Saturday, February 26, 2011

Wow! Can we say MIA?!?

I can't believe it's been almost four months since I have posted!  Life has been crazy busy, as you can well imagine!  The past four months have been so insane that I don't feel as though I've had time for anything. 

Let's see...what has happened...I hosted my first thanksgiving...I started a young professional leadership course in town (which has been an amazing, enlightening, and enthralling experience)...I'm taking an independent study course on Congress & Public Policy (and boy am I behind)...we've gotten a new commander at work which has been incredibly stressful...oh, and I'm now an almost full fledged vegetarian. 

I did Vegetarian Month again in January and really enjoyed it.  I'm just not enjoying meat like I used to; needless to say, I've continued it.  I've had meat a bit here and there, but it was only a few weeks ago that I realized I really needed to do it for my health.  Due to a bad reaction to beef, I came face to face with the fact that eating vegetarian is really better for my body.  I will include fish, but I'm pretty much done with land creatures.

Mad About His Bath
Cooking is still an avid love of mine--I just really love GOOD food.  I have some black beans cooking on the stove right now for dinner and I made a delicious Spinach, Feta, and Tomato quiche for breakfast.  I'm getting ready to have some leftover Mac n Cheese from a local place for lunch.  I had a serious craving this week and Hubby wouldn't let me make any because "it's too much work for a Friday night."  So, on a recommendation from a friend, we went to Mezza Luna for dinner last night and I had their mac n cheese...made with 5 cheeses.  Mmmm....

The fifth anniversary of Whatley's adoption was yesterday.  It's really hard to believe he's been with me for five years!  He is such a wonderful part of my life. 

And finally, because everyone should know this...French Lentils are one of the best comfort foods.  They have become one of my favorite things when pared with balsamic vinegar and fresh Parmsean.  Here's a dish I came up with on Thursday night.  I had taken a sick day and was scrounging around the kitchen for dinner, trying to figure out what to make.  Let me tell you, it worked!

French Lentils with Wheatberries
Recipe by Stacey

1 cup Wheatberries, washed and picked over
4 cups water
salt and black pepper
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced or smashed
1 cup French Lentils, washed and picked over
3 cups water
2 bay leaves
1 can petite diced tomatoes, undrained
1 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1/2" pieces
1 tablespoon vegetable base
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar, optional
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
parmesan cheese

Wash and pick through wheat-berries.  Soak in water if you have time.  Put wheat-berries and 4 cups of water in a medium saucepan.  Add salt and black pepper; cover and bring to a boil.  Boil rapidly for 1 hour 15 minutes, until cooked.  Berries will still be chewy.

While wheat-berries are cooking, heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium to medium-high heat.  Add onion and cook until fragrant, translucent, and just beginning to brown.  Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute.  Add cumin, thyme, marjoram, bay leaves, and pepper.  Stir to combine, then add the lentils.  Pour in three cups of water and the can of tomato with juices.  Stir, cover, and bring to a boil.  Boil for approximately 30-40 minutes.

Add the lentils and vegetable base, stirring to combine; recover and cook for 15-20 minutes more, or until potatoes are soft and lentils are cooked.  Taste and adjust salt as necessary.Stir in cooked wheat-berries and simmer for 10 more minutes.  Top with white wine vinegar and balsamic vinegar.  Serve with parmesan cheese and more balsamic vinegar. 

Friday, November 5, 2010

Roasted Tomato and Caramelized Onion Sauce

Really tasty...really all around winner!  I served this at a small family dinner party a few weeks ago and it went over really well.  I couldn't find a recipe for what I wanted, so I just went at it in the kitchen!

