Thursday, September 29, 2011

A Day with no Pictures...

I have the saddest news ever folks – my camera is DEAD. And of course my camera charger is in a different state than I am (meaning it is all the way at home) and thus completely useless to me know when I need it to take pictures of all the wonderful treats I have been experimenting with this week. My camera is simply mocking me now, sitting in a basket on my desk and staring at me uselessly.  Oh now I wish I could have showed you my dinner from a few nights ago! And the cookies that I made on the fly with what I have lying around the apartment. But unfortunately you will just have to be entertained by my words and not my amateur photography skills.

My sorority has a philanthropy event coming up with week on campus and I jumped at the opportunity to contribute to our bake sale for the event. We are calling it Band Jam, and have rounded up a few local bands to play an outdoor concert for those that would like to attend. Of course donations will be collected to benefit our philanthropy, Diabetes Research, and it generally is a pretty good time with my sisters and the patrons that come to hear the bands. Last year it was really successful, but unseasonably chilly and all I could think about was how I wished I had worn another pair of socks and had a mug of tea in my hands, but this week is supposed to be warm in the evenings and comfortably fall like.

But what to make for the bake sale? I have been pining for the opportunity to bake or cook for a reason, be it friends over for dinner, hosting my Bible Study group, or a birthday, and finally I have the opportunity! But herein lies the problem with being a full time and fully involved college student who loves to spend ALL her time in the kitchen – I have no time. No time to run to the grocery to get necessary baking ingredients, or actually bake the goodies for the occasion. So last night was an experimenting night for me. I fashioned my family’s chocolate chip cookie recipe to use what I had on hand. Thank goodness for my roommates who keep butter on hand, because this college kid for sure doesn’t. A couple cups of flour and oats and some leftover M&M’s and ta-da! We have M&M oatmeal cookies for the bake sale, all of which are definitely worth 50 cents for the philanthropy.

Second, I just have to tell you about the dinner that I fabricated a few nights ago. I was gifted some beautifully home grown tomatoes last weekend while I was babysitting for a local family Рwhat a gift! Like gold to me, free homegrown tomatoes Рheaven! I just had to stuff one of them. I filled it with saut̩ed veggies (carrots, bell peppers, onions, and garlic) and a heaping pile of julienned spinach leaves, tossed with some brown rice, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil, and I threw the two halves in the oven to warm through and toast on the top. (If I had a food processor I would have made some homemade bread crumbs for the top of the halves to crisp up. I still have one tomato left so maybe next time.) While this stuffed tomato was baking off, I pulled out one of my chicken breasts, seasoned with salt and pepper, and browned in a skillet with olive oil. But how boring is that? What to top it with?

My grandma gifted me with a jar of jalapeno peach jam a few weeks ago, and wonderfully complex it is. The sweetness is what you taste first, and then there is the sneaky spice and heat of the jalapeno that creeps in. I first tried this jam on some homemade whole wheat biscuits (more on that in another post) this weekend and just HAD to find more uses for it. So I melted some down in the microwave with some water, then poured it over my browned chicken and it was dinner time!

Hang in there with me for this week and I promise I will have that charger mailed down soon! And then I will promptly make these recipes again and TAKE PICTURES OF THEM and then share!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Oh YES I did make that a Sandwich

Long time no blog y'all! I have four exams last week, one on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, so needless to say I have had my head in a textbook instead of on my blog last week. I guess that is a necessary evil of college and all (or at least that is what my mom is going to say when she reads this entry.)

Due to all of this studying, I have been having lots of sandwiches this week. They are quick, simple, can be made out of anything in the fridge, and are pretty good at filling the void that tends to grow and grow. I don't know if you any of you have watched the Food Network lately (I am only partially guilty here) but they not too long ago announced the winner of the "Next Food Network Star" title. Jeff Mauro, the self-proclaimed Sandwich King, is now gracing the screens of novice home cooks' televisions educating all about how "You can make any meal into a sandwich, and any sandwich into a meal.Needless to say I have been channeling my inner Jeff this week.

If you are unaware of his methods, here is the quick 411: he concentrates on making sandwiches that will fill you up like a larger plated meal would, but are way simplified and (sometimes) portable. Anything that can (and can't) fit between two slices of bread he has monkeyed into his sandwich concoctions, and I myself have had fun creating and experimenting with the fillers. Maybe that can be y'alls project for this week - forgo the standing over the stove, scrubbing pots and pans, and get creative with sandwiches, however simple or complex you like them.

First off, I have a sandwich that I actually made out of the remnants of a salad I made earlier in the week. I had (past tense unfortunately) a really great herb and nut bakery bread, which served as the perfect vehicle for salmon, goat cheese (which I used as a spread like mayo,) spinach, and sliced strawberries. Talk about meal into a sandwich!

Notice please that no matter how much I am determined to make this meal a sandwich, I still embrace the "paper towel as a plate" college trick.

