Jun 23, 2010

Pumpkin....my favortie flavor, even in summer

There is just something about pumpkin mixed with cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger that makes me go crazy. I can sit and eat a can of pumpkin puree if you just give me a little sugar and spice to mix into it. Mmmmmmm....

I forgot to take pictures of dinner tonight. It was nothing fancy. Aldi had a special on frozen turkey burgers, and in our effort to eat healthy and cook at home more, I grilled up some of those burgers and paired it with whole wheat buns, fresh tomatoes, and some pickles. Turkey burgers don't have the same savory flavor that beef burgers do, but they do the trick.

For dessert I was craving pumpkin. I found this recipe for pumpkin custard and, since I had everything it called for, I figured I would give it a shot. The mixer in action:
 Boy, I have not used the mixer in a long time. Anyway, it said to bake the custard in a roasting pan filled part of the way up with water:
I don't know what happened, but it was not set after 45 minutes like the recipe said it should be. I ended up cooking it for about 90 minutes before it was set enough for my liking. Maybe it had something to do with the skim milk I used. The recipe didn't say what kind of milk to use, and all I had was skim and soy milk. But I think in general I am just not that good with custards....practice makes perfect! The finished custard (sorry I took a piece out first):
It wasn't half bad. It was more like pumpkin pudding than custard and I think that has to do with the fact that the recipe only called for 2 eggs. The other 2 custards I have made called for quite a few more. The recipe also said to serve it with vanilla ice cream which I think would have been a great addition. Maybe I will try that tomorrow (once I get some ice cream!).

Last night I had to work late since Tuesday is meeting night. Mike decided to cook for himself and what did he make? Pizza! Of course! He made his version of my dough recipe and topped the pizza with homemade sauce, mozzarella, onions, tomato (from the garden!), and, after it was done cooking, basil:

I didn't get to try it fresh, but I had it today for lunch and it was very good. The onions had lost a little of their kick, but still good.

I am off again tomorrow and it's Mike and I's 9 year anniversary! Yay! Until next time please enjoy this photo of one of my younger brothers, Nicholas, as he was feeding my Aunt's goats back when they lived in NY:
My computer doesn't have the right info on when this photo was taken since it has traveled between so many computers, but I can guess sometime during or before 2005. Just FYI :)

Jun 21, 2010

The Summer Solstice

How did I spend the longest day of the year? Doing as little as possible. Well, not really. I was getting over a 24 hour bug I came down with yesterday, so this morning was spent watching FIFA World Cup soccer games and finishing the laundry I tired to start yesterday. Once I start watching a game, I get sucked in and can't do anything else until it is over. It will be this way on days I have off until the cup is over. Come on, it only happens once every 4 years :)

Before I share tonight's dinner, let me show you what Mike made for dinner last night (since I was sick):

I had thawed out the mackerel that he caught last month a few days before, so we had to cook it last night. I asked for him to cook it in the yummy garlic chili ginger sauce we have, like he has done many times before. He did, but he decided to coat the fish with corn meal mixed with brown sugar and then cooked them in canola oil and the yummy sauce I love so much. Since the sauce was Asian inspired, he paired it with soba noodles mixed with seaweed. The soba noodles were awesome, especially with the seaweed flavor. Seaweed, I feel, is an acquired taste. The fish wasn't half bad either. I have never had fish coated in corn meal before (even though it is a very common thing down south), so it was something new. Yet another way to cook fish.

Tonight's meal was designed to use up the last of the "puttanesca" sauce I made last week. I sauteed some boneless, skinless chicken breast with the left over sauce and some fresh basil. I then mixed in some cooked shells and topped it all with fresh basil:
It was wonderful and very fresh tasting even though the sauce was a few days old. I wanted to make this since I am trying to go on a diet again so I can slim down for my wedding next year. So you may been seeing lighter versions of dishes I used to make, but don't worry, I still indulge myself in decadent treats like cookies just so I don't go mad. I was actually thinking about making some on my day off this Wednesday.

Until next time, please enjoy this photo of a rare bark anole that I caught in the Florida Keys during a class back in 2008 (don't worry, the harness doesn't hurt him, it's just to keep him from running away):

Jun 18, 2010

A quick look in the garden

We are now in the beginning of the rainy months here, so before the rain started this morning, I ran outside and got a few quick (not good) pictures of the garden. Oh, did I mention that I finally have a full day off from work? Starting next week, I requested that I work longer days so I could have 3 days off a week. So maybe, just maybe, I will be able to re-organize my crafting closet and start sewing again! Okay, sorry, back to the garden. Things haven't turned out quite like we planned. The romaine lettuce that was growing like crazy has slowly shriveled away either from the excess moisture or the pesky bugs. The spinach and swiss chard never got a foothold, but we will try again with them in the cooler, drier months since that is when they grow best here. The bibb lettuce isn't doing that bad and we may be able to harvest some soon:
Moving down the line to the tomatoes. What a hard time we have had with them. The freaking caterpillars have been eating them like crazy. Mike has been using a natural insecticide, but we still are having problems. I don't know how they get up there so quickly. It's not like the plants are on the ground or even under a tree. We only have about 6 good ones still growing and only one of those is almost ripe:
You can even see in the picture all the leaves missing from the plant on the right. Boo....Since the basil I planted from seed was having a hard time with bugs too, Mike got some already started basil plants and paired them with some mint. Apparently mint is a bug deterrent for whatever it is next too. As you can see the new basil is doing really well:
But as soon as Mike did that, my old basil that I planted from seed also started to recover. Basil galore. The old basil, avocados, and blueberries all got moved to the ground for some reason:
The blueberries are doing good. We have harvested about 10-15 ripe blueberries already that have been used in oatmeal and smoothies. We have some new ones coming in too:
They were very sweet. More sweet than bitter which was a pleasant surprise. Lets see, what else is going on out there...Oh, the lemon tree has a lot of lemons (not ripe yet) growing on it :
Nothing has been interested in them yet and I am hoping it stays that way so I can make lots of fresh lemonade! The lime tree and the orange tree have new growth, but no fruit yet:
And finally the lavender I planted in the fall. It is supposed to be a dry weather plant, so Mike moved it under the over hang to try and shield it from the summer rains and it looks like it is doing much better:
It's flowering again! Yay! I am still dreaming of making lavender butter. It would be magical with homemade bread.

You are now caught up on the garden, on to dinner from Tuesday night. I still had a deep discounted rack of baby back ribs from Aldi. Instead of repeating the same sweet tea rub I did last time, I decided to make up a chili garlic sauce to roast them in:
This was ketchup based (yes, I know, it's sad, but it was quick and easy for me) with some spices and what not. The ribs were served with just steamed vegetables:
 I think the sauce could have used a little more spice, but it was nice non the less. Again, the meat wasn't fall off the bone, but it was still good. Ribs are not my best dish, but it's a nice change.

I work open to close the next two days in a row, so until next time, please enjoy this photo of a green frog I caught at one of the Metro Parks back in Ohio during a summer hike back in 2007:

Jun 17, 2010

The Wonderful Mr.Fox

My cousin, the wonderful Mr.Fox, kiddo of the infamous Aunts you always hear me talking about, has gone to heaven today. When my Aunt was still a NYC police officer, she found this poor little guy, abandoned, and wandering the cold, lonely streets. He was a bait dog for illegal pit bull fighting (poor pit bulls....I love my pit bull mix Pineapple!).  Due to the fighting, he was missing the upper part of his right lip, sometimes leading to the name Fang. A happy dog that always new what he wanted,  Fox lived out the rest of his life with my Aunts, moving from NY to retire in sunny Florida. We love you Mr.Fox and you will be in our memories forever.

Jun 14, 2010

Grouper with "puttanesca" sauce and orzo

I guess I should share what I made tonight after my last blog :)

Tonight's dinner was grouper with "puttanesca" sauce and orzo :
Why do I call it "puttanesca", well because it's not really puttanesca sauce the way it should be made. The recipe called for kalamata olives and capers. I do have olives at home (not kalamata olives though) but they are either canned or in a brine. Capers are not a food item I go out of my way to have, so, if you figured it out, the sauce was made without olives or capers. I also did not grill the grouper, I decided to pan fry them instead because I was lazy. It was really good! I haven't had orzo in a long while and I forgot how good it is. If you aren't a big fish fan outside of the fried and battered kind, I really suggest you try this recipe. You may start a love affair with fish.

That's all I have for the now. Until next time please enjoy this photo of a little tree frog on a screen at my Aunt's house in Sarasota that I took about 3 years ago:

An obession with pizza

It was pouring when I got home from work today and I decided not to make my camera brave the weather to take picture of the garden......maybe later this week.

Now to play catch up......back up to Thursday, June 3rd. I had planned on making this balsamic glazed pork chop recipe after work but, for some reason I don't recall now, Mike made it for me instead. He paired it with some rice (and his beer of choice for that day):
It was good, a little vinegar-y for my taste, but I wouldn't mind eating it again. I think next time we could cut down on both the balsamic vinegar and chicken broth and it would make more of a glaze then a sauce, but the rice was excellent at soaking it up.

Next, Friday, June 4th. I knew I wasn't going to be up to making dinner that night so I commissioned Mike to make pizza. I gave him my basic pizza dough recipe, but he decided to spruce it up a bit with some oregano, parsley, and some other spices. He also made it without sauce, just tomatoes and mozzarella:
The crust was divine! It tasted like italian bread sticks...yum! And the pizza was great even without the sauce. Wait...this pizza reminds me of something.....yes....a margherita pizza! Well it's not quite a margherita pizza....but read on :)

Monday June 7th was ground turkey day. I really haven't used ground turkey before in anything and frozen ground turkey at Aldi is pretty cheap and, I have heard, is very good for you. Since we still had a can of spinach (Popeye!), I decided on ground turkey with rice and spinach (sorry I forgot to take a picture before we ate):
It was decent but definitely could have used some more salt. The addition of dill weed pleasantly surprised me and it made it very bearable. Ground turkey is nothing exiting, it definitely needs to be spiced up.

