Every day that goes by is a day closer to my last day living in Memphis. 6.5 years ago I couldn’t wait for this day but now, nothing could have possibly prepared me for the emotional roller coaster created by this reality. I have even added Tennessee to my job searches, despite my desire to be relieved of the infernal summers here. As far as packing goes, I still only have two boxes packed because I find the idea of living in a packed up apartment depressing. Just seeing those two boxes and the three empty shelves that correspond to their contents makes me sad. I am not sure what would be better: pack and move earlier to rip off the band-aid, or continue slowly to get used to it? I’ll stick to the latter for now.
If you’re still with me and reading this after that whiny rant, then reward yourself with a homemade version of hamburger helper. It will comfort your worries away, if only for dinnertime. And I will try to be less of a Debbie Downer.
One year ago: Pumpkin Pie with Brown Sugar-Walnut Topping
Two years ago: Berry Detox Smoothie
It’s official, my cold-resistant Northern-raised skin has grown weak and I am already tired of temperature below 40. It doesn’t help that our office at lab is below 70 every day. I actually put my gloves on (winter gloves, not lab gloves) to work at my desk yesterday. Yet on the other end of the spectrum I still cannot handle high humidity and heat, resulting in a narrower range of tolerable temperatures. Southern California weather is looking mighty appealing.
If the temperatures refuse to keep me warm, them I will just warm myself up from the inside with yummy food. Stephanie and I recently cooked two meals together so that we could have