Saturday, December 31, 2011

Quick Post: Appreciation

There's really not much better than when the person you care for states his enjoyment of a dish you've thrown together.  He really likes when I roast a chicken (I got another one at the Farmers Market this morning, so roast chicken is coming this week), and that's nothing fancy.  He likes when I do the salmon on papillotte, and that's just putting some stuff in tin foil and throwing it in my oven.

So two nights ago when I made another version of my Melting Pot Soup, and he told me that he really liked it, his praise put a smile on my face.  This time, in addition to the chicken feta spinach sausage, I used some whole wheat elbow macaroni instead of orzo, baby bok choy, celery, onions, carrots, dried oregano, dried basil, and some red pepper flakes. 

He loves it.  And it's really easy to make.  There's still a lot left, but it's going quick.

Caffeine Addiction

I like coffee.  But I don't typically drink coffee on a daily basis.  If I have a caffeinated beverage, it might be a Diet Coke or, if I'm going into work early, I'll treat myself to a latte.

But all of that changed when my boyfriend's mom and aunt got me a Keurig for Christmas.  It's the mini-version and you have to pour in the water one by one, but it is perfect.  And since I opened the box just a few days ago, I've had at least two cups of coffee each day.

While I hope things will settle down a bit once I'm back to work following the holidays, I do think in the short term this is going to save me some money.  Towards the end of this year, I was buying a latte pretty frequently.  This way, I can brew my own coffee before I leave for work, drink it on my way to work, and not feel the need to stop and buy something.

I'm finding that I'm drawn to the flavored varieties, which I don't know that I would have foreseen.  I suppose once I finish the K-cups that they gave to me with the brewer, I should settle down and get a box of normal every day coffee (lord only knows what those flavorings include).

My final concern is the environment.  I don't love the idea that these little pieces of plastic are filling up the landfills.  But I'm doing my best to offset it by opening up the top (after the coffee is made) and scooping out the used grounds to add to my compost.  (There will be a post in a bit about my little garden out back.)

So, all in all, I'm excited that I got this Keurig.  If I need to worry about caffeine withdrawals later on, so be it.

Some recipes of interest

Here are some recipes that I've come across recently.  I think they're all certainly do-able, and they look like they'd be pretty tasty.  I haven't tried any of them yet, but there's always 2012.

Chocolate Ganache Hazelnut Torte
First off, how can you go wrong with a pie that most likely tastes like Nutella?  And, this really does seem like it doesn't take a crazy amount of baking skills or practice.  Of course, I say that having not tried it yet.  But it's definitely going to be tried...maybe for Valentines?  I wonder - do they make a heart-shaped tart pan with a removable bottom?

Black-Eyed Pea Cakes with Jalapeno Sour Cream
For New Year's Day, there is a Southern tradition that you need to eat some black-eyed peas for good luck.  While I am a Yankee, I do have Southern heritage, so I can't really remember when my parents first told me about this tradition.  I only remember thinking that it was just something you do.  So, that's why I was thinking that I might bring this to the New Year's Eve party that I'm going to tonight.  And then I thought better about that.  Instead, I'll make some of these tomorrow for NYE brunch.  I think they'd be a good way to start off a new year.  I will, however, likely use Greek yogurt instead of sour cream.

Steak with Cognac Sauce and Salad
This is one of Real Simple's recipes in their "A Month of Easy Dinners" collection.  While I'm disappointed that they go the route of frozen potatoes, I get that it's supposed to be easy, so hey.  Otherwise, I think this recipe could be a real winner.  Yes, it has blue cheese and heavy cream, but it's not much for a recipe that serves four.  I think the hard part (as per usual) would be sticking to sharing it with three people instead of just hording it for yourself.

Party Foods

I have a tendency to overdo it.  This is especially true when I am planning a party.  Apparently, it is also the case when I am GOING to a party at someone else's house.

And, for those of you who might be curious, I don't mean the kind of overdoing it that leads to a headache the next day.  I mean food. 

Tonight, a friend-couple of mine is having a Holiday Game Night.  For starters, I decided to bring some sweet things.  My latest obsession from the bulk section at the grocery store is dark chocolate covered pretzels.  The salty sweet crunch is outstanding.  They went into my large trifle dish.  An easy, but nice, presentation. 

Secondly, one of the boyfriend's favorite cookies (also from the bulk section) are the peanut butter stars.  They have vanilla, raspberry, chocolate, cinnamon, and peanut butter. I bought all but raspberry (they were a little too pink for my liking).  I put them mixed together and put them in my medium-sized trifle dish.   

We were asked to bring a nibble, and the hosts mentioned that they liked cheese balls.  As if planned, I saw a recipe in my daily(?) Real Simple email - Goat Cheese with Pistachios and Cranberries.  I went to the store.  I was going to essentially follow the recipe to a T (which isn't too hard, given the three ingredients).  However, when I got to the store, the logs of goat cheese available in my regular grocery store were very wee.

What was a girl to do?

I thought about buying three of the plain goat cheese, smooshing them together to make a larger roll, and then following the recipe.  But then I saw the different flavors - plain, honey, and garlic/herb.

A plan started to develop.

I ended up making three kinds: Honey Goat Cheese with Pistachios and Cranberries, Plain Goat Cheese with Cajun Sesame Crackers, and Garlic and Herb Goat Cheese with...well...more herbs.

For the Plain Goat Cheese (far left in the picture above), it took me quite some time to determine what I was going to crush and put on the outside, but I went with the sesame sticks that you often see in party mixes.  I wanted more than the regular plain sesame stick taste, so I decided to up the ante by going with the Cajun sesame crackers.  It worked out really well.

For the Honey Goat Cheese (middle in picture), I bought some plain roasted pistachios.  I added some dried cranberries to the bag and started banging on them with a wine bottle.  Once they were all mostly crushed, I put the crumbled concoction on a plate and rolled the honey goat cheese in it.  I used both hands and made a point to press the crumble into the goat cheese.  I then put some leftover crumble in a piece of cling film and rolled the cheese into a little log, tucked the ends under, and put it in the fridge.

Then, maybe my favorite, is the Garlic and Herb Goat Cheese.  For this one I used some dried oregano, dried basil, fresh cracked black pepper, and some garlic powder.  Super easy, and just sort of pushed up the flavors that ran throughout the cheese itself .

They were a hit.  I might have eaten a lot of cheese last night. :-)

Friday, December 30, 2011

How can it be? Only half way there??

Boy, did I lose momentum!

Almost a year ago, I vowed to post 25 times over the entire year of 2011 . Unfortunately, to date I've only posted 12 times.  And I think one or two of them I wasn't going to count.

Then I looked in my drafts.  I've got a ton of posts started, some even with photos.  Why did I never finish them?  And I've been taking pictures of my food throughout the last 9 months since my last post.  Why did I never post them?

This year, work got a little crazy, so I suppose I can blame it on that.  Not sure that's a good excuse b/c I was able to get a number of other things accomplished throughout the year, but it is what it is.

So, while it seems unlikely that I will be posting 12+ more times today and tomorrow, I will do my best to at least finish the posts that were started and maybe upload some of my food pictures.  I've got some good ones.  I might not make 25 posts in total, but I'm not going to beat myself up for that.

I've since gone into my drafts and posted 3 of those that were waiting in the wings.  I went through and deleted the other drafts that were never going to make it.  Now, I'm only 9 posts away from my goal of 25 for 2011.  Will I be able to do it?

Some potential upcoming blog topics:
  • Christmas cookies
  • Coffee addiction
  • Party foods
  • Thanksgiving empanadas
  • Anniversary dinner