That same day, before dinner, I was craving something pumpkin, but not pumpkin pie. I found this recipe for pumpkin dump cake. I made the mistake of telling Mike the name of it while I was making it and he said something along the lines of "I am not eating something with dump in the name". It was very easy to make, which is good for my now faster paced life :) Here is a shot after I ate the first piece so you could see the pumpkin layer on the bottom:
Delicious! I loved it (and so did Mike, of course). I still have some more canned pumpkin left....I know what I am making on my day off this week.

Onto Thursday the 10th. This was sort of a made up day. I had a packet of crab cake mix and canned crab from Grandma, so I was going to make crab cakes, but the little packet said "try the crab mix baked on top of fish fillets". Hey, that sounds like a good idea! I still have ton of fish fillets left. I didn't know what else to do with the jacks Mike caught, so I baked those with the crab cake stuff on top and paired it with sauteed scallops and some peas:

For being freezer burned, the scallops turned out pretty good. Now the fish on the other hand...the fish was moist, but the crab cake mix was way too salty. Oh well, it seemed like a good idea at the time. Maybe next time I need more crab to spread the mix farther so it doesn't seem as salty.

And finally we are caught up to last night. Using Mikes wonderful variation on my dough recipe we made real margherita pizza with fresh basil from the garden:
It was fantastic! I am drooling just thinking about it now. I am definitely now obsessed with making pizza, which adds to my obsession of the combo of tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil.

You are now caught up and so am I (almost, just need to take the garden pictures!). Until next time, please enjoy this close up photo of my two gecko babies, Renji (girl on left) and Yomi (boy on right):

Jun 13, 2010

Remember Remember Remember

Don't let me forget to take pictures and update you on all the amazing progress of the garden! Blueberries, tomatoes, and basil, oh my!

Worn out or too many x-files?

No, not really. I just have been lazy.Yes, Mike and I have been catching up on our past seasons of X-flies on Netflix. I have two weeks worth of photos on my computer right now, including the wonderful pizza Mike helped me make tonight, but I am too tired to crop and edit the photos. What is wrong with me? I love this blog and cooking thing, but maybe my mind is too overloaded with all the information pouring into my brain from work. I am also starting to gear my nightly dinners into those "easy" and "quick" dinners because I am freaking starving when I get home. I also haven't had the time to peruse my cook books the way I used too....tear....I did have time to take pictures of me with my animals. Why would I do such a thing you ask? Well at work clients apparently think that the nurses don't have pets and we don't care about their animals since we don't understand. Totally not true! So all the nurses are taking pictures with their pets which we will then use to make a large poster to hang in the waiting area so people can see we do care! And it's so true, I do feel bad for people who come in with sick pets. Many times the treatment for that sickness is very costly which causes more stress for the owners, so much so that some animals don't receive the treatment they need. It's very sad to see a sick pet that needs help. Hmm....now that I think about it, maybe dealing with all the emotional stress is what is causing me to become a blogging slacker. Oh well.... until next time, please enjoy the photos that I am going to use for our poster.
Me and my two ball pythons:
My two crested geckos:
And of course, my two big babies:

Jun 2, 2010

Finally starting to get a hang of this fish thing.....

Side note: I had a good time in NY this past weekend except for my day spent in LaGuardia airport yesterday. Got to the airport at 10am, flight was scheduled to leave at 12pm to make my connecting flight in Atlanta to Tampa by 3:10pm and to be home by 4:30pm.  By 12pm we had not started boarding yet due to traffic on the runway. My name was called over the loud speakers and I was told at the desk that I was going to miss my connection, so I was being bumper to a later flight, direct into Tampa, and I was also being upgraded to first class and given a food voucher for lunch since I had to sit in the airport for a few more hours. My first thought was "Hell yea! A direct flight and first class, who cares if I don't get in until 6pm!". 3:15pm rolls around and my new flight had not starting boarding. By 3:50 we were ready for take off. We got up to the runway, only to turn around and get back in the line we were just waiting in. This happened 3 more times, one of those times was because some one in the back stood up when they weren't supposed too. Apparently storms south of us were holding us up. We sat on the runway, in the plane, in our seats, until 6:30pm. Finally, by 8:40pm I was home. Ugh....first class barely made up for the fact that we had to sit in the plane for over 2 hours. I digress.....

I don't remember (and right now I am too lazy to look) if I have mentioned the fact that we have a lot of fish in our freezer as a result of Mike's fishing escapades and Grandma's freezer clearing. Grouper was the fish of choice tonight:
Sorry I didn't take more pictures! The grouper was baked for 15 minutes at 450 F in foil packets and in a butter sauce that I made up (smart balance butter, pepper, onion flakes, onion powder, garlic powder, parsley, and some salt free seasoning). I used our new rice cooker to cook the rice and steam the veggies at the same time....it was pretty awesome. Then I used any leftover butter sauce to put on the veggies and rice. I thought the fish came out really good, but I always like it when the fishy flavor is severely dulled. I am still experimenting with ways to cook fish, but I think the butter sauce may be my favorite so far.

That's all I got. Until next time, please enjoy this photo of me and my "cousin" Rocky the Pomeranian back in 2005 when he was a puppy: