January 29, 2011

Hot and Sour Soup

Dwight  She introduced me to so many things:  Pasteurized milk, Sheetz, monotheism.  Presents on your birthday, preventative medicine.  
Phyllis   It's nice to learn new things.
Dwight   I was talking to myself.
 Phyllis   Okay.

I'm sorry, but I just love that.  Watching The Office is becoming like a security blanket for me.  I watch episodes of it for hours on end when Scott's not home.  

Scott also introduced me to new things.  Like sushi and miso soup.  While this isn't miso soup exactly, it is quite similar.  Since I'm sick, I'm really just after the broth here, but all of it is good. 

Hot and Sour Soup (in the slow-cooker from A Year of Slow Cooking)
1 cup of cubed firm tofu
2 cups of chicken broth
2 cups of water
1 package of sliced mushrooms
1/2 can of bamboo shoots (this was plenty for me and I even chopped them up a bit)
2 T. soy sauce
2 T. rice vinegar
1 teaspoon of sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes (I didn't have these because I'm one of those people who refuses to scan the cupboards before going to the store.  So I used some chili powder.)
green onions for garnish

Combine all ingredients in the slow-cooker and cook for 4 hours on high or 6 hours on low. 

Beef Stroganoff

This is one of the first meals that Scott made for me when we were dating.  It was so good!  So good, in fact, that he still refers to it whenever I make stroganoff.  However, every time I make it, it seems that it needs more flavor or something.  (Scott hasn't made it since that first time, in case you were wondering.)  But this is pretty close to perfect.  My only recommendation is make sure the sauce is either really thick before you add the sour cream or don't add so much sour cream.  It thins out the sauce.

Beef Stroganoff
1 pound of thinly sliced flank steak
1 package of sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup chopped onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 can beef broth
1 T. butter
1 T. flour
1/2 cup sour cream (I use light)
1 T. Grey Poupon
1/2 t. freshly grated nutmeg
Hot cooked egg noodles

Salt and pepper the slices of steak and cook them in a deep frying pan in a bit of olive oil.  After about 5 minutes, add the onions and garlic.  After another 3-5 minutes, add the mushrooms, sprinkle in some salt, turn down the heat, and put a lid on it.  When the mushrooms are good and wilted, pour everything from the pan onto a plate and keep warm.

Back in the frying pan, melt the butter, add the flour, and cook for 2 minutes.  Add the Grey Poupon and nutmeg, and then all but 3 T. of the beef broth. Whisk everything in the pan and let it simmer, come to a boil, and thicken up.  Whisk that extra 3 T. of beef broth with about 2 teaspoons of cornstarch in a small bowl.  Slowly stir it into the pan.  Add the steak and mushroom mixture back to the pan and let it cook together for a few minutes.

Turn the heat off and swirl in the sour cream.
Pour over the egg noodles.

January 28, 2011

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

Holy cow, you need to read this book!  I bought it last weekend as part of my (slow) attempt to read some Newberys.  It was the winner for 2010, meaning it was published in 2009.  I started it last night and, because of this annoying head cold thing I have going on, was reading it at 2am.  I finished it around 6am because I did go back to sleep for a few hours.  It was a school night after all. 

This draws a lot of inspiration from A Wrinkle in Time (another Newbery winner that I'm bit embarrassed to admit I never finished).  It says the age range is 8-12, and I don't know about that.  Maybe it was my exhausted state, but I had to re-review the details of the story a lot as I was reading.  The chapters are short and even the most simplistic of details will end up being important.

January 23, 2011

Peppermint Brownies

I was never a fan of anything peppermint.  Peppermint gum, candy canes, etc.  However, I was at an Army party in December and the catering company was serving peppermint brownies.  While the meal itself wasn't very good (I can voice my opinion, right? Everyone is entitled to one.), the peppermint brownie was AMAZING.  I was still thinking about it days later.

I found this rather involved recipe for layered peppermint brownies on Our Best Bites, but I didn't feel like going that in-depth with it.  It took me an entire month to track down peppermint extract.  I'm serious.  No one had it (When I say "no one", I mean the commissary and Wal-Mart.  I try my best to stay out of Carr's and Fred Meyer.  They're in the business of ripping people off.)

So this is what I came up with.

Peppermint Brownies
1 10.25 oz package of brownie mix
1 egg
1/3 cup canola oil
2 T. water
1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 drop of peppermint extract

Mix together and pour into a greased 8" cake pan.  This is what I do for us.  Of course, use a 9x13 pan and regular sized mix if more than 4 people are going to be sharing these brownies.

