Thursday, October 30, 2008

Doctored-up leftovers

No funky photo formatting today, I promise!

It's been hard getting my motivation back to start making dinner each night. Flipping through my cookbooks and exclaiming "oooh! This one looks good" is apparently not enough to produce a dish on our table. I must shamefully admit to succumbing to pre-prepared frozen items or having fast food more often than I should. Somewhere, the good little weight watcher in me howls mournfully at this setback.

Anyway, so surprise surprise I was too tired to cook tonight so we decided to eat out. Now in my defense I did work out with my trainer today, so I will blame my laziness on that. We thought we'd try this new Greek restaurant nearby, but as we pulled into the parking lot we were informed the restaurant didn't open until Monday. Scratch that idea. We ended up at Copeland's instead, which is a Cajun/Creole type of restaurant.

For once I decided NOT to throw all caution to the wind and order something fattening and eat it all. Nope, not today. I ordered Shrimp Creole, which was served over steamed rice and came with a very yummy biscuit (okay so that wasn't so healthy). The dish was basically shrimp in a spicy tomato-y sauce. Not bad at all. I even managed to make myself stop halfway through and have the rest boxed up to go. Wohoo!

Then on the way home I began thinking of how I could make it look all purty in my bento for tomorrow. Clearly a sign of madness, as I was even debating which color would best suit the food. Oh and then I got the bright idea to add some turkey kielbasa to the leftovers to make it more substantial for tomorrow. And of course I had to pack raw veggies to make it all look healthy. Do you like the dried parsley flake garnish on top of the food? I do! It makes it look all fancy-like.

And I just realized that nobody probably really cares that much about my leftovers, so it's time to shut it. :)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

October Book Club Tea

NOTE: excuse the funky layout of the pictures. I suck at formatting with multiple photos. If you have any tips, I'd love to hear them!

We've been doing this book club thing for a few months now and it's turning out to be a lot of fun -- and a nice excuse to cook yummy foods and eat!

This month's selection was "The Palace of Illusions," by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, who just happens to be a fellow Bengali. Perfect excuse to make this month's tea-time theme a Bengali tea party!

Among the yummy selections to nosh on were keema patties (my contribution), potato and veggie shingaras, muri, and aloo tikkis. What exactly are all those?

The keema patties are pretty self-explanatory -- spiced ground turkey filling inside puff pastry sheets. The keema can be made from chicken, turkey, beef, whatever. You can even make it with potato, but I like keema the best. Very easy, very indulgent, very yummy. Oh and you have to say "patties" with an exaggerated Indian accent. That's the rule, okay?

The shingaras are very similar to samosas, except in my experience the crust is thicker and the fillings are vegetarian only. I may be wrong about this though. Either way, these were excellent!

Muri one of my favorite Bengali-style snacks. You make it with puffed rice, mustard oil, chopped onions, chopped green chilis (optional), and channachur. We also added some ginger to round things off. This stuff is addictive and I am ashamed to admit I went for multiple helpings of this and ended up finishing off the bowl. :(

Aloo tikkis are spiced fried potato patties -- can't go wrong with that combo! They can be made plain or with fillings. The spices used to season them can vary, our friend used a spice mix that had a very intriguing tanginess to it that made them irresistable to me.

And of course, there were some cookies and mango sorbet for the sweet side of things, although we forgot to eat the sorbet because we were so full.

We'll have to skip November because none of our schedules work out, so stay tuned to find out what we cook up for our December meeting.

NOTE: I probably should have said that the descriptions of the food are in order of the pics. But apparently the pics show up as a square in edit mode and for some people and then in a straight vertical line when I view it as a page. Okay, so the rectangular thingies are the patties, the triangular thingies are the shingara, the stuff that looks like puffed rice is the muri, and the round discs are the aloo tikkis.

Falafel and veggies

They're baaack!

It's been so long since I've packed a bento nicely for photo ops and I didn't realize until after I was done taking pics when I was trying to close everything up to put into the fridge that I messed up and the veggies and falafels should have switched places. Needless to say, the bento that is waiting for me tomorrow doesn't look as nice as this one. Oh well!

So lunch is going to be grape tomatoes, cucumbers, and baby carrots with some Tzaziki sauce for dipping, as well as some falafel balls I found at Costco last week. I pulled them from the freezer, which is why they look a little frosty. We were out of pita bread, which sucks because I could have had mini falafel sandwiches for lunch. Next time.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Pot Roast!

It's one of my days off and I should be blissfully sleeping in, but apparently my body thought otherwise and awakened me at 5 am. Ugh. But this means I get a head start on blogging today!

Now that it's fall and supposedly getting cooler (yesterday being an anomaly, at 85 degrees), I start wanting warm, comforting foods -- pretty normal. Since I'm just barely easing out of this last round of tax hell, I'm not quite ready to get cooking as soon as I get home, but I'm also really sick of eating out and eating crap. Solution? Drag out our crockpot and actually try to use it more than once this year.

For some weird reason I've been craving pot roast recently. I don't know if it's because I'm just in the mood for big hunks of tender beef, or I've somehow associated it with fall and our crockpot, but there you go. Luckily Publix had chuck roast on sale this week and luckily there were plenty of recipes for pot roast. Now you'd think with my billion-plus cookbooks lying around, at least 2 of which are devoted to slow cookers, I'd start there. Nope. The problem was, I didn't know how reliable those recipes were. If I go somewhere like Recipezaar or Allrecipes then I can read the reviews and decide if I want to try a recipe. So what's the point of me being obsessive and buying cookbooks like crazy? Ummm, that's a very good question. But that's a post for another time.

So anyway, without too much hard work I found a few recipes that looked easy-peasy and had good reviews. I picked this one and went grocery shopping for ingredients.

And just to change things up a bit, I'm posting pics of my pot roast journey.

And of course, since I have to tweak recipes when I try them -- I used a 3-lb chuck roast, used 1 can of roasted garlic-flavored cream of mushroom soup, a can of beef broth, a packet of beefy onion soup, sprinklings of dry rosemary, and I added a ton o' veggies to the bottom of the crockpot.

The results? Very very meltingly tender beef. The flavor? Mehhh. But what do you expect when using canned condensed soup and an onion soup packet? It wasn't horrible, but it wasn't spectacular. For comfort food it was fine, but it just didn't have enough zip for me. I would say I would make it again, this time using a different recipe that didn't call for processed ingredients. But it also could be that this is just supposed to be a comfortingly bland dish and I'm just used to a spicier palate. Doesn't mean it's a bad recipe, just maybe not for me.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

My first cookbook

So I bet you didn't know that I was first "published" while I was in first grade. :)

I found this the other day while attempting to clean up the disaster zone otherwise known as the guest bedroom/my office. Now keep in mind, this was about 22 years ago (God that makes me feel so old!), but I vaguely remember our teacher sitting down with us and ask us what our favorite recipe was and to describe how to make it, all while she took notes. Then our parents were supposed to submit their version of the recipe.

It's pretty cute flipping through this little book. There were lots of recipes for pizza, french toast, and fried chicken, so I guess those must have been popular with 6 year-olds in Kansas in the mid-1980s. I will have to admit that I probably wouldn't try most of the parent-supplied recipes, and of course I am biased, but I do want to try my mom's recipe that she submitted.

Oh and I know I've been very neglectful and not posting recently, but we recently had the 9/15 and 10/15 tax deadlines and I was slammed at work. So now that we've made it through, my unintentional bento and cooking hiatus is over!