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Posts Tagged ‘eats’

Stuffed Pita Pizzas

Tonight was date night at home, so we wanted to make something special together – once I said the P-word (“pizza”) the fiancée was sold! He’s become a total roasted garlic snob ever since the Garlic Naan Pizza feast, and now demands it on homemade pizzas, so I totally oblige as long as he chops the garlic bulbs. He chopped two up for tonight’s dinner:

Cover the garlic in olive oil and roast in the oven until it’s fragrant and mushy (this is usually about 30 minutes at 400 degrees, once you can smell garlic all throughout your house, take it out of the oven or else it could burn).

We had a packet of whole wheat pita bread in the fridge that I thought would be perfect for this occasion. Tear the pita in half about halfway through, so it folds back like a book:

Stuff it with your favorite fillings – I used shredded mozzarella and cheddar cheese, with roasted red peppers from a jar, marinated sundried tomatoes, and fresh arugula.

Fold the top of the pita back over and smear the fresh roasted garlic on top like so (this is key to making it taste hearty and warm):

Cover with a few spoonfuls of spaghetti sauce (we used Newman’s Own), with more cheese and fresh arugula – or whatever toppings you like.

It should look something like this from the side – don’t worry if the pitas seem thin and flimsy, since this is meant to be eaten with a fork.

Bake in the oven until the cheese is melty, about 10-20 minutes at 400 degrees depending on your oven.

I love using fresh arugula on pizzas!

What’s your favorite pizza topping?

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Fall Dinner Party

Hey there! This week marked the start of fall, so let’s celebrate with some cold weather foods & a dinner party 🙂

This week has really gone by quickly, and I’ve been a little drained of creativity (but for good reason that I hope to tell you about in the next few weeks…) so it’s been a while since the last post. Let me show you one of our favorite vegetarian dinners (no matter what time of year!)

Sweet potatoes with baked beans and broccoli – I got this idea from Caitlin and we LOVE the combination – you’ll probably be seeing a lot of this meal over the next few months (sweet potatoes are SO cheap right now!) For two people, we chopped up two sweet potatoes into tiny breakfast-potato-sized chunks, cooked in a pan with olive oil + salt + pepper + chili powder, and topped with a 1/2 can (of the big family-sized cans) of vegetarian baked beans.

We also made a whole 1lb bag of frozen broccoli on the stove (sautéed with a little bit of soy sauce).

I just found out one of my pregnant friends reads the blog, and she said the pictures give her cravings so I should make them look good (yeah, Indian-food-in-a-box doesn’t always look very appetizing), so hopefully this will wet her whistle 🙂

Last night my BFF Kellie hosted an awesome autumn dinner party for a group of friends, complete with seasonal decor 😉 She is such a homemaker and has the prettiest cookware of anyone I know!

The menu included green bean casserole,

sweet potato casserole (I promise there are delicious sweet potatoes & pecans underneath that lovely cloud-o-marshmallows),

the best stuffing I’ve had in my whole life (celery + onions + carrots + apples + raisins),

fluffy layered biscuits,

and some seasonal pumpkin beer!

Kellie – I’m officially extending to you a permanent invitation to my house for future Thanksgiving dinners 🙂 Please bring your epic stuffing & future Gator babies lol

I’m pretty sure Kellie’s stuffing would make our pregnant friend drool :-P 

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Grocery Budgeting

Happy Sunday! We woke up this morning and feasted on a cereal mix (Kashi Go Lean Crunch + Puffins + Publix Flax Flakes) with chocolate protein powder, soymilk & raisins – I’m on a serious cereal kick recently, maybe too many smoothies?

Breakfast also included a sweet birthday treat from the fiancee’s mom…

CHOCOLATE!!! How to choose one? Well, you could use the fancy descriptions…

I chose this little ball of trouble.

It looks like a chocolate planet…

… a chocolate planet that just got totally destroyed!

Immediately afterwards, flossing happened 😛

On a typical Sunday, we clean up the house, take out the recycling (paper goes to Paper Retriever where the profits go to the high school in our neighborhood – love it)…

… and do our grocery shopping.

Grocery Budgeting Tips

Having been a college student for way too long, and now being a couple saving for a wedding+honeymoon+home during a recession, we’ve become really aware of where our money goes, especially on groceries (my domain). Each year we sit down together and go over what we spent the previous year in the major categories (rent, utilities, internet, groceries, dining out, vacations, gifts, gas, insurance, etc.) and see where we think we can improve. Last year we found we were going out WAY TOO MUCH for meals (including breakfast – the cheapest meal of all to do at home!), so we decided to make a change.

