Friday, February 24, 2012

Extra Schlooppy for you.

So I have a confession...I've eaten Sloppy Joes like, twice in my life. I have no idea what they're supposed to taste like. And I have no idea what the appeal is. I mean, it's ground meat and onion and sauce...just make a burger. That way you can have lettuce and tomato on it and it's somewhat more balanced and tastes like grown up food. I just don't get it.

Me: So? Whaddya think? Are they good?
Hubby: Oh, yeah, they're good.
Me: Huh. (Examines my Joe carefully.)
Hubby:...what about you? Do you like them?
Me: I...I don't know...I'm very confused...

Anyway, he had two. One was plenty for me, but I was all over the Asian slaw I made for the side. So, you know, here are both recipes.

Crock Pot Sloppy Joes
1/2 a green bell pepper, chopped
half an onion, chopped
1 lb lean ground beef
3/4 tsp garlic powder
1 tbsp brown sugar
a good squirt mustard (2 tsp or so)
One cup of ketchup
Good pinch each of S&P (1/4 tsp each?)

Spray a pan lightly with cooking spray and sauté onion and bell pepper for a couple of minutes. Add beef, and cook over medium high heat until brown, 5 minutes or so. Place in crock pot and stir in remaining ingredients.

Cook on high for 4 hours (or however long you've got). Serve on lightly toasted buns.

Asian Coleslaw
2 tbsp reduced fat peanut butter
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 garlic clove, minced
Small piece of ginger (about the size of a garlic clove), minced
1 tbsp peanut or canola oil
About 3 cups of coleslaw mix (cabbage, red cabbage and carrot)
half a bell pepper, thinly sliced and halved
handful of cilantro, chopped

Combine peanut butter through oil and set dressing aside. Mix veggie mix, bell pepper and cilantro, then toss with dressing right before eating. It gets a little soggy for leftovers, so keep that in mind.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

If there's an award for looking hot when 40+ weeks pregnant...

I'm not even going to bother entering. Hubby's basically got me on house arrest, so my uniform's been fairly consistent. Oversized yoga pants, a Lakers T-shirt, flip flops and glasses. Showered, yes, because I am well aware that every shower could be my last for awhile. So my saving grace right now is that I am well cleansed, conditioned, scrubbed, and exfoliated.

So how does it feel to have your due date come and go and still find yourself pregnant? It's not awesome. I'm no more uncomfortable than I was last week or the week before,'s a little harder to bend over (but I'm still able to lotion my legs and clean the cat pays off?) and I've got random pains going on in and around my belly and...other areas, but I'm not miserable.

Bored? Yes. Annoyed? A little. But mostly, I'm tired of my phone going off. Turns out that people really want me to have this baby, and to have it on time. A small sample of texts I've received in the past two days:

Did you have your baby yet or what?!?
Baby news??
Where da baby at?
What is the latest report?
That baby come yet?
Has baby popped out yet?
Is it time for the baby? Is everyone bugging you about this?

Sigh. I'm trying to be present on facebook so people know I'm around, but there's only so much I can do, and there's only so often I can talk about it, especially when I'm trying not to dwell on it. So please, if I sound at all annoyed when I respond to your text with "buh" or "no." or something equally un-enthused, know that I don't mean it personally. I just don't have anything new to tell you. I don't know when the baby is coming. Yes, we were due on the 19th. But as our wise birthing class nurse pointed out, it's a due-week. Only 5% of babies are born on their due date...and this baby will come when it is ready. (Or I'll be induced on the 29th. These are the only certainties I know right now.)

So basically, when there is something to tell, I will tell. But it may not definitely will not be the second the baby is born. We're not even letting our families in the delivery room, so I'm afraid facebook is banned from there, as well. Give us a few hours, ok?

And now, I'm going to go put some make-up on. Because you just never know...

Monday, February 20, 2012

Olive Cheese Bread

I cannot get enough bread these days. My absolute best friend is currently the Il Fornaio loaf at Fresh & Easy. It's the best heat and serve loaf ever. Ever. And they come in full loaves and little personal sized ones if you're not planning on gorging yourself (right.). Carb heaven, let me tell you.

