Monthly Archives: November 2010

Lessons from Home Ec.

I haven’t always been a “good cook.”

Case and point: The time that a friend and I burnt no-bake cookies. (To our defense, we did have to melt the chocolate.)

But, I have always been interested in cooking and determined to make my kitchen skills better. That’s why it seemed like a godsend when I got to take Home Economics during middle school. During the course, I could care less about sewing and ironing, but I ate up (har-de-har) the cooking segment.

There, in the miniature kitchens, I learned how to successfully cook my first dish: Spanish tortilla.

Even though I have since expanded my repertoire, Spanish tortillas will always have a special place in my heart.

Spanish Tortilla


Ingredients:

  • 1 large baking potato
  • Half of an onion
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 T water
  • Salt and pepper
  • “Good dose” of olive oil
  • 2 T crumbled Monterey Jack, optional

Directions:

  • Wash, peel and slice potato into 1/4 in. rounds.
  • Drizzle enough olive oil to coat the bottom of a medium-large skillet. Heat the oil to medium-high heat. Place the potatoes in an even layer on the skillet (will have to work in batches). Cook for about two minutes (until browned) and then flip to finish cooking.
  • Place sautéed potatoes on a layer of paper towels. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Repeat, adding more oil as necessary, until all potatoes are cooked.
  • Once done with the potatoes, use the same pan to lightly saute the onions. Remove from pan.
  • Break all eggs into a small-medium bowl. Add water, a bit of salt and a bit of pepper. Thoroughly whisk everything together.
  • Layer the potatoes and onions back into the skillet in a scalloped fashion. Pour the whisked eggs overtop. Swirl the pan around so that the eggs are even.
  • Cook over low-medium heat. When edges begin to firm, use a spatula to lift them up and swirl the uncooked egg over.
  • Finish by placing under a broiler until the top is firm (probably two minutes).
  • Season with salt and pepper and garnish with cheese.

Of course, food is about more than taste, scent and texture. It’s about appearance, display, ambiance…

Ok, maybe I’m still working on that. But one step at a time, right?

Questions: What was the first “real dish” you learned how to cook? Do you still make it?


Black Friday

I survived a family Thanksgiving, so the day after could only mean one thing: Black Friday shopping.

Doesn’t that sound so ominous? I’d swear it’s not, but I guess it really depends on whom you ask…

Poor guy. I don’t even know him and I feel sorry for him. At least he didn’t get trampled. Plus, I think it made Dan feel better that he wasn’t that bad off…

But, shopping does have a tendency to build up an appetite, and there was one very specific place I wanted to go: Chuy’s for some Tex Mex.

Even though it was past 2 o’clock, there was still a 20 minute wait for a table. Always a good sign…

I wasn’t even upset about the wait, because it gave us the chance to get some hot ‘n’ fresh tortillas!

As well as some time to be goofy with the cousins…

But, I was definitely ready for a real meal by the time I sat down. I still knew that I didn’t want anything too heavy, so I was happy to find a salad/side combo.

Make that a HUGE salad /mini-entree combo! I actually took my bean and cheese burrito to-go, because I was so full on tortilla chips the big salad.

Then, Dan, my mom and I split off from my sister and cousins to go on little walk, which took us to Highland Park in the middle of Dallas.

In the midst of a few days of action, it was nice to spend time with two of my favorite people.

Then, Dan gave me a hard time with always posing with my hand on my hip, so I decided to mix it up with a new pose…

Be careful what you wish for, Dan…

The rest of the evening was spent with family. Loved every minute of it, which only made it more difficult to say “goodbye” and drive back to Kansas the next day.

Oh well, all good things must come to an end.

Question: Did you travel for Thanksgiving?

 


A Dallas Thanksgiving

So, I went to Texas.

Dan did, too…

But first he checked the air pressure in my tires…

Which is #456 why I keep him around.

The drive down was long, mostly because I was so excited about my whole family, foods and WHOLE FOODS.