We were spending around $50/week for two people on groceries, which usually left us with an empty fridge & a hankering to go out to eat. We decided to increase the grocery allowance to a firm $75/week (for both of us!) so we’d have more food at home and less reason/desire to go out for meals. Plus this gives us more room to buy pricier foods that we hadn’t had before to expand our tastes & cooking skills.

The $75/week doesn’t include alcohol (since most of the alcohol is either “yard beer” or wine for special occasions) – it kinda gets its own budget category. We still haven’t quite figured this part out.

We made the $75/week rule before we decided to stop eating meat, so it turns out we now usually spend less than $65 – woo!

My main tip for grocery shopping is don’t go shopping without looking in your pantry first! (or your fridge/freezer/cabinets) I can’t tell you how many times we’ve bought something like cheese, only to come home to a full unopened bag of cheese in the fridge that we had forgotten about. Yeah, we’ll eat it eventually, but I’m not breaking our $75/week rule to stock up on stuff that would probably go bad before we got to eat it. That said, we DO stock up on stuff that we know will keep (i.e. brown rice, lentils, beans, vegetable stock, Lara Bars, frozen stuff) or that we know will get eaten quickly (i.e. hummus on sale) – but not to the point where we’re bringing home 50 lb bags of brown rice and storing them in the laundry room 😛

Another good tip I’ll never forget: “It’s not a deal if you don’t need it.” This means even if your Sunday paper comes with a coupon for nacho cheese dip half off, don’t buy it unless you were planning on eating nacho cheese dip soon! A lot of people make their grocery lists around what coupons are available (I used to do this too), and that can leave you with a bunch of stuff that you don’t need or isn’t good for you.

This week’s shopping included:

  • Three boxes of Kashi cereal
  • Two cartons of Almond milk
  • Cream of Wheat
  • Coffee (for the fiancee, I drink tea @ work b/c it’s free)
  • Three containers of drink mix (also for the fiancee, I’m not into artificial sweeteners)
  • Whole Wheat Spaghetti (we’re carb-loading this week for an unexpected race on Saturday!)
  • Spaghetti Sauce
  • Fresh spinach
  • Whole wheat pitas (we wanted tortillas but couldn’t find any without partially-hydrogenated stuff in them)
  • Hummus
  • 6 peaches
  • 7 bananas
  • Shredded cheddar cheese (for tonight’s chili)
  • 2 sweet potatoes
  • Marinated artichoke hearts (for lunch wraps)
  • Organic yogurt (for smoothies)
  • Kidney beans (for the pasta sauce – added protein)
  • Grapes

We used a few coupons, including:

  • $2 off 2 containers of Almond Milk
  • $3 off fresh fruit when buying 3 Kashi products (found this coupon stuck to the cereal box in the store!)
  • $1 off Cream of Wheat (perfect since cold weather is coming our way again)

The grand total for the groceries was about $55 – for two people for a week! Sometimes it’s more, sometimes it’s less – just depends on how much stuff we have leftover from the previous week & in the freezer.

Tonight’s dinner includes all stuff that we had bought before today’s grocery excusion – CHILI!

In the slow cooker for 5 hours on low, we put:

  • Half a bag of black beans (cooked this morning on the stove)
  • A large white onion (already sauteed on the stovetop)
  • A whole bag of chopped red & green peppers (leftover from our epic trip to BJ’s)
  • Banana peppers & jalapeno peppers
  • A jar of spaghetti sauce
  • A can of vegetable stock
  • About 8 cloves of garlic (roasted from our last carb-loading night)
  • Spices: cumin, salt, pepper, chili powder, cayenne pepper, crushed red pepper
  • Louisiana hot sauce
  • A big scoop of a frozen chipotle sauce the fiancee made a while back
  • *Topped with cheddar cheese after it’s done

So glad to break out the slow cooker b/c I didn’t feel like cooking this on the stove tonight! You know it’s fall when the Crock Pot comes out of the cabinet 🙂

What are some of your grocery budgeting tips?

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Birthday Fun!

It’s birthday time again – where did the last year go? I still have the happy birthday text from my mom from last year!

