Thursday, October 18, 2012

My go-to breakfast

So much focus has been placed on oatmeal and it's health benefits, that I, like many people, have been trying to make it a more regular part of my diet. At first, I ate it with raisins and brown sugar...the only way I'd ever had it for breakfast. Then, the coffee shops started serving oatmeal. I fell in love with Caribou Coffee's 7-Grain Very Berry Oatmeal, and it was an occasional treat for me, until they changed the mix. 

While I enjoy the fruity oatmeal dishes, I'm more of a salty/egg breakfast person. Thus, when I saw an idea for oatmeal florentine online, I was intrigued, had to try it, and it's since become my go-to breakfast.
Oatmeal Florentine

1/2 cup oatmeal
1 cup spinach
1 large egg
1/4 cup shredded cheese (mozzarella, parmesan, swiss, whatever's in the fridge)
Salt and pepper, to taste

Prepare oatmeal according to package directions (I usually microwave for convenience). Once oatmeal is done, add spinach and cheese. Mix until spinach wilts and cheese melts. Salt and pepper to taste.

While oatmeal is cooking, fry egg (over easy is most delightful, as a runny yoke adds some richness to the dish). Place on top of oatmeal-spinach mixture when done.  

To take take this dish to the next level, I like to add tomatoes to my oatmeal florentine (it's also a great way to use up extra tomatoes).

Besides being delicious, this hearty, filling breakfast only takes about 5 minutes to prepare! I never would've thought of combining oatmeal, spinach, and eggs but am glad I did. Enjoy!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Bananas and cream bundt cake

While I pride myself on not being a picky eater, I am VERY picky when it comes to bananas. They must have some green (the right amount, not too much) and be firm (slightly chalky, not overly ripe). Needless to say, there's a very short window of opportunity when I'll eat a banana.

Thankfully, Dack is not as picky. Once they're too ripe for me, they're perfect for him, and he has a longer window of banana opportunity. 

His (left) and hers (right) bananas purchased for
day-of eating & enjoyment on a recent road trip

Even still, there comes a point where the bananas are too ripe for both Dack and I, but that opens the window for tasty baked goods like my mom's banana bread, banana pancakes, and my recent baking endeavor...

In an effort to make some progress on my new year's (cooking) resolution, I searched for banana recipes in the baking cookbooks we haven't used this year. After some "serious" deliberation, we settled on bananas 'n' cream bundt cake from The Taste of Home Baking Book

Bananas and Cream Bundt Cake 

1/3 cup shortening
1-1/4 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/4 cups mashed ripe bananas
2 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream 
1 cup chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans, etc.)
Confectioner's sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour*, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In a separate bowl, combine shortening and sugar in bowl, and cream* until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Beat in vanilla. Add bananas to creamed mixture and mix well. 

Add 1/3 flour mixture to creamed mixture and stir to combine. Then, add 1/3 sour cream to creamed mixture and stir to combine. Repeat two times, then stir in nuts. 

Pour mixture into a greased and floured bundt cake pan and bake for 50-55 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes in pan, then move to wire rack to cook completely. Top with a  sprinkle of confectioner's sugar.

I baked the bundt Sunday afternoon, Dack topped it with a (heavy) dusting of confectioner's sugar, and we (of course) sampled it immediately. While labeled a cake, the bundt was like a banana bread baguette. It was crunchy on the outside and moist on the inside. While sweet, it tasted less sugary than your typical banana bread. 

I brought the cake to work, and it, like the pumpkin chocolate chip muffins, was a hit in the office. While my co-workers were disappointed it wasn't the chocolate peanut butter fun cake, it didn't seem to stop them from sampling!  

Baking is Dack's domain in our house, but, what can I say, I've been feeling inspired lately...last weekend,  pumpkin chocolate chip muffins. This weekend, bananas 'n' cream bunt cake! Who knows what the upcoming weeks and months will bring?!? 