That was definitely a required destination on my first whole day in town. So was the Dallas Pecan Company…And la Madeline…

The rest of the day, though, was devoted to spending time with my family.

Thanksgiving morning began with a 5K jaunt with Dan, my mom, my mom’s twin…

And 40,000 other runners…

(And that’s just the first third of ’em!)

Although the race was technically a 5K, I’m convinced we ran nearly four miles with the additional swerving we had to do around walkers, dogs and slow pokes.

All in all, it was absolutely a fun run. There was no point in going for a personal record, but it was just a great start to an otherwise indulgent day.

After the race, we had to head straight back to my grandparent’s house to get ready for the big ol’ family gathering. But, first I insisted that my uncle drive Dan past the Triple Underpass, aka “Where JFK was assassinated.”

Fun fact: My mom was at the motorcade when JFK was assassinated… But that is definitely a story for another day.

Fortunately, we made it through that area fairing a little bit better than the nation’s 35th president. Once back at my grandparents, there was a rush to get everyone through showers, cleaned up and looking good in time for even more family to come over.

Somehow, though, I managed to do it with time to spare…

No big deal.

But, before we knew it, people were showing up. And they were showing up hungry.

Thankfully, there was enough food to go around, even for a vegetarian…

However, even meat-eater’s raved about my contribution of…

Mustard Roasted Butternut Squash

Ingredients:

  • 1 butternut squash, scrubbed and chopped into ~1 x 1 in. cubes
  • 1 large firm pear, scrubbed and chopped into ~1 x 1 in. cubes
  • 1 C dried cranberries
  • 1 T butter
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 T Dijon mustard
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

  • In a large bowl, mix together squash, pear and cranberries.
  • In a small skillet on medium-high heat, bring the butter to a simmer, stirring constantly and then remove from heat. It should have a nice brown color to it.
  • Mix browned butter with olive oil and mustard.
  • Pour butter mixture over the squash mixture. Toss it all together, so that squash is evenly covered. Pour everything into a roasting pan. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Roast for 40-60 minutes in 400 degree oven, stirring occasionally.

However, although the food is always a highlight of Thanksgiving, the real point was getting to spend time with family…

Boyfriend…

And a few other of my favorite things.

According to my sister, Dan also go to spend time with his “favorite things.”

Which included her, pumpkin pie and The Sound of Music.

More to share and I want to give it all its fair due, so stay tuned for another Dallas rewind.

Until then…

Questions: How was your Thanksgiving? What did you do? Any new/nontraditional foods?

 


Basic: Caramelized onions

I’m back from Texas, which is neither totally good nor totally bad. It just is.

One thing that I DO know for sure is that there is a lot to catch up on with the ol’ blog and I’m excited to share my adventures with everyone.

But, until I have access to Internet on my own computer, want to see something beautiful?

Take this…

[source]

Turn it to this…

Finish it off like this…

 And then enjoy!

Honestly, I think that caramelized onions are like the cherry on top of savory dishes. They are just able add a delightfully complex sweetness in a way unlike anything else.

The only problem is that my impatience often gets in the way of taking the time to make them. Then, whenever I do take the time to make caramelized onions, I kick myself for wondering why I don’t make ’em more often. It’s a vicious cycle…

But, there is no need for that cycle to continue: Other than the fact that they take a while to make, there is no other excuse not to caramelize onions at home. The process is super simple and incredibly low-mantinance.

Here’s how it works…

Caramelized Onions

Ingredients:

  • 1 yellow onion
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Directions:

  • Cut onion in half and then cut each half into very thin slices.
  • Liberally splash a large, nonstick skillet with olive oil. Place over low heat, add onions and shake the pan so that onions spread evenly on the skillet surface.
  • Allow to cook for 5-10 minutes, stir and repeat for at least 45 minutes to more than an hour. Onions will have shrunk in size and should be a deep brown.
  • Season with salt and pepper right before removing the onions from heat.

