January Book Club Review

February 2, 2015 at 8:07 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

Well, I’ve kind of slacked on doing these lately but we ladies met again last week so here you go!

We went to Chez Simo, which is a French restaurant that opened last year in my neighborhood. It was a brunch place before it went all French and I used to love going there (the coffee was especially delicious). I was pretty bummed when that restaurant closed down and even more bummed when I realized that most French food isn’t exactly vegetarian-friendly, which may or may not be why I had never been there before. We were reading My Life in France by Julia Child so obviously the French theme was appropriate but my dietary fears were unfounded and I had a tres bien meal!  I started with an asparagus soup that had a generous chunk of brie cheese floating in the middle, which went really well together. It was delicious and inspired me to make my own asparagus soup at some point. Then I had a beet salad that had green beans and almonds, which was also very good. I’m not someone who eats a ton of beets but that may have to change! Chez Simo is also BYOB which is always super fantastic and there’s a liquor store right across the street so it was convenient as well.

Watch out!

As for the book, no one seemed too incredibly impressed. I liked it myself but will admit that it wasn’t exactly thrilling. Julia talks all about how she got interested in cooking and writing cookbooks and also describes her nomadic life in Europe and the US. Her husband worked for the government and was stationed in both Paris and Germany (and perhaps elsewhere that I haven’t read about yet) so they were constantly packing up and moving on. It’s all interesting but I’m not exactly a chef myself and a lot of the dishes she talks about have French names so I have no idea what she’s going on about. There are lots of details she gets into that I could live without but I guess it’s to be expected from a woman who experimented with dozens of different types of recipes for mayonnaise before finally being satisfied. And you don’t even want to know how long it took her to perfect her pie crusts. That said, it was pretty empowering to read about a woman who didn’t find her true passion in life until her late 30’s and then achieved success way after that. Gives me hope for writing that great novel yet!

 

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Table for Six

October 18, 2013 at 1:51 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

Scott and I are hosting a dinner party tomorrow night.  We’re having over my newly pregnant friend and her husband, along with an old college buddy of mine and the new guy he’s dating.  I’m really excited to introduce all of my friends to each other and we’re going to watch The Witches of Eastwick after we eat so I don’t see how anything could possibly go wrong.  Unless I mess up the meal, that is!

I’ve never cooked for six people before so it’s a little intimidating.  It’ll also be extra interesting because our table only sits four so we’ll be doing some improvising when it comes to seating arrangements.  Thank god for folding chairs, right?  I’m pretty sure we’ll all fit so now it’s a matter of making a tasty meal that everyone (even my dairy-free boyfriend) can enjoy.  Luckily, I have the internet and it helped me come up with some ideas.

Let’s Dinner Party!

Here’s what’s on the menu:

  • Toasted baguette sandwiches featuring marinated eggplant, zucchini, provolone cheese, pesto and tomatoes
  • Mashed cauliflower with chives and roasted garlic
  • Macaroni and cheese with red and yellow peppers and spinach.  This is actually vegan and the “cheese” sauce I found includes cannellini beans and a sweet potato, among other things.  I’m a little nervous about this especially since I love me some good old-fashioned regular processed cheese food product but this got great reviews and looks pretty good so I’m going to just go for it.

I also found a recipe that calls for baking macaroni and cheese in muffin cups so you wind up with mac and cheese muffins.  I’m going to throw all caution to the wind and just incorporate one recipe with the other and see what happens.

Hopefully it will be the best meal anyone has ever had in their entire life but if not, I can always order pizza.  And at least Jack Nicholson, Cher, Michelle Pfeiffer and Susan Sarandon will be around to keep us company!

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Starved Rock

October 2, 2013 at 1:39 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

This was much cooler and larger in real life.

This was much cooler and larger in real life.

Scott and I had another camping excursion last weekend, this time to Starved Rock State Park.  I’d never been before but Scott used to go about a decade ago and was under the impression we could hike the awesome trails of the park right from our campsite.  In reality, the campsite was a few miles drive from the park but we were still able to do some hiking.  Here are the pros and cons of this site compared to the one we went to at the Illinois State Beach Park a few weeks ago:

Pros:

  • We got to do a lot of great hiking and I saw places in nature I’d never seen before

Cons:

  • It was about an hour further of a drive (each way)
  • The campsite wasn’t as nice/secluded
  • The bathrooms DEFINITELY weren’t as nice
  • Alcohol was technically prohibited but just about everyone was drinking anyway