Usually for my birthday I throw all dieting to the wind and eat whatever the heck I want… and today was no exception 🙂 Previous birthday meals include an entire bowl of homemade guacamole with blue corn tortilla chips, twice-baked potatoes with canned Hormel chili, Papa John’s pizza, Dippin’ Dots… this year, the b-day started with b-fast:

Kashi Go Lean Crunch + Puffins + banana + soymilk. This was my first time with Puffins – they’re good, but not worth the $5/box at Publix – I’ll just stay with Kashi 🙂 I’ve been craving cereal like crazy lately after all the smoothies & breakfast cookies that take time to prepare – cereal is EASY and GOOD!

When I got to work, I found a pretty vase of flowers and some Lara Bars – my coworkers know what I like 🙂

We went out for lunch at Brio, where I got the Penne Mediterranean – yum!

And when I got home, the fiancee brought me a beautiful bouquet of flowers (I love the white with purple tips!) 🙂

And 4 gigantic chocolate bars! He knows what I love 🙂

I said “It’s gonna take me the whole year to eat these!” His response: “that’s what I’m hoping for!” 😛

The goal today was to run 3 miles as part of the half marathon training plan… after 1 mile we both agreed we’d rather stuff our faces with cheese fondue than run another 2 miles in the sweltering heat! Flexibility is important, especially on birthdays!

We went to The Melting Pot for a special dinner (my first time there!) and enjoyed a bottle of Malbec with the best caesar salad I’ve ever had (parmesan-crusted pine nuts!)…

… and cheddar cheese fondue!

Birthdays just keep getting better & better 🙂 At dinner, we talked about all the things we enjoyed while we were 25 (our birthdays are about 1 month apart), and what we hope to do before we turn 27 (we both said GET MARRIED!) ❤

What’s your favorite birthday meal?

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ROAD TRIP!

Enjoy the slideshow, and try to follow along with the blog notes.

In case you’re wondering where I’ve been for the past 5 days or so… we took a trip to the Panhandle for Labor Day!

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We stayed at Three Rivers State Park and slept in the car – a strategy that we soon realized only works in the Northern California climate… but look at the beautiful view!

The next morning, we went to the Florida Caverns State Park which (history lesson) was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) back in the day.

Beautiful tall trees like you rarely see in Orlando.

We took a 45-minute tour through the mines to see something completely unusual in Florida – underground! Walking down the stairs:

Inside the caverns, it’s about 64 degrees – up above the surface it was about 90! The cool air was SO refreshing 🙂 I used to be a Geology major, so I got a big kick out of seeing my first stalactites & stalagmites! Stalactites hang from the ceiling of the caverns, and stalagmites form when the goop drops down and piles up on the floor of the caverns.

Although the caverns are maintained by the park, you still have to duck for sections of the tour because the clearance is so low.

The caverns are formed when water gets into the limestone and moves around – it looks like it’s melting!

You can see where the stalactite + stalagmites touch, it forms a column. Then when the tectonic plates shift (i.e. micro-earthquakes), the columns break! This reminded me of the time when we camped on the San Andreas fault line in California 🙂

One part seriously looked like there were skulls in the ceiling… which made me think of the movie The Descent…

We saw formations that looked like castles, creme brulee, waterfalls, donut glaze, a Christmas tree, and Manhattan upside-down.

Water pools were hiding in the corners, and there was a cool “Round Room” where you can walk in a big circle around the formations.

You can see where a lot of people bump their heads and break off the stalactites!

And after walking 3/4 of a mile, we reached the surface 🙂

After the longest night ever of sleeping in the car… we used up a free hotel night (I have a lot of those Rewards programs) thinking it would be more comfortable… and we learned our lesson about free hotel stays – you get what you (didn’t) pay for. The hotel was narsty to say the least, with obvious security problems, and a mysterious red puddle next to the bed.

Thank goodness the last night of our stay was at a decent family resort over in Panama City Beach! We got to relax on the beach all day, veg out with some cable TV, and catch a flick at Pier Park. The movie (“Machete”) was awesome – but don’t see it if you can’t take ridiculous gory humor. OK, so you want to know about how we managed to pull off a vegetarian vacation? There weren’t any food pics, but here are some of the highlights:

  • Breakfast at Po’ Folks – (this was a doozy) buffet with french toast sticks, 2% milk, biscuits, hash browns, scrambled eggs
  • Breakfast at Panera Bread – strawberry granola parfait with 1/2 a scone
  • Lunch at Sonny’s BBQ – we got the salad bar & I filled up on beets, pasta salad, sunflower seeds, veggies, & bread pudding
  • Lunch at the only Indian restaurant in PCB – buffet with naan bread & various veggie curries
  • Lunch at Applebee’s – I got the Spicy Shrimp Diavolo pasta without shrimp (it was the only one with whole wheat pasta! and the waiter looked at me funny when I said ‘no shrimp’)
  • Dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings sports bar – mozzarella sticks & a side salad
  • Dinner at El Jalapeno mexican restaurant – chile rellenos, rice & beans, chips & salsa
  • Dinner at Subway – veggie sub on honey wheat bread with southwestern sauce & all the veggies, with a cookie
  • Snackage: trail mix, Sun Chips, peanut butter-filled pretzels

As you can see, it wasn’t the healthiest vacation, but considering that we didn’t plan anything other than visiting the caverns, I’d say we did a pretty good job. My advice for anyone else seeking to have a healthier vegetarian vacation – bring your own stuff! Even if it’s just soymilk, bananas & Kashi cereal to eat in your hotel – you’ll save a ton of $$$ on breakfast, and know that you’re starting the day off right. Also, don’t be afraid to ask your server to skip the meat – most places don’t mix the meat in with the dish ahead of time (especially for things like chicken pasta alfredo) – instead, ask them to put on an extra side of veggies. It’ll probably be charged weird on your bill, so ask them to explain the charges to you if you don’t understand it – or face the fact that you may get charged for the meat anyway. OK – time to go play with our new computer! (more info on that tomorrow!)

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Now that this guy decided to croak:

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It’s time to show off some pretty food porn photography!

Tonight’s dinner was a homemade version of some of our favorites from Aashirwad: Malai Kofta and Chickpea Spinach Curry.

FYI although I have cookbooks, most of the recipes I use come from the internet or magazines, so I just rip them out or print them and stack on top of the microwave under my flexi-cutting boards.

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These recipes are adapted from other websites with the ingredients I had in the kitchen… Malai Kofta and Chickpea Spinach Curry – they were cooked simultaneously but I’ll separate the photos so you can follow along.

Malai Kofta

Starting with two big potatoes, wash – peel – cut – boil – mash:

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While the potatoes are boiling, you can do a lot of the other prep work, including grating the tofu (or use paneer cheese if you have it).

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Never grated tofu? Welcome to the club!

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This gives the tofu more of a cottage-cheese texture, which is probably why I hear that cottage cheese is used in a lot of Indian recipes.

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Now mix in a big bowl: the mashed potatoes, the grated tofu, some raisins, some chopped cashews, a few tbsp of Garam Masala (worth the high price, get it at Whole Foods if you can’t find it at a normal grocery store – it’s used in almost every Indian recipe), about 1/2 cup green peas, about 1/4 cup shredded carrots (should chop these up into smaller bits than I did for easy mixin’), about 1/2 cup bread crumbs, and a few big tbsp of whole wheat flour.

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Mix it up:

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And make into little oval-shaped balls.

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See what I mean about the carrots?

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Fry these in a pan full of olive oil, tongs would be extremely helpful here for flipping (cook for about 5 minutes on each side, medium heat).

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While those are cooking, get ready to go for a swim chop 2 large white onions (yellow would work but they didn’t have any at the grocery store this week).

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The “gravy” of the Malai Kofta has an onion paste and a tomato paste, both which require the food processor. Had I read this recipe before today, I would have made these (and the base for the chickpea spinach curry) ahead of time and refrigerated – it was hectic in the kitchen! For the onion base, combine 1/2 of your chopped onions with about an inch of grated ginger (we’d never bought real ginger before either – the fiancée says “It smells just like Ginger Ale!”), with a few cloves (or tsp) of garlic, a bay leaf, some more Garam Masala, and cashews:

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Make the tomato paste from 3 chopped tomatoes and a combination of spices (check the original recipe for exact amounts). Combine these two mixtures in a frying pan with some oil and let it cook until the oil rises to the top – it should have a really rich, smoky red color:

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By this time, you should have a few batches of the koftas (balls) done – set them aside in your serving dish – you’ll pour the gravy on top later. It’s totally OK if your balls fell apart during the frying process because they’re all gonna get mixed up with the gravy anyway, but you do want them to be firm so you keep all the flavor together.

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Now add an 8oz container of cream to the gravy to make it non-vegan creamy:

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Stir:

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Now pour this (carefully!) into your serving dish over the fried koftas:

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NOTE: this whole process from start to finish took me 1 hour and 45 minutes – there are some easy shortcuts you could do (buying pre-grated ginger, pre-chopped onions, make your ‘pastes’ and even your kofta mixture the day before…) – this recipe is more for special occasions than weeknights, but if you’ve got the time and the mouths to feed, go for it!

