Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011 Experience

Thanksgiving this year was such a great experience for me! I was sad to be away from home again (haven't celebrated with my family since 2008) but I figured as I'm getting ready to graduate and move away permanently, it was about time I started getting ready to create my own traditions and have my own recipes! Last year, my boyfriend and I made the usual boxed Stove Top stuffing, Idaho potato flakes, can of gravy, can of cranberry jelly, and turkey cutlets and legs (his oven is itty-bitty). This year, thanks to the generous offer of oven use from my friend Tony, Thanksgiving was able to be bigger. And since I had a full-size oven to cook with and lots of time on my hands, why not go all out? I decided that I would make everything from scratch this time around. I wanted to see if I could make things a little bit healthier (or at least have more nutrients even if it had more fat) by creating homemade dishes, and plus it would stretch my cooking skills to a new level.

A couple weeks before I left for NYC, I wrote out a recipe list for myself:
-mashed potatoes
-sweet potatoes
-green beans
-cranberry sauce

It seemed like a crazy idea. But I was willing to do it. All I needed was time, determination, and money. Looking back at the basic list, I decided that it sounded a bit plain, so I started to think of a bit more complex menu ideas. Mashed potatoes would be flavored with rosemary and garlic. The stuffing would have cornbread and veggies. The Jell-O would be two-layer and studded with mini-marshmallows and fruit (like my parents always do). The cranberry sauce would be spiked with orange. I was finally ready.

I bought several ingredients in Ithaca where it was cheaper, and dragged them across the state with me. It was worth it (even though I was carrying a small suitcase and a piano keyboard as well!).

Thanksgiving day, my boyfriend had to spend time in Chicago, so we moved our celebration to the following day. Though this had initially put a damper in my carefully constructed schedule, I got to shove everything a day later and be lazy a day longer, so really, it was okay. I started by cooking the pies, cornbread (for the stuffing) and cranberry-orange sauce on Thursday (I was crashing at Tony's that night so I could spend the next day cooking, so I had to get them done).

The pies ended up being the favorite part of the dinner, surprisingly, though they took the least effort!
Click Here For The Pecan-Walnut Pie and Pumpkin Pie Recipes
Photo Copyright 2011 Katie Peters

 I was immensely proud of the cranberry-orange sauce, though I never wrote the measurements down!
Click Here For The Cranberry-Orange Sauce Recipe
Photo Copyright 2011 Katie Peters

I shoved the pies in the fridge (and later, the freezer), and when I was ready, I packed everything up and took a taxi across Manhattan to Tony's apartment. Carrying all those groceries was crazy! Luckily, I got to have the night off and went to celebrate Thanksgiving Day with Tony and our friend Jeff. I made a simple rocket/butter lettuce salad with walnuts, gouda, and pears, dressed with olive oil/balsamic vinegar. It's one of my favorite salads that I first ate in Italy (pretty sure it was different cheese, though). We had a nice night of food and wine, then returned to Tony's and crashed.

Friday, Tony was off to work all day and his roommate Erik hadn't returned from his trip yet, so I got to spend most of the day by myself. I lazed around for a bit, knowing that if I got started immediately, I would run out of things to do. When I finally made the decision to start, I made the sweet potatoes first, because I knew I could refrigerate those for awhile without them getting soggy (like stuffing).

Click Here For The Sweet Potato Recipe
Photo Copyright 2011 Katie Peters
After I mashed the sweet potatoes and popped them in the fridge, I tackled the bird! Dealt with the giblets and popped them in a pot to make some turkey stock.
Click Here For The Turkey Stock Recipe

I cleaned the bird, drained it, and rubbed it all over with spices. Then I covered it in foil and put it back in the fridge to let it marinate a little bit while I made the stuffing.

Stuffing is one of my boyfriend's and my favorite side dishes, so I had to make sure it was delicious! I used cornbread, which he specifically wanted, and combined it with light whole wheat bread for a bit of health value. I'm very happy with my decision to add celery and onion because it added lots more depth, flavor, and texture. I would have to say that I'm quite happy with how it turned out! My parents haven't stuffed a turkey in awhile, so when Ethan asked me to put some in the turkey, I was unsure. I have to say that I'm glad I did!
Click Here For The Whole-Wheat and Cornbread Stuffing Recipe
Photo Copyright 2011 Katie Peters
Once the stuffing was ready, I took the turkey out of the fridge, doused it in melted butter and stuffed it! I was scared that I was going to mess up or the turkey would be terrible and a waste of four hours of my life, but I have to say that I am so proud. It was juicy and tender, the skin was beautifully crispy--it was everything I could have wanted! And the boys were impressed. Oh, did I mention that it was 20lb. turkey so that I could feed five men? Yep. Five men and myself. And we still had plenty of leftovers (thank goodness! I love my Thanksgiving leftovers). I hope every year from now is as successful as this one. I would like just a bit more flavor in the future, though...perhaps putting some spices underneath the skin next time? We shall see!
Click Here For The Successful First-Attempt Turkey Recipe
Photo Copyright 2011 Katie Peters
In the meantime, I made the double-layer Jell-O with lime and strawberry flavors (always the choice of my folks), and throughout its refrigeration time added crushed pineapple, canned mandarin orange slices, and mini marshmallows. I got far too impatient with the layering and poured in some of the lime too early, creating a small section of brown Jell-O, but that's okay. Live and learn. I also spent some time snapping the ends off my fresh green beans, which I later pan-sauteed with cayenne, a dash of cumin, salt and pepper. It made a nice contrast to the other flavors of dinner.