Roasted Tomato and Caramelized Onion Sauce**                
An Original
4 large tomatoes, cored and quartered*
1 large can whole tomatoes, drained and chopped (save the liquid)*
1 small can diced tomatoes, drained (save the liquid)*
Olive Oil cooking spray
Salt and Black Pepper
Minced Garlic
Olive Oil
2 - 2½ sweet onions, chopped
1 small can crushed or pureed tomatoes
1 small can tomato sauce
2 small cans tomato paste
2-3 tbsp beef soup base (optional)
1 cup dry red wine (or 1 mini bottle)—I used a Cabernet Sauvignon
1-2 tbsp Italian herbs
1 tbsp dried parsley
2-3 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
½ tsp ground red pepper flakes
½ tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400F.  In a casserole dish sprayed with olive oil cooking spray, lay cored and quartered tomatoes skin down.  Season with salt and pepper and a generous amount of minced garlic; drizzle with olive oil.  Roast in oven for approximately 1 hour (check at 30 minutes and 45 minutes).  Let cool, then remove and discard skins and chop the tomatoes.
In a separate dish sprayed with olive oil cooking spray, combine the chopped whole tomatoes and diced tomatoes.  Season with salt and pepper and a generous amount of minced garlic; drizzle with olive oil.  Roast in oven for approximately 30 minutes.  Juices will begin to brown. 
Meanwhile, preheat a dry skillet over medium heat.  Add the onions and slowly cook.  They will give off moisture in the beginning, but eventually dry up and start to stick.  Drizzle with a bit of olive oil once they start to stick.  Turn the heat down slightly.  Continue to cook slowly until browned and caramelized, about 45 minutes.  Do not let them burn.
In a slow cooker, combine roasted tomatoes and pan juices(both dishes), juices from canned tomatoes, caramelized onions, crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, additional garlic, 1-2 good sized tablespoons of beef soup base (can add more near the end if you want a heartier taste), wine, and all spices.  Cook on low for 8-10 hours (or however long you need it to cook).  Taste and adjust seasonings.  Let simmer uncovered for about 30 minutes while you pull everything else together. 
Serve over Polenta with a Spinach Salad and Crusty Bread.
*Use this combination or do all fresh, whole, or diced—I wanted to see the difference in the three

Basic Polenta                                                                                                                                     Giada de Laurentiis
6 cups water/milk mixture
1¾ cup cornmeal
2 tsp salt
3 tbsp butter

In a large skillet, heat water/milk mixture to boiling.  Slowly whisk in the salt and cornmeal; whisk continuously until thickened, approximately 2 minutes.  Add butter and stir until melted. 
Serve with Roasted Tomato and Caramelized Onion Sauce
For Polenta Cakes: Pour hot polenta into a greased pan (size depends on desired thickness) and let cool.  Slice into desired shapes.  Bake or skillet fry polenta pieces as desired.

Walnut Spinach Salad**                                                                                 
An Original

Baby Spinach
¼ red onion, sliced and cut into thin strips about 2” long
¼ large apple, peeled and cut into thin strips about 2” long (recommend honeycrisp)
1-2 tbsp Lemon juice
1/3 cup walnuts, chopped and toasted

Walnut Balsamic Dressing:
3-4 tbsp walnut oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Salt and black pepper
Dash onion powder
Dash ground mustard

Prepare onion and apple.  Pour lemon juice over apple to prevent browning, tossing to combine.  Toast walnuts in a skillet until fragrant but not burned; cool.  Remove apple from lemon juice and dry with a paper towel.
Combine salad ingredients and toss in a large bowl.  Wisk together dressing ingredients and pour over salad.  Toss to combine and serve.

**All ingredient amounts are estimates. 

Saturday, October 9, 2010

What have I been up to since early September?


Lots of football...

(shhh....I'm  moving to the dark side and enjoying Alabama football more than Auburn...Roll Tide!)

Lots of doctors...

(the idea of putting radioactive material in my body still freaks me out--even though I've now had it done)

Hubby's Birthday...

(I got him this, so now we have lots of racing in our living room...)

A little bit of painting.  Hubby took me to Bottle & Brush (painting with wine)...  

(It was the first time I've picked up a paint brush since college)

My Painting
Hubby Finishing his Painting

It was FUN!!

Lots of class work and studying of national security...

(Anyone an expert on America's policy of reducing nuclear proliferation???)

And work...lots and lots of work...

I will leave you know with a video of Whatley in the kitchen...he is wanting a bowl of sauteed cabbage, corn, and a bit of fish.  It's really funny how crazy he gets for veggies.  The evening I had the HIDA scan, I still wasn't feeling well so I had hummus and carrots for dinner while hubby had mashed potatoes and fried chicken.  Whatley sat between us and what did he want???  Hummus and carrots!

Without further ado...

Friday, October 8, 2010

Long Absense, Busy Days's been over a month.  I've really not been very good at this. 

