Thursday, December 29, 2011

Mushroom spinach wrap with bean spread

Wow...that title sounds really appetizing doesn't it? NOT.  It turns out that, despite the name, this was a quite tasty lunch. I saw this recipe a while ago in my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook.  I never had the ingredients on hand at the same time, but last night I decided to get up off the couch and go to the grocery store to buy them. Here they are:
  • Mushrooms
  • Italian dressing
  • Spinach (cheaper when bought from the salad bar)
  • 1 can of beans (cannellini or navy)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • Tortillas
  • Cheese (I used a shredded Italian blend)
Here's what you do.  First, coat the sliced mushrooms in Italian dressing.  I'm sure another type of dressing would work too, but that is what I had on hand.  Then, broil the mushrooms in the oven for a few minutes.  Meanwhile, lightly dress the spinach in dressing.  Then, use a blender to combine the can of beans, garlic, olive oil, and chili powder into a thick liquid--somewhere between gravy and peanut butter. All that's left to do now is put everything together!  Lay out a tortilla, smear it with the bean spread, and then layer on spinach, mushrooms, and cheese. I refrigerated my wraps overnight and had them today for lunch.  I was afraid they might get a little soggy from the spread and dressing, but had no problem.

Curried Chickpeas

Last week my friend Laura came to visit from Philly. For dinner, we made chicken tikka, rice (a mixture of brown and white), and curried chickpeas.  I forgot to take pictures that night of the food, and more importantly my guests, but ate the chickpeas and rice again the next night as leftovers.  Pictured are the curried chickpeas over rice with broccoli.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Bean Salad

Right now, my refrigerator is on the empty side (as tends to happen towards the end of the work week), so I went to to find a recipe to make.  This website is great.  You list the ingredients that you have in your kitchen, and it spits out a list of dishes you can make with them.  Today it gave me a simple bean salad.  Over Thanksgiving, my brother told me that he now eats almost no meat, and tons of beans.  That inspired me to cook more bean dishes, so this was a perfect opportunity to try something new.  It was very easy.  1 can black beans. 1 can chick peas. Balsamic vinegar. Olive oil. Parsley. That's all the recipe called for. I also added in some red pepper that I already had in my fridge.  I was a little skeptical by the simplicity of this recipe at first, but it is surprisingly flavorful! It would be great as a side salad, or served with pita as a dip.

Spring Rolls

A couple of weeks ago, I was talking with two of my friends about cooking.  We decided that we wanted to try making dumplings and spring rolls. None of us had ever tried to make either of these before.  Well, last night I decided to give spring rolls a try.  It turns out my mom has a recipe from an old family friend in her book You Won't Believe It's Gluten-Free!, so I gave that recipe a shot.  It worked! The recipe contained a warning about the spring rolls breaking while frying, but all of mine came out in one piece. The first step is to prepare the filling. I used cabbage, onions, and shrimp, along with the seasonings.

While that was cooling, I soaked the spring roll wrappers (which you can buy at an Asian grocery store) in water.  They are actually made out of rice flour, and are gluten-free.  Which would make sense considering I found the recipe in a gluten-free book...

Then, I wrapped the filling in the wrappers, and fried for about ten minutes.

I also found a recipe for sauce in her book, and then kicked it up a notch with some siracha.  Yum.

Homemade pizza

Last Friday night, we made homemade pizza for dinner.  I wanted to try out a new topping combo, so I bought a variety of vegetables at the salad bar, and defrosted a chicken breast.  It turns out that I had left the chicken out too long, and it went bad :-(.  I still tried a new veggie combo though: spinach, peppers, olives, and onions, along with a bunch of oregano, basil, garlic, and cayenne on a thin crust.  It turned out pretty well.

