Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Im back with some pesto

Hi folks! Im back. Whew! It's been a crazy couple of weeks. I had a final and had to prepare for my lil one's christening. It's not that I stopped cooking, just didn’t have time to post.

A couple of weeks ago I decided to make pesto. I looked at the recipe in the book and it called for a measly amount of cheese and nuts. My recipe, on the other hand, calls for more than double the amount. I was this close to making it anyway but my daughter is a big fan of my pesto and I just couldn’t chance it. I would really hate to disappoint my lil girl. So, ok, I’m cheating a little because this isn’t Deborah Madison's recipe, but I think it's fine. It's not like there's a blog police or anything.

I gathered all my ingredients. It's really easy to remember the amounts of everything:
Maria's Pesto
1 cup nuts (walnuts or pine nuts. I usually use walnuts because pine nuts are crazy expensive)
1 package of Trader Joe's Basil (or 2 cups Basil)
5 cloves of garlic (less if you’re not that into garlic. We LOVE garlic)
1 cup of olive oil
1 cup of parm cheese (I usually add more than a cup though)
Salt and fresh pepper to taste

This recipe is very easy if you have a food processor. The only pain in the arse is cleaning the basil. Thankfully I have a little helper. Here my daughter is separating the basil from the stems. Notice the erase board with a very old menu.

I wash each leaf then I leave it drying in the dish rack and on some paper towels. Super annoying process.

I throw the dry and clean basil into the food processor along with the garlic and the nuts.
Once that’s all chopped up I slowly add the oil through the chute.

After that’s done I add the cheese along with salt and pepper and let the food processor do its till it’s nice and smooth. Here's my daughter giving it a taste test. She said it was delicious but dummy me didn’t listen and I added more salt. After that it was waay too salty. I had to add more nuts to account for the saltiness.

That's it! Easy peasy!

Tomorrow I'll post another dish I made but right now I need to hang out with the husband.
Till tomorrow!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

What to eat...

I haven't made artichokes in a loooong time. I think it was about 10 years ago.
I was a young and clueless back then. 
After cooking the artichoke I kept peeling away wondering what happened to the edible part. I peeled until there was nothing left. Then, upset and confused, I chucked everything away. Yes. Even the heart.

I hadn't cooked an artichoke since then. 

Not really my fault. I didn't grow up eating artichokes. My mom is not familiar with artichokes and I'm pretty sure that till this day she has never eaten one.
Thankfully my husband taught me how to eat them. Honestly I'm still a little confused as to which parts are edible, but I'm able to fake it really well.

I saw instructions on working with artichokes in the cookbook and I thought it was time to revisit this vegetable.  However, I was still worried that I would somehow mess up like I did 10 years ago.

So worried that I kept putting it off until the artichokes looked like this:

I was hoping that they would still taste good despite being old. 

Step 1: Cut the top part of the artichoke.
I feared I would either cut off too much or too little but I guess it's not that important because according to my husband his mom never cuts off the top part.
Step 2: Trim the lil thorns from the bottom leaves.
Thorns, another reason this vegetable worries me.
Step 3: Cut the stem "until it can stand." 
The artichoke on the left is a bad example and the artichoke on the right is a good example.
Step 3:  Wash the artichoke opening the leaves so the water can also clean the inside.

Step 4: Place them upside down in a steamer and steam for 30 min.

Thanks to my son (more about that later), I overcooked them.

Despite being overcooked and old, they were still delicious, especially the heart!
This will definitely not be my last time making these. And not only because there are more recipes in the book with artichokes.

Next I had to figure out what to make for dinner. My initial plan involved going to the market to pick up a couple things but that plan went out the window when my son decided he would not nap despite being super tired and cranky. The morning nap dilemma overcooked my artichokes and after taking over 2 hours to get the baby to nap, I was left with very few ingredients and with very little time. I toyed with the idea of making "Spinach and Herb Torta in a Potato Crust" but without the spinach, herbs or cheeses.  I guess that would have only left me with the crust. 

I finally settled on "Latkes: Potato Pancakes with Eggs and Onions."

 The recipe asked for 2 .5 lbs of potato's and since I don't have a kitchen scale I used what I did have.

It did the job. 
Step 1: Peel and shred the potato's
You can use the large holes from a grater or a food processor.

This is how it should look.
The potato was watery so I dried it a bit with some paper towels.

Step 2: Add the eggs, shredded onion, flour, salt and black pepper to the potato.