*Check out BA's How to Ace Your Cakes for tips on how to measure flour and cream. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

BA cake week

It was cake week on Bon Appetit's Feed this past week, and they shared many fantastic cake related features like cake storage tips, tips to ace your cakes, how to ice your cakes like a boss, how to cut perfect cake layers, along with links to amazing recipes and tons of drool worthy cake photos.

My reason for blogging about BA's cake week is twofold. First, I was excited that the Ten of the Best Cakes in America post had a shout-out to one of my favorite bakeries in Minneapolis: Salty Tart. BA says Salty Tart's White Chocolate Lemon Blueberry Cakes is "flat-out damn delicious. A vanilla bean cake hiding sweet lemon and blueberry fillings comes slathered with white chocolate frosting and topped with a tumble of fresh berries and lemon slices." (Did I mention that the descriptions are also drool worthy?!?) Needless to say, this will be top on my list the next time we visit the Midtown Global Market.

However, my main reason for blogging about cake week is to share that we had a cake picture featured in the 25 Cakes, Baked By You post!

If you'll recall, Dack baked BA's chocolate peanut butter fun cake this past February for a family dinner. Little did we know that eight months later, I'd submit the photo to BA, and it would be published on The Feed! For your viewing, or drooling, I've added the photo again.

Special thanks to my dad who took this amazing photo. Check out some more of his fantastic photography on Capture Minnesota and Capture Dakota!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Pumpkin obsession

Pumpkin. It's been on mind ever since pumpkin lattes were back on the coffee shop menu and the leaves started to change. I've been dreaming of pumpkin, drinking pumpkin lattes at every opportunity, and pinning tasty looking pumpkin treats. 

We were at the grocery store this weekend picking up food for the week's meals (quick sausage and mushroom lasagna, shrimp & grits, and buttercup soup), and I decided to pick up a can of pumpkin while we were there...we had no plans for it; I just knew it was time to make a pumpkin something. 

Yesterday I was perusing Bon Appetit's website, and was drawn to a weeknight dinner featured recipe. Pumpkin shrimp curry: it sounded like an odd, yet intriguing combination. As I looked at the recipe, I realized we almost had all the ingredients, so I texted Dack and asked if he was ok with a menu change. He gave me the go-ahead, so we ditched the shrimp & grits and buttercup soup, picked up the remaining ingredients, and I made pumpkin shrimp curry last night. 

While I wouldn't have thought to pair pumpkin and shrimp, it was a surprisingly delicious combination. Dack said he smelt it right when he walked in the apartment door, and (after he tasted it) said it was the perfect mix between seafood and comfort food. 

Pumpkin shrimp curry
I had a few minor deviations from the recipe: substituted the butternut squash with buttercup squash (using up what we already had) and added some extra cayenne pepper (we love our spice). If you, or your guests, don't care for shrimp, don't discount this could substitute the shrimp with a different protein, or double the squash.

The curry didn't use all the pumpkin, which was perfect because for the past few years I've made pumpkin chocolate chip muffins. It's one of the few things I bake, and Dack loves them. The recipe says it makes 12 servings, but we always seem to make 18-24 muffins. Rather than make a whole batch of muffins for the two of us, I made 12 "large" muffins for us, and used the rest of the batter for mini-muffins to take to work. These are always a hit in our home, and they were a hit at the office...the plate came home empty!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Second annual Flagtoberfest

Fall! It's that wonderful time of year when the leaves start to change, the temperature cools down (time to break out the sweaters and comfort food recipes), and sausages, pretzels and beer are abound. All signs point towards Flagtoberfest!

Last year we hosted the first annual Flagtoberfest, and had a few good friends over for some German food and Oktoberfest brews. Ever since then, Dack and I have been excited to continue and grow the tradition. 

This year we expanded our guest list from seven to fourteen (official) invites, purchased some more Oktoberfest music, and picked up some new decorations for the party (nothing to wild, just a few more tablecloths and bavarian flag themed items). 

We enhanced our beer selection, purchasing the first Flagtoberfest beer (New Glarus' Staghorn Octoberfest) in Wisconsin, and the others at Surdyks' Oktoberfest sale. The result was nice variety of German beers and US made Oktoberfest brews. 

