Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Foodiness

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31-recipe challenge Day 11: Cauliflower Curry

We’re getting international, folks! This challenge is filled with vegetarian recipes, and this is just another one. As a matter of fact, this is the recipe Kevin got excited about, which may mark the first time he’s ever gotten excited over anything strictly vegetarian, except pizza and Twisted Tree vegan ginger cookies.

This “exciting” recipe would be Cauliflower Curry from Cook Republic.

Cauliflower curry 1

I should tell you that, for whatever reason, I was totally frazzled Wednesday evening when I was cooking this. It’s super easy, but my head was just not in the game. I got caught up on the phone with my mom, and before I know it, the water’s boiling, so I dump in the cauliflower before realizing I’ve yet to chop the potato. Then I think I let them cook too long, because the finished product was a bit softer and mushier than the original recipe photos. That being said, it still worked. It was more like a traditional curry.

I also completely disregarded measuring the cauliflower and just dumped it all in in haste, so I’m pretty sure I had more than two cups, so I had to keep adjusting the spices accordingly.  In the end, I still think it came out a tad bland. (UPDATE: eating it as leftovers for lunch a couple days later, I’ve changed my mind. I think the spices just needed some more time to meld and develop.)

Then there were the peas. I just kept dumping more in cause I like peas. I see nothing wrong with that.

From there, things got better. I let it simmer. Even the most absent-minded girl can do that. My curry came out wetter and yellower than the original recipe, but that, again, could be due to my ratios being off. Still, I wanted more of a sauce-like curry, so I added in about a 1/4 to a 1/2 cup of light cream at the end, as per her suggestion. In the end, I liked the texture, even if it was a bit soft. (It actually kind of reminded me of curried chicken salad in spice and texture, which I like.)

Cauliflower curry 2

We toasted up some whole wheat pita in place of flatbread and dug in! Kevin’s never had curry before, but he enjoyed this one. And I’ve been enjoying the leftovers. She recommends adding them to naan or pizza, but I’ve just been eating them with a fork. Works for me.

 

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31-recipe challenge Day 10: Chicken Rosemary Lasagna

Phew! We’re finally 10 days (and 13 recipes) in. We’re approaching the halfway point! But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The current order of business: lasagna. But not just any ol’ lasagna (because traditional lasagna the day after eggplant parm would be a tad redundant.)

No, no, no. This is a whole new kind of lasagna–a white lasagna, if you will (as in, no tomato sauce), and it is the brainchild of Sylvia Fountaine from Feasting At Home.

Lasagna 1

I’ll admit it: I did something a little bad with this lasagna–I used no-boil packaged noodles. No, I didn’t use fresh pasta or even eggroll wrappers like she suggested. I went totally cheat-route and used the no-boil lasagna noodles. It resulted in a few crispy edges, but in the end it worked out.

I actually prepped this lasagna Sunday night and left it wrapped in the fridge, unbaked until Monday evening, when I pulled it out and baked it off. This was a great make-ahead recipe that I otherwise wouldn’t have had the time to pull off on a weeknight.

No news here–I halved this recipe (this is pretty much becoming the norm now.) I also added more chicken in place of the mushrooms, because the thought of handling and eating them still totally grosses me out. (I know I said I’d keep the substitutions to a minimum, but this one’s just too deep-seated.) Because the mushrooms release juice when they cook, which keeps the vegetables moist and helps wilt the spinach, I added a splash of white wine in their place to keep the necessary liquid.

I also used skim milk in place of whole milk in the béchamel sauce because I forgot to buy whole milk. Shhh…if I didn’t tell you, you’d probably never know!

Lasagna 2

At first, I was a little…confounded by this dish. Like I said, there were some crispy noodle edges, which freaked me out at first (I thought it was undercooked), then my initial bites told me it was bland, and I wanted to sprinkle salt over the whole thing, which I never do. But by my second helping, my taste buds changed their mind, and I added no salt. And by the next day, as I was eating leftover lasagna at my desk, I realized between the cheese sauce, the cooked noodles, and the crispy edges, this lasagna was totally reminiscent of a savory noodle kugel. Be still my Jewish heart. That solidified it for me–this was one good lasagna.

(Though, if you ask my mother, it’s not lasagna. “Does it have tomato sauce?” “No.” “Then it’s not lasagna!” I swear, you’d think she’s Italian or something!)

lasagna slice

This was another minor victory by way of Kevin: the actual Italian boy NEVER eats lasagna because he hates ricotta cheese. (Seriously, what kind of Italian is he??) But he ate this! A whole serving, and he even finished it! Granted, he opted to raid my fridge for the rest of his meal rather than have seconds, but I’ll take what I can get.

31-recipe challenge Day 9: Gluten-free Eggplant Parmesan

This one’s for my mama.

“Gluten-free” anything often seems daunting to me, but this recipe (from Gluten-Free Girl, natch ) just makes so much sense. Fry the eggplant without breading it first. Duh. (Also makes for a healthier fried eggplant.) This is also vegetarian, though definitely not vegan. So. Much. Cheese. YES!

Eggplant parm 1

*Side note: There are a lot of vegetarian dishes on this list. I don’t hate it. Kevin even got excited about making one tonight. More on that later.*

This was my first deep-frying endeavor, and I only walked away with minor burn marks. Victory! My yoga clothes may have taken a bit more of a beating, though…luckily I was wearing my black hoodie. (Yes, I know, I have an apron, but what good are exercise clothes if they’re not able to take a little oil splatter?)

There’s an irony here: Sunday marked my return to yoga, as I took my first class in ages, courtesy of Groupon. Then I went home and deep-fried a perfectly innocent vegetable. Life’s all about balance, my friends. (How very yogi of me.)

Anyway, this recipe’s pretty great on its own, I just halved it, as per usual. Mainly because I rarely have 4-8 people to feed. This recipe probably would have been even better if 1) my knife skills were better (i.e., actually cutting the eggplant into 1-inch slices, not some 1-inch slices, some 1/2-inch slices and some choppy pieces because the whole slicing thing wasn’t working out so well) and 2) I baked it in a shallower dish. Because I halved the quantity, a 9×13 baking dish seemed way too large for my meager eggplant, so I stacked in all in a small but deep casserole dish instead. It was a little…mushy. One of the two aforementioned things is likely to blame.

Eggplant parm 2

Nonetheless, it tasted good. Fried eggplant, even on its own, is pretty tasty. It made a good cooking snack. (Maybe eggplant chips will be the new “it” thing! Hey, a girl can dream.) My mom gave it a passing grade and especially like the less-common addition of the sautéed peppers and onions for a little flavor and bite. And the cheese. All the cheese. That alone makes up for any perceived imperfections.

Oh, and again my apartment smelled terrific. I really hope I’m making my neighbors jealous.

31-Recipe Challenge Day 8: Banana Bread Oatmeal and Snow

As I mentioned yesterday, it snowed here over the weekend. I woke up Saturday to a blanket of white…that was plowed right up and over my car. The upside of moving from a house to an apartment is the lack of a driveway and walkway to shovel. The downside is I now park on the street and the snowplows plow our cars right in. So I did still have to spend Saturday morning clearing off and shoveling out some cars. And it was crazy windy, so I ended up looking more like I had jumped in the snow than shoveled it. (Have I mentioned I’m not a big fan of snow?)

But the upside to shoveling snow is getting to come inside after and warm up with some hot oatmeal and cocoa. So I made myself a hearty post-snow breakfast of banana bread oatmeal, courtesy of My Fat Heart.

Banana bread oatmeal and cocoa

I’ll be up front: I’m weird about banana. I like them, I eat them, I excitedly pair them with peanut butter. But banana bread? Banana chips? Most other banana-flavored or banana-inclusive things? No thanks. I’m picky about where my bananas can make an appearance. (Get your minds out of the gutter! No? Just me? Dammit.) So naturally, I was little worried to try out an oatmeal recipe that calls for mashed banana out of fear that I would not be in a banana mood when I decided to make this recipe. (I was. It’s all good.)

Actually, I like the idea of adding mashed banana to oatmeal to add sweetness and moisture. But for me, this oatmeal wasn’t a hit. It seized up before I got to eat it, making it unappealingly chewy, thick and sticky. In hindsight, I probably could have remedied this by just adding some more hot milk to it and stirring it in. Oh well. (Also, I used dairy skim milk, not almond milk like the original recipe states. I wonder now if the almond milk’s thickness would have helped the texture.)

(To be fair, though, the oatmeal may very well have started to solidify as I took shot after shot trying to get a decent, shadow-free photo. Eating this immediately after cooking, sans photo shoot, would probably have resulted in a much better oatmeal experience.)

One other thing–this had way too much cinnamon for me. Next time, I’d probably skip it in the topping and just sprinkle with brown sugar. (I also only had dark brown sugar on hand, not light, which has a more intense flavor and may have highlighted the cinnamon spice even more.)

Bottom line? I’ll try it again, no photo shoot, no extra cinnamon, maybe extra milk. And for the love of God, NOT with McCann’s steel cut oats. I tried it that way the first time in place of rolled oats (because I love my Irish oatmeal), but the ratios were not right and it cooked right onto the bottom of the pot. That was a fun cleanup.)

Therefore, if you do try this recipe (and please do! Just don’t take a thousand photos in front of a cold window first), FOLLOW IT! She knows what she’s talking about. Don’t be me.

Banana bread oatmeal and mocha on windowsill

And then snuggle up with a steamy bowl of oats and a big ol’ mug of cocoa, coffee, tea or some combination thereof. Happy snow day!

 

31-Recipe Challenge Day 7: Roasted Sweet Potato Risotto

I MADE RISOTTO! And it didn’t suck! Alas, risotto was a notorious downfall for the cheftestants on Top Chef, and I’m not sure this would save me from the wrath of Tom and Padma, but nonetheless, I made risotto on the first try and it wasn’t horrifically awful. As a matter of fact, it was downright edible! (Of course, I’m being modest…I’ve already tucked into the leftovers, so that’s always a good sign.) I also made brown butter for the first time, which also didn’t suck. As a matter of fact, I expected to need at least two tries to not burn it, but first time was a charm.  My apartment smelled delicious that night.

Sweet potato risotto 1

Cue happy dance number 3 of the month. (3? Or is it 4? I lost track…)

I didn’t just make any risotto, mind you. I made roasted sweet potato risotto from How Sweet It Is. This recipe basically combines all sorts of good things into one: risotto, which is obviously fabulous, sweet potatoes, bacon and cheese.

I was super-concerned during the cooking process that I was going to mess something up. If I didn’t feel like the stock and wine were absorbing at the right rate, I got worried. If I burned the garlic and over-toasted the rice, I freaked. (I mean, not that I did that…I totally did that. It still came out fine in the end.) Moral of the story? Don’t freak, you’re probably going to end up with a beautifully rich, creamy risotto at the end.

Cooking arborio rice

It made for a very good way to end the week and welcome in a snow storm–yup, we got hit by “Nemo,” though it wasn’t nearly as bad as what we’ve had in the past. And not having a driveway to shovel makes it even better. I also moved from a very quiet suburban street to a pretty busy local road, so we were plowed out before 9 am Saturday. That was nice.

So, the next time snow is coming your way (you can pretend if you live in a warm climate. Also, you can invite me over.), cook up a batch of creamy, wintery risotto, snuggle up with a glass of wine, and then head out and hit the bar before the snow really starts. Or you can just do the first part…(Yes, I did the latter, but granted, the bar’s only about eight blocks away and the snow didn’t even start til right before we left. Apparently Nemo’s a night owl.)