Second, I have been playing around with various spreads for sandwiches since some other elements are harder to change. So lately it has been low fat cream cheese. Who would have known that this little element would transform a sandwich from "what you make at home" to "what you will pay $7 for at a deli." Seriously! Cream cheese is their secret! Tangy and creamy, just a little goes a long way.

Here I have roast chicken, cucumber, tomatoes, and spinach on whole wheat bread with cream cheese schmere. I have also experimented with guacamole (I am still trying to learn to like avocado guys) and hummus.

And now I am off to make a sandwich with homemade roasted tomatoes and spinach. Yumm! Happy Sandwiching!

P.S I was rooting for Jeff to win all along so ha! Can I pick them or what?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Move in is Complete!!

A huge huge HUGE thank you to my mom, dad, and sister for helping me FINALLY get all moved into my apartment today. It is decorated, and thanks to Shelby, feng shui-ed to be best of her ability so I will have the optimal rest and relaxation space. (I type this with a chuckle since I am listening to "I Gotta Feelin'" by the Black Eyed Peas... not so feng shui.) The beautiful canvases that Shelby and I painted are hung, along with a homemade white bookshelf, some more canvases in our living room, and a bulletine board or two and hot dog we are in business. I gotta feelin' this is going to be a great year! (Pun intended.)

So as a thank you I thought I would reminisce for this week's post about a wonderful dinner we had together a few months back. I had actually forgotten about this meal so thank goodness there was photographic evidence! A culinary catastrophe was most nearly avoided just there.

A while back I was inspired by some really beautiful renditions of meat and potatoes, so thought I would make some of my own. Here is a picture of the meal I made:

More closely now - we have grilled asparagus (by far the best way to prepare asparagus in my opinion,) and roasted garlic mashed potatoes (place a whole head of garlic with the tip of it head cut off, drizzled with olive oil, in an aluminum foil package and bake at 350 for an hour or until golden, soft, and fragrant. Squeeze the desired amount into your potatoes and save the rest for garlic bread, marinades, compound butter, hummus...) The meat of this meat-and-potatoes meal is also a variation on the typical beef candidate. I roasted a pork tenderloin with lots of fresh rosemary (by far my favorite fresh herb to use) and then topped it with a sauce made from some of the yummy pan drippings and macerated cherries.

And let us not forget dessert! What is a celebratory dinner without dessert, I mean really. This is a simple shortcake variation made with smoked bourbon salt and lavender, topped with homemade lemon curd and fresh sliced strawberries. Oh how I miss summertime cooking already!

See the difference between Shelby's plate and mine? (Hint: she LOVES to play with the whipped cream...)

And because she is a big jokester, here is Shelby!

A quick note to all of you who thought Shelby should get her own photography blog to feature her wonderful pictures and talents... SHE HAS ONE NOW! Follow this link and check it out!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Summer Salads!

What I want to concentrate on here is salad. It has been incredibly chilly around here; we are talking 100 degree last Saturday and then Sunday, the high was 60. So us weenies around this part (I am raising my hand too) are not used to such a drastic temperature drop. I have broke out my sweatshirts and actually am loving the walk to classes now that they are brisk and refreshing instead of draining and suffocating. But I wasn't ready to kiss all of my favorite summer produce good-bye just yet, so I made salad!

My salad I want to feature is my grandma's chicken grape salad. (Happy Grandparents's Day Mommaw and Boppaw - and to all those other grandparents out there!) I LOVE her chicken grape salad. Swoon worthy for sure. I mean look at it!

 I try to steer away from mayo-based salads (egg, tuna, chicken, you name it) simply because they usually aren't very healthy and I am not the biggest fan of mayo to begin with. But Mommaw's chicken grape is the epitome of exceptions. Whole baby purple grapes, toasted poppy seeds, beautifully poached and shredded chicken, crisp celery, and a honey mayonnaise dressing that tastes anything but heavy. But what to eat it with? (Since I had to convince myself that eating this scrumptious salad right out of the Tupperware was not appropriate - why I don't know.)  Usually Mommaw serves this on a flaky croissant, but since I was fresh out, I made a salad out of a salad! I just dolloped some on top of a bed of spinach and away I went. 

Paired with a Wasa cracker (check these out if you haven't already people! It is the most perfect combination of bread and cracker; crispy and hearty) and I was the happiest of campers.

I am still working with the very limited pantry items that I have in the apartment but still made an extremely satisfying dinner. The salad is cucumber (peeled and diced), Roma tomato, carrots, with a dressing of simply balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper. 

I made a little extra of the vinaigrette and poured the whole salad over some baby spinach. Served here with some brown rice and grilled chicken.

Good weather news is on the horizon! This week is supposed to be in the mid 60s and 70s! Fabulous!!! That is my favorite. I am predicting more salads in my very near future.

Also, for all of you wonderfully thoughtful people out there who love my sister's photography so much, first of all thank you! I mentioned this suggestion to her this weekend and she seemed interested. Let's all keep out fingers crossed and hope that she decides to.