Sunday, September 22, 2013

Veg Taco Pie

Now I tried to come up with cutesy names for this dish, as I like to do on pinterest and instagram, but really, it's not necessary anymore these days. I've had a writer's block with cooking of late, and while I get by making dinner and not going out to eat anymore, *cue scary music,* as we have decided to call this "The Year of No." Year 3 in graduate school and my debts are accruing quickly and becoming frightening. So - no more going out to eat, no more spending ANY money except on necessities. It hasn't been too bad but I have spent a lot of time wasted watching tv and movies on Netflix streaming. I just read a research article that said for every hour you spend sitting (in front of a tv, on the computer, etc.) you lost 22 minutes of your life. Thanks, research.

Okay, now to the real news. I got inspired this week to create a new dish out of the ingredients in our fridge and called in Taco Pie. I felt the urge to blog about it because it really was one of my highlight dishes and I want to keep the recipe here so I can a) pinterest post it and b) actually replicate it. The 2 of us just finished eating the leftovers and ate this entire pie within 18 hours.

Vegetarian Taco Pie Recipe

1 pre-made pie crust in foil dish (freezer section)
1/2 a sweet onion
1 large tomato
1 package of ground beef crumbles (preferably the kind from the produce aisle that are refrigerated not frozen, they are more moist in my opinion) or you could use a half package of ground beef too
1 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. oil
1/4 cup pimiento cheese (I had some leftover) or sub with sour cream/cream cheese/plain yogurt
1 tbsp. taco seasoning
2 tbsp. jar salsa
1/2 cup freshly grated cheese blend

Preheat oven to 375. While warming up, start cutting up the onion into small diced pieces. Heat the oil and butter in a skillet. Add onion and soften, sauté on medium for about 15-20 minutes. Once oven is heated, prick pie shell with fork to breath and prevent bubbles. Bake pie shell alone for 10 minutes. Both the onion and pie crust should be ready about the same time if timed properly.

Slice the tomato and let pie crust cool a bit. While cooling, add the veg/ground beef to the onion butter mix, once onions are translucent and lightly golden. Then add the taco seasoning and pimiento cheese (or substitute listed above). Lay down the tomato slices on bottom of pie crust. Stir up the ground beef onion mix, heat on medium for about 5 more minutes. Layer over the tomatoes in pie shell. Top with 2 tbsp. of your favorite salsa. I had leftover some that had beans and corn in it, which really complemented the flavors.

Sprinkle with shredded cheese. I grated fresh smoked gouda and semi-soft swiss and it was a great choice. But anything will probably do. Place in oven for 30 minutes until bubbly. Serve a slice with a side of blue chips or your favorite tortilla chips.

And unfortunately, I couldn't take a picture before trying it. Side note tip: Always place the frozen foil pie crust pan into a sturdy pie pan. I learned the hard way to do this after a hot crawfish pie folded in half while taking it out of the oven and splattered all over the floor. Live and learn.


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Dissertation Drama

I am taking a cue from my dear cousin Caroline who just started her freshman year at college and is blogging throughout her adventures. I suppose it may be cathartic or useful for someone in the universe (or possibly my future self) to jot down my dissertation journey.

I am currently reading: Dissertation and Theses from Start-to-Finish by John D. Cone & Sharon L. Foster. It's meant for Psychology and the Related Fields. I'm on chapter 3 and so far, it's pretty common sense stuff. It just helps motivate me to actually get started. Like I should be working on it right now instead of doing this. That's the thing, once you get serious about doing it, you always should be doing it. Every spare second feels like it needs to be devoted to dissertating that I feel guilty even watching tv. But somehow these days I am watching more tv than ever in my life: procrastination at its finest. Can we just stop and talk about Orange is the New Black? Holy cow, I love that show and am in complete and utter withdrawal that there were only 13 episodes to marathon watch.

Okay, so dissertation -- see how my mind wanders? I started back in March just shooting ideas once I had picked a person I wanted to chair it. I picked someone brilliant, stats-knowledgeable, in an area of interest to me (trauma), and I could work well with. By the summer, we had the plan of action drawn out and ready to go. All I had to do was... write 30 or so pages of an introduction reviewing all the literature.

Yeah, that didn't happen. Instead I had a summer course requiring 90 pages of papers and projects and presentations. Then my 3 week break including 3 weeks of visitors minus 2 days of pool time and cleaning. So here I am, first week into the quarter and on page 3. Then I get a bombshell that she is going to start with or without me... which poses some problems for me, very big ones. What if when I propose the idea to the faculty, they tell me the study has already been started? Or that I need to add something more and start over? (*cue scary music*) that is probably my worst nightmare and why I've nearly panicked myself to sleep each night this week.

Thirty pages is literally nothing, I've done that before with my theses. But there is some huge mysterious omen on the idea of a dissertation that scares the bejeezus out of most people. I need to de-mystify it and get to it. That way I can propose by next month, and start data collection with my adviser. Way to put the pressure even more.

In addition to this, I have a large to-do list of schoolwork and readings to do for my other classes and life stuff going on too. And phone calls and friends to chat with. I wish I could just put life on hold to make this dissertation thing go away. I keep telling myself, once I propose that gives me another year free to procrastinate on other things. Just have to do it....

I am also applying to this award which sucks too because I hate writing good qualities about myself, it sounds so conceited and I prefer modesty actually. I also have to ask 2 professors for letters of recommendations, which I hate doing. But I suppose I'll get through it all.

21 more months of this madness.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Lime Crab Stuffed Mushrooms

These mushrooms were so good, in the sense that you could really taste the mushroom and crab. They weren't too cheesy and the flavors didn't overpower the delicate crab taste. And the lime is an absolute must, it totally changed the taste after.

1 package of baby bella mushrooms
4 tablespoons butter
1 small onion or 1/2 a large onion
1 slice of wheat bread
1/4 cup shredded cheese
parmesan cheese
salt, pepper, cayenne, basil, cumin, parsley, etc. (a shake of each)
bread crumbs

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. While preheating, toast slice of bread in oven or use toaster.
2. Saute onion in 2 tablespoons butter.
3. Meanwhile gently wipe clean/wash mushrooms. Pull off stem and chop them up into bits.
4. Lightly grease a casserole dish.
5. Place mushroom caps in dish and bake about 5 minutes to soften.
6. Add chopped mushroom stems to butter and onions. Add another tablespoon of butter.
7. Sauce onions and mushrooms for about 5 to 10 minutes.
8. When done, place in bowl. Add crumbled toast, shredded cheese, egg, spices, remaining melted butter (3 tablespoons). Stir it up.
9. Fill each mushroom cap and pile it all high.
10. Top with bread crumbs and cheese.
11. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes.
12.Squeeze lime generously on top. Enjoy!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Blueberry Vanilla Cream Pie

This recipe was created when I was trying to decide what to do with my farmer's market blueberries. The past two weeks I got them, I ate them as is - wonderful, sweet, blue, and delicious. But by now, I'd grown kind of sick of the natural state and wanted something more. So I decided to ask facebook: blueberry muffins or blueberry pie. I quickly realized muffins were the cop-out recipe.

So pinterest helped me find a basic vanilla cream pie. I had made a delicious cadbury pie for easter - which I could not find the recipe no matter how much I searched that used only a few basic ingredients.... here is the wonderful picture, it was so good. Wish I knew how I made it.

So with a quick search on the best website on earth, yes- I mean pinterest - I found this fabulous winner of a recipe: .

I modified it a bit by using a pre-made frozen pie crust in a pan and adding 1 cup of blueberries, som at the bottom and then after it was ready more on top, but I want to give credit where credit is due and rather than claiming it as my own, just go find the filling recipe on their page instead. :) I also subbed soymilk and it came it just as good as I think it would with real milk.

[[And before I go on blogging - I am going to justify my use of pre-made pie crust pans. They are the most affordable at Walmart, more than the pie crusts in a box that you have to spread out yourself. I'm also capable of making them from scratch, as my Aunt taught me years ago (the trick is cold water, I'll never forget, and the pastry whisk).... but I don't really have time and I wouldn't make pie so often if I always had to make a crust from scratch. I know you can freeze them, but well, I'm a grad student. No time for that and at $2.25 a package of 2 pie crusts, I'm saving money and time. So there, I rationalized enough to make myself feel better about cheating my way through pie crust-making.]] But I really can do it.

Blueberry Vanilla Cream Pie - perfect for the Fourth of July, just add strawberries!

Ratatouillie Pie

This idea popped in my head months ago. I actually scribbled it down on the dry-erase marker board on my fridge that I list all the potential recipes I can make with all the food we presently have in our fridge. Right now the list is huge since we have more groceries than I think we've ever had before.

I think the thought came when I was making the brocciflower quiche (see below) or the zucchini-oh my pie, or maybe the tomato pie I made once too.... why not just make a ratatouillie pie of all the odds and ends leftover veggies? And that is how this recipe was born. It came out fabulous and we both scarfed it down, even the hubs who hates eggplants. However, I'd like to perfect it and try again so it tastes more like ratatoullie rather than veggie pie.

So here it is, my Veggie Pie Oh My, that is delicious but impostering and wishing it was Ratatoullie Pie.

