Scrumptious Second Anniversary

May 24, 2011 § 5 Comments

Only one word can describe the meal Robert and I prepared together for our second anniversary: scrumptious!

Robert grilled steaks that had been rubbed down with olive oil and a dry steak rub while I cooked potatoes au gratin (and used a mandolin slicer for the very first time–I liked it!). Dessert was finished in time to put the potatoes into the oven.

Here’s our dinner table:

As we were setting the table, I realized that we had forgotten a veggie. Oops.

The delicious, deep red wine featured here is a Tempranillo by Biltmore. If you’ve never had it, I think it’s freaking amazing. We had been saving it from our trip to the Biltmore with our friends back in September. It’s extremely robust, dry, and blooms all the way down. Like I said, I adore it!!

For dessert, we had a yummy cinnamon swirl coffee cake, which I had never made before. In fact, I had just found the recipe on-line that afternoon. It was so delicious.


I drizzled a powdered sugar glaze over the top of it and finished it with a sprinkling of powdered sugar.

And here’s the inside:

OMG, can I have my dessert before dinner tonight, please??

The dark line you see there is the cinnamon “swirl.” Sure, it didn’t really swirl but whatever. It’s in there and it’s delicious. The recipe calls for a cinnamon and granulated sugar mixture for the swirl. I read some of the comments and chose to go with a cinnamon and brown sugar swirl. I think the color contrast is really appealing, and the flavor is incredible!

I also used Swan’s cake flour instead of all-purpose flour. I found the cake to be crumbly, but I think a lot of coffee cakes are pretty crumbly. (I can’t imagine what it would have been like if I had used AP!)

Last night, I went to bed with a full and happy tummy. And maybe I was a little bit tipsy, too. Just a perfect anniversary!

Soy-Free Taco Night!

April 25, 2011 § 8 Comments

So, on Easter Sunday, Robert and I made from scratch flour tortillas, and tonight we had our first Taco Night in a very long time. Since we discovered that soy is everywhere (including taco shells, most tortillas, and taco seasoning packets), we hadn’t had a Taco Night.

And then I found this recipe in 5 Ingredients or Less!
Homemade flour tortillas
6 c. all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/4 c. shortening (if you’re going soy-free, try Spectrum shortening–they use palm oil instead of vegetable oil)
2 c. hot water

Combine ingredients together until small crumbs form; gradually add 2 c. hot water. Knead until well blended; divide dough into 1- to 2-inch balls. Roll out into thin circles; heat until golden in a very hot, dry skillet. Flip and heat other side; repeat with remaining dough balls. Makes about 2 dozen. (And it really does!)

I ended up using so much flour! The dough is extremely sticky, so I sprinkled flour on my tea towel, and then sprinkled a little additional flour on the dough ball before rolling it out with with the rolling pin. (A little tip: “smush” out the dough ball before going at it with the rolling pin. And don’t ever roll backwards–just do it the way Alton Brown does it; from the center and out until you attain your desired thickness.)

These tortillas are delicious! I’m excited to try additional versions of these tortillas–baked tortilla chips…baked tortilla salad bowls…yum!

But tonight, we had soft tacos that ended up looking more like burritos. For the seasoning, we used Lawry’s taco seasoning (also, Ortega is soy-free, but we haven’t tried that one yet). It was amazing.

This is Robert’s delicious dinner plate:

Yum! Ground beef, shredded cheese, a dollop of Rotel dip, and Pace Picante sauce.

I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again: what on earth does soy even add to food? Because I certainly don’t taste a difference when we eat soy-free!

Yesterday afternoon, I left my flour-y tea towel in a laundry basket. And then Annie nosed it out. And then we found Annie.

I think she looks like an adorable culprit. Robert thinks she looks like she has an expensive habit.

She guzzled a ton of water after I took the towel away from her. I guess the flour dried out her tongue! Haha.

So, there you have it. Soy-free Taco Night. Culprit Puppy. All-in-all, an awesome 48 hours!

Quaint, home-grown Easter Sunday

April 24, 2011 § 12 Comments

“I’m hungry,” I whined to Robert sometime around 9 this morning. “There’s no food in this whole house!” This is an exaggeration, of course, but what I meant to say was that there was no food I wanted to eat for breakfast in this whole house.

So, my loving husband loaded me in the car and off we went to the grocery store for a quick pick-up of a “couple” of items. A “couple” of items turned into “should we make pancakes or biscuits for breakfast this morning?” and “maybe we should have soy-free tacos for dinner this week….” (More on that tomorrow night!)