Step 3: Mix it all up

Step 4: Spoon the mixture onto a hot oiled pan.

Step 5: Cook for about 6 min on each side or until golden brown. 

Step 6: Serve with sour cream (or in my case Labne) and applesauce.

Simple, quick, cheap and delicious! Tonight could have turned out real ugly but it all worked out.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Almost Proud

I was so proud of last night's dinner. Even when I was vegetarian I always made a pasta dish or a faux meat dish for dinner.
Last night I decided to make "Chickpea and Spinach Stew" for 2 reasons.
  1. My husband and I have a cold and needed something comforting and healthy
  2. I had frozen spinach I needed to use and canned garbanzo beans in the cupboard.
I'm REALLY sorry for all the boring simplistic recipes I've been making but I want to cook with stuff I already have.  My freezer looked like it was about to bust. So embarrassing......

Needed to use this in order to leave more space. Coincidentally I still have no space in the freezer.

I gathered all my ingredients. Big can of garbanzo beans, pepper flakes, paprika, garlic, parsley, onion, olive oil, black pepper and chopped tomato's.

Cooked the onion, garlic, parsley and spices with some olive oil.
I added the garbanzo beans and tomato's and let them simmer. Latter added the frozen spinach straight into the pot. Because it's baby spinach I didnt bother to cook it first.

Made some brown rice in my rice cooker and also mashed some garlic in order to make the aioli, which is a fancy way of saying garlic with mayo.
At my household we call it toum, the Lebanese way of saying garlic with mayo.

And badda bing badda boom: Dinner! OH MAN! This was actually really REALLY good! I couldn't believe it! So this is what I was missing all those years I was vegetarian. My husband loved it as well. Keeper recipe!
Because of the spices I couldn't serve it to my daughter so she had brown rice with egg and green beans. Nothing fancy but it did the trick.

 I was so pleased with myself. . .that is until my good friends brought us Tito's Taco's! I just couldn't refuse their food, that would be rude. Not really. I just really wanted that taco. Eh, I tried.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


So not only do I have a mangled finger but I also managed to catch a nasty NASTY cold. Needless to say I haven't been in a cooking mood. But today I'm back!! Well, semi-back. I just had enough energy to make dessert. I decided to make "Pear-Almond Upside-Down Cake" because I wanted to get rid of my pears. Unfortunately I ended up only needing one pear for this recipe.

I started by blanching some almonds. Basically I just threw the almonds into boiling hot water. After a couple minutes I rinsed them and the skins slipped right off.
Next I grind them in the processor. This will later go in the batter.

After this I take a break because my son decided to pay me a lil visit in the kitchen. How cute is he?!?!

Ok, back to work! I start preparing the pears. I peel, cut and place them atop a melted butter-sugar concoction.

I pour the batter on top and I bake it. This is the result!

The cake was delicious! I was a little worried because the batter looked lumpy while baking but once out of the oven it looked great. OK folks, time to hit the hay!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Ugly but Good

Yesterday was "Vegetarian Friday!" My husband is Catholic Maronite and they try to abstain from meat and poultry on Friday's. Fish is permitted though, so I guess it's more "Semi-Vegetarian Friday!"
We didn't have Tuna so I made the husband an "Egg Salad with Caper's and Onions" Sandwich.

I gathered all the ingredients I needed.
Ignore the orange and Gatorade.

Boiled some eggs. The brown ones are for my kiddies; they are the expensive organic kind.

And there we are. It was hard trying to make the egg sandwich look pretty so I placed it next to some cherry tomatoes. Too lazy to take 'em out of the box. Still looked kinda ugly but it was pretty tasty!

And speaking of ugly...
These guys needed to be used so I looked in the cookbook and found "Banana Oat Muffins."

Mashed the bananas

 Didn't have buttermilk so i did the milk and vinegar trick.

Grated some nutmeg. I LOVE the smell!

Ready for the oven

Top Row in Pict:  The first batch came out pretty sad-looking and tasted a little bland. I immediately realized the recipe didn't call for salt! Salt brings out the sweet flavor in baked goods.

Middle Row in Pict: I added salt and little bit of white sugar to the next batch. It tasted much better!

Bottom Row in Pict: To the last batch I decided to add some vanilla and a little bit of baking powder. The last batch had a lighter texture, though I think I prefer the more dense texture.

