December 28, 2009

Kitchen Mishap of the Week

For some odd reason, the bottle of balsamic vinegar was in the fridge. This would not be that big of a deal except for its uncanny resemblance to my bottle of soy sauce. I should really consider renaming the title of this blog to "Kitchen Mishaps," because it's amazing the things that happen to me in the kitchen.

I just got off the phone with Matt, encouraging him to leave work and, "get home, already!" because dinner is ready. All I had to do was dress the noodles with soy sauce and sesame oil and toss the chicken on top. I measured out a tablespoon of soy sauce and poured it over the noodles. "That doesn't smell right..." I turned the bottle around, crap, balsamic vinegar! I called Matt back and told him not to hurry, I needed to cook the noodles all over again, bummer.

I tasted the balsamic noodles to decide if they were really bad enough to throw away. It would be a shame to waste them if I could do something else with them. They didn't taste too bad, kind of diluted. "What if I just... rinse them out?!" Perfect. I tossed them back in the strainer and rinsed the pooh out of them. The soy sauce and sesame oil were strong enough flavors that you couldn't even notice the balsamic vinegar. Kitchen crisis averted! I wish I could just run hot water over all of my kitchen mishaps.

Honey-Jalapeno Chicken over Sesame Noodles
spaghetti noodles - I still have to eyeball serving sizes for pasta, good luck :)
1 jalapeno, sliced and seeded
1/3 c honey
1/4 c cilantro
salt and pepper
1-3 tbsp water
2 tsp olive oil
1/2 rotisserie chicken, shredded or sliced
3 tbsp soy sauce (NOT balsamic vinegar... see above...)
2 tsp sesame oil
1/4 c chopped scallions (totally optional, I left them out this time)
sesame seeds (I just sprinkled them on top because I had them, also totally optional)

Cook the noodles according to package directions. Drain and set aside. In a blender or food processor, combine jalapeno, honey, cilantro, and 1/2 tsp each of salt and pepper. Puree until smooth. If you need to, add water, a tbsp at a time and blend again until you get the desired consistency. Heat oil on medium low. Add chicken and the sauce and cook until heater through. In a medium bowl, combine noodles, soy sauce, and sesame oil. Scallions too, if you wish. Toss and then transfer to a serving bowl. Pour heated chicken and sauce over noodles, sprinkler with sesame seeds, and serve.

December 22, 2009

This ain't no-bake cheesecake

Since I'm behind on blogging and have made lots of great recipes lately (and wake up thinking about my pretty kitchen-aid mixer) I thought I would include a recipe that we're still not finished consuming. I did everything I could to ruin this recipe. Please keep in mind that I do not bake and therefore do not have a trained eye to diagnose what might be simple issues to someone who bakes regularly. First of all, after mixing the crust I realized it was a lot... crumblier than I thought it should be. I decided to be patient, it will probably look better after I bake it. I pressed it into the baking dish, baked it, and let it cool. I approached it again, poked it with my finger, decided this just can't be right at the exact same time I spotted a lone stick of butter on the other side of my kitchen. "One CUP of butter, not one STICK of butter!" Oh. So, I scooped the filling out of the mixer and into a new bowl so that I could make the crust again. MUCH better this time. Won't make that mistake again. Once the crust cooled I poured the cheesecakey topping over it. I remember Jacquie telling me that one time she started to cool everything in the fridge (takes 2 hours) without putting the pear slices on, so my mind was focused on making sure I did that part in the right order. I added the pear slices, sprinkled the cinnamon and sugar and put her in the fridge. By the way, I made this in advance for a Christmas party. I went to Charlotte for two days and the plan was to come home, pack her up, and go! I came home and the cheesecakey topping was not as... firm... as I remembered Jacquie's being. What could I have done wrong?? Surely it should have had plenty of time to "set up" after 48 hours in the fridge! As we walked around puzzled, Matt asked, "What's in it?" I replied, "Just cream cheese, sugar, eggs, and vanilla!" He said, "Did you cook the eggs?" I said, "Well, I didn't put a scrambled egg in it!" As those words came out my little dim light bulb went off. Maybe I was supposed to bake the cheesecakey topping! You mean it's not a Jell-O no bake?! I don't know what I was thinking. Well, we were about to walk out the door for the Christmas party and my dessert still needed to bake for 45 minutes AND cool for 2 hours. Needless to say, we didn't end up taking it, and a week later some of it is still left in the fridge. Every night for dessert we have pear bars and hot tea. Tea that Jacquie first introduced to me, oddly enough. I wonder if she knows how pleasant our evenings have been thanks to her inspiration!

Jacquie's Pear Bars
2 sticks of butter
1/2 c sugar
1 1/2 c flour
1 tsp vanilla
1 c chopped pacans

Cream the butter and sugar with a mixer. Add in flour, vanilla, and pecans and mix well. Press into a greased 9x13 dish. Bake at 350 for 18-20 minutes. Cool completely on a rack.

2 pkgs cream cheese
2/3 c sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

Mix cream cheese and sugar. Add in eggs and vanilla and mix well. Spread over crust after it has cooled.