We shopped for close to an hour, starving along the way, and once home: we baked.

I rolled out Heart Smart Bisquick (it’s soy-free), popped the gooey-delicious disks into the oven while Robert cooked himself bacon and eggs (I can’t seem to eat them in the morning…I feel sick for the rest of the day), and then I set to work on preparing for Monday night’s dinner.

“You know,” I told my starving husband at 10:15. “I think we should go ahead and make the homemade tortilla shells right now, since we’re baking…that way we won’t have to try to do it tomorrow when we’re exhausted from work.”

Robert agreed. And then lived to regret his agreement.

I followed the recipe to the T, mixing my six cups of AP flour, 1 1/4 cups of soy-free shortening (palm oil instead of vegetable oil, thankyouverymuch), single tablespoon of baking powder and single teaspoon of salt with two cups of hot water (gradually added once the dry mixture creates small, crumbly balls). Robert manned our electric skillet while I attempted to roll out something that was reminiscent of a tortilla shell, in shapes that are utterly mind-boggling (the last couple do look a bit circular). And by 11:30, we had made a ton of thin, gorgeous, tasty tortilla shells for our soy-free taco night tomorrow. We froze half of them so that Robert could enjoy delicious breakfast burritos…for the remainder of the year.

Sure, we didn’t have our Easter Sunday breakfast until 11:30 this morning. And sure, our kitchen looked like we’d murdered the Pillsbury Doughboy for a little while.

But we ate semi-homemade biscuits for breakfast. And we made flour tortillas from scratch together.

Home-grown? Yes. Quaint? Cooking as a couple is as quaint as it gets. But a happy Easter? You bet! 🙂

Now, back to work!

P.S. I failed to mention that I burst a blood vessel in my ring finger today. I think it was from the strain of lifting some extremely heavy glass bowls out from under the counter. It doesn’t hurt, but my finger looks a little like it was in a fight.

Truly don’t know what to write about…

January 23, 2011 § 2 Comments

…yeah. It’s 9:30 p.m. on Sunday evening, and I have no inspiration for a blog post. So this one will be really really short and just say this:

I enjoyed breakfast with my family this morning at Cracker Barrel, went grocery shopping afterwards, wrote five pages after a teensy 20-minute power nap, and then cooked a delicious Southern dinner with Robert to celebrate our friend’s birthday. Robert grilled chicken breasts, and I made the mashed potatoes, corn bread, and salad. When we were at Cracker Barrel this morning, I found a corn bread skillet that is already portioned out into triangle slices; Mom bought one for me and one for herself and Lauren. And then I had the genius idea to cook cornbread for dinner.

If you enjoy cornbread but don’t have a way to pre-portion out your cornbread (and you eat it the “right” way–in triangles), then you need this kind of a skillet. Every piece has a crunchy crust. It was wonderfully glorious.

It’s my very first skillet, my very first time cooking in a skillet. And I’d say I did quite well.

And, no. I didn’t wash it with soap. (At least I know that rule, lol.)

Okay, I’ll come back tomorrow with something better. This post was almost entirely just so that I could fulfill my Post A Day challenge requirements. Sorry, folks. Tomorrow. Tomorrow.

A Soy-Free New Year’s Day

January 1, 2011 § 2 Comments

First off, Happy 2011, everyone! How exciting that this is not only my first official post of the New Year, but also my first official post for the Post a Day Challenge. I feel so accomplished already! 😉

Today I thought I would ring in the New Year with three of my (new) favorite traditional holiday fare. Now, with the soy allergy ever present in our day-to-day diets, we occasionally have either to make sacrifices or figure out something else entirely. In my family there are a few things that are sort of always a given on the holiday table: sausage cheese balls, French toast casserole, and cheese dip being among my personal favorites. I’ve started a few of my own traditions, one of which is hosting a New Year’s Eve / New Year’s Day party with our friends. Last year we had all of our favorite holiday items present, including pigs in a blanket. Unfortunately for Robert, this time last year I was still fairly uneducated about what contained soy and what would cause him discomfort. This year, however, I’m much better.

Sausage cheese balls: Bisquick has soy in it. Boo…this is one of our very favorites.
French toast casserole: French bread often has soy in it, too. It’s not even fair to imagine a world without French toast casserole.
Pigs in a blanket: Refrigerated croissants have soy. I don’t even want to talk about it.