1 small white eggplant, sliced and then chopped in quarters ($1)
1 small yellow squash, sliced  ($.50)
1 half a huge zucchini, sliced and chopped into quarters ($.50)
1 small onion, diced ($.33)
3 roma tomatoes, diced ($1)
1 cup of cheese ($.50)
2 eggs ($.25)
1/2 cup mayo (I use the olive oil kind, I like to think it's healthier) ($.20)
salt and pepper to taste
1 frozen pie crust in pan ($1.10)
2 tsp dijon mustard
1/4 tsp each basil and oregano
fresh basil too if you have
Total: can I just say this is under $5? => officially about $5.38-$5.50

1. Bake pie crust 10 minutes
2. Meanwhile, steam all veggies except tomatoes for the 5-10 minutes the crust is baking.
3. After, rub dijon mustard on crust - this is the secret to making the pie crust taste so good, I always do this. Thanks Pillsbury for the idea.
4. Stir together the cheese, mayo, eggs, and spices in small bowl.
5. Drain the veggies and pour into pie crust.
6. Top with cheese-egg mixture.
7. Bake 20 minutes or more until lightly golden on top.
8. Let cool and enjoy.

Not gonna lie, this was good. It was gone within the day. Next time, I'm going to figure out though how to make it taste more like ratatouillie, perhaps less cheese and more wine.

Garlic White Bean Soup

I tried to think of some clever name for this, something to do with vampires since I just finished watching True Blood and it is garlic soup afterall, but failed at that task.

While on the topic, whose the worst actor/actress on the show? Tara? Sookie? That kid that exploded in the episode? Whoops, did I just give that one away?


This soup was pretty tasty. I ended up using the broth again once we got sick of it after a few too many bowls and made something else in it- I think pasta or potatoes.

If you love garlic and white beans, then this is definitely for you. If you also are sick and need a light soup that is refreshing, this is it. It's got the perfect hint of garlic and enough protein to fill you up.

6 cups water (free)
2 bouillon veggie cubes ($.20)
1 bag of dry white beans ($1.25)
2 whole garlic heads ($1.50)
1 small onion chopped ($.33)
4 tablespoons butter ($.10)
2 tablespoons marsala cooking wine ($.10)
2 tablespoons soy sauce ($.5)
salt and pepper to taste (I prefer white pepper)
Total price: $3.53

1. Soak beans overnight in large cooking pot filled with water. This softens them up for a quicker cooking time the next day. Or you can cheat and use the rapid version on the beans bag.
2. Boil together bouillon cubes and water. Add whole cloves of garlic and chopped onion. Once boiling add together the rest of the ingredients.
3. Cook for 45 minutes on medium.
4. You can add cream to it if you prefer a creamy version, but I liked it like a broth.
5. And like I said, once you get sick of it - you can make some amazing rice, potatoes, or pasta with the leftovers. Just substitute them instead of the water in your usual recipe.

Tada! Tasty, garlic-y, vampire-resistant, bean soup. Just make sure to mouthwash before you go kissing anyone.

Friday, June 15, 2012

I love the farmer's market!

I used to visit the local farmer's market back home in a big city every so often, more like every blue moon and usually to just try some new desserts and get out.

But now I go every weekend to our miniscule tiny farmer's market, like 10 tents total. I go with $20 cash and stock up and it usually lasts me the week. It totally beats buying the same old stuff from Walmart, I get to try new veggies and fruit I've never seen before, and they don't go bad so quickly since they are so fresh.

Here is last weeks purchase for $19.50. I can't say I'm not proud of my purchase.

Here's what I ended up making. I ate the blueberries for breakfast. I used this huge cucumber for the two recipes found below: Honey Vinegar Cucumber Salad and Cucumber Salmon Crackers. I sliced and peeled the purple haze carrots and drizzled them in olive oil, they were so good as is. I chopped the tomatoes and onions in halves, roasted for about 30 minutes, and ground then up into roasted tomato salsa! SO GOOD! I also roasted two of the garlics. I steamed the rattlesnake green beans with some garlic. I made grilled onions with the last onion and sliced the chocolate cherry tomatoes and made a sandwich for lunch. I also made bruschetta with french bread, olive oil, the cherry tomatoes, the roasted garlic, and fresh basil.

And finally, I am now making white bean garlic soup. Recipe to follow.... I also plan on boiling the corn tomorrow or later and making a roasted garlic butter sauce for it with the leftover garlic. Yum! Can't wait for tomorrow's visit :D

Cucumber Crackers

I've never really loved cucumber and usually ask for my sushi to be made without it. But being so cheap and pretty at the farmer's market lately, I couldn't help myself.

For $1, I snagged this huge eccentric cucumber and thought long and hard (ha - like a cucumber) about what to do with it. I decided to use half and save the rest for another recipe I found online - which sidenote, was fantastic. Check Honey Vinegar Cucumber Recipe on pinterest here:
As for these guys, I've since made them again. The recipe is so easy and you can pretty much play around with it however you'd like. Just used slice cucumber instead of crackers, so tasty and so much healthier.

