cooking


I have big plans for this year. I want to garden, I want to turn our house into a home, and I want to expand my culinary horizons. Therefore, I have 100 dishes I would like to master. I say master because there are some on here that I have done before but there is room for improvement.

1. Beer Bread
2. Home Made Pasta Sauce
3. Home Made Salsa
4. Stuffed Pasta Shells
5. Crab Rangoon
6. Gyros
7. Live Lobster
8. Rack of Lamb
9. Home Made Stuffing
10. Pita Bread
11. Italian Bread
12. Home Made Stromboli
13. Wine
14. Beer
15. Sangria
16. Beer Battered Zucchini
17. Home Made Perogies
18. Home Made Ravioli
19. Guacamole
20. Fried Green Tomatoes
21. Chili
22. Cheese Fondue
23. Cornish Hen
24. Pasta Salad
25. Potato Salad
26. Beer Battered Fish
27. Mexican Tortilla Soup
28. Chicken Salad
29. Banana Bread
30. Chicken Enchiladas
31. Egg Salad
32. Gumbo
33. Clam Chowder
34. Buffalo Chicken Pizza
35. Fried Calamari
36. Tuna Noodle Casserole
37. Tater Tot Casserole
38. Onion rings
39. Vegetable Beef Soup
40. Potato Skins
41. Chicken Pot Pie
42. Bread Salad
43. Spinach Pie
44. Red Wine Vinaigrette
45. Home Made Mac and Cheese
46. Banana Cream Pie
47. Chicken Noodle Soup
48. Irish Stew
49. Pad Thai
50. General Tso Chicken
51. Apple Pie
52. Cheesecake
53. Eggs Benedict
54. Coffee Cake
55. Potato Pancakes
56. Chicken Stock
57. Sweet and Sour Chicken
58. Artos Greek Celebration Bread
59. Greek Pizza
60. Sorbet
61. Lentil Soup
62. Pepper Jelly
63. Pot Roast
64. Jello Pretzel Salad
65. Stuffed Grape Leaves
66. Hummus
67. Bagels
68. Peanut Brittle
69. Coconut Fried Shrimp
70. Lettuce Wraps
71. Jam
72. Bacon Vodka
73. Vanilla Extract
74. Irish coffee
75. Ceder Grilled Salmon
76. Quesadillas
77. Au Gratin Potatoes
78. Corn Casserole
79. Zucchini Cake
80. Stuffed Tomatoes
81. Sesame Noodles
82. French Onion Soup
83. Pico de Gallo
84. Cheddar Biscuits
85. Crash hot potatoes
86. The Perfect Burger
87. Baked Stuffed Clams
88. Pesto
89. Chicken Alfredo
90. Penne alla Vodka
91. Sesame Tofu Stir Fry
92. Crab Cakes
93. Fudge
94. Shrimp Scampi
95. Butternut Squash Risotto
96. Roast Duck
97. Perfect Ribs
98. Bruschetta
99. Chicken Cordon Bleu
100. Baked Beans

Whew! Like I said, there’s a few on here that I actually have made in the past, but I either want to improve on what I cooked before or I failed miserably the first time around (I’m looking at you, cheese fondue). Something else I’m looking forward to…using all my fresh garden veggies!

I think we are in for a delicious year!

I officially worked 53.5 hours this week. I’ve technically been in the building 55 hours, since there where a few half-hour lunches. I’m a little exhausted, a little delirious, but a whole lot of proud. It’s no secret that I would rather get a root canal than come to work 99.9% of the time, but I feel like I helped out when we’re busy, ergo helping the co-workers that I like, and am also that much closer to a house, because, well, that’s a whole lot of time and a half.

Today I’m working 1-10, so I joked with my husband that I was excited for a “short” day. I’ve been working 11am to 12am most of the week. I keep myself occupied looking for houses and writing for Nano, so I still have a firm grip on my sanity.

