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Archive for January, 2010

Cookie Competition = Etsy?

Due to the fact that I made a mental commitment, and also a written one here on the blog, it was inevitable that work would pick up to the point where blogging every day became almost impossible. Couple this with my workout schedule and Shan’s use of the computer for an art project, and I’ve been MIA for almost two weeks. I feel guilty.

Which is why it’s a perfect time to discuss a few new adventures I’ve decided to take in the realm of my kitchen. Sharing this will alleviate some of my guilt. Or it will at least let me off the hook for the moment.

This Saturday will be spent almost exclusively in my kitchen working out the kinks in my recipes for the Mix It Up with Betty cookie contest. What does this mean? It means that my new-as-of-Christmas stand mixer will be getting its first real test run, and Shannon will be able to munch on some new cookie creations. I have seven recipes up my sleeve, and I’m truly looking forward to finding out if they’ll be as tasty as I imagine they will.

Depending mostly upon the outcome of the above mentioned venture, I am contemplating opening an Etsy shop to showcase my baking skills. If you’ve read the rules of the competition, you realize that packaged cookie mix is a main ingredient. If I were to be utilizing said recipes in my shop, I would, of course, create my cookies from scratch. The competition simply provides a platform from which to jump. I’ve also mulled over ways to create healthy cookies that don’t taste healthy. A specialization in low-calorie, low-fat, delicious cookies? Now that’s a novelty.

So, why an Etsy shop?

I had discussed, in length, the pros and cons of attending culinary school with various important people in my life over the holidays. This while I was up to my elbows in cake flour and baking soda. While I love to cook and be inventive in the kitchen, I have a real worry that if I were to turn my hobby into my work that I’d begin to dislike it. I would like to hope I wouldn’t grow to resent my decision, but, at least at the moment, I’m happy to keep my hobby as my hobby. It’s relaxing and joyful for me. I’d prefer to keep it that way. If things change in the future, so be it. For the moment, I’m going to channel my energy into creating an outlet for my hobby that may or may not be money-making.

Of course this creates an entirely new set of “to do’s” to add to my already extensive To Do List. It makes me wonder if I’m insane taking on additional responsibilities. I’ve thought of all the ways I could become even more certifiable in the fun crazy category, and it just might be possible for this particular idea to put me over the edge. Does that dissuade me? Absolutely not. What fun is life if not packed to the brim with things to do, people to see, and cookies to bake? None. Or so I say.

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This is what you call way too much music.

This is also what you call a huge alphabetizing chore. At the end of the day, though, you’ll have some serious music for dining.

Tonight’s dinner music? Tom Waits.

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If you love flavorful foods, especially Mexican foods, then this salad is a sure bet on a night when you need something quick and delicious.

It’s more salad than taco since I’m such a stickler for low-POINTS foods lately. It still has that Mexican kick, though. Who will complain about something that tastes so good, but is good for you as well? I sure won’t.

More Salad Than Taco Taco Salad
Serves: 2
POINTS: 4

1 large head romaine lettuce, roughly chopped
3 roma tomatoes, diced
4 medium scallions, roughly chopped
12 small black olives, sliced
1 large chicken breast, diced
2 tbsp taco seasoning
1/4 cup water
1 cup fat-free refried beans, warmed
4 tbsp low-fat shredded Mexican blend cheese
1 cup fat-free salsa
6 tbsp fat-free sour cream
Non-stick cooking spray
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Coat with non-stick cooking spray. When skillet is warm, add diced chicken. Salt and pepper to taste. Cook until chicken cubes are cooked through, approximately 8 minutes. Add taco seasoning and water. Reduce heat and let simmer.

On two large plates, divide the lettuce and tomatoes. Top with 1/2 cup warm refried beans. Add cooked chicken. Top with black olives, scallions, cheese, salsa, and fat-free sour cream.

You’ll notice that there’s a tortilla shell under the salad. At first we thought they would be necessary to make the meal filling. We quickly realized how very wrong we were. I use La Tortilla Factory High Fiber Low Carb Tortillas. They have a POINTS value of 1 for a burrito-sized tortilla like is shown here. If you choose to add it, don’t forget to add an additional POINT. Just don’t let your eyes be bigger than your stomach like I did!

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I wish I could claim to have made this yummy-looking calzone entirely from scratch. I’ll be honest, though, and let you know that I used Chef Boyardee’s Cheese Pizza Kit dough instead of going through the trouble of making my own pizza dough this evening. Why? Because it’s Sunday, and I thought it might be nice to spend some time on the couch with my honey before I head back to work tomorrow morning.

I will let you in on a little secret, though. I used an Egg Beaters “egg wash” to seal the calzones and get the nice, deep brown crust on the overall shell. Plus, the egg wash creates the perfect gel to hold the Italian seasoning, garlic powder, and Parmesan cheese to the outside of the calzone.