(Note: You can cook your onions until they are darker than in the pictures above. Just depends on preference.)

Just throw these on the stove while doing some other cooking in the kitchen. For example, I like making a big batch on Sunday and then using them throughout the week to add a little depth to my dishes.

Better yet, caramelized onions are extremely versatile. They can be used on sandwiches, scrambled with eggs, mixed with mashed potatoes, on top of casserole or, as I did today, with a salad.

Consumed: Romaine lettuce, caramelized onions, sautéed mushrooms, carrots, black beans, corn and hummus.

Actually, when I feel that my time is  crunched, it’s little things like this that make my day a little nicer.

Question: What do you think is worth “slowing down” for?

P.S. Thanksgiving/ Turkey Trot/ Family/ Whole Foods recap to come soon!


 


Southbound

Today I am saying sayonara to frosty Kansas and heading south to Dallas, Texas!

But, ahem, not like I’m excited or anything…

I will admit that the warmer temperatures are definitely an advantage, but I am mostly excited about being able to spend time with family. And, I don’t just mean one or two aunts and uncles…

My mom (front and center) was the youngest of eight kids, all of whom were born within 10 years.

Those kids went on to have kids of their own, with a total of 12 grandchildren.

Throughout time, some of the individual families have moved to various places around the country. But, they’ve all since returned to Texas.

With the exception of my mom.

Even though I’ve never lived in the same state as the majority of my family, I am still extremely close to them all, which makes every holiday special. But, this year is particularly special to me, because it is when I get to introduce Dan to my family.

I have no doubt that they will love him… especially since he is a native Texan!

Anyways, I was almost too giddy with excitement to sleep last night. Fortunately, I did manage to get some shut eye all the way until the sun came up, at which time I bound downstairs to dig into breakfast.

Consumed: Nonfat blueberry yogurt with 1/4 C oats, 1 T jelly and frozen blueberries, all left to sit in the fridge overnight. Topped in the morning with peanut butter.

Because I still had to wait a few hours for Dan to finish up classes, I needed to come up with a way to occupy myself. What to do, what to do…

 



Trailblazing

Of course it’s going to be a good day when it all starts off like this…

Consumed: 1/3 C oats cooked with 2/3 C water. Then, cooked oats were stirred with 1/4 C pumpkin and drizzle of maple syrup. Sprinkled with mini chocolate shredded wheats.

The “goodness” of my day came to a temporary stall after that, when I got my morning classes out-of-the-way. Thankfully, when the whistle blew, it wasn’t just signaling the end of my morning classes… It was signaling the beginning of my Thanksgiving break!

Yipee!

Well, almost… I first had to go by the newsroom to finish some things up.

Then it was really break. So, I celebrated by going over to Dan’s to eat lunch. I already packed my meal, but it still gave us the chance to spend time together.

Consumed: Romaine lettuce, corn, black beans, caramelized onions, sautéed mushrooms, a bit of cheese and hummus. Plus, a chocolate chip “Z Bar” on the side.

Afterward, I used my serious skills to give Dan a haircut, which means that I do get to take some credit in how good-looking he is. (;

A little while later, we were planning on going to the recreation center for a workout. But, when we stepped outside, we realized that the sun had come out and the temperatures heated back up. So, why run in quarter-mile loops when we could enjoy nature?

We headed toward the edge of town, parked the car near a trail and laced up…

Rather, Dan laced up while I took pictures…

Then we hit the trails!

A few minutes into the run, I made a comment about how much I like running on trails. Dan then informed me that not only had I told him that before, but I had told him that “like 20 times before.”

Whoops. Guess I am just really passionate about trail running.

I little while farther down the trail and I could tell that Dan was starting to see my point, even though he wasn’t letting on…

No smile? That’s more like it.

The trail looped back around just a little before two miles, which (for non-math majors) added up to probably near 3.5 miles. In this case, though, it wasn’t the miles logged but the satisfaction earned.