Bake for about 20 minutes.

1 cup chocolate chips
3 T. butter
1 drop peppermint extract

To make it pretty:  3 crushed candy canes

Melt the chocolate chips and butter together in the microwave.  Stir until smooth and then stir in the extract.  Pour over the brownies while still warm and top with candy canes.

Give it a few hours to set up.  They actually taste better the next day.

If I was planning on making these again soon, I would substitute the homemade glaze with this:
It's so much better than you would think.

January 22, 2011

Blog-Hopping (leads to complete frustration)

I'm guilty of it.  It's been a long week and sometimes the best way to relax in preparation for the weekend is to mindlessly scroll through the internet.  I already know what new recipes I'm going to try this weekend, so I moved onto military wife blogs.  Just for kicks.

Tonight I came across the blog of a girl who was flabbergasted (my word, not hers) because a branch of the military that is not used to long deployments was asking a member of this branch to deploy for one year.  I, on the other hand, was FLABBERGASTED at her shocked reaction to how unjust the situation apparently is.  The only thing better than her reaction were the comments of others.  To paraphrase, I think the general consensus was that missing birthdays, holidays, and anniversaries was unfair and no one should ever have to go through such an ordeal.  And I should add that I gathered from the blog post that this deployment is not even necessarily to a war zone.  It could be Europe or a beach in Asia.

I'm assuming that these particular people have never watched the news.  Haven't they heard of the thousands of soldiers that did 15-18 months in Iraq and Afghanistan?  Or the THOUSANDS of soldiers that today are in the midst of serving a year in Iraq or Afghanistan?  Honestly, I wish that I could, with good conscience, post that link here.  I kind of want to laugh AT their ignorance and cry FOR their ignorance at the same time. 

January 18, 2011

Incredibly Easy Pot Roast and Crash Hot Potatoes

I've been meaning to try a pot roast for awhile.  My new slow-cooker provided me with the opportunity.  I didn't put any vegetables in it because I had to go to the airport to pick up Scott in the last two hours of cooking time.  However, the recipe on Mommy's Kitchen explains how to cook the vegetables.  Maybe next time.  I did make Crash Hot Potatoes to go with the pot roast and I highly recommend them.  Everything that the Pioneer Woman cooks looks amazing though, so check out the site.

Pot Roast
One 2-3 pound beef chuck roast
1 can of cream of mushroom soup
1 packet dry onion soup mix

In a frying pan on the stove, heat 2 T. of olive oil and sear the sides of the roast for 3-5 minutes each.  Place in the slow-cooker and pour the soup and dry soup mix over the roast.  Cover and cook on low for 6 hours.  Stir the gravy at about the 2 hour mark.  It does make its own gravy, which is really convenient.

January 15, 2011

Newbery Books

There's something about books....

...that will make me order from a 4th grade book order when the kids don't want to order anything.

This is the book that  came in the mail yesterday.  I was pretty excited.

The Newbery Medal was awarded this week.  One book was given the Medal and three runners-up are Newbery Honor Books.  For "the most distinguished contribution to children's literature last year".  As I explain it to the children, "Out of allllllll the books that were written in one whole year, only ONE gets this medal.  That means you should read it because it's probably really really good!"

I think I'll be going to buy this year's winners tomorrow or Monday (found here).  A highly aspirational goal that I have set for myself is to read all of the Newbery winners (and the honor books).  I have a lot of them but haven't read them all.  As I said before, my official position is that books for adults are overrated.

Birthday presents....that I bought for myself

Who wants to buy their own birthday presents....???  I don't enjoy it at all.  I like surprises.
But, regardless, I bought the Sketchers before Christmas and called them a birthday present.  I now own TWO pairs of shoes that aren't boots or sandals. Also, the Little Dipper.  It's so cute. 

Then, I took some Christmas money and bought another pair of boots.

On this weekend's agenda:  I believe I will get around to buying Season 6 of The OfficeOver the last week, I have made my way through all of the other seasons.  So many memories.  Watching The Office makes me horribly homesick.   And the ridiculous part is that I know it's filmed in California!  Still, they do such a good job of making it seem like it's Pennsylvania.  Sigh.

January 9, 2011

Pizza Fondue

Imagine the best breadstick you've ever had, dipped into the best pizza sauce ever.  That's what this tastes like.  I ate the whole bowl by myself.  (Although, I must confess that after losing patience with the not-so-quick heating ability of the Little Dipper I threw it all in the microwave and then put it back in the Little Dipper to keep it warm while I ate it all.)  It came from A Year of Slow Cooking.