Flagtoberfest brews

We also enhanced the menu. Pretzels and sausage are a must for any Oktoberfest party, so they remained on the menu, but we tried new recipes for each. Since our guest list grew, we figured the menu should as well, and we added an additional meat (non-pork) option to the menu. We tried some new German cheeses and a new dessert. The only item that remained unchanged from last year was the Sweet and Sour Cabbage. Our official Flagtoberfest menu was:

Assorted German Cheeses
Assorted Mustards
Austrian Cheesecake

The picture isn't the best (I was hungry and didn't want hold people up from digging in), but everything was incredibly delicious!  I can't lie, as we were preparing the food I was regretting the food choices...the recipes took time and required creativity (supposedly the meats were to be cooked in one pot, but there was WAY too much food for that!). But, once all was said and done, it was worth it. The highlight of the meal was one of the easiest dishes...the pretzel, expertly prepared by my hubby.

While the food was delicious, the highlight for me was spending the evening with our friends and family. The "official" guest list was fourteen, but we had a few "party crashers" and got to celebrate Flagtoberfest with even more friends and family. Hard to believe we (comfortably?) fit twenty-three people in our little apartment!

It's been less than 24 hours since the party ended, and I'm already looking forward to next year's Flagtoberfest. Until then...prosit!

Friday, September 21, 2012

New year's (cooking) resolution pulse check

Those that have been following the blog for awhile may recall that I had a new year's (cooking) resolution of making at least one item from each of our cookbooks, and my plan was to blog about each of the meals and books. The year is almost two-thirds over, so it's beyond time for a new year's (cooking) resolution pulse check.

It's widely known that most people don't keep their new year's resolutions. A study referenced on Wikipedia indicated that 88% of people who set resolutions fail. Despite all this, I was hopeful that I would succeed...we have just over 40 cookbooks, but 52 weeks and 365 days to use them. Sadly, as of this point, I've failed miserably. We haven't even come close to cooking through all our cookbooks, and even though there's three months left in 2012, I don't think we're going to make it. 
For one, we have 10 baking/dessert books. As far as I can recall, we've only used one this year (for Valentine's Day). As much as we love dessert, I don't think we (or our belt lines) should tackle the challenge of baking and eating NINE desserts over the next three months. 

Plus, we've had to change our approach to meals this year. My (crazy, yet wonderful) husband works 12-hour days Monday through Thursday, and needs to pack lunch and dinner. We're trying to get our cooking done on the weekends when we're both home, and we've become focused on meals that provide quantity, are transportable, taste good for days (even better if they get better over time), and can are microwavable or can be eaten cold. If we don't have leftovers, he gets to dine on school lunch, Easy Mac, or whatever he can scrounge up. I'm sure our cookbooks each have at least one meal that meets our criteria, and we'll definitely have to explore those throughout the year (since we'll be living on leftovers, variety will be key!), but I don't foresee us getting through all of them by the end of the year.

While I'm disappointed that I (like 88% of people who make new year's resolutions) failed, I am still inspired by the idea and interested in accomplishing this goal. However, I think my original goal was a bit broad, and should be broken down into something more specific and achievable (like cooking from a minimum of two new cookbooks a month). Before I commit to anything, I'll have to determine which cookbooks we've cooked from this year, and develop a plan to tackle those that we have left (maybe we'll get this done by 2013?!?)...I'll keep you posted.

Until then, keep us in mind if you have a recipe for any meal that is good (if not better) as a leftover, and I apologize in advance if the posts (which I hope to begin doing more regularly) are heavy on soups, chills, etc. 

Monday, September 3, 2012

Saturday night special

While there are no guarantees in life there are some things you can count on. Like when we go to Bismarck to visit my Grandpa and aunt...

you know the pool will be open and ready for swimmers.

Stories about an artifact/knick-knack or two will be shared.

The "jelly bean" machine will be stocked, and early morning jelly belly raids are acceptable, if not expected.

The freezer will have at least one gallon of vanilla ice cream for an evening treat,

and on Saturday's you will dine on the Saturday night special!