Brandon made his pizza hand-tossed with cheese. Whose pizza looks better to you?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Tortilla Chips

The other day I saw a recipe online for nachos on the grill.  While this sounds amazing, I have no grill, and it is disgusting outside this time of year in DC. Instead, my boyfriend had the great idea of making our own tortilla chips.  It turns out this is REALLY easy to do.  We preheated the oven to 350 degrees and cup up a couple of store-bought tortillas.  Next, we sprayed them with cooking spray (alternatively, you could brush them with oil) and then sprinkled on some spices.  For the first batch we were adventurous and went with cayenne, cumin, salt, and pepper.  They turned out pretty spicy.  For the second bath, we played it safer and sprinkled on some sea salt.  We also cranked up the oven to 450 for the second bath, trying to get a crisper texture.  That worked a little too well.  If you want to use a hotter oven, make sure you keep an eye on the chips.  They baked for about 5-7 minutes and were a little soft when they came out. As they cool, however, they harden up. I thought these chips were quite tasty.  My only complaint is that they are more like cracker chips than true tortilla chips.  They turned out a little thicker, not as thick as bagel chips, but in that direction.

The Pumpkin Craze

It seems like there has been a relatively recent craze for pumpkin.  Pumpkin cookies. Pumpkin muffins. Pumpkin bread. Pumpkin bagels. Pumpkin cream cheese. Pumpkin cheesecake. Even Pumpkin soup. Growing up, the only pumpkin-flavored food we ate was pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving and Christmas.  My obsession with pumpkin food started in college.  Right on campus there is an Einstein Bagels.  In the fall, they have pumpkin bagels with pumpkin cream cheese.  This was my first taste of pumpkin outside of pie, and I loved it.  Recently I've hopped on the pumpkin band wagon, and started making more and more adventurous pumpkin recipes.

This all started when my boyfriend decided that he wanted to make a pumpkin pie from an actual pumpkin last Thanksgiving.  The tradition has continued, and we made another homemade pumpkin pie this year (check out that blog post below).

This fall, I also made pumpkin bread and muffins.  I used the recipe in the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book. This recipe is excellent.  It is easy to follow, and the product turns out moist and delicious.  The only drawback--if you can consider it that--is that it makes a ton of food.  I've recently discovered that you can freeze muffins, breads, and even cupcakes without a problem.  Bring on the baked goods!

My next pumpkin recipe attempt occurred when I went home for Thanksgiving. I decided that instead of having pumpkin pie at our family Thanksgiving, we should have a pumpkin cheesecake.  I used the leftover pumpkin puree from the pumpkin pie we made for first Thanksgiving.  The cheesecake that I made tasted like cheesecake (always a good thing), but not so much like pumpkin.  It was a little disappointing.  I don't think I added quite enough pumpkin puree.  But that's okay...there's always next year.

Finally, this weekend I had my most adventurous pumpkin cooking experience yet: pumpkin bean soup. I had half of a can of pumpkin left over from my most recent round of making pumpkin muffins, and I couldn't let it go to waste. So, I googled pumpkin soups and came across this southwest-style variety.  It includes pumpkin, black beans, corn, bell pepper, tomato sauce, onion, garlic, olive oil, and chicken broth (though vegetable could very easily be substituted for any vegetarians or vegans out there) and is simply seasoned with garlic, cumin, salt, and pepper.  This soup turned out amazingly creamy.  I think it would be great for anyone who cannot eat dairy but is craving a creamy, hearty soup.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Halloween Flashback

Thanksgiving is notorious for being the holiday of food, but every holiday can have some culinary flair.  This Halloween, I made jack-o-lantern rice crispy treats.  I made the rice crispy treats like normal (butter, marshmallows, and rice crispies), but added some orange food coloring to the mix.  Then, I used mini marshmallows as stems and made a little icing to decorate the faces using a toothpick. Boo!

Easy Dinners

Here are three quick, easy dinners that I've made recently:

Pad Thai.  I used to think that I didn't like Thai food...until I tried pad thai. This is a rice noodle dish that you can add a variety of meats and/or vegetables to.  This time, I added shrimp, frozen snap peas (WAY cheaper than fresh), and onion. 


The next meal was thrown together at the last minute with ingredients I had on hand:  sweet potatoes, frozen dumplings, and frozen snap peas (again). I simply followed the directions on the bags of dumplings and snap peas, and baked the sweet potatoes in the oven with a little olive oil and cayenne.

The sweet potato fries turned out so well I took a close-up.

