Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Vegetarian Chili

My mom had recently given me this cute little spice catalog that had a million different recipe ideas, knowing that I suck at searching for fun meals.  There is the smartest/most dangerous book ever because it puts these beautiful pictures of cakes and pastas followed by the spices used and their price tags. Anyway, I flipped through some of the pictures and immediately stopped on this beautiful yellow bowl full of chili-looking goodness. I had just went grocery shopping, so I was hoping I wouldn't have to go out and get anything. The recipe calls for the following a can of black beans, garbanzo beans and red kidney beans, 4 0z diced green chilies (in a can) 1 c of water, ancho pepper (which I didn't use) 1/2 tsp of cumin and a pinch of crushed peppers (I used crushed rep pepper flakes). It included a few optional ingredients: sour creams, green onions and shredded cheddar--for garnish.  After going through the cabinets I found I had everything besides the ancho pepper and the red kidney beans. So I just nixed the two- I added a small can of white beans that I had to substitute and it was fine. I had some left over veggies from the night before, so I through them in too. The creator of the recipe mentioned added zucchini or carrots if around, so I kinda went with it. So pretty much the extent of the recipe is to through all the ingredients in a big pot and let everything come to a boil, once it does let it simmer for 30-45 minutes. And there ya go. Vegetable deliciousness.  I threw it over microwavable brown rice and melted a slice of vermont cheddar on top because I had it. I'm sure it would be good over or with anything as a side dish. Great dish to eat when its chilly out!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Fettucini Alfredo with Broccoli

The easiest recipe of all time. Late last night I was looking for a substantial meal, without the work. Something pasta-ie. Unfortunately my go-to pasta cookbook ("The Joy of Pasta") didn't have the recipe I was craving--anything Alfredo. So I turned, yet again, to my Pasta Queen mother.  She might have used 50 characters via text message when telling me how to prepare this meal which consisted of four true ingredients: pasta, heavy cream, parmesan cheese and Wondra.

  The first thing I did was put the water on to boil for the pasta. I didn't have any fettucini in the apartment, so I used a mix of regular and whole wheat linguini- just as good. Anything thinner, such as angel hair, would probably conflict with the texture of the sauce.

 Once the water came to a boil the pasta went in and I started on the sauce.  Now broccoli isn't in her original recipe.  I had a random memory of the first night my grandmother had come to stay with us this summer, we ate tortellini alfredo with broccoli and she loved it.  Interestingly enough my mother had used fat free half and half instead of heavy cream, which is ideal for people watching their figure.
I first put the frozen broccoli in water and microwaved it for about 7 minutes.  I was really feeling lazy last night.

Then in a sauce pan I put 3/4 C of Heavy Cream with Parmesan Cheese.  The flame should be very low, the light sauce burns very easily.  While watching and whisking every so often I created the second part to the sauce.  In  a separate bowl I added two tbsp of Wondra (this thickens the mixture) and a small amount of Heavy Cream just to make it pasty.  Once it was smooth I added it right to the Parmesan and HC. I only added more Parmesan and black pepper to taste. This left the sauce overall a little flavor-less when it was time to eat, but I think it was because the pasta to sauce ratio was wrong.  My mom had not told me until after I finished eating, naturally, that she usually adds onion and garlic powders.

Regardless, the texture was creamier than most I've eaten in restaurants. With a little salt and some onion powder that alfredo sauce has the potential to be the cheapest and easiest recipe I've tried yet.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Mama's Penne a la Vodka

Today was my boyfriends birthday so I wanted to make a family style dinner for him and my roommates.  It had to be something relatively easy with few ingredients, but could feed six.  So naturally I called my mother, who thought that pasta would be appropriate given my requirements.  I was skeptical, but when she told me all I would need was a jar of tomato sauce, butter, parmesan cheese, garlic and onion powder, heavy cream and vodka--I was sold. She usually makes it in a frying pan so I wanted to follow every step she did. I first melted two tbsp of butter (I put a little extra) with onion and garlic powder in the frying pan.  The garlic powder and onion powder can be replaced with real chopped garlic and onion. My roommate doesn't like the onion texture so I chose the easier route. On a half simmer I then added the jar of Rinaldi's sauce (she said any type of regular sauce would be fine.) Into the sauce all i had to ad was 1/4 C of vodka and some parmesan cheese. I used Smirnoff triple distilled---convenient left overs from last night's birthday festivities. She had advised me to add a small mount of crushed red pepper, which I did, it really added to the flavor. Lastly, the heavy cream.  There are no measurements for this.  The lighter you want the sauce the more you put.  But start off with small amounts, a little cream goes a long way!  Once all the ingredients are mixed the sauce needs to simmer for 10-15 minutes and it's complete, after you top it with some more parmesan of course!  It was a hit tonight and will definitely be added to my recipe collection. So quick and easy. And cheap! Perfect for a college student.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Granny Smith's Apple Pie

