30 October 2007

Shepherd's Pie

I've often thought about making Shepard's pie (or something similar) but have never done it because it always seemed like it would be a lot of work, but I made one today. (And it wasn't much work at all. Too many dishes, though.) I don't think it's a proper Shepherd's Pie because it's made with chicken and a ton of vegetables instead of beef, but it really tasted too good for me to care.

This version, which comes from a Weight Watcher's cookbook I have, uses cooked chicken breast, corn, carrots, spinach, and onion with herbs and a gravy (I made gravy! And it worked!), and is topped with mashed potatoes and Parmesan cheese. (I don't think you can go wrong with Parmesan cheese.)

I think if I make it again I'm going to adjust the seasonings to have parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme (it's a tasty combination, at least with sausage, so why not with chicken?) and I'll add some more salt and pepper. The seasonings weren't off or bad this time, but I might as well adjust to make it taste ways that make me happiest.

Turkey and Garbanzo Bean Vegetable Soup

We had quite a lot of turkey leftover from our post-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving supper, so I decided to make soup with some of the leftovers. I found an interesting sounding recipe for a crock-pot vegetable soup with garbanzo beans and chicken in it, so substituting in the turkey... this is what I wound up with.

I went out for dinner with a friend, so I didn't get to eat any of my soup when it was finished, but I took a bowl of it to work with me today (hence the plastic bowl) and it was really very good. I probably could have seasoned it a little bit more, but it was tasty as it was. (And I've got leftovers for another two lunches, so that's pretty great too.)

28 October 2007

Turkey Dinner

So we had a big turkey dinner today -- a belated Thanksgiving. Or an early American Thanksgiving. Whichever. Or maybe just turkey for the sake of turkey, it isn't like we discussed things we're thankful for or anything like that. (Do people do that?)

Anyway, this is pretty typical of a big family-style dinner at my place. My brother-in-law makes the turkey (or chicken) and mashed potatoes and his Russian salad. (There are two dishes of that on this table, both on the left, one in the small egg shaped bowl and the other in a crystal dish. One has sour cream, the other doesn't.) My sister made the stuffing and the gravy. And I made the tomato/cucumber salad.

The turkey doesn't look like a turkey because it fell off the bone when my sister and bro-in-law tried to move it onto the platter. It was ridiculously tasty. The meat I had was faintly citrus tasting, and a little garlicky, and very very yummy. Everything thing else was really good too, but I practically never have turkey, so that was the bit that stands out most.

Also, it's not in the picture, but my sister's friend came over for turkey too, and she brought a yummy dessert with whipped cream and fruit on it. Mmm... dessert.

25 October 2007

Roast Spiced Chicken with Steamed Snow Peas and Roast New Potatoes

Okay, so my attempt to get back to eating food that isn't completely devoid of nutrition hasn't gone completely well - I had nothing for dinner yesterday and have eaten almost nothing but chili since I made it. But tonight I put in very minimal effort and got seriously high returns.

So. Good.

I know it all kind of looked a little singed around the edges, but the chicken is just blackened and the potatoes actually roasted nicely, and... well, the sugar snap peas are a little singed, but they don't taste like it.

The chicken recipe was really, really fantastic. It was a tiny bit spicy (not spicy, really, but it just had a nice edge to it) with a delicious hit of cinnamon. I'll probably make this again and again because it's really that good (and that easy).

As for the potatoes... well, they're pretty basic roasted potatoes. They're just done with olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, and marjoram. But it was my first time cooking a purple potato! So that's was kind of exciting. I'm always trying to talk myself into trying new fruits and vegetables, but I don't do it all that often. And then when I do, I had to go for something boring like a fancy potato instead of, say, rambutan or mangosteen, but purple potatoes sure do look neat.

22 October 2007

Chili on Brown Rice

It's boring, I know, but at least it's tasty. And leaves enough leftovers to keep my freezer stocked for a bit for the days I'm feeling particularly lazy.

I haven't been feeling too great, lately, and needed to get myself out of that mire. So I spent today cleaning my room, doing ALL my laundry (instead of just bits as needed), taking care of stuff I've been letting slide (like sending payments for seriously overdue bills), and making this. Not that chili requires much work. But that's what made it perfect. It's healthy and tasty and a good no-recipe-necessary meal to ease me back into cooking again. It's been too many days of eating cottage cheese on toast and other no effort required foods that don't have enough nutritional value.

19 October 2007

Fabric Folding - Origami Flower Pillows

I was reading a quilting blog - A Canary's Life... The Caged Bird Sings - today that talked about fabric origami and linked to an HGTV site giving directions on how to make a folded flower. And hey - I've done that before!

I haven't felt like sewing in the last little while, so I haven't really had anything new going on to talk about, and then I thought about posting old stuff, but I didn't want to do a big photo-dump. So maybe just dribs and drabs like this, when I think of something specific.

