Saturday, July 19, 2008

Book-club Brunch!

The girls and I were having our monthly book-club meeting and decided to do a brunch pot-luck along with it. I was wavering between making blueberry muffins and cheesy hashbrown casserole, since both seem to be easy enough to make. So to make things more complicated for myself I just decided to make both!

Any previous experiences with making blueberry muffins up until now have been limited to various boxed mixes, the most recent being the fat-free kind from Krusteaz. Since I've been on this random baking kick since last week, I figured I might as well try my hand at making blueberry muffins from scratch. Plus I have some blueberries I bought a few days ago that just aren't getting eaten! Crazy, I know!

The original intention was to try a recipe for orange-berry muffins from Dorie Greenspan's book. Alas, the local Kroger yesterday had some very anemic and questionable looking oranges, thus messing up those plans. I went through a bunch of my cookbooks to look up basic recipes for blueberry muffins and finally decided to try the one in the 75th anniversary edition of The Joy of Cooking.

Blueberry Muffins

Adapted from "The Joy of Cooking - 75th Anniversary Edition"

2 cups flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk (I used fat-free vanilla soy milk)
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup fresh blueberries

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place paper liners in muffin tin.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. In another bowl, combine the eggs, milk, sugar, oil, and vanilla extract.

Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix lightly just until all the dry ingredients are mixed in -- there should still be lumps and clumps of flour.

Add the blueberries and stir as little as possible. Fill the muffin tins almost to the top with batter.

Bake for 20 minutes. Once muffins are done, remove from muffin tin within a few minutes.

Verdict: we all felt that the muffins weren't sweet enough. I don't know why this particular recipe only called for 1/3 cup sugar when other ones I looked at called for more. I don't feel comfortable enough yet with baking sweets to just tweak amounts of ingredients so I tend to follow them as written. I think though that next time I make these I will tweak the sugar. Or better yet, try another recipe! That being said, the muffins weren't a disaster.

Next up is the cheesy hashbrown casserole. Doesn't that sound so good? This is another recipe from "Teens Cook." It's a very simple, basic, and dare I say bland recipe. So of course I tweaked it!

The picture doesn't look as good as the one in the cookbook, so I think next time I'll add a top layer of cheese and green onions to make it look even more indulgent than it was!

Cheesy Hashbrown Casserole

Adapted from "Teens Cook"

1/2 stick butter, melted
1 cup sour cream (I used fat-free)
2 cups shredded cheese ( I used reduced-fat Mexican cheese)
3 green onions, sliced
30 oz. bag of frozen hashbrowns, thawed

My additions:

chili powder
garlic powder
Adobo seasoning

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine the butter and sour cream in a large bowl. Add the cheese, onions, and spices and mix. Add the hashbrowns in batches, making sure to coat with the butter/sour cream/cheese mixture.

Place mixture in an ungreased 9 x 5 baking pan. You really have to pack it in densely, but everything fits in the pan. Bake in oven for 1 hour.

Verdict: everyone loved it and was incredulous at the fact that the original recipe called for no salt or seasonings.

This was the spread at today's brunch! It was definitely as yummy as it looks! Clockwise from the top we have macadamia nut Belgian waffles, then mixed veggie omelet with turkey bacon and turkey sausage, fruit salad with a kick (cayenne pepper), cheesy hashbrown casserole, and blueberry muffins.

Naturally we stuffed ourselves silly and went back for seconds (and thirds of the potatoes, ssshhh!). I seriously don't need to eat anything else for the rest of the day!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Banana Bread!

What does one do with a bunch of baby bananas that the in-laws have foisted upon you at the conclusion of a visit?

Eat them right away? Nope, I'm allergic and the hubby forgot we had them. Let them sit in the fridge, ignored for a week? Yes. Get sick of seeing bananas linger in fridge and decide to make banana bread? Why, of course!

It's a gloomy and stormy Sunday morning and I've been wanting to bake something for a while, so banana bread seemed like a good idea. Plus this is a much easier way to get the hubby to eat the darn bananas.

I picked the easiest recipe I could find, which was coincidentally the ONLY recipe for banana bread I've made. I adapted it from the book "Teens Cook" by Megan Carle, Jill Carle, and Judy Carle. And you might be wondering why a 28 year-old woman owns a cookbook targeted towards teens. Well, it's because it had some yummy looking recipes that were simple and easy. Okay and maybe I act like a kid sometimes. So there.

Banana Bread


1/2 cup butter (normally I'd use applesauce instead, but decided to go full-fat)
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
3 medium bananas (I used about 8 baby bananas)
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract (my addition)
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
2 cups flour
cinnamon (My addition -I sprinkled some in, didn't measure)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9-inch loaf pan with cooking spray.

