Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Growing Green

I can usually follow directions. So once I learned a little kitchen terminology, I was able to cook. With the help of a recipe, of course.

For me, a recipe is like training wheels. Armed with the extra support, I can do it on my own. But without it, my cooking falls flat.

Proportions, substitutions and cook times elude me. Therefore, I never deviate from my beloved directions.

Often a recipe will call for fresh herbs, so I'll pick up a pack for $4 or $5 at the grocery store -- usually only using a leaf or two. So annoyingly wasteful. Yet, I'm always too afraid to leave them out (or, for that matter, add the extra to another recipe that doesn't specifically call for it).

This summer I decided to do something about it. Or rather, I asked M to help me do something about it. He's a much better crop master, based solely on the fact that he can remember to water them.

This weekend M set me up with an adorable window box, as well as a few other plants. We have basil, oregano, sage and rosemary. Plus we have red bell peppers, sweet potatoes and will soon add tomatoes to the mix. There's even been talk of possibly planting a blueberry bush. How great would that be!

I'm not much for tending crop, but I am all for eating fresh and local. It just tastes better.

What's in your garden?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Safety Schmafety

M and I were both away last weekend. I was in NYC. He was fishing, canoeing and camping.

Unfortunately, I got home first and was greeted by a loud BEEP. And another. And another.

Smoke detector must need a new battery. BEEP. Where do we even keep batteries? BEEP. Buy a new one? BEEP. No, it's raining outside. And getting late. BEEP! Just disconnect...

Ah, peace.


Seriously? Maybe it was the upstairs smoke detector? BEEP. Disconnect that one.

Silence. Silence. Silence. BEEP!

Are you kidding me? Maybe taking the batteries out isn't enough. BEEP. It must know I didn't change the battery and it's punishing me for it. BEEP!

A laundry basket full of towels. Perfect. BEEP. Wrap both detectors in towels. Bring laundry basket to garage. BEEP. Shut the door!

Back up the basement stairs. And then up to our bedroom. Victory? BEEP! Ugh!

Jump out the window? Kidding.

Call M. He'll know what to do. Ring. Ring. Ring. BEEP! Ring Ring...

"Maybe it's the carbon monoxide decor," M suggested. Oh yeah. That thing.

BEEP. Unplug. BEEP. A silence button! Hit silence button. Remove batteries. Silence....

And more silence. Still silence.


Now the only problem was every safety detector was in pieces all over our house. Taking them apart was one thing. Gathering the pieces and putting them back together. Not so easy.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Basic Brownies

Looking back to some of my original posts -- and the memories that far precede blogging, I really think I've come a long way.

For example, just last night an old memory came flooding back. I was dining at Fat Head's -- a Pittsburgh fave -- with M and his brothers. Don't ask me why, but the topic of olive oil came up. The general consensus was it makes just about everything taste better.

Or does it? That's when I remembered a time when EVOO failed me. Or rather, I probably failed my EVOO.

In college, I was making brownies from a box one night. Nothing fancy. Mix ingredients together, pour into a baking dish, put in the oven and I was home free.

When the timer went off, the smell of fresh baked chocolate wafted through our old college house. Yum! I called the roommates to the kitchen for a treat.

But when I pulled the brownies from the oven, they were still really gooey.

"Maybe they aren't done yet?" my roommate suggested.

I was about to put them back in when she noticed the olive oil sitting out on the counter.

"Um.... What kind of oil did you use?" she asked.

"I used this," I said, grabbing the EVOO. "And I swear, I measured everything perfectly. I was even eye level with the bottom of the meniscus!" I automatically started justifying. I was so used to my mom and sister always questioning my cooking antics.

You'd have to know my roommate. She's the sweetest girl and I know she didn't want to hurt my feelings. She tried to get me to throw them away, but I insisted we try them first. She refused.

Smart girl. She knew they'd be totally disgusting. I wasn't so convinced. So I cut off a corner and took a great big bite. Holy gross!

In the end, I learned EVOO ≠ canola oil. What a sad, sad waste of olive oil.

