Tuesday, June 28, 2011

day 15 = laundry detergent for "no cheese, no nuts"

i've always been a bit of an allergic kid. i am extremely allergic to nuts and dairy (every restaurant i go to I ask for "no cheese, no nuts") and i've always had trouble with perfumes. lately, i've tried almost every laundry detergent on the market and always seem to wind-up "itching" by the end of the day. so, i did some research and learned it's much better to make your own.

now, i have to admit, i did have another motive. making your own laundry detergent costs all of $8.77 for the ingredients and you probably get 3 years worth of detergent! here's what you need to do:

step 1: buy all the ingredients

  • borax (laundry detergent aisle)
  • washing soda (laundry detergent aisle)
  • ivory soap (soap aisle -- comes in pack of 3)

step 2: make a batch

  • measure: 1 cup borax & 1 cup washing soda
  • grate: 1 bar of ivory soap on the smallest holes

step 3: mix together, put in your favorite container, and you are all set!

  • use 1 tbsp for a light load or 2 tbsp for a heavy load

that's it! we've been using it now for a few months and it works great. well, i can't really comment because charley does the laundry, but he tells me it works great! please let me know what you think :)


Monday, June 27, 2011

day 14 = what am i going to make for 4th of July?

each year i make something cute and fun for the kids on 4th of july. each year i agonize about what to make, finally pick something, scramble to get the ingredients, and stay at the beach a little longer than i should (i need to get a tan!) and then have to rush to put something together.

i'm sure this year will be no different, but this year i'll let you in on my thoughts... we'll just have to wait to find out which one it is!

2011 --- what do you think????

past years if you want to drool...


Friday, June 24, 2011

day 13 = 5 minute crab legs

this is all it takes:

1) set your oven to broil

2) put crab legs on a broiler pan. broil 2-3 mins 

3) mix together dressing (in place of butter) for your crab

4) eat!

i spent too much money, but it was good! we went to costco to pick up more chicken wings that were on coupon (why not save $4), and i got an itchin' for crab legs. as i recall they used to be $10 a pound, but it must be double that now. you can imagine my shock then when i got 1 1/2 pounds for us for dinner and it cost $29!! oh well, charley, i hope you enjoyed it because i won't spend that again :)

this is quite possibly the easiest meal you'll make. when costco has their fresh fishmonger, grab 1-2 legs per person (i bought 3 today for the 2 of us). they are precooked so you just turn your oven to broil and put them in there for 2-3 mins. that's it!

while they were in the oven, i mixed together equal parts olive oil and red wine vinegar and added a few pinches of each of the spices above. this made for a great dipping sauce and i also added it to my salad. the entire meal took all of 5 mins from refrigerator to stomach!

**i got a tip today on how to freeze fish and have it still taste fresh. before you put it in the freezer, stick it in a ziploc bag and add just enough water to cover the fish. when you defrost you won't have any freezer burn and it will retain it's texture. i haven't tried this yet so if you do, please let me know how it works!

it is Friday, end of the week, and we typically try to do something nice.  i suggested sushi, but sarah wanted to stop at costco and pick up a few things that were on sale.  needless to say we made it to costco and sarah saw the fish stand and made the executive decision for crab legs.  she didn't get any argument out of me as we have been working to clear out the remaining food in the fridge so a light dinner wouldn't be bad.  i think i added the kitchen sink to my salad along with the crab legs, but in the end the crab legs were the star.  being easy to heat up they were a pain to crack open.  the legs from costco actually had a good deal of meat on them so it made it worth it.  sarah likes to dip hers in sauce where i like mine straight up.  tasty tasty!!!


Thursday, June 23, 2011

day 12 = using up the fridge

i'm trying to eat up the contents of our fridge. the other day i bought these great mini-potatoes from Trader Joe's and hadn't yet used them. so, i turned the oven to 450 degrees, put the potatoes in an 8x8 in pan, drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with a little brown sugar and the leftover sixteen-spice rub i made the other day courtesy of bobby flay, and tossed with tongs to coat. i put the pan in the oven (no need to wait for it to preheat) and changed into comfy clothes.

well, i knew we were having potatoes, but what was going to be for the main meal? i opened the freezer to get out some chicken wings ($4 off at costco right now), but charley had eaten the last few earlier today. ok, now what? i still had some leftover "stoup" from a month ago so i stuck it in the microwave for 10 mins to defrost and heat-up.

luckily, they finished up at about the same time and we had a great dinner in under 20 mins!

