Monday, October 3, 2011

Cooking 101

Since I made the proclamation a month ago about my resolution to cook more, I thought I should at least share some of the successes (and epic failures) I have had these past 30 days.  It is also important to note that I am no chef, all of the recipes come from websites and/or cookbooks that deserve much more credit than I could give them, and I am still not used to taking pictures of my food (children, yes; dinner, still seems weird), so I wish I had more of the evidence to share. 

I’ll start things on a positive note – pot sticker burgers.  I picked this up from a blog that one of my friends (thanks, Mary!) suggested I read called Iowa Girl Eats.  On my first visit to this great blog, I came across this recipe for pot sticker burgers.  Very good (if you are a pot sticker fan) and very easy (if you know how to use a grill, which I do not; thankfully Will loves to grill). 

For some much more professional-looking pictures, please visit the recipe link.  But in reality, this is what they look like - and they are GOOD.

We ate these with grilled pineapple and beer.  My only regret was that the recipe only made four burgers – next time I am definitely doubling it.

I was feeling a bit cheeky after my burger triumph (and few other minor meal victories) that I thought I would branch out into the uber-healthy arena of kale chips.  I had seen pictures of my friends’ children on Facebook happily chomping down on these delicacies and thought to myself, “I can do that,” coupled with a tinge of guilt and jealousy that F&G aren’t exposed to nearly enough different kinds of foods (“what’s wrong with me?  I’m at home fulltime now.  I should be making kale chips, darn it!”).  I found a recipe online that seemed easy and quick.  Kale leaves, olive oil, sea salt into a 400-ish degree oven for 10-ish minutes:

It all started so pretty:

Can you see the reflection of me giving myself a high five, mother-of-the-year pat on the back?  No?  It’s there, I promise.

And they came out looking like this:

Frances didn’t want to go near them.  Will wouldn’t even touch them.  So, I ate all of the kale “chips” (which were really just roasted kale with sea salt) myself.  They tasted good, but looked like….well, poo.

My bruised ego and I moved on to an old standby recipe that I’ve made several times in the past and is very difficult to mess up – four cheese roasted vegetables:

This recipe comes from one of my most loved cookbooks:
My church growing up (and where Will and I were married!).

I’ve changed a couple of things from the original recipe and next time I think I’ll change it again, but here it is in its original form:

Four Cheese Roasted Vegetables
2 medium white potatoes
2 medium sweet potatoes
1 T olive oil
1 tsp each basil and oregano
¼ tsp each salt and pepper
1 large zucchini, cut into ½-inch pieces
1 large red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups Sargent’s 4-cheese casserole blend
Fresh basil for garnish (optional)

Place potatoes in a 13x9 inch baking dish; drizzle with olive oil; sprinkle with basil, oregano, salt and pepper.  Toss lightly to coat.  Bake at 425° for 20 minutes.  Add zucchini, red pepper and garlic; stir; return to oven and bake for 20 minutes or until vegetables are tender.  Sprinkle with cheese and return to oven for 2 minutes or until cheese is melted.  Garnish and serve!

YUM!  What changes am I going to try next time?  No white potatoes (neither Will nor I are big fans anyway), one more zucchini and one more red pepper.  Otherwise the seasoning is perfect.

And in honor of this perfect sweater weather we are having here in Virginia (although I could stand for a little less rain), I wanted to pass on this sinfully easy recipe I just tried last week for pumpkin spice cookies.  I picked this up from the comments to a blog that I read as often as I can – Clover Lane.  I don’t usually read the comments to a blog post (I’m doing well if I can squeeze in enough time for the post itself), but she had written a very good article on preschool (something I’ve been struggling with for a few weeks now) and I found myself wanting to hear what her other readers were thinking.  One of them left this recipe:
Pumpkin Spice Cookies
One can of pumpkin
One box of spice cake mix
3-4 handfuls of chocolate chips (or more!  I used about ½ of a normal sized bag)

Mix together well.  Drop spoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet.  Bake at 350° for about 15 minutes:

They may not look so pretty, but they are ridiculously good.  The cake mix keeps them soft for days afterwards (if you can keep them in the house that long) and (shocker) Frances loved them!

So, on that high note I am off to make more cookies since that is definitely a no-fail recipe and since Frances’s mother also loved them so much she inhaled the remaining 5 after the kids had gone to bed last night.

Happy Monday everyone!

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