But here’s what the wife figured out: Heart Smart Bisquick is made with canola oil–no soy!! French bread may have soy in it, but not all bread does! Those little smokies don’t have to be wrapped with refrigerated croissants, after all.

Here are a few pictures of my new soy-free holiday favorite dishes. (Recipes behind the cut below the pictures.)

Okay, so they're not pigs in a blanket in the technical sense of the word, but breaded tubes of meat are always delicious finger foods!

While watching The Today Show earlier this week, I came upon this recipe, and I had a great idea to replace our soy-laden pigs in a blanket from last year’s party. Why not make miniature corn dogs instead? They were a big hit!

Two packages of little smokies all battered and ready to go!

Serving suggestion: these taste great with whatever condiments you love on your hotdogs/corn dogs.

I was only mildly concerned that people would not feel excited about the miniature corn dogs…because…well…they don’t exactly scream, “classy party.” But apparently if you miniature-ize any food, you exponentially increase its inherent classiness!

This morning, for the breakfast portion of our two-day party (it spilled over to New Year’s Day because we invited people over for brunch and bowl games), I made a French toast casserole and sausage cheese balls.

Mmm...French toast casserole....

Instead of a loaf of French bread, I bought a fresh baked loaf of white bread from Earth Fare that was made with olive oil and canola oil instead of vegetable oil. It was a little bit puffier than French bread once it baked, but it was still amazingly yummy.

Carbo-loaded combat the obligatory New Year's hangover!

The sausage cheese balls are in the top right corner of the plate. I think my oven cooks them a bit badly because they’ve consistently come out looking dark brown instead of a pretty gold like the way my mom makes them. I’ll figure out this old oven, though!

So, who wants recipes?
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Lessons “Learned” from the Kitchen Matriarchs

November 22, 2010 § 4 Comments

“Always remember to watch out for steam.”
“Steam is extremely hot, so always be careful around it.”
“Never look directly over a pot when you dump out the water.”
“Be mindful of where your skin is and where the steam is going.”

These are the words that reverberated through my head last night as two of my fingers on my right hand were scalded by a sudden and unexpected blast of steam.

Everything was going fine.   I was making a new-to-us beef stroganoff recipe last night for dinner, and, surprisingly, I had made it all the way to the end of preparation without incident.  The smells were mouth-watering, the sauce actually looked to be the correct consistency and color, and the noodles were as soft as you could possibly want them (without ruining them, of course).  My timer started to beep, so I removed all items from their respective burners, and reset my timer for a couple more minutes to allow the sauce to set properly.  During these couple of minutes, I silently celebrated a successful new meal.  So often when preparing a new-to-me recipe, I bungle it in one major way or another and end up feeling defeated and frustrated.  This time, though, I thought, I have actually succeeded!  Good for me! When my timer for the sauce beeped again, I brought the noodles over to the sink to drain.

The culprit

I had made my noodles in a specially-made pasta pot–one of those pots that has a draining lid so that you don’t have to wash a colander. Everything was going fine. The lid was secure, my face was away from the steam billowing forth, and I was very nearly done. When all of a sudden, a burst of steam issued from the right side. Directly on my fingers.

I probably had a moment when I could have thrown the pot down in the sink to stop from scalding myself. But I didn’t realize exactly what was happening…and I didn’t realize it would keep happening. I did ultimately throw the pot down in the sink, fortunately keeping the noodles safe inside, and immediately doused my fingers in cold running water. I also screeched an obscenity, although I’m not sure which one, and that caught Robert’s attention. Despite my insisting that I was fine, he came running into the kitchen anyway and offered help.

For the rest of the night, my hand rested under a bag of ice and water. When my skin burned from freezing, I removed the bag…only to experience yet again a burning sensation so strong that I could have sworn my fingers were in flames. Robert gave me a couple of pain pills (from when he received second-degree burns at work this summer), and soon I was able to pass out and sleep. I awoke this morning with some tenderness, but I won’t need any more medication or ice.

The worst part of this was the intense feeling of shame and humiliation. All those quotes that began this post? Those are the quotes from my family’s Kitchen Matriarchs–my grandmothers and my mom. They have all, at one time or another in my childhood, told me to watch out for steam. For a little over 29 years, I took heed of their warnings and avoided steam with a kind of caution that can only be described as paranoia. Last night? Last night, I got lazy. And I got burned.

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