Tuesday, August 17, 2010

PB Rice Krispies

In an attempt to get rid of some Rice Krispies (really, the Target generic) and more peanut butter (when cleaning out the pantry I found almost three jars all set to expire September 24th!), we made Peanut Butter Rice Krispies.

We use our wok when making Rice Krispy Treats. It's also been used for Puppy Chow. And maybe once for stir-fry?? :)

The recipe was easy. In fact, it was just what I thought: follow the normal recipe, but throw in peanut butter right before the cereal.

Mr Oh thinks we should try Nutella next time.

I think I like the PB treats more than the regular ones. But I am a bit of a peanut butter lover. And as I ate them, I had a crazy flashback to elementary school. I forgot we used to have them sometimes in the cafeteria.

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Saturday, August 14, 2010

Tastes Better When Someone Else Makes It

Regarding food, today wasn't a very exciting day.

I ate a bowl of corn flakes around 6 a.m. when I got up with the baby.

I ate two sandwiches for lunch, with chips and dip as a side.

I ate one sandwich for dinner, along with pasta salad.

But you know what, those are some of the best meals, especially the ones involving sandwiches.

Lunch was at my brother and sister-in-law's house. They invited all the local siblings (we're now down to three from five) and our families. It was a pretty simple layout: choice of three breads, a platter of veggies, mayo, and some deli meat. As I thanked my sister-in-law and told her how yummy it was, she replied "Sandwiches taste better when someone else makes them." And she's right. It's not that I couldn't have prepared the spread like she did, it's just that I'm unlikely unless I'm feeding at least a few extra people.

The sandwich I had for dinner was just a quick one thrown together, and I ate by myself. Two slices of plain sandwich bread, mayo, turkey, and swiss cheese. It was good, but nothing special.

I could be in to having a decent sandwich, at home, once a week or so. Maybe Saturday Sandwiches or Sunday Sandwiches could become a tradition in our house. If we spent a little extra time, money, and effort to make great sandwiches, we could enjoy the leftovers throughout the week.

Friday, August 13, 2010

PB Cookies

I really had planned on making a new recipe for lunch (even bought nutmeg for it), but my mother-in-law ended up coming for a quick visit and she brought yummy SmashBurgers to the house.

I ended up being alone for the evening (both Mr Oh and his brother are at work), and because the baby was sleeping so well in her swing, I decided to forgo my normal sandwich and use up some of our pantry staples. I made gnocchi with alfredo sauce and sweet Italian sausage. We had a green salad made up in the spinner and some leftover French bread from yesterday's lunch, so I had quite a decent meal.

Since I didn't get to make my recipe at lunch, I figured I'd use up some of the tons of peanut butter I found in our pantry (it all actually expires at the end of September), and make peanut butter cookies.

I've never made them from scratch before. I'm more of the buy-the-package-where-you-add-a-couple-things-and-go kind of girl, but this recipe didn't require much more time than that.

The recipe was the one on the back of my brown sugar bag:

1 cup light brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup butter, softened (I used margarine since that's what we had)
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 egg
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda

1) Beat brown sugar, peanut butter, butter, vanilla and egg until fluffy. Beat in flour and baking soda on low speed.
2) Shape dough into 1 1/4 inch balls (I just used my small cookie dough scoop); place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Flatten in crisscross pattern with tines of fork dropped in sugar. (Just realized as I was typing this I skipped the sugar part...oops!)
3) Bake at 375 degrees F for 6-9 minutes (for me it was almost 11) or until set. Cool on wire racks.

This made 30 cookies.

I didn't have Hershey kisses, but I did find 4 small pieces of a Hershey bar (leftover from a s'mores night)...

Maybe next time I'll try this recipe.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Pantry Reorganization

The baby's here, I'm home, it's time to start cooking and baking, right?

Well, after taking it very, very easy for the first couple weeks, and enjoying just spending lounging time with Baby Oh, I finally feel the energy and desire to do something around the house!

One major accomplishment that was completed yesterday: getting the pantry reorganized.

Now that I know I have so much food in my house, we can stop eating out (or eating take-out in) so often. We have three jars of peanut butter, three jars of alfredo sauce, three bottles of Caesar dressing, and four bottles of margarita mix. Oh, and six packages of gnocchi. We obviously need to check what we have on hand before grocery shopping.

I'm planning on making a new recipe tomorrow. And I don't think it involves Campbell's condensed soup!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Mom's Recipes

Growing up, I had an amazing advantage of living overseas and experiencing new foods and cultures. This included living in Italy (yum!) and Turkey (mmm). This, combined with a mom who loved to cook, meant our weekday menus were generally very diverse and very tasty.

Mom's Marinara is a delicously simple marinara recipe. It's a thinner sauce reminiscent of sauces from the southern region of Italy. I like adding sausage, though mom usually prefers meatless. When she makes it, it is usually much more delicious than mine... but I'm catching up.

1 lb Italian sausage
4 tbs butter
1 chopped onion
2 tbs olive oil
4 cans whole tomatoes
1 cup(ish) merlot
Italian seasoning and garlic to taste.