Finally, one day last week I was too lazy to go to the grocery store.  (This is not an unusual occurrence.) I didn't have much in my fridge, just eggs and spinach. I found some orzo in my cabinet and decided to make something out of it.  First I boiled water to cook the orzo and sauteed the spinach in olive oil with some garlic and onion.  Then, I scrambled the eggs in with the spinach mixture.  Here it is:

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thanksgiving Round One

Starting in college, my boyfriend and his friends made Thanksgiving dinner every year before going home for break. This tradition has continued on after college, and this weekend was the third annual pre-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving. I was in charge of making the pies.  We made pumpkin and strawberry-blueberry pies.
Pumpkin Pie (from a pumpkin)

The first step in making a pumpkin pie from a pumpkin is roasting the pumpkin. We cut it in half, and then roasted it in the oven for about 45 minutes--until we could easily stick a fork into the flesh.  Then, we used a fork and hand mixer to create a puree out of the pumpkin. 

After that, making a pumpkin pie is just like following the directions on the can of store-bought pumpkin.  You mix up the ingredients, pour it into a pie crust, and bake. However, we did make our own  pumpkin pie spice.  Rather than spending 4 dollars on the store's pumpkin pie spice, we combined spices that we already have in our own version, using nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves. We made extra so that we can use it again next year, or at Christmas time. 

We decided to use a graham cracker crust instead of a traditional dough pie crust this time. This seemed like a great idea at the time, but it turns out that my boyfriend's oven is not level.  The pie filling set so that more of the crust was exposed on one side than the other.  The exposed side burnt a little.  It was easy to cut off though, and tasted delicious! Unfortunately, I do not have a picture of the finished product.

Blueberry-Strawberry Pie
The blueberry-strawberry pie was a bit simpler to make.  We used store-bought refrigerated pie crusts and canned pie-filling.  I don't always make everything from scratch.... We had to make it special somehow, though.  We used the second pie crust to create a criss-cross pattern on top. This looks really impressive (I think at least) and is not too hard to make.  You cut the pie crust into strips.  Ours were about 1 inch wide.  Then, you weave them over and under on top of the pie filling.  After that, you pinch the edges of the crust, like you normally would, and then bake!



Finally, you can't have Thanksgiving without a turkey.  Here are some pictures of our turkey (made by Brandon--cooking meat is not my specialty):

Sunday, November 13, 2011

My attempt at a vegan dinner

Every Saturday morning, I like to go to the farmer's market by my apartment.  This week, I decided to make my Saturday dinner (almost) exclusively from ingredients bought at the farmer's market.  I ended up having spaghetti squash sauteed in olive oil and garlic with broccoli.  I bought the squash, broccoli, and garlic at the farmer's market.  The olive oil came from my pantry. How can you go wrong with olive oil and garlic? This meal was surprisingly tasty and filling!

In case you don't know how to prepare spaghetti squash (I didn't until this fall), it's actually really easy.  You cut the squash in half length-wise and then either roast the squash in the oven for about 45 minutes or cook it in the microwave for about 5 minutes.  Then, once a fork inserts easily into the meat of the squash, run the fork across the surface of the squash, with some pressure.  The squash will come out as noodles, or "spaghetti", hence the name.


One of my favorite things to make is soup.  Since it's getting chillier outside, this is the perfect time of year to cook up a batch. Most recipes make a large quantity, so freeze the rest and save for a rainy (or snowy) day! Here are some of the soups I've made so far this year:

  • French Onion Soup--The first time I ever had French onion soup was in Paris.  My friend Zach (American, not French) made it for me and some friends while studying abroad. Yum!
  • Moroccan Harrira--This was inspired by the vegan Harrira that I had at brunch at Busboys and Poets with some friends in Northern Virginia.  The main ingredients are chickpeas and lentils in a vegetable broth full of warm Moroccan spices.
  • Chicken Noodle Soup--A classic.
  • Beef Vegetable Soup--Another classic.  This time I made the beef vegetable soup in the crockpot using the broth leftover from making a roast.  It was super easy.  I just added some frozen vegetables and spices.
  • Chicken Stew with Cornmeal Dumplings--This was the first time I had ever made a creamy soup. The recipe came from the classic Betty Crocker cookbook.
  • Chicken Corn Soup--Basically chicken noodle soup, but I added some corn and used orzo instead of noodles.
  • New Orleans Shrimp Soup--A friend lent me a book on cooking beans.  This recipe comes from that book.  It includes onions, celery, pepper, tomatoes, shrimp, and beans.
I'm always looking for new kinds of soups to try.  Do you have any favorites?