Saturday, November 6, 2010

Spaghetti with Pesto and Tomatoes

I made something yummy!!!

I've been trying to watch what I eat lately, so this is another Weight Watchers recipe. As Weight Watchers recipes are concerned, this is definitely one of the better ones. The recipe says that it serves 4 and that it is 5 points per serving. Since I am still nursing my son, I'm allowed a few extra points a day. Of course I had to add some extra things to the recipe, such as onions, more garlic, and some chicken. But it came out really well and this is a definite do again! This recipe is from the Weight Watchers New Compete Cookbook:

Spaghetti with Pesto and Tomatoes (serves 4)

  • 4 teaspoons olive oil
  • 4 plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 8 sun-dried tomato halves (not oil-packed), chopped
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 6 ounces spaghetti
  • 1 cup packed arugula leaves
  • 1 cup packed basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup packed parsley leaves
  • 1 tablespoon chopped mint
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
    What I added:
    • 1 extra garlic clove
    • 2 chicken breasts, sauteed in basting oil (not exactly Weight Watchers, but delicious)
    • 1/2 Spanish onion
    • Instead of using 8 halves of sun-dried tomatoes I used an entire bag that was already chopped up.

    1. In a medium nonstick skillet, heat 2 teaspoons of the oil. Add the tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes and pepper flakes; cook, stirring frequently, until the sauce thickens, about 10 minutes. I added garlic, onions, and some cut up chicken breast that was sauteed in oil to this mixture.
    2. Cook the spaghetti according to package instructions; drain and place in a serving bowl. I used rigatoni.
    3. Meanwhile, to prepare the pesto, in a food processor or blender, combine the arugula, basil, parsley, mint, the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil and the garlic; puree. Pulse in the salt and pepper. Add the tomato sauce, pesto and cheese to the pasta; toss to combine. I added some Parmesan to the pesto sauce because it was a little bland.

    I highly recommend this recipe (with the changes I made). Like I said, not exactly Weight Watchers, but not as bad as the Beef Wellington my husband made last week.

    Thursday, October 28, 2010

    Ow Ow Ow My Face Is On Fire Holy Hell It Hurts Chili

    Yesterday I decided to revisit my chili. I wasn't happy with how it turned out last time, and really - how hard is crock pot chili?

    I begin cutting up the veggies...2 onions (complete with burning and tearing eyes), garlic, a green pepper, and...a jalapeno. I always knew that jalapeno peppers left oils on your hands so that you aren't supposed to touch your face after you handle them. I decide to wash my hands. And I wash them again. And then one more time for good measure. The oil should be off, right?

    I take the chopped meat out of the package to find that apparently it was beginning to go bad. Time to run out to the store. I decide that since the baby is fed and happy that I would take a quick shower before I go out. I soap up, wash my hair, and move to my face. Oh crap - the oil is still on my hands. OWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOW!

    After about 5 minutes of standing under the water trying to get the jalapeno oil off without using my hands, I get out of the shower and dry off. Now for those of you who know me, you know that I'm pretty much blind without my glasses. The only reason I didn't have my contacts in while I was in the shower was because of the chance there was oil on my hands. I figured that since I washed my hands and took a shower that the oil had to be off of me by now, right? I go to put my contacts in, and OWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOW! Alright...glasses it is.

    I head on over to the grocery store, pick up what I need, and come back home. I brown the meat and throw everything into the crock pot. Kelly comes home and makes himself a plate to bring to work. Apparently it wasn't that good. Well I went to all of that trouble to make it, so there's no way I'm eating crappy chili again. I throw in some more salt, chili powder, another onion, cayenne pepper, hot sauce, and believe it or not a half a can of beer. I let it cook for about another hour, and it turned out pretty good! Yay me!

    Lessons learned:

    1) Jalapeno oil sucks...make sure you get it ALL off before you touch anything
    2) The more onions the better
    3) Beer is for more than drinking
    4) I like it hot

    Thursday, October 14, 2010

    Cheeseburger Mac and Cheese FAIL

    In order to make up for the fact that I didn't cook anything last week due to Jackson's stomach virus, I decided that I'd cook twice this week. Unfortunately, I got cocky with this recipe - and it completely backfired. Here's the original recipe (from Family Circle Magazine):

    Cheeseburger Mac and Cheese (serves 8)

