champagne and caviar

It's not always champagne and caviar at our house. In fact, it's never champagne and caviar. Ever. But, particularly since starting this blog, we try a lot of new things - homemade guacamole, or tuscan garlic chicken (thanks, again, Jenny!), fresh lemonade, or banana french toast.

But sometimes, it's leftover turkey burgers. And sometimes it's Subway. And sometimes, on the really lucky days, it's just a bowl of cereal - I love me some Honey Bunches of Oats! It doesn't have to be new... or fancy... or difficult to be good. Sometimes the usual, simple solution is the most satisfying. :)

What are your simple favorites?


chips and guac!

I decided tonight that I would make guacamole because:
a) it's good alone
b) it's great with tortilla chips
c) it can be added to other stuff (i.e. sandwiches, burgers, etc...)
d) because I want to.

It's been a busy week / weekend at work, after work, and dog sitting. And I've been eating out. A lot. So tonight, I'm making food because I'm sick of eating out. A lot.

We eat avocados alone often on salads or sandwiches, but I just love guac. I usually make it with avocados and a seasoning packet from the store that I really like, but today decided to try from scratch. I found this recipe and used it as a guide, but made some adjustments. Here's what I ended up with:

3 ripe avocados
1 lime
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 c. red onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 jalapeno, diced
1/4 tsp. cumin
2 Roma tomatoes, diced
dash cayenne pepper

Mash peeled avocados in a large bowl. (I used a fork and left it kind of chunky because that is how I like it.) Mix salt and juice of half of the lime (see notes about what to do with the other half later). Stir in garlic, onion, jalapeno, and cumin. Then stir in tomatoes dash of cayenne.

Refrigerate covered airtight or serve immediately.

I was really happy with how it turned out because it is how I like it. I do have a few notes about it:
  • first - the other half of the lime. Use it all if you want, but I was worried it would be too much lime, so I squeezed the rest into a glass, filled it with water and ice, and let it sit there while I finished making this. It made for a refreshing glass of citrus water. I'm sure if you wanted, you could add sugar and have a limeade of sorts.
  • make it to your taste - this is one of those things that people like a lot of different ways. This way wasn't overly spicy, but it may be a little more tomorrow after the jalapeno sets in. If we don't eat it all tonight. :)
  • I put it in a dish and put plastic wrap tight around it so it will not turn brown; it does quickly, so make sure to store it airtight.
  • they also say that if you put an avocado pit in the guacamole it will help it not turn brown, too. I'm not sure who 'they' are, but I hope they're right!
  • honestly, I don't think the salt is necessary. The original recipe calls for 1 tsp. I reduced it by half. Tortilla chips already have salt, so what's the point? I say get rid of it.
  • put it on other stuff. It was good on my BLT tonight!


a family affair

I visited my parents this weekend and now that I'm back, I'm stuffed... with great food. Those of you who know us know that I'm not the only one in my family who likes to try to new things in the kitchen (or on the grill), and this weekend was full of that. Keith and Russ picked sweet corn and got some ready for the freezer and I'm very excited about that. It's SO much better than canned or frozen store corn! They also made some corn relish, which turned out super good - I may post that on their behalf later when I have a picture of it. Keith also made ribs. And mom made Mexican corn. And what did I do? Not much. :)

So today, I'm posting on their behalf. First, the ribs. Keith had two racks of ribs and we (yes, I did help a little) rubbed them lightly with olive oil and then rubbed a mesquite seasoning on them, folded them each in tinfoil, and put them in the refrigerator until they were ready to be baked. I don't know all the details, but he baked them in the oven until they were pretty much done and then put them on the grill for 15-20 minutes. With the drippings that were there after baking, he made a barbecue sauce to put on them on the grill - so he did one with that and put Sweet Baby Ray's on the other. Long story short, they were awesome and I'm pretty sure he can give Sweet Baby Ray's a run for its money. If you want more details, let me know and I can ask him.