The easy recipe was on that I obtained from my mother.  It is a recipe that she has been making forever. The taste cinnamon-y sweet goodness would cause one to think that this recipe was extremely complicated, but there are only a few short steps.  The first obviously is to get yourself a big bag of apples!  This pie could turn any Fall day into a day dedicated to apple-picking family fun! 
After getting the apples you will need to cut and skin them fully, no seeds to anything.---If you have a tool that cores and slices the apple, definitely use it, my hands were aching after all the slicing.--- The type of apple doesn't matter but my mother has found Macintosh apples allow for a sweeter pie (I used empire, still yummy!) Now for the apple filling sauce. I could not believe that there were only four ingredients: 1 cup of sugar, 1/3 C of milk, 1/3 of heavy cream (I used fat free half and half) and a teaspoon of cinnamon.  I put a little extra cinnamon which left a different texture.  I allowed the sugar, water and cinnamon to melt before I added the cream.  Once it is melted it is done! We both chose to use store bought crusts. You'll need two.  You place the cut up apples in one of the crusts and then drizzle the sauce on top of it.  Then all you need to do is put the other crust on top. (You can make an X in the middle to make it look authentic.)  Also, use a fork to mush together the outsides of the crusts.  It helps it to hold together and it looks home-made.  When the pie is put together you just throw it in the oven! (Preheated to 400 degrees) I advise putting some tin foil or a pan underneath the pie, all of the juices really cook the apples well and it may overflow into a cinnamon sugar volcano.  Let the pie cook for 45-50 minutes depending on your preference.  You can let it cool and enjoy, but i prefer to eat it right after taking it out of the oven. With a scoop of vanilla ice cream of course!  The recipe is easy but delectable.  For my boyfriend to eat two servings of something I made, it must be good!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Only Cure For Grief is Action.

I have never experienced a true mourning period before in my life. The feeling of not being able to function because of loss and sadness is new to me. I'm trying to take my grandmother's death, accept it and turn it into something positive because it seems as though others in my family cannot. I want to live. I want to learn new things. I want to do all of the things that my grandmother regretted not doing.

I'm making it a point to take care of myself, starting now! I've always been a relatively healthy person but there are times when I find myself turning to food to cope. This isn't the worst thing in the world---but I'm going to change the way I do so. I'm going to start cooking again! My grandmother always enjoyed peeking in the kitchen when she smelled something on the stove. I want to rekindle that feeling. I want to create meals! I think that re-starting a goal that she was alive to witness will help me feel her presence and at the same time help me move on from the thoughts of her death. Rest In Peace Grandma.

A fond memory with Tessie in the kitchen. :)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Life is What Happens When you're Busy Making Other Plans

This title seems appropriate for most goals I set out for myself. I'm going to have to change the concept of my blog seeing as though life has interrupted my plans. Between a new school year and the loss of my grandmother (who was an amazing taste-tester during a majority of my cooking experience) I have slowed down. The days are harder to work with and I myself am a little lazy. I will be back and cooking and learning, just not as consistently.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

I'm Back!

Unfortunately, a long--yet needed-- vacation in the Catskill Mountains kept me away from my blog, most technology and my cooking. I was able to stay at a resort with at least fifty of my family members (not much of a vacation). But! Everything was cooked for us: three meals a day and dessert after both lunch and dinner. Although not having to cook was enjoyable, most meals were focused around meat which was not so appealing to the Vegetarian. I found myself frequenting the not-so-local Subway and ordering the famous Veggie Delight quite often to compensate. It was not the most nutritional vacation, but I guess vacations aren't necessarily supposed to be healthy. But I am back! Back and ready to cook! Thanks to a flea market in one of the small towns in the Catskills I was able to pick up a few great cook books that were dirt cheap. I look forward to sharing some recipes and my thoughts with you.