This recipe starts, as many comfort foods do, with grease. Cook the sausage first (or beef, or whatever meat you choose... and if you don't want to use meat; skip this step. And if you like meat but want a meatless marinara, cook some bacon up and use the bacon grease. Eat the bacon for breakfast tomorrow... yum) in a large pot. Drain some, but not all, grease from the pot. Remove sausage from pot. Combine olive oil and butter in the pot with the chopped onion until the onion is tender. Add the sausage back to the pot, and add the tomato cans with all liquid. When the liquid starts to bubble, add merlot (or some other dry wine) and season to taste. If you used sausage or bacon, you probably don't need any salt. But Italian seasoning and garlic would still be delish. Let the mix simmer for 30 minutes, and pour over your favorite pasta. I like it over linguini.

Mom's Chicken Tava

Chicken Tava is a very popular dish from Turkey, specifically the region where we lived; the Adana region. That's the same place where the Adana Kebab or Kafta Kebab come from... but that's for a later post. It's delicious and simple... and most people love it because it's just chicken, tomatoes, and potatoes! This recipe varies depending on who you talk to, but if you ask me, this is how it goes.

4-6 Chicken thighs (thighs are traditional, but many people prefer chicken breast)
2 cans whole tomato, or 8 peeled and sliced tomatoes
1 can tomato paste
2 potatoes, skinned and sliced
2 onions, sliced
1-2 tsp cumin
1 (ish) tbs olive oil
salt, pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 325.

Pull out your favorite 13x9 cooking pan and sprinkle some olive oil on the bottom. Then arrange chicken thighs on the bottom. Spread tomato paste over chicken. Then add sliced potatoes, onions, and either the canned tomatoes or the sliced tomatoes and sprinkle cumin and salt and pepper. Mix the potatoes, onions, tomatoes and spices together, trying to keep the chicken on the bottom. Put the mix into the oven for 1.5 hours or until potatoes are tender and chicken is cooked through. Thighs usually cook a little faster than breasts.

Buon Appetito!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Eating at Home

The first step to being more adventurous in cooking is to actually cook, right?

In an effort to spend less money, we're committed to eating at home more this month. I realize it's only the 6th, but we haven't eaten out yet - yahoo!

We made out a menu for the week, and our kitchen is fully stocked. No excuses for popping out for a late-night dinner (I don't get home from work until almost 9:30), or eating lunch while running errands.

Since I still am working full-time, and the husband has a few weeks until he's back to work, he's still the main cook around here. And that makes me happy. He made a mean Mexican skillet last night. :)

We will eat out this month (it's our last month as a childless couple!), but we will be deliberate about it. We're trying to plan a fun weekend and I know it will involve a restaurant or two...

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Fun with Fondant

We threw a "Welcome Matt" party for my brother-in-law who has recently moved in with us. Since he's new to town, we thought it would be fun to introduce him to some new people, and it was also a good excuse just to have friends over.

Picking the 3rd of July as the date apparently wasn't too smart, as most people had out-of-town plans. But we did have a good crowd of about fifteen, which actually worked out well, since it ended up raining all day and our plans of eating outside were ruined.

On my Facebook event for the party I used this image of a welcome mat. I thought it would be fun to have a cake that looked like a welcome mat at the party, but wasn't really into spending 40-50 bucks at a bakery to have one made.

I decided I'd just make the cake, and popped into a small cake/cookie decorating store about a mile from our house. I told the woman my idea and she gave me some advice. The first decision was to decide between buttercream or fondant icing. I've never been a huge fan of fondant, but the woman had samples of the brand they carried (Fondarific) and the chocolate was almost yummy- it tasted like Tootsie Rolls!

I bought a tub of 2 lbs. This is what it looked like out of the packaging:

It was a little odd to look at the knuckle marks and know they weren't mine...Oh well. I ended up using a little less than one pound of the fondant. After nuking it in the microwave for 20-30 seconds, it was pretty easy to roll out.

I am not a baker by trade, and have yet to master a rolling pin. I think anyone with a little more practice than myself could've had a smooth surface quite easily.

For the actual cake I used a box of Betty Crocker mix. Someday I'll bake a cake from scratch, but not when I'm 37 weeks pregnant and have people arriving for a party in a few hours. Plus, cake mix cakes always taste yummy. I also frosted the cake with some delicous Betty Crocker frosting called something like "Super Duper Chocolate Fudge Goodness with Chocolate Chip Yumminess Sprinkled Throughout". This was to help the fondant stick.

Laying the fondant over the cake required the helpful hands of both my husband and his brother. It was nice to have the extra hands, and it laid fairly nicely.

After trimming the edges, I realized I should've frosted the sides of the cake as well. And that I have no idea what you're supposed to do at the corners. Oh well. :)

The woman at the cake store suggested I cut the letters out of the big piece of fondant, dye more fondant black, cut the letters out of the black fondant, and place them in the first holes. Then I could smooth it all out and keep it all level. That sounded like extra work and increased potential for error, so I nixed that idea. I did buy smaller letter cut-outs to make the letters fit horizontally across the cake, but those were actually too small and cost $16. So I decided to use the larger cookie cutters that I've had forever, and I'll return the tiny letters and get my money back. :)

The larger letters required me to form the word in an arc, and I think that made it look less like an actual welcome mat. Plus, I couldn't figure out a very simple way to do black horizontal lines across the cake.

In the end, I was glad I did what I did because then there was room for two dinosaurs! And my brother-in-law loves dinosaurs.

The cake tasted...like a box cake...with a tootsie roll spread on top. :) I peeled off my piece's fondant and enjoyed the goodness beneath!