Blueberry Muffins: First Try!

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I’m slowly getting back into my groove. This is the first baking I’ve done in a while, excluding the boxed cake I mentioned a while back.

I’d never actually made blueberry muffins from scratch before. This recipe was quick and easy. I liked that. The muffin tops were flat because I’d tried a commenter’s suggestion to add sugar to the top mid-bake. Um, no. Don’t bother. I much rather would have tall muffins instead of the little bit of extra sugar. Live and learn.

Otherwise, the muffins are moist and chewy, and are now half-gone. So, it was a success. Next time, I’m thinking of trying a different recipe to see how they compare.

Enjoy! ๐Ÿ™‚

Stuff and Nonsense

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It’s Week 17 since the surgery, and a few weeks out from the surprise stay. I’ve been trying to think of inspirational and/or funny posts, but the truth is, I’m not always all that inspired or funny.

Things are going fine in the grand scheme of things. I’ve been able to eat things I really shouldn’t be eating. I’ve been drinking soda again since about a month after the surgery. I’m not proud of this, but there are far worse habits out there. My plan is to get back on the water train, but I will finish what’s already around first.

I’ve been able to do a little somethin’-somethin’ with my beauty regimen. I no longer have to stick to unscented, un-anything types of products. So, since the incision healed, I’ve been using a lavender body wash/shampoo combo, which has been appropriate for the chill mood I’ve been trying to work.

Truth be told, I’ve been getting some flack for not getting my act together faster, and it’s affected my mood. Some people get motivated by that sort of criticism. I don’t. Especially when I was just starting to get back on my feet and feel good again. This isn’t a rant blog, but this has been a part of my life since I wrote last, and if you want the facts, I feel like I must include it. I’m sure everyone has their own versions of this on the road to surgery recovery- that well-meaning friend or relative who thinks you can leap large buildings in a single bound, while you would just be happy to walk to one.

I kayaked with Girlfriend, which confused everyone but her. I should say: “She helped me into the boat, pushed me off, then pulled me back in when I was finished”, but that takes too long. She also found delightful little spots for us to take breaks and sat there and played floaty with her boat so I’d stop and rest. So, um, technically, I kayaked, but mostly I took pictures of nature and put my feet and hands in the water.

I actually did walk around with a sports bra and shorts while we were at the cabin. She’d gotten me these scar patch things that I used to protect my scars from the sun. But, while we were out boating, I felt a little too shy and a little too worried about exposing them like that. It just felt better to have a bathing suit on over them.

The scar itself is still huge, long, and purple. I don’t think I have average feelings about it, compared to what I see elsewhere. Mostly, I feel proud that I survived. I never had the courage to get a tattoo, and this is kind of like one. Though, at the same time, I also hope it fades. It will take at least a year before I will know for sure. I am lucky that Girlfriend is not squeamish- she has seen the scar since I started taking pictures of it, and heard me talking about it since Day 1. So, I don’t feel like I have to hide it from her, which is very nice. I can’t imagine what those feelings must be like, on top of actually experiencing surgery.

…Just a little of this and that.

Mac and Cheese 3

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In preparation for the big snow, I decided to have another go at macaroni and cheese. As I’ve said before, I have odd intolerances that result in a hybrid of dairy/not-dairy whenever I recreate this classic dish.

Here are my previous attempts: 1) is a crockpot version that was my first serious attempt at homemade mac. 2) is a baked version that came straight from a book, and provided some very loose inspiration for this third attempt, which is my original baked creation.

 

Mac & Cheese 3:

Ingredients

1 stick Aged Cheddar

1 ball Mozzarella

3 slices American cheese

1 handful pre-shredded “Mexican blend” cheese

1 slice Pecorino Romano from the block, about 2″ x 3″ x 1/2″

Table Parmesan from the shaker (about a teaspoon)

1 cup fat free Greek yogurt

A splash of rice milk

A box of pasta, I used tiny shells

2 3/4 stick of butter

Bread crumbs-about a tablespoon

Fancy Cracker crumbs- about a teaspoon

Dijon Mustard

 

Tools:

Casserole dish large enough to fit everything

Large metal bowl (conducts heat)

