Corn’s In, Finally!

Hey you guys!  Happy Friday!!  Seriously, I think the best part of three-day weekends that end on a Monday are the four-day weeks that follow.

I just wanted to say that my corn is planted, finally.  It sat in the sad little black plastic seedling things for a week until I finally got around to it.  Not optimal, but it’s finally in.  I don’t think I’m doing a full-blown garden this year, not that I usually do.  I’m not into gardening for the sake of gardening, but I do like trying to grow some veggies and live a bit more sustainably.  Plus, the planting process is when you realize why you’ve been hoarding food scraps all winter and keeping a compost bin.  It really is like black gold!!

Where I live, the soil is pretty crappy.  It’s basically thick clay with a whole bunch of rocks, which means good compost or topsoil is essential to growing anything.  I like to use my home-grown compost since I know exactly what’s in it, it’s already in my own backyard, and you can’t get much better than free.  I know it’s not organic unless it’s made with only organic food scraps, but hopefully as I transition to eating more organically, my compost will end up being fully organic.  If not, I tell myself that at least I’m not producing more CO2 by driving to the dirt store and schlepping it home.

However you get your dirt, I think there’s just something fun about growing your own food, and I wanted to share it all with you guys.  Right now there’s not much to look at, but maybe there will be more in the next week or so.  More corn, tomatoes, who knows?  Have you had any experience with blue corn and white corn planted close together?  I just put down white but I would love to try blue!  The deer and other four-leggeds tend to devour anything leafy, but I would love some more herbs {I have some parsley, basil, chives, oregano, and for the first time – chamomile – chilling in some window boxes, but I would love to add some rosemary.}, or maybe some red peppers or eggplant?  Dream big, right?

In the mean time, weeds are pulled, compost has been hauled to the planting beds {I should put down more but it’s a start}, the plants are watered, and life is good.  Do you have any garden plans for the summer?  Am I totally late to the game and you guys have had plants in for weeks already?  Let me know and I’ll keep you posted on my garden 🙂

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the bed after being tilled. big improvement from before already!!

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twilight planting. Corn is in!

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first big drink. they’re thirsty!

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All tucked in for the night! Hopefully deer-deterrent chicken wire.

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They made it through the night!

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Burger Night!

One of the best parts of a three day weekend that includes a Monday is that Wednesday feels like Tuesday, but it’s really already Wednesday, which means Thursday is the next day, and Friday is so soon!  Did that make sense?  I haven’t had my coffee yet.  I hope everyone had a wonderful Memorial Day weekend, or weekend for those of you outside of the US.  I was lucky enough to spend it with some of my favorite people.  And as always, a big thank you to the people in the Armed Forces who make Memorial Day possible.

How are you guys doing?  How was your weekend?  Any special three-day weekend events?

Last night was burger night, and I wanted to jazz it up.  I’m sneaky like that.  It’s too simple to call a recipe, but I wanted to share it anyway.  I used portobello mushrooms and avocado to really bulk up the burgers without extra meat, and made oven fries for a healthier twist on a comfort food favorite.  So, kind of classic American for Memorial Day, perhaps with a worldly twist.  Sounds good, right?  So yummy.  I can’t wait to share it, so here it is.

Here’s what you’ll need:

Ground meat (I like 90% lean, especially with the toppings I planned.  Count on 6 to 7 ounces a person)

Avocados (1/2 avocado per person is perfect, so 2 avocados for 4 people)

Portobello mushrooms (1 per burger)

Sweet potatoes!!  Regular potatoes work too.  (The !! are because they were so yummy.  At least 1 good sized potato per person, because they shrink a bit.  I used 3 large potatoes, and one squidgy one that had been hanging around my vegetable drawer for weeks.)

Whole wheat sandwich thins.  (Buns are fine too, but these burgers are so heavy, you won’t miss the extra bread.)

Tomato for slicing.

Olive oil, for brushing on the potatoes and mushrooms.

Sugar and salt, for coating the potatoes.