I put the potatoes together in a dash because I have been making them in my apartment in Ithaca almost all semester. I am obsessed with them.
Click Here For The Rosemary-Garlic Mashed Potato Recipe
Photo Copyright 2011 Katie Peters
Lastly came the gravy! I asked my dad at the beginning of the month for some turkey tips as well as his gravy recipe, because it's always been one of my favorite parts of dinner. My dad makes damn good gravy, guys. I adapted it just a tiny bit, but I have to say that he would be satisfied with it!
Click Here For Dad's Turkey Gravy Recipe
Photo Copyright 2011 - Katie Peters

The final spread (minus desserts) - Photo Copyright 2011 Katie Peters
All in all, Thanksgiving dinner was a huge success! All of my men were well-fed, full, and satisfied, as was I. I had a stomach-ache afterwards from eating too much too fast! I can't wait for the next Thanksgiving (though my body will thank me if I do) and to cook for people again. It was a great culinary expedition and a fun, new, slightly stressful experience. I think it was helpful kicking people out of the kitchen, though, so I was master of my domain. I think it would be much more stressful if others were in the kitchen, too. I found myself getting a little antsy toward the end of my journey (especially as the boys began wandering into the kitchen and finger-tasting everything, asking when food would be ready, or staring longingly in expectation), and I must have lost a pound through sweating my ass off, but yes. It was definitely all worth it. Plus, the praise I received through mouthfuls of meat, carbs, and dessert wasn't so bad, either. ;)

Hope everyone else had a wonderful and happy Thanksgiving as well! Next, a delicious Christmas dinner back in WA from my parents!

Happiest of Eating, everyone!

Simple Cranberry-Orange Sauce

This recipe is actually not worth posting because I played everything by ear and have no recollection of how much of each ingredient I used. However, I figured I may as well share the basics with you. It's a recipe that is super easy to adjust so you could probably make it better than I! It was my first attempt at making homemade cranberry sauce, and I was incredibly proud of it. It had the right balance of sweetness, tartness, and citrus bite!

Simple, Recipe-less Cranberry-Orange Sauce

-1 bag fresh cranberries
-water (not a lot, just enough to fill the bottom of the pot and cover the bottom half of the berries)
-sugar (at least a cup)
-zest of an orange
-juice of the same orange (watch for seeds!)

Colorful cranberries and orange! - Photo Copyright 2011 Katie Peters

1. Combine all ingredients in a pot. Make sure the sugar dissolves. As the mixture begins to heat up, the berries will start to pop and burst, which is really fun. Add more water/sugar as necessary, especially depending on how tart your cranberries are.
Steamy! - Photo Copyright 2011 Katie Peters

That's it! Stupid-simple!

Photo Copyright 2011 Katie Peters
Happy Eating!

Pecan-Walnut Pie and Pumpkin Pie

I spent so much time obsessing over the turkey and stuffing dishes, that I didn't put all too much thought into the pies. I knew I wasn't going to spend any time making them healthy, that's for sure. But they were pies, and I've made pies before, so I thought they would just be a nice little dessert to accompany a fabulous dinner. Funny enough, the pies (especially the pumpkin pie) were the biggest hit at the table! We ran out very quickly and my friends talked for days about how they wished they had more! Alas! Next time. :)
Ready for the oven! - Photo Copyright 2011 Katie Peters
I made both of these pies at the same time (well, the pecan-walnut first, then the pumpkin), and popped them in the oven together. They both cooked at their allowed times and turned out perfectly. It helped reduce overall Thanksgiving cook-time, and I couldn't be happier!
Forgot to take pictures before they were being eaten! - Photo Copyright 2011 Katie Peters
Pecan-Walnut Pie

-1 c. Karo Lite Corn Syrup (fewer calories than the original!)
-1 c. sugar
-3 eggs
-2 tbsp. margarine (I Can't Believe It's Not Butter), melted
-1 tsp. vanilla extract
-5 oz. pecans
-1 oz. walnuts, roughly chopped
-1 9-inch pie crust (I used a basic pie crust recipe...and by that I mean I took the knowledge I had and made the crust from scratch without a actually went very well...but sorry I can't give you a recipe for it!)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cook pie crust in oven for 10-15 minutes.
2. Combine corn syrup, sugar, eggs, margarine and vanilla with a spoon or fork. Mix well. Stir in pecans and walnuts.
Photo Copyright 2011 Katie Peters
 3. Pour filling into pie crust.
4. Bake for 60-70 minutes. Cool on wire rack (or if you're desperate, like me (I had to get everything to my friend's house in a short amount of time), shove it in the fridge).
Photo Copyright 2011 Katie Peters