In large bowl, mix the butter and sugar until well-combined. Add the eggs and combine until mixture is smooth. Add bananas and mash in bowl until you only have small pieces left. Combine everything. Add vanilla extract and mix. Now add dry ingredients in batches and make sure to mix thoroughly, getting all the flour incorporated.

Pour or scoop batter into loaf pan. Place pan in oven and bake for 15 minutes at 375, then 45 minutes at 350. Once bread is done, take the bread out of the pan and cool on cooling rack.

Note: despite my banana allergy, I fully intend to try some of this!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Breakfast bento!

Okay I have a small confession to make.

I had no clue what I wanted to pack for tomorrow's bento. Dinner tonight was a semi-flop and would have looked and tasted nasty as leftovers. I didn't want to make something new just for lunch. Chances were that I was just going to be nuking something come lunch time tomorrow.

And then I figured if I didn't have a nice lunch to look forward to then I could at least have a yummy breakfast to start the day off properly.

Breakfast during the week is usually a hurried affair. I seem to take more and more time to get out of bed and get ready so that means I'm usually grabbing something tried and true and quick on the way out to be prepared at the office.

One of my absolute favorites that keeps me satisfied through most of the morning is my breakfast sandwich. It's quite simple -- either a low-calorie bun, light english muffin, or 2 slices of light bread, a turkey or vegetarian breakfast sausage patty, and a slice of Kraft 2% pepperjack cheese - the processed kind. In a perfect world, I also have time to add my secret ingredient: Taco Bell hot sauce. I don't know what it is about the combo of Kraft 2% pepperjack and Taco Bell hot sauce, but it makes the sandwich. In a more perfect world, I am able to use a toaster oven to toast the bread with the sauce and cheese, nuke the sausage patty and then happily assemble just before eating. Most mornings this doesn't happen. But I digress.

To make my breakfast even more cheerful looking, I opted for my cute little orange 2-tier bento box. I love the way fruit looks in this set, all vibrant and inviting. Anyway, so we have a ready-to-go breakfast sandwich and some grape tomatoes in the bottom compartment and some strawberries, blueberries, and grapes in the top compartment.

Mmmm, can't wait for breakfast!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Back to being "good"

Hope everyone had a great 4th of July weekend! We went down to Florida to visit the in-laws and I got to indulge in plenty of my mother-in-law's yummy Bengali cooking. So of course now I gotta get back on the weight-loss wagon, which I fell off of a LONG time ago!

Tomorrow's lunch is simple and healthy, but yummy of course. I made turkey and cheese roll-ups -- some mesquite turkey slices and string-cheese rolled up in some green-leaf lettuce. Then some grape tomatoes and blueberries to finish things out. This is the first time I used one of my mini food cups and I have to say, I like the way it neatly holds the berries and adds color at the same time.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

A sign of insanity?

As you know, I am easily seduced by the sight of a book in a bookstore, especially a cookbook.

And as you also know, I'm equally seduced by seeing a book on sale.

Quite a bad combo, because this means it's very hard for me to resist buying something.

But that's not the part that is worrying me, I've long reconciled myself to my bookaholism.

Okay so say you are looking at a book to buy and they have a huge stack of them. Do you just grab the first one or do you do like I do and paw through the pile until you have one that is the shiniest, cleanest, nonwrinkled one, even if it means you spend a good 5 minutes searching for "the" one?

Case in point -- yesterday I was at Costco killing some time (what an odd place, you're probably thinking). I spotted some cookbooks and after flipping through a couple and deciding I HAD to have them, grabbed what looked like 2 of the nicer copies and skedaddled to the cash register b/c I was in a hurry to meet the hubby for dinner. As I waited patiently and was soon the next person, I realized in horror that in my haste I had grabbed one with a torn dust jacket! No, this was completely unacceptable!

So back I went where I shit you not, I did spend at least 5 minutes going through the pile going, "No, this one is wrinkled, this one looks worn, the dust jacket is all weird looking," until I finally found one that was nice, shiny, and clean enough for me. I was actually getting all stressed out about it. And once I got back in line at the cash register, I prayed that the cashier wouldn't just nonchalantly toss it down the belt, which could possibly ruin the newness of my book. Luckily for her she didn't.

See what I'm talking about? I totally sound like a crazy book lady.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Foodie Blogroll!

You may have noticed a new little feature on my blog in the past couple days. Go on, look, it's the cute little icon on the side. See it now? Yes, I am now a new member of the Foodie Blogroll!

I decided it was time to network a little and become more active in the food blogging community. Remember my post about how I wanted to posh things up a bit on the blog? Well this was one of my steps to doing so. See, now it feels like a "grown-up" blog and it's a bit more motivating to post stuff.

Anyway, the Foodie Blogroll is a great way to connect with other people who are just as obsessed about making and eating food, as well as reading and writing about it! The Foodie Blogroll is the brainchild of The Leftover Queen. Thanks a lot, Jenn!

What are you waiting for? Check it out!