Sunday, November 24, 2013

Superb Sunday

Well, it's almost Thanksgiving.  I feel like I'm ahead of the game, I have biscuits cooking now and the turkey is very slowly thawing in the fridge.  Also, if anyone breaks it, that thing is heavy and will make a great weapon, so that's a positive.  Then, just cook the evidence, like in Fried Green Tomatoes.  Awesome.

Superb Bloggy Tip: How to Take Awesome iPhone Photos
My nice camera is broken, which is really sad, so I've been taking pictures with my phone again.  These are great tips to help you get the most out of your phone camera.  The rest of her blog is great too.

5 Tips to Take Great iPhone Photos 5 Tips to Take Awesome iPhone Photos


Superb Dinner: Chickpea Puttanesca
I love puttanesca, it's so flavorful and easy.  Also, since I have the maturity of a 10 year old,, I think it's hilarious that puttanesca means...lady of the night...in Italian.  This looks like a great new twist on a classic.

Chickpea-Puttanesca-Creamy-Parmesan-Polenta


Superb Adorableness: Good Morning
This is every day of my life.  And even more since Milty currently has a cone.




Superb Sweet Treat: Spicy Chocolate Stout Cake
This combines all my favorite things; spicy, chocolate, beer, and peanut butter icing.  It's on the Thanksgiving menu.

Chocolate Stout Cake recipe


Superb Costume: She Doesn't Even Go Here
Definitely doing this next year.

blennoxx.tumblr.com

Super Appetizer: Feta Olive Tapenade
Yum
final_tapenade

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Kale, Chickpea, and Tomato Soup

Every year, I hope that we can skip winter (with the exception of a white Christmas and one snow day) and just head straight from fall to spring.  Or just have fall all year round.  However, that isn't an option.  The cold is really settling in around here and Milty and I are freezing.  We might be extra freezing because there is a small heat situation, and by "small heat situation" I mean that it only works when it feels like it.  I wish I could do that.

So, in an attempt to warm my body, soul, and house, I made soup last night.  This quick and easy soup is lovely and warming, but also light.  I figure with the eating bonanza that is Thanksgiving coming up, it probably wouldn't kill me to eat light for a few days.

I had planned, a while back, to make this CrockPot Greek Chicken and Chickpea Soup, from the ever wonderful and lovely Kalyn's Kitchen, but since I don't cook meat very often, with extra chickpeas.  Then, as I was getting the ingredients together last night, I realized that I didn't have around half of them.  So this is more of an adaptation.



You will need:
2 Cans of Chickpeas, rinsed
1 28 Oz Can Crushed Tomatoes
3 Cups Vegetable Stock
2 Cups Water
1/2 Big Bag of Kale (I used about 4 giant handfuls, so maybe 3-4 cups?)
1 Teaspoon Dried Oregano
1 Teaspoon Dried Parsley
1 Teaspoon Dried Marjoram
1 Clove Garlic, Pressed
Salt and Pepper



As with many soup recipes, this isn't overly technical or complicated.  Basically, you just put everything in the pot and let it come up to a boil.

I started with the chickpeas, then added the tomatoes broth, and spices.  After a few stirs, I added in the kale.  It seemed to be a little too thick for my liking, so I added a few cups of water.  The amount of water you add is completely a matter of personal preference; I like soups like this to be more on the brothy/watery side, so I added a bit more.

Then, just put the lid on and let it come up to a boil.  I'd say it took about 30 minutes.



Serve with a bit of lime for squeezing.  This would also be great with a bit of Parmesan or feta cheese on top, or some fresh herbs.  And a side of cheese toast.  That's VERY important, please do not forget to side of cheese toast.



Question of the day:
 

What is your favorite kind of soup? 


Monday, November 18, 2013

Seven Layer Mexican Dip

We had another neighborhood potluck last night, for those of you keeping track at home, this would be number 3.  I think it may have been the best yet, because there were more people.  We, once again, did a Mexican theme, so I made this delicious seven layer dip.

I've been eating seven layer dip for a long time now, I always remember seeing/having it at potlucks and parties as a kid, and I totally understand why.  It's really good and it can be as easy or difficult to make as you like.  I think that I took a solidly middle of the road approach (which I like best, unless we're talking politics) and made the gauc and taco seasoning from scratch.  I was thinking about making some salsa as well, but I managed to get a Costco size container of it from church (epic win).  

Mostly, this recipe involves dumping cans of stuff in a pan and spreading it out.  Feel free to make any number of the components from scratch.  Or just buy them all and pretend like you did. 