 

Preheat your oven and grill.  450°F for the oven, and medium is good for the grill.

Wash and scrub your potatoes.  I left the skins on for texture and because they’re so healthy that way.

Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.  {I needed two cookie sheets for four potatoes.}

Cut your potatoes into fry-sized strips about 1/2 inch wide.

Prepare your potatoes: toss them in a large bowl with 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 teaspoon sugar was good for my three and a half potatoes (the problem with using a leftover squidgy potato is having to cut out all the icky black parts, which ends up being effectively half the potato).  {The sugar is supposed to help the potatoes crisp up in the oven.}  Arrange them in a single layer on the cookie sheets, and sprinkle generously with sea salt.  Bake at 450°F for about 30 minutes, until they crisp up.  Depending on your oven, you may have to rotate them, and/or stir so they don’t get too crispy.  These oven fries are best served right out of the oven, but I can attest that they’re still pretty stinkin’ yummy if you don’t quite time cooking right, and end up eating them an hour later than planned.  Because sometimes, it just happens that way.  And that’s alright too.

Once you have your fries crisping up in the oven, you can deal with the mushrooms.  Pull any stems off, and wipe the dirt off the caps with a damp cloth or paper towel.  Don’t run mushrooms under water – that will just make them gummy and gross.  Once they’re clean, brush with olive oil and grill on medium heat until they look done.  I forgot to time the shrooms for you guys, but it didn’t take long, and cooking time is dependent on how hot you have your heat anyway.  Let’s say somewhere between ten and twenty minutes, including a flip of the mushrooms at some point so both sides get evenly done.  If you’re also cooking up the stems, brush them with oil and grill them along with the caps.

While the mushrooms are cooking, shape your burgers – I like to use one of those plastic burger makers where you put them in the bottom and then smush them down, a scale so you know that the burgers are all about the same size.  These were between 6 and 7 ounces.

Take the mushrooms off the grill and put them off to the side.  Raise the heat to medium high.

Cook your burgers.  I like my burgers super rare, so two minutes a side is perfect for me, but if you like your burgers slightly less mooing, adding a minute or so on each end would probably not hurt.  If you want cheese on your burger, make sure to add it in the last minute of cooking, so it has time to get nice and melt-y.

While the burgers are grilling, slice your avocados.  Prepare your plates for the meat.  Open up the buns and have them ready.  When the burgers are done, top with mushrooms, avocado, and tomato.  Make a ketchup smiley face on your bun (mine came out a little more Hannibal than Happy, but oh well), and enjoy 🙂

 

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Oreo Cupcakes

You guys, I’ve been craving Oreo cupcakes for a while, but I wasn’t loving any of the recipes I found, so I made my own.  I didn’t want to eat anything super heavy, but I wanted the Oreo flavor.  I started with Martha’s vanilla cupcake recipe, and went from there.  It’s supposed to make 24 regular cupcakes, but made even more.  I made 14 regular sized cupcakes, plus 48 mini ones.  The mini ones didn’t have any Oreos in them because I didn’t have any on hand, but they’d be super-cute with mini Oreos if you have them.  I tried to sub out ingredients to make them a little healthier, but keep in mind you could use full fat butter, white all-purpose flour, and all 4 eggs, and they would be even more decadent and delicious!

My Oreo Cupcakes:

3 cups flour (2 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour, 1/2 cup white all-purpose flour)

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups butter {I used the Land O’Lakes light butter.}

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 eggs

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 1/4 cups milk

Chocolate sandwich cookies {I used Trader Joe’s Joe Joe’s – say that five times fast – because there’s no hydrogenated fat or high fructose}

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Fill muffin tins with paper muffin cups.  Place an Oreo in the bottom of each muffin cup.

Beat your butter and sugar together.  Add your applesauce and eggs, beating well to make sure it’s well incorporated.  Add the vanilla.

In a separate bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, and salt.  Add half of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and stir.  Add the milk to the butter mixture, followed by the rest of the flour mixture and combine.