P.S. M loves the edges, so we're now the proud owners of the Baker's Edge brownie pan. And so far, I have yet to screw those up!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Chocolate Covered Peeps

Sugar. On top of sugar. On top of sugar.

I think it's too much. To the Peep people -- simply sugar on top of sugar is enough. Please and thank you.


Monday, May 2, 2011

Live and Learn

We were grilling out. Steak with veggies. Yum! After I cut the peppers and onions, I decided to chop up the watermelon. Figured it would compliment the summer inspired meal nicely.

And it probably would have... if it didn't taste like onions. I was lazy and on a roll. So while I used a different knife for the veggies and the watermelon, I used the same cutting board. Thus, onion infused watermelon. Not very good.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Bunny Cake

The Bunny cake has been a long tradition in our family. He's made an appearance at every Easter I can remember.

But one year, he almost didn't make it. I was probably around 12 or 13 years old when my mom gave me the job of making the bunny cake. ME! What an honor.

I was only using a box cake mix, so it should have been a piece of cake (groan). Anyway, I added the eggs, water, oil and started mixing. And mixing. And mixing. Ten minutes later I thought my arm was going to fall off. I had no choice but to ask my younger sister what went wrong.

She took one look at the unopened box of cake mix and pointed out exactly what went wrong. I forgot to add the mix. So terrible to be corrected by an 8-year-old.

In the end, the bunny made it to the table and was enjoyed by all. But my mom never, ever asked me to make him again. Until this year...

She's really starting to show faith in me. She believes I'm FINALLY outgrowing my Domestically Deficient title. Thus, she turned over the bunny cake pan.

I didn't want to disappoint and decided to go all out with a homemade burnt almond torte cake. I made everything from scratch.

There were a few bumps in the road --
  1. I put too much batter in the pan and it started to overflow.
  2. I spilled flour everywhere (including on my brand new black sneakers). Such a pain to clean up.
  3. The icing called for emulsified shorting -- Does anybody even know what that is? Or where you can buy it? I never did figure that out. Apparently Crisco works as a decent substitute.
  4. Despite greasing and flouring the pan, the cake got stuck.
  5. And the almonds -- yikes. The recipe I used to toast them essentially cemented them to the pan. Roughly a third of them flew all over the kitchen as M and I tried to scrape them off. They were EVERYWHERE. Good thing I made extra!
But in the end, the bunny was served. And he was a huge hit. All was right in our home on Easter Sunday.

PS Take a vote -- Do you think he's holding the Easter egg in front of him or popping out of an egg? That is a question we've pondered for years.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

How sweet it is

Sweet Potatoes. A favorite in our house. And on special this week!

I was flipping through my Nigella Lawson cookbook and her butternut squash with pecans and blue cheese recipe jumped right off the page.

Since I had the sweet potatoes, I substituted them for the squash. It turned out really well. M said this recipe is a keeper.

After cutting the potatoes for Nigella's recipe, I still had three left over. So I made Paula Dean's sweet potato fries on our baking stone. Tip: season both sides of the fries before making and flip them at least once in the middle. M also declared this recipe a keeper.

Of course, I don't like a meal to consist only of one type of food (even if it's in two different forms), so I heated up the remaining pulled pork (which was still delish) and served up a side salad.

And since we're on the topic of sweet potatoes, I have to mention my favorite go-to sweet potato recipe. I've served it at a few family dinners and it's a hit every time.

I also think praline yam casserole could work well with sweet potatoes. I'm still not quite clear on the difference between sweet potatoes and yams.

Come to think of it, I'm not sure I've ever met a sweet potato recipe I didn't like. What's your favorite sweet potato dish?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Mrs. Brightside

My week began with a flat tire. Ordinarily I'd think it was a bad sign for things to come. But for some reason -- I just keep thinking about the positive.

It happened at on my way to the "gym" (a.k.a. my parents' basement) at 6 am. When I got out of the car I heard a whooshing noise only to find a piece of metal in my tire. It took about 10 minutes for it to completely deflate.