1 can of pears halves (there is a difference here between generic and the good stuff, get the good stuff)
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

Slice the pears length-wish into 1/8 in slices. Spread the pears over top of the filling and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake at 350 for 40 minutes. Cool in the fridge for 2 hours.
You can also place the pear slices so that there will be one slice on each bar which takes about 16 pear slices and makes for a nice presentation.

December 21, 2009

Can't cookies cure headaches and achey knees? Please?

You would think that not having a job would give me plenty of time to stay on top of everything. So not true! I was laid off three weeks ago, and although I'm doing plenty of things in my free time, much to Matt's dismay, working out has not been one of them. Why do I hate working out so much? I recently went to the doctor for a physical and talked to him about my three major ailments: headaches, achey knees, and trouble sleeping/bad dreams/anxiety at night/clenching my teeth. Yes, that's all falls under one complaint. His prescription for all three? Exercise. Sigh. I always feel better after I work out, so why isn't that motivation the next morning when I'm sitting on the couch thinking about how much I do not want to do it again?

Anyway, one thing I have been doing plenty of in my free time is cooking. Tonight we had pork chops marinated in dijon mustard and italian dressing with broccoli and mac and cheese (with a little Louisianna hot sauce added at the end). That's not the recipe I want to post today though. Today was a milestone in the Meitl kitchen. Today I made chocolate chip cookies from scratch. This is not the first time I have made chocolate chip cookies from scratch, but it IS the first time I've made really really good chocolate chip cookies from scratch. The two "ingredients" that allowed this to happen were our friend Mario's recipe (with one minor substitution) and my beautiful kitchen aid mixer. I can't believe I wanted six months into our marriage to bring out the kitchen aid mixer. I thought we'd never have enough counter top space and I thought it would be way too much of a hassle to clean. I was wrong about both. It's a beautiful persimmon color, and I was happy to rearrange the counter space to make room for it. As far as cleaning, it's just a bowl and a beater!

Mario's Amazing Chocolate Chip Cookies
3/4 c butter flavored crisco (I used 3/4 c butter, which I highly recommend, to eliminate trans fats)
1 1/4 c firmly packed light brown sugar
2 tbsp milk
1 tbsp vanilla
1 egg
1 3/4 c all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 cup chocolate chips (if pecan pieces are omitted then add 1/2 c more of chocolate chips)
1 cup pecan pieces (optional)

Heat oven to 350. Combine the first four ingredients in a large bowl. Please make sure the butter is room temperature. My wonderful brother taught me that the reason my cookies used to stay in balls instead of spreading out was because my butter was not at room temperature. Beat at medium speed of electric mixer until creamy (or do what Mario does and hand stir them with love). Beat in the egg. Add the flour, salt, and baking soda and mix until well blended. Stir in chocolate chips and pecans. Drop rounded tablespoonfuls (or just big soup spoonfuls) 3 inches apart on a baking sheet. (My preference is to use reynolds release wrap, it's amazing). Bake at 350 for 8-13 minutes depending on desired chewiness or crispiness. Matt and I checked them after 8 and decided to give them 2 more minutes. 10 minutes ended up being perfect for us except for two of the cookies that were a little larger than the rest and didn't quite cook enough for our liking. Note: They will look a little puffy and not quite done after 10 minutes but they sink down and crisp up a tad as they cool. Let them cool for a few minutes before moving them to a cooling rack or plate.

I can't tell you how excited I am that I successfully made pretty (and yummy!) chocolate chip cookies. Sitting on the couch breaking a warm cooking in half while the chocolate chips are still a little melty makes being jobless feel like a minor detail.

December 19, 2009

Snow all around, but in our town, barely any snow came down

We didn't end up getting snowed in like we were hoping we would. Schools closed early yesterday before anything had even thought about falling from the sky and today we're just left with a little wet outside. Just 3 hours north in Virginia they have a foot of snow, and Kara in Maryland has 2 feet of snow! Jealous. In an effort to feel snowed in anyway we listened to the nutcracker suite and made corn chowder (yum!) and not-just-any-old grilled cheese sammies.

Side note. We got the new Hellman's mayo made with olive oil. Are you funny about your mayonnaise? I am. I grew up on Duke's and really, there's no substitute. It was not easy for me to put the Duke's back and take the Hellman's, but for the sake of a healthier option, I gave it a shot. I have yet to test it on something where you can really tell if the mayonnaise makes the sandwich or interferes with the sandwich (like simply bread, turkey, mayo, salt and pepper... mmmm), but I will let you know.

This corn chowder recipe is so ridiculously easy, please try it!

Corn Chowder
1 slice of bacon, sliced lengthwise then in 1/4 in slices across
2 carrots, cut into 1/2 in slices
2 celery stalks, cut into 1/2 in slices
1/2 small onion, chopped (about 1/3 cup)
chicken broth
2 cans cream of potato soup
2 cans creamed corn

*you can make this a vegetarian soup by using 1/2 tbsp butter and 1/2 tbsp olive oil in place of the bacon, and veggie in place of the chicken broth*

Cook up the bacon on medium heat. You want it very crispy but not burnt. Add the carrots, celery, and onion, sprinkle generously with pepper, and saute for 10 minutes. Add enough broth to just cover the veggies. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Test a carrot to make sure it's starting to get tender. It will still have more time to soften in the next few steps so you only want it to begin to get tender. Add the cans of potato soup and creamed corn. Fill one can of potato soup with broth and add that to the pot as well. Bring to a light boil, reduce to low and cover until ready to serve. So easy, so inexpensive, so yummy.