My one word of advice when it comes to this easy to make meal? Don’t skimp on the sauce. I used leftover homemade marinara for the sauce, and it made all the difference. The thickness and tanginess of the marinara were a real compliment to the fresh vegetables (me) and the pepperoni (Shan) in the pizza pockets. If you’re looking for a really great marinara recipe that’s simple and simply fantastic, I highly recommend Giada de Laurentis’ recipe. You can find it here, but I really think you should pick up Everyday Italian. I have yet to find something that’s not wonderful.

The real test of any meal, quick or time-consuming, in my house is how fast it’s devoured. The verdict in my in-a-hurry household tonight? Dinner finished in 30 minutes with no leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch. Delicious!

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Sometimes, it’s true, all you need is a little help from your friends.

I was still struggling with what to make for dinner tomorrow night at my “Butter for Dinner” Girls Night, still mulling over various different options, when my bestie called for a brief chat. After running some ideas past her, the decision has been made.

Can I get a hallelujah?! Can I? Please?

“Butter for Dinner” Menu
Appetizers
BBQ Jalapeno Poppers
Hot Artichoke Dip with Blue Corn Tortilla Chips
Crudites

Salad
Cesar Salad with Shaved Parmesan and Garlic Butter Croutons

Entrée
Rigatoni with Vodka Cream Sauce
Olive Cheese Bread

Dessert
Pineapple Upside Down Cake

I almost cannot wait. Almost. Luckily, I’ll be pan-frying flounder for dinner tonight. The fun of frying something, especially healthily frying something, always manages to make the day brighter. It’ll take my mind off the wait.

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I try not to judge any food too harshly until I’ve sampled it for myself. I consider it only fair that every food get a chance to impress my palate. Surely enough some will fail (ham), but others will have amazing success (sushi). Eventually some will even overcome my dislike and become tolerable (once again, ham).

There are a few exceptions, though. Most notably is my staunch resistance to trying brains of any kind. My grandmother swears by cow brains and ensures me that I would find them incredibly flavorful, but I can’t get past the whole Hannibal Lector-ness of it all. Think Ray Liotta in Hannibal. You remember the scene, right? If not, I’m sorry and yet I’m not. Bottom line on brains? No thanks. I’ll pass. You go, though, Grandma. You go.

Last night, thanks in part to my continued reading of Julie & Julia before bed, I stumbled across aspic. Pronounced as-pik. Aspic is the fodder of horror film buffet scenes; the fabric of food nightmares. Aspic is the most gelatinous menace I’ve ever laid eyes on.

I. Am. Frightened.

If you have not yet laid eyes on aspic, let me initiate you into the world of those of us who have seen its jiggly, Jell-O likeness.

This particular aspic holds within its jelly eggs and chicken. Let me say that one more time for effect. Eggs. And Chicken. Inside a “meat jelly.”

First of all, who thought it was appropriate to combine the words ‘meat’ and ‘jelly?’ These are two words that do not belong together. I know of many a person who shuns the combination of ‘jalapeno’ and ‘jelly’ (I am not one of them), let alone ‘meat.’ I’ll sit beside you while we discuss all the ways berries and hot peppers can be combined to make jelly. I will agree with you when you say a really ripe pear pairs nicely with a so-hot-you-want-to-cry Habanero. I’ll even defend you against the heckles thrown out there by my best girlfriends and my boyfriend. If you throw meat in there, though, I beg your pardon, but I’m going to have to hop off the combo bus at the next stop.

I cannot wrap my mind around the concept of jelly, or even the less gag-inducing-but-still-stomach-churning Jell-O, with meat flavor. No, you’re not going to change my mind by mentioning that Julia Child used a “nice” aspic, or that Martha Stewart prizes and pushes her “Yellow Gazpacho Aspic” as recently as July 2005. It doesn’t matter to me. It is still aspic, ingredients set into a mold using meat stock or consomme and gelatin.

Pretty means nothing.

Fancy decorations to distract the eye mean even less.

Attempts to look appetizing fail.

May I add that if that is fruit in a meat stock, I don’t think I could be in the same room with this little number. Sassy-looking as it may be – and how loosely can you use the term sassy? – I just can’t get down with this salty-sweet combination attempt.

Frankly, exotic ingredients do very little to tantalize me either.

You are a sneaky little minx, though, aren’t you aspic? You try so hard; you look so gray.

Aspic in all its forms – or at least all the forms I can dig up on the web – does nothing for me. Well, it does make me want to poke it with a spoon. Or dig into it with a fork just to see what the mold transforms into when punctured. I may even be inclined to chop-chop it for fun. But eat it? Oh no. In that regard, aspic does nothing for me.

The real question is why am I so interested in making it then? The challenge. Pure and simple. I won’t eat the darned thing, I know that much. I will, however, attempt to tempt others to try.

I am, officially, a food sadist.

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Citrus


Orange. Supple. Lovely.

I can’t wait to eat this entire bowl.

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