You will need:
2 Cans Re-fried beans (although, in retrospect, I could have done with only one - it got a little thick)
8 Ounces Sour Cream 
1 Can Jalapeno Peppers 
Guacamole 
Salsa 
1 Tablespoon Taco Seasoning 
Chopped Olives 
Cheese




















Since I was making the taco seasoning from scratch, I did that first.  It's really easy and most people have all the ingredients at home already. 

Taco Seasoning: 
1 teaspoon Garlic Powder 
1 teaspoon Onion Powder
1 teaspoon Dried Oregano 
4 teaspoon Black Pepper 
4 Tablespoon Chili Powder (please note, for the sake of your taste buds, this is NOT the same as cayanne pepper)
2 teaspoon Paprika
1 teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes 
4 teaspoon salt
6 teaspoon Cumin




















Mix it all together in a little dish.  Store with the rest of your spices for as long as it takes for you to use it all. The packets tend to be 1-2 Tablespoons, so this should last a while. Mix about a tablespoon with the sour cream.




















Now that you've done that, make the guacamole.  I used this recipe, obviously.  If you don't want to make your own, no worries, there are plenty of great pre-made options out there.  I had originally planned to do this, but for some reason my grocery store was out. 

Now, start layering.  You can do this any way you want, but I did mine like this, using a combination of an offset spatula and a spoon:

Beans (really would use only one can next time - it was really thick)



















Jalapenos



















Seasoned Sour Cream 



















Olives 



















Salsa 



















Guacamole 



















Cheese




















I have seen people heat this up, but I don't.  Warm avocado really freaks me out.  Serve with sturdy chips and a spoon - it's a heavy dip, so you need something substantial for scooping. 

I love this dip, and it seems that everyone else does as well.  It's really easy to throw together, I often find that I have most of the ingredients in my pantry already, and people absolutely go nuts over it.  

Question of the day: 
What's your favorite party dip? 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Apple and Sharp Cheddar Mac and Cheese


It's no secret that I love macaroni and cheese.  I'd go so far as to say that it is actually my favorite food, probably because it combines two of my favorite foods - pasta and cheese.  While I do have a soft spot for the classic plain (or blue box...), adding in other ingredients is a great way to stretch the dish a little further and make it healthier, more flavorful, or both.  For this one, I added in apples.  I've always liked the apples and sharp cheese combination, the sweetness of the apples balance the sharpness of the cheese.  For this, I used Granny Smith apples, as they tend to hold up best in cooking.  I find that other types of apples get really mushy when they're cooked and being to veer dangerously into applesauce territory.  Although applesauce is delicious, I don't think it's a great component in mac and cheese.

Apple Cheddar Mac and Cheese
1 1/4 Cups Pasta - I used whole wheat rigatoni
1 1/2 Cups Apples (two medium apples) - I left the peel on mine, but feel free to peel them if you like, I'm just lazy
2 Tablespoons Butter
1/4 Cup Onion, diced
2 Tablespoons Flour
2 1/4 Cups Milk - I used about 3/4 1% milk and the rest half and half.  I've made white sauce with many combinations of milks.  I think it tastes best when I use at least part of a high fat (either whole or half and half) milk product.
1 Bay Leaf
2 1/3 Cups Shredded Cheddar - I like to shred my own from a block because it doesn't have that weird powdery stuff on it that pre-shredded does, so it melts better.  However, if you have the pre-shredded, definitely use it and save a trip to the store.
1/2 Teaspoon dry sherry - I was going to substitute white wine, as I didn't have sherry but always have wine, but I actually forgot (perhaps I shouldn't drink as much wine while cooking?) and it was fine.
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/3 Cup Breadcrumbs - I used whole wheat Italian seasoned.

Pre-heat the oven to 350.  I chose to do this significantly in advance because my house is freezing and I refuse to turn the heat on until November 15th.

Then, get a pot of water boiling for the pasta.  Make sure to salt it liberally.

While the water is coming up to a boil, go ahead and get everything else set up.  Although I don't really use a mise en place for all my cooking as I should, having everything set up ahead of time is EXTREMELY important for something like a white sauce, which requires a lot of attention and quick steps.

Shred the cheese

Chop the onion and apples



Pour the milk

Cut the butter

Measure the flour

Collect your spices

This makes the entire thing go SO MUCH faster because there isn't the moment of panic in which you realize that you haven't measured out the milk that you need to stir in right now and all the measuring cups are dirty. Not that this has ever happened to me.

Now, it is time to being making your cheese sauce.  First, melt the butter over medium heat.  When it's melted, add in the onion and cook for 2-3 minutes, until it starts to smell like awesome in your house.

Then, add the flour and stir like crazy until it's all incorporated.  This should take about 1 minute.  A whisk works best for this, and a flat whisk works better.

After about a minute, start adding in your milk slowly, stirring all the while.  This is also a good time to add in some salt and pepper, as well as the bay leaf.  I think that seasoning a little as  you go makes for a better final dish.