On the bright side:
  1. It happened on my way to my parents' house (less than 5 minutes from home) and not on my way to work during rush hour traffic.
  2. As you may recall, my mom had foot surgery and thus isn't driving. I just left my car there and took hers for the day.
  3. My mom's surgery also means she's at home today when she'd normally be at work. Thus, she was able to wait for Triple A so I didn't have to.
  4. My CR-V had a full size spare tire and instead of one of those donuts. Not sure how much that matters, but it seemed like a positive thing to me!
Hey, life could be a lot worse.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Do unto others...

Remember when I was having a terrible week and my mom helped me through by cooking a week's worth of food for us? This week, I finally got to pay it forward.

My mom had to have surgery on her foot and is now non-weight baring. Don't worry, she's recovering nicely. On the bright side, some forced R&R is probably a good thing for the lady who never stops.

Since my dad had to be out of the country for work this week, M and I had to pleasure of cooking for her.

Also, our friend's cousin, Julie, is currently fighting stage 4 cancer. And as if that isn't enough for one young family, her son, Jaden, (2 at the time) was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma last year (also stage 4). It's been one hell of a year for them, but they recently received some good news. Jaden is now in remission! But, Julie's own battle continues. Please keep this family in your prayers.

And, with everything going on, Julie was kind enough to let me interview her for a grad school paper. So I found out Jaden's favorite dinner is baked ziti and got to work. It was the first time I ever made it, so I hope it turned out ok!


Monday -- Actually my fabulous M.I.L. stepped in and brought my mom dinner, since we were just returning from a long weekend in the Bahamas.

Tuesday -- Parmesan crusted chicken (below), roasted brussel sprouts and spinach salad with strawberries, feta, pecans, almonds, pepper and just a touch of EVOO.

Wednesday -- Carrots and rutabaga, another spinach salad (pictured). I also prepared the baked ziti (did everything except bake it), then delivered it to the family with a salad and Italian bread. That way all they had to do was actually bake it on Thursday.

Thursday -- Pulled pork sandwiches. Holy easy! One of my new favorite crock pot recipes. We made 6.5 pounds, so we had to call in reinforcements to help us eat it all. It got rave reviews from all of our last minute dinner guests, which I (of course) loved.

Friday -- Naan pizzas. Nothing too fancy since we don't eat meat on Fridays during Lent. Just a little EVOO with roma tomato slices and fresh mozzarella, Romano, Parmesan, and Fontinella. Oh and we've been using the whole wheat Naan. It's good.

My mom requested a lot of veggies and protein, since she can't exercise. So we barely incorporated carbs and we definitely didn't miss them. Plus everything we made was quick and easy.

We're also trying to branch out and try different things. I think brussel sprouts somehow got bad name, but they really are delicious. And that carrot and rutabaga recipe is so easy and tasty. Seriously -- try them. You might just be pleasantly surprised.

I know this post is getting long, but I still want to share my Parmesan Crusted Chicken recipe. It's so easy and we always have these ingredients handy.

Bread crumbs
Fresh grated Parmesan
Fresh grated Romano, Fontinella, any other cheese you have handy
Italian Spice
Garlic powder

Preheat the oven to 350. Pound the chicken (so it cooks faster).

In one small bowl, crack an egg or two. In another bowl, mix a cup of bread crumbs, 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, 1/4 of other cheeses (or a full cup of Parmesan if that's all you have). Season with a shake or two of all spices.

Then make an assembly line. Dip chicken in egg, then in the breadcrumb mixture, then place in a baking dish. Repeat for all pieces. Cover with foil and bake until chicken is cooked through.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Breakfast with Dad

Growing up our mom was the cook. She's a pretty amazing cook, hence why I never bothered to learn until I was on my own.

But breakfast. That was my dad's jurisdiction. Sister and I used to sit on our stools at the counter and wait for Dad to flip a couple pancakes our way. "Hot off the griddle" he used to say. The best was when he made us our initials. KZ, that's me. Or at least it was until I got married.