The other day Mom and I were talking about different ways to use all of this fresh sweet corn they have and she had mentioned finding this recipe that sounded really good. She modified it a bit and made it off-the-cob instead, and ended up with this:

Mexican Corn
4 cups fresh sweet corn
1/4 cup mayo
1/2 cup DiGiorno Three Cheese shredded blend (or Cojita or Parmesan)
1-2 jalapeno pepper(s), diced small - seeds removed

Cook corn on stove top; drain water when done. Add mayo, cheese, and pepper(s) - mix well and simmer until cheese is melted and you're ready to serve.

We really liked this. She didn't use the butter that it calls for in the recipe; it was rich enough as it was. Mom said the first time she made it, she used one pepper and it was good but that it could use a little more. I said "Have we met? More jalapeno?" Sometimes she surprises me -- like the other day when she told me she likes watching baseball. Again, have we met? :) But I digress. When she made the corn for us this weekend, she used two jalapenos (no seeds) and we thought it was just right. And it was a bonus that the corn and peppers were straight from garden/field at the farm.

Oh, and to top it all off - and I'm sorry I don't have a picture - Russ made potato salad with red potatoes planted out at the farm, too. And for dessert, I made mango bars (again). Lots of food. Fresh food. Great food.


college food (grown up... a little)

I've been thinking about college a lot lately. And there are parts that I miss a lot - my friends, the ability to pull an all-nighter, the parties, APO, and having a respectable tolerance. And there are things I don't miss - homework, having little money, working at Perkins (though I liked the people... just not smelling like a french fry when I got home).

So I started thinking about how things were different. My diet is better now - not perfect, but more balanced. I think we all had our staples at that time - some of mine were:
  • ramen (of course)
  • pizza (thank you Toppers and Papa Johns)
  • erberts & gerberts (yum!)
  • frozen veggies (often with parmesan)
  • bread bowl salads (I worked at Perkins, remember?)
  • popcorn (because it was free at Brother's happy hour)
  • and one of my favorites: buttered noodles

Tonight I decided to make buttered noodles - but like a post-college adult. At least that's what I'm telling myself because there is paprika, chicken (protein), and better parmesan --- not just: noodle, butter, salt, artificial parmesan-like substance. And sometimes, if I want to be really fancy, I'll put vegetables in, too. I've come a long way, baby! ;-)

I'd like to hear about your favorite college/young adult life foods. And if you eat them now, are they the same? Let me know!


feeling frenchy

Well, french toast, anyway. I love french toast. More than waffles. More than pancakes. More than most breakfast foods. But I hardly ever make/eat it because, as many of you know, I'm a coffee for breakfast girl most of the time.

We had some visitors in town this weekend, so I made an attempt. I'm not sure it's anything special more than what is normal, but it tasted pretty good - and with bananas, so healthy, right?

I'm putting down what I made (which was too much for just a few people) so feel free to cut in half accordingly.

Banana-stuffed French Toast
6 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. cinnamon
4 Tbsp. milk
Loaf of french bread

Mix eggs, vanilla, cinnamon, and milk in a medium bowl; whisk well. Cut thick pieces of french bread (about 1.5 inches?) and cut a slit into the side of the bread. Stuff sliced bananas into the slit. Dip bread into the egg mixture, coating well, and fry in a buttered pan until golden brown on each side. Serve with syrup - powdered sugar is good, too.

Nothing fancy - but I'm open to hearing your french toast recipes for something a little different. I might try something like this next time... and maybe try a different fruit. I know. I live on the edge - stand back. :)


mango tango

As I've mentioned, I try not to keep the sweets that I make in the house so we don't eat all of them. So when things turn out relatively edible or above, my co-workers benefit. And I think people are starting to realize it because I got my first request... mango bars! To be honest, I didn't even know if mango bars were a real thing because I don't eat mangoes much and have certainly never cooked with them. After a quick search, it turns out that they are real and I gave it a shot. I pretty much followed this recipe, but made a couple of modifications. What I ended up doing is below.

Mango Bars

2 c. flour
1/2 c. sugar
1 c. butter

Sift the flour and sugar together. Cut in butter and mix well - I kneaded it a bit at the end to make sure. Pat into a 9x13 pan evenly, covering the bottom. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until lightly brown.