Keep stirring until you see tiny bubbles start to form.  Then, turn the heat down a little bit and allow to thicken for around 10 minutes.  The thickness is really a matter of personal preference; I personally prefer to have a thicker sauce, as that leads to a thicker final dish.  However, there's no reason not to have soupy mac and cheese if that's what you like.

After the sauce has thickened to your liking, add in the cheese and the sherry/wine (if you don't forget).  It's easier to add this a little at at time too, so that it doesn't get clumpy.

Check your seasonings and add more salt and pepper as appropriate.  And please for the love of God, remove the bay leaf.  They add amazing flavor to dishes, but are DISGUSTING to bite into.

Mix the cheese sauce with the apples and pasta, then put into a greased baking dish.  Top with a little bit of cheese and the bread crumbs.





Bake at 350 until golden brown on top - mine took about 30 minutes.  Once cooked, remove from the oven and allow to cool for at least five minutes before digging in.

I ate this in large volume for my meal, but it would also be a great side for pork chops or steak.

Enjoy!

Question of the Day:
What is your favorite mac and cheese mix in? 




Superb Sunday

Well, it's been an exciting week here at Cooking with Milton.   I've been busily trying to figure out how to put in new social media icons, which will hopefully be happening soon.  Milton has been enjoying the nice weather and begging for food.  If you haven't already, make sure to check us out on The Pintester Movement.  There are a ton of great posts, including ours.

Superb I Shouldn't Laugh at This as Much as I Am: February 30th

I feel a little bad laughing at this, because this poor girl.  She's so excited that he likes her, but he doesn't. What a jerk - you can do better sweetie.


Ask Me Out


Superb Carb-a-Holic: Mushroom and Kale Lasagna Roll Ups

Kevin, who writes Closet Cooking is a man after my own heart.  Lasagna roll ups with a Gorgonzola sauce? Hell yes.

Mushroom Lasagna Roll Ups in Creamy Gorgonzola Cauliflower Sauce


Superb Advice: Inspirational Picture Quotes

The lovely woman who writes this blog has a ton of really kind and inspirational quotes up.  The whole blog is a great pick me up.  But this one is my favorite.  If someone is treating you as an option, feel free to help them narrow down their choices by removing your name from the list.

Help them narrow down their choices...


Superb Drinkie: Fresh Cranberry Ginger Vanilla Margaritas

As usual, when I pin or post something from How Sweet It Is, it needs very little explanation.  I appreciate her dedication to ensuring that margs aren't only for summer.

fresh cranberry ginger vanilla margaritas (with sugared cranberries!) I howsweeteats.com


Superbly Adorable: Toasted Marshmallow Pup

Sorry Milty, we need him.

A new breed of dog is named...


Super Sweet Treat: Brown Sugar Apple Crostata

I still haven't decided what kind of pie to make for Thanksgiving.  There are just too many options.  I might make this pear pie that my mom makes a lot, which is freaking delicious.  But then I saw this, so maybe not. Or maybe both.  I mean, it's Thanksgiving, the name of the game is gluttony.

IMG_3267

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Pintester Movement - Ho Ho Ho Edition

Much like back in May, The Pintester is hosting another link up, but this one is holiday themed.  So, without further ado, here is a Christmas ornament project that I did with some monkeys (whose parents are totally ok with me putting pictures of them on the interwebs, I asked first).

Since I was hanging out with a mixed age (8, 6, and 3), I figured we should do something fairly simple so that they could really participate.  I saw a ton of fun looking ornament ideas, but a lot of them required either extensive use of a hot glue gun, which I'm not letting them use, or just seemed to be a little too difficult/long for them.  I definitely didn't want this to turn into a "Big Elizabeth does an art project while we watch", so we did these Popsicle stick ornaments.  Well, we did a project that was based on them, but more on that later.

As always, the first step is collecting your supplies.  This necessitated a trip to Michael's with Christy, where we were immediately overwhelmed by all the things and I had a brief moment in which I thought I was crafty and needed to buy one of everything to build my very own Barbie dream house in the living room.  Instead, I got washable kid paint, a pink hot glue gun, a ton of Popsicle sticks, and some sparkly stuff.

Then, I told the girls to make some shapes with the sticks.  One did a tree, one did a snowflake, and one did a double triangle.  They all did a big row of them all glued together because then they would have more things to paint.  We love painting.

So I glued the shapes together and let it set.  I think that regular glue would probably hold it, but it doesn't dry as quickly and I wanted to make sure that there was plenty of time to paint, since painting is definitely in their collective top 5 favorite things to do.







Then, we paint.  Apparently rainbows are really big right now, so these aren't super Christmasy.  But I didn't really care, because they were having a lot of fun.