This morning, my dad was helping me with some work and we decided to have breakfast together. Just like old times. As I sat at the counter, waiting for breakfast, I noticed letters begin to take shape in the pan. Then next thing I knew, a KD showed up on my plate. I was pretty excited. Perhaps even a little overly excited.

"Your first initial pancakes as a married woman," Dad said. "Hot off the griddle."

How cute is he?! I can't wait to start that tradition with little ones of my own some day.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Man pleads with wife: Please stop with the laundry

It happened. Again.

As you may recall, M has asked me on several occasions to stop doing his laundry.

So I may have shrunk a t-shirt or 20. And sorta broke the laundry machine. And still call it a laundry machine. Does that really disqualify me from doing the laundry?

I like to sleep in M's t-shirts. Their big and comfy. So I think it's only fair that after I sleep in them, I wash them. Am I right?

Well, last night, M came home from work and went upstairs to change.

M: "Hon! Seriously?" side note: we have a bajillion nicknames for each other, none of which are anything normal like, babe, honey, etc. But I get "Hon" when M's exasperated with me.

Me: "What's wrong?"

M: "Did you wash my Guns & Roses T-shirt?"

Me: "Uh, maybe, why?" Never admit guilt immediately...

M: "Because now it's really tight in the shoulders and way too short." M. was now standing at the top of the stairs in a t-shirt that was indeed hilariously too tight and short. Opps! "Didn't I ask you to stop washing my t-shirts?"

Me: I burst out laughing and started to explain, "I thought it was only the WHITE t-shirts that shrunk. I didn't know the regular t-shirts would also shrink...." The look on his face was enough to make me stop and listen to myself.

Ok, but in my defense, I really thought his white undershirts shrunk because he didn't buy the "preshrunk" kind or something. My regular t-shirts never shrink, so I'm not sure why his did. M said it was because it's a cotton shirt and cotton shrinks in high heat.

Please let the record show: There is an absence of malice in the case of the shrunken t-shirts.

And I'm really, really sorry!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Who knew the Irish could cook

Last week was my first St. Patrick's Day as an Irish woman (by association). So M and I decided to host an Irish Feast for both of our families at the cabin.

My mom made the appetizers:
Smoked Salmon New Potatoes
Blarney Stone Appetizer

I made our side dishes, with some help from my sis:
Turnip Slaw
Potato and Onion Casserole

M handled the meat:
Irish Pork with Red Cabbage
Homestyle Corned Beef and Cabbage

My M.I.L. made dessert:
Irish Cream Cheesecake

The turnip slaw was a huge hit (and I'm not just saying that because I made it). At first, it seemed like it might be a fail, since I had nothing to shred the turnips with. In the end, I had to settle for a potato peeler.

As it turns out, the potato peeler was an accidental win! The flat, think slices were way better, adding texture and more flavor. In fact, I think I'll always use a potato peeler when making slaw from now on. A new Domestically Deficient trademark, I suppose.

It's always so much fun when our families get together. We're really blessed that our parents and siblings not only get along, but they actually all enjoy each other. I'm just sorry to report my camera battery was dead and I have no pictures from the weekend. It's really a shame, because the food looked (at tasted) delicious. Not to mention M was sporting quite a festive outfit, complete with green suspenders.

Does anybody have an incredible Irish recipe? If so, please share! I'll save it for next year.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A new twist on an old classic

Last night M made delicious tomato soup. I pared it with the ultimate grilled cheese.

Ingredients (per sandwich)
  • 1 cup of sharp white cheddar and fontinella cheese (shredded)
  • chopped chili peppers
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • a dash cumin
  • 2 slices of bread (don't skimp, get something thick and fresh)
  1. Preheat oven to 400.
  2. In a bowl, so soften butter. I used about 2 tablespoons per sandwich.
  3. Mix cheese with butter, I used about a cup of loosely packed, fresh grated cheese per sandwich.
  4. Add chili peppers and cumin to the butter and cheese mixture.
  5. Spread more butter on the outside of all slices of bread. I used Brummel and Brown for this.
  6. Spread the butter, cheese, chili pepper and cumin mixture on the sandwiches.
  7. Bake at 400 for about 10 minutes. I recommend flipping the sandwiches about half way through. Use a baking stone if you have one.
  8. To finish, I bumped the oven to broil at 475 -- about 2 more minutes per side.
I think baking/broiling was key. I'm not sure I can ever go back to pan frying my sandwiches.

