I'll be three - not just two - years older than the husband. And if I didn't tell you this bit of information, the husband definitely would. So there you have it: It's my birthday. I was showered with many wonderful gifts and Mother Nature even blessed us with a bit of sunshine today. What else made it a great day? In addition to the spa gift certificate the husband gave me, he also let me make brown rice for dinner. Can you feel the love? Actually, he loves me so much he voluntarily ate brown rice and fish for my birthday. It truly was a great day.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Homemade Whole Wheat Thin Mints

homemade thin mints
Homemade Whole Wheat Thin Mints
It never got above 45 degrees here today, and yet the husband wanted to go play golf this morning. Did I mind? Absolutely not. His lone outing would allow me to go to the grocery store all by myself and pick up top-secret ingredients so I could make him an early birthday surprise. To my surprise, though, he was finished about halfway through my shopping trip and called to see where I was. I told him I was in the pasta aisle; he said he'd see me in 10 minutes.

The husband knew I was planning to make him something special this afternoon, so I asked him not to question any ingredients I bought - or to even try and guess what I had up my sleeve. He promised but, of course, as we were checking out something caught his eye. He looked at me and asked, "peppermint extract?"

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Apple-Stuffed French Toast

apple-stuffed french toast
Apple-Stuffed French Toast
We're looking at a chilly, rainy weekend here - at least that's what the weatherman says. It hasn't rained here yet, but we've been told it's coming. So the husband asked if I'd like to go on a date this afternoon. Do I have a keeper or what? We're heading out shortly for a trip to Super Target (which really does sound exciting to me), a matinee and dinner at one of our favorite steakhouses. But, you know me, it doesn't matter how much food I plan to consumer later, I must eat breakfast.

I made the husband a nice French toast breakfast and one for myself, as well, but I amped it up a little bit. Of course I offered to make the husband's breakfast just like mine, but he really wasn't interested. He liked his simple french toast just fine, and now we're ready to take on the day. I'm just hoping not everyone else and their brother has decided to go to the movies today, as well.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Chicken and Spinach White Pizza

chicken and spinach pizza
Chicken and Spinach White Pizza
As we were about to put our pizza in the oven tonight the husband asked me, "Are we predictable because we eat pizza almost every week, or are we unique because we eat different kinds of pizza?" My answer?

"You obviously don't read my blog, do you?"

"Your blog is my life! I don't really need to read about my life," he told me.

So although the husband may not care to read what we ate for dinner, you, I hope are interested. And you already know that Friday often means pizza night in our house. But tonight we had a pizza that was a little different than any pizza I've made before. As much as I've thought about and wanted to make pizza with spinach, I'd never done it until tonight.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Ellie's Pork Chops and Warm Apple Slaw

pork chops and apple slaw
Pork Chops and Warm Apple Slaw
Smell can make us draw pretty powerful associations, wouldn't you agree? The smell of sauteing garlic always reminds me of gravy on Sundays and good memories of my parents' kitchen filled with family. On the other hand, the smell of Pine Sol makes me think about mopping the floor after one of the dogs has been on a naughty streak. You get my drift. Is this not a good way to start a food post? Perhaps, but I need you to understand how hesitant I was to make the husband cabbage for dinner - and get him to eat it. 

I love cabbage. I enjoy a good cole slaw, steamed cabbage with butter, sauteed cabbage with olive oil and salt and pepper, and I even like a little cabbage soup every now and then. The husband, however, feels the need to make faces, tell me I'm gross and talk about how  awful the kitchen smells every time I make cabbage. Every. Single. Time. So I really wasn't sure how well tonight's dinner would go over. But I really wanted to make this recipe, and the husband recently told me he'd try anything I want to make. (And, yes, there's a chance he admitted this after a few PBRs, but I'm not about to forget it.) 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Review: Heartland

Heartland: The Cookbook
By Judith Fertig

I've driven through Ohio, stopped off in Missouri to see the Gateway to the West once and, when I was about 5, traveled to Illinois with my momma. (For the record, we arrived in Illinois on the tail end of an ice storm, and I don't think I've ever been so cold in my life.) But I've never really experienced the Midwest nor have I ever thought I'd want to visit the Midwest - until now.

Judith Fertig's Heartland: The Cookbook has made the Midwest come alive in my mind. With her heartfelt, descriptive stories of farm life and big beautiful photos I can't help but want to make every single recipe in this book and drive straight to Kansas as soon as I'm done. Pantry staples welcome you in the beginning of the book, main dishes fill out the middle and sweet endings bring everything full circle. This book is filled with recipes that focus on wholesome ingredients (no box mixes here!). But this cookbook is filled with more than just great recipes.

