Thursday, February 28, 2013

Her Name Was Lola

Well, after 6 years, a million miles, a bunch of road trips, and a brief stint as a nanny-mobile (car seats sold separately), it appears that my beloved Civic, Lola, may no longer be with us.  Please join me in a moment of silence.

I'll start at the very beginning (a very good place to start).

Last night, at around midnight, I heard a commotion.  I was half asleep, so I was really just trying to ignore it.  But then Milton started barking and generally freaking out, so I grabbed my phone and very slowly began visualizing my best ninja moves and going out into the living room.  I realized it was the doorbell, but I didn't really want to go out there, because if I'm getting killed by an axe murderer, he's gonna have to work for it to come inside.  But, then my delightful neighbor went downstairs (his bell had been ringing) and knocked on the door to tell me the police where here.  Naturally, my first words to the officer were "I didn't do it, I swear".

Well, Officer Friendly told me that someone had hit my car.  I thought "some dude bumped me and scratched up the fender, but he's trying to be nice about it".  I was tragically wrong.  I went downstairs to check it out and was greeted with this:

So that's nice.  I talked to the cop and to the guy who hit me (who was really nice and obviously felt super bad) and Officer Friendly told me that I should call AAA and ask them to move it back so that the Jeep in front of me could move in the morning.  Since it was 1am, I thought that was a great idea, because I really didn't want to deal with figure out where to take it.  Here is where the real fun began.

AAA came quickly, so I figured I could go back to bed soon.  Not so.  The guy in the tow truck said that since my car was touching another car, he couldn't move it.  I told him that the police had already been here and that Office Friendly had told me it was fine and that I'd prefer to have AAA move it because I've already paid them, the city is going to charge me $150 for it.  But he was not to be swayed, and wouldn't move it.  So the tow truck left and I called the BPD back.  Officer Friendly came back (seriously, this guy was AMAZING), we called AAA again, and he waited with me for an hour and a half, until THE SAME F**IN TOW TRUCK came back.  With the cop there, he moved it.  And we discovered this

Rut row.  I haven't gotten to a body shop yet or spoken to my insurance, so I'm not sure if it's fixable or totaled.  But it looks bad, so we may be having a funeral for my sweet Lola soon.  Being from the south, I expect a plethora of casseroles. 

At the end of the day, this is definitely annoying, but it's not that big of a deal.  The important thing is that no one was hurt; it's just stuff, you can always get more stuff. 

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Spinach Pizza Crust

If you are on Pinterest for more than about 37 seconds, I'm sure you've seen the *insert vegetable here* pizza crust.  The first one that caught my eye was cauliflower crust pizza; I was definitely intrigued by the thought of using vegetables for a crust instead of my beloved bread.  I mean, this could potentially mean twice as much pizza for me.  WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE.  However, I'm not a huge fan of cauliflower (though the number of things I've pinned that involve it make me think I should be making more of an effort), so I was super excited to see spinach crust pizza.  I made it this morning, and now it's chillin out, relaxin, maxin all cool in the fridge; I'm going to add the toppings and bake it tonight before I go to Brittany's for dinner.

Spinach Crust Pizza from Jo and Sue

2 Cups of Spinach Leaves
1 Cup Shredded Italian-type cheese (I used mozzarella; if at all possible, buy it in a block and grate it at home.  The bags of pre-shredded have this coating on it that prevents it from clumping, but it also prevents it from mixing into things as well)
1 Egg
Spices (I used salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, and garlic powder)

My first step was to shred the cheese.  I used my food processor, but if you don't have one, a box grater (or the stuff in the bag) is also fine.  Again, you don't NEED a food processor for this, a regular blender will work just fine, I just happen to be a little obsessed with mine and want to use it as much as possible. 

Next, add the spinach and mix until it becomes almost baby food.  It should basically be pureed, but not so much that it becomes weird and liquidy; since you're going to be adding other things and mixing some more, you want for it to have somewhere to go.

Next, add your egg and blend.  It only took about 10 seconds for the egg to become incorporated.

Finally, add in the cheese and spices, then blend a final time.

Spread it out on a pizza sheet (or just a cookie sheet) that is covered in foil or parchment paper and WELL sprayed with cooking spray. 