Speaking of Nano, I blew past the halfway point of 25k words! I can’t even begin to describe the feeling of that sort of accomplishment, I never thought I would actually push myself to hit that point, but I have some amazing support along the writing process, and I’m even beginning to talk about my characters and discuss their background story as though they’re real people….which is either a good thing or a bad thing, I haven’t quite decided yet. 🙂 I do know though that I will finish Nano and I will win. Right now I’m basically pounding out the frame of the story, the minor and major plot pieces, and then I’ll go back in December and flesh it out. One major surprise with this entire process is that the story just flows as I write. I’ve long since tossed my original outline in the fire and haven’t looked back. My characters are suddenly in charge of the story, and I’m simply giving them a voice. I’m immensely proud of how far I come, and once the story is written I want to have the editing done by the time I’m 23 (which lands on the end of January).

As promised, I would also like to share with you my new favorite food, the panini.

Panini!I call this my “grown up” BLT, minus the L, haha. I have found that instead of using butter on the outside of the bread to keep it from sticking to the hot plates, using pam is a fat-free and crispier alternative! I used butter flavored Pam and it was basically amazing. This sandwich consists of lite mayo, bacon, tomato, fresh mozzarella cheese, and onion. I’ve also made steak sandwiches with french fries, ham and cheese, and tuna, all turned out amazing. The thing about the panini maker is that it seriously makes the sandwich look and taste like you bought it somewhere like Panera Bread, even hubby agrees. I’ve had a panini every single day this week and am not sick of them because every one can be different, but the easy prep and quick time is always the same. Love, Love, Love!

My panini maker is my new favorite wedding gift. My favorite changes from day to day, but the panini maker is winning for the third day in a row.

What an amazing little device! I’ve been experimenting with different sandwiches every day now, and am absolutely in love! I have been working 13 hour days at work, and I just throw together a couple sandwiches in the panini maker to eat throughout the long (very long) day. Warm or cold they’re still pretty amazing!

I made some delicious wedding soup in our crock pot on Monday as well. I think I did over do it with the veggies, as it smelled like wedding soup, but definitely tasted more like veggie or chicken noodle. Still good though! It is most definitely soup season, which while I hate the cold, nothing is better than being warm and cozy on a cold day. Eat a little soup, drink some hot chocolate or hot cider (rum optional!) and you have a happy girl right here 🙂

I’m adding a new little section to my side links on the right. I’ve stumbled across so many fantastic cooking blogs that I need to have them in one place, and certainly need to share. My latest discovery? A Year of Slow Cooking. Slow cooker recipes! And a lot, I might add. I like cooking blogs because these are real people, usually mothers or other busy people who don’t have the time (like me) to put together a gourmet meal. I like cooking, but I simply don’t have the time to hang out the kitchen for a couple hours every night, so ta da! Easy recipes for all!

About 4.5 hours left of my 12-hour day and I’m still awake. I consider that a win today 😉

The house hunt continues. Wednesday our Realtor took us to a house that Justin and I both loved, which has not happened yet on our adventure. Unfortunately it was also about $15,000 over our price range and exactly $34,000 over our comfort zone. It just went on the market a couple weeks ago, so we’ll keep it in the back of our minds and continue to look. If it is still on the market in a couple months then we’ll see if the price drops or possibly low-ball the sellers. It’s an estate so it could really go either way. In any case, it really set a standard, and I hope we can find something else just as great!

Finding that house has also really lit a fire under my ass. I have been working like crazy and will continue to do so in the coming months. We’re at that point where we’re so close we can taste it, but we just have to find something that meets all our criteria. Patience has never been a strong characteristic of mine, but this is something so monumental that I just don’t want to settle for anything short of what we both love.

I guess that will be it for houses until I have some more concrete news. I have other things to amuse me this month (like my 50 hour work week next week, ha) Nano is coming along splendidly, I’m still about 10k words over where I need to be at this point. And notice the cute widget I added to the right there? It’ll keep you updated. ha.

I am currently three hours into my 10 hour work day. Like I mentioned before, Next week I volunteered (ick, I know) to basically work 50 hours. 10 hours of glorious time and a half over time though, and we just got our yearly raises, so I really can’t complain too much…until later next week anyway. Justin also picked up a little over time, in the form of 8am to 12am on Friday. He can pound it all out at once though, I on the other hand would probably hurt someone.