Anyway, these five pillows are just a few of MANY that I made for Christmas gifts in 2005. They're just tiny little things - if I remember right, they're 6x6-in square. But for a long time I've thought about making them smaller yet in order to make pin/needle cushions. I just don't know what you use to "stuff" a pin cushion. (I assume it's not just batting?)

At any rate, the second picture is the only larger scale thing I made using the pattern. It was also a Christmas gift, though that one was for my cousin, who is a huge fan of dragonflies. I found the dragonfly/snail print and decided that bugs would work with flowers. It's a 14" pillow.

Some day I think I'd like to make a full-size quilt full of those little flowers, but they're definite fabric hogs, so it's a big hard for me to commit to something on a larger scale. (Each 4" flower requires a 9" square of fabric.) It sort of feels wasteful. Hm. On the other hand, maybe it's what I can do with all the ugly floral fabrics my mom likes to buy me even though she knows I don't like them. I could make her a throw, or something.

15 October 2007

Apricot Chicken with Sautéed Green Beans

This chicken was really delicious, a definite keeper recipe. It had all the things I like about apricots (the taste), with none of the things I don't (weird mouth-feel). (Yes, I do have texture issues when it comes to food.) The shallots were really nice with the apricot, and there was just a hint of cinnamon that was really delicious.

Green beans are a pretty basic side-dish for me. I can/will/do eat them alongside pretty much anything. You can't really go wrong with green and wax beans. Especially beans that are lightly sautéed in a bit of olive oil with some crushed red pepper. Yum. I don't really know why I added the almonds this time - they sort of seemed superfluous and pointless. Maybe they don't match well with the heat of the pepper. Anyway, I'll skip them next time. (But maybe it's time for my favourite rice/beans/almonds/parmesan cheese side dish, again.)

14 October 2007

Watermelon and Feta Salad

I seem to have a problem where the foods I want to eat never quite line up with season when the ingredients are freshest or make the most sense. Like wanting hearty soups in the dead heat of summer or wanting fruit salads when the watermelon is starting to look pale and mealy. This watermelon was actually pretty decent, though. Quite sweet and juicy, though a bit paler pink than I'd choose when I'm spoiled for choice in summer. (I did have to try three grocery stores before I found one with watermelon I was willing to spend money on.)

Anyway, this salad was meant to be eaten on arugula, but I couldn't find that at any of the grocery stores I went to either. And then I thought I'd eat it on mesclun, which I had, but it turned out to be past its expiry date and I'm a freak about expiry dates, even when I can see that the leaves weren't wilting and going bad. Fortunately I also had romaine, which was a neutral enough backdrop for the rest.

I was a bit worried about this recipe because the combinations seemed a little bit suspect - the sharpness of balsamic vinegar, the saltiness of feta cheese, the sweetness of watermelon - but it really came together nicely. I enjoyed it a lot.

11 October 2007

Lemon-Basil Pork with Parmesan Risotto and Tomato-Cucumber Salad

Overall, this was a couple different sets of disappointments.

Disappointment #1: I really overcooked the meat. I've a ridiculous paranoia of undercooking meat, especially pork, and thus tend to overcompensate and overcook it instead. This pork, when I looked at it at the end of the recommended cooking time, had a sort of funny colour, so I assumed it wasn't finished and left it for another 5 or 10 minutes. Probably the smart thing would have been to test the temperature - we do have a meat thermometre - but why do the easy thing? Anyway, it still looked funny after the extra time, so I took it out and cut it open. Definitely cooked by that point.

Disappointment #2: The breading on the pork really didn't taste that good anyway. It was mostly made of lemon zest, so it should have been lemony, but there wasn't even a hint of lemon flavouring. I just don't get it. The version shown in the picture (it was a recipe from a magazine) must have been deep-fried because it was perfect and golden brown all around. This was just a touch damp and only browned on the side that had a bit of fat (that I was too lazy to trim off).

Disappointment #3: This is a really bad picture. It's not so very noticeable at this small size, but if you click through to the larger version, it's incredibly blurry. This was the best of a bad lot, really. So not impressed. I don't know how I managed to get such a bad shot, since mostly I haven't had a problem with blurriness in a while.

Anyway, the risotto is actually one from a box. I made proper risotto once and realized that I'm really, really not cut out to make anything that takes so long. But this boxed stuff is made by Lundberg, which sells the best rice blend I've ever had, so I decided to try it out. It was quite tasty, especially with extra Parmesan cheese grated over top.

10 October 2007

Blue and Yellow Gift Block

I made this block for one of the members of my livejournal group, Birthday Blocks. She had requested blues with pale yellow, quilter's choice for the block.

I'm really not sure what inspired this block choice, except I suppose that it's just a pretty pattern. I wish I'd chosen something else, since it was a complete menace to sew accurately. (And also, I need to throw out my one ruler because it doesn't measure a quarter inch the same as all the rest of my rulers.) I had an incredibly hard time matching things up (and it's less perfect than I'd like, but not so imperfect I wouldn't give it away).

