Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Rosh Hashanah and New Year

Sorry, no recipe this time.  I just have some thoughts on the new year and some Jewish traditions.
I have never been a big new years person. The thought of a fresh start hits me more in the fall than in January. So, I have always been confused as to why it means so much to some people.  Resolutions and parties have never been my two favorite things.

But, as a fan of the Maccabeats, I have found their "Book of Good Life" video (found below) a bit compelling. I have always been interested in other religions and Judaism has been a particular interest since it is the faith that mine has grown out of. And while for the most part our religions are different (I don't believe I can earn a place in God's grace. Thank you Jesus!) there are many values we can bring from their beliefs and festivals.

The Maccabeats are from Yeshiva University and have put together an a Capella group that sings some traditional Jewish hymns as well as current songs with the words changed. They have two songs about Hanukkah, one about Purim, and one about Rosh Hashanah/Yom Kippur.

Rosh Hashanah is the New Year on the Jewish calendar.  There is a sort of celebration while everyone becomes excited for the new year. This is followed by the Days of Awe. This is a week of looking inward to see how you have, well, failed in the past year to be the person God has made you. This is then followed by Yom Kippur which is the day of atonement. After a week of self reflection and change, you are then cleansed of your sins.
(Please note, I am not Jewish nor have I ever been. This is my understanding of the holidays after some classes and limited internet research.)  

In the "Book of Good Life" video, there can be presented to Christians a new look on the purpose of new year. Instead of making quick resolutions that are usually focused on weight or personal health, let's take the days between Christmas and New Year's to really reflect on what we can do to make ourselves better people that do more for others and draw ourselves closer to God.

Let me again reiterate, I am a Jesus believer and follower. I believe he has died in my place and offered me atonement with God. Thank you Jesus for offering me grace and mercy!  And, thank you Maccabeats for making Judaism a bit more understandable
Maccabeats "Book of Good Life"

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


Make these.  Make these now.  I was skeptical about them, but Todd had wanted some Empanadas from this place down the street.  So I thought I was use the recipe in the Hungry Men book and it was a hit.  We made them Saturday night before I had to babysit and Todd had to cater.  They were perfect for some on the go dinner.  I made the pastry dough and the filling so here is the recipe for both!

8 Tablespoons unsalted butter at room temp.
4 oz of cream cheese at room temp
1/4 cup of heavy cream
1 1/2 cups plus 2 Tablespoons all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

1. Process butter, cream cheese and cream with a mixer.
2. Add the flour and salt and make it into a ball.
3. Divide into 2 pieces and flatten between plastic wrap to chill for 30 minutes.
4. Roll it out and use a bowl 5 inches across to cut circles.  It should make around 10 circles for empanadas.

1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, choppped
1 small green bell pepper, chopped
1 pound ground beef
1 teaspoon cumin
3/4 cup of pimiento-filled green olives, sliced
3/4 cup raisins
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Several dashes of hot sauce
2 large eggs, separated
Pastry rounds

1. Cook your onions and peppers in your olive oil over medium high heat for 3-4 minutes.  Raise the heat to high and add your beef.  Cook until browned.
2. Add cumin and cook 1 more minute.
3. Stir in the olives, raisins, honey, salt, pepper, and hot sauce.  Cook until the meat is golden brown, the liquid has evaporated, about 4 more minutes.
4.  Cool the mixture completely and then stir in egg whites.
5. Preheat oven to 375 and line a baking sheet.
6. Place about 1/4 cup of the filling on one side of the dough circle.  Wet the edges and fold over.  Crimp with a fork and repeat until filling or dough is gone.
*If you want, freeze the empanadas at this point and you can make them in the future.
7. Place the empanadas in the fridge to chill for a few minutes.  Poke twice with a fork and then brush with the egg yolk.
8.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown.  Let rest 5 minutes before serving.
*If you want to make appetizers, just use a 3 inch bowl for the circles and 2 teaspoons of the filling.

I would make these everyday if I had the time.  We each at 4 of them in about 15 minutes.

This has been the winner from this cookbook so far.  The dough was flaky and had that cream cheese kick to it.  The filling was delicious and spicy.  We did leave out the olives and raisins, but I made add the raisins next time.  (Don't even come knocking on my door, olives.  You are not welcome in this household.)  Like I said, we loved it and it was perfect for on the go dinner.  I may make some to freeze so we can have an easy dinner some night.  

Still to come, another chicken recipe from Hungry Men, and Chicken Satay from our Alton Brown cookbook.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Fried Chicken

Oh man, this did not turn out well.  Well, I didn't think it was that good, but Todd seemed to think it was okay.  Let's start from the beginning.

1 quart of buttermilk or milk
2 Tablespoons Tabasco
1 3-4 pound chicken, cut into 8 pieces (or 2 chicken breasts cut in half like we did.  Advice, pick a cut with a bone in it.)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 cups peanut oil, vegetable oil, bacon fat, or lard.