**anytime i have leftovers (pasta, herbs, wine...) i throw them into a ziploc bag and stick in the freezer. about once a month i cook up the contents of the bags with a little chicken stock and it makes for a few great meals of "stoup".

first meal of the week that was a little heavy, but still very good.  she did an amazing job with the seasoning and i may regret it later as i ate too many of them.  after a week long of this food i am happy to say i haven't put on any weight, but i have made sure to keep up with my workouts and even push myself a little farther.  i am beginning to believe what they say that it is always better to have a home cooked meal then eat out.  this really has become a great blessing, i love the food.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

day 11 = super easy grilled cheese and tomato soup

watch it's progress...

and for the finale...

last week i came home to a "present." charley got me a new cookbook and he's been drooling over it ever since. today i got an email from him -- this is the entirety of the email:

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion
2 celery stalks
4 garlic cloves
1 carrot
2 red peppers
1 28oz can plum tomatoes in juice
3 cups chicken stock
1 tsp sugar
1 bay leaf
1 tsp spanish paprika
salt and fresh ground pepper

Grilled Cheese:
Grab bread and whatever cheese you wish! (Typically American)

ok... i think charley wants grilled cheese and tomato soup. so, i picked up the ingredients (but i grabbed cheddar cheese because i don't like american) and thought i am in for a long night. much to my surprise, this took very little time and was super easy to clean. here's what i did:

  1. turn on broiler; put peppers into oven and let broil until skin blackens, turning frequently
  2. meanwhile...
  3. heat oil in a saucepan over med-low heat
  4. chop onion, celery, and garlic; throw in saucepan and stir until softened
  5. chop carrot; throw in saucepan for 1 min
  6. add tomatoes with their juice, the stock, sugar, and bay leaf
  7. add salt and pepper
  8. bring to boil at high-heat, then turn to med-low
  9. cover soup and simmer for 45 mins
  10. good time to check on the peppers :) place in a ziploc or plastic bag to capture the steam and let cool (this will allow for easy peeling of the skin)
  11. pull red peppers out of bag and peel off skin; discard seeds
  12. add red peppers and spanish paprika to the soup
  13. puree in blender
  14. adjust seasoning (add lots more salt, pepper, and spanish paprika) and serve!
grilled cheese:
  1. heat a saucepan on med
  2. butter both sides of bread slices you are using
  3. add cheese to cover one side of each sandwich
  4. assemble the sandwiches
  5. place in the saucepan letting each side grill and the cheese melt
  6. repeat making as many sandwiches as you need!
the grilled cheese came out great! the soup is really healthy (it's all vegetables), but i didn't think it had a lot of taste. i'd bump up the vegetables some to give it more than just a tomato taste.

let me be completely honest as i was the one who requested this and yes it was mainly for the grilled cheese.  you can't go wrong with tomato soup and grilled cheese (we will be having it at our wedding) and this was no exception.  the soup was light and i could taste everything that went into it.  very tasty and was a great addition to the sandwich.  the only problem with the meal was sarah would only allow me to have one grilled cheese (has to do with her wanting me to live forever!)  in the end she did let me have half of her sandwich.


Monday, June 20, 2011

day 10 = last-minute lemon bars

alright, two weeks ago we bought bananas at costco. i used a few to make the banana chocolate chip bread on day 8. they were clearly not ripe enough, but i was eager to try the recipe. i left the remaining 4 bananas out for the last few weeks and was so excited last night when i realized i could make round two of banana bread tonight because they were finally the perfect ripened bananas. i got home early tonight, popped out of work clothes and into comfy clothes, washed my hands, and stared at an empty counter. charley "cleaned" and tossed my beautiful bananas in the trash.

i had no clue what to make instead. so, i entered the following ingredients into the search list on allrecipes.com: "butter", "sugar", "eggs", and "flour."

one of the first recipes that came up was for lemon bars. i tailored it a little and this is quite possibly one of the easiest desserts i've ever made. not a lot of cleanup either!