There are so many things I can see now that it's done that I should have done differently (different balances of colour) and different ways of incorporating the yellow, but on the whole I'm pleased. I still think it's a pretty block, even with its flaws.

Chicken & Vegetable Lasagna with Garlic Toasts

I wish I could pretend that I slaved all day (yesterday) over the stove cooking up a really tasty chicken lasagna... but really I just opened the box, tossed it in the oven, waited a while, and then ate it. It's from a Safeway brand called Eating Right, and it is more healthy than any lasagna I'd make at home. (Because at home, I'd use a whole lot more cheese. Just saying...) Anyway, it was a pretty great dinner. (And lunch today. And dinner tonight.)

I did make the garlic butter all on my own with no recipe to guide me. (It could have used a bit more garlic. But never mind that.) That was all the effort I had in me, yesterday.

I should have edited this photo differently. But all the effort I had in me for that was expended just getting it this far... (Having some motivational issues at the moment...)

07 October 2007

Mushroom Omelette with Turkey Sausage and Kiwi

This is my nod to Thanksgiving dinner - turkey sausage. (And I'm having a turkey sandwich tomorrow. But that's turkey from the deli. Not turkey straight off a turkey carcass.)

Anyway, I wanted something easy to make today, since I'm so completely exhausted from working my night shift on Saturday night. Eggs? Easy. I wasn't really sure what I wanted to do with the eggs, but I had a few cremini mushrooms in the fridge that miraculously hadn't gone bad in the many days since I bought them. So... an omelette. (Also, I didn't have actual eggs, just a thing of egg whites, which I bought because I wanted to make this breading-crusted pork dish that needed a bit of egg white, and why waste a whole egg just to do 1/6th of the recipe, you know?)

I bought the turkey sausage yesterday when I was out looking for junk food (didn't find anything worth getting) and they were miraculously low-calorie (for a sausage) so I wanted to find out if they were also low-taste. They were quite good. Not quite the same as your average greasy pork breakfast sausage (that tastes so yummy when dipped in a bit of pancake syrup), but definitely good enough to buy again. (I don't get the urge to eat sausage very often, though, so probably what is leftover in the freezer will last quite a while.)

Kiwifruit were on sale at my grocery store last week so I've been eating a TON of kiwi lately.

04 October 2007

Beef and Vegetable Curry on Brown Rice

You wouldn't really know it by the colour of the sauce, but this was made with a Thai Red Curry paste as the base. (It was very mild too, so next time I think I could double or triple the amount of paste. The recipe asked for 1/4 tsp, and I used at least a 1/2 tsp but that wasn't nearly enough.) I'd never used red curry paste before (I tend to use green because I know I like that), but it had a nice flavour, and it seemed to work well with this recipe.

This was meant to be a lamb curry, but I've never cooked lamb before, and it's quite expensive to buy here. (About $20 a pound, which is... a stretch, for my budget.) So I pulled some stewing beef out of the freezer. Stewing beef wasn't the best choice for this - it needs a much longer cooking time than you want to use for the vegetables - but it was what I had, so it was what I used. And despite coming out a touch tougher than I'd really like, it was very very tasty. AND I've got enough for three more meals, so that's fantastic.

Pink Striped Hand Bags

I spent a good part of yesterday afternoon making two little hand bags for the nieces of a friend of mine. The friend had wanted me to decorate some scarves for the girls, but I don't know enough (or, you know, anything) about working with sheer fabrics and I was a bit worried about shredding the material or just... ruining it somehow. So I made these instead.

I found the pattern for this bag here, and then modified it to make it just large enough to hook over an adult's shoulder. It holds my wallet, sunglasses, keys and a few other items as well. I want to try making one for myself, now, but much larger, so that I can fit a few books and things like that in it as well.

These bags are made out of quilting cotton, so they're very light and a bit flimsy (which is why the black one looks so ridiculous - I puffed out the one with white lining by stuffing it full of stuff, but didn't with the black lined one, and it shows), though I did use interfacing to give them a bit more stiffness and weight. Probably it'd be smart to make a larger bag with a stronger fabric, but I don't anticipate trying to haul around anything too heavy.

03 October 2007

Tomato Soup with Gold Fish Crackers

I haven't updated in a few days and then I do with... canned tomato soup? Well... that's about the level of cooking skill I've felt like using lately. (Tomorrow though... tomorrow will be something new, tastier, probably healthier, and hopefully better looking.)

If I'm going to eat tomato soup from a can... I better have some gold fish crackers to go on top. I'm just saying...

Anyway, the little black flecks are not from me burning the milk and then scrapping up the bottom. No. They're actually bits of dried basil, since tomato soup from a can is... kind of boring. I also added some mozzarella cheese, which you can't see because it's all melty.