I feel like this night was the night I moved up a rank in the cooking world. Maybe I can call myself at least “intermediate” now. After all, I made brown butter AND risotto with it and both turned out on the first shot. Or maybe I’m just getting cocky. Either one.

Sweet potato risotto 2

 

31-Recipe Challenge Day 6: Chili and granola (but not together…)

Day 6 may be one of my most successful recipe challenge day yet (or at least my mom would think so…she gave a double-thumbs up to both these recipes. Consider them added to the bank!)

Vegetarian chili and granola is a strange combination, but trust me…I didn’t eat them together! I had actually intended to make the granola the day before, but after not one, but TWO separate grocery store trips, I came home to realize that the oats I swore I had at home were nowhere to be found. It’s pretty hard to make granola without oats. So I bought oats the next day, THEN I made granola. And it. is. awesome. As a matter of fact, I didn’t even halve this recipe–I had a feeling this one would be good, so I have a big container of it sitting in my cabinet now, just waiting to adorn all sorts of yogurt. (Or milk and strawberries, in place of cereal. Or just straight out of the container into my mouth. Also delicious.)

Granola

The great thing about the recipe from Dining With Dostoevsky (major props for the name, btw) was the room for adaptation. I followed largely to the T, as I said I would, with a few exceptions: for one, she used a honey-water solution, but mentioned that you could use pure maple syrup, as well. So, naturally, I had to take that invitation (I adore maple syrup). My final sweetener ratio ended up being 3/4 cup maple syrup and 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar (not light like the recipe called for, but it’s what I had.) And honestly, I could probably remake this with even less syrup/sugar and it would still be great.

I also got home and could not find my pumpkin seeds ANYWHERE. Seriously, they still haven’t turned up, even though Kevin was eating them the day before. (I think he ate them all.) Anyway, no big loss for me there…I don’t even really like pumpkin seeds. Worked for me. I also couldn’t find any “extra thick” rolled oats, so I used regular rolled oats. They worked fine.

Also…the recipe calls for cardamom, and I skipped it. (Gasp! I know…) Thing is, cardamom is, like, crazy expensive. It was $10-11 for a regular 1-2 ounce container, $13 if I wanted whole pods. Since cardamom has a unique flavor, I didn’t try substituting anything for it. The granola was still delicious, and the maple flavor came through a lot, though I imagine the cardamom would make it extra special.

*Sidebar: This challenge is making me poor. My grocery bills have been well over $100 a week, and that’s only including the bare minimum of basic groceries in addition to the ingredients. I should start a fundraising campaign so I can afford things like cardamom and duck fat. If anyone wants to send me money (or cardamom), I wouldn’t turn it away. I should create a Kickstart fund or something! *end sidebar

However, I kept everything else as-is–even the pistachios, and I don’t care for pistachios. But it all works well together. Of course, I could always do with adding another cup or eight of apricots!

While the granola baked, I made the vegetarian chili from Nutritionist in the Kitch. I’ve never made chili because it always seemed intimidating, but really the only moderately difficult part of this recipe was prepping and chopping all the vegetables. Once it’s on the stove, it more or less just does its own thing.

Chili ingredientsPrepping the chili ingredients…more cans than I realized, but also plenty of fresh veggies!

I found red quinoa, not white quinoa, at the supermarket, and I actually really loved the extra shade of red it added into the chili–red peppers, tomatoes, red kidney beans and now the red quinoa. Of course, I scraped all the seeds out of the jalapeño, but you could keep them in for more heat (we all know my stance on spicy food by now.)

Cooking veggiesShe included plain yogurt and scallions as toppings for the chili, but I love grated cheddar on my chili, so I added that instead. Add whatever you like!

Vegetarian chiliMy mom absolutely loved this one, though she claimed it needed meat. Somehow I think she’s an even bigger carnivore than Kevin (who also gave this the seal of approval. Pretty sure he agrees with the need for meat, though.) Personally, I think this chili has more than enough protein on its own already, with two types of beans and quinoa. But sure, you could add some ground beef if you want.

Two totally unrelated (but healthy!)  recipes, but two certified successes. It was a good night. I should listen to showtunes on Pandora while I cook more often–apparently they give me good vibes!

31-recipe challenge Day 5: Butternut Panzanella Salad

Can you tell I had to use up my butternut squash? I got the last of the good pieces in just in time to make this yummy, filling salad from A Communal Table. It still wasn’t quite as good as the kale and butternut salad from Day 4, but it was a solid contender, and a good light meal to eat while catching up on two hours of Smash. Also quite a good lunch the next day (just make sure you don’t dress it ahead of time if you’re planning on leftovers.)

Butternut panzanella salad 1

I made only three adjustments/modifications to this recipe: 1) I halved it since I was the only one eating it. 2) I left out the mushrooms because I really can’t stand them. And 3) I chopped the shallots for the dressing instead of sliced them because my slices didn’t look good.

Aside from prepping the bread and roasting the squash, this is a pretty quick, simple salad to make. And those croutons are the bomb. Plus, they make your house smell like yummy, toasting bread and who doesn’t like that?

This salad automatically wins in my book if just for one simple thing: marcona almonds. What is a marcona almond, you ask? Well, it’s a Spanish almond that is skinless, smooth and buttery, almost like a cross between an almond and a macadamia nut and it. is. heavenly. Wegmans only had one marcona offering: a small(ish) can of salted almonds. It was pretty expensive for what I got, but it was so worth it–these bad boys are so good! If you ever get your hands on marcona almonds, try them! (Trader Joe’s carries rosemary marcona almonds, which are amazing! But I couldn’t get out there.)

Butternut panzanella salad 2

This salad ends the reign of the butternut squash recipes. I burned through them. Don’t think there isn’t a sweet potato or two waiting in the wings still, though.

 

31-Recipe Challenge: Day 4–Butternut Squash and Kale Salad

I kept it simple on Monday. Coming off my marathon-cooking weekend and a late night thanks to the Super Bowl, I hadn’t done any extra shopping and was feeling pretty low-key. Luckily, I had planned ahead on my last shopping trip and picked up extra kale, butternut squash and almonds for the week ahead. All I needed was some cheese and I had everything on hand to recreate Northern Spy’s Kale Salad (recipe courtesy of Food52).

Kale and squash salad 1

I sent my wonderful and adoring boyfriend out for some cheese to complete this meal, and although he could not find the Cabot Clothbound cheddar that Kristen of Food52 so vehemently praised, he did come back with some Kerry Gold two-year aged Irish “distinctively sharp” cheddar. And I wasn’t complaining. That’s some knock-your-socks-off good cheese. If it’s possible for a cheddar to taste like a Parmesan, this does. Kevin, you hit this one out of the park. Good work.

This recipe calls for oven-roasted butternut squash, and, unlike Sunday’s undercooked squash disaster, this time it roasted up nice and sweet and soft. Mix into chopped kale and almonds, add the cheddar and shaved pecorino, dress with lemon, olive oil, salt and pepper and dig in. It’s crunchy-chewy, salty-sweet, oily-acidic. It’s perfect. This was one of the best kale salads I’ve ever had, and I’ve had some good kale salads. I get why Northern Spy keeps it on their menu. Serve with anything, or on its own. We ate it with leftovers from the weekend.

And although the squash takes about 30-40 minutes to roast, this is otherwise a super-speedy lunch or dinner, and simple. Chopping and roasting the squash is the brunt of the prep work.

This one’s a clear winner in my book, and a nice break after a day of heavy eats. Also goes to show sometimes simple is best. Thank goodness I needed to leave to walk the dog, or poor Kevin may not have gotten any of this salad. I couldn’t stop eating it. I wasn’t even hungry anymore and I still found myself digging in.

Seriously, I’m still thinking about this salad. And drooling. Over SALAD. Yeah, that happened.

Kale and squash salad 2

31-Recipe Challenge: Day 3–Super Bowl Sunday!

If you remember my Super Bowl post from last year, you know I like to throw a Super Bowl party. This year was no different, except Kevin hosted and I had even better recipes to work with.

The Super Bowl menu? Beer and bacon butter beans, four-cheese macaroni and cheese and pumpkin pie bread pudding. Plus, Kevin made chicken fajitas and pigs in blankets.

Yes, this was a far departure from Day 2’s vegetarian recipes.

On to the recipes! First let’s start with the one I know you’re all looking at–Beer and Bacon Butter Beans. Let me repeat that one. Beer. And Bacon. Can you think of a better football food? I used this recipe from Crepes of Wrath and pretty much didn’t change a damn thing.

Despite the beer and bacon (or should I say, THANKS TO the beer and bacon), this is actually a very complex and sophisticated side dish, especially thanks to the whole sprig of rosemary that goes in. But seriously, just in case you had any doubt that beans slow-cooked in beer and bacon fat would be delicious, these were drool-worthy. I’ve never appreciated a plate of beans so much. And puff-pastry wrapped pigs in a blanket were a much better franks-and-beans accompaniment than plain old hot dogs.

Beer and bacon butter beans

As much of a bacon lover as I am (and I’m a huge bacon lover), I rarely cook it. Sunday I cooked it. A lot of it. 8 thick-cut strips, to be exact. And I chopped it first. I never want to do that again. Trying to cut through thick, chewy, raw bacon fat can make you never want to eat bacon again. (OK, that’s not true. But it doesn’t make you want to prep it again.)

But once that starts cooking, it’s a whole different story. The salty, smoky, bacon-y smell fills the kitchen, and all is right with the world.

Then, you strain out the bacon and cook the beans IN THE BACON FAT. Add chicken stock, lemon juice, honey, a whole bottle of malty amber ale (I used Sam Adams Boston Ale), spices and a sprig of rosemary, and pop that bad boy in the oven for a solid two hours. Then top with crispy bacon. 1) your house will smell amazing and 2) what comes out at the end of those two hours is well worth the wait.

I can’t believe I’m waxing poetic about baked canellini beans, but these beans were off-the-wall good. Granted, cook anything in bacon fat and beer and it will probably be off-the-wall good.

I’ll put it to you another way: my friend J, who still doesn’t even consider beans a viable food group, said these were good. That’s, like, Kevin loving the sweet potato tacos huge! (This has been a pretty good weekend!) Heck, the fact that he even willingly ATE the beans was a good enough compliment for me.

UPDATE: In hindsight, I realize I skipped the very last step of the recipe, which is to stir in a tablespoon of unsalted butter once the beans come out of the oven. Oh well, I didn’t miss it.

For dinner, I made Four-Cheese Baked Rigatoni from How Sweet It Is. I’ve made TONS of macaroni and cheese in my day–it’s almost become a staple for me–but this one was unique. In addition to cheddar, fontina and gruyere, this mac and cheese uses 1/3 cup of mascarpone, which is super luscious and creamy and smooth. And, as she warns, does give the mac and cheese extra oiliness, though not in a bad way. I’ve had mac and cheese like this before, and the extra oil actually lent itself well to reheating. It’s super gooey and cheesy. I used fat rigatoni noodles, like the recipe originally called for, which trapped lots of extra cheese sauce inside.

3-cheese mix

Come. To. Mama.

Although, I didn’t have any panko bread crumbs on hand, so I used regular whole wheat ones, which were fine. I also subbed a pinch of dried mustard seed for the nutmeg, since one of my friends in attendance has a nutmeg allergy. (The goal is to not kill people.)

One interesting thing about this day was that a sort of theme emerged: one pot wonders that I turned into two-pot wonders. You see, both the beans and the mac and cheese were supposed to go from stove to oven in the same cooking vessel: the beans in an oven-safe pot or deep pan, the macaroni in a cast iron skillet. I do not own either of those things (sadly), so for the beans, I cooked everything in a deep pan and transferred into a covered deep casserole dish to bake. I cooked the macaroni and cheese in the same deep pan and transferred to a traditional casserole dish to bake. I really need to get my hands on a cast iron skillet, because as ooey-gooey and lovely as that mac and cheese was, I bet it would be incredible in cast iron.

