Tuesday, July 28, 2009

OK, here's another one

Why doesn't everyone do this? I made almond butter at home in ten minutes rather than paying a zillion dollars for it at the grocery store. It involved truly complex steps:
  1. Buy three cups of roasted, unsalted almonds.

  2. Using a food processor with the big blade, add the nuts 1/2 a cup at a time, waiting until they're somewhat broken up to add the next portion.
    - It will be loud and scary at first, so if you're doing this with little kids, warn them.

  3. Add salt if you wish. I added about a teaspoon or so.
  4. Let the food processor do its work. It'll take about ten minutes (or less), but you may want to stop it every once in a while because my processor got pretty hot when I let it run for too long.
  5. The nuts will produce their own oil as they break down. If you want it even smoother, add some olive oil. I didn't need to do this.

  6. Goggle at how easy it is to make your own almond butter!

I found that using two cups worked better than one in terms of making the "buttery" consistency. Three cups of processed almonds filled a pint jar--I bought Ball jars to keep it in (4 for $5.39); you just need something air tight. This will work for just about any nut you want. I've read that roasting makes the butter taste better, so I just bought roasted from the bulk bin. You can easily roast them in your oven (check the web for details). Numerous websites have recipes, but they all boil down to this one. DH suggested adding Splenda or honey, which I know others have done. I used almonds because they're heart-healthy and I got bored with peanut butter. Why should it get all the press, anyway?

The minute the school year starts up, I think recipe writing will go waaaay down. That may relieve you or sadden you, but there it is. That's when I move back to the crock pot, bay-beeeee....

Monday, July 27, 2009

Avocado-Cashew Cakes

I didn't mean for this to turn into a foodie blog, but hey, I've got a lot of good recipes and figured I'd share. My friend M, who's an amazing cook, made these for us yesterday and we loved them. You only need to eat one, as they're pretty rich. I know they're high in fat, but it's all good fat and you'll see it's something you'd make and eat only every once in a while. We made them last night as appetizers for my sister and parents, and they all asked for the recipe. So, M and C, here it is for you, too! We all agreed you'd love it, especially you, M, with your love of avocadoes. :-)

Avocado-Cashew Cakes
- 2 avocadoes, diced
- a little less than half a pound of chopped/crushed cashews (1/3 cu. or so)
- I put the cashews in a plastic bag and whacked them with a rolling pin to break them up.
- 1-2 cloves garlic
- ~2 tsp lime juice
- cumin, pepper, and kosher salt to taste
- 2-3 finely minced scallions
- bread crumbs and a pinch of flour
- 1-2 TBSP olive oil for sauteeing

  1. Mix all ingredients except bread crumbs and olive oil together in a medium-sized bowl. Add lime juice and spices according to your taste after the original mixing.
  2. Spread bread crumbs and flour on a plate.
  3. Form patties about the size of a ping-pong ball and flatten slightly. Roll gently in the bread crumb/flour mixture to cover. The patties will be pretty fragile, so add flour as a binding agent as needed.
  4. Transfer patties to a plate and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes to set them.
  5. Heat 1 TBSP olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Start with 1 TBSP and add as needed. Add patties and cook 3 minutes on a side.
Serving size: 1 cake

Dipping Sauce
- 1 part horseradish mustard to 1 1/2 parts mayonnaise
- lo-fat, if you wish. I suggest avoiding Miracle Whip because it will alter the taste
- hot sauce to taste (I used about 1 1/2 tsp)

Whisk together all ingredients in a small bowl. Give each person a good-sized dollop to eat with the avocado-cashew cakes. The bite of the sauce pairs well with the smooth richness of the cakes.

I would have posted a picture, but we ate them too quickly!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Recipe: Southwestern Skillet Macaroni and Cheese

Southwestern Skillet Mac and Cheese

Prep: 10 min.
Cook time: ~25 min.
Serves: 6

- 1 cu. elbow macaroni
- 1lb. ground skinless turkey breast
- 1/2 cu. chopped onion
- 1/2 cu. chopped green pepper
- 2 TBS chili powder (we used a heaping two because we like it spicy)
- 1 tsp ground cumin (see above comment)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 (14 1/2 oz.) can dices tomatoes with juice
- 1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce [for those who don't make their own!]
- 1 (4.5 oz.) can chopped mild green chilis
- 1/2 cu. water
- 1 cup shredded (extra sharp) cheddar cheese (reduced fat)

1. Cook elbow mac according to box directions.

2. Spray a large, nonstick skillet with nonstick spray, set over med-high heat. Add turkey and cook, breaking up with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink, about 8 min.