A new post will be coming soon... :)

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Homemade Lemonade

Well I thought this was going to be easy. My mom brought me home seven lemons and told me since I was being so adventurous in the kitchen, my father would like some lemonade. I did not anticipate that seven lemons would take this much energy out of my being. First of all, my whimsical mother thought that a lime juicer could substitute for the lemon juicer. Wrong. I first had to slice the lemon into halves (if it were a lime, my work here would be done) but being that a lemon can be substantially larger than a lime, I then had to cut the halves into quarters. Ok no big deal right? Wrong. Again. I then had to place each lemon quarter into the miniature juicer and squeeze--individually. The act was amusing after the first lemon. Then I realized...It was only the first lemon. Six more to go.  I'd say it was after lemon 3 (24 lemon quarters in) that my biceps and wrist muscle started to give in. I took a breather, cursed my mother, and finished the task at hand.  This was my workout for the day.

The recipe that she had given me (which was on the back of our newly purchased LIME juicer---by the way the word juicer makes it sound like the stupid tool actually did something. False. I did something. I AM THE JUICER. For future reference I will refer to that thing as "the stupid tool") called for few ingredients and had three steps: 1. Boil 1 cup of water and add 1 cup of sugar until dissolved 2. JUICE 3. Mix all ingredients with three cups of cold water and chill if desired. As if anyone would actually want to drink room temperature lemonade.  Well anyway it didn't taste right. It was too lemony. I had to keep adding small quantities of cold water until it tasted normal. Both of my parents were content with the final product. I on the other hand, will never squeeze lemons again. I am perfectly happy with lemonade from concentrate.

(Very Late) Pizza!

I got this lovely meal idea from I swear this website knows me better than some of my best friends. Click a few of your interests and POW! Stumbleupon will take you to the most interesting of places.  This particular time, the website took me to a DIY pizza recipe. (Definitely choose cooking as one of your interests, even if you don't like to cook the pictures are out of this world--the website took me to a blogger's page that I now follow because of their Peach Blackberry Cobbler images. The photography displayed with a lot of the recipes is amazing in itself!)

The Personal Pizza recipe gave two options: Make your own dough or run to the nearest pizzeria and pick up pre-made dough. I obviously chose the latter seeing as though I am afraid of the word yeast. As I'm sure most females are. Anyway, I grabbed the dough from a place down the road. I must've looked a little disheveled, the young man behind the counter thought it was best if I bought two doughs "Just incase." Ok. Sold. At $2.50 a pop, two pizza doughs were in this college girl's budget. To the kitchen!

I thought it would be fun to include my boyfriend in this pizza extravaganza.  After all, I did have enough dough to make two full size pizzas and I'm really not about wasting. Go green!  So we started. I thought it was a good idea to split each large dough ball into two smaller balls--sorry--this way we could each have our own personalized pizzas.  So in half each went. This did complicate the "needing" and stretching. (I did have to Google what exactly the "needing process" was. I'm still not sure.) My circular dough was not coming out half bad, although I can't say the same for his my boyfriend's. He struggled a little bit. Being the competitive soul that he is, he took his dough into a different room- the living room. Where he could stretch out and not be judged by my critical self.

 I chose to make my own sauce and not use canned. Really, I just felt guilty for using store bought dough. So i cut up some plum tomatoes, added five cloves of garlic, and olive oil plus sugar to taste! (My Mom's delicious pasta sauce recipe.) I added extra sugar by accident but I really think it added to the sauce and helped cancel out the overload of garlic that I (accidentally) added--my mom later told me she used two to three cloves of garlic as opposed to the five that I threw in.

I wanted to get adventurous with my pie. After preheating the oven to 500 degrees, I chose to put the pasta sauce on only half of the dough. The other half was going to be margarita! My neighbor had just given us a basil plant and I was all about it. So on my margarita half I put the usual that one would find on a slice from the local pizzeria: sliced fresh mozzarella, basil leaves, and sliced tomato--simple but always a crowd pleaser! My other half (which had the sauce) would be zucchini extra cheese, STUFFED CRUST. I got this amazing idea from the Stumbleupon recipe, which gave a multitude of options for the pizza lover. For stuffed crust pizza all you have to do is roll mozzarella string cheese (or any kind for that matter) under a crust. So easy. I can't believe I didn't think of that myself, being the cheese-lover that I am.  After putting mine together, I took a look at his. A little deformed, but also cheese-a-licious. He stuck to a standard pie with cheese and sauce. Once we were done "decorating" we put our pies in the 500 degree oven and watched them for fifteen minutes.  This is what the recipe called for.  Me being the cautious cooker, I chose to leave them in for five extra minutes to become golden. They were so beautiful.  And so delicious. I don't know if it was the White Zinfandel or what, but I swear the stuffed crust extra cheese zucchini slice was the best thing I've ever tasted. He finished his whole pie so I'm assuming his didn't turn out half bad.