"Midwesterners have a grounded sense of who they are because they're still close to the land," Fertig writes in her introduction. She describes the stories behind the recipes and even offers sidebars on where to find great Midwestern ingredients. (Looking for a good blue cheese? There's a farm in Newton, Iowa, that's been producing the stuff since 1941.) 

I haven't made my way through all of the recipes in this beautiful 265-page book yet, but I've spent plenty of nights thumbing through the pages, savoring the stories and drooling over the photos. And the only complaint I have about this book is that it doesn't include nutritional information for the recipes. I know, I know, I'm a bit compulsive when it comes to reading food labels; not everyone is interested in knowing these details. So I can't say the lack of this information is a reason not to add this book to your collection. Besides, when you can whip up a no-knead bread as good as this, do you really need to know how many calories are in every slice? Whether you make it in the Southeast or across the Atlantic Ocean, you can take pride knowing it was made with simple, good-for-you ingredients. And if you want to pretend you're in the Midwest when you pull the beautiful, honey-fragrant loaves out of the oven, that works, too.

honey clover bread
No-Knead Clover Honey Bread
Disclaimer: I received this book free of charge to write this review. I received no monetary compensation; all thoughts are mine alone.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Meatless Monday: Creamy Creole-Spiced Pasta

creole-spiced pasta
Creamy Creole-Spiced 
When we clear the table at the end of a meal, one thing is always the same: My plate is always cleaner than the husband's plate. It's a habit I've had for years. I think I get it from watching my step-father wipe heels of Arthur Avenue bread around his plate, wiping up gravy or balsamic vinaigrette, at the end of a good meal. The husband? He never does this - ever. (I'm really starting to question what kind of Italians raised him.) So when I saw him using a slice of bread to clean his plate tonight, I knew he liked dinner.

I had told the husband I planned to make something like a baked mac and cheese; he said it sounded like a good idea. And when I got his text at 4:45pm telling me that Meatless Monday was killing him and he was starving (dramatic, I know), I knew dinner better be good or I'd never hear the end of it. 

But I was willing to live with good, and when I decided not to really make a mac and cheese, I didn't worry. I just wanted to make a good meal - that had a lot fewer calories than your traditional mac and cheese. So when the husband finished his meal by wiping his bread all around his bowl, I knew dinner was better than good. I apologized for not making mac and cheese, but the husband said he really liked dinner and that it was more like an Alfredo pasta. He didn't even reach for the spices or extra cheese that I put on the table for him. And that pretty much proved to me that he doesn't think Meatless Monday is so bad after all.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Easy, Low-Fat Granola

Homemade Granola
Wife: So I was reading this story today on about this 103-year-old man who rides his bike every day.
Husband: Wait, what?
Wife: Yeah, I know! He's 103, can you believe that?
Husband: No, I mean, you were reading a website called
Wife: Babe, you knew who I was when you married me.

The husband may like to laugh at the fact that I enjoy clicking around, recycling, composting, searching for healthy recipes and reading nutrition labels at the grocery store. But he also really likes to benefit from these habits - and he especially likes eating the granola I've been making lately. And I don't think he minds my stories that much, either.

Easy, Low-Fat Granola

Inspired by a lot of reading but especially The Gracious Pantry

2 cups oats (sometimes I use 1 cup old fashioned and 1 cup quick)
1 cup crisp rice cereal
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 cup walnuts
1/4 cup raw honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup dried cranberries

Heat oven to 300 degrees F.

Combine the oats, cereal, cinnamon and walnuts in a large bowl; mix well.

Stir in the vanilla, honey and applesauce until everything is thoroughly combined.

Spread the mixture evenly on a lightly sprayed baking sheet.

Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and press the cranberries into the slightly cooked granola. 

Continue baking at 20-minute intervals, stirring every 20 minutes to make sure the granola is browning evenly and not burning. (Stir more often for fewer crunchy granola clumps.) The granola may take up to a whole hour until it is lightly browned to your liking and cooked completely.

Spoon into baggies or keep in a covered container.

Makes 8 (2-ounce) servings:

156 calories, 3.7 g fat, 28.5 g carbs, 2.9 g fiber, 3.5 g protein

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Slow-Cooker Corned Beef and Veggies

slow-cooker corned beef dinner
Corned Beef, Cabbage, Potatoes and a Side of Soda Bread ... Outside on the Deck
I could go all out here and get into my family history how my great-grandparents were born in Ireland and ended up in New York - Lord knows how – but that's not why you're here, is it? 