It's been a very busy month.  Work has been nonstop and school has picked up.  I have my midterm next week and a big part of my paper due the week after--I need to get going on that! 

I've also been having gallbladder issues (chronic cholecystitis) and am trying to learn how I need to change my diet.  I saw a specialist yesterday and he agreed that I can try to control it with food--I don't want to have surgery if I don't NEED it--and right now, I don't--no gallstones, no continuous pain.

Headed to the in-laws for the weekend.  It's been a month and this time will be different as Hubby's brother is overseas for school.  My sister also graduated from massage therapy school (yay!).  She's got to finish her clinicals, then get her license.  I have a massage scheduled for the 23rd and can't wait!  She's quite good!  :0)

Sister and I at her graduation luncheon

Monday, September 6, 2010

Hummus: It's Whats for Breakfast

My mother-in-law (MIL) can cook.  Really.  She is good and I've always felt like Hubby is comparing our food (he's really spoiled; so is the dog).  I get worried sometimes, but I really shouldn't be.  She loves it when I cook.  Hubby loves it when I cook.  Brother-in-law loves it when I cook.  But hummus for breakfast caused a little bit of concern.  

We visited Hubby's family this past weekend and I ended up in charge of breakfast on Saturday morning.  Looking through the fridge, I took stock of what was available and started to formulate an idea.  I wasn't even sure how it would work (specifically the hummus and cheese).  But, I ventured forth.  MIL was really concerned and kept trying to get me to go somewhere different with thus.  She finally relented and it was amazing.  The dog agrees.  

Ham and Hummus Toast
An Original

1 onion, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
olive oil
salt and black pepper

4 slices dense whole wheat bread
1 tbsp butter (optional)
3 tbsp hummus
8 thin slices quality deli ham
gruyere (or other swiss cheese), shredded
8 eggs

Heat olive oil in a skillet; add onions and peppers, along with salt and black pepper.  Saute until the veggies are caramelized.

Toast bread (spread with butter, if desired), then spread with hummus and top with ham, veggies, and cheese.  Stick under a broiler until toasty and cheese is melted.

Meanwhile, fry the eggs in a skillet until desired hardness (me: hard; hubby: runny).  Place an egg on top of each slice of toast, sprinkle with a touch more cheese and salt and pepper (if desired).  Enjoy!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Glazed Carrot Soup

I know what you are thinking...really?  Carrot Soup?  How good can this be?

AMAZING.  There is no other way to put it.

Hubby gave me the stink eye when I first told him I was making this.  He doesn't like carrots.

Sister looked at me weird when she came over while we were having leftovers.

Both were shocked and amazed.

This stuff is like crack!  Serve it with a fresh country bread for dipping and you don't need anything else.

Glazed Carrot Soup
Adapted from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian

1 1/2 pounds carrots, sliced
2 3 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon tablespoon maple syrup
salt and black pepper
6 cups vegetable broth
2 tablespoons parsley, minced

Melt the butter in a large saucepan and add the carrots.  Saute several minutes until fragrant and they start to brown.  Add 3/4 cup water and maple syrup and turn the heat on high.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Cover, turn the heat to medium-low and cook for about 5 minutes.

Uncover and raise the heat a bit.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has evaporated and the carrots are cooking in the butter.  Lower the heat and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the carrots are very tender, about 10 minutes more.  If they start to stick or brown, add a tablespoon or so of stock.

Add the stock and turn the heat to high.  Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the syrup at the bottom of the pan.  Lower the heat so that the stock gently bubbles and cook, stirring occasionally, until it thickens slightly, about 10 minutes more.

Use an immersion blender to puree the soup in the pan.  Taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary.  Serve, garnished with a sprinkle of parsley.


Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Monterey--One of God's Great Gifts

Indescribable Beauty.  The Fresh Smell of Pine.  Luxurious Wine.  Ocean Waves Beating Against the Cliffs.  Rough Rocks and Smooth Stones.  

Monterey County is an exploration for the senses and a place for relaxation.  Enjoy the sites...

Monterey Peninsula

The Lone Cypress, Pebble Beach

Views from the drive to Big Sur

The Waterfall at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

Sangiovese Grapes Ripening on the Vine
My Love Upon the Rock