In addition to adding chili peppers, I've also made grilled cheese sandwiches with:
  • a slice of tomato (obviously)
  • pickles (is that weird?)
  • mayo (not normally my thing, but surprisingly tasty)
What do you usually put on yours?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Brie in a Bread Bowl

Seriously one of M's best creations.

All you need is a loaf of sour dough bread, a chunk of brie, butter, jam or preserves, and fresh fruit.

M and I use this recipe for dinner. It's perfect with a little side salad. I think it's enough for two -- we can never finish ours.

I've never served it as an appetizer, though it could probably be used as one. The only issue is that sometimes it's a little messy to cut. Perfect presentation would be challenging, but not impossible.
  1. Preheat the oven to 375
  2. Remove the center of the sour dough bread to form a bread bowl. Save the top!
  3. Place the bread bowl and top on a baking tray, or a baking stone if you have one.
  4. Melt butter and coat the inside of the bread bowl, as well as the top that you removed.
  5. Spread jam around the outside crust. I've used my homemade strawberry, blueberry and raspberry. I've also used store bought raspberry preserves and mango jelly. All have been delish. This step is really personal preference.
  6. Toss the brie in the center. Remove the rind if you wish. If your chunk is triangular instead of circular, you may want to cut it into two or three pieces for even melting.
  7. Bake at 375 for about 15 minutes. Then watch it from there.
  8. When the brie is melted and the bread is toasted, it's good to go!
  9. Serve with fresh fruit. Apples, grapes, mango, papaya all go well. Berries are a nice addition.
  10. ENJOY!

Monday, March 7, 2011

No use crying over spilled milk

I won't name any names, but (A) I don't drink milk and (B) that's not my side of the bed.

Does anybody have any tips to ensure our carpet won't soon start smelling like spoiled milk? Ugh, the thought of it makes my stomach turn. Please share!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Hey, Now Blogger

What were you thinking?

carriechiz posted a comment on Girl Scout Cookies and got this word verification:

Just thought I'd share for your entertainment.

Girl Scout Cookies

Turns out, M and I both bought girl scout cookies at work this year.

He bought four boxes. A box for himself (Samoas), a box for his mom (also Samoas), and two boxes for me (Tagalongs & Thin Mints).

I got three boxes of cookies -- two boxes of my favorite (Tagalongs) and one box of my second favorite (thin mints). All for me.

Thoughtfulness fail.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Tortellini: The Symbol of Love & Support

Nobody does more to support her family and friends than my mom. She's a giver. It's just her nature. It's something I admire and try to emulate.

Last week and into this week grad school has been particularly terrible. I was treading water for the beginning part of the semester. Then the clouds aligned to unleash one heck of a storm. And just like that, I'm drowning.

Before the storm, I had committed to visiting my youngest B.I.L. at college for his last basketball home game of the season. I probably should have stayed home and worked 24/7 all weekend, but putting family first, I still went. And my in-laws answered right back by creating an incredible support network for me while I tried to squeeze in work between our weekend activities.

Then there's my mom. M. & I returned from the trip to see our fridge fully loaded with food for the entire week. Not only do we not have to grocery shop, we won't even have to cook.

I love pasta with cream sauce, but my lactose intolerant stomach disagrees. So I never get to eat it. Well, I opened the fridge to find that -- among about 5 other meals, fruit, veggies and snacks -- my mom had made me lactose free cheese tortellini in a cream sauce. It certainly hit the spot!

I'm also really lucky to have the world's greatest dad & sister, plus a couple of especially fantastic friends. And I can't forget the hubs.

Last night I thanked M. for letting me lean on him. He replied: "You have to lean on me, otherwise you'd trip and fall down." He meant literally. I am abnormally clumsy. But in that moment, I was just thankful to share a little laugh before bed.

Sorry for the cheese, but family and friends really are the most important things in life. I can't imagine what life would be like without them. I know it definitely wouldn't be any fun.

P.S. Any lactose intolerants out there, let me know if you're interested in my mom's recipe. I'm sure I could convince her to share.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Tie Dye

Not just for t-shirts.

My coworker swears she's not a baker. I'd disagree. She wanted to do something special when her adorable daughter turned 2. So she tie-dyed a cake.

She practiced with cupcakes and brought them to work for us to try. They looked awesome and were tasty, too. Then she went all out and made a cake for her daughter's birthday party. I didn't get to sample this time, but I saw the pics. So cool. Her daughter is one lucky little lady.

Cupcake test run

Cake 1
Cake 2

I google imaged "tie dye cake" and the results were fantastic. So I got to thinking, if you can tie dye a cake, what else can you do? Let me just say, I have big plans for my 4th of July dessert this year.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Our Broken Hearts

For our first Valentine's Day as a married couple, M prepared a fabulous dinner. I was in charge of dessert.

My mother-in-law (MIL) makes unbelievable meringue -- and it just so happens to be one of M's favorite desserts. I was terrified to make it, but MIL gave me the confidence to give it a try. I found the most adorable meringue hearts on Joy of Baking. Might as well go all out.

Step one -- bring the egg whites to room temperature. I cracked the first two eggs beautifully, and then had a mishap with the third. Seven eggs later, I successfully separated four egg whites.

Before mixing, the recipe suggests tracing a heart shaped cookie cutter on parchment paper. Then you fill in the outline with meringue to form the hearts. I didn't have a heart cookie cutter, so I improvised, relying on my second grade arts & craft skills.

I also forgot the parchment paper -- and I already learned the "wax paper ≠ parchment paper" lesson. A quick trip to my mom's for the paper and I was back on track.

I used my KitchenAid to mix the meringue. I'm far from an expert, but I do believe a stand mixer is the way to go. I can't imagine trying to hold a mixer and slowly add sugar. I'm just not that good.

After only two calls to MIL -- How do i know when the meringue is mixed? And How should I store it over night? -- it all turned out pretty well.

Since my track record isn't great, I had a backup plan. My mom bought me a Valentine's Day cookie tray, so I made two dozen sugar cookies -- just in case. My sis came over to help me decorate. By that time, I was so confident the meringue was going to turn out, I sent the cookies back to college with Sister. Goodbye backup plan.

Side note: My cookies look nothing like the label said they would. And the best one -- top right -- was one of my sister's creations. Perhaps cookie decorating is not my calling...

Fast forward to Monday night. M and I had a fantastic dinner. Then I whipped up the meringue topping, adding some of my homemade strawberry jam for flavor. We packed up six hearts, topping and fruit -- two for M's parents, two for my parents, and two for M's brother and his gf. After we dropped off the Valentine's Day treats to our family, we headed home to enjoy our own.

M's delicious dinner.

Meringue hearts -- baked and ready!

That's. When. It. Happened. I was mixing more topping while M was cleaning up from dinner. Crash! I turned around to see our remaining hearts all over the floor.

I burst out laughing. Poor M was so upset he knocked all of my hard work on the floor. But it was an accident -- and a funny one at that. M picked up the pieces and tried to mend our broken hearts. Judge if you wish, but we ate that meringue right off the floor. And it was delish!

I can't tell you how many people told us laughter is the key to a happy marriage. Well if that's the case, then we're in great shape. We definitely went to bed cracking up -- pun intended -- last night.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Salad and the Super Bowl

We're always on some sort of salad kick at our house. It almost always involves spinach. I learned from my college nutrition class, the dark green leafy veggies are more nutritious than the lighter green. So spinach > romaine.

Of course, when your current salad kick involves bacon, perhaps that bumps you down a few points on the health scale.

We've been making spinach salads with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, red peppers, onions, pecans, avocado and crispy bacon. M even concocted a fantastic hot bacon dressing to go with it. He uses white vinegar, a touch of honey, sugar, lemon, salt and a bit of the bacon grease. Then he heats it before drizzling over our salads. The white vinegar gives it such a bite. Delicious.

This is what we were enjoying as we cheered on the Steelers last night. Apparently, my yinzerific wine glass wasn't good luck. In case you can't tell, it says "The 'burgh" and has pictures of Pittsburgh. M won it at his work's Steeler party last week. Classic Pittsburgh!

P.S. In M's lifetime, the Steelers have played in 4 Super Bowls. They've won two and lost two. M went to Super Bowl XL (a win) and we went to Super Bowl XLIII (another win). Coincidence that he saw both wins in person and was at home both times they lost? I'm thinking not...

Thursday, January 27, 2011

He said, she said

He said the split pea and ham soup was great. She said, dis-guis-ing! I'm not a ham person and the mushy peas did nothing for me. I mean, look at that picture. It does not look appetizing.

Still M. happily ate it for either lunch or dinner every day this week. So I guess it turned out ok, despite my trouble with the ham bone. Let's call this one a draw.

I had a few other wins and failures this week. To recap:

Carrots and Rutabaga -- a win for sure! This dish was so unique and tasty. Love it!

For the Steeler game, I made Chili and cornbread. I added cumin, oregano, garlic powder and extra chili powder to the chili spice things up a bit. M. and his parents loved it! So either this was another win, or my in-laws are too nice to me.

M's split pea and ham soup. You've already heard all about that.

We ate leftovers and I made M. fruit & pecan granola bars for his ice fishing trip this weekend. I've made them before and I followed the recipe exactly. They looked beautiful when I took them out of the oven, but for whatever reason I couldn't separate the stupid things from the foil (and yes, I greased the foil). There were chunks of granola bars and bits of foil everywhere. Such a sticky mess. And sadly, a failure.

I made broccoli and carrot stir fry. This was delightful. Win!

I also made my famous carrot soup for M to take on his trip (since I botched up the cereal bars). The soup turned out ok, but I dropped the immersion blender mid use. Result = orange all over me and my kitchen. Oh and as the blender fell out of the pot, it hit the soy sauce that was sitting on the counter, knocking it to the floor, where it shattered and spilled everywhere. Fail!

Monday, January 24, 2011

What the -bleep- is a ham bone?

If you recall, M. and I have soup night every week. You may also remember M’s favorite soup is split pea and ham. I’m not big on ham, so it’s not something I’ve ever had a desire to eat.

But being the good wife that I am, I decided I’ll give it a whirl. I went to the grocery store on Saturday to get the supplies. On the list: a ham bone. I headed to the meat section. Beef. Chicken. Pork. Lamb. Bacon. Sausage. Fish. More chicken. Chicken. Chicken. Ham! Finally! Boneless. Boneless. Boneless. Sliced ham with bone. Where are the darn ham bones!?

I rummaged around that section for 20 minutes and saw no sign of anything that said “ham bone.” So I picked up the slice of ham (with a bone in the middle) and decided it will have to do.

Next item on the list: split peas. Crap, forgot to get those when I was in the produce section, so I went back. Snow peas, snap peas. Where in the world are the split peas?! Then it clicked – maybe split peas aren’t fresh, perhaps they’re canned. Over to the canned goods aisle. Still nothing. Nothing. Nothing.

I’m still not sure how I noticed it, but eventually I discovered split peas come in a bag like rice. Who knew?

I’m planning to make the soup tonight. Let’s hope cooking it goes better than shopping for it. And for the record – I’m still not exactly clear on the definition of a ham bone. Nor do I know where you can buy one.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

In Lieu of Pasta Night

Spaghetti squash. My Italian side knows squash can never replace pasta -- especially not now that I'm into making homemade pasta. But if you're still clinging to your lose weight, eat healthier, cook more New Year's Resolutions, give spaghetti squash a try.