Large spoon

Small measuring spoons

Mini-chopper

Knife & cutting board

Spatula to serve

Lid or plastic wrap to store

Butter spray

Microwave & microwave-safe small bowl

 

Method:

For the mac base, I…

Set the oven to 350F

Sprayed the casserole dish & set it aside

Boiled the pasta water & added pasta when ready (followed box instructions)

Cut the cheddar into blocks, then pulsed them in the mini-chopper

Dropped the cheddar into the bowl

Diced the mozzarella & added to bowl

Tore the American cheese & added to bowl

Diced the Pecorino & added to bowl

Melted butter in micro-safe bowl in microwave, about 35 seconds

Added a tablespoon of mustard (was a bit too much for me, fyi)

Poured butter into bowl with cheeses

Added yogurt, then a splash of rice milk

Drained pasta

Poured pasta into bowl

Stirred

Filled casserole dish & packed down

 

For the crust, I…

Sprinkled the fancy cracker crumbs over the top of the cheesy pasta

Then sprinkled the bread crumbs on top of the mixture

Then added a layer of “Mexican shredded cheese”

Then sprinkled Parmesan on top of that

 

Baking:

I baked it for about 45 minutes, checking after the first 30

 

Serving:

Obviously, it’s best if you can wait a little bit for it to set, but I ate the first portion almost immediately. I use a flat spatula to portion it out into card-deck shaped pieces… although the depth is about 2 packs!

 

Storing:

Then, I just put plastic wrap over the casserole dish, wait for it to cool down, and keep it in the fridge. I usually finish in about a week. I wouldn’t recommend keeping it past that.

 

Enjoy! ๐Ÿ™‚

BFF Vegan Chili

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One of my BFFs threw a party a few weeks back & served this amazing chili. The recipe itself is vegan, though there was a cheese option for those who wanted it.

She found the recipe here. For my milk allergic friends, vegans, and/or those who want to cut back on milk, it looks like it could be a good resource. I can tell you from firsthand experience that this chili was amazing. Yum!

Enjoy! ๐Ÿ™‚

Ravioli and Peppers

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…That thing where someone brings over something yummy (in this case, peppers), but you don’t eat all of it, and it’s not really a meal all by itself.

As far as I can tell, the mixture was originally sliced bell peppers and white onions that were sauteed in a lot of olive oil. I was looking for something that would absorb the oil, while providing a little balance to the dish. I had frozen ravioli- large or small to choose from. I went with the smaller ones, based on my desire for balance. This is not all that complicated, but here goes…

 

I…

…Removed the container with the leftovers. Btw, olive oil coagulates like woah in the fridge. Some say it hurts the taste, some say it doesn’t… but so far, no one has said it can hurt you. I will tell you it looks very funky, but don’t let that deter you.

…Started up the pot of water to boil.

…Put the peppers & oil into a metal mixing bowl. (Metal conducts heat. Science!)

Once the water was boiling, I dropped in the ravioli. They took another 5 mins or so to cook.

…Strained the ravioli & then placed them on top of the peppers.

…Let them sit like that a minute while I rinsed off the pots & pans…

Which made the oil melt- more science! Then, I stirred them,

…and that was it! It didn’t require any seasoning (but feel free to jazz it up if you like, you know I skew bland!)

 

You can’t beat leftovers that turn into 4 more meals. Yum!

Enjoy! ๐Ÿ™‚

 

Air-Fryer: First Try!

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Please note, this is not a sponsored post. But, if Phillips wants to send me some attachments or ingredients to try more recipes, I wouldn’t stop them, and of course, I’d tell you all about it!

I was delighted to receive a used air fryer as a gift recently. I like fried foods, but don’t eat fried food all that much anymore.ย  However, some things just taste better fried. I’ve been interested in air-frying for about a year or so, but hadn’t had a chance to try it out.

As I understand it, Air-Frying seems to mostly operate on convection, though it can produce a crisp as well. To test it out, I tried a recipe straight from the source: Crispy Potato Skin Wedges, from pg.4 of the Avance Recipes book.

To make a long story short, I wasn’t entirely enamoured with how this particular recipe turned out, but I am going to give the fryer a few more trials. I had made some modifications to the recipe, which may have contributed to the less-than-desireable results. In the process of taste-testing the results, I also discovered that there is also one ingredient that I needed to modify, but didn’t.

