Thursday, July 31, 2008

In-Law Inspiration

This summer when we were in Minnesota, my sister-in-law made a really good pasta salad with pepperoni and cheddar cheese.  I've been thinking about making a pasta salad ever since.  At first I thought I would just try to copy hers, but I ended up using ham instead of pepperoni, provolone cheese instead of cheddar, and I added some broccoli in an attempt to add some vegetables to our dinner plate.  Brett was not happy about the broccoli (who am I kidding... I wasn't either.)

The other bit of inspiration for this meal was a seasoning that my mother-in-law gave me for Christmas and I hadn't used yet.  It is called "Garden Salad" from Penzeys Spices and it turned out to be really good.  It has dehydrated Romano cheese, poppy seeds, and chives (among other things.)  I just drizzled the pasta salad with olive oil, put a squeeze of lemon, and a couple of spoonfuls of seasoning and it was done!  The only thing that would have made it better was if the pasta had been a little cooler.  I did give it a quick rinse with cold water, but it was still too warm for the provolone because it instantly melted and became clumps instead of slices.  Other than that it was yummy and I think we'll be adding that to our dinner repertoire.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Lemon Icebox Pie

Yesterday was my grandma's 80th birthday and since I couldn't be in Arkansas to celebrate with her, I decided to make one of her recipes in her honor.  I've made her lemon icebox pie before (I think it's the same as lemon meringue but I'm not sure) and it's a great summertime pie.  Happy Birthday Mamma!

I wanted to challenge myself a little so I opted to make my own crust instead of buying one.  The recipe calls for graham cracker crust, but as a lover of Nilla wafers, I decided to try that.  Also what makes that even better is that my grandma makes banana pudding a lot with the Nilla wafers, so that reminds me of her too.  Brett's Taste of Home Baking Book had the formula for various cookie crusts so I used that as my reference.  The crust turned out great, although I think it was thicker in some parts than others.
The filling is very easy.  1 tsp of lemon zest, 1/2 a cup of lemon juice, a can of Eagle Brand, and 2 egg yolks all stirred together.  This time it didn't seem as yellow as I remember, but it still tasted delicious.

The meringue is pretty fun to make.  You just whip up the remaining 2 egg whites with 1/4 tsp of cream of tartar and gradually add 4 Tablespoons of sugar when it starts to thicken up.  When it gets peaky, you just flop it on top of the pie and spread it around.  Then you are supposed to bake it at 325 degrees until the top browns which ended up being about 30 min for me.

Yummy Yummy!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Vacation Craving

We've been making all old favorites since returning from vacation so there has not been anything new and exciting yet.  Maybe this weekend...

Meanwhile, I thought I would share with you all the interesting craving I experienced throughout most of our trip...SALSA!!!!  Who would think that about a week after leaving San Diego (where the salsa flows like wine:)) that I could only think about salsa?!  I was dreaming about it!  In one dream I had two big margarita glasses full of salsa that I think I had stolen.  I can't remember the other salsa dream I had, only that there was another one. 

In Columbus, OH the craving could go on no longer.  I had to have Mexican food.  Unfortunately, the only "Mexican" food nearby was Taco Bell.  After some searching we did find a place called 7 Regiones.  When we got there we thought about leaving because this place was SUPER authentic.  We're talking no English and telenovelas on the T.V.  When I asked for chips and salsa, we got bean dip and when I asked for enchiladas rojas, I got mole.  It was good, just not what I wanted.  So needless to say the craving was not all.

My craving had to wait until New York City.  Upon being asked what I was in the mood for I promptly said, "Mexican!" and we found a little place in Hell's Kitchen called Cafe Azteca.  They had chips and salsa and I got a guacamole taco that was delicious!  That worked for a while, but salsa was always in the back of my brain.

Since we've been home I've had a quesadilla and salsa for almost every lunch.  I can't wait for an occasion to go to El Torito where (I'm convinced) they have the best salsa in the world!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

I'm Back!

We have traveled all over the country for the past 38 days and have seen just about everything there is to see in the United States (that we hadn’t already seen.) We have had some hiking adventures, some snowy weather (IN JUNE!) and lots and lots of sightseeing. I’ve included a few pictures from our trip.

Bryce Canyon in Utah was GORGEOUS and they have great hiking there!  I highly recommend it, especially for you southern California folks. It's just a day's drive away!