I've eaten it many times, but last night was my first attempt at making it. My mom always bakes it. Well, I took the easy way out and microwaved it. Let me tell you, M. wasn't home to see me toss it in the microwave and he said it was cooked to perfection -- soft, but not overcooked.

I poked it with a knife all over (like you do for a baked potato). Then I cooked it on high for about 9 minutes. Flipped it over and cooked it on high for another 9 minutes. At that point it wasn't quite soft enough, so I rotated it just a bit and gave it another 3 minutes. That did the trick.

Next just slice it in half lengthwise, remove the seeds and then use a fork to scrape the insides into a bowl. That's all there is to it.

After that you can sauce-it-up however you please. Just do a little searching, there are so many recipes out there that look amazing. I can wait to try a few. But last night, I didn't want to make an extra trip to the store, so I used what I had on hand.
  • EVOO (of course)
  • Garlic
  • Sauteed onions
  • Spices (lots of them)
Then I saw this recipe on my Epicurious app, which gave me the idea to toast some almonds and pecans.

Speaking of apps, I've had the iPhone for a few months now, but this is the first time I actually used my Epicurious app. Do any of you use apps for cooking? If so what do you recommend?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

What is everybody watching this January?

I work out at in my parents' basement before work, so I NEED to keep material on their DVR to motivate me to get out of bed at 6 am every morning.

Currently scheduled to record:
I've started watching My Strange Addiction, but it's not as great as I thought it would be. And -- I'll admit -- when the pickings are really slim, I record Keeping up with the Kardashians. They're actually not bad to watch while working out.

It may seem like a lot, but some of those shows are reserved for watching at night with M. Plus, you burn through shows fast when you're watching an episode of something every morning while rocking the elliptical.

So tell me. What are your favorite shows? Guilty pleasures encouraged!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

What's the opposite of hoarding?

Sometimes I think watching TLC makes me a better person. I watched the Half-Ton Dad special last weekend and immediately put down the cookie I was about to consume. I also recently caught part of a Hoarding: Buried Alive marathon and it seriously. Freaks. Me. Out. On the plus side, it motivates me to do a big house clean out several times a year.

I think it's officially safe to say, we're definitely not hoarders in our house. In fact, at the rate we're going, we might just find ourselves in a bare house some day.

We had an unusually warm day on New Year's Eve. It climbed into the 60s. In Pittsburgh. In late December. It was the perfect day to open up the windows and air out the house one last time before winter really sets in.

I really do hate cleaning up Christmas. But I also can't stand to see Christmas decorations much past New Year's. This year, the warm weather helped lift my spirits as we tossed out the tree and packed up the Santas (though I was singing It's the least wonderful time of the year the entire time).

It was a job well done. The house is clean and without clutter. Plus I even organized behind the scenes. I love having organized cabinets, drawers, shelves, storage areas. The perfect way to start off 2011.

My first organizing and cleaning tips of the new year:
  • Start organizing one thing and finish it completely before tackling another area.
  • If your vacuum has a brush that attaches to the hose, use it to dust. Works like a charm.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Wedding Planning 101

A few days before Christmas one of my very best friends got engaged to her perfect prince charming. They're such a great match for each other and I couldn't be more excited! Congratulations to the Dining Diva and Tim! May you have a lifetime of love and happiness together. xo!

While I was planning my own wedding last year, the Dining Diva kept encouraging me to post the details on my blog. However, spare time was hard to come by and I definitely dropped the blogging ball.

So in 2011 I'm going to reflect back on our wedding from time to time and share a few details with all of you current brides-to-be. Hopefully it will help inspire ideas for your big days.

My Number 1 piece of advice -- never lose site of the reason for such an extravagant party. Even the strongest couples will encounter tense situations along the way. It's inevitable. But always remember, no wedding detail is more important than the fact that you're about to marry the love of your life.

Wives -- what's your number one piece of advice for brides-to-be?