Salmon Cucumber Snacks

1/2 a huge cucumber ($.50)
1 can of alaskan salmon (I buy them at BJs or Sam's Club) ($2)
1 tablespoon of asian sesame dressing ($.10)
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon mustard
1 small tomato
dried basil
Total: $3

1. Peel and slice cucumber. Arrange on plate or platter.
2. Mix in bowl the rest of the ingredients (minus the tomato).
3. Since this recipe is mayo-less (although you can make it like tuna salad with mayo too if you like), I had to roll up and use my hands to press the salmon together into small balls.
4. I placed each one on top of the cucumber and atopped it with a small slice of tomato.
5. Sprinkle with basil. Done and so easy!

Eggplant Parm-Parm Casserole

I got the most beautiful huge eggplant at the farmer's market a few weeks ago. I don't have much experience on this vegetable or fruit as some would argue, so thankfully a friend was visiting who could assist. One time I tried making it, it came out so soggy and mush, not very good. And since then, I really have been hesitant.

Anyways, this eggplant made a huge casserole dish for a few nights, even with guests. And I still had a quarter of it leftover which I roasted and smashed for sandwiches.

I did a ton of research as she was explaining to me something about "salting" the eggplant since I had no idea what she was talking about. I quickly realixed this is common practice and you do this to a) reduce bitterness and b) reduce moisture. Some online argue it isn't really necessary. I figure it can't hurt and it adds some seasoning.

This recipe came out delicious. The flour breading and then adding breadcrumbs really made it perfect. Too much breading and it's hard to taste the eggplant. There weren't leftovers for long.

1 box of whole wheat macaroni ($1 at walmart)
1 can of four cheese tomato sauce ($1)
flour for coating ($.10)
breadcrumbs ($.10)
shredded cheese ($.75)
1 huge eggplant ($2)
Total: $4.95-$5

1. Chop up your eggplant. I cut it first from top to bottom. Then I sliced into 1 inch steaks the eggplant from there.
2. Add them to a collander. Salt generously (like 3 tablespoons). Place bowl underneath. Wait 30 minutes. Toss around every 5 to 10 minutes. Watch water collect underneath.
3. Coat each piece in flour, press to make sure it sticks.
4. Use skillet with 1 tablespoon of oil (no more - this is the trick, too much and it gets soggy!) and cook about 5 minutes each batch.
5. Meanwhile you should have boiled your pasta according to directions.
6. When pasta is ready, toss with sauce and spread in casserole dish.
7. Drain eggplant on paper towels to reduce oil. Then assort them on top of the pasta in casserole dish.
8. Top with shredded cheese, about 1/4 cup or so to your liking.
9. Then top with bread crumbs, about 1/4 cup or less.
10. Place in 375 degrees oven for 30 minutes until crispy and cheese is melted.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Elvis Presley Ice Cream

Ever since I received an ice cream make as a gift from our wedding, I've been so excited to play around with recipes for ice cream.

I immediately started pinning recipes I was interested in: cinnamon, green tea, espresso, etc. But up to this point, I have only mastered vanilla. I even had a month long upset where none of my ice cream was setting properly. Thanks to google and troubleshooting, I finally realized after 3 messed up batches that my freezer wasn't cold enough and I needed to change the settings and it helps to refrigerate your ice cream recipe overnight before to make sure it is as cold as possible too.

Here is the ice cream maker I have that can be purchased at Crate and Barrel:
It comes with a little recipe booklet, but like most of my recipes, after a few delicious batches, I tend to try and improve them. I was sick of using such heavy cream and worried about putting on some extra pounds if I was eating a whole thing of ice cream each weekend with hubby. It's important to keep in mind that homemade ice cream is more liquid than solid, since it is made without the preservatives, atleast that's what the instruction booklet says. It's pretty darn good, I must say.

Basic Vanilla:
2 cup soy milk
1 cup half and half (it's cheaper than cream)
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
Mix together and refrigerate overnight for best results to chill thoroughly.

Elvis Ice Cream with Peanut Butter, Banana, Honey, and Cinnamon Recipe:
1. After the vanilla is churned for 15 minutes in the machine, add 1/4 tsp of cinnamon.
2. Then add 2 tablespoons of honey.
3. Then add 1/4 cup of peanut butter (try not to use one with alot of sugar since it already calls for it in this recipe, I had a natural almond butter that I used)
4. Add half a chopped banana.
5. Allow to churn for 15 minutes total.
6. Serve and top with remaining 1/2 of banana.

If only I remembered to top it with some fresh mint then the picture would be perfect. I'm still working on my photography skills. It came out perfectly peanut butter, with a hint of honey and cinnamon, and a perfect creamy texture. The soy works out well even when not using whole milk. It might be a bit thicker with whole milk but I prefer soy. So work with what you've got. Enjoy!