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup white sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour

2 eggs
3/4 cups white sugar
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 lemons, juiced and zested (you can use 1 for less of a sour punch)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

In the bowl of a mixer, blend together softened butter, 1 cup flour and 1/4 cup sugar. Press into the bottom of an ungreased 8x8 inch pan.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until firm and golden. In the same bowl, whisk together the remaining 3/4 cups sugar and 2 tbsp flour. Whisk in the eggs and lemon juice. Pour over the baked crust.

Bake for 20 minutes more. Let cool for 1/2 hour. The bars will firm up as they cool. Cut into squares and dust with powdered sugar.

**you can double the recipe and put in a 9x13 in pan it's that good!

what can i say, it was a great dessert and i will be asking her to bring it to work!  if you like the taste of a little butter and the tang of lemon then this one is for you.  i love tart lemon or should i just say i like sour things and this was up my alley as she added a little more lemon.  if only it was healthy for you i would eat the whole thing!


Sunday, June 19, 2011

day 9 = tenderloin two ways

so after the pork tenderloin debacle on day 6, i stopped at costco to pick up a replacement. unfortunately, at costco you have to buy 4 times as much meat as you need for 2 people. hence, i had leftover tenderloin in the fridge. it's fine though because we had a lazy day and neither one of us wanted to go to the store. the tenderloin came with 2 in a package so i thought i'd experiment making each a little different. before i started, i pulled the tenderloins out of the fridge about 2 hrs before cooking, washed them, and salted them. then i stuck it back in the fridge for later.

tenderloin #1 (spice):
i pulled out Bobby Flay's Grill It! cookbook (which was also used on day 2 -- bbq at home) and made just the rub for the meat. i mixed together 2 tbsp oil, 1 tbsp smoked paprika, and 1/2 tbsp salt in a small dish to make a paste. then, i sprinkled pepper on the tenderloins and brushed the paste all over. i let them sit out to come to room temp. charley grilled from there.

tenderloin #2 (herb):
i pulled out Rachel Ray's 30 Minute Meals Get Togethers. i didn't have garlic so i first sprinkled with pepper, then rubbed balsamic vinegar with my hands all over the tenderloin, then rubbed with olive oil (i use plastic gloves from costco because i don't like touching raw meat). i chopped up one sprig of rosemary with about 4 sprigs of thyme (leftover from the other pork recipe) and mixed with montreal steak seasoning. i spread it all over the pork and let it sit out to come to room temp. charley grilled from there.

i liked them both. super easy to make (really) and one had more of an herb flavor while the other had a little more spice. really great if you have varying taste buds to serve to. also good for a little variety :) i still am not a fan of pork, but this was pretty good.

they both were tender and the taste was not very overpowering. the herb pork was more mild then the spanish paprika, but i am sure you are picking up that i like spice!  as for the overall dish, i would admit i wasn't very impressed.  i like bold flavors and this was just too mild for me.


Thursday, June 16, 2011

day 8 = 1952 banana chocolate chip bread

tonight's banana bread is special. my grandmother received the "Antoinette Pope School" (Macmillan)cookbook after she was married. she had a 1952 edition and gave it to me a few years ago when she stopped cooking. flipping through it today, i found a handwritten "Triple Recipe Chop Suey" note in the book. how fun!

this smelled amazing when i was making it. the dough was so fluffy i really couldn't wait to bake it. my bananas were not ripe enough yet (but i was eager to make this) so i think that's the one downfall in how it came out. otherwise, i highly recommend this if you want a traditional banana bread. click on the picture of the recipe above and you should be able to read it.  if you want a really moist and vibrant banana bread, check out the recipe in my cookbook. that has to be the best banana bread i've ever had.

i did a few things to this recipe that were new tricks. if you are in a pinch, try these:

1) buttermilk substitute = put 1 tsp lemon juice in a 1/3 cup measuring cup.   pour enough milk to get to the top and let sit 5 mins. (use 1 tbsp for 1 cup).