3. Stir in the onion, bell pepper, chili powder, cumin, and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened, about 3 min.

4. Add tomatoes, sauce, chiles, and water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the flavors are blended, about 10 min.

5. Add the macaroni and cheese, stirring to combine.

So tasty!

I do have another one for stir-fry pork tenderloin and one for lo mein pork and peanut noodles, but it requires things like hoisin sauce. Thai curry paste, and Asian sesame oil, which we have on hand because we like to cook Asian food. If you want me to post them, please let me know. They're delicious. I put in the Southwestern Mac and Cheese because it's easy and relatively cheap to get the ingredients and so delicious!

Oh, and here are the calzones we made; I've linked the recipe for the dough and the calzone itself. I'm sure you can buy pizza dough if you don't want to make it yourself. If you do make it yourself, please note that you have to chill it overnight before using it; we found this out the hard way and had chopped all the ingredients and realized we had to wait. However, that actually worked out because then everything was all ready. It's kind of a Sunday night meal because it's a little intense to make, but it's TOTALLY worth it.

Just out of the oven!

The recipe calls for grilled vegetables, so we used our George Forman grill. I'm sure you could saute them just as easily.


Thursday, July 23, 2009

Time Flies!

Wow, I had no idea it had been that long since I posted.  I've been up to my earballs (I coined that.  Like it?) doing this project and preparing for an exam in my one special ed class and I haven't made time for much else, aside from some serious procrastination in terms of cooking.  I'll post those recipes later because they were so good that T and I had an actual fight over who got the leftovers.  Anyway, turned the project in Tuesday, had the exam today, and I already know I aced the exam, did well on the project, and got an A- overall.  I didn't do as well in college as I would've liked, so it's my aim to rock all my grad classes.  I loved the class and learned a ton, but cramming a semester into four weeks felt pretty exhausting.  So now I get to read some books that I want to read, finally!  Of course, now this class has got me thinking I might want a master's in special ed, too, but the insulation in our roof needs fixing first, so I'll put that on the back burner for a while.  Priorities, man.  Anyway, I have a lot of new ideas for the fall that I want to put into place, so that's exciting to me.  I don't know if you all get that same thrill, not all being teachers.  Heck, we get thrills by going to Office Max and staring at all the pens and sticky notes and things.  Our eyes glaze over as we take in all the possibilities and consider whether or not we can keep the receipt for reimbursement from the business office...ohhhhh....

So I'm off to lunch with my mom and sister because I'm hungry enough to eat my own hand.  Happy Thursday and I'll get to those recipes soon, now that I've got the time. 

Friday, July 10, 2009

School, wedding, summer fun

I feel I've been so out of posting, but then I look and realize it hasn't been THAT long. I've just been insanely busy. My last day of the school year was June 25, a Thursday. My other summer class started on the following Monday and I've been up to my eyeballs in Special Education since then, considering a four week summer class has to squish a semester's worth of information into that time. Plus I have another class on Wednesday nights. It's all fascinating stuff; things I wish I had known years ago as a teacher. I feel out of sheer ignorance that I have too often unfairly glossed over the needs of my students with special needs or even my students who just need extra help, assuming that "someone else" would take care of them, such as the special education teachers. It's not that I don't help my students; I just think I can do more, now, to reach a broader spectrum. Now I know how to work with numbers, see patterns in what errors they make, and have more ability to alter my teaching style to best fit them. I'm very excited about implementing new strategies in the fall.

So yes, that's been my summer so far, with a few nice interludes in between. One of longest-known friends got married last weekend at her family's summer house in Canada. For those of you who don't know, that's not that strange around here to spend the summers across the border; it's right there. With good traffic, I can get there in half an hour. Anyway, she got married at the house and had the reception right in the back yard. Everything went perfectly and we all had a wonderful time. Here are just a few of the pictures I took:

It looked so gorgeous once the sun went down

Bridesmaid L, the bride, and me--we've all been friends since we were tiny

The bride's sister pulled out the boas for us all when they played "Lady Marmalade"

The bride and groom

We also took the weekend to spend it with T's cousin, also in Canada, and Penny spent the weekend at doggie day camp at Pet Smart. Combine that with a visit on Sunday to T's friend's family place out where there's a lot of land and numerous dogs, and we had one tired pup on the way home. Plus she fell into the pond, so she looked and smelled like something that had been following the Grateful Dead all summer, as T said. She was so tired that she slept all the next day, which was what we wanted to do after our fun weekend.

Now my sister's home for a while, the annual Taste of Buffalo is this weekend, and Harry Potter's coming out on Wednesday. Makes for a good summer! But I think this picture sums up summer for me: