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?