Not-Just-Any-Old Grilled Cheese Sammies
butter (best of softened a tad)
good bread!
good ham!
good cheese!
spicy brown mustard

We used a beautiful loaf of wheat bread from the "good bread" section of the grocer store. We got 8 slices of peppered ham from the deli and I got a few slices of baby swiss cheese. Matt used kraft american singles, but this is not recommended. Not if you are attempting to make not-just-any-old grilled cheese sammies. I mixed equal parts (about a tbsp each) of mayonnaise and spicy brown mustard. Matt used yellow mustard and mayo. So, since mine was the real winner of a sammy: spread the mayo/mustard mixture onto both sides of the bread. Add ham and swiss. Spread butter on one side. Add to a skillet on medium low eat and spread butter on the remaining side. Cook until cheese is melted and bread is golden brown. Flip, repeat, done! So amazing with the soup. This meal will definitely make you feel snowed in.

December 18, 2009

A day in the life of a housewife

This is what it looks like to be without a job for nearly three weeks. Jennifer rings my doorbell at 2:30 in the afternoon. When she comes in, I'm still in my pjs, listening to a Tim Keller podcast on my laptop, keeping mashed potatoes warm on a back burner, and sauteing veggies on a front burner. Dinner is practically done at 2:30. Jennifer missed the most enjoyable part of this day however, which was peeling potatoes on the couch in front of the TV. I can't remember the last time I peeled potatoes. The smell reminded me of growing up. I think my mom must have peeled potatoes quite often, because I clearly remember that smell, and I also remember taking slices of uncooked potatoes from her and munching on them. I'm not interested in that little snack anymore, but I did enjoy the feeling of taking the time to peel the potatoes. Jennifer was planning to go to the movies (by herself!) at 4:00. What movie have you ever been so excited to see that you would actually go by yourself?? For her, it was New Moon. I'm not into vampires and warewolves myself, but I am into Jennifer, so I threw the sheppard's pie in the fridge, texted Matt with directions to start baking it when he got home from work, hopped in the shower, and headed to the movies with the lovely Jennifer.

When we walked into the theater there was just the talk of snow. We we walked out at 6:15 there was a beautiful sheet of the white stuff over the cars and the parking lot. Not so beautiful once we stepped out into it however and got pelted by little kitty litter sized ice balls in our ears and down the back of our necks. We raced to her car and as she pulled around the back of the (fairly empty) parking lot she said, "Look! We can do donuts in the parking lot!" as she barely turned her wheel and we fish-tailed a little too close to the other cars for our liking. Our eyes got big, we looked at each other and laughed, and from that point on we respected the roads as we drove home.

Shephard's Pie
4 russet potatoes, peeled and diced in 1 to 2 inch pieces
1/3 c milk
2 oz cream cheese (1/4 c)
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp garlic powder
1 tbsp chicken stock
2 tbsp butter

Cover the potatoes with water, add a generous amount of salt, and bring to a boil. I like for my potatoes to be really done so make sure they are very very fork tender. While the potatoes are cooking put the milk, cream cheese, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and stock in a small sauce pan and warm it up. You don't want it to reduce much, but you do want to warm the milk and melt the cream cheese. It's okay if the mixture is lumpy. Strain the potatoes really well. Turn the burner off and put the potatoes back on the hot burner to help evaporate any of the remaining water. Remove from the heat, add in the mixture from the sauce pan, and mash as much or as little as you like. I like mine really mashed. Slice the butter and place over top of the potatoes. Cover and set out of the way. Once the butter has melted, give the potatoes one more stir to mix it all together.

1/2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tbsp butter
2 carrots, chopped as thick or thin as you would like
2 ribs of celery, chopped as thick or thin as you would like
1/2 small onion
one package of pre-sliced pre-washed button or crimini mushrooms
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 tbsp tomato paste
1/8 c beef broth
1/4 tbsp worchestershire sauce
1/2 lb ground beef (although we used ground turkey today)
grated parm

Heat butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add next 6 ingredients and cook 10 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook 8 more minutes. Add ground beef (or turkey!), worchestershire, and broth and cook until meat is no longer pink. This recipe fits perfect in a 8.5 in square casserole dish, but you can double the recipe for a 9x13 pyrex if you're feeding a lot of people. Spoon in the filling, top with the potatoes, sprinkle with grated parm and bake uncovered for 40 minutes at 375.

December 14, 2009

Our commercial

I will be sad when this video is no longer accessible on youtube, because it's amazingly funny to me. It's a Hanes commercial and the interaction between the husband and wife, the husband's desire to create a new (zany) was of doing something, and his response, "that's the future!" all remind me SO much of myself and Matt. So funny. Enjoy:

disclaimer: my husband really IS imaginative and amazing and not all all stupid