Fill the muffin cups.  For regular sized cupcakes, I used an ice cream scoop, and for the smaller ones I used two tablespoons.  Bake until a skewer/tooth comes out clean.  The large ones took about 20 minutes, the smaller ones were 12 to 15.  Take them out and let cool 10 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely (leave the cupcake paper on).

In the meantime, make your frosting.  You might remember the cupcake recipe I used for the slew of February birthdays, when I found my favorite chocolate frosting recipe.  It’s still my favorite, and you can find it here.  My version is basically the same, except I don’t sift anything.  Cream 1 cup butter (I used 1 stick regular butter and 1 stick light butter) with 1/2 cup cocoa powder.  Stir in a teaspoon of vanilla and 5 cups powdered sugar.  With the mixture on low, slowly pour in milk until you reach desired consistency.  Whip frosting on high until light and frothy.  It will be a distinctly lighter chocolate color than before you whipped it, and there will be more of it.

When your cupcakes are cooled, ice with the frosting and enjoy.  If you wanted to be super cutesy, you could use Oreos to decorate the top, but I didn’t think that far ahead at the time.  Either way, they’re pretty yummy.  Let me know what you think if you make them 🙂

*PIGGYBACK MINI-RECIPE DELICIOUSNESS:

Somehow I had a lot more frosting left than cupcakes, and found those little phyllo dough cups that you buy empty and fill them yourself.  This isn’t complicated enough to be it’s own recipe, but man oh man, some frosting in a phyllo cup is delicious.  If your frosting has been in the fridge and has gotten thick, you may need to add some milk to it when reheating to thin it out again.  Once it’s heated and the consistency you want, just spoon some into a phyllo cup and enjoy.

I don’t know how long the phyllo cups or the cupcakes will last… in my house they never last long enough to go bad 🙂

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Happy Memorial Day weekend, you guys!  I hope you’re with people that make you happy, and for those traveling, that you all got to where you were going safely.  People on the road seem to have forgotten how to drive even more than usual this weekend.

Creamy Chicken with Sauteed Spinach and Pasta

Hey guys!  Happy Wednesday.  Half-way done with the week already 🙂

Monday was unseasonably hot, so I made something light for dinner – grilled chicken breast cut up with sauteed spinach and whole wheat spaghetti.  Last night I used the leftovers to make something creamier.  There was about half a pound of pasta left, a little spinach, and maybe a chicken breast, all mixed together.  It was the perfect amount for 3 to 4 people, without second helpings.

Ingredients:

1/2 pound whole wheat spaghetti, or other pasta, cooked

1 bag prewashed baby spinach

4 chicken thighs, cooked and cut into chunks

1 cup 1% milk

1/2 cup asiago cheese

1 Parmesan cheese rind, cut up, plus cheese to garnish

a few cloves of garlic

Sautee spinach over medium heat.  It really wilts down, so what seems like a lot uncooked will quickly disappear.

Meanwhile, I grilled 4 chicken thighs (skin on for flavor), because that was what was stored together in the freezer, and planned to cut them up and finish cooking them in the pan with the spinach and the pasta I was reheating, but as soon as I cut it open I realized it was way to raw for that.  The one thigh I cut up went in the pan, and the other three went in the oven at 250 to finish cooking.  They’ll probably be part of dinner in some form tonight.  To keep the pasta and chicken from drying out while the chicken finished cooking, I added milk to the pan, and my cheeses.  At the last minute I added garlic, mostly because I forgot it before 🙂

Let everything simmer together for a few minutes.  Stir occasionally, and make sure your milk doesn’t boil over.  When your cheese is melted and the chicken is cooked through, you’re ready to plate.

Top with Parmesan cheese and serve 🙂

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Roasted Rack of Lamb with Sauteed Veggies and Spinach

Hey you guys!  It’s been a while.  I don’t have excuses, but I know I took a good long break from blogging.  If it’s anything, the weather seems to have changed from winter to summer overnight, skipping spring completely, and everything slows down during the summer.  Since I haven’t posted in a while, I should probably come back with a bang.  Something outrageously yummy, right?  I got ya.  The meal, my friends, would be roasted rosemary and garlic rack of lamb with sauteed veggies and spinach.  Go big or go home, right?