2) salted butter substitute = substitue unsalted butter and add 1/4 tsp salt per 1 stick of butter to your flour mixture. sift the flour mixture with other dry ingredients before using.

3) for a moist bread = the recipe calls for putting another pan on top of the the one you are using for a moist bread. i've never heard that before, but tried it and the bread is super moist!

4) who needs nuts when you can add chocolate chips!

i see we are on day eight and I am doing all that i can to keep from putting on weight.  to be honest i have put on about 1.5 lbs since the start of this and that is with a normal work-out regiment.  the food is just too good and i am loving it all.  i will just need to work out harder because i am so happy with what she makes.  i knew i found a keeper!!!!!  anyway for this evening's treat i was a little surprised as it was not as strong of a banana flavor as i would have expected.  it was good as it was not dry, but the strongest flavor to it was the  chocolate chips.  i am not sure if i would recommend removing the chocolate, but i think i would prefer more banana.  the cake itself was moist and tasty and i hope it has more banana taste the next day!


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

day 7 = round 2: "fig" stuffed roast pork loin

for round 2, i learned a lot:

1) brine is easier to make the second time around
2) dates are an excellent substitute if you can't find figs
3) when a recipe says: "refrigerate for 10 hrs (no longer, or the pork may become too salty)"--- LISTEN!
4) charley really knows how to pick recipes that require a lot of clean-up :)

well, after my first failed attempt to make this, i should have just given up. i think charley and i are going to differ on this one (although it was his pick and i never make him pork).

this was a true labor of love. sunday i prepped all the ingredients, monday i left the pork on the counter instead of putting it in the refrigerator, and today i made a lot of dishes messy (including almost setting the smoke detector off). all in all, i left work a few hours later than i had planned so the pork sat in the brine a little too long and you could tell it took on a salty flavor. the chutney was great, except when i pulled it out of the fridge (now 2 days later), it was hard as a rock. when i microwaved it, it bubbled over and got the plate all gooey. oh well, charley's in charge of the dishes...

the meal tonight was specifically requested by me as I see it being possibly the last time I will be eating anything Pork!  for those close to me they will understand.  the pork was tender and full of flavor.  it actually was a good change to use the dates as it added a little texture to the meal. i have become much more open minded to food and have found that I am a texture eater so this element was important to me.  the pork was a little salty, but I was informed that this was due to it sitting in the brine for to long.  I would still recommend this for anyone that enjoys pork!

if you want to try it, check out the "Fig Stuffed Roast Pork Loin" recipe from Ad-Hoc at Home (Artisan) by Thomas Keller. or you can view it at this great blog! sugarandspice-celeste.blogspot.com


Monday, June 13, 2011

day 6 = not supposed to happen "stoup"

well, it only took 6 days and i royally messed-up our dinner. if you know me, this will come as no surprise....

charley picked out a recipe he wanted me to make and we went to the grocery store yesterday to pick-up the ingredients. it's a recipe from "Ad-Hoc at Home" (Artisan) by Thomas Keller and we were really looking forward to trying it. being that it was sunday night, i took my time preparing all that was needed to make the dish. i pre-made the chutney, chopped all the vegetables, and made the brine. this morning, i woke-up and stuck the meat in the brine (which it needs to sit in for up to 10 hrs) and left home really proud of myself for actually prepping a dish to the fullest!

walking to the car after work, i called charley to ask him to pull the meat out of the fridge and let it come to room temp by the time i got home. this is how the conversation went...

charley: "it's not in the fridge"

sarah: "ok, charley, it's in a large red pot in the fridge. just pull it out of the liquid and let it sit out to rest until i get home"

charley: "i'm pretty sure the pot is sitting on the counter with the meat in it"

sarah: "what do you mean!? it's not in the refrigerator?"

charley: "yeah, i was wondering what you were doing!"