Mac and cheese

Then came dessert. Let’s just say I’m really glad someone brought cookies. I was probably the least impressed with this of everyone who ate it, but then again, I am always my own worst critic. I’m also picky about my bread pudding. I made this gorgeous-looking Pumpkin Pie Bread Pudding with Bourbon Icing from Eats Well With Others. (Well, hers was gorgeous-looking.)

It wasn’t a terrible recipe, I think I just executed it wrong. Though granted, three pounds of butternut squash to one pound of bread in a bread pudding does seem a tad imbalanced. I’d probably recommend trying something closer to a one-to-one ratio.

When the finished product came out of the oven (after it baked for way longer than called for yet barely felt done), there were more chunks of hard, raw squash than soft, melty baked ones. And the inside was decidedly, well, mushy. Too mushy for my taste. Not so bad for a bread pudding, but, like I said, I’m picky. I feel like if this was perhaps baked in individual-sized ramekins rather than one large springform, it would be more up my alley–lots of crispy outside and a semi-liquid center that’s still mostly baked.

There are a few things I think contributed to my underwhelming result: For one, I’m assuming I didn’t pre-cook the squash long enough on the stove, though I feel like I let it go even longer than the recipe called for. Also, while the recipe called for a 10-inch springform, I only had a 9 1/2-inch. So although I left some filling behind,  perhaps I still overstuffed the pan, leading to the longer-than-called for baking time.

I also made a couple of *slight* tweaks to the recipe, but I doubt they were disaster inducing: again, I cut the nutmeg so as not to send anyone to the hospital, and I subbed one cup of almond milk and two cups of regular milk (1%) for the three cups of almond milk because I didn’t have enough on hand.

Nonetheless, this is definitely one I won’t be making again, even though Kevin wants me to re-attempt it with apples in place of the squash. This one brought me back down to earth a little bit–I was getting pretty confident in my baking skills after the pizza dough victory on Day 1, but this proved I’m really still not a baker. I’m gonna stay on the stove top where I belong.

However, it wasn’t all a bust. There was that bourbon icing. Oh man, that icing. I don’t even like bourbon and I couldn’t stop stealing tastes of this stuff. Which was bad, because I’m on antibiotics and not allowed to have alcohol!

Pumpkin pie bread pudding w/ bourbon icing

But if you need a dessert topping for, well, pretty much anything, throw this together! A stick of butter, 2 cups confectioner’s sugar and 2 tablespoons bourbon. Whisk and imbibe. And to get it more glaze-y and less icing-y, just pop it in the microwave for 30 seconds or so.

Because, dude, you want this icing on EVERYTHING. It was pretty good on the cookies, I was told. (I had eaten enough off the spoon by that point, I figured it was better if I cut myself off.)

I’m exhausted just writing this, so it’s no surprise I nearly forgot to cook on Monday. (Don’t worry, I did!)

31-Recipe Challenge: Day 2 — Veggie Style!

Something pretty amazing happened on Saturday, aka Day 2 of my 31-recipe challenge: I got the carnivore (well, omnivore) to go herbivore and LIKE IT!

That’s right, I got my meat-loving man to eat a vegetarian meal and admit that not only did he like it, but he would eat it again! *cue happy dance #2 for the weekend*

Only two days into this thing, and I’m already seeing some pretty amazing things happen.

Sweet potato taco 1

I’m sure you’re wondering what the magic recipe was that turned this T-Rex into a Brontosaurus. Well, it was two! It was these Asian-fusion sweet potato tacos from Love and Lemons and this winter kale salad from A Tasty Love Story.