So as I’m rearranging my schedule and biting my nails at the thought of spending so much time at a place I am not incredibly found of, I got to thinking what might make the work onslaught a little easier. First thing that came to mind? Chocolate chip cookies. Random, yes, but also an excellent idea. Another idea was to break out the Panini maker that we got as a wedding gift that I’ve been itching to try out and stray away from the boring ham and cheese sandwiches Justin eats every single day (I usually go hungry because I’m lazy) and try some fancy sandwiches to keep us entertained throughout the impending week. As of right now I’ve added about 10 Panini sandwiches to my Recipe archive and still going strong. One website I found in my searches is absolutely amazing, Panini Happy. I highly recommend that site, and will definitely be using some of her amazing recipes this week!

I hope that some creative adventures in the kitchen will distract me enough from the workload for next week, and I truly hope hubby isn’t going to get sick of my creative adventures. Truth be told, he’s not quite as into my….creativity sometimes. I know once or twice (or, you know, a dozen) times I’ve made something for the two of us and he grins and bears it. He truly is a very supportive man, so I hope to impress him as well as fulfill my domestic duty to keep him full and content with some yummy sandwiches!

As long as life doesn’t get the best of me, I’ll try to take some pictures to share throughout next week, we shall see!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m not a baker. It’s not even that I don’t bake, I don’t even like to bake. I take after my maternal grandmother, I love to cook and I love to experiment with different dishes, but with baking it’s just too much like math and science. Bleah!

That said, I have a wedding coming up. For some crazy reason it’s kind of a tradition around these western PA parts. People expect their cookies. Being the glutton for punishment that I certainly am, I, along with my future mother and sister in law and my own mother, and baking all the cookies.

Justin’s mom is the opposite of me. Justin’s dad is a picky eater, so she doesn’t get to experiment with cooking, while with sweets it has always been game on growing up in a house of Justin, his father, and his older brother. She’s an excellent baker, but I wouldn’t feel right leaving her to bake 50 dozen cookies.

So my tremulous journey might as well be documented for all the world to see. I figure if I can make a successful batch of cookies then anyone can. Seriously, trust me on that one.

So here we go! My first attempt at something other than chocolate chip cookies: White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies. I found this recipe on one of the food blogs I like, Good Things Catered. I really didn’t stray from this recipe at all except I doubled it and added a tiny bit more white chocolate chips and macadamia nuts. I didn’t this it would matter that much since they are the “solid” things in the cookies that don’t really change at all. Of course, this reasoning may be why I cannot bake 😉

Ingredients:
2 C. plus 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
12 Tbsp (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted & cooled until warm (I used half butter, half butter flavored Crisco. I can’t remember where I picked this tip up from. What? I didn’t say these were healthy cookies, it’s a wedding for Pete’s sake! 😉)
1 C. brown sugar, packed
1/2 C. granulated sugar
1 large egg plus 1 yolk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 C. white chocolate chips (I added more, basically to use the bag up…and I love white chocolate)
1/2 C. macadamia nuts, halved (same as with the chocolate chips, haha)

Directions:
1. Adjust oven racks to upper & lower -middle positions & heat oven to 325. (This is so important! I let one batch bake too close to the bottom of the oven, definitely resulted in a little too much browning on the bottom of the cookies)
2. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
3. Whisk dry ingredients together; set aside.
4. With electric mixer, or by hand, mix butter & sugars until thoroughly combined. (Justin’s mom bought me an electric hand mixer. I really will be thanking her after this cookie explosion nightmare!)
5. Beat in egg, yolk and vanilla until combined.
6. Add dry ingredients & beat at low speed just until combined.
7. Stir in chips and nuts.
8. Measure out 1/2 cup of dough and roll into a ball.
9. Holding dough ball in fingertips of both hands, pull into 2 equal halves.
10. twist the ball of dough in half until you have two equal pieces, set the pieces jagged-side up on cookie sheet.
11. Bake, reversing position of cookie sheets halfway through baking, until cookies are light golden brown and outer edges start to harden yet centers are still soft & puffy, 15-18 minutes depending on size. (Mine were perfect at 15 minutes to the dot, but my oven is pretty hardcore.)
12. Cool cookies on sheets until able to lift without breaking and place on wire rack to cool.

Making Macadamia Nut Cookies When I first read through the original instructions for baking these, steps 8 through 10 confused me until I had the dough in my hands and realized what I needed to do, so I re-worded it the best I could, and included pictures! Lucky you! 🙂 Don’t mind my bright blue nails, I’m going through a sparkly phase. Big thanks you my handsome photographer, Justin. It could have been messy if I attempted it myself!
Making Macadamia Nut Cookies
Obviously I’m a total novice when it comes to this whole baking thing, so I’m not 100% sure if this whole twisty thing is absolutely crucial to the cookie-making process. The only kind of conclusion I can really come to is that after you roll the dough into a ball you cover up all the nuts and chocolate, twisting it open gives you the opportunity to have some on the top so he world can see what awesome goodies you baked inside there delicious little cookies. Maybe? Do you believe my theory?

Anyway, if all goes well and you followed these directions better than I usually do, your house will start smelling amazing. There is one odd thing I noticed about these cookies though, They do a steamy/smokey sort of thing while they bake. It’s not smoke, per say, because there was no burning of the cookies, and it was a little too thin to be burning smoke. I’m not exactly sure why my kitchen looked like Dementors were mating in my kitchen, but the cookies were fine.

Finished:White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies

There you have it! My first attempt at something more complicated than pre-made dough or my trusty Chocolate chip cookie stand-by. Right now I have oatmeal raisin dough chilling (ha! literally!) in my fridge, but I have a somewhat bad feeling about them. If they bomb you’ll probably be seeing snicker doodles next instead.

I have a deep love for sushi. I am also pretty much the only person I know who does. That being the case, I really don’t get the opportunity to go out for sushi like I would like, so I am left to my own devices to satisfy my craving for it. Any real sushi chef would probably faint at my “technique”, but it’s quick, easy, and basically that’s how I like things to be 😉
Sushi 3 Here’s the break down. After reading the intense steps I found on the inets on how to make sushi rice I basically threw it all out the window. I used minute rice here that you can basically microwave and be done with. The only change I made was instead of the cup of water to a cup or rice mixture I used about 3/4 cups water and 1/4 cups rice vinegar. This makes the rice stickier so it doesn’t all fall apart on you. I microwaved the rice as per the directions on the box, and then adjusted it as I saw fit with more rice/rice vinegar. The seaweed I used I bought at walmart in the Asian section. basically you need just the half sheets of toasted seaweed. The package I bought was for a “sushi party”, haha. After the rice is cooked I spread it on the seaweed while it’s still warm/hot. I think it’s easier to roll this way. Sushi 2 The filling I used for this batch was carrot, artificial crab meat (more on that later), avocado, and cucumber. I just sliced everything very very thin. It was also my first expierience with avocado! I used artificial crab meat because, even though I love the raw fish, I’m afraid I’d do something wrong and give myself food poisoning, haha.
Anyway. It’s all really easy from here on out. I just load the veggies and crab meat on the front half of the seaweed and roll it up. the heat from the rice keeps the seaweed sticky, so I let the roll cool a little, which hardens the seaweed a bit before I cut it.
Sushi 1 As you can see, I kind of went to town making them. Not to mention the plate you see here is missing ohh….ten or so that I ate during the process. Seriously, I love sushi. I’m pretty sure this is going to be a dietary staple for me, which is nice because sushi is actually good for you and basically fate free! I think the cool thing with sushi is you can experiment to your heart’s content. Next time I will probably make these with tuna, again probably canned until I can get a little more in depth with the raw department.
Anyway, the moral of the story is: I love sushi. TGIF everyone!

I did Day 3 Level 1 of the shred today. It’s getting a little easier. I’m really hoping I can go through it without pausing by day 10. I want to keep up the working out daily, which is a little rough when I’m coming home after midnight, but I do sleep well after that! haha.

Spring really just feels like a time of change. I need a little change for the better again. I’m vain, I won’t deny that. I want to look hot on my wedding day! I want me future children to think their mom was pretty when she was young, and I know I sound silly, but that’s just it.

