Wednesday, February 27, 2013

i promise you can't tell

So, I don't know what prompted this, but I decided it was time to make some buffalo (not-so) chicken dip.  I compiled various recipes for both vegetarian and meaty buffalo chicken dips and came up with this one.

It's very simple. 
Completely terrible for you.
And absolutely delicious. 

So here you go:

2 packages Morningstar fake chicken, 20-24 oz, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
(I used one package of their buffalo chicken nuggets and one of their grilled chicken slices)
16 oz cream cheese at room temperature, the low-fat version is a good idea here
1 cup ranch dressing
¾ cup Frank’s hot sauce
1 cup shredded cheddar and pepper jack cheese, plus some more for the top
½ cup scallions, sliced

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Mix all ingredients.  
Put mixture into a greased pie pan.
Top with some more shredded cheese and chopped scallions.

Bake for 30 - 45 minutes or until warm in the middle.

Serve it up with some celery and soft pretzels like I did, or whatever you fancy with your buffalo dip.

Yup. Absurd.  
A treat to be had quite infrequently. 


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

all knotted up

by pretzels.  The soft chewy pretzels with salt on top.  I've been making them and they are delicious.  It's really a good thing they take a bit of time to make, otherwise I'd probably eat them everyday. 

So, the recipe comes from homemade by Holman.  I only made one change - I  use melted butter instead of olive oil just to make them a little more ridiculous.  

For the dough:
1 cup water, at approximately 110 degrees
1 package rapid-rise yeast
¼ cup honey
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups bread flour
1 Tablespoon melted butter
For the boil:
6 cups water
3 Tablespoons baking soda
*Yup, fun fact, you boil a pretzel, like a bagel, but you had baking soda to the water, strange, but delicious. It gets very very bubbly...
For the toppings:
2 Tablespoons butter, melted
Salt - the big crunchy sea salt variety please 
And various other toppings – I used onion flakes and ranch seasoning but you could also use a cinnamon sugar for a sweet treat.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the water, yeast, and honey.  Let proof for 10 minutes.  Then add the remaining ingredients for the dough.

Mix on low speed until combined and then continue on low speed to knead the dough for another 5­ to 7 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Coat a separate bowl with olive oil and transfer the dough to the bowl, turning to coat evenly. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise for about one hour.

Punch the dough down, recover, and let rise another 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and line two large baking sheets with greased parchment paper or a slipat. 

Separate the dough into 12 pieces.

Roll each piece into a long string and twist into your desired pretzel shape.  
Turns out, I'm not so good at actually making the traditional twisted pretzel so I went with the circle "twist":

Meanwhile, in a shallow pot, bring water and baking soda to a boil over medium-high heat.

Next, transfer the pretzels, a few at a time to the boiling water and cook 30 seconds on each side. Drain and transfer to the prepared baking pan.

Brush with melted butter and top with salt and/or other toppings

Bake for approximately 12 to ­14 minutes until dark golden brown. 
Transfer to a wire rack to cool and serve.

And enjoy.  They are so very delicious.


Friday, February 22, 2013

rant/rave: pet paraphernalia

Jonathan needed more food for little spoon, so we stopped by the fancy-pants pet store to get some.  Of course we had to look at the toys too. 

But on the way to the toy section, something terrible caught my eye:

Yes people, pet carriers.  Baby bjorns for your pets.  
What is wrong with people?? I mean really, not only are you a bad pet-parent because you aren't walking your dog, you clearly think your dog needs treatment similar to that of an actual child. Your pet is not a person.  They are adorable and well deserving of our attention and care but are you really going to spend a hundred dollars to carry around your little pal in a front facing backpack? 

Why? So they can see the world as you do?  You know, they will probably be so nervous about not being on the ground they will pee in that little backpack of yours. 
So there. 

Now get over yourselves and just walk your dog like a normal person. 

Don't despair, there was plenty to rave about in the pet store once I got passed that nonsense.  

Things like this:

Why yes, every cat needs a scratching disk so they too can be a star dj.
Now we are talking, practical and adorable...well, maybe still a bit on the ridiculous, but in a much more reasonable way, right?