The sweet potato tacos with avocado involved several steps, but none were terribly complicated. If anything, I became more a victim of my apartment-sized kitchen’s lack of prep space more than anything else. Basically: make glaze, chop veggies, glaze veggies, roast veggies, prep toppings, eat. Said toppings include goodies like sliced avocado, cilantro, sprouts, toasted pepitas and scallions.

However, this dish almost wasn’t quite the same due to my own trepidations. As I stood in Wegmans on Friday staring at the refrigerator shelf that housed those few sad containers of miso paste, I, well, freaked out. Thirteen ounces?? Seven dollars?? I only need two tablespoons! What am I going to do with 13 ounces? Seven dollars is WAY too much for something I’m only going to use a tiny bit of! Once! Alas, then Kevin said (via text) those magical three words that somehow made such a seemingly outlandish purchase alright: “We’ll make soup.” Ah, ok, we’ll make soup. Yes, we’ll make soup.

And so there you have it. I bought miso paste, a very key ingredient for what ended up being a fairly brilliant miso-maple glaze, and sometime in the near-ish future (i.e., after February), I will make miso soup. A lot of miso soup. And probably more sweet potatoes.

Sweet potato taco 2

Oh! P.S. sidenote…fresh toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds) smell pretty darn good. But not as good as toasted balsamic-honey almonds. (I’ll get to that in a moment, stick around.) Also, can we take a moment to appreciate and applaud my lovely hand model? (The aforementioned T-Rex.)

Extra sidenote…the recipe includes a fresh, bright, somehow summery coconut-cilantro sauce to top the tacos (yum!) You can optionally add Sriracha and sugar to this sauce; I added neither. It didn’t need it. (And as I admitted on Day 1, I’m kind of a wimp when it comes to bringing the heat.) But really, if you know me at all or have read my blog even a little, you probably know by now that anything that combines avocado, lime and cilantro is A-OK in my book.

But that was not all! Oh no! There was that beautiful winter salad of pomegranate, kale and apple to attend to.

Somehow, despite the fact that the five pomegranates left in the produce section seemed truly sad, and I settled for the least bad of them, I ended up with some really lovely, delicious pomegranate jewels. Seriously, I should’ve taken a picture of them, because they looked semi-precious.

This salad is fun and fast, and plays with flavors in an interesting way. It also calls for shredded kale, rather than big leaves, so I stuffed torn leaves into my Magic Bullet (in small batches), and whizzed it with the chopping blade for a hot second. It was like kale confetti. (I don’t want that coming out of my pinata, though.)

The most involved part of the salad were the aforementioned balsamic-glazed almonds. Basically, toast raw almonds, add balsamic vinegar and honey, and stir to coat over the stovetop. Then they harden up and get deliciously glossy and sticky. And I have leftovers sitting in a bag at home. I call it the base to the world’s best trail mix. (Oh yes, they are that good. Seriously, go home and make these! They take, like, five minutes and it’s like a way more sophisticated version of those yummy-smelling glazed nuts stands at the mall.)

Pomegranate, apple, kale salad

Toss kale, pomegranate arils, thinly sliced apples and glazed almonds with a quick homemade vinaigrette and enjoy! Just don’t make too much dressing and then hand it off to someone else and let them finish the salad. They won’t realize you’ve made more dressing than necessary and they WILL just dump it all on. Then it will taste like balsamic with a little salad. Not that that happened, of course. (Totally happened.)

Still, it was clear these flavors were meant to be. And boy was it pretty! It was like a winter season fashion show–jewel tones everywhere!

And after sitting down with a heaping sweet potato taco and a big, colorful bowl of kale salad, Kevin declared the meal a winner and even admitted he’d eat it for a meal again (without meat.) Of course, even after three tacos and the majority of the salad, he still finished off a bag of popcorn at the movies that night, so *maybe* I should take that with a grain of salt. Nonetheless, I declare it a victory.

Of course, my cooking for the weekend was hardly done. After all, Kevin hosted a Super Bowl party on Sunday, and yours truly was, effectively, the caterer. Cue the marathon cooking day that was my Sunday (more to come…)

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