Popular Pumpkin Pie (slightly adapted from the famous Libby's recipe)

-3/4 c. granulated sugar
-1 tsp. ground cinnamon
-1/2 tsp. salt
-1/2 tsp. fresh ginger, finely grated
-1/4 tsp. ground cloves
-2 eggs
-1 can (15 oz.) Libby's Pure Pumpkin
-1 can (12 fl. oz.) evaporated milk  (Nestle Carnation is standard but I tried a generic brand and it worked just fine)
-1 9-inch pie crust (see Pecan-Walnut Pie for crust explanation)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cook pie crust in oven for 10-15 minutes.
2. In a large bowl, combine sugar, cinnamon, salt, ginger and cloves. Beat in eggs and mix well. Stir in pumpkin and continue to mix. Then, slowly stir in evaporated milk.
3. Pour into pie crust.
4. Bake in oven for 40-50 minutes or until knife/toothpick inserted in center is clean. Remove from oven and cool on wire rack (or, like the Pecan-Walnut pie, shove in the fridge wrapped in foil if you're in a time crunch).
Photo Copyright 2011 Katie Peters
I had to put both of my pies in the fridge (and later in the freezer for about half an hour) because they had to be cool enough to transport in a taxi from one end of Manhattan to the other! It didn't hurt the pie consistency or flavor or anything, so I would suggest that if you are low on time, refrigerating/brief freezing is a huge help! Also, if you noticed, I did not start at a high temperature for the Pumpkin Pie and reduce it after a bit of time. I just started at a lower temperature and kept it in there--it clearly turned out just fine if it was the "Popular" food of the evening!
Who took a bite?! - Photo Copyright 2011 Katie Peters
Happy Eating!

Easy Mashed Potatoes with Rosemary and Garlic

If there's one thing I love to eat, it's potatoes. I have been on a homemade mashed potato kick this semester, so I definitely wasn't going to stick to the boxed variety this season (though I do love boxed potatoes)! I also love garlic and rosemary, so I thought I'd spice up the usual plain mash this year and go with some extra flavor. I used fresh raw garlic for a big kick, but bottled garlic would be flavorful and gentle, and roasted garlic would be even more delicious. It's up to you--I usually use the bottled kind. The great thing about these potatoes is that they're very easy and require little attention. Perfect when you're busy with turkey and other side dishes!

Easy Mashed Potatoes with Rosemary and Garlic

-5-6 medium red potatoes
-1/2 c. skim milk
-1 tbsp. fresh rosemary, chopped
-1 1/2 tbsp. unsalted sweet cream butter (or margarine)
-5-6 cloves garlic, minced
Photo Copyright 2011 Katie Peters

1. Bring the potatoes to a boil in a large pot of water. Cook until fork tender. Drain water or move potatoes to a separate bowl.
2. Mash the potatoes well with a fork or potato masher. Don't worry about skin--if you don't want it, however, peel the potatoes before boiling or let potatoes cool after cooking and peel. I like the extra color and texture.
Photo Copyright 2011 Katie Peters

3. Add remaining ingredients and mix well, ensuring the butter melts and is incorporated evenly.

Photo Copyright 2011 Katie Peters
How simple!

Happy Eating!

Turkey Stock and Dad's Turkey Gravy

This turkey stock is surprisingly flavorful for being mostly boring and having no additional veggies or spices except salt. I primarily made it for the sake of the stuffing and the turkey gravy, but I'm sure you could use it as a base for turkey soup and other things as well.

Now...the gravy. Mmmm. I have always loved the turkey gravy my dad makes. It is just so delicious smothered over anything and everything I could cover it with. This year, I asked him for his recipe, and adapted it just a tiny bit to make it my own. Thanks, Dad!

Basic Turkey Stock

-giblets from turkey
-any excess skin
-turkey tail and neck

1. Place all turkey bits in a pot and cover with water (I used about 9-10 cups). Add a dash of salt.
2. Bring to a boil for about 10-15 minutes, then simmer for another 15-20. My numbers may be a little off, as I made this stock while busy with everything else.
3. Remove giblets and turkey pieces from stock. Store stock in tupperware.

*I am sparing your eyes from the giblets picture (it's a pretty good picture, but it's kind of unappetizing!

Dad's Turkey Gravy (adapted)

-1 1/2 c. turkey grease from roasting pan
-1 1/2 c. flour
-7 c. turkey stock
-additional water/broth as needed
-dash of salt
-dash of pepper
-2 tsp. onion powder
-2 tsp. garlic powder
-1 tsp. cayenne pepper
-1 chicken bouillon cube, crushed

1. Cook grease and flour in roasting pan to create a roux. Make sure the flour is getting mixed in well and cooked so you're not left with flour-y taste in your gravy.
2. Once cooked, add turkey stock and all spices.
3. Adjust water/stock levels as needed.
Photo Copyright 2011 Katie Peters

Yes! It's just that easy and delicious. :)

Happy [condiment] Eating!

First Attempt and Success at Thanksgiving Turkey!