(Hey, Dan, did I mention that I like trail runs?)

Dan still had some pre-Thanksgiving work to finish up, so headed back to his place to crack down on that. Meanwhile, I caught up on a bit of Oprah and lounge-time.

Before I knew it, it was almost time for me to go to editing and I still had a quick dinner to throw together. Just because it was quick, though, doesn’t mean it was tasteless. In fact, it was one of the best sandwiches ever. Just saying…

Apple and Brie Panini

Ingredients:

  • 2 slices whole-grain bread
  • Half of thinly sliced apple
  • 1/2 oz. brie cheese
  • Apple butter

Directions:

  • Toast both slices of bread. Smear apple butter on one slice of toast and then cover with apple slices. Cover other slice of toast with brie and then make a sandwich with both slices.
  • Heat a nonstick indoor grill pan to medium-high heat. Place sandwich in the middle of skillet and firmly press down with spatula for 3-5 minutes or until browned. Flip and repeat.

And, in those simple steps, the “blah” old toast is transformed into a good sandwich. But, it doesn’t stop there, because that sandwich is then transformed into a fantastic Panini!

It was so good that it almost made me forget I was back in the newsroom spending my night editing… I can’t complain too much, though, because as of Tuesday afternoon I will be on my way down to TEXAS!

Questions: Do you have any experience with trail running? What’s your favorite type of cheese?

I really want to do a trail race, but I plan on keeping it a little shorter than my best friend Katelyn’s killer of a trail marathon. For practical purposes, I like feta cheese, but brie is my favorite “special occasion” cheese.

 


Pumpkin Pie Pudding

I legitimately had dessert for breakfast.

But unlike sugar-loaded pie/cake/cookies that leave me crashing 20 minutes later, this still fit my criteria for healthfulness.

First, though, here’s a little bit of the backstory: I’m just not a fan of pumpkin pie. Something about the texture always threw me off and made me opt for apple pie at Thanksgiving meals. And, I was fine with that…

But, Dan was not. He love pumpkin pie. I love him.

So, in a never-ending effort to bake things he like, I decided to try out some pumpkin pie-inspired dishes, done my way.

Pumpkin Pie Pudding

(Adapted from “Cooking Light”)

Ingredients:

  • 6 T sugar
  • 2 T cornstarch
  • 1 3/4 C unsweetened vanilla almond milk (alternatively, skim or low-fat milk)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 C canned unsweetened pumpkin
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1/2 t cinnamon
  • 1/8 t salt
  • 1/8 t nutmeg

Directions:

  • Combine sugar and cornstarch in a medium saucepan. In another bowl, whisk together milk and egg.
  • Turn heat under saucepan to medium. Slowly add milk mixture to sugar mixture, constantly whisking until it comes to a boil. Continue cooking and whisking for 1 minute. Remove from heat.
  • In another bowl, combine pumpkin, vanilla, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg. Stir well and then slowly add to milk mixture, whisking constantly. Place over low heat and cook for 3 minutes, stirring constantly until heated (don’t bring to boil).
  • Pour into bowl, cover with plastic wrap so that the wrap sits directly on top of pudding. Chill in refrigerator until fully set.

Somehow, this pudding was enough for me to overcome my dislike of pumpkin pie. But, at breakfast time, I found way to make it even better…

Pumpkin Pie Pudding Oatmeal

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 C oats
  • ~2/3 C water
  • 1/2 C pumpkin pie pudding
  • Dark chocolate chips or cinnamon chips

Directions:

  • Combine oats and water. Cover with paper towel and cook in microwave for 1 minute and 30 second. Allow to cool slightly.
  • Top with pudding and garnish with chocolate/cinnamon chips.

If only real pumpkin pie tasted like this, then I’d eat it everyday. On second thought, maybe it’s a good thing that real pumpkin pie doesn’t taste this good!

Questions: What’s your favorite Thanksgiving dessert?