4 mangoes, cut into small pieces
1/2 c. sugar
1/3 c. water
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
bit of lemon zest (optional)
3 Tbsp. cornstarch
3 Tbsp. water

Put mangoes, sugar, 1/3 c. water, lemon juice, and zest into a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook until mangoes are tender - I mashed them with a masher, as well. In a small dish, mix the cornstarch and 3 Tbsp. water well; add to the tender mango mixture and cook until thick. Pour the completed mixture on top of the baked crust.

2 c. quick oats
1/4 c. flour
1/2 c. brown sugar
2/3 c. butter

Mix oats, flour, and sugar together. Cut in butter with a fork and mix well. Sprinkle over mango mixture in the 9x13 pan (and snitch a couple of pinches while you're doing it - the topping is tasty on it's own).

Bake the whole thing at 350 degrees for 50 minutes; cool and enjoy.

This was yesterday. Today, I brought them to work and pawned off most of the pan (minus the couple we ate last night). Co-worker was excited that I actually made mango bars and people really liked them! I did get some funny looks and some "What are mango bars?" 's -- but I had the same reaction initially, so cannot complain about that. You should try these!

win some, lose some

Not everything turns out perfect, no matter how high your intentions. This is the case in pretty much all that we do. To add a cliche to this post: one person's trash is another's treasure. Again, true in day-to-day life... and in my dinner. We made beets tonight, which were actually very good. And in an effort to use what we have, we tried using the greens (tops), too with something like this. Instead of roasting the beets, I boiled them with the skin on. Once they were tender (when stuck with a fork), I took them out, put them in cold water and the peels came off really easy. While I left the beets kind of plain, we put them over the greens with good intentions for great flavor. The beets were good... the greens, not so much. I'm told that trying different things may be the key, so I won't give up yet. And I'm sure the greens are super healthy for you. Just didn't work out this time. But at least it was pretty!

When at first you don't succeed... :)

happy happy, joy joy

It's been a few weeks since I've been able to post, or do much of anything for that matter... and it feels good to be back. A while ago, Keith had said I should try making almond joys sometime, so I looked around and found a few recipes and went with this one. The only changes I made to this were:

- used half milk chocolate chips and half bittersweet chocolate chips instead of all bittersweet (did you know that mounds are milk chocolate and almond joys are dark?)

- rolled into balls and dipped in chocolate rather than cutting and dipping

They actually taste a lot like the candy and were very good. They are dangerous to keep in the house, because you'll just want to eat them. I recommend them for bringing to a party or family gathering. We try not to keep this kind of stuff in the house, so typically I'll make it, we'll eat one or two, and the rest go to my office for co-workers. I was told that a colleague said 'those were disgusting... in a really good way!' So, take that how you will. ha ha!

After I got done, Keith said he probably would have just made bars out of them - which would have been useful information before I spent the time dipping them, but such is life! I'm interested in your thoughts on what could go on the bottom of bars for these. Graham cracker crust? chocolate cookie crust? not sure... I'll have to try that next time. :)

Almond Joys
5 oz. sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 c. powdered sugar
14 oz. bag of shredded coconut
12 oz. bag of milk chocolate chips
12 oz. bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips
Whole almonds

Mix the vanilla and sweetened condensed milk together. Sift in the powdered sugar, a little at a time, into the milk mixture and stir until smooth. Stir in the coconut - a firm mixture will form.

Pat the mixture firmly into a greased 9x13 pan. Chill in the refrigerator until firm. Remove and roll into small balls and place on parchment paper. Put an almond on top of each.

In a double boiler over hot (not boiling) water, melt the chocolate, stirring often. Place the chips in a bowl and heat for 1 minute on high: stir, then heat for 1 minute more.

Set each coconut ball onto a fork and dip into the chocolate. Tap the fork against the side of the pan or bowl to remove any excess chocolate.

Air-dry at room temperature on parchment paper or, if too warm in the house, place in the refrigerator to cool and store.