 

Picture Key:

  1. After boiling, cooling, & dicing: coating the wedges with oil and seasonings
  2. After air frying

 

Modifications:

I used olive oil because I don’t have any canola oil & I thought olive would taste better.

I used Eastern potatoes because they were on sale, and the Russet potatoes were regular price: In retrospect, I think the Russets would have been better for producing a crisp, since they have thicker skins.

 

Ingredient note:

This recipe uses 1 1/2 teaspoons of paprika: I like paprika, I’ve had it before. But 1 1/2 teaspoons is just too much for my system. The fries tasted good, but paprika is a laxative. It can cause nausea and heartburn as well… not things I need in my life.

Next time, I will either cut back on the paprika, have them plain, or give Mrs. Dash a try.

 

Thoughts on using the fryer:

It was very easy to use. Most of the work is in the prep. The oil went on the food, not in the fryer. All I had to do after pre-heating was drop the potatoes into the basket & set the temp & timer.

Pre-heating only takes 3 minutes. The prep time was longer, so I ended up setting & re-setting the timer several times. Next time, I will set the pre-heat timer for longer.

On the analog model, you basically have to wait the pre-heat timer out if you finish prep beforehand. You can’t force the dial like you can with tabletop analog timers.

You should know the machine gets very hot. It heated up my kitchen, which was fine on a cool day, but important to note for warmer days.

I used an extra large trivet to sit the machine on to protect the counter-top.

 

Thoughts on the results:

The fries did taste good, but they seemed under-done in the center, and not crispy enough on the outside. Since it is the crispyness that I am interested in, I plan to try different approaches to see if this is my error, or the limitations of the machine.

 

Enjoy! ๐Ÿ™‚

 

Cherry Tomato Sauce 2

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By the time I got to my stash of ripened cherry tomatoes, some of them had gone south. I was left with about a plateful of useable tomatoes, so I just did a quick modification of my first attempt at making a sauce.

This was more paste than sauce. I liked it that way, so I left it. I decided to use this on sandwiches instead of pasta, where its thickness was an asset.

Key:

  1. Raw tomatoes on plate
  2. Tomatoes with garlic-infused olive oil, garlic powder, basil, oregano, a dash of black pepper
  3. After broiling them on HIGH/electric. I started with them on the middle rack for about 5 minutes, constantly checking them, and then topped them off for about a minute or two on the top rack- also constantly checking them.
  4. After pureeing in the mini-chopper
  5. Adding pureed tomatoes and residual tomato oil to a can of tomato paste
  6. After stirring
  7. After adding in a glug of olive oil and about 1/4 cup of water

Enjoy! ๐Ÿ™‚

Ground “Meat” Burrito & Sloppy Joe Shortcut

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This is the companion to the faux chicken burrito– a “ground beef” burrito. I used another Quorn product for this one-ย  mostly because I was trying to clean out the freezer, but also because I do genuinely like it & find it useful. I also had leftovers from the last batch of burritos. It kept things fresh enough, so I didn’t feel like I was being too repetitive. It’s also worth mentioning that this is not a sponsored post, even though there are a lot of links. I don’t get anything one way or another if you happen to try the things I had around my kitchen.

Like the chik’n recipe, this can be reverse-modified for omnivores pretty easily, though Quorn is one of those foods that seems to be popular with omnis and veggies alike. I also don’t like things very spicy, so I’d definitely recommend tasting it as you season. You can always add, but it’s much harder to take away.

The method is pretty similar. The only real difference is that I tried using water, as McCormick suggests (to adhere the seasoning). That wasn’t super-effective for me. Even though I’ve been trying to cut back on my use of oil, I preferred the oil.

 

So basically, I…

Got out a large stainless steel fry pan & coated with grapeseed oil. Turned the burner up to HIGH just to heat the oil, then back to medium, while I put the crumbles in the pan & stirred.

Sprinkled 1/3ish of the seasoning on the crumbles, added a little olive oil, and stirred.

Added in some cherry tomatoes from the garden, stirred, then turned the burner to MEDIUM/HI and stirred continuously until brown.

…and then the filling was done.