"yeah, i was wondering what you were doing????" why didn't he just put it in the fridge... oh well, there went all my prep and the hours of "love" i gave the dish yesterday. scrap that so tonight we had leftovers! don't worry though, i stopped at costco on the way home and picked up some more meat for tomorrow... we'll try round two. (i have all this chutney and prepped vegetables i need to use!!)

not supposed to happen "stoup":

every time i have leftovers around (pasta, herbs, chicken bones, vegetables, wine --- yes wine!.....) i throw the leftovers into a large ziploc bag, put it in the freezer, and save for a rainy day. then, when the bag gets full (actually, it's usually 2 bags), i throw it all into a large soup pot and make us some "stoup". i did this last night since it took quite some time to prep all the ingredients for my botched meal so it was our dinner tonight. it's a great way to use up leftovers and makes a really hearty meal!

(if you have leftover wine, pour it into ice cube trays and freeze. it will be a little slushy, but throw it into your ziploc bag and it gives a great flavor to your stoup!)

the great thing about this soup is that it comes out different each time she makes it.  because it is made up of leftovers from previous meals it always has a little different flavor and is always spiced differently.  to clarify I enjoy things spicy and this version of the soup was a little mild for me, but it had enough flavor to carry the dish so that I didn't need to add any pepper or other spices.  i was very happy with this meal, now I am off for my dessert (the remaining pineapple cake!!!!!)


Sunday, June 12, 2011

day 5 = pineapple upsidedown cake

after taking the weekend off, it was time to get back to cooking. ever since i made the brownies from the "Ad-Hoc at Home" cookbook (Artisan) by Thomas Keller, i've been itching to continue making some of his recipes. today i made his pineapple upside-down cake. it was fairly simple and came out so light and fluffy i am going to continue cooking out of the book tomorrow!

if you are interested in the recipe, check out the excellent blog by foodgal.com. i used a 9-in dark cake pan (since i don't have a silicone one) and it came out great! i think i need a nap now...

day 2 of my input and I think I should just start by keeping track of my weight gain.  everything she is making is not horribly bad for you, I just can't keep from eating too much of it.  This falls into that zone as I will be getting up shortly to get my second piece of the cake after typing this up.  It was very light and has great pineapple flavor.  The pineapple wasn't too soft and the cake itself was fluffy.  My only critical comment would be on the cake as I wish it was a little less fluffy, but all in all it still was amazing.  Good balance of flavors and it tastes very light, not heavy at all.  Highly recommended!


Thursday, June 9, 2011

day 4 = oreo bliss

alright... time to change it up a little. since tonight's was soooo good, i'm going to put my comments in and then charley is going let you know what he thought of the food. here it goes...

you've got to try this one! i got the recipe from a co-worker today and stopped at the grocery store on the way home to pick up the ingredients. it cost a total of $11.97, but i have an extra bag of chocolate chips (about $3) leftover that i never used. not bad, but you could do better if you hone in on some extreme couponing techniques.

anyway, these really are great. all you do is take a 16.6oz package of oreo cookies (i used reduced fat) and crush them up in a food processor until fine. add an 8oz bar of cream cheese (i used 1/3 less fat) and process until smooth. roll into balls and stick in the freezer to harden. you'll get about 30 pieces.

about 30 mins later, melt one 11.5oz pkg of milk chocolate chips in a microwave bowl on 50% power for 1 min stopping after 30 seconds to stir. after the 1 min is up, stir for a little. put back in microwave for another 15 seconds and stir. if it needs more time, put it in for another 10 seconds and stir again. repeat if needed, but you should still have some chips that have not fully melted. you want this so your last few stirs melt them together (this ensures you have smooth and not clumpy chocolate).

take the balls out of the freezer and use a toothpick or skewer to dip each ball into the chocolate. i dipped them most the way, but you can roll them around so they are completely covered (this may require another bag of chocolate to melt so you may want to buy 2 just in case). after i dipped all of them, i went back over the tops and spread a little chocolate in the space that was open and topped with M&M's and chocolate chips. freeze about 20 mins till firm. this is great because you can do all chocolate or experiment with any topping you like!! 