I'll skip the stories behind the genealogy, my partiality to gingers and how I begged my parents to hire a harpist for my wedding, and I'll right to the point: I have Irish blood, I love St. Patrick's Day and I don't think I've ever drank a green beer in my life. (If I have, it hasn't been since undergrad and I can't remember the experience for one reason or another. For the record, I prefer my beer to be a lovely shade of brown – or almost black.) So I know corned beef on St. Patrick's Day is unauthentic and an American-inspired tradition (just ask Little Big Brother, I learned that fact the hard way.) But I don't really care. I look forward to eating my weight in corned beef all year. That's right. All. Year. Long. So without further ado, I give you the very simple, very indulgent, recipe that the husband and I enjoyed on the porch this evening - with beers in our honeymoon glasses, as per the husband's request.

Slow-Cooker Corned Beef and Veggies

3 medium carrots, chopped into 1-inch pieces
4 small red potatoes, quartered
1/2-3/4 cup onion, quartered
12 ounces Guinness
2.5 lbs corned beef
4-5 cups water

Chop the vegetables and place in the bottom of the slow cooker. Rinse the corned beef and put it on top of the vegetables. 

Pour the Guinness into the slow cooker and add in enough water to cover the meat.

Cook on low for 8-9 hours. 

I was more than happy to enjoy my corned beef with a side of steamed cabbage, which the husband gladly skipped. (I think he ate an extra slice of soda bread to make up for that.) And although I worried the husband might not love the meal as much as I did, he thought it was quite good. Neither of us is a fan of the obligatory spice packet that comes with the corned beef. You may want to add a few peppercorns to your slow cooker, but, as you can see, I don't think it's necessary. We both really enjoyed dinner. Actually, it was so good, we'll be enjoying it again tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Chocolatey Stout Cakes

guinness stout cake
Chocolatey Stout Cake
The husband does not like cake. But he was in charge of making dinner tonight, and I wanted to make him something special for giving me the night off. He totally deserved a treat: As soon as I stepped out of the car I could smell him grilling. He made the most amazing grilled jerk chicken and cut it up into bowls of Alfredo noodles. (I also threw some green beans and tomatoes into my bowl, but he skipped those.) So, no, he doesn't like cake. But he likes beer. And being just a few short days away from St. Patrick's Day, I thought chocolatey stout cakes sounded awfully good - for the husband and me. 

Chocolate Stout Cakes
Inspired by a Recipe From my Momma (I have no idea where she got it)
Makes 1 large bundt cake or 12-15 ramekins or muffins

1 1/4 cup Guinness

1/3 cup unsulphured molasses
1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 sticks salted butter, softened to room temperature
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips, chopped (mini chips would work well, too)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and position the rack in the middle of the oven. 

Butter the cake pan (or pans) with butter and sprinkle with cocoa. This will help you remove the cakes once they're baked.

Heat the Guinness and molasses over high heat in a small saucepan. Pay attention - the mixture could easily bubble! Bring the mixture to a simmer and remove from heat; start on the batter. 

Don't count the foam when measuring your Guinness.

Sift together the flour, cocoa, soda, powder and salt.

Cream the butter in a mixture on medium speed for about 1 minute. Add in the brown sugar and beat until light and fluffy, scraping the bowl as needed, for about 3 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time. 

With the mixture running on low speed, gradually add in the flour and liquid mixtures, alternating. Begin with the flour and end with the flour. Scrape the bowl as needed. Beat the mixture until smooth; add in the chocolate chips.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan or pans, smoothing the top with a spoon or spatula.

I thought I'd make 12 muffins ...
I ended up with enough batter for 12 muffins and three well-filled ramekins!
Bake until a toothpick comes out with just a few cake bits stuck to it. A cake may take 45-50 minutes. My muffins took 35 minutes; my ramekins took 40 minutes.

chocolate stout cake

Serve with cream or a nice glass of milk. Freeze extra cakes wrapped in plastic and tin foil.

As I said, the husband isn't a cake guy. But he gladly licked the bowl while the cakes were baking and happily ate a ramekin as soon as it came out of the oven. When I asked him what he thought about the cake he told me they were chocolatey - but I don't think that was a complaint. When I asked him what he was going to serve me for my upcoming birthday dessert he said, "How about these?" 