I’ve also been very good about what I eat! I’ve been having 4 – 5 smaller meals every day rather than 3 big meals and lots of snacks in between. I also haven’t eaten anything I didn’t personally make, so I know exactly what I’m eating and every evil calorie is accounted for. It hasn’t even really been that bad. I’ve said before I’ve tried all the “diets”, but really this whole portion control thing is working out better for me than anything else has. I even stumbled across a new recipe that I am completely and utterly in love with, and am eating for dinner right now!
I call it Peanut Ginger Stir Fry and it is amazing. I really had every intention of making a huge thing of stir fry for my dinners for at work, but at some point during the cooking process I remembered seeing a recipe for peanut butter glazed chicken and randomly decided to add peanut butter to the stir fry, soooo here it is!

  • Chicken or steak (I actually used chicken the first time and steak the second, I think it’s better with chicken IMO)
  • 1 package of stir fry veggies. (Basically for convenience. Feel free to chop your own.)
  • 1 onion. (I love onions, but you know that’s never included in the frozen veggies.)
  • Garlic. (At your discretion! I use nearly a bulb because I loooovvveee garlic!)
  • Asian sesame dressing
  • peanut butter
  • soy sauce
  • Worcestershire Sauce
  • rice vinigar
  • 1 cube chicken bouillon, in 1 cup water.
  • Ground ginger
  • Linguine
  • Marinade the meat in a mixture of the Worcestershire sauce, rice vinegar, and Asian sesame dressing for an hour or so, or while you’re waiting for your linguine to cook, which I hope you don’t need instructions on boiling noodles 😉 Then in a big skillet, preferably the biggest you have, heat up about a cup of the Asian sesame dressing. Drain the dressing the meat was marinading in and add the meat, onions, and garlic and stir fry until the onion gets cooked through. Add the rest of your thawed veggies and cook those through. Then add the pseudo chicken stock and make sure your only using about medium high heat as you add the peanut butter. Now this is where it gets kid of tricky. Peanut butter does not like to cooperate! It’s hard to work with and you need to melt it down with the heat from the other ingredients. Problem is if it’s too hot the peanut butter sticks to the skillet and you have an awful mess and burnt crap, if it’s not hot enough the peanut butter stays in a big clump. Just be careful here. If you think it’s a little too thick feel free to add some more water and then add the noodles. Throw a few splashes of soy sauce and then a VERY LITTLE bit of ground ginger. Ginger can be very over powering, so unless you were really going more for the ginger flavor over the peanut butter, be careful.

    And that’s it! It’s about 250 calories for one cup, if I did my math right (which you really shouldn’t trust my math, but that’s what I’m tracking calorie-wise) So it’s seriously my new favorite dinner. The peanut butter is a great food for keeping you feeling full, and it’s just good. I really can’t say enough about it, but again, I like really weird food combinations.

    Anyway, there’s something else I’d like to share, my wedding bouquet!
    This is what I’ll be holding when I walk down the isle! I’m actually really excited about this, because it’s something that I actually pictured and made a reality. I was a little concerned I wasn’t going to be able to pull off the kind of bouquet I wanted, but I did! I think the second picture does the flowers a little more justice. I also cannot believe how hard it is to find red calla lilies! Seriously, I think I checked three different Pat Catan’s and Michael’s before I finally found some available online. They were really expensive, so I went back to Pat Catan’s one more time and found exactly as many as I needed. I couldn’t believe my luck! So now basically it’s down to stocking up on all the stuff we’re going to need for center pieces and the rest of the bridesmaid flowers. I decided to make theirs just white versions of mine with the white calla’s and maybe carnations instead of the roses. I’ll cross that bridge another day!
    I love how amazing the flowers themselves look. They look completely real and yet I could probably beat someone to death with this thing and it’s not going to fall apart. I’m glad i decided to go this DIY route for the flowers. I would probably be freaking out if I had entrusted someone else, even a professional florist, to do them. This way too, I got to experiment on my own to decide what I liked and did not like, and I couldn’t be happier 🙂
    Tomorrow is thankfully Friday! Saturday Justin and I are heading to Pittsburgh to have a double date with Bree and Vince at the water front and grab dinner. I’m just ready for the weekend, it’s time for fun!

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