And what makes fresh bread better? Cheese. And Olives. Obviously. Damn it, Sam.

No joke, these are ridiculous. Maybe you don't need to pile them as high with olives as we did, but if you do, I'm certainly not going to judge...

Olive Cheese Bread
2 to 3 minced garlic cloves
olive oil
1 shallot, thinly sliced
Regular or reduced fat crumbled blue cheese or gorgonzola
Kalamata olives, chopped

Heat over to 425.
Cut bread in half, lengthwise, and lay crust side down. Drizzle olive oil lightly over bread, then sprinkle with garlic, using a knife to spread it out a bit. Arrange shallot in an even layer across bread halves. Top with cheese and olives, then bake about 15 minutes. Serve hot.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Greek Couscous

We were sent home from a Memorial service last weekend with an excessive amount of pita bread, hummus, and other ridiculously delicious dipping sauces from a local restaurant. So what else could we do but attempt to eat it all??

I'm a huge fan of Greek salad, and I'm loving the quickness of couscous these days. Add it all together, and we made quite the healthy feast out of it.

Greek Chicken Couscous
Two boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 cup couscous (I've been using the whole grain kind)
1 cup chicken broth
2 tbsp olive oil
zest from one lemon
juice from half a lemon
about 1 tbsp fresh chopped basil
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp vinegar (I used cider)
3 minced garlic cloves
1 cucumber, peeled, quartered lengthwise and chopped
1 package yellow or cherry tomatoes, halved
1 yellow or red bell pepper, chopped
small handful kalamatas (10?) chopped
Crumbled feta (reduced fat works)

Sprinkle chicken breasts with salt, pepper, oregano and thyme. Spray a pan with cooking spray and cook over medium high heat until done, 5-10 minutes a side depending on size. Let cool and chop into bite sized pieces.

Bring chicken broth to a boil, then stir in couscous, cover, and remove from heat. After about 5 minutes, remove lid, stir, and transfer to a large bowl to cool.

Mix dressing in a small bowl-olive oil, lemon zest and juice, basil, thyme, vinegar, garlic, and a pinch each of salt and pepper.

Combine cooled chicken and couscous, and stir in dressing. When combined, add in cucumber, tomatoes, bell pepper and olives and top with cheese—1/4 cup or so.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Playing catch up...again.

I'm not going to pretend like I'm cooking a whole lot this month week. This is me right now:
I'm 39 weeks pregnant. Which means I'm kind of into couscous and crock pots and other next-to-no effort meals. And boxed mac and cheese and pre-made cookie dough, but we're going to ignore that part, if you don't mind.

So I'm going to dig through the ridiculous number of photos of food I have around and try and just catch up with everything I meant to post but didn't, because I was obviously too busy discovering new ways to get Ramona to pose in human-esque poses while I take photos of her focusing on preparing my house for the baby invasion.

So. Here you go. First up is a one dish chicken tamale casserole. I love tamales..this isn't exactly the same flavor, but it's a decent substitute for a quick fix. And about a zillion times easier.

Tamale Casserole

1 cup shredded 4-cheese blend (reduced fat is ok)
1/3 cup 1% milk
1/4 cup Southwest style Egg-beaters
1 tsp cumin
red chile flakes to taste (1/4 to 1/2 tsp)
1 can creamed corn
1 regular box (8.5 oz) corn muffin mix
1/4 tsp salt
1 can (4oz) chopped green chiles
1 can (10oz) red enchilada sauce
2 cooked chicken breasts, shredded
light sour cream or greek yogurt
chopped green onion

Heat oven to 400.
Spray a large baking dish with cooking spray. Mix the enchilada sauce with the chicken and set aside.

Combine 1/4 cup cheese with milk, egg, cumin, red chile, corn, muffin mix, salt and green chiles, and stir very gently until just combined. Pour into baking dish, and bake at 400 for 15 minutes.

Remove from oven, and use a fork to puncture the whole thing a bunch of times all over. Pour chicken mixture over it, and sprinkle with the rest of the cheese. Put back into oven and cook another 15 minutes or until cheese is melted. Remove from heat and let sit a few minutes before cutting. Serve with sour cream and green onion on top. (And more cheese, if you're into cheese.)

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Seriously Literate-Winter '12

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns), Mindy Kaling
Oh, Mindy. I would love for you to hang out with me. A goofy, funny light read by one of my fave funny girls. Similar to the Tiny Fey memoir, but more relatable, seeing that Mindy and I are the same age. Girl cracks me up. Which was necessary, seeing of the the darker stuff I've been reading lately.

Haunted, Chuck Palahniuk
I'm not going to mince words here. This book is majorly fucked up. Though if you've read Chuck before (Fight Club, Choke), you could have probably already guessed that. It's about a group of people who answer an ad to figuratively vanish, leaving their lives behind to take part in a 90 day writer's retreat. While telling the story of the retreat itself, every other chapter is an "autobiography" from one of the participants, explaining what was so messed up about their life that they wanted to just disappear like that.

Doesn't sound so bad, does it? Well, eventually they start dying. Still not convinced? Well, *spoiler alert* then they start eating each other. So, you know. It was a delightful read. Evening reads plus a hormonal preggo brain made for some awesome dreams that week. Homeboy can write. Just know you're in for quite a gory ride.

The Things They Carried, Tim O'Brien
I'm totally an anti-war person. I hate the idea of it, I hate the blood and the violence and the death and the destruction. I don't do movies or documentaries about it, I don't do books about it, and I don't debate about it. (Am I making my point? I hate war.)

So of course, this book was about war. I put off reading it, even though it was highly recommended, but then after renewing it three times, I figured I needed to either read it or send it I read it. And it pleasantly surprised me. It's about a group of young men during Vietnam...their friendships, their returns, and the murders they witnessed or took part in. The author describes himself as a bleeding-heart, so in all honesty, I'm sure that slant may have made a difference in the way it was written and in my ability to enjoy it. It wasn't uplifting, but it wasn't ugly, either. It was "honest," (It's fiction, but based on real events in part) and it was, really, quite engrossing. Sad and even sweet at times.

Damned, Chuck Palahniuk
Well, this one wasn't the ball of disgust that Haunted was, but it was of course no ray of sunshine, either. I kinda dug it, though. It was about the 13 year neglectedold daughter of massively famous parents (think Brangelina) who had died and is in hell, which is where the entire story takes place. Since there's no time in hell, I can imagine that the story takes place over years and years, but he zips through what can only be incredibly long situations (such as when she forges an army and gains power by taking down demons and true monsters like Hitler left and right-in stilettos, natch) within a short chapter at a time. It can be pretty funny, really. Disturbing, but funny if you're into the dark side of things.

The Particular Sadness of Lemoncake, Aimee Bender
Annnnd another one I read twice without remembering. Seriously, my brain. I don't know if I was attempting to read it drunk the first time, but I only remembered like, every other chapter. Very confusing.

The main character is a young girl who discovers she can taste the emotions, feelings, and situations of the person who made the food she eats, to the point where eating becomes nearly unbearable. (Her mother's well hidden misery gives way to the book's title, for example.) It's quite an interesting concept. I liked it. And reminds me to try and be in a good mood when I cook.

American Wife, Curtis Sittenfeld
I really liked this one. It's very long, but I never felt like it dragged. The story focuses on a young woman who finds herself in love with a man she never expected. She's a thoughtful, educated librarian, and he's the crass, rough and tumble heir to a conservative legacy who is pushed into politics. Eventually, he becomes president, and she's forced to juggle her more liberal leanings with her need to stay silent in public for the sake of her husband.

Sound familiar? It should. The book makes no attempt to disguise that it's loosely based on Laura Bush. I don't know much about the real Mrs. Bush, and have never really cared to, seeing how much I dislike her husband, but this makes me think that maybe she's worth learning more about. The character was fascinating and complex and sympathetic. Really liked the novel a lot.

Peach Keeper, Sarah Addison Allen
A typical Allen story. Sweet, charming and light. People fight falling in love, there's "magic" and mystery in the air, etc. etc. Nothing groundbreaking here, but I don't expect there to be with her. I just like the easy, sweet reads.

The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern
So here's the deal. Hubs bought me a Kindle for Christmas, and I'm...struggling with it. When I was dependent on the library, I had a fire under my ass to get books read. Now that I'm back to my own devices (no pun intended), I'm not reading nearly as much or as often. Which is a little bothersome. No wonder I work in an industry with deadlines. I'd never get anything done otherwise. (BTW, thanks Mom. I know this is your genetic half.)

So. That said. I think I would have liked this book more had I read it more quickly. My brain is distracted enough these days, and dragging it out over a month or so meant I kept forgetting what was happening, who the characters were, all of that. But it really was a cool story-two illusionists/magicians/whatever you want to call them are chosen (by their twisted parents/adoptive 'masters') at a young age to compete against each other-problem is, they don't know it. Even bigger problem, they eventually fall in love. And all of this takes place within the tents of an incredible circus that almost mystically travels the globe, appearing only at night.

And this circus sounds amazing. And I really dislike the circus. But that's a whole other PETA-related thing we won't get into. There's already talk about making this one into a movie, but it would take a badass director with some insane vision to pull it off. I vote Baz Luhrman. (But I always vote for Baz.)

And now the eternal question...

I've got a couple on my Kindle ready to go right now-The Wedding Gift and Black Ice...does anyone have any short stories or easy reads they could recommend? I think my reading time is about to become even more rare very quickly and I need something light I can jump in and out of.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Dumb things not to say to your 9.5 months pregnant wife, Vol. 1

After warning him that two largely pregnant women might not be his best audience for incessant bitching about how 'gross' Christina Aguilera is:

"But there's a difference between choosing to be fat and having to be."

Real Simple, indeed.

I'm sure you don't know this about me, but I'm kind of...lazy. (I'm also sarcastic. Just a little.) If there's a hard way and an easy way, hello...I'm going easy. I mean, I'm obviously willing to make an effort—this is a cooking blog, after all, not a 'Where Did Pam Drive Through Tonight' blog—but I'm the kind of girl who is just as happy with a 90% as with a 103%. They're both A's, people. And I got a lot of them. (Plus, without slaving over unnecessary extra credit assignments, I saved myself some drinkin' time.) Just sayin'.

So there I was, checking out at the grocery store, when this caught my eye:
Um, YUM. AND it's from a CROCK-POT? Needless to say, the magazine came home with me.

Me: (As I toss it on the table triumphantly) This? This is happening.
Hubby: Uhhhh, yeah it is.

The husband is always down for country food. He would eat biscuits and gravy every weekend if I agreed to make them he could. So anything resembling pot pie is going to be well received. And it was. And I'm happy to say that I was able to simplify an already simple recipe. Winners all around.

Creamy Chicken and Mushroom "Potpie"
1 package brown mushrooms, stems trimmed, cleaned and halved
One handful of small baby carrots
1 medium brown onion, chopped
1/3 cup white flour
1 tsp thyme
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper
About 1.5 lbs (three 8oz or four 6oz) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 package crescent rolls (regular or the circular kind)
16oz bag of mixed frozen veggies (peas, green beans, carrots)
1/3 cup cream

Set up your crock pot. Combine mushrooms, baby carrots, onion, flour, thyme, bay leaf, about 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/2 cup water. Sprinkle chicken with more salt and lots of fresh pepper, and place on top. Cover and cook for as long as you've got, 7-8 hours on low or 4-5 on high.

When eating time approaches, cook rolls according to package directions until golden. About 15-20 minutes before the crock pot will turn off, stir in the frozen veggies, cream, another 1/2 to 1 tsp salt, and break chicken up with a fork a bit (it should pull apart pretty easily). Cover and let finish cooking.

Serve in a bowl with a roll on top.

Friday, February 3, 2012

If Mary Poppins made Asian food, it would be a little like this.

I'm going to go ahead and thank Sam again for a quick and easy dinner base. Stuff in a wok takes a little bit of time to prep, but this doesn't really have that many ingredients, and it came together really easily.

Since both of these use similar ingredients, I did all the prep work ahead of time, arranged all my little prep bowls in two areas, and actually cooked them both at the same time. I felt a little like Mary Poppins; organized and efficient and a little bit of a rock star. And I am totally going to pretend that I didn't mix up the garlic/ginger bowls in the midst of my awesomeness. (I intended for the rice to have less ginger than the wraps...but it worked, so whatever.)

Oh, and if you just want to mix any leftover chicken mixture into the rice for lunch the next day, it makes a great chicken fried rice.

Chicken Lettuce Wraps
Peanut Oil (or canola)
2 garlic cloves, minced
About 1 inch fresh peeled ginger, minced
12oz chicken breast pieces, cut into thin strips
1 can sliced water chestnuts, drained and sliced again
1/4 cup hoisin sauce (I like Lee Kum Kee brand)
2 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
One bunch green onion, sliced thinly (trim off a lot of the dark green tops first)
About 8 butter lettuce leaves, washed

Heat a bit of oil over medium high heat in large saute pan. When hot, add chicken and stir fry about 3 minutes until mostly white. Add garlic and ginger and keep cooking until chicken is done. Stir in half of the green onion, soy sauce and hoisin. Turn off heat and cover.

Serve in lettuce leaves like a taco. Top with more green onion and sriracha if you like hot sauce. So. Freaking. Good.

Fried Rice
2 cups broth (chicken, etc.)
1 cup white rice
1 tbsp peanut oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
About 1.5 inch piece of peeled ginger, minced
1 egg
1/2 cup chopped carrot
a couple green onion stalks, chopped
small handful of cilantro, chopped
3-4 tbsp low sodium soy sauce (or you can substitute in some fish sauce)

Bring broth to a boil, then add rice. Cover, reduce to very low, and cook about 15 minutes or until done. Remove from heat, uncover, and fluff with a fork. Let cool for 20 minutes or more. (It can be cold, actually, if you want to do this ahead of time.)

In large wok or saute pan, heat oil over high heat. Add ginger and garlic and cook about a minute, stir frying the whole time. Add egg, and let sit just a minute to cook, then scramble. Keep moving everything around the whole time. When egg is cooked, add carrot and 1 tbsp of soy sauce. Stir-fry another 4-5 minutes, then add rice and heat another minute or two. Add in rest of soy sauce, and cook another minute or until hot and well combined. Mix in green onion and cilantro.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

This baby is confused.

Apparently E thinks his/her mother likes to bake. Cause this baby wants cookies. And despite my best attempts to get out of it, here I am, again, "baking."

Seriously. Best attempts.

I have no oven.
I have no butter.
I have no white sugar.
I have a half cup of brown sugar.

And yet here. I. am. I found a sugar-free recipe that seemed too easy and interesting to pass over, so I gave it a shot and played with it a bit. It recommended you use a stand-up mixer, but I just used a hand mixer. I'm sure you could use a spoon, but that really sounds like more hell than its worth.

It's just a sugar cookie, but with more of a honey taste (obviously). Not over-sweet. A little dense. But not bad. Next time maybe I'll try almond extract. Oh, and without any raw egg, these make great prego cookies, cause you can gorge on the dough (which I liked better than the cookies themselves). Extra points there.

The Despite My Best Effort Not To Cookie
1.5 cups flour
3/4 cup margarine (Country Crock)
1/4 cup honey (orange blossom)
1 tsp vanilla extract
Cinnamon (a good shake or two)

Mix flour and margarine until well blended (see photo).
Slowly incorporate honey, vanilla and cinnamon. When well mixed, dust your hands with hands with flour and shape dough into a ball, drop onto flour-dusted board.

Knead just a bit until very smooth and not sticky, then roll out and cut with a cookie cutter. Or a shot glass, if you don't own that sort of thing (raises hand).

Bake at 325 for about 10-12 minutes until til golden brown. Remove and cool.

Note: I did about a dozen like this, then added a handful of white chocolate chips and worked them into the dough. Then made balls with the rest of the dough and flattened with my hand instead of rolling out. I don't particularly like white chocolate to begin with, but they didn't really add anything and actually made the honey taste stronger. Though I did like the way they caramelized and added a burnt sugar taste. So overall not the best idea; I was just playing around. I just wanted to explain why you see some weird cookies in the pic.

About 2 dozen small cookies, 56ish calories each.