All in all, I think I liked the campsite at the Beach Park better but the hiking at Starved Rock made up for any difference.  We spent about 3 hours hiking around, going through canyons and up and down various overlooks and peaks.  It was gorgeous.  My photos didn’t really do the view justice at all and I didn’t take too many since I was so involved with the scenery.  Obviously I took the one of breakfast because I just love food so much and that photo did do the meal some justice.  The hike was the highlight of the camping experience though and I’m looking forward to the next time we make that trek.  There was a Visitor’s Center that had a small museum and some info that I enjoyed reading and there were plenty of trails to choose from.  Kids, families, groups of friends and couples were everywhere but the crowds tapered off the further you got from the Center.  It was definitely worth the trip.  There’s a lot of history to that area and the name of the place comes from a Native American tribe who was fighting with another tribe and basically chose to starve at the top of the plateau rather than surrender.  Kind of depressing but absolutely interesting.

Breakfast of Champions!

Breakfast of Champions!

We almost didn’t stay though because the weather called for strong storms all night.  The winds were really strong when we were setting up camp and we had to chase down our tent more than once – until we stuck the cooler in there to weigh that sucker down.  We decided to tough it out though, come hell or high water, and the only thing we dealt with was the water.  The rain managed to hold off until about 10pm so we had enough time for veggie dogs and s’mores before it hit.  When it started, though, there was no avoiding it.  We basically called it a night then and slept through the worst of it.  The tent held up fairly well and only got soggy in one spot, so that was nice.  In the morning the weather cleared up and became beautiful again so we were able to dry all of our equipment off while making the delicious breakfast seen here.

The whole experience was a great way to welcome the fall and I hope timing and weather cooperates so we can go once more before winter really hits.  Who knew camping could be so much fun?!

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Foodie Friday!

September 27, 2013 at 11:02 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

Over the weekend, Scott and I had a friend of ours over for dinner (read: to help us finish some vegetables we had sitting around).  I made corn on the cob, green beans with red and yellow peppers, veggie burgers and mashed potatoes cauliflower.  It all turned out really well, especially the cauliflowers which I had never cooked that way before.  Here’s what I did:

Mmm vegetables

Mmm vegetables

The corn was easy enough and was just placed, husks and all, into the oven for about 35 minutes.  Veggie burgers were cooked on the stove top while the buns toasted in the oven and then we dressed them however we saw fit.  Mine included avocado, tomato, and a Chipotle may sauce that tied it all together.  The green beans were steamed with the peppers (which were originally frozen) and then mixed with some butter and garlic salt.  As for the mashed cauliflower, I steamed a whole head of it and then used a hand food processor to mash it all up.  I added 2 tablespoons of milk, garlic, salt, pepper, basil and red pepper flakes along with some butter and that was it!  It didn’t taste exactly liked potatoes but I didn’t really expect it to.  It was a healthy, tasty alternative and I was surprised at how easy and delicious it was.  My only complaint was that the head of cauliflower didn’t produce much of a serving size once all was said and done.  What’s featured in the pic is about the size of what all three of us had and we could’ve all had more.  Regardless, I was glad it worked and will be incorporating it into future meals!  Especially since Scott doesn’t really like cauliflower but he really enjoyed it prepared like this.

I really like making meals but it seems I run out of time during the week.  What did I have last night for dinner? Some veggie chicken nuggets and bean dip with way too many tortilla chips.  Oh well, that was good too!

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Foodie Friday!

August 16, 2013 at 11:06 am (Uncategorized) (, , , )

This dish was actually one of Scott’s creations and it was so good I had to share:

Eggplant-y Goodness

Eggplant-y Deliciousness

I subjected myself to the torture that is another Piloxing class last night and by the time I got home, I was sweaty, tired and in dire need of a meal.  Luckily Scott came to the rescue!  While I showered and cleaned up, he got to cooking.  He baked the eggplant slices we had from Trader Joe’s in the oven then poured some marinara sauce on top.  He then used a sautéed combination of yellow, red and green peppers with mushrooms to top the dish and after adding some cheese, put it on toasted bread and called it dinner!  The side of corn was originally frozen and cooked on the stove fairly quick.  It was just what the doctor ordered and my stomach and blood sugar thanked him.

Maybe if I’m lucky I can get him to cook some more for me this weekend!