Yellowstone National Park was a really great experience.  There are tons of bison and elk and if you are lucky you may spot other wildlife.  The scenery is beautiful, the geothermal activity is probably unlike anything you've ever seen, and the hiking was great too.  I also highly recommend going there.

Here is a picture of me on the "Maid of the Mist" boat at Niagara Falls.  I know the poncho looks ridiculous, but you'd get soaked if you didn't wear it!  One day was all we needed at the falls, and we had a really fun time.

On our trip we ate a lot of food and the most complicated thing I made the entire time was a graham cracker with peanut butter and m&ms. Restaurants and snacky foods get tiring after a while, so I have been very excited to get home and cook for myself. We did, however have some memorable dining experiences along the way, so I thought I would share a few of them with you.

Surprisingly the overall most satisfying meal I had was in Butte, Montana at Perkins Restaurant. For those of you who know Perkins, you are probably rolling your eyes, and those of you who don’t know it, well it’s kind of a truck stoppish place a little like Coco’s or Marie Callendars. Anyways, I was STARVING and ordered exactly what was on the cover of their menu: turkey slices with sage stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, and green beans. I even got pumpkin pie for dessert that was topped, to my utter astonishment, with Cool Whip! I love Cool Whip! I ate every bite and could not have been happier. 

The most entertaining meal of the trip was in Seattle, Washington at a restaurant called 13 Coins. It is described as a diner-style restaurant, but I think this is misleading. It’s actually quite nice. The only diner-esque aspect of it is that there is counter seating. At the counter, you sit in high backed leather swivel chairs and you are practically in the kitchen with the chefs. We had an amazing time watching them at work. I couldn’t get over how fast they worked and how many different things they worked on at once. I also thought it was funny that they had a giant drawer full of mostly cooked spaghetti that they would put in boiling water for just a few minutes before serving. It was so exciting to watch! 

The best dessert we had on the trip was in Boston, Massachusetts at a pub/restaurant called Elephant and Castle. We got bread pudding that was absolutely delicious! When I’ve had bread pudding before it has been obvious that there are many pieces of torn up bread. Not so with Elephant and Castle’s bread pudding. It was as if it were all one giant piece of warm, mushy, sweet bread with the most wonderful texture. Their sauce was amazing too. I’m going to attempt a bread pudding sometime this summer, but I know that there will be no comparison.

Needless to say that after that long on the road, we are glad to be home, and I am glad to be rejoining the blogging universe!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Chicken with Cashews

Here is another chicken dish that we enjoy. (Yes, we do eat a lot of chicken.)

In a medium size bowl, combine 1 egg white, 1 teaspoon cornstarch, 1 teaspoon soy sauce, and a dash of white pepper. Add uncooked chicken that has been cut into strips. Stir and then refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Next, cut 1 green bell pepper into 3/4 inch pieces and set aside. Cut 1 white onion into eight pieces (I cut it into 16 pieces) and set aside. Cut contents of 1 can (8 1/2 ounces) of sliced, drained bamboo shoots into 1/2 inch pieces and set aside. Mince gingerroot to make 1 teaspoon. Mix together 1 tablespoon cornstarch, 1 tablespoon water and 1 tablespoon soy sauce. Set aside.

Heat wok, then add 2 tablespoons vegetable oil. Add chicken and stir-fry until chicken turns white. Remove chicken from wok.

Now add onion pieces and ginger root (I sometimes just use ground ginger). Stir-fry until gingerroot is light and brown. Stir in bamboo shoots. Add 2 tablespoons vegetable oil. Then add chicken, green bell pepper, 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce, 1 tablespoon soy sauce that has been mixed with 1/2 teaspoon dried chili pepper. (If you like it spicier, add 1 teaspoon instead.) Stir-fry for 1 minute. Stir in 1/4 cup chicken broth and heat to boiling. Stir in cornstarch mixture and cook and stir until thickened, about 20 seconds. Stir in 2 tablespoons chopped green onion and cashews in desired amount. Serve over chinese white rice.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Chinese Chicken Salad

This is another easy summer salad and one of our favorites. Start out with lettuce (any kind or mixture will do). Then layer in the order given: chopped chicken breasts, fresh mushrooms, bean sprouts, water chestnuts, mandarin oranges (I prefer fresh oranges.) chopped green onions, sliced almonds and crunchy chow mein noodles. Top off with any Asian salad dressing. ( I like Good Seasons Asian Sesame with Ginger dressing.) You can make individual salads (that's what I do) or make one big salad to share.