Bake at 425 for about 15 min, until it edges are browned.  Then add whatever toppings you like and put it under the broiler for a few min, until the cheese melts.  I haven't done this yet, because I made the crust at 6am and I'm cooking it all tonight.  I will let you know how it goes!!! 

If you have other vegetables that you'd like to "pizza crustify", I think that the same process would work.  However, heavier veggies, like sweet potatoes, broccoli, I think need to be boiled first so that they will be soft enough to chop.  You can also use this same recipe and pan fry the "batter" in a little olive oil and make spinach cakes.  The world is your veggie filled oyster.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Lunch Bunch

Or sandwich club.  Or whatever other cutesy name your/your kids' pre-school called it.  Lunch is probably my least favorite meal to make.  I just never seem to know what to do for it.  For whatever reason, it seems odd to make a "real meal", but apparently eating only bagels and eggs isn't a great healthy life plan.  And if I'm going to have leftovers for dinner, I don't want to have the same thing for lunch.  It's a conundrum.  But, I'm definitely not going to make it from breakfast to dinner without eating; I'd be grumpier than this cat at Christmas (if you're generally unfamiliar with Grumpy Cat, look it up.  He's occasionally offensive, but it's pretty funny).

Usually for lunch I take a hodgepodge of random things I have.  If I do a sandwich, I pack all the components separately, that way the bread doesn't get soggy.  Let me tell you, there is nothing sadder than being excited and self-congratulatory about packing a lunch to find out that the bread is all soggy and gross.  Ick.  I also try to bring some kind of salad everyday.  I keep a bottle of dressing in the office fridge so I'm not carrying it back and forth all the time.  Today, I brought salad, sandwich stuff, and cottage cheese with strawberries.

I pack it all up in my SWEET lunch bag.  I got it at this really fancy French boutique called Tarjay.

The salad is really boring.  Lettuce, carrots, celery, peppers.  If you want to be fancy, you could always cut the carrots into hearts.  I don't have the patience or the motor skills for this at 7am.

I'm using the bean spread for sandwiches this week (although I have also tried it on veggies and it's excellent).  On top, I like avocado, cheese, and a few of the peppers from the salad.  Actually, I'd like to start topping all of my food with those three things.  Look for that next week.  I always always always toast the bread when I make a sandwich.  It makes the soggy less persistent, and since it's just me, I have to freeze bread so it doesn't go bad before I can finish it.

Finally, some either cottage cheese or yogurt with berries.  I try not to eat this until later in the afternoon, so I don't get a vending machine snack.  It works a few days a week.

And that's it.  I keep apples, almonds, and cookies in a drawer at work for random munchie attacks. 

I'm saving so much money by bringing a lunch from home instead of going out all the time; I've also lost a pound, which is a lovely bonus.  It's kind of the last thing I want to do when I get up in the morning, but it's totally worth it!

Also, we're on Facebook now!  Like us at!/CookingWithMilton.  I'm working on getting a button on the side of the blog, but my technical skills are lacking.  To the Googles!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Monday Meal Plan

Well, I didn't go to the grocery store yesterday.  Instead, I got my nails done with Christy.  It took me a while, but I now realize why I like the color so much; it's the same color as the walls in my living room.  So that's good, I'm extra special coordinated now.  In case you're interested, we went to Bebe Spa in Washington Square.  It's nice, a little more pricy than some other places, but it's really clean, they have a good selection of colors, and you can get basically any beauty treatment you could possible want there. 

Anyways, since I didn't go to the store yesterday, today I'm eating leftovers for lunch.  I had Indian food on Saturday (from Bukhara Bistro, which is right up the street) and, as always, there is some leftover.  But I'm going tonight.  I don't need a lot, as I still have food from last week and my parents are coming on Friday for the weekend!!!  So I really only have to get stuff for the next few days. 

Here's the plan!

Salad and sandwich with bean spread

Bagel or Oatmeal
Salad and sandwich
Pasta or Perogies with Marinara

Bagel or Oatmeal
Salad and sandwich
Dinner at Brittany's - I'm going to bring Pizza with Spinach Crust

Bagel or Oatmeal
Salad and sandwich
Leftover pizza or bean quesadilla

Bagel or Oatmeal
Salad and Sandwich
Dinner at Helmand with my parents!!!!!!