Yesterday was the first time I completely abstained from meat. Our dinner included the mujadarrah that my mother-in-law fixed, hummus with olive oil my father-in-law made and Shanklish my husband made (a combo of cheese, onion, tomatoes and olive oil). I had the hard task of washing the veggies.
My daughter's dinner looked a lot cuter.

And this was our lunch today. Leftover egg salad with pickled jalapenos and carrots on top of a green salad. My daughter had cheese pizza and veggies and my son had hard boiled egg yolk mixed with a bunch of other stuff.  Dinner tonight might be similar to what we had yesterday.
Looks like another meatless day!!! 


Thursday, February 17, 2011

My towed up Finger: War wound from my Kitchen

So this is really embarrassing you guys, but I totally messed up my finger yesterday with my new stick blender. I TOLD myself to be careful and not to mess with it unless it was disconnected, but it only took one second of stupidity to get this:
The food I was blending got stuck and as I was trying to take the food out I accidentally pushed the button. It was super scary because I couldn't see how bad the cut was since it was bleeding profusely. I grabbed the first thing I saw (my sons dirty undershirt that was soaking in the bathroom sink) and wrapped it around my finger. My mother-in-law lives next door to me but she was working. I told my 4yr old to watch the baby while I went downstairs to ask help from my neighbors. After my neighbor poured alcohol we went back upstairs to check on the kids and I called my nurse friend.
She walked me through the process, basically pressure and ice. My neighbors had to go and I was left alone with my 2 kids and a finger that wouldn't stop bleeding. At the moment I felt super alone; it's when I finally lost it and begin to cry.
An hour later a few people arrived to help including my nurse friend and my father-in-law. My friend treated the wound and said that I might not need stitches after all. I was relieved because I don't have insurance.

Anywho, today the wound is looking like it's healing well. Not looking forward to doing dishes with this bandage around my finger, but ya gotta do what ya gotta do. I'm just thankful it wasn't worse then it could have been and that I had so many helping hands. Of course, this was the one day my husbands phone decided to blow out, so he had no idea what happened until he got home. He pretty much freaked out because he thought the top of my finger was gone. Craziness.

Well, after that whole gory story I'm sure the last thing someone wants to look at are pictures of food, but here goes anyway.
Yesterday (pre-finger-mutilation) I made Mujadarrah or "Lentils and Rice with Fried Onion." Since my husband is Lebanese we have this often but I've never made it before. This recipe was different from my mother-in-laws in that it had black pepper and much more rice.

I liked the fried onions that go with the dish.
Finished dish

Next up I made "Sauteed Zucchini with Garlic and Lemon."

Adding some lemon with my trusty grater
*Sigh* my index finger looks so pretty in this picture.

Because of the whole finger drama I didn't eat dinner until about 9pm. At this time the food tasted OK. I definitely like less rice in my Mujadarrah. Today my mother-in-law told me she would "fix it," which means make it taste more like hers.  The zucchini was nice, nothing special but a good way to cook it if I'm in a hurry. I don't think I'm going to be cooking tonight. I might make some banana muffins but other then that it might just be leftovers. Yesterday was pretty crazy and I want to take it easy today.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Daisy's for Dinner

Today I made "Dandelion Greens with Roasted Walnuts and Hard-Cooked Egg." My husband bought the Dandelion greens thinking they were something else. After a week of seeing them in the fridge I asked him what they were and he responded with, "Oh, my mom told me they were daisy's." I asked him if he was sure they were daisy's and not dandelion greens and he said, "yeah, dandelion greens sound about right."

Husbands say the darnest things.

So first things first, I had to roast the walnuts. Unfortunately my lil woke up from his nap, so by the time I picked him up and finished nursing him this happened!

I ate the walnuts that were still OK and chucked the rest. My husband would be frowning if he were there. He grew up during a war so its very much ingrained in him to never waste food. Ah well, whadya gonna do?!?! My second batch came out much better!
 Next up I boiled some eggs. I only needed 2 but I boiled more for future use. My daughter had one for dinner.
This is she, keeping me company in the kitchen while working on her alphabet sounds.

Smashed some garlic
I made the garlic, red wine vinegar dressing and cooked it for a minute.

These are the dandelion greens  

This is the finished salad.

I really like this salad! If you dont like bitter flavors then this is not for you though. I thought the walnuts gave it a nice sweet taste and the egg made it slightly creamy. The dressing was super yummy though I think next time Im going to add more garlic. I ate this as a side dish but the husband had it as a main dish.
Good stuff!