So this was my very first attempt since I left for college at a Thanksgiving turkey. Freshman year, I went back home to WA. Sophomore year, I went to my boyfriend's family's house in Chicago. Last year, I made turkey legs and breast fillets in the boy's oven (his apartment's oven is tinyyy). And this year, I got the wonderful opportunity to go to my good friend Tony's apartment, which has a full-size oven. :) More info to come when I create my Thanksgiving blog post! All in all, it was a great experience, and the turkey turned out juicy and tender with crispy skin and lots of flavor! It was a great hit (not as much as the pumpkin pie, though, which has a recipe to come later)! My boyfriend implored me to stick some butter inside the turkey with the stuffing, and after a lot of refusing in an attempt to be healthier, I finally gave in...and I'm happy I did!
Photo Copyright 2011 Katie Peters
Juicy Thanksgiving Turkey

-20lb. turkey
-1 heaping tbsp. fresh rosemary, chopped
-1/2 tbsp. sage
-3/4 tbsp. thyme
-1/2 tbsp. onion powder
-1/2 tbsp. fresh-cracked black pepper
-1 tsp. onion powder
-1 stick unsalted, sweet cream butter (yep, no margarine this time!)

-premade stuffing (See my Whole Wheat and Cornbread Stuffing recipe)
-3 carrots, roughly chopped
-1 medium onion, roughly chopped
-4 stalks celery, roughly chopped

The naked beauty! - Photo Copyright 2011 Katie Peters
1. Remove turkey from packaging and drain well (my turkey came in brine...try to get a low-sodium solution or none at all and brine yourself if you can!). Place turkey in large roasting pan, pot, or broiler pan. Combine all herbs and spices and rub all over turkey. Feel free to make more rub if desired. This seemed to do the trick for me. Cover in tin foil and pop in the refrigerator. Marinate until ready to cook (about an hour and fifteen minutes in my case--I'm sure the longer, the better!).
Photo Copyright 2011 Katie Peters
2. When ready to cook, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Remove turkey from fridge. Pour 1/2 stick of the melted butter over the turkey.
Photo Copyright 2011 Katie Peters
3. Place a large handful of carrots, onion, and celery inside the turkey cavity, and use the rest to cover the pan and surround the turkey. The pan veggies will not be for eating, but instead to help flavor the grease a bit as they sweat out.
4. Stuff the turkey with homemade stuffing until full.
5. Shove the other 1/2 stick of butter way inside the turkey cavity, as far toward the back as possible.
All stuffed! - Photo Copyright 2011 Katie Peters
6. Place in over for 3-4 1/2 hours or until done. My turkey came with one of those pop-up thermometers, and it was perfectly accurate! If you are unsure, check with a meat thermometer (being a poor student, I didn't have one), and the internal temperature of the thigh meat should be 180 degrees F.
7. Remove turkey from the oven and let rest for 30 minutes. This will help make your turkey easy to carve and remain super juicy (see the leg meat in the picture?)! Mine was overflowing! This also allows you to finish up last-minute potato, green bean, and stuffing work. :)
Crispy skin and juicy meat - Photo Copyright 2011 Katie Peters
8. Carve!
Photo Copyright 2011 Katie Peters

Happy happy happy Thanksgiving eating!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Whole Wheat and Cornbread Stuffing

One of my boyfriend's and my favorite parts of Thanksgiving is stuffing. I am in love with Stove Top boxed stuffing, but this year on a strive to be a bit healthier and more original, I decided to make stuffing (among other things) from scratch. I don't think it was actually too much healthier, but it was definitely delicious! He loves cornbread, so that had to be a part of the dish, and I like healthy bread, so I used Arnold whole wheat light bread, which has far less calories than ordinary bread. I really wanted to use white bread, but that just wasn't in the cards. Ah well. I got lots of flavor this way, so I can't complain. :) The stuffing ended up being one of the dishes that went the fastest, so it must mean that it was good!
Photo Copyright 2011 Katie Peters
Whole Wheat and Cornbread Stuffing

-2 tbsp. olive oil
-1/2 medium yellow onion, finely diced
-2 stalks celery, finely diced
-cornbread, cubed (I used a package mix from the store that filled about an 8x10 pan)
-1 loaf Arnold whole wheat bakery light bread, cubed
-3 tbsp. margarine (I Can't Believe It's Not Butter)
-1 1/3 c. turkey stock (made from boiling the giblets that were removed from the turkey)
-1 tbsp. garlic powder
-1 tbsp. onion powder
-2 low-sodium chicken-flavor bouillon cubes
-salt/pepper, to taste

1. Heat up a large pot and add oil. When oil is hot, add onions.
2.Once onions are on their way to becoming translucent, add celery and margarine.
Photo Copyright 2011 Katie Peters
3. After celery softens a little, after 4 or 5 minutes, add the cornbread and whole wheat bread. Mix very well (make sure the margarine soaks into the bread!).
Photo Copyright 2011 Katie Peters
 4. Add turkey stock, continue to mix.
5. Add the spices and bouillon cubes and mix. There should be no liquid remaining at the bottom of the pot.
Photo Copyright 2011 Katie Peters
 6. When turkey is ready to put in the oven, use this stuffing to fill the cavity.
7. Place remaining stuffing in a baking pan. Top with thyme sprigs. Bake at 325 degrees until hot throughout and crispy on top.
Mmmm! - Photo Copyright 2011 Katie Peters

Happy Eating!