1. In a 9x13 pan, combine milk and hot sauce.
2. Soak your chicken at lease 10 minutes.  We did it overnight.
3. In a plastic bag, combine flour, salt, and peppers.
4. Shake chicken in flour in shifts and shake off excess flour.
5. In a cast iron skillet (or dutch oven since that is all we have), heat 2 inches of oil.
    -Test oil by tossing in a popcorn kernel.  When it pops, it's hot enough.
6. Turn the heat down to medium and fry chicken, leaving 1/2 inch between pieces.  Fry in shifts if you have to.  Leave it undisturbed for 15 minutes, lowering the heat to prevent excessive browning.  Turn the pieces and cook another 15-20 minutes.
7. Remove from oil and drain on rack.  Place in 200 degree oven to keep warm.

Looks okay with the potatoes and green beans, but...meh.

We used 2 chicken breasts cut in half.  Don't do this.  Buy chicken breasts with bones in or other cuts.  Also, this is not spicy, despite the presence of Tabasco and Cayenne pepper. Add more of either if you want it to be spicy.  Lastly, I forgot to turn the oil down for the first side of my first 2 pieces.  They were what she describe as "excessively brown" and tasted like charcoal.  But my second two pieces turned out better.

Overall, it was a let down for my first frying experience and my apartment smelled like butt.  However, maybe my new knowledge will be put to use for a special Christmas morning donut or something.  And maybe, once I recover from the burnt taste, I will try this again.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

We're Back!

For real this time, because I have challenged myself with something new.  You want to hear?  Of course, because I'm semi interesting and chances are if you finally got around to checking my blog, you are really bored. So I will assume you have nothing better to do.

So, when Todd and I arrived home from our vacation to Colorado (which was amazing.  Why do I live in such a crappy place?) I had a new motivation to start cooking again.  Larry at Living Hope Covenant mentioned that my now very old food photo album on Facebook was wonderful and he enjoyed seeing how well we learned to cook.  So naturally, I needed to find a new challenge since we have become complacent with our 10 favorite dinner recipes.

The new challenge:
To use one cook book a week to make dinner every night.  The dinners must be as follows.
2 chicken nights
1 beef night
1 soup night
1 pasta or salad night
Saturday is pizza and Sunday is leftovers.
Also a plus, if all the food is around $40/week.

We kicked the challenge off with Mad Hungry by Lucinda Scala Quinn.  This book is all about how Quinn taught her boys to cook and what she cooked them.  Monday's meal was her Pantry Bistro Salad.  Starting easy; it's hard to screw up salads.  

1 head of Romain lettuce
5 strips of bacon
1/2 white onion
2 poached eggs
Olive Oil and Red Wine Vinegar

1. Cut your bacon into small bits as to fry them faster.
2. Saute your diced onion and bits of bacon in a small lug of olive oil until caramelized and crispy.  Place on paper towel to drain.
3. Cut and wash your lettuce.  Place on paper towels to dry.
4. Bring a saucepan of water to a boil and attempt to poach 2 eggs.  I failed massively, so I ended up frying them over easy and over hard.
5. Salad...Assemble!  Lettuce, bacon and onions, egg, and drizzle with olive oil and red wine vinegar.

I made this because I thought Todd would like it, as I am not a huge egg fan.  But I must say, we both devoured this.  Partially because we were eating dinner at 8:30, and it was delicious.  The only changes we made were fried instead of poached eggs, and a yellow onion (because that's what I started cutting up and I wasn't going to waste half and onion!)

My failed poached egg.  I know when I'm bested.

The final product.  Add salt and pepper and some bread.

Tuesday's Dinner:  Fried Chicken

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Pesto Grilled Cheese

Well, I think we all knew that blogging was not my strong suit.  But, I have thought up one of our favorite recipes as of late that I haven't shared yet.  It was a recreation of one of my favorite lunch sandwiches at Dunn Bros in Mankato.  I'm not sure it is as good, but it's pretty close.

Pesto Grilled Cheese

Fresh basil leaves
Olive oil
1 clove of garlic

Chop up your garlic
Pulse your basil leaves in a food processor or chop them up
Add your garlic and olive oil to the processor
Pulse until paste like consistency

Grilled Cheese:
Make a grilled cheese, but add pesto on the inside of both pieces of bread.  It's not hard.

Obviously, not my picture.  It's pretty delicious, and great with some soup for dinner or by itself for lunch.

Well, we'll see if I get to blogging more.  I do have a great bagel recipe I told Travis I would put up.  Otherwise, I don't get to cook much anymore.  Todd has, however, made a wonderful tortilla soup and chicken and wild rice soup the past few weeks.  Be on the look out for those!

Saturday, December 4, 2010


My mom has convinced me to start blogging again.  She thinks I have more to talk about than cooking.  I'm not so sure, bu we'll give it a whirl.  Since it has been awhile, I will need to catch you up in categories.  If you don't care about a certain category, feel free to breeze right on by.

Home life:
I am enjoying watching Todd in school.  He is doing a great job in his classes, making good impressions with his teachers, and has lots of opportunities to help other learn Greek.  I am very proud of him for how much work he has to do.  Lord knows I have no desire to do any of the stuff he is doing right now.
Our apartment is pretty good.  Mom and Dad just saw it, and so have William and Adrienne.  If you want to know about our little Chicago place, just ask them.  It is not nearly as nice as Justin and Vonny's basement place when they lived here.  Of course, Vonny could make any place cute.

Work life:
I found work!  I'm working at Ravenswood Manor Child Care Center.  It is a modest daycare closer to downtown, but still on the north side of the city.  It's surrounded by a super cute neighborhood people have dubbed a suburb within the city.  We have three classrooms, two for infants and one for toddlers through age 3.  I am in the toddler room everyday.  I really love it.  There are 15 kids total in the room, with 3-4 adults.  I love my five kids that I am responsible for.  They are, for the most part, really good everyday.  They love to read and cuddle.  I like going to work with them.

Recent Events:
Well, our Mankato youth group came down for a weekend trip that I was planning.  It actually went really well, I think.  I'm not sure Chris would agree.  We spent time with Mission Year, JPUSA, and New Community Covenant Church as well as North Park and downtown.  I think the group had a lot of fun, but the chaos of the weekend really got under Chris' skin.  A plus, we got to see Mike, the guy who replaced us, interact more with the students.  It was encouraging seeing him doing well with them.  I know we were only there a year, but it's nice to know our sweet kids are taken care of.  Here is a nice picture of some of my favorite students right before I left.

Matt Schilling, a college friend from Boston, came to visit a few weekends ago.  And although it was far too early to start Christmas celebrations, we went down to the Disney Holiday Parade since Matt was looking forward to it.  It was a lot of fun, just pretty cold.  And when you are short, big parades from the back of a crowd are not that fun.  But it was nice to spend some time with Matt.  I guess someday we'll have to sacrifice a bit and make a trip to Boston to see him.  How terrible (please sense my sarcasm.)
While walking back to the El from the parade, I realized we were on Michigan Avenue with no traffic and beautiful lights.  Hello photo op!

And it the last bit of news, P-Marc is back!  He has returned to the Wild and has scored a goal in the process.  I love him.

So life is good.  Just plugging away with work and school.  I don't get home from work until 7pm, so Todd has dinner waiting for me.  Hence, not as much cooking going on.  But, I am thinking about making stromboli tonight.  It's basically pizza rolled up, but we'll try it out.  Look for the upcoming Chicago Symphony event and shenanigans in the currently falling snow in Chicago.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Trips to Exotic Cheese

So no, the cheese I am about to talk about is in no way exotic.  However, this was my first experience with it, so  I will say it is exotic to me.  The exotic cheese is...Pepper Jack!  This may be the cheese that bridges food differences in my marriage.  I have used it twice this week, on both Mac and Cheese and Pizza.

First, the Mac and Cheese.  So you make this by making noodles and a cheese sauce, combining the two, and baking it with bread crumbs or more cheese on top.  And if you are my Grandma Joye, you put potato chips on top.  What a genius!  Anyway, you can see the original recipe here.  This week, I just substituted half the sharp cheddar cheese for Pepper Jack.  It gave this sauce a much needed kick.  We didn't bake it or add anything on top.  We just mixed and ate for dinner once and then again for lunch one day.  With our lack of income, repeat, fatty meals are a frequent happening.  (Though the stress of no job has made me stop eating and therefore loose about 10lbs since being here!  I guess some good does come from unemployment.)

Well, today Todd and I went grocery shopping.  I love grocery shopping here.  We walk the mile down to Andy's Fruit Ranch, load up on cheap, delicious produce, and walk it all home.  We have been spending, pretty consistently, about $30/week on food.  Not bad!  Back to the point.  We go grocery shopping and need pepperoni for pizza tonight.  Problem!  Andy's does not have many brand name anything and is missing some stuff that people would not consider staples of your menu.  Hence, no pepperoni.  Since I did not want to drive all the way down to Jewel once we got home, I decided to put the remaining Pepper Jack on the all cheese pizza.  Best decision I have made all week.  It had a little kick like pepperoni, but without all the grease and questioning of what you are eating!  So when you need a kick for your pizza, go with the Jack.

Otherwise, not much else is happening.  We are loving being in Chicago.  We are making friends and hanging out with Greg and Stef a lot.  Todd is loving class and doing well.  We have a wall covered in Greek flash cards and a white board.  Could life be any better?
I don't know who the bigger nerd is, the one studying Greek, or the one that finds the previous one quite the stud?