 

You don’t need a lot of filling to make these burritos, so I had plenty of leftovers. What you see above is one of several variations I made using the leftovers. For this variation, I put about 1/4 a cup of filling in a microwave-safe bowl, sliced a stick of marbled string cheese, covered everything with cling-wrap, and microwaved it for about a minute. (This will vary widely according to your specific microwave. If I was making this in an unknown oven, I’d check after 30 seconds & then decide if it needed more time or not.) This was enough for two burritos.

The lettuce is nothing exciting- just some iceberg that I happened to have left over. I sliced it with a sharp knife on a cutting board, which made it easy to deal with.

The wraps are another of my favorites, but they DID NOT stand up well to heat AT ALL. Every time I made this, the filling fell through. So, there’s that, but I do like the taste and the shape, for what it’s worth.

 

Sloppy Joe Shortcut:

This is actually a variation of the way I used to make Sloppy Joes years ago, but could never quite replicate. This way works, and can be reproduced, so here you go…

I took the leftover filling, heated it up, then stirred in some BBQ sauce.

Then, I put the mixture on some bread. Instant Sloppy Joe!

 

Enjoy! ๐Ÿ™‚

 

 

Chik’n Burrito

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These wraps/burritos were ridiculously easy to make, plus the mixture yielded plenty of delicious leftovers. What’s not to like there? I was trying to use up a few things- tomatoes from the garden, a frying pepper, part of an onion, nonfat Greek yogurt, Quorn, and a bag of “taco seasoning”.

Of course, typically, most cooks would work the spices themselves, but the seasoning packet was another gift intended to make my life easier, and it did.

My use of Greek nonfat yogurt mostly has to do with the fact that I had it, I like it, and it was already open. I opt for nonfat because of my zany stomach issues. I usually have yogurt around because it’s so versatile; rather than sour cream, which gets limited use.

I don’t fry as much as I used to since I purchased the indoor grill. When I do fry, I often use grape seed oil because it stands up to high heat well. I now mostly add olive oil for taste.

 

Chik’n Burrito:

First, I fried the chopped white onion and the green frying pepper in grapseed: HI at first, then MEDIUM.

Then, I added the Quorn. (I know it sounds like I’ve been promoting them lately. I’m really just trying to use up what’s around.)

Then, I sprinkled in 1/3 of the packet ofย  “taco seasoning“. (Not a sponsor. I also don’t typically use packets because it feels like cheating, but I liked this one, for what it’s worth.)

Then, I added some extra virgin olive oil & stirred. Meanwhile, the heat was still on medium.

Towards the end, I added in cherry tomatoes & mixed well.

I served them on these wraps. (Not a sponsor, but I wouldn’t complain if they sent me some wraps because these are one of my favorites).

 

Enjoy! ๐Ÿ™‚

 

Garden Update

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Tomatoes:

Here you can see some of the new growth on the cherry tomatoes. These pictures were taken after the plants had been fed. Production is still slower than before, but there are plenty of flowers and tomatoes coming in. The blight is still a problem- they pretty much need daily treatments to look like this. I skipped maybe two days after this was taken, and a few of the leaves are yellowing again. I’m not sure I want to trim the plants further, because it takes a while for them to get back up to speed. These are indeterminate plants, so I do have a little more leeway. This is one of those things where I have to look at them again and then decide.

 

Marigolds:

The marigolds are doing just fine, I’m happy to report- big, beautiful puffs of flowers! I have been dead-heading them, as advised, which really seems to have made a difference. I do feed them now and then as well. This year, I’m letting them grow as they please, so pardon the floral acrobatics.

I had rigged a drainage system underneath the soil in the flower boxes, which is why the marigolds haven’t grown sideways. It is basically a variation of what I did with the tomatoes, (which have colanders in the buckets). To make it, I cut a spring water bottle vertically, then poked holes in each half, then set them horizontally into the planters, with the narrow sides facing outward.

In retrospect, I’m not sure going to that much trouble was necessary, but it was in response to the condition I’d found the planters in. I had excavated and bleached them prior to re-use- they had gotten very moist and it was disgusting. They were originally lined in plastic, which is great if you want to grow beetles, incidentally. The flowers seem perfectly happy with unlined containers, though. Next year, I will probably skip the drainage system altogether, since these homemade planters are (obviously) not water-tight.