Before I skip to the meal, how are you guys?  I’ve missed cooking, and blogging, really I have, but there’s been a lot of eating out lately and not so many new recipes to blog about.  Which means I haven’t been checking blogs nearly as often as usual, and I’ve missed you too.  What have you been up to?  I want to hear all about it.

Back to the lamb, I started with this recipe, straight from GMA, which I thought at the time was the recipe George Stephanopoulos made, but, as I look over it, might not be at all.  To add to the confusion, when I started cooking I knew I was making rack of lamb, but didn’t realize George (or Not George), was cooking it as individual chops.  And I’m a fan of the rack.  So when it came time to roast the lamb, I used this recipe for cooking guidelines.  Which didn’t actually work out as well as I would have liked, but at least it was on the raw side of rare and not at all overcooked.  You can always put it back in, but you can’t un-cook something.  And it’s most likely me, and not the recipe, since I didn’t check the exact weight of my meat and/or use a meat thermometer.

So here’s how it went.  Rosemary Garlic Lamb with Sauteed Veggies and Spinach:

  • 2 racks of lamb, about 1.5 pounds each.  You can probably figure way less.  I was cooking for people that love lamb, but a single rack of this size would easily feed 2 people, or even 3 people who don’t eat that much.
  • 1 head garlic (the original recipe calls for only 3 cloves, but you can never have too much garlic.
  • Several sprigs of rosemary.  Strip the leaves off the stem.
  • Olive oil, about 4 tablespoons.
  • 2.5 teaspoons salt.

Peel and smash your garlic.  Mix in a small bowl with your salt and rosemary.

Pour 2 tbsp olive oil in a cookie sheet/baking pan, so the lamb won’t stick.

Place lamb fat side up in pan.  Using your hands, rub with 2 tbsp olive oil.

Add salt mixture and rub onto meat.

Cover with plastic wrap and leave refrigerated overnight.

Remove meat 2 hours before cooking.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Wrap bones in aluminum foil so they don’t burn.

Remove plastic wrap before putting the lamb in the oven.

Roast for 7 minutes at 400 degrees.

Lower to 300 degrees and cook for 7-15 minutes longer, until inside temp is 125.

Remove from oven and let rest, tented in foil, for 10 minutes longer.

*{My lamb needed a half hour at 300 degrees to be done, and I love my meat as rare as possible.  I’m not one of those people who cook their meat until it’s brown and charred and you can’t tell what kind of meat it is, it just took forever to cook.  So, make good use of your thermometer.}

I didn’t take pictures of the veggies while I was cooking them because I was focused on the lamb.  But basically, about half a stick of butter and some olive oil go in a pan over medium heat.  Add your chopped onion, as much as you want.  I used a 1/4 cup.  Cook until translucent, stirring occasionally.  Add your garlic and stir.  You don’t want your garlic to burn.  Add your sweet potatoes (I used 4 small ones, cubed about 1 to 2 inches), because they take the longest to cook.  Cook for about 5 minutes on medium.  Add your mushrooms, cleaned and sliced.  I used 1 ten ounce package.  Cook it all down, stirring occasionally.  I ended up adding more oil and butter, but you could probably also add a cup or so of broth or water if you wanted, letting the liquid cook out.  Lastly, I added a whole container of fresh spinach.  Cook, stirring, until wilted.  Reduce your heat to lowest setting to keep the veggies warm until serving.  *{You should know I used a quite large pan, so I was able to keep the potatoes and mushrooms together on one side of the pan, and the spinach on the other.  The idea of spinach mixed with potatoes and mushrooms all together didn’t sound yummy to me, but do what sounds good to you.  You can cook it all together, or use two separate pans if you need to.}

Plate your food and enjoy!

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into the fridge the night before

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ready to roast

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the finished rack

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the whole meal

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lamb close-up