Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Cranberry Salsa and Scramble

The plan was to go right after work to the grocery store, but Jeff’s shift at work got pushed back and I went home to see him for a bit. My motivation was shot and I ended up watching 2 episodes of Bones with Max curled against my back asleep (backie to backie). I made it off the couch and was about to leave for the grocery store when Max gave his whiny ‘I am sad’ meow, then proceeded to turn around and walk to the bedroom in protest of my leaving. I never knew having a cat was going to be this hard!
The grocery store was quiet, at this time, the after work rush had subsided. I abandoned my “shop as quickly as possible attitude” today, I was in no rush. I got a cart and stopped at Starbucks to get some green tea to sip on. The girl behind the counter was nice to me, but complained of not getting a lunch today and how much she hated the management. I kind of gave an uncomfortable ‘oh that sucks’ and went on my way. The volume of her voice made me fear for her job security. The guy at the meat counter was sweet, but a little confused, I said 1 pound turkey and he said ‘chicken right? ½ a pound?’ Okay not important, moving on… I shopped in a methodical slow manner, reading ingredients and comparing prices. I must have been a little too relaxed and not paying attention though, because I definitely gave a guy a shoe flat tire with my cart. I gave a sincere apology, but he was not amused.
Off to home, I began to cook. The first recipe is from Aunt Debbie and is the Cranberry Salsa. She made this for Christmas and I was now making it for a potluck at work. I love it because it has so much cilantro in it! I blended the cranberries in the blender as I didn’t have a food processor; it worked but took some time and finesse. I wonder how much smoother things would go if I had a well stocked kitchen? But alas, I have no room for such tools. I chopped up the jalapenos and forgot to wear gloves….bad idea! I was so careful to not touch my eyes, but touched my lips on accident. It felt like they were going to fall off! Max also, got the short end of the stick. He was biting and licking my fingers and I thought to stop him, but I thought this also might be an important lesson. He chomped away and then just stopped real quickly, looked at me in a panic and wanted to be put down. He made little face, licked his fur and his eyes turned red and watered. He wouldn’t drink any water, so I gave him food instead to help. Please don’t call PETA on me!
I worked then on the Scramble recipe from Gretchen. This recipe required me to buy a ton of snack food; so if you want cereal, pretzels or nuts, come on over. I poured all the ingredients into a giant turkey pan and it wouldn’t fit (I am not surprised; most of Gretchen’s recipes could feed not only a small army, but a large army as well). So I put the rest in a cake pan. Then I added some canola oil, Worcestershire, garlic salt, and seasoned salt and stirred it all up. It had to bake for 2 hours and I stirred it every ½ hour. Max had a hay day playing with all of the cereal I dropped on the floor. I am sure I will have a whole meal under the fridge when I move out. I had one terrible mistake; as I was putting the pan back in the oven after a stir, I bumped it into the rack and spilled cheerios all over the bottom of the oven. I assumed the fire alarm would go off if I allowed them to burn, so I couldn’t just leave it and god forbid I have any patience to wait for the oven to cool down. I reach with a pair of metal tongs to retrieve the cereal. In the process, the metal tongs touched the metal coil (still on) producing a small sparkler show. I gave up at this point and left the cheerios to slowly burn into dust.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Manicotti, Garlic Cheese Bread