So, now that they are done, we have some options.  You could definitely put a picture in them, so they could be frame ornaments, which are always super cute.  Or, add some pom poms, googly eyes, etc.  Or just leave them be.  Since it was kind of bed time, we left them as is.



At some point, you should attach a ribbon to the top so you can hang them on a tree.  Being the well organized planner than I am, I obviously forgot this step.

Overall, this was super fun.  I think the kids had a good time, which is really all that matters.

Merry Christmas!!!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Project Mashed Potatoes

Well, after the success of last week's Brussels sprouts experiment, I said to my self, "self, you should do this with mashed potatoes".  So, last night, I made three kinds of mashed potatoes, you know, for research and the good of the blog.  Not because I was sad and wanted to eat a ton of carbs to make myself feel better, because I would never do that.  Anywho...I made three kinds of potatoes.  One with roasted garlic, one with herb cheese, and one with cheddar and bacon.  Unfortunately, since exactly half of my Thanksgiving guests are vegetarian and an additional person doesn't eat bacon, I'm thinking the bacon ones are out.  Those were mostly just for me, I've been meaning to give my health insurance a serious test, and a heart attack seemed like a decent way to do so.

So, I really think the hardest part of making mashed potatoes is the amount of time it takes to boil them.  Especially when you're making 6 pounds of potatoes.  So, very first, chop the potatoes into roughly equal sized pieces.  Drop them into the biggest pot you have (mine is actually just big enough - perhaps it's time to invest in a lobster pot?), then cover with cold water, until the water is about an inch over the potatoes, and put on to boil.  You can peel them first if you like, but I actually prefer to keep the skins.  And if you're less lazy than I am and bought loose potatoes, instead of pre-washed, you should probably scrub them a little bit.






While this is happening, prepare the roasted garlic.  I've always roasted garlic in the skins, but allrecipes told me that you can just peel them and cover them.  It was SO much easier, so I see a lot of roasted garlic in my future (sorry co-workers).



Peel a few cloves of garlic, and put into an oven safe container.  Drizzle with olive oil, cover with foil, and roast at 350 for about 40 minutes, until soft.  I did these in the toaster oven, because I had bigger plans for my oven...

THE BACON.

Growing up, my mom and dad always made bacon in the microwave, which is super easy and fast.  But, I'm a rebel and don't have one of those, so I have to figure out alternate ways to cook it.  I have tried on the stove, but the splattering grease is a definite downfall.  So, I now cook it in the oven.  It's really easy, and if you remember to tin foil the pan, clean up is amazing.

Cover a pan with tin foil, then put a cooling rack on top.  This way, the grease will drip down and you don't have to turn it halfway through.  Then put into a COLD oven and turn the oven on to 375.  Cook for about 20 minutes, until the bacon is your desired level of crispy.  Keep in mind that it will crisp up a little more after you take it out, so err on the side of caution.



Now that the toppings are in order, it is likely that the potatoes are ready.  You know they're done when you poke them with a fork and they kind of fall apart. 

Drain them and either return them to the pot or put into smaller bowls.  Since I was making several kinds, I split them up, although if I was going to do this again, I would actually mash them all at once and then split them up.  Live and learn.

For the roasted garlic ones, you will need:
Roasted Garlic
1/2 - 3/4 cup of milk
2 Tablespoons butter
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
Salt and Pepper

Put it all in a bowl and mash.  Start with only 1/2 cup of milk and add more if you think you need it.  This is totally a matter of personal preference - I like my potatoes chunkier, so I didn't use as much milk.

For the Herb Cheese ones, you will need:

1/2 container of herb cheese - I used Alouette
1/2 cup milk
Salt and Pepper

Put it all in a bowl and mash.  You probably don't need as much milk, because the cheese is pretty soft and will thin the potatoes out some.

For the Loaded Baked Potato ones, you will need:
6 slices cooked bacon
1/2 -3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup milk
Salt and pepper

Say it with me - put it all in a bowl and mash.  If I made these again, I'd add more cheese.

Overall, I think that the herb cheese was my favorite.  I just love that stuff so much.  However, they were all really good.  The roasted garlic flavor was really pronounced in the roasted garlic ones, which I loved.  I know that not everyone is into garlic, and if you're one of those people, these probably aren't for you.  Also, good luck with the vampires.  The loaded baked potato was good, because there was bacon, but it wasn't anything super special, they're just regular, good potatoes.



I'm super excited to make the herb garlic cheese potatoes for Thanksgiving, alongside about a million other things.  I think that for the big day, I will make them in the crock pot, to free up a little bit of oven/stove space.

Question of the Day: 

What is your favorite Thanksgiving side?