Pizza Fondue
1 cup of spaghetti sauce
1 cup of shredded cheese (I used mostly mozzarella and a sprinkle of cheddar)
a dash of each:  garlic powder, onion powder, basil, oregano, and parsley
10 pieces of pepperoni, diced

Combine all in the Little Dipper (or use my speedy microwave method and finish in the Little Dipper).  Plug it in and let heat for an hour or so.
For the bread.  I used the Garlic Parmesan loaf from the bakery section.  Cut it into large crouton-sized pieces.  Brush with olive oil and broil until golden brown on each side.




Something is lacking.
  I think it's the sense of adventure or wanderlust.  
The ability to "go" when one wants to go.  

You might say, "Wow that's crazy, Alaska is full of adventure".  

Yes, I'm sure it is.  

But that kind of adventure isn't for everyone. 
My version of adventure and Alaska's version don't really mesh.
  (did I really just officially put that into writing???)

I'm seeking road trips, 

new cities, 


amusement parks,
new restaurants,
new scenery.

Yes, I have this.

and this

and this

and pretty sure this is pretty famous

and this is actually a neat picture

and MOST IMPORTANTLY, I have this in Alaska

But still.  If I could replace those snow-capped mountains and pine trees with
some palm trees and humidity, my mental health would be far better off.

January 8, 2011

Sweet Potato Fries

Let me preface this by saying that I DO know the difference between sweet potatoes and yams. 

But when I decided to create Sweet Potato Fries from Our Best Bites, it said "sweet potatoes" on the ingredients list.  Though the picture showed the "sweet potatoes" as orange, I mentally bypassed that.  I wrote sweet potatoes on my shopping list and then made a beeline for the sign that said Sweet Potatoes in the produce section.

When I decided to make the fries a few days later, I cut into one of the potatoes I bought.  It was white.  I actually set down the knife and thought, "Shoot!  What have I done?" (...like a white potato isn't edible or something).  Trust me when I say that I actually went so far as to lick to the inside of the potato, just to make sure of its origins.  It was sweet.  Much sweeter than a yam (ahhh, yes, I now realized my mistake!). 

So I made Sweet Potato Fries with actual sweet potatoes!  No, they don't look like what you get in a restaurant and they aren't necessarily as pretty, but they TASTE BETTER.  Try it.  They look like regular french fries but the sweetness combined with the spices and the salt is amazing.

A few days later, I tried the same recipe with yams.  They were prettier, but weren't quite as good.  I recommend actual sweet potatoes.

Sweet Potato Fries
2 large sweet potatoes
3-4 T olive oil
1/2 t. cumin
1/2 t. onion powder
1/2 t. oregano
1/2 t. garlic powder
1/2 t. parsley
Salt, for after baking

Cut the sweet potatoes into matchsticks/julienne them.  They all need to be the same size.  In a small mixing bowling, combine the oil and the spices.  Toss in the pieces of potato and make sure each is coated with the mixture.  Spread the pieces onto a cookie sheet.  Be sure they aren't touching.  If the pieces are touching, they'll steam instead of oven-fry and will end up being mushy.   Bake at 425 degrees for about 10 minutes.  Flip them with a spatula and bake for another 5 minutes or so.  Adjust the time depending on how thick your slices are.  Thicker or bigger slices will need to bake longer.  Sprinkle with salt as soon as they come out and eat immediately!  They are crunchy, salty, and sweet at the same time (as well as good for you!).

January 2, 2011

Banana Smoothie

I don't have a picture, but I'm sure everyone knows what a smoothie looks like.  This one is sugar-free if you don't count the yogurt (and I don't, because I mean, come on, it's yogurt).  Originally I believe this was a Weight Watchers recipe.  I like the yogurt in it, but some Cool Whip (not the stuff in a can) is good too.  I use this as a substitution when I have an ice cream craving and don't want to go to the store.  This is a great way to use up bananas when you don't feel like putting the effort into baking.  The only downside is that you have to clean the blender afterward.  I don't like to clean the blender.

Banana Smoothie

2 bananas
1 cup vanilla yogurt
1 packet Splenda (or you could use a bit of sugar)
1/4 cup (or so) skim milk
1 t. vanilla
8 ice cubes

Break the bananas into pieces and throw them into the blender.  Add yogurt, Splenda, milk, and vanilla and blend until smooth.  Then add the ice and blend until it's smooth again.  This is enough for 2 people.