    • 1  box (1 pound)  elbow macaroni or rotini
    • 1  pound  ground sirloin
    • 1/2  teaspoon  salt
    • 1/4  teaspoon  black pepper
    • 1/4  cup  ketchup
    • 2  tablespoons  yellow mustard
    • 1  tablespoon  unsalted butter
    • 1  tablespoon  all-purpose flour
    • 1  can (12 ounces)  evaporated milk
    • 3  cups  shredded cheddar cheese
    • 2    medium-size tomatoes, cored and thinly sliced
    • 2  tablespoons  seasoned bread crumbs


    1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 2-quart oval baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
    2. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to boiling. Add pasta and cook 10 minutes, according to package directions. Drain.
    3. While pasta cooks, heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add sirloin, breaking apart with a wooden spoon. Cook 6 minutes, until no longer pink. Season with 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and the pepper. Remove from heat and stir in ketchup and mustard. Transfer to a bowl.
    4. Return skillet to medium heat and add butter. Once melted, whisk in flour, then add milk in a thin stream. Bring to a simmer and cook 2 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and 2 cups of the cheese. Stir in pasta. Pour into prepared dish. Top with meat mixture, remaining cheese, sliced tomatoes and bread crumbs. Spritz with nonstick cooking spray.
    5. Bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes. Increase heat to broil and broil for 2 minutes.

    I didn't have all of the ingredients, and it was raining, but I really wanted to try this. So this is what I did.

    MY Mac and Cheese (serves ?????)

    • 1 Box of Velveeta Macaconi and Cheese (Mistake #1)
    • 1 frozen clump of mystery meat (I'm pretty sure it was hamburger meat)
    • Ketchup (I didn't measure)
    • Whole grain mustard (I didn't have yellow mustard and again I didn't measure)
    • One big ass tomato sliced up
    • Breadcrumbs (Unmeasured)
    • Salt and Pepper 
    1.  Set oven to 350 degrees and spray a pan with Pam. In my case I thought the pan I used was the right size but it ended up being huge. So what do I do? Smoosh the mac and cheese over to one corner. Smart, right?
    2. Brown the meat in a pan (hey at least I am getting the hang of THAT). Remove from heat and add salt, pepper, ketchup, and mustard.
    3. Make macaroni and cheese according to the box.
    4. Mix mystery meat in with the mac and cheese. Add some breadcrumbs.
    5. Put mac and cheese in the pan.
    6. Put tomatoes on top of mac and cheese and sprinkle breadcrumbs on top.
    7. Bake in the oven for an undisclosed amount of time (in my case until it looked like Jackson was going to start screaming - about 8 minutes).

    You can see the many reasons why this recipe failed. Lesson learned - I suck at cooking so stick to the recipe.

    Tuesday, October 12, 2010

    Teriyaki and Pineapple Meatball Stir Fry

    Here's a quick and really easy recipe for nights when you don't have a lot of time - which seems to be the case for me lately (poor Jackson had a stomach virus last week and is now teething and going through a growth spurt!).

    Serves 3-4

    1 package Aidells Teriyaki and Pineapple Chicken Meatballs
    1-2 tbsp. olive oil
    1 large red pepper, cut into 1-inch slices
    1 large green pepper, cut into 1-inch slices
    1 medium onion, cut into 1-inch slices
    3-4 cloves of garlic, chopped
    1 cup of white rice
    Sweet and sour sauce (optional)
    Salt and pepper to taste

    Make rice according to package. In a separate pan, sautee red pepper, green pepper, salt, pepper, and onion in olive oil. Add garlic and meatballs to the pan. Put the rice on a plate and add the meatballs and vegetables. Serve sweet and sour sauce on the side.

    Now for what I did wrong (because I wouldn't be an incompetent cook if I didn't screw something up...). The meatballs definitely needed to be cooked longer - they were luke warm. I also think that next time I would add more garlic and onions because the veggies could use more flavor. I might even add chunks of pineapple. This recipe was definitely missing something...I'm just not sure what. Suggestions are welcome!!!


    Monday, October 4, 2010

    Chili and Pan Bagnat

    Technically I made this on Wednesday this past week, but because Jackson was being a cranky-pants (he's teething) I just haven't had an opportunity to write about about it.

    Earlier this week I had a craving for slow-cooker chili. I haven't had it in a while (and Kelly isn't a huge fan of chili so we rarely eat it) but I reaaalllly wanted it. I used this recipe with a few modifications - mainly more garlic and more onions. Truth be told, I wasn't a huge fan of this recipe. In my mind, chili has to have a little spice in it. This didn't really do it for me in that area. It had a nice taste, it just wasn't spicy enough. I served the chili over rice and topped it off with cheese and sour cream. Kelly said that he liked it even better the next day. I say that if you want to make the recipe, add hot sauce!

    OK on to the Pan Bagnat. I got this recipe from the Weight Watchers New Complete Cookbook. According to the cookbook, "Pan Bagnat" is French for "soaked bread". Here's the recipe (it makes 4 servings):

    2 very ripe tomatoes, peeled
    One 8-ounce loaf of day-old French or Italian bread, halved lengthwise
    1/3 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
    1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
    2 scallions, thinly sliced
    2 tbsp white-wine vinegar
    2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
    Freshly ground pepper, to taste

    1. Halve each tomato horizontally; with a spoon, scoop out and discard the seeds and pulp. Dice the tomato shells.
    2. Pull out the soft insides of the bread and tear into pea-size pieces. Transfer to a medium bowl; stir in the tomatoes, cheese, parsley, scallions, vinegar, oil and pepper.
    3. Fill the bread loaf with the tomato mixture; close the bread and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight; just before serving, cut into 4 sandwiches.

    First of all, I had no clue how to peel a tomato. I was about to pull out the vegetable peeler when I read the recipe a little more (it always helps to read the directions...), and this is what I learned.

    "To peel tomatoes, cut an X on the bottom, just deep enough to cut the skin. In a medium saucepan, bring 4" water to a boil. Drop in the tomatoes and boil just until the skins split, 10-15 seconds. With a slotted spoon, remove the tomatoes and hold under cold running water; rub off the skins."

    *I should note that I had to boil the tomatoes about 30 seconds to get the skins to split.

    This recipe is DELICIOUS, even though I didn't follow the recipe exactly (yet again). Remember, this is Weight Watchers - they try to keep it healthy and sometimes have to sacrifice taste to do it. I ended up added more cheese, garlic, and salt. The garlic makes it really tasty - I suggest 2-3 cloves.

    Oh, and I attempted another omelet. I'm getting better!!!

    Thursday, September 23, 2010

    Comfort Food

    Everyone has their favorite comfort food. For some people, it's ice cream. For others, it's chicken soup. For me, it's cottage cheese and noodles.

    Did you just throw up in your mouth a bit? I wouldn't be surprised, since it's the usual reaction I get when I say that I'm in the mood for this delish dish. In fact, cottage cheese and noodles is a prime example of things my husband considers Jewish lore since he can't believe that people would actually eat it (other examples include gefilte fish and Manischewitz wine).

    My grandmother and mother used to make this dish whenever they didn't feel like cooking, there wasn't much to eat in the house, or when I begged for it. It's so ridiculously easy that it's become one of the few dishes that I'm proficient at making. I made it on a weekly basis in college (much to my roommate's chagrin).

    I'll admit it. The thought of cottage cheese paired with egg noodles is a little gross. Not to mention that it's not the prettiest dish. But for what it lacks in looks it makes up in flavor. I always tell people - if you like cottage cheese then you'll like this dish.

    My grandmother's recipe for Cottage Cheese and Noodles

    Egg Noodles (amount doesn't matter - make enough for the amount of people eating)
    Cottage Cheese (enough to cover the noodles)
    Butter (enough to coat the noodles)
    Salt and Pepper

    Cook the noodles and drain.  Add butter (let it melt on top of the noodles). Add cottage cheese, salt and pepper. Mix.

    Easy, right?

    Last night I decided to add to her tried and true recipe. Remember the kugel I made for Rosh Hashanah? I took my cue from that recipe and added a small onion (sauteed in butter), a scoop of sour cream, and some parsley to my grandmother's cottage cheese and noodles. I also took away the melted butter on top of the noodles. It was sooooo good!

    For all of you doubters out there, just give it a chance. I guarantee that you'll like it! Oh, and for proof that this dish actually exists - check this book under "Noodles and Cottage or Pot Cheese".

    Thursday, September 16, 2010

    Omelet Part Deux

    Ode to an Omelet

    How do I loathe thee? Let me count the ways.
    I loathe thee morning, noon, and night
    Yet my stomach grumbles at your sight
    For you taste so warm and good.
    I can not seem to make you right
    You always break, run, and fight.
    I loathe thee dearly sure it's true;
    I loathe thee when you taste like poo,
    I loathe your ingredients - eggs, milk too;
    Salt and pepper - when the cheeses ooze.
    I loathe thee with a sense of grief
    I loathe thee because you forsake me
    You take the wind out of my sails,
    Yet one day I will prevail,
    Just you wait and see.

    Tuesday, September 14, 2010

    Omelets and Spaghetti and Meatballs

    Today I woke up hungry for eggs. Probably not the best thing for me, but I really wanted them. And not just any eggs. I wanted an omelet. I sat Jackson down in his bouncer, sprayed the pan with Pam, scrambled 2 eggs, milk, salt, and pepper in a bowl, and added them to the pan. A few minutes later I look in the pan and realize that it looks like it's time for me to add the cheese. I add a handful of shredded cheese and wait. And wait. And wait. I then notice that the bottom of the eggs are burning but the top isn't cooking. And it smells - bad. So what do I do? Try to fold the eggs over because burning = eggs being done, right? Wrong. It's not folding, the eggs aren't cooked all the way through, and the pan is starting to smoke. I gave up, threw the eggs out, and settled for a new batch - of scrambled eggs.

    Note: According to my sources, if you put a lid on top of the pan when you're cooking the eggs, it will cook the top of the egg. Well thanks for telling me now!

    Onto spaghetti and meatballs.

    This is Kelly's recipe (makes 12-15 meatballs)

    • 3/4 lbs meatloaf mix
    • 1 egg
    • Breadcrumbs
    • 2 tbsp oil
    • Basil (chopped)
    • Parsley (chopped)
    • Oregano (chopped)
    • 1 large onion (finely chopped)
    • 4-5 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
    • 1 can Contadina tomato paste*
    • 1 can crushed tomatoes
    • 2 cans tomato sauce
    • Italian seasoning
    • 1 Tbsp sugar
    • Parmesan Cheese
    • Red wine
    • Salt and Pepper to taste
    (* He uses Contadina because he's found it to have the best taste out of all the tomato pastes)

    Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  In a large saucepan on medium heat, add oil and a little less than 1/2 of the onion. Then in a large bowl mix meat, egg, breadcrumbs, basil, parsley, oregano, other 1/2 of the onion, 3/4 of the garlic, Parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper. Mix meat with hands (Icky fingers! Eww!) and form into meatballs. Remember - bigger isn't always better. I made mine pretty big and they were a little dry in the middle. Place meatballs on a broiler pan and stick it in the oven.

    Go back to the sauce pan. Add the rest of the garlic and the crushed tomatoes. Let the juices reduce to about half of what it started out with. Then add the tomato paste and mix so it's not clumpy. If you do what I did - added a can of sauce because I mixed it up with the paste, it's not a big deal. You just have to mix it more. Next you add the tomato sauce, Italian seasoning, sugar, Parmesan cheese, and a splash of red wine. Now pour yourself a glass of wine because you deserve it. The sauce is simmering, the balls are baking, all is right in the world.

    Once the meatballs are baked (Around 20 minutes? Who knows...I've been drinking wine), add them to the sauce and let it saturate. Boil some water, add some angel hair (Easier said than done - remember the last time I made pasta? Does burning spaghetti ring a bell?), and you're ready to go.

    All in all I'd have to say that the meatball experiment was a success. My mom tried to teach me her way of making meatballs when I was about 12, and I just added everything into a large bowl (think meat, egg, breadcrumbs, tomato sauce...). This definitely turned out better than that debacle.

    Oh, and I learned something cool! Apparently if you want to get the smell of garlic off your hands, rub them on something stainless steel. I don't suggest a knife, but you're sink probably is stainless steel. It works, I swear!

    Friday, September 10, 2010

    Rosh Hashanah 2010

    I moved into my new house 10 days before I gave birth to my son this past April. We (ok, my husband) painted, and I spent my time decorating and picking out new furniture, including a new dining room set. The day we moved in, my mother said to me that I would be hosting every Jewish holiday from now on. Apparently she wasn't kidding.

    Last week my mother asked me what I was making for Rosh Hashanah. Usually this question is answered "Kelly is making an appetizer" and we bring it over to her house. Nope, not this time. She wanted to know what we were making for the dinner, because she was serious when she said that we were hosting. To be fair, she hosts Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, and all the BBQ's we have during the summer. Unfortunately, Kelly works a lot so that I can be home with Jackson, so this meant that I would be the one cooking for 10 people. This was trial by fire if I have ever seen it. Either dinner was going to be great, or we would be eating Chinese turkey.