The plan to make Manicotti has been in the works for weeks (recipe from Gretchen)! Jeff and I were both so excited to have a yummy meal made of pasta, cheese, and bread. I bought the ingredients last week, but at the last minute got invited to dinner with Clark and Gretchen Grose at C.B. and Potts, so I saved them until last night. I shouldn’t even tell you the monstrosity of the burger I had at C.B. and Potts, but I will, so don’t judge! Hamburger bun, burger, bacon, fried onions, a fried egg and mayonnaise, no vegetables, fries, ranch, and a margarita on the side. Healthy? I think not. On my way home from work I picked up a loaf of bread and some Italian salad. On the way out of the store I did a classic Jenna move, much to my embarrassment. I was so overwhelmed by the wonderful smell of the fresh baked French bread that I held the bag over my nose like it was a gas mask as I walked to my car. I was in la-la land, choosing to breathe in bread air instead of the normal stuff; I became obsessed and lost all thought of normal society. How could I forget that people in the parking lot may find this behavior strange, or crazy? I received an astounding number of looks before I realized, maybe this kind of behavior should only be done in the privacy of one’s home. I cowered in my car, took a few hits of bread fumes and drove home. I made it back to the house in one piece…but the bread did not. My smelling led to a deranged desire to eat the bread. I snacked on pieces until I realized I would have to explain what I did to Jeff when he saw the chunks missing. I tried to close the bag, so he wouldn’t judge me when I got home….just one more piece! Okay, seriously no more….ok just one more! I walked in the apartment and Jeff had started to cook the manicotti tubes at my request. I started to mix the cheese up and made a grave mistake (“You said grave mistake, is there any other kind?” A few Good Men movie quote…look it up). In my haste to indulge in Italian goodness, I grabbed the tablespoon instead of the teaspoon. I then proceeded to add way too much salt and pepper. Once I realized my mistake I look a dip of the cheese mixture…as expected, pretty salty (I am having flashbacks to my first cheddar fondue experience). Jeff tried to convince me it would be okay and he thought it tasted great, but I was frustrated and really just pissed off (“but it’s better than being pissed on”-Jan Knowles quote). I poured some Jamison leftover from a St. Patrick’s Day party and pouted until Jeff convinced me to persevere. We stuffed the manicotti one at a time, a little time-consuming and baked the dish up.
Once the oven was free, I put olive oil on the glorious French bread, a little garlic salt, mozzarella cheese, and parsley and broiled it for a few minutes. I didn’t burn the bread this time! Dad and Mom are you proud? You have to be careful with that dang broil function. Last time I cooked for my parents I burnt the French bread to a crisp and set the fire alarm off. Luckily I was with an experienced cook (my mom) who has been in this situation before; she expertly cut the burnt pieces off to yield usable bread.
Jeff put out the salad, we added lemon halves, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper to use as dressing. This style of dressing is very common in Chile. When he traveled there, his host Mom always made salads like this. So here is our dinner; Manicotti that tastes like a salty heaven, warm garlic cheese bread that is not burnt, Chilean salad, and some vino to top it off. The sun is still out, there is an episode of Bones on, and Max is on the floor ‘watching’ Bones but secretly he has his ears back listening to us talk; great dinner!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Lemon Bars, Larimer Toffee Squares, Lime Manhattan