Sweet Potatoes

All right. Here's the first of my Thanksgiving posts. When I'm all done, I'll post a big blog with all these links plus my Thanksgiving 2011 experience. Stay tuned!

Sweet Potatoes with Brown Sugar
Photo Copyright 2011 Katie Peters
-4 medium-large sweet potatoes
-dash of salt (optional for water)
-3 tbsp. I Can't Believe It's Not Butter
-3 tbsp. lightly packed brown sugar
-1 tsp. salt
Photo Copyright 2011 Katie Peters
1. Fill a large pot with water (and optional salt) and bring to a boil. In the meantime, peel and slice the sweet potatoes.
2. Add the sweet potatoes to the boiling water and cook for 10-15 minutes or until fork tender.
Photo Copyright 2011 Katie Peters
 3. Drain the water and move the sweet potatoes to a large bowl. Mash with fork or potato masher (my dad uses a potato ricer).
Photo Copyright 2011 Katie Peters
 4. Cover and set aside/refrigerate until you are closer to dinnertime.
5. When you are ready, preheat oven to 325 degrees. Combine the sweet potatoes, 1 tbsp. margarine, 1 tbsp. brown sugar and salt and mix well. Pour into baking pan and spread evenly.
6. Top with remaining brown sugar and margarine (I spread the margarine with a spoon and then sprinkled the brown sugar on top).
7. Bake in oven at 325 degrees for 15 minutes or so.

Happy Eating!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Miso Soup w/ Noodles, Wakame, and Egg

I love soup.
And smoothies.
And salad.
And burgers...
...and fries...
...and chicken nuggets...
...and corndogs...
I have to stop.

Eating healthy is a big part of how I want to live...but unfortunately, I'm still trying to work out the kinks to cut bad cravings. In London, I discovered that a hot bowl of chicken broth or sodium-free chicken bouillon in water was one of the perfect late night snacks that made me warm and sleepy (and didn't cost me a lot of calories). These days, I want to get back into that, but I have also begun eating soup as an anytime meal just because I like it so much!

Being a college student means a giant punch to the stomach of my budget, pantry, and cooking time. I have been working on a healthy healthy HEALTHY diet so I can lose more weight (excepting this past week because my boyfriend came to visit…plus, I have been so busy with classes and rehearsals that I ordered a lot of food to my apartment and never once visited the gym…! Boo!), and this has become a large staple: Miso soup. I haven’t been able to find any sort of low-sodium miso in my area (or anywhere, really), so having a bunch of salt isn’t my favorite option. But with lots of noodles, dried wakame (a type of Japanese seaweed), and egg (or chicken), it is a nutritious, healthy, light meal you can have any time of the day.

My favorite thing about this recipe is that it is super fast and easy to put together. To make life even easier and you eat lots of chicken like I do (generally for stir-fries), try cutting up the breasts when you get it from the store and putting them in individual Ziploc bags and freezing them. I have the perfect serving size that is pre-sliced, thus eliminating both defrosting too much as well as having too many leftovers (unless you want them—I know that when I have too many leftovers from assorted dinners, I just forget about some because I get excited about making new dishes).
Hearty Miso Soup with Noodles, Wakame, and Egg

Recipe should be enough for one large bowl. Split between two if you aren't very hungry or want to eat this as a side dish.

-2.5 c water
-2 tbsp miso paste
-2 tbsp dried wakame
-inaki udon noodles (buckwheat soba is also good)—however many noodles you would like
-1 egg
Photo Copyright 2011 Katie Peters
1.       Bring water to a boil in a medium-sized pot. As water starts to bubble, add miso paste.
2.       Once soup has come together, add wakame and noodles.
3.       Lastly, drop an egg into the soup (if you want the egg to stay together better, try cracking it into a small bowl or cup and pouring that in).

See how simple that is? Feel free to add any spices you see fit if you want to change it up a bit! Some of my favorites to play with are black pepper, Sriracha hot sauce, garlic powder, and onion powder!
Photo Copyright 2011 Katie Peters
Happy Eating (and now maybe a smoothie...)!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Thai-Style Chicken Noodle Soup

So I finally have a moment to upload a recipe! I'm moving back to school tomorrow so I'm a bit disheveled and upset at having to move away from Ethan and out of the big city, but it's time to graduate! Anyhow, I'm quite proud of this recipe because it was spur-of-the-moment and COMPLETELY from memory. I like referencing other recipes for specific portion sizes and what not, but I just put a bunch of ingredients together based on what I know about Thai food and scribbled down how much of each I used. I've had to write down specifics for all these recipes and I HATE IT. For the last couple weeks I've been making dinner, eyeballing everything, and not writing anything down; this is completely normal, but now I don't have the recipes to share. Alas. Recording all these measurements is tiring! Lazy cook.