So, that's it.  Not a terribly exciting food week for me, but that's ok.  I'm still trying to figure out how to balance cooking new foods to talk about on the blog with my actual eating habits.  The bean dip made so much that I immeadtely took some to the neighbors. 

And now, a lovely picture of a little fluffy dog who likes to steal socks.  Silly Milton, socks are for humans.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Superb Sundays

Usually on Sundays I don't really cook and instead just eat whatever is leftover/about to become a science fair project.  Since it's kind of boring, I thought that I'd just show pretty pictures and lovely links of things that I have seen (mostly on Pinterest) that are superb.

Superb Style
I love everything about this outfit, and Stacy and Clinton say that a belt at your waist makes you look thinner.  Clearly this is something we can all get behind.

Superb Suit
It's currently snowing outside my window, so this is definitely wishful thinking.  But I know that someday it will be warm again, or I'll win the lotto and move to the beach.  Either way, when that happens, I want this suit.  So cute.

Superb Cutie
It's a bunny the size of a human.  How can you not be in love?  Also, his name is Herman, which is a great name for a giant rabbit.

Superb Sweet
My friend Laura made these chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter frosting a few weeks ago and they were AMAZING.  I almost cried when they were gone.

Superb Snack Attack
I made this a while back and it was awesome.  The goat cheese kind of melts into the salsa.  I think you're supposed to use chips or something to scoop it, but I think that's for amateurs, so I use a spoon.

Superb Giggle
I happen to think that Tina Fey is one of the funniest, smartest, and most inspiring women around.  Her Sarah Palin impersonation is amazing and her first name is Elizabeth (the Tina is from her middle name).  Also, she is apparently doing an awesome job of raising her children, as evidenced by this.  I can't stop laughing.

Superb Inspiration
I think that everyone could do with a reminder on this.  I know that I certainly can.  Sometimes kids movies are surprisingly genius.

Superb Dinner
I love jalapeno poppers, so this is right up my ally.  I haven't made it, but I think I should.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Dinner at Comella's

As much as I love to cook, and firmly believe that food I make at home is better for me and often just better than restaurant food, I also love to go out for meals.  There's just something so nice about not having to do anything beyond point at something on a menu.  Everything else is magically taken care of, it's a beautiful thing.  So, because it was Friday, my friend and former roommate Liz (or as Milton calls her, Aunt Liz) and I went to Comella's in Chestnut Hill.

I first discovered Comella's when one of the families I babysit for brought home a $5 pizza.  A five dollar pizza.  And it's a large pizza, not like some scrawny personal pan nonsense.  Although I never get the pizza, I was definitely interested at that point.  It's a standard "fast casual" kind of place, with all the Italian favorites.  It's not in the same class as places in the North End, but it's affordable, tasty, and there's a parking lot at the one closest to me.

Here is what we ate!

Mozzarella sticks.  They were just as mozz sticks are supposed to be; greasy, stringy, cheesy, and served with a side of marinara.

Caesar salad.  It was ok.  Pretty basic, lettuce, croutons, parm cheese on the top.  The dressing was a little lackluster in my opinion, but I like really strong flavors.

Stuffed shells with "mess" on the top.  This was Liz's meal, but she's nice and let's me try things. The mess is a creation of Comella's, it's basically some stuff and some sauce.  It's a secret recipe.  I think this one had penne and eggplant.  It was delicious.

I had the chicken parm sandwich.  It's my favorite thing they have.  The key to a good chicken parm is a good sauce to bread/chicken ratio and thin crispy chicken.  This one has both.  I devoured it.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Beans Beans, Good for the Heart

The more you eat them, the more you....yep, I'm a 8 year old boy.  I'm just really tall for my age. 

In case you didn't get it, the recipe today is for beans.  I eat a fair amount of beans of all kinds, but last weekend I got dried beans for the first time.  For some reason, they've always intimidated me, maybe because there are multiple steps?  But they're much cheaper than the ones in cans and I can get them in the bulk bins at Harvest, which cuts down on waste.  I bought almost a pound of them, so there will be quite a few bean recipes coming up. 

To pre-prepare them, I used this method, from Stephanie at A Year of Slow Cooking.  I'm a big fan of my crock pot, so her blog is definitely a favorite.  Basically, you put the beans in the pot and cover them with water, let it sit overnight.  Then, dump the first water, refill, and turn the crock pot on low for 8 hours.  I actually cooked mine overnight and then just stuck the whole thing in the fridge when I got up in the morning.  If you're in the market for a slow cooker, I have this one and this one.

My first beans recipe is a black bean spread, that I'm going to use for sandwiches next week.  I have been taking salad and random leftovers for lunch, but it's freezing and therefore not "salady weather".  And I'm getting bored with it.  Some people are perfectly content to eat the same thing every day forever, I envy them; I get bored easily and need to change things up.  I used this recipe, from Too Many Chefs.

Black Bean Spread:
2 cups cooked black beans (I used the dried ones, but feel free to use the cans.  Just make sure you rinse them well before you use them to get all that goop off.  And, you may need less oil/blending time because they're going to be softer.)
1/2 or less of Olive Oil (The amount of oil needed depends on how soft your beans are and what consistency you want the spread)
Lime Juice (I used 2 small limes, but one big one would be about the same.  Please don't use the stuff in the lime shaped plastic container, that's for streaking your hair.)
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Salt and Pepper (If you're using canned beans, err on the side of less salt, because they've been pretty well salted in the can.)

Add the beans to a food processor or blender.  A food processor isn't necessary if you haven't got one.  However, if you're looking to upgrade your general kitchen awesomeness and have a gift giving holiday coming up, I'd highly recommend it.  They can do a lot and they apparently last forever.  I think my mom has had her's for about as long as she's had me and it still works great. 

Add the beans and pulse until they are well chopped, but not completely smooth.  They should look something like this.

Turn food processor on to run continuously and slowly drizzle in olive oil. Add spices and lime juice and blend well. taste and adjust salt and pepper to suit.  This is mostly a process of trial.  I added about 1/3 of the oil and then stopped it and checked, tasted, added the spices, etc.  Then I decided that I wanted it to be smoother, so I added more oil.  I did end up using the entire 1/2 cup of oil, and the final product look like this.

I did let it blend a little longer after this because I wanted to make sure the spices were well mixed through out.  If you're worried about the calories in the oil, or don't want it to taste too "olive oil like", you can replace some of the oil with water or stock.  But you definitely need to use at least half oil, it makes a huge taste difference.

I gave some to my neighbors (hi guys!!) and I'm using the rest for sandwiches next week.  You could also use it as a veggie/cracker/chip dip or a quesadilla filling.  Or just eat it with a spoon.  I'm not here to judge. 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

My Standard Breakfast (well, the one I actually cook): Oatmeal

It is cold where I live, so very, very cold.  Not the whole year, but for several months of the year, I'm cold all the time.  We have an amazing spring and fall though, so it's worth it.  Since my favorite way to combat any kind of negativity in life is through food, I have done the same with the cold.  This has turned me on to the joys of oatmeal.  It's fast and easy to prepare, super cheap, and offers numerous health benefits.  Also, delicious.

If you are a follower of many food/healthy lifestyle blogs, you have probably seen about a thousand different recipes for oatmeal.  Many people have discovered a multitude of ways to make oatmeal, and I have tried a few of them.  However, today, at 6:45am (which has never been a time of day I enjoy being up for), basic oatmeal was the best I could do. 

Basic Oatmeal: 

3/4 Cup of Water
1/4 Cup of Milk
1/2 Cup of Oatmeal
Toppings (today I only did brown sugar and a bit of extra milk)

Overall, to make oatmeal, you use 1 cup of liquid for each cup of oats.  Feel free to play around with the amounts of different liquids that you use.  I think that 3/4 water and 1/4 milk is perfect; the milk adds some creaminess, but not too much.  Also, I have recently started buying local, glass bottle milk.  It's amazing and buying it makes me feel good, but it's more expensive.  And I am trying to save money for really important things, like shoes and beer. 

Add the liquid to a pot and put the pot over medium heat.  Then bring it up to a simmer. 

When the liquid is simmering, add in the 1/2 cup of oats. 

Allow the oats to cook for as long as it takes for them to reach your desired consistency.  I like mine a little thicker, so for me this is 5-8 minutes.  If you prefer more of an "oats soup", then it will be less time.  Remember, the oatmeal is actually cooking, so if you like it more soupy and let them cook for a shorter amount of time, the oats will be chewier. 

Add in your toppings and enjoy! 

I usually put mine into a travel mug so that I can eat it on the T.  Because I'm usually running out the door so I'm not late. 

Super simple and much better that those little packets.  Also, I don't even know how to make the packets; I tried once, I needed assistance. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Spicy Kale and Chevre Penne

For dinner last night, I made one of my three "new" recipes for the week, the spicy kale and chevre penne.  I am pleased to announce that I am finally finished with the bag of only took two weeks.  Luckily, kale is hardy, and therefore it takes a long time for it to truly go bad. 

Anyways, I was looking forward to this all day.  I mean, kale, pasta, goat cheese, garlic?  What's not to like.  In fact, when I got home at 5ish, I was super hungry and tempted to start on it right away, but instead I took Milton out and had a snack.  I'm trying to stop snacking so much after dinner; for right now my plan is to eat dinner later.  I'll let you know how it goes.

This recipe comes from Family of Foodies, which I hadn't read before, but I saw the recipe on Pinterest and was all like SOLD.  Since I'd never made it before, I followed it to the letter.  The only thing that I would change for next time, is I'd actually add more red pepper flakes.  I know that spice is a matter of personal preference, but this didn't taste spicy to me at all.  However, for those of you who are less spice tolerant, err on the side of less.  Dad, you should probably go with the whole jar ;)

Spicy Kale and Chevre Penne by Jordan at Family of Foodies

8 oz kale (to me, that means two pretty big handfuls)
1 cup vegetable stock (you could definitely use some other kind of stock if that's what you have open, just remember if you use a meat based stock, you should probably mention that to any vegetarians you may serve it to)
1 pint grape tomatoes
8 garlic cloves
1/2 to 1 tsp hot pepper flakes (again, I found this amount to be too little for my taste)
1 lb penne (I used a combination of whole wheat rotini and regular elbows.  A pound is around 4 cups of dried pasta.)
4 oz chèvre (FYI, chevre is French for goat cheese.  Also French for freaking delicious)
1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
Salt and Pepper to taste

Step One (sorry, but it's just the gift that keeps on giving)

Boil water for pasta in large pot.  Make sure you add a lot of salt.  You want for the water to remind you of the beach, without the sand.  It really does make a difference.  If you've never done this before and are concerned that you may make it too salty, start off small. 

While waiting for the water to boil, start on the sauce.  Chop garlic and saute in large skillet with a bit of olive oil over medium high heat until it takes on some color and your kitchen smells nice.  If the kitchen stinks, it's been too long, start over.  It should take 3-4 min, depending on how hot your pan has gotten.

Slice grape tomatoes in half (or quarters if they're really big) and add them to the pan with the garlic. Cook until tomatoes start to soften and breakdown slightly, which should take about 7-10 minutes.  If you have texture problems with cooked tomatoes, I'd recommend adding them right at the end of making the entire dish; they will hold their form better that way.  However, I have found that the little (either grape or cherry) tomatoes don't get as weird and mushy when cooked as the big boys do.

Add the kale, stock, and seasonings to the pan.  Stir and make sure that the kale gets somewhat submerged in the liquid; this will help it cook faster.  Cook until the kale is bright green and slightly wilted, around 3-5 minutes.

Cook your pasta according to the package directions.  When it is done (I like mine al dente, which takes about 6 minutes for a smaller pasta), drain it and then put it back into the pot.

Add the kale/tomato/garlic mixture to the pasta.  Then, the best part.  The cheese!!!  Add the goat cheese and the yogurt to the pot and stir until combined.  If you like your sauce a little bit looser, add in a bit of water or milk until it reaches your desired consistency

Serve with a nice glass of cheap ass pinot. 

As always, you can change elements of this recipe to suit your personal taste/what you have in the house.  If you hate kale, any other green leafy thing (spinach, collards, etc) would work fine.  If you only eat long skinny noodles, that's fine too.  Hate goat cheese?  I'm definitely judging you, but you could substitute any other creamy cheese.