I was invited to Adam’s house for a St. Patrick’s Day celebration. I made the decision to make a dessert every time I visit anybody. This way I am not stuck at the house with 20 desserts to eat. I had some coffee in the morning which was perhaps not the wisest choice. I don’t usually drink caffeine so I was absolutely hyped up! I exercised, made a big breakfast, list-made like a pro, and went to the store. I don’t think I have ever navigated King Soopers that quickly. I then stopped at the liquor store to get some booze…that took a little longer because I was completely undecided on what to make. Once all was purchased I made my way home. My heart was racing and I could barely keep my mind in one direction; from only one cup of coffee! Man, my tolerance is low. So I rampage and cook and feel like I am on Iron Chef, where I only have an hour and an impossible 3 dishes to make. Will she do it? Bobby Flay gives me the thumbs up and I slowly realize I am home in my kitchen and going Mad! Jeff is trying to finish a paper before a deadline at 4, so I try to keep my mouth shut as much as possible. But with the caffeine, I talk to the food… don’t do that, yes you are yummy; and the cat….Max, no lemon bars for you! I am keeping a close eye on Max. A few months ago I had made lemon bars, I was cooling them before I added the glaze topping and got distracted. I look over only to find little Max up on the counter munching away at the lemon bars. He ruined a good ¼ of the bars! Cats aren’t even supposed to like citrus. He got a good whack that day and maybe learned his lesson, because he didn’t bother the bars. I cooked them up and let them cool, glazed the top and let them harden. I cut a shamrock template out of a note card and made little powdered sugar shamrocks on top of each lemon bar. The Larimer Toffee Squares were easy and full of butter! A lot of the pecan toppings fell off the squares, so I saved them in a bowl as another sweet snack.
Now the fun part; a lime Manhattan. I poured a generous amount of whisky in a martini glass, added some ginger ale, lime juice and grenadine (you are usually suppose to use a cherry liqueur, but my wallet talked me out of it). I plopped a maraschino cherry in the bottom and garnished with a lime wedge. The whole point in making the martini was to get a picture while it was still light out but I hadn’t thought about what to do with it after that. Since Jeff had to go to work shortly, it fell on my shoulders to drink it….mustn’t waste! I took a shower and sat on the couch for an hour or two sipping my martini. After I had dolled myself up a bit, I went to the party. It took the help of Mike and Amanda to carry all the stuff I brought in. I was determined to get these sweets out of my life and never let them return.
To my dismay, the little powdered sugar Shamrocks I had spent so long on had melted into the glaze. Apparently the glaze has to be absolutely dry and then exposed to no heat. Oh bother! They were still delicious and Adam managed to find the outline of a Shamrock to show to everyone. The Larimer Toffee Squares were a huge hit! Aaron couldn’t stop eating them. The squares ran out by the end of the night but a few lemon bars remained. I abandoned the lemon bars in hope that someone one else would eat them. I spent the night at Mike and Amanda’s with two cats by my side, Max was sure jealous when I got home.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day and enjoy some whiskey for me!

Monday, March 15, 2010

No Bake Cheesecake, Red Wine-Rosemary Steak, and Cream Cheese Stuffed new Potatoes

On Saturday I cooked up a little dessert recipe to bring over to ‘Oscars girls night’ at Amanda's apartment. I made the No bake Cheesecake, brought to you by Mom. This recipe is EASY and tastes just like labor-intensive cheesecake. I went to the grocery store after a stiff cocktail at Mary’s 50th birthday party. I only needed a few ingredients and rushed to get them all, completely forgetting about the cheese samples. I realized this when I was already halfway home, and considered going back. I think that makes me an official fat kid if I drive back to the store for cheese cubes…so, I declined. I get home and take a nice long nap until 10pm (I know, don’t you wish your Saturday was this exciting?). I awake with energy and do the impossible: mix the ingredients (cool whip, sour cream, cream cheese, sugar and vanilla) and plop them into a readymade pie crust. As I wipe the sweat from my brow after this laborious venture, I put the cheesecake in the fridge and call it a night.
Fast forward to Sunday. Jennifer and I drive down to Broomfield to Amanda’s for our girl’s night. Amanda made some delicious food that is going to make the cut for the recipe book. First course: Limón cello blueberry martinis with a sprig of mint (added points for making a martini the first course). Second course: baguettes drizzled with olive oil and topped with a tomato, melted mozzarella chunks and basil, then drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette. Third Course: mixed greens salad with pecans, cranberries, blue cheese, and a raspberry vinaigrette. Fourth Course: fermented grapes left over from Jeff and my Valentine’s dinner. Fifth course: the No Bake Cheesecake topped with leftover Mybest fudge from last week, caramel and pecans….TURTLE! Oh yea and a side of cherry pie filling for good measure. We didn’t actually watch the Oscars, but chatted as girls do and spent a long time discussing workout routines (as we stuffed our faces full of yummyness).
Fast forward (well actually not that fast, days go by slow in the corporate world) to Tuesday night. Jeff has decided to make me dinner. He is a really good cook and the food he made was no exception. He looked up some recipes on and came up with an entrée and a side. He made a red wine and rosemary hanger steak (there was a little bit more to the recipe than that…bay leaves, onions and other vegetables/spices). Then the cru de gra….a recipe by the Southern Belle, Food Network star, butter loving temptress…Paula Deen; Cream cheese stuffed new Potatoes. So he cooked some little red potatoes and scooped a bowl out of the top of them. Then he mixed garlic and herb cheese, heavy whipping cream and butter and scooped it into the potatoes. Check the scale, cause I think you just gained 5 pounds reading this. As I enjoyed my steak and licked the melting butter off the side of the potatoes Max looked on in jealously that he too, could not be a human.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Green Chili Chicken Casserole and Cherry Pie Jello Salad