I thoroughly enjoy Thai food. Japanese, Chinese, Thai and Italian are some of my favorites. I frequently make Chinese dishes, and I can make a damn nice Pad Thai when I have the money. I've been laying off the Italian lately because of money and too many carbohydrates. And when I move, I'm planning on putting more Japanese food into my diet. The best news about this recipe I invented is that it's not expensive nor difficult to make. Plus, you could make a lot of it and keep it in the fridge for up to two weeks. Yummy lunches and dinners when you're lazy. Who doesn't like a good bowl of chicken noodle soup, anyway?? ;)

As you know, I LOVE spicy food, so I left all the seeds in the two jalapeños. Feel free to take them out for a milder dish. I look so silly cutting hot peppers--lately, not covering my hands = insane burning for hours. I don't know why it started happening this summer but I DO NOT LIKE IT.
Ouch! - Photo Copyright 2011 Katie Peters
Additionally, I didn't have any fish sauce in the pantry, so I made do with oyster sauce. The next time I make this recipe, I think I'm going to lessen or completely omit the oyster sauce, add fish sauce, and add more lime juice (I ran out!). I want to see if it helps the flavor, or at least makes it closer to Thai-style soup. This recipe was delicious, I'm not gonna lie, but it can always get better!

I'm tired and distracted, so I'm going to stop ranting and shut up already!

Photo Copyright 2011 Katie Peters

Thai-Style Chicken Noodle Soup

-10 c. water
-2 chicken-flavored bouillon cubes (low-sodium preferred if you can)
-large handful fresh string beans, ends removed
-1/2 medium yellow onion, sliced thin
-1 stalk celery, thinly sliced/julienned
-1 large chicken breast, pounded out and sliced very thin
-2 jalapeño peppers, sliced
-3/4 c. roughly chopped fresh basil
-1 8oz. can sliced water chestnuts, drained
-1 tbsp. each: garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper
-1/4 c. oyster sauce
-generous squeeze lime juice
-4 to 5 oz. flat rice noodles, soaked in water for 10-15 minutes (not necessary, but I find that it aids in faster cooking)

1. Boil water with bouillon cubes to create a basic broth. When water is bubbling, add string beans, onion, and celery. Reduce heat a little and let simmer for ten minutes.
Photo Copyright 2011 Katie Peters
2. While soup is cooking, pound out the chicken until it is nearly flat, then slice into thin pieces. Turn heat back up and bring the pot to a boil again. Add the chicken and jalapeños to the broth and stir. Chicken should cook almost immediately.
Soup's on! - Photo Copyright 2011 Katie Peters
3. Add remaining ingredients and stir. Keep hot and let noodles finish cooking.

Photo Copyright 2011 Katie Peters
 Happy Eating!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

"What's the matter with kids today?"

(Ah, yes. Another rant about troubled youth. I feel like the bitter grandmother who sits on her porch and scolds kids to stay off the lawn, complaining about "when I was young". Nearing 22 in just over a week, I have very little room to talk...but I will anyway.)

As I headed toward the subway station, I saw a small group of young teenagers, possibly 15 or 16 (if even), comprised of three hat-wearing, skater-type boys and three preppy girls. A fourth boy was jumping the barrier onto grass and walking away from the situation. One of the girls was crying, holding a sweatshirt in front of her, shirtless. The other girls were urging her to put her sweatshirt on, which she finally did after another minute or so of extreme distress. What the hell happened? I was trying not to stare, but with the appearance of homeless folks adding their two cents as well as the cops asking questions, I overheard a couple things. "He ripped her shirt off." "You can get a restraining order." "You know him." Based on just these tidbits alone, clearly shit went down. The ripping of the shirt appears to have been in anger more so than for any sexual reason (I'm assuming because they were in public with friends), but...

Why was this display necessary? Why so much anger in a kid who looked like he was just starting puberty (...or maybe that's why...!)? I know that teens cause trouble. I know they're rebellious and all that...but seriously. I want to know what the hell happened in these teeny-boppers' lives to allow this behavior to be acceptable to them. It was and still is disturbing to me. This isn't to say I'm less opposed to adult violence or anything like that. However, when I see young teenagers finding "cool-ness" through violence, drug/alcohol abuse, and apathy, more than half the time I'm going to assume that there's nothing actually wrong with or troubling them. And I mostly say this because of the crazy life I lived (and I didn't start messing around or getting myself in trouble until I was 18...not that it's an excuse, but it's better than 14, if you ask me). I hear complaining from kids these days who started drinking because "of how hard their life is when their parents didn't get them a new car or a Prada bag for their birthday" and how "their parents didn't let them go to a rave this weekend and they hate them and will probably take up smoking cigarettes just to make them angry". I'm so sorry for you. But if you can tell me you've had a hard life because you were sexually abused for almost 7 years by someone you know, then come back to me. Because that was me. Besides, my recreational activities have been my choice, for myself, not to spite anyone and not because my life has been hard. Don't start smoking crack because you were grounded. Unless you legitimately went through some bad shit, calm down and grow up.