I'll admit they were a bit sweet. Perhaps next time I'll switch out the cocoa for unsweetened natural cocoa powder or cut down on the brown sugar a little. But for a first attempt, it was definitely a success. I'd be more than happy if we had these again on my birthday. Maybe I'll even get a few more ramekins by then, hint, hint. If I have a husband who's going to be a fan of mini cakes, I'll need those, won't I?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Meatless Monday: Curry-Spiced Noodles

Curry-Spiced Noodles Inspired by Cooking Light
Finally! I've only been waiting weeks - literally weeks - to make this dish. This was supposed to be last Monday's dinner, but since the husband left me home to fend for myself, I had to put this meal on hold. (He actually left the house last week smirking over his shoulder saying, "I'm off to eat some meat.") But there was no business dinner to save the husband from Meatless Monday this week. And joke as he may, I don't think he minded this Meatless Monday dinner one bit.

As the husband and furkids played outside, I got started on dinner. I knew (thank you, Mom Chef) that this meal wouldn't come together as quickly as I hoped. And even though I took a few shortcuts, skipping the shiitake mushrooms and lemongrass, to mention a few, it still look more thought and planning than I'd anticipated. (Lucky for me I cut the recipe in half or I'd still be julienning carrots!) I made quite a mess in the kitchen, but it smelled amaaaazing.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Wakie, Wakie ... It's Time for Eggs and Bakie

waffles and nectarines
Multigrain Waffles and Nectarines With a Side of Egg Whites
My momma sent me a link to Kellogg's Share Your Breakfast program earlier this week, and I have to admit I'm hooked. I've been busy helping to feed schoolchildren ever since. (The husband will tell you this is just another excuse for me to take photos during mealtime, but I disagree.) All you have to do is take a picture of your morning meal and upload it to the Kellogg's site - you can even text your photo submissions. You don't have to receive annoying e-mails from the company once you've participated, either. And the best part? You can upload more than one photo, which means you can help the project as many times as your heart desires. 

It doesn't matter what time I get up in the morning. I need breakfast. When we're in the car at 4 am for a 12-hour car ride to visit our parents, I've been known to eat breakfast at about 4:30. And on lazy Saturday mornings when the husband wants to relax and drink three cups of coffee before he even thinks about breakfast, I eat without him. It's obvious I love food. But the truth is I can't imagine starting the day without this important meal. As cliche as it sounds, a good, healthy breakfast gives me so much energy and really gets me ready to face the day. I think we all deserve a good start to to the day. 

Here's a look at some of my morning meals this week: 

Egg White Breakfast Pizza
French Toast With Bananas and Honey
oatmeal topped with yogurt
Oatmeal Topped With Nonfat Plain Yogurt & Strawberries

How'd you start your day?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Pizza Pasta

Vegetarian Pizza Pasta
Pizza Pasta With Veggies
The husband loves himself some pizza. And he loves having a wife who gladly makes him scratch-made pizza on a regular basis. So you can only imagine his disappointment when I told him that I wasn't planning to make pizza this week. No pizza on Friday? Had I lost my mind? No pizza on a huge NCAA basketball night? I thought both of our waistlines could use a week off. Do I sound like a big meanie? I don't mean to, but it's the truth. I really thought I could get away with cutting a few pizza calories out of week. But the husband was so sad when I told him we'd be having a pizza-free Friday, I had to compromise.

I looked for a recipe that would fulfill the husband's pizza needs without costing us each 600+ calories. My answer came in an interesting recipe from Pizza with a pasta crust? Sure, I thought, the husband might go for that.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Marmalade-Glazed Chicken

marmalade-glazed chicken
Marmalade-Glazed Chicken With Rice and Veggies
I can't exactly remember the context, but I can recall talking with my momma years before I got married about brides and she said, "brides always get skinny." I was probably whining to her about my weight and unnecessarily worrying about whether I'd make a beautiful bride. Well, I'll be honest: I got skinny right before my wedding. I was actually doing so well watching my weight and working out that at my last dress fitting the seamstress said: "Oh, baby girl! You're losin' weight on me. Look at all of the fabric back here!"

Well, a whole seven months later, I no longer seem to be losing weight - or maintaining it for that matter. I'm a whole six pounds heavier than the day I married the husband and, although he hates to hear about it, really starting to worry this isn't a good sign. I need to get back on track! So tonight I served up a lighter meal that still tasted pretty good.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Meatless Monday: An Italian Wrap & Pumpkin Yogurt

pumpkin yogurt
Pumpkin Yogurt and Graham Crackers
There's nothing I don't like about living with the husband. I love our time together more than anything. Honestly. I enjoy all the little stuff - even sorting laundry together. I just plain love it all. But there's something to be said about solitary evenings alone. When I'm home by myself I can watch hours of Sex and the City reruns or dance around the kitchen while I sweep the floor. The dogs never mind. Nor do they mind when I eat meals that their dad would likely consider repulsive. So as sad as I was when the husband said he had to go to a business dinner and wouldn't be home tonight, I also knew it meant I'd get to eat whatever I wanted for dinner without anyone raising an eyebrow.

While searching the Web a couple of weeks ago for vegetarian dishes I came across a recipe for vegetarian meat substitute that I thought sounded really interesting. I knew I'd never get away with serving it to the husband, though, so I was kind of looking forward to a night alone - a vegetarian night alone, ending with a little pumpkin dessert, to be exact.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Pot Roast and Soda Bread

Pot Roast With a Side of Soda Bread
Our dogs do not understand that Sunday should be the day of rest. Everyone in our house woke up at 5:45 this morning. So by 7 am I'd had breakfast and the husband was pacing around wondering what he was going to do all morning. He retreated to the garage to trim out our new door, and I decided to make something to accompany tonight's dinner. 

I've never made soda bread before, but I figured now that March is upon us, this was the time. Unfortunately, my
Irish Pub Cookbook was no help. The only recipe in that book remotely close to a soda bread is for a bread pudding - which I'm sure is of no interest to the husband. So I was kind of at a loss when it came to soda bread. But I still really, really wanted to make one, so I turned to the Web. And there are tons of soda bread recipes out there, but all I wanted was an authentic soda bread - a recipe that didn't call for raisins or any sort of spice not stocked in my kitchen, e.g., caraway. 

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Deep-Dish Pizza

Deep-Dish Pizza
The husband and I are not deep-dish pizza kinda people. We were raised on thin it-better-be-able-to-stand-on-its-own pizza. So when I told the husband I wanted to make a doughier pizza than normal tonight, I didn't expect him to jump up and down - and he didn't. But he was willing to give it a try, and I'm glad he was game because tonight's dinner was goooood.

I had wanted to make a polenta-crust pizza. I'm not sure what planted this seed in my brain, but I thought it sounded interesting and I really wanted to give it a try. I thought we had two boxes of cornmeal in the cupboard, which meant we'd have more than enough to make polenta. Unfortunately, we had two boxes of cornstarch in the cupboard. Big difference. 

Banana-Topped Pumpkin French Toast

bananas and french toast
Banana-Topped Pumpkin French Toast
Before we headed out for a day of outlet shopping today (thank you, spring rain), I made myself and the husband a nice French toast breakfast. He ate just plain old bread and egg whites with maple syrup (trucked all the way from Vermont). But I ate mine with a little pumpkin and some cooked bananas on top. Mmmmm. There's nothing like a great breakfast to start the day.

"See all the great things I introduced you to?" the husband asked as he ate his breakfast and I continued to cook mine. He was right. I never - never - ate French toast until I met him and his momma, who once owned a restaurant that I have a feeling specialized in breakfast. And I never ate pumpkin. You'd have never known my former breakfast aversions, though, from the meal I had this morning.

Banana-Topped Pumpkin French Toast

2 slices 35-calorie 9-grain bread
2 tablespoons canned pumpkin
1/2 large banana
1/2 cup liquid egg whites
dash vanilla
dash cinnamon
1/2 tablespoon honey

Mix about 1/4 cup of the egg whites, the cinnamon and vanilla in a bowl. 

Spread the pumpkin onto one slice of bread, and sandwich the other slice of bread on top. 

Dip the bread into the egg white mixture, covering both sides with the eggs. Cook the sandwich on a warmed and sprayed griddle. Flip the French toast sandwich after a few minutes and cook the other side until both sides are lightly brown and the eggs are cooked.

Cook the remaining egg whites and serve on the side.

Top the French toast with honey and enjoy!

Serves 1
Amount Per Serving: 237 calories, 1.5 g fat, 43 g carbs, 7.9 g fiber, 18 g protein

Chicken and Rice - Again?

green beans, chicken and rice
Rice, Green Beans and a Chicken Kebabs
That's usually the husband's reaction when I tell him we're having chicken and rice. So in trying to keep things fresh and interesting, I thought I'd cook the rice a little different than usual the other night. Rice can take 30 minutes to cook on the stovetop and up to 55 minutes in the steamer. (I love rice in the steamer, but who wants to wait 55 minutes on a weeknight?) I wanted to get dinner on the table in 25 to 30 minutes - tops - so I decided to try out a new technique.

I had marinated chicken all day, so that was ready for the husband to grill as soon as he got home. I threw some fresh green beans, which I was very excited to see at the grocery store last weekend, in the steamer and started the rice. I found a recipe online that had gotten rave reviews, so I thought I'd try it out. It said the rice would be ready in about 20 minutes. 


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