Being the fabulous sister and daughter that I am--I whipped up the other dough ball for my family. I did half zucchini and half regular, half stuffed crust half not. They killed this when they got home the next day, So pizza night was a giant success!

Monday, August 1, 2011

(Morning) Gâteau Therese-Chocolate Cake

I've currently been reading a book by David LeBovitz, "The Sweet Life in Paris." (Thanks to the Buy 2 Get 1 Free table at Barnes and Nobles.) David takes his love for cooking and heads to Europe, after a traumatic experience in the U.S. Throughout the book he tells of his travels and the food he encounters along the way.  He makes sure to include detail and recipes for the reader to ponder.

I was feeling brave this morning and decided it was time to attempt my first "real" dessert--I won't include the boxed brownies that I often created during high school boyfriend drama.  Anyway, this recipe called for a lot of work.  There was mention of a double boiler, which almost scared me away.  But like i said, I felt brave this morning.  The first step included parchment paper. I didn't have any idea what this paper of parchment was or why it was necessary.  But my mom said if it calls for it, you must answer.  So off to Shop Rite I went with my ceramic mug of hazelnut coffee.  I found the paper relatively easily- I still don't know what the difference between parchment and wax is, but whatever.  I greased up my 9 inch loaf pan and placed the paper neatly on the bottom.  Then the real work began...

I was supposed to combine 9 oz of chocolate and eight tablespoons of butter over a double boiler.  Seeing as though me and fire don't get along very often, I chose the microwave (I'm hoping this doesn't alter the consistency of the cake too much.)  After the buttery-chocolate mixture seemed smooth I added  sugar (half of 1/3 c), four egg yolks, and two tablespoons of flour.  Then I took a nice little stretch.  I couldn't find the electric mixer that my mother owns, so it was just me, the bowl, and an outdated whisk. Things got serious, and chocolate was spilled, but we all made it out alive.

Surprisingly, the harder step was whisking the four puny egg whites that were left over from earlier.  With salt and sugar (and my whisk) the whites were supposed to become foamy and froth-like. This took quite a bit of time and whisking.  After sweating through one t-shirt, my egg friends finally decided to cooperate and froth.  They then joined their egg yolk brothers in the giant chocolate mixing bowl.  After the mixture was complete, I dumped it into the buttered loaf pan.  The cake has just finished baking after 35 minutes.  It smells good, but I'm skeptical of the texture.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Chili's Quesadilla Explosion Salad (Wanna-be)

I love chain restaurants-- TGI Friday's, Outback, you name it.  Even though their menu isn't necessarily vegetarian-friendly, they have meals.  Full meals that take a relatively short amount of time to create and then scarf down with the help of some good-old mall tap water.  My favorite place for the past few years has been Chili's.  Chili's became my frequent.  I remember, during my first break home after being away at school for a few months, Chili's 2 for $20 meal was the bomb!  This is where I fell in love with the Quesadilla Explosion Salad (without the chicken of course).  My mother constantly tried to recreate my favorite meal at home, but it was never the same--always too watery or the dressing wasn't just right.  But I have recently befriended Google.  When people used to tell me just Google it, I would find myself looking at them like they were nerds or technologically savvy aliens.  But they weren't kidding, you can literally "Google" anything.  I've only recently began reaping the benefits of the 21st century.  Anyway, I Googled my favorite Chili's salad, and POOF! There was my recipe.  Everything was store-bought.  I didn't want to stray from the processed ingredients that I knew Chili's was serving me.  I wanted this meal to be authentic!  Interestingly enough the salad used the Marie's Chipotle Ranch dressing I had used from a previous recipe, so I didn't need that.  But I did need the shredded taco cheese, few meals are complete without the queso. I threw together the canned beans, corn, and tomatoes that the web chef found necessary  Unfortunately I could not find prepackaged cilantro, so I had to make a quick stop at the produce section before exiting my local Stop n Shop.  The only ingredient that required the stove was the can of beans.  After cooking they were rinsed and tossed into the giant bowl with all of the ingredients--including a heart of Romaine lettuce.  Close but no cigar...

Summer Vegetable Sandwich

When I came across this recipe, I had to admit it sounded incredibly boring:"Summer Vegetable Sandwich" but the picture made it look easy--so I chose it.  The finished product turned out to be anything but boring.  Thyme, lemon zest, italian seasoning, and lemon juice were just a few of the flavors added to the marinade for the vegetables.  My mom thought that pomegranate vinegar would be more interesting than cider vinegar that the recipe called for so I tried it out--that and just a little bit of canola oil and the sauce was complete!  I was sure that it was going to turn into some herb-ified disaster.  It sounded like too many different flavors for grilled vegetables.  Since I love color, I decided we'd use both red and yellow peppers.  I also used white onions, zucchini and summer squash.  It was so simple. I chopped the veggies in long pieces and dipped them in the marinade. I put the them on the grill (325 degrees) and watched over them (too carefully) until they turned slightly golden, about 5-7 minutes.  After everything was grilled, I sliced mozzarella and cut a loaf of multi-grain italian bread into pieces.  Using one loaf, two peppers, half an onion, a zucchini and a giant squash I was able to feed five very hungry adults.  We chose to use Marie's Chipotle Ranch dressing as a dip.  It was a great touch.  The sandwich was light but filling and really tasted like something from Panera Bread.  Highly recommended.

Fusion Peppers

Since I over-thought last night's meal (Which was DELICIOUS--I had the remains for lunch.)  I found myself with a ton of left over ingredients.  So for tonight's meal I decided to combine two recipes that I came across.  Both dubbed "vegetarian stuffed peppers" but it was clear one favored Spanish ingredients and the other Italian.  So I found a happy medium!  I incorporated the can of black beans that the Spanish recipe called for, while still using the oregano and basil that the Italians love.  Spatalian! I've always loved fusion restaurants, so why not?  I was a little less intimidated today since no one was in the house or kitchen.  I found the 4 left over peppers from yesterday, some already cut--but I played with the knife and worked it out so that they all could be stuffed!  Then I brought out the mixing bowl.  1/4 of a red onion (all of last night's Spanish onion was used), one tomato, ten oz brown rice, three garlic cloves, one tbs oregano, basil, garlic and onion powder, one cup of mozzarella cheese, and one can of black beans later...I had my filling.  The only ingredients that I cooked before the mixing bowl were the beans.  I sprinkled some parmesan on top of the mix and stirred until all of the ingredients looked evenly spread.  I then put the filling in each pepper, shocking I know! I placed them in a baking dish with a little extra mozz. and put them in the oven.  So simple. Hopefully time and effort are not necessary for taste when it comes to this dish. Pictures later!


Vegetable enchiladas.  I had to have Mexican, my favorite kind of food, on my first day.  The enchiladas are vegetarian-friendly.   The first and very necessary step was to befriend the chopper--my new favorite tool.  I started off by taking three cloves of garlic (one more than necessary but hey, who's watching) and inserting them into the Glad chopping machine.  Afterwards I also chopped Spanish onion, and cilantro (to use later).  I followed the recipe exactly and used olive oil to sautee the garlic and onion.  The recipe calls for 1 red pepper, sliced.  I chose to use a equal parts of red, yellow and green pepper.  I thought that this would look prettier in my mixing bowl.  Plus, I've always been a huge fan of Reggae music.  The aroma from my medium sauce pan was to die for, it even got grandma off the couch and into the kitchen.  After several minutes, I emptied the remains of the sauce pan into a mixing bowl, followed by two cups of steamed broccoli and a can of black beans.  I then added the cilantro--the leafy substance that I will now add to anything and everything.  A few twirls with my spoon and then it was cheese time, two cups of shredded mozzarella were added to the mix.  I have to admit, I believed that the filling would be a little salty due to all of the sodium in the ingredients, but it wasn't at all. (I shamefully took a few spoon fills, but again who's watching).  I heated the oven to 350 degrees and filled five whole wheat tortillas with the filling; I topped them with bright red salsa (the original recipe called for green, but I'm not a huge fan) and sprinkled them with cheese.  Fifteen minutes in the oven and VOILÀ! Presentation...Perfect with a dollop of Daisy.  Well, except for the fact that the filling began to spew out like a volcano.  Regardless, meal #1 went smoothly--besides the wrestling that took place with disobedient can of black beans.