Onto the next recipe quickly (this one only took a few minutes)…

Chickpea & Spinach Curry

Heat a little bit of olive oil in a pot, and use your food processor (I just use a tiny one, it holds about 2 cups worth of stuff and was less than 10 bucks at Wal-Mart) to mix up the other 1/2 of your chopped onions (or 1 large onion) and about 1 inch of grated ginger. *If you’re new to ginger, you’ll know what I mean by an ‘inch’ when you buy it at the store – it comes in long misshapen tubes because it’s a root, so you buy the whole root and grate an inch of it* Add this mixture to the pot and let it cook for a few minutes, then add a can of diced tomatoes with their liquid.

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Let this warm, then add 2 cans (14.5 oz each) of chickpeas (rinsed & drained).

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Stir, warm, then add 2 cans (14.5 oz each) of chopped spinach (drained).

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Let it all warm up together and it’s done in less than 10 minutes!

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I was looking forward to making this dinner all day long, and apparently so was our dinner guest (and guest photographer):) Servin’ it up:

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With tabouli and whole wheat naan, all together:

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Nom nom nom.

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The fiancée asked me tonight “Kim, what the hell does Nom mean?” LOL we had fun watching videos at Failblog and Icanhascheezburger. We fell in love with this girl:

It makes me smile so big to see the fiancées love for animals – he replayed this video a few times and danced along:

Showing off my pull-up skillz to our dinner guest (psych! that’s actually how tall I am!)

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Seriously though, I did go running after dinner. I did 2 miles in 25:25, which is a bit slower than what I want to do for the race next weekend, but it was dark outside, spooky, I was having trouble breathing, and I was chock full of Malai Kofta – good enough for me! 🙂

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Long Weekend – Part 2

Saturday was a long & fun home decorating day. To fuel up, we started with millet toast + PB + jelly.

On long days of shopping, I gotta look good…

We window shopped for a bunch of stuff for the bedroom (mirror, deorations, new sheets & comforter, bed frame…) and took a break at Pei Wei. I got the tofu Pad Thai:

My man got the tofu & veggie curry with brown rice:

His verdict: “I like yours better.” I’m used to it by now 🙂 Pei Wei does their tofu different than anywhere else I’ve been – it’s dark on the ends and almost looks like mushrooms. Love the fortune cookies too!

Wanna know what we ended up with?

  • Bed frame from Habitat for Humanity ReStore
  • Mirror from ROSS
  • Comforter, Sheets & Bedskirt from Walmart
  • Laps, Vases & Fake Flowers from IKEA

The whole thing was said and done for under $300, and now our bedroom looks like a homey hotel 🙂 Sorry, no pics yet…

Sunday morning breakfast cookie:

And a little snack to fuel up before hitting the gym – almonds with Ryvita cracker & apricot jelly.

We did a quick chest workout, came home and did tons of laundry. I had to stage a t-shirt intervention.

After sorting, folding, organizing… the fiancee finally figured out a way to store all his t-shirts (and shorts & socks!) – maybe it was the trip to IKEA with the customized closets that inspired him?

I made a coupon collage on the fridge… yes, most of those are for frozen yogurt 😛

And onto dinner…

Cheesy Veggie Stovetop Casserole

Start with a big family-sized container of fresh spinach (about 6-8 cups?) and wilt it in a pan with about 1/4 a can of vegetable stock.

When it’s about halfway wilted, add a 1lb bag of frozen mixed veggies (green beans, peas, carrots & corn) with the rest of the can of vegetable stock.

Mix it up to warm up the frozen veggies, then add a few squirts of dijon mustard.

And tons of creole seasoning! 🙂

Now add about 1/2 cup of polenta (yellow grits) and about 1/2 cup bread crumbs.

Intermission – sip a little red wine 🙂

Stir, and add about 1/2 cup to 1 cup more of bread crumbs to thicken it up, and stir.

Cover it up and let it cook & thicken for a little while (turned down to low heat so it doesn’t burn).

Grate some white cheddar cheese (about 2 cups worth) and add it to the mixture.

Stir it and let it melt into the mixture, which at this point should look like a casserole (but not crunchy).

And this is where my camera died… so unfortunately no final picture 😦 I promise it was delicious.

The whole thing took about 20 minutes and made 4 hungry servings (or 6 if you’re serving it with a salad or a side).

Now we get to do some camera shopping… any suggestions?

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