Friday, August 12, 2011

"Mexican" Ravioli

I finished this recipe a week and a half ago, but time has been getting the better of me, it seems! I'm currently in the process of packing up my things and preparing for my final year of college. Figuring out moving situations as well as my audition/monologue for fall mainstage auditions (if you don't know, I'm a BFA Musical Theatre major) have been a little hectic. Happily, everything is piecing itself together. I'm going to miss NYC, but I'll be back next summer for good, so I can't complain too much. I will definitely miss living with Ethan, but that, too, will fix itself in due time.

Anyway, this was a recipe that I came up with when I was lying in bed one morning. Apparently there are other recipes like this, but I hadn't realized it at the time, so I'm going to stick to pretending that I'm special. ;) The only help I had for this recipe was a ravioli dough recipe I found online. Otherwise, I just kind of made things up as I went along...the only way I know how!

I followed this dough recipe ( and replaced the semolina and all-purpose flours with whole wheat…healthier, but mostly because I didn’t have the other types of flour on hand. I kept my ravioli a little thicker/a little larger than instructed, and definitely much less pretty. I’ve only made ravioli a few times and it always seems that my impatience gets the better of me. If you are a pro at making ravioli, please take pictures. I'm always jealous.

Peek-a-Boo! Photo Copyright 2011 Katie Peters

“Mexican” Ravioli
-Pasta dough 
-1/2 lb. ground beef
-1/3 c. finely diced onion
-1/2 tsp. each: black pepper, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder
-1 large jalapeño, finely diced (keep the seeds in for extra spice)
-1/2 can fat-free refried beans
-less than a cup of finely shredded extra sharp cheddar
-Green bell pepper, sliced, for garnish
-Any tomato-based pasta sauce you desire—I used canned tomatoes, olive oil, and fresh basil as the base of my sauce

1.       Follow the directions for the ravioli dough. Wait about half an hour before worrying about the rest of the ravioli ingredients.
2.       While dough is refrigerating, cook ground beef in a large pan. Don’t worry about adding oil; the beef should have enough when it cooks. I used 80/20 from Trader Joe’s, but if you are using even leaner beef, feel free to add a little olive oil.
3.       When beef is half-cooked, add onion, spices, and jalapeño. Stir well and cook completely.
4.       Add refried beans and mix. Turn off the heat and place pan on a trivet or oven mitt near your “ravioli workspace”.
Photo Copyright 2011 Katie Peters
5.       At this point it should be about an hour since you made the ravioli dough. Remove from the refrigerator and follow the instructions for rolling it out.
6.       Fill each ravioli square with the meat mixture. Top with a pinch of shredded cheese. Use a little bit of water and wet the edges of the dough. Fold over the other half of the dough and pinch closed. For additional security (and a nice touch), take a fork and use the prongs to press down on the dough edges.
Photo Copyright 2011 Katie Peters
7.       Place ravioli on plate with plastic wrap in between layers of pasta so they don’t stick to each other. Refrigerate or freeze until ready to prepare.
8.       Boil water in a large pot. Place ravioli into water, 5-10 at a time, depending on the size of your pasta. Pasta will take about 8 or 9 minutes if you make it thick and beefy like mine. If you have thin, beautiful ravioli, it will be between 4 and 8 minutes.
9.       In another large pot, heat up the tomato sauce. Add the ravioli as they finish cooking. Mix. When everything is complete, plate your ravioli and garnish with sliced green bell peppers.
Delicious! Photo Copyright 2011 Katie Peters
 Happy Eating!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Food Snob Rant

Photo Copyright 2011 Katie Peters

“Food Snobs” upset me. Whether it’s online or off, these people think they’re entitled to be harsh, rude, dismissive, egotistical know-it-alls. Honestly? Unless you get paid as a food critic or professional chef, lay off. Now, I don’t mean Food Snob in the “nice” sense—those everyday folks with high appreciation for culinary arts, expensive products, and abounding flavor—but instead people that think that “average foodies” like myself SUCK and aren’t worthy of cooking, much less taking pictures of my meals. I post my food photos and my recipes online because I want to share delicious bites of joy with the world. For you to take a look at a photo of mine and hate on it because I’m a poor college student without an expensive camera [and live in an apartment with very little natural light] is rude. It’s plain rude. I'm not perfect and I have work to do but DAMN. I'm trying! I will never dislike someone’s food photography if they’re doing their absolute best with what they have to work with. And you shouldn’t, either.

I tried to submit my recipe for rosemary potatoes and eggs to a certain website four times, rejected each time with no second thought, I'm sure. The first “no” was for the photo being shot at a bad angle. Fine. So I chose another image. “Lighting issues—dull/unsharp.” So I sharpened up the image and made it a little brighter. “Lighting/exposure issues.” Played with it a little more, only to be shown the door for “Photo/Food composition.” Wait…what? If you didn’t like this image for composition three submissions ago, you should have said that and I could have stopped wasting my time. Most recently, I tried to submit my focaccia recipe with an image that I’m actually quite proud of. I was rejected that evening because the composition was “too tight”… So many images on this website are taken at extremely close range. So I didn’t bother to resubmit. I’ll probably try again with a different recipe later, but I’m about to give up.