Thursday, February 21, 2013

eggplant pasta bake

yes, a working fridge means back to lots of happy cooking in the kitchen. 
Saturday lunch was an easy eggplant pasta bake with basil and mozzarella:

1/2 pound pasta, I used fusilli
1/2 jar of pasta sauce, I used a roasted garlic marinaria 
1/2 an eggplant, diced
1/2 a cup of basil, sliced
1/2 teaspoon each of salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, garlic powder, onion powder
A good chunk of fresh mozzarella cheese

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Boil the pasta until al dente.
Meanwhile, in a tall sauce pan, heat up about of tablespoon of olive oil and saute the eggplant until tender, about 3 minutes.
Add in the sauce and seasonings and let it cook for a few minutes, or until your pasta is ready.
Then add in your drained pasta and the basil, toss together.
Put it all in a baking dish, I used my 11 x 7 pyrex, because it's the best.
Top with slices of mozzarella, and bake for 15 minutes until the cheese is bubbly.


Very easy and very delicious.


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

finally. baked shells

I had been craving baked shells for so long.  But the last two times I went to the store they were out! How is target always out of jumbo shells? Do they not know the pain they are causing me? Well I finally got my act together and went to three other stores before finding some jumbo shells.  Finally people. Four stores later.  

But then it was time to cook. 
The recipe:
16 jumbo pasta shells
1/2 bag of frozen spinach
1 can of artichoke hearts, chopped
A pile of sun-dried tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon each salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, onion powder, garlic powder
1 cup ricotta
1 cup shredded mozzarela
1/4 cup grated parmesan 
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 Tablespoon chopped basil
1 1/2 cups marinara sauce

Preheat oven to 375
Bring water to boil, cook shells, drain, and toss with oil

In a pan, sauté the spinach with oil, artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic and seasoning.
In a bowl, combine the spinach mixture with the ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan, egg, and basil.

Spread some sauce in the bottom of a baking dish

Fill the shells with the mixture and place in the dish.  Top with a sprinkling of parmesan and mozzarella.

Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes, and then uncovered for 10 minutes.


Everything I had been dreaming about.  So good. 


sloppy jeffs

What's a sloppy jeff? A vegetarian sloppy joe. 
Yes.  I just made that up. Don't worry, it's totally going to take off.

But really, these are delicious and I highly recommend them.

1 package of Morningstar crumbles aka fake ground beef
2 T butter
1/2 large onion, diced
1/2 bell pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup ketchup
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon tabasco
1 1/2 teaspoons Chili powder
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon each of dry mustard, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder
1/4 teaspoon each of cayenne, salt, pepper, cumin, liquid smoke

In a large saute pan melt the butter and add the fake ground beef, onion, and peppers. Saute up until ground 'beef' is heated through and the onions and peppers are sauteed up (about five minutes):
Then add all the remaining ingredients, over medium heat, and cook until the flavors combine, about another five minutes, and then you are ready to dig in.
Yes, they are that easy.  A one-dish wonder really.  
I served it up with jalapeno cornbread instead of a bun:
So eat up some sloppy jeffs, or joes, whatever you fancy.

Friday, February 15, 2013

rant/rave: red velvet (cake)

it's funny because i was thinking it had been a while (cue song) since i had a rant/rave and then i was sent into a deep rage black out upon seeing a recent post on a blog i enjoy for red velvet waffles. 

really? really? it's red velvet everything these days. and it's too damn much!

red velvet cake is a nice southern cake to be consumed occasionally.  it is supposed to be chocolate cake with beet juice and cream cheese frosting.

but what has happened to this once simple cake?

it has been destroyed in some marketing frenzy to make everything and anything in red velvet.

it started with a harmless red velvet cupcake.  fine enough.  

but they couldn't leave it alone. there had to be red velvet cake balls and red velvet whoopie pies.  and you know, i can actually live with those, why? because they maintain the integrity of red velvet cake in cake form.

what i can't handle is what came next - red velvet cookies, red velvet truffles, pancakes, ice cream, donuts, cheese balls (?!), puppy chow, brownies, and now waffles. 

honestly people.  you need to stop. you've crossed the line.  

keep red velvet cake a cake. a cake for sometimes.  not all the time. not in any form you fancy.

i just can't take it anymore.

the next time someone offers me some red velvet themed dessert i swear i will give them some red velvet vomit. 

so please, let's get a bit more creative on our flavor combinations.


Thursday, February 14, 2013

sewn with love

Happy Valentine's Day! 
I hope y'all are passing around some love to your friends and family and eating plenty of chocolate. 

But let's get to the good stuff, the crafting.
This year Ashley and I were into sewing some of our valentines.  

Here's what you do:
Sketch what you want to sew onto the card and then take a needle and poke holes around it like so:

Then start sewing with some embroidery thread.  After pulling the thread through the front of the card, loop it back through the previous hole for a smooth line.  Kind of like this:


It takes a bit of time, but it's pretty adorable.
I failed to get a picture of the mass of our valentines, but it was a pretty similarly sized pile to last year.

Also, we found this valentine mask, so of course I had to get it and then color it for a certain someone.

I know, flipping amazing! Who doesn't want a cat-in-a-bow-tie-mask-valentine???


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

see you next year king cake

Fair warning: this post has nothing to do with the regular contents of this blog - there are no recipes or DIYs - so feel free to skip this and avoid a dose of my personal beliefs.

However, if you still need some ideas of what to give up for lent, read on.

ps. today is also thank a feminist day, so get thanking!

Today is ash wednesday and the beginning of lent and I feel like it kind of snuck up on me with some recent travel and I hadn't really thought about what to give up this year. 

There are the more traditional food/vice-oriented options that include giving up the variety of sweets, chocolate, meat, alcohol, etc.  These are great options to understand the luxuries we take for basics. 

In addition to some other things, Megan is giving up the snooze button! Such an impressive and challenging task since we are so used to our sleeping routines. There are also ideas focused on engaging your faith, like going to church more or reading the bible regularly. 

But in recent years i've been into giving up time and doing things with that time.  My church has a great post today about this approach of increasing service during lent and the importance of sacrificing time.  

With that in mind, this year i've decided to give up the internet one day a week and use that extra time to do more service work.  I think separating from the constant connection and use of technology will be really freeing and I hope to do some good things for others with that time.

So, good luck with whatever you're fasting and remember,  
the easter bunny awaits at the end of the desert!


the most delicious thing, if you like buffalo

Would be some buffalo cauliflower and tofu.

Yes. it's starting to get pretty popular around the web, but we've been enjoying it around here for quite some time because it's frigging delicious.  the cauliflower gets really tender, and i add some baked tofu to the mix which has a very chicken like texture after being baked again.  

My version has the added protein from the tofu, and a bigger kick in the pants.
Serve it up with with some celery and ranch for a pretty healthy meal.

Buffalo Cauliflower and Tofu
1 head cauliflower, cut into pieces
1 piece of baked tofu, cut into 1-inch pieces (optional)

For the batter:
½ cup flour
½ cup milk
¼ cup Frank’s Hot Sauce
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon onion powder

For the Buffalo sauce:
1-2 Tablespoons Frank's Hot Sauce or Tabasco Buffalo Sauce
1 Tablespoons Olive Oil

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Grease a baking sheet or use a silicon baking mat

Mix together the batter ingredients in a medium bowl. 
Add in the cauliflower and tofu pieces and toss until evenly coated in the batter.

Pour the pieces onto the greased or lined cookie sheet. 
Bake for about 15 minutes or until the batter hardens.

Pull out the baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil and hot sauce.  
Toss on the sheet to evenly coat. Bake another five minutes.



Tuesday, February 12, 2013

when to go homemade: ranch dry mix

When it comes to whether or not to go homemade or store bought, i'm probably going to lean towards homemade because of taste and quality.  however, sometimes it's not easier.  so i'm going to explore some items that i usually buy in the store or make by scratch and see which is really better.

First up: buttermilk ranch dry mix.  yes. you know it well. it's delicious. you add some sour cream and some yogurt and you've got ranch dip, you add some milk and some yogurt and you've got ranch dressing, or add it to whatever as a rub.  still delicious.

I used to to buy these little packets of salty herby goodness.  but seriously, they are so expensive, usually costing two dollars for an ounce of this fancy-pants mix.

I figured this really must be simple to make on my own, for so much cheaper.  and there is.  i played around with some recipes and settled on my recipe for your very own homemade ranch dry mix. 

1/2 cup dry buttermilk, 1 T dried parsley, 1 t dried dill weed, 1 t onion powder, 1 t dried onion flakes, 1 t salt, 1/2 t garlic powder, 1/4 t ground pepper

Directions: mix, store.  
1 packet = ~1 ounce = 2 Tablespoons

Ranch Dressing: 1 Tablespoon mix, 1 cup mayo or greek yogurt, 1 cup buttermilk
Ranch Dip: 1 Tablespoon mix, 1/2 cup sour cream, 1/2 cup greek yogurt 

So how does it stack up?
It's really easy to make.  
It's much cheaper.  
It tastes the same. 
And there are no weird ingredients like maltodextrin, msg, or calcium stearate

So yeah. Homemade ranch is the way to go. 
So get mixing!