    Traditionally my family always has mazoh ball soup, brisket, apples and honey, and kasha for Rosh Hashanah. I designated my grandmother to make the mazoh ball soup (her's is the best - recipe to come later). I decided on this brisket, this kashsa, and I also wanted to make this kugel. We also had string beans almondine, apples and honey, and rainbow cookie cake for desert. I realized that this was going to be quite an undertaking - especially since not only was this my first holiday dinner, but my first dinner EVER, but I figured that I watched enough Food Network that I should be OK.

    My ultimate goal in making this dinner was to prove to everyone that, given a chance, it is possible that I can cook. Growing up my mother made all of our meals, so I never had to learn. I met my husband in college, so since we met either he would cook or we'd go out to eat. Anytime that I did try to cook something while Kelly was present he would step in and either tell me that I was doing something wrong or take over completely. Between Kelly and my mother, I gave up cooking completely.

    I believe that I succeeded. I'm sure you're looking to read about some kind of epic failure of cooking drama, but surprisingly I have none to report. I followed the recipes, and with NO help whatsoever I made a holiday dinner for 10 people. No fires, no burns, no cuts, no salmonella. It's almost like transforming ingredients into a recipe transformed me as well.

    With that being said, I solemnly vow that from now on, barring any unforeseen circumstances, I will cook at least one meal per week. I will do my best to not repeat any recipes, and I will cook this meal without help from anyone. I will then write about that meal here. I think that this is the only way that I will be able to teach myself how to cook...trial and error. And if a meal sucks? So what. That's what Chinese turkey is for.

    Things You Need to Know

    I can't cook. I warned my husband about this when we started dating. Unfortunately for him, he didn't take me seriously. He thought I was only kidding when I went through my (what I think of as impressive) list of culinary disasters, which include:

    - Setting the cabinets above my toaster oven on fire when making grilled cheese
    - Setting my stove top on fire boiling water (who does that?!?)
    - Messing up Easy Mac (apparently you don't double the cooking time when you double the amount of turns into soup).
    - Setting spaghetti on fire when putting it into the water (I didn't think that one was possible)

    And my favorite:
    - Setting my parent's stove on fire making cupcakes.

    Let's talk about that last one. About a week before Christmas a few years back, my younger sister and I decided that we wanted to make cupcakes. We put the little cupcake holder things in the pan, preheated the oven, mixed the batter, and started filling the little cups up. Once the last one was filled, I looked in the mixing bowl and discovered that I had a lot of batter left over. I told my sister that I didn't want to wait around for those cupcakes to bake and have to do another batch, so we decided to fill up the cups to the top. We stuck the tin in the oven, set the timer, went to our respective bedrooms, and turned on the TV.

    About 15 minutes later I go to check on the cupcakes and discover smoke billowing out of the oven. I started to freak out and ran to get my father, who was in the next room watching The Santa Claus on TV (funny in itself because my father is Jewish and also hates Tim Allen). I screamed to my father, "The kitchen is on fire!!! Help!!!" Without even taking his eyes off of the television, he tells me to get my mother. I run upstairs to get my mom, she grabs the fire extinguisher (which my parents put in arms reach of the oven in case the urge to cook comes over me), and puts out the fire. All that was left of my cupcakes was a 3x3 inch charred piece of cake.

    By the way, not being able to cook has nothing to do with not liking to eat. I love to eat. And drink. I just fail when it comes to preparing said food and drink.

    After all of these (plus many more) disastrous attempts at becoming a domestic diva, I finally gave up. Thankfully my husband is an amazing cook. He's come to terms with the fact that (in the words of Carrie from Sex and the City) "The only thing I've made in the kitchen is a mess. And several small fires".

    Some other things you should know about me:

    - I am 28 and live in NJ with my husband Kelly and son Jackson
    - I was a high school music teacher and am now a stay at home mom
    - I am the oldest of 4 (I have 1 brother and 2 sisters, and there is a 13 year difference between my youngest sister and I).
    - I was raised in an interfaith household. My mom is Roman Catholic, my dad, siblings, my son, and I are all Jewish, and my husband is a religious free agent.
    - I met my husband while attending college and we have been together for almost 8 years
    - If I had to choose a last meal, I would have a hard time choosing between my mom's Thanksgiving dinner, my husband's spaghetti and meatballs, and my grandmother's chicken soup
    - I like wine and beer, particularly Malbecs and Belgium Wheats