Sarah has now asked me to type up my thoughts on each of these meals and I believe this is the start of me getting really fat!!!!  I thought that I wasn't supposed to get fat until we were married, but it seems she wants to start early.  I must say this is the second dessert she has made this week (and for those who know me, that is my weakness, huge sweet tooth).  Both of these desserts, brownies and oreo bliss, will need to make their way to Sarah's office because I will sit down and eat them all in one sitting.  Very tasty and when she first handed me one I didn't know what to expect, but they are deceptively excellent.  Highly recommended and I have requested they be added to the list for her second cookbook!!!


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

day 3 = sleepy salmon

tonight i'm on my own. charley is out to dinner so i decided to put one of my favorite quick and easy meals together. i had salmon in the fridge from our Costco trip and leftover sauce and spice rub from last night's meal (see day 2 post). this is great! you can probably get 2 nights of chicken and 2 nights of salmon rub out of the recipe.

if you need to make a meal that takes little effort, turn your oven to 450 when you get home for the night and go change into "comfy clothes". pull some salmon out of the fridge, place it on a foil lined baking sheet, drizzle some Black Pepper Vinegar Sauce over the top, sprinkle with Sixteen-Spice-Rub, and stick in the oven for 14 minutes. THAT'S IT! it was excellent and a great way to use the leftovers!

i make this recipe all the time with just olive oil and any combination of spices so don't be intimidated by the spice rub recipe :)

here's a link for the sauce and spice rub: vinegar sauce and spice rub.

oh... i added some greek chicken pasta salad i made over the weekend. it's just rotissarie chicken, pasta, feta cheese, red onion, cherry tomatoes, and greek dressing. another simple, but spectacular dish charley has now been able to eat for lunch!


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

day 2 = bbq at home

wow, i've actually kept this going for 2 days! i got home tonight knowing i have a fridge full of Costco purchases (more than should ever be bought for 2 people) and no plan of attack. it's a good thing i have this blog going because it forced me to look through one of my cookbooks. i knew i had chicken in the fridge which needed to be used. a little while ago i read you should salt meats and poultry before you stick them in the fridge to improve the flavor.  i tried this on sunday so figured it needed to be used up 2 days later (the results were spectacular... i highly recommend!). ok, so chicken it is. now, what to do with it? luckily, i have a cookbook from Bobby Flay all about grilling. perfect!

now it was a matter of choosing the recipe. knowing i was not getting back in the car to go to the store, i needed a recipe with ingredients i had at home. have i ever mentioned i am a little obsessed with cookbooks? well, i've made a few recipes overtime and each one seems to use another new spice. luckily then, i had most of the 16 spices in his "Sixteen-Spice-Rubbed Chicken Breast with Black Pepper Vinegar Sauce". charley hates vinegar so it was a little risky, but i thought i go for it. surprisingly, it didn't take very long to put together (i skipped one of the spices because i didn't have it, but who's telling). it actually was spectacular! if you are a descendant of my grandfather, you lick every bone in sight. i've had my share of cleaning chicken bones, but this was probably the best ever! and charley even liked the sauce! 

to top it all off i added some corn (again from Costco) and a cobb salad. it turned out to be a great evening! ---- ok, i can't get all the credit, charley grilled the chicken to perfection (he wanted me to add that plug :)

since it has a lot of ingredients, check it out for yourself at the following and let me know how it goes!: BBQ Chicken Rub 


Monday, June 6, 2011

day 1 = brownies

ok... so i love cooking, and i love cookbooks, but i never cook anything from them! it's like this stack of glossy pages that just sit there waiting for someone to give them the time of day. i have a few hundred (i'm that obsessed) and i need to start using them!! hence, this blog...

i just got done putting brownies in the oven. if you know me, you know i either cut myself, burn myself, bruise myself, or just outright sacrifice my body each time i cook. for some reason, i need to add that extra pinch of tenderness for the food to come out right. my father (who is a terrific cook) always says cooking is about patience and love (yes, my dad says that), but i can't seem to find that patience. for me, it's all about shortcuts. so today, i really tried to follow directions and give it some love, but i didn't hurt myself in any way. sorry, charley, i don't think it's going to taste very good :(