Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Butternut Squash Soup.

Fall to me means time to break out the crock pot. Time to make some chili. Soup? You've got it. So my husband's recent absence (and his general dislike of butternut squash and its related recipes), I decided it was time to make myself some soup. I found two good recipes, and molded the two for one that is creamy and putting a taste of fall in your mouth with each bite. Bonus? You can roast the seeds too, which are just as delicious as those from a pumpkin.

While this soup doesn't go into the crock pot, it still has that rich fall flavor that will warm up your insides on a chilly-to-the-bone day.

Butternut Squash Soup
Serves 6

-2 medium-sized butternut squash
-2 tablespoons salted butter
-1 medium onion, diced
-4 cups chicken broth
-4 ounces light cream cheese
-Dash of cayenne pepper
-Salt and pepper (to taste)

How to:
-Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
-Cut butternut squash in half length-wise and scoop out insides.*
-Save seeds for roasting.**
-Drizzle squash with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. (I use an olive oil spritzer.) Place face down on a baking sheet.
-Roast squash in the preheated oven for 50 minutes, or until tender.
-Once cool, scoop inside of squash from the skin (or just peel the skin off) and set aside.
-Melt butter over medium heat.
-Cook onion in the butter until soft.
-Add broth, roasted squash, and cayenne pepper.
-Heat thoroughly (about 10 minutes). Once hot (and the squash is soft), add cream cheese. Either blend mix in a blender or food processor (I used an immersion blender) until smooth and add back to pot. Do not boil.

*Per experience, the easiest way to do this is to slice small bits off each of the ends and cut in half while the squash is set upright.
**I cleaned them off, put on a cookie sheet, sprayed with olive oil, salted, and put in the oven at 275 for 15 minutes. They didn't seem done, so I forgot about them. I have NO idea how long I actually cooked them for, so I can't really blog the recipe. I did, however, eat them. They were fine.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Grandma C's Egg Salad.

My Grandma C. was a very special person in my life. Her passing left a big hole in my heart. I do, however, have many wonderful memories of her and our time together.

One thing I can always do that makes me feel closer to her (other than drape myself with her jewels) is to make egg salad. Growing up, the ladies in my world loved egg salad. The men? They hated it. The second those eggs started boiling, you'd hear my dad or my grandpa start griping. "WHAT IS THAT GOD AWFUL SMELL?"

We'd chuckle, and proceed with the peeling, the stirring, the mixing. These days, I've tweaked her recipe slightly (I never admitted to her that I hated green olives) and now have my own version, but it never fails to make me smile and think of our lunches together.

Grandma C's Egg Salad
(serves 6-8, based on size of sandwich)

-10 hard boiled eggs
-2 celery stalks (or you can make it Grandma C.-style and chop up some green olives)
-5 tablespoons light mayo (or to taste)
-2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

How to:
-Hard boil the eggs. (Everyone has a different way to do this, but I cover the desired amount of eggs in water, bring to a boil for a few minutes, then I turn the heat off, letting sit for about 15 minutes. This seems to work pretty well, but do your own way!)
-Dice celery into small pieces.
-Chop eggs and mix with celery, mayo, and Dijon mustard.  Don't over-stir, you want it still chunky.
-Add salt and pepper to taste.
-Sprinkle with paprika. (Not entirely sure what this does aside from making this look like a giant deviled egg, but it looks nice.)
-Spread on bread, crackers, or just eat with a fork. I do all three.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Chicken Mozzarella Spinach Macaroni & Cheese

Lately, P.I.C. and I have been feeling the effects of a small bank account. One fabulous honeymoon, a fabulous destination wedding, a last-minute trip to Europe, then TWO MORE DESTINATION WEDDINGS (I'm not complaining, I swear)..but yeah, that eats up any discretionary income we might have.

We have found that an economical dinner has been to roast a chicken one night, then find more chicken-related dinner items for the rest of the week. Seriously. A chicken is maybe $6...it will feed us for FOUR meals. Budget-conscious kids, TAKE NOTE. In any event, we were running toward the end of our chicken stash, and coming off a big run this morning, I knew I needed some carbs. For me, that means one thing: MACARONI AND CHEESE.

But I didn't want to go spend more money. I had some limited items in my cupboard and fridge, so I figured, time to see where all of this cooking practice has gotten me. TIME TO INVENT MY OWN RECIPES. So, ladies and gents (wait, are there any guys reading this?), without further ado, I present my own version of a macaroni and cheese.

-2 and a half cups pasta (I used the rest of a box of macaroni and some whole wheat penne)
-1/4 cup unsalted butter
-1/4 cup flour
-2 cups milk (I used 1%)
-2 cups mozzarella
-1 cup frozen spinach
-1 cup chopped cooked chicken
-1/2 onion
-3 cloves of garlic
-1 tsp oregano
-1/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan
-1/4 cup panko (any bread crumb will do, I just had this on hand)

How to:
-Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
-Cook the noodles according to package directions.
-Mix together the panko and grated Parmesan.
-Saute onion, garlic, and spinach until onion is translucent and the spinach is no longer frozen. Stir in the chopped chicken. I used a little olive oil spray, but a drizzle in a pan would work just as well.
-Melt the butter. Stir in flour until well blended. (I use this tool. It has changed my life for any sort of sauce. I HIGHLY recommend it, and anything by Pampered Chef. Plus, it's called a mini-whipper. AMAZING.)
-Gradually add the milk, blending it well. Let mixture boil for a minute.
-Add oregano to milk mixture.
-Stir in mozzarella to the milk until creamy. It does get a little gooey, but don't fear, it works out.
-Stir in spinach mix to the cheese sauce. Salt and pepper to taste.
-Add in cooked noodles. until all noodles are coated with the sauce.
-Pour sauce into an 8x8 pan.
-Sprinkle the Parmesan and panko on top of the mixture.
-Bake for 10 minutes until top browns and mixture is nice and bubbly.


Monday, July 9, 2012

Caprese on crackers.

P.I.C. and I love a good cocktail hour. Well, we love cocktails. We also love appetizers, which simply MUST accompany our cocktails. Today, it had to be simple (we were hungry), and it had to be more than cheese and crackers (our standby). the result? Caprese crackers. Simple, light, and full of summery flavor, they were the perfect bites for us to chat about life, love, and our future. Just kidding, we were watching the end of Season Five of How I Met Your Mother. Heh.

-Crackers. (I like Triscuits.)
-Sliced tomatoes
-Fresh mozzarella
-Basil (I didn't have fresh, so I just subbed in dry. It worked, but fresh basil would be SO good.)
-Olive oil
-Balsamic vinaigrette

How to:
-Top crackers with pieces of mozzarella and slices of tomatoes. 
-Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette. 
-Top with fresh cracked pepper and salt. I sprinkled with dry basil also. (If I had fresh, I'd have put it between the cheese and tomato.

The continual onlooker...Oxford.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Pasta Salad...Italian-style.

The VERY best thing about training for a half-marathon is the license to eat carbs like it's your job. Seriously. (The worst? Getting up every Saturday morning at 5 a.m. and running, rather than enjoying delicious sleep.) Of course, I've blogged my recipe for the Southwestern Pasta Salad. You should have known that I have other versions. OF COURSE I DO. Momma needs her carbs. She gets them this way. Oh yeah, and with beer too. Duh.

-1 box of bow-tie pasta
-One red pepper
-One yellow pepper
-One orange pepper
-One cucumber
-Half a pint of grape tomatoes
-Four ounces of feta cheese (I used a tomato basil flavor)
-Eight ounces of chicken breast meat, cooked, cut into bite-sized pieces.
-Italian dressing

How to:
-Cook pasta according to package directions. Rinse with cool water.
-Chop all veggies into bite-sized pieces.
-Toss all veggies, cheese, pasta, and chicken.
-Drizzle with Italian dressing to taste.

The finished product!

I'm currently obsessed with Aldi's light salad dressings. Oxford just likes to supervise.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Tuna salad, guacamole-style.

Lunches...the bane of our existence. Well, figuring out how to keep it interesting, delicious, yet not waste-expanding. That's tough. Tonight, I whipped up something a little different. Tuna salad. Boorrrrring. We've all had that. Perhaps you've heard of using avocado instead of all of the mayonnaise to make it healthier. I decided to do that. 

But that's not exciting enough. I put a quarter of a jalapeno in there. I added some lime juice. Salt and pepper. Then I threw some corn in there to add a little bit of texture. I wish I had cilantro. Really, this is more guacamole with a tuna bonus, but I'm gonna go ahead and call it a sandwich filling. A damn good one, right?

-Two cans of tuna (I prefer the white albacore)
-One ripe avocado
-One lime
-Quarter of jalapeno, if desired
-1.5 tablespoons mayo (I like the olive oil kind)
-Half cup of corn (I used frozen, but I bet fresh would be amazing)

How do:
-Drain tuna.
-Mash avocado into tuna. Add lime juice and other ingredients.
-Salt liberally (or to taste).
-Spoon into pita with some romaine lettuce and some sliced tomatoes.

Avocado pie.

My coworker and I have this new thing called "Recipe Wednesdays." He gets the Food section of the New York Times brings it to my office, and we go over the various recipes and concepts and decide what I should try. Recently, it was an article in using avocado for sweet treats. I was intrigued. I have become quite an avocado fan for not having avocado until I was in my twenties. So, avocado pie was my first choice. Three ingredients blended together into a creamy consistency and poured into a crispy graham cracker crust. A few hours of refrigeration and perhaps a liberal application of whipped cream, and you have a delightful summer dessert that tastes pleasantly of key lime and kiwi. Two thumbs up!

The recipe is courtesy of avocado.org.

-One ripe avocado
-Can of sweetened condensed milk
-Half cup of lemon juice
-Graham cracker crust

How to:
-Scoop out the avocado and put in food processor. 
-Add lemon juice and milk. 
-Process until the mixture is smooth and creamy. 
-Pour into graham cracker crust, and refrigerate for a couple of hours.
-Top with whipped cream, if desired, and serve. 

Avocado pie. Sweet and lovely.

I like mine with a little whipped cream. Okay. A lot of whipped cream.

Happy Summer!!!