Sunday I made my Mom’s famous Green Chili Chicken Casserole; it is a mouthful to say and once you start eating it, you will probably have a mouthful as well. I also made Gretchen's Cherry Pie Jello Salad (which is a salad in the Midwestern sense….no veggies, more of a dessert). I once again coerced Jeff into coming to the grocery store with me. We had a long list of our staples we needed to get as well. I had a $5 coupon at Kings, so we went there. We are really getting good at this shopping thing. There is less back tracking and we know what brands we prefer (or else I sit there for 5 minutes reading nutrition and ingredient information).
To start I had about 4 cheese samples. They are the same samples every week so it’s not really a ‘sample’ anymore, but who’s counting? We had a little disagreement about where the rice cakes were…turns out Jeff was right (I insist it is the first time that he is right).
I was feeling better about cooking. I wasn’t so tired, it wasn’t so cold and I was excited to have some yummy food around the house. I was pumped to start right away, but first I was just going to lie down and watch TV with Jeff for an hour before he had to work. I got a pillow, got under a fuzzy blanket…(do you see where this is going?) Must not fall asleep…must cook!…But low and behold, Jeff left after an hour and I was asleep for most of the second and third period of the USA-Canada hockey game. I did wake up to see the USA tie the game, only to lose in overtime (IT WAS STRESSFUL!). I blew my motivation and didn’t make it off the couch for a while. I was just about ready to move, and a sneaky, cuddly, little kitten crawled up and plopped down right on my tummy and chest for a nap. How can I get up now! He even gave me a few kisses before he nodded off into dream land. I sit for a while, heaven forbid I disturb the kitty (this is the same kitty that will meow at the door or knock over water or chew on my lamp at 6am when he is ready for me to be up on a Sunday morning!). I think God made kittens so cute so we wouldn’t kill them!
I started on the Cherry Pie Jello Salad only to realize the bottom layer needs to set for 4 hours or overnight before I make the top layer. Oh well, I will finish Monday after work. I started cooking the Green Chili Chicken Casserole by boiling two chicken breasts as careful as I can without letting the chicken get near any exposed skin. I add onions, garlic, cream of chicken soup (what a Midwestern surprise), cream of celery soup, and chicken broth to make the sauce. Once everything was cooked, I layered sauce, corn tortilla pieces and cheese in a 9x13’’ dish (I have one now thanks to my Mom!). The recipe only calls for 2 cups of cheese, so I bought a 4 cup bag to have leftovers for the week…that didn’t exactly pan out. I finished my layers, and to my dismay the bag was empty. Extra cheese never hurt anybody! Once complete, I put it in the oven for 40 mins, sat down and enjoyed a glass of good tequila while I watched the boring closing ceremonies. I ended the night with a long bubble bath and went to sleep happy.
Monday after work, I set out to complete the Cherry Pie Jello Salad. I mixed up cream cheese, cool whip and crushed pineapple. The crushed pineapple was a bit of a crisis! I accidently bought chunked pineapple instead of crushed pineapple, which would lead to large chunks dispersed uneven amongst the cream. I tried to blend the chunks…which just settled into the bottom of the blender and didn’t chop. Dang it! Why can’t cooking just be easy! I added a bit of water and was able to blend it a bit better, drain the water and mix it in. Success! I had a ‘Foodo’ Shoot to get some great food pictures for the recipe book and share my creation with Jeff and Dan.