09/2/09

The Drought Is Over

I admit it. I fell off the cooking wagon. Would that be the chuckwagon? Who knows. At any rate, I have been neglecting my personal goals of trying new recipes and cooking more meals. Thankfully, invitations to join good friends and family for dinner over the past weekend inspired me to revisit the kitchen.Caramel Cake: I wanted to take a two-layer cake as my contribution to an outdoor dinner with friends. Searching through www.myrecipes.com revealed several possibilities. However, because of dietary requirements of my friends, I made the cake from one recipe and the frosting from another. The cake turned out to be a little more dense than a normal cake, almost like a distant relative of a pound cake. The frosting was good, although I almost did not have enough to frost the entire cake! All-in-all, everyone had second helpings of the cake and the leftovers did not last long at home. I’ll make this one again!Darlene’s Healthy Salad: Thankfully, the latest issue of Cooking Light magazine came in the mail last week! Flipping through the newly redesigned layout, I came across this easy salad. I did not include radishes but added cherry tomatoes. This salad came together fairly quickly, especially since I used my awesome food processor to slice the cucumbers and red onion. The tangy combo of red wine vinegar, onion, and cucumbers made this salad a modern version of the cucumber salad my grandma used to make. I bet I would have loved it even more if I would have picked out a ripe avocado instead of an unusable rock-hard one. Oh, well. I already made this salad again! It will be a regular next summer.Cold Sesame Noodles with Chicken and Cucumbers: This recipe was fast, easy, and delicious. I was able to quickly assemble it even after working late and walking the dog! Other than dicing the cucumbers instead of slicing, I made the recipe as directed and had no problem finding any of the ingredients. My husband loved the recipe. I think he was surprised about how much flavor was in a dish with relatively few ingredients (and relatively few dishes to wash!). This would be a great dish to take for lunches. Also, I liked the “game plan” feature in the magazine. We’ll be making this again!

03/3/09

Lime Time

I have a St. Patrick’s Day party to attend this month and I have been searching for the perfect dessert to take to the party. My first option – Fresh Lime Chiffon Cake. So, I make it for my monthly staff meeting to test it out. Making this frosted, three-layer cake was not as time intensive as the recipe and reviews on Cooking Light.com made it sound; although grating the lime rind got old after awhile. I think I need to investigate purchasing a better grating tool. I did thoroughly enjoy using our antique juicer for the lime juice and remembered fondly receiving it as a gift at a wedding shower about 1000 years ago.

The cake did not turn out as I imagined it would, even with the picture on the recipe. First of all – it was yellow! I had, for some reason, expected it to be green! Silly me. That’s one strike against it winning the St. Patrick’s Day Dessert Challenge. The taste was good, light and “refreshing” my staff members said (of course, I am paying them so what else would they say?). I, being impartial, did like the taste as it was uniquely tart and limey.
The recipe also suggested garnishing the cake with blueberries and mint – which I might try sometime. Reviewers on Cooking Light.com suggested using a different type of filling between the layers, which is an interesting idea. However, what would be a good jam/jelly/curd flavor to combine with lime?
02/22/09

Quesadillas, Rum, and Restaurants

Don’t try to fool me – you’re still reading because the rum caught your attention! This weekend we tried two new recipes and one new restaurant. Since our Saturday afternoon was cold and snowy – I decided to make cookies! However, looking through recently collected recipes revealed only doughs that needed time to chill. No time for that, I thought, and I decided to make the much anticipated Butter-Rum Pound Cake from Betty Crocker! But, alas, we were both disappointed. It had a nice texture and decent taste, but we both were looking for a moister cake with more rum flavor – something similar to the tasty goodness of Stacy’s mom’s recipe for almond-poppy seed cake that turns out rich and moist due to drizzle added during the last step of the recipe. We might try something similar with a Tastefully Simple pound cake to experiment.While the cake was cooling, I tried another new recipe for our dinner – Roasted Corn and Goat-Cheese Quesadillas. Stacy loves quesadillas, but I cringe everytime he eats them in a restaurant since they are always served dripping in cheese and grease (no offense, quesadilla chefs of America). I also thought this would be a good dish to try to make using our new panini press. In the end, we were both satisfied with the meal that also included Rice-a-Roni Mexican rice (yum!) and black beans. The quesadillas were tasty, although a bit heavy on the goat-cheese side…probably because my container of goat-cheese contained slightly more than the recipe called for (but not enough for me to go to the effort of removing – .3 oz). Using the panini maker resulted in melted quesadillas, but they weren’t as crispy as they probably would have been using the skillet as the recipe indicated. I do think I would make a variation of this again, however. The recipe was fast and easy to make, as well.On Sunday, I needed to go to work unexpectedly so, for a special treat, we visited a new local restaurant and had a very nice time. Toscana Restaurant and Lounge in Rolling Meadows is a nice, intimate sit-down Italian restaurant. We had delicous bread, more bread in the form of bruschetta (my ultimate favorite) and I had Pollo Limone and Stacy had the Tortellini Paesano for our main entrees. It’s special occasion spot, with entrees running from $13 and up, although maybe we will try their lunch and/or take-out menu sometime as well. The service was outstanding; the staff were friendly and attentive. I look forward to trying their version of garlic pizza. It is very nice to find a nicer place in our area – we’re still looking for our “Cheers.”

02/17/09

Re-inventing the Ramble

One of my New Year’s Resolutions a few years ago was to give up doing New Year’s Resolutions. Now I just make and break resolutions all year through! Right now, one of my mini-resolutions is to become a culinary and organizational genius.What’s that mean? I need to cook and clean more. Therefore, the last few weeks I’ve been making an effort to cook new dishes and “weed” various collections throughout our house. Therefore, I’ve decided to bring my blog back and document my progress – if nothing else than for my own amusement.The most recent culinary experiment was Korean-Spiced Beef and Cabbage Rolls – a recipe that I saw last year in Cooking Light magazine. It was winning recipe from one of their readers that was inspired by my husband’s favorite food from Nebraska – the Runza! I spent a good part of Saturday afternoon putting this recipe together and, thankfully, Stacy helped by making dessert – a rum pound cake also from CL. The dish was relatively easy to make – just a little more time consuming that I would usually like.Honey was one of the dough’s main ingredient, resulting in a light, sweet dough that I would consider using for other dishes as well. Overall, the Korean flavors were tasty, yet subtle. I would like to experiment with making the rolls smaller to create more of an appetizer snack bite, although I hope they won’t be too hard to fold together. Additionally, I want to try adding different things to the filling – more vegetables and a little cheese.The rum pound cake was carefully created by Stacy as he channeled his inner chemical engineer. It turned out ok – our favorite part was the mild taste of Captain Morgan’s. Thankfully, a colleague at work shared a similar recipe with me today that might be a good one to try this weekend.