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A Little Something

October 17, 2011 at 10:14 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

As I get back into the swing of blog writing (and be warned…I’m still in quite the funk over Catsby so my witty postings may be a bit fewer and farer between for a while), I figured I’d take it easy.  I promise to do a post on my trip at some point but today is focused on something I’m able to enjoy, no matter how sad I am – food.

I made this dish last night and it will be serving as breakfast for most of the week.  About 3 weeks ago I found a recipe that would help me use a bunch of yellow squash I had sitting around and this new creation stems from that.  Here’s what I used because I happened to have it on hand:

  • mushrooms
  • zucchini
  • butternut squash (this came in a microwavable bag mixed with cinnamon from Green Giant)
  • onion
  • buttery crackers
  • shredded cheese
  • vegetarian sausage
  • spinach

I’m not very good at following exact measurements or directions in general so I kind of just cut a lot of veggies and the no-meat sausage up and put it all in a bowl.  Then I took all the crackers, smashed them into a pulp with a potato masher and added roughly a half cup of the shredded cheese.  I then took the veggies and put them in the skillet with some olive oil and let them get nice and tender.  I added about half of the crackers and cheese midway through.

Look what I can do!

While the veggies were cooking I took two eggs, 1/4 cup melted butter and 1/3 cup milk and mixed it all together.  Then I tossed that all on top of the entire vegetable concoction and took all that and spread it into a glass baking pan.  After adding the rest of the crackers and cheese to the top, I threw the whole thing in the oven and then took a shower.  But you don’t need to know all that.

Roughly 20 minutes later, it was ready to eat.  Actually, it was ready to melt my tongue off so I had to wait a bit for the taste test.  Considering I kind of made it up as I went along, I’d have to say it was pretty damn good.  The bf and a work buddy both agreed so feel free to give it a shot on your own.  Play around with it too – I think that’s how some of the best dishes are born.  Enjoy!

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Food for Thought

August 29, 2011 at 9:29 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , )

Someone thought it would be a good idea to turn me loose in the kitchen Friday night but I must admit, the meal I came up with was pretty darn good.  I was inspired as I had an eggplant and some basil lying around so, after finding a few various recipes online, I meshed them together and came up with my own little eggplant baked dish that I’m happy to share today:

Contrary to what my mother thought, this is made atop linguine noodles and not squid tentacles...

So I started this whole thing off by making some pesto from scratch.  Actually, to be totally honest, I started the whole thing off by pouring a glass of wine but you get the idea.  Pesto is surprisingly easy to make and after mixing a cup and a half of fresh basil, a cup of olive oil, three cloves of garlic and a cup of pine nuts (walnuts are used traditionally but those bad boys are expensive; I improvised with what I had and was not disappointed), I was ready to roll.  I blended it all with my handy food processor and before I knew it, pesto was born.  After being thrilled with my taste test and pouring another glass of wine, I was ready to tackle the eggplant.

Eggplant and I don’t have much of a history – it’s good and I eat it but mostly at restaurants because cooking it is a little intimidating.  At least, it was.  Friday I mastered that vegetable and fried it’s rubbery skin into submissiveness.  I basically just sliced it up and tossed it in some egg before coating it with Italian bread crumbs and frying on the stove.  As that was all sizzling, I boiled some water for the spinach and chive linguine that was the base of my dish (mostly because it had been in my cupboard for a ridiculous amount of time).  Once the eggplant and pasta was finished, I got to work layering my concoction in a baking dish.  Which I forgot I owned, so that tells you how often I make meals from scratch.  I used the linguine as the bottom layer and mixed in some tomato and basil marinara sauce as well.  Then came the eggplant and I put slices of provolone cheese on top of that.  I sliced up tomatoes and put them on top of the cheese and the whole thing was covered with a light layer of the pesto I had ready and waiting.  That whole pan was baked for roughly half an hour, along with some butter and garlic rolls.  Then – chow time!

Next time I’ll be a bit quicker as I wasn’t really sure what I was doing this go-round and had to stop and take many breaks from the labor intensive cooking process.  It was more than just edible (not to toot my own horn but it was delicious) and maybe I can plan one of those fancy dinner party adult type things and make it again.  Or I could just eat the whole thing myself while sitting in my underwear and drinking milk from the carton.  Decisions, decisions…

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Dinner Party

August 18, 2011 at 9:04 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , )

Last night, I had two lovely lady friends over for dinner and drinks.  My picture of the meal didn’t turn out how I wanted but I’m going to describe it here anyway because it was quick, easy and delicious.  We had:

That's what I did

  • Pita bread with two types of hummus (pesto/basil and sun-dried tomato for the extremely curious)
  • Vegetables roasted with a balsamic vinaigrette
  • Mashed potatoes with garlic, red pepper, Parmesan cheese, basil and oregano
  • Veggie burgers with spinach and pepper-jack cheese

This dinner was brought to you by Trader Joe’s.  Seriously, everything we wound up with came from there in one way or another.  And while the vegetables was/are amazing and seemingly fancy, I should admit that I simply heated them up out of the frozen bag they came in.  Still totally worth it.  The veggie burgers were tossed on the George Foreman to perfectly toast the bread and melt the cheese and then we sat down to feast.  Paired with a couple of bottles of wine and some entertaining conversation, our dinner was a great way to end a Wednesday night.  I was excited for some leftovers today but sadly, nothing made it out of my kitchen uneaten.  I guess that’s a sign they liked it?

I’ve said this before but I really enjoy this whole having-a-kitchen-with-counter-space thing!

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Recipe from Little Old Me

July 21, 2011 at 11:19 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , )

I figured it was time for another recipe post, especially since I got yet ANOTHER mystery cooking magazine in the mail yesterday.  I still have no idea where they’re coming from or who signed me up for them and while I’ll admit that I haven’t actually made anything from any of them so far, I have decided to pick a dish from this latest issue, put on my apron and get cookin’.

Disclaimer: this post has nothing to do with actual, well thought out recipes.

Instead, I’m going to tell you about a dinner I made this weekend using basically whatever I had in my fridge (you may remember that this is my preferred method of cooking).  Here’s the final product:

Mmmm pizza...

I’ll go ahead and apologize for the craptastic photo here.  I’m not much on food pics to begin with and to be honest, by the time this was finished I was so hungry and excited to start eating that I just couldn’t take more than 2.5 seconds to focus on anything other than stuffing my face.

This isn’t anything super fancy but it was really tasty.  I found some flatbread at Target and basically just rubbed some olive oil on both sides before placing it on my pizza baking stone.  Then I took a big spoon and ladled out the sauce, which happened to be a basic garlic marinara that I had in the pantry.  The first of four cheeses came next and cheddar became a nice base.  Meanwhile, I had tossed a bunch of veggies into a pan with a little more olive oil and got that going.  This included spinach, zucchini and roasted red and yellow peppers.  I split the veggies in half and spread one portion on the flatbread while saving the other for later.  Then I added some goat cheese, baked jalapeno cheese and spices (oregano, basil, red pepper etc) before putting everything in the oven.  While that delicious concoction baked, I made a box of Trader Joe’s Macaroni and Cheese (a little healthier than the typical stuff) and threw in the rest of those veggies at the end.  After adding a bit of Parmesan cheese upon taking the pies out of the oven, I was ready to eat!

And there you have it.  From start to finish, this entire meal took me maybe 30 minutes (that includes baking time and time for me to pour myself a drink).  It was probably the best pizza I’ve ever made and the leftovers I had for lunch the next day were just as good.  If you’re carnivorous you can of course add some meat product as well but this was pretty satisfying, if I do say so myself.  Which I do.  If anything I hope it gives you an idea or two for an easy yet healthy and tasty dish that can be made on the fly.  Happy Eating!

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Mystery Mag

April 6, 2011 at 11:06 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , )

When I came home last night, weary from 8 of hours work + 3 hours of class + 2.5 hours of commuting, I opened my mailbox to find this:

What in the what?

I did not subscribe to any such culinary magazine and yet there it was, with my name (even spelled correctly) on the back cover.  Confusion set in.

How did I get this?  Did someone secretly sign me up for a subscription and if so, why?  Perhaps one of you readers decided my food posts were a little lackluster and want me to spice things up?  Or maybe someone things I should lose some weight (a lot of the articles are related to healthy eating).  I flipped through it for a bit but honestly I’m too lazy in the kitchen to try any of those dishes.  Perhaps I’ll change my tune when I move into Kitchen 2.0 but there’s no guarantee.  What I do know is there was a whole article about a woman named Paige who lives in Chicago and how she turned her small kitchen into something adequate for her entire family.  Seriously, I can’t make this stuff up.  So I guess it’s a possibility that this is someone’s idea of a joke and they’re making fun of my current tiny cooking space?  I really have no idea, though I am curious to see if any more issues arrive.

And maybe, just maybe, I’ll take this magazine as a sign from the cooking gods and actually attempt to create something from scratch.

Yeah, we’ll see.

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