When I started posting recipes on my blog (which, as you can tell, is quite recently), all I wanted to do was share with anyone who wanted something yummy. I’ve been a huge fan of that website for years now, and it was a starting goal of mine to get at least one recipe posted there. I didn’t know it would be this difficult, and frankly, I'm slowly shying away from visiting the webpage because of their "mightier-than-thou" cold-shouldering. I tried a different website, and after some searching on FoodBuzz, I heard that it’s even harder to get a post successfully submitted there than my first site. Jeez. Suffice it to say, FoodBuzz has been my best experience so far. Everyone there is friendly, kind, and full of recipes to share (just like me). Some people have professional-looking photos, some do not, but people enjoy them all the same! Why can’t these other websites that are filled with Food Snobs get over themselves and realize that people can make good food without fancy cameras and the exact angle they want?

Now, this is nothing toward the majority of people who post on these websites; they generally seem to be fun and fabulous people. It just frustrates me to no end when I think that I’ve taken a really nice picture (with what I’ve got to work with) and then get my face curb-stomped against the metal mixing bowl of Food Snob Hell.

I guess what all this ranting really amounts to is this:
Passionate people want to share their love of food with others. Please just let them.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Carb Conundrum and Whole Wheat Onion-Rosemary Focaccia

Carbs are the bane of my existence. Every and all type of carbs needs to be in my stomach. Potatoes, bread, oatmeal, cereal, pasta, rice, tortillas, etc. etc. etc. However, I find that as I'm getting older and my metabolism is getting worse and worse, I can only process so many carbs and sugar products at a time. Ethan can pretty much handle anything, so I like to make bread and rice products for/with him. Eating a plate of chicken and veggies without a side of rice or pasta practically depresses me. It's pathetic. When I was in London in spring, I was incredibly good at cutting out carbs and didn't miss them at all, but toward the end of the semester, I gave in...and the trend continued. That's probably why I gained so much weight in London. I suppose I want to have my cake and eat it, too...literally.

Yesterday, I had a craving for a realllly good sandwich for dinner. I didn't want to use the whole wheat bread we have in the pantry, so I decided to go for some focaccia. This version has been "healthified" using whole wheat flour rather than all-purpose flour (I haven't had anything at home with all-purpose flour for about two months, which seems absurd to me), and onion and rosemary were mixed in. I've been on a rosemary kick recently (and still wishing I had fresh rather than dried, but since I already bought the bottle, why bother? Poor college student decisions!), and this herb is incredibly common for focaccia bread. I added the fresh onion for a bit of extra flavor and texture, and I think it was a nice touch. I wanted to make Ethan a delicious dinner (which was accompanied by healthy-ish Cottage Cheese Brownies, a recipe I found online that I'll be posting soon), so when I got home from Central Park, I got to work in the kitchen!

Photo Copyright 2011 Katie Peters

Whole Wheat Onion-Rosemary Focaccia
-1 tsp. sugar
-1 packet active dry yeast
-1/3 c. warm water
-2 c. whole wheat flour
-1 tsp. garlic powder
-1/2 c. onion, diced
-2 tbsp. dried rosemary
-olive oil
-plenty of fresh cracked black pepper
-sea salt, to taste

1.       Preheat oven to 475 degrees F.
2.       In a bowl, combine sugar, yeast, and water. Let sit until smooth, around 10 minutes.
3.       Add flour and stir well. Spoon in more water, 1-2 tbsp. at a time, until dough comes together in a nice ball. Pour onto a lightly floured surface and knead for a minute or two. Be careful not to over-knead!
Photo Copyright 2011 Katie Peters
4.       Oil a larger bowl and place the dough inside. Flip it around a few times to lightly coat it with the oil. Cover with a damp towel or a couple damp paper towels and let rise for about 30 minutes or until doubled in volume. Make sure you place it in a warm area so it can rise properly.
5.       Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead it again briefly, adding garlic powder, diced onions, and 1 tbsp. rosemary. Make sure the ingredients are combined well.
Photo Copyright 2011 Katie Peters
6.       Flatten to desired thickness and place on oiled baking sheet. Brush with a little olive oil. Sprinkle the other tbsp. rosemary on top and lightly press to ensure it won’t fall off. Crack fresh black pepper and salt over the top. Bake for 10-12 minutes.
Photo Copyright 2011 Katie Peters
If my focaccia looks like there's too much black pepper on top, always remember that you can adapt it! Not only do I love black pepper, but my grinder broke open while I was grinding and all the peppercorns and "pepper debris" fell out onto the dough...that's the third time in the last few weeks! Grr!

Photo Copyright 2011 Katie Peters
Oh, and the sandwich I ended up creating? Oven-roasted chicken breast, extra sharp cheddar, tomato, lots of basil, red onion and lettuce, plus light mayo combined with pepper, onion powder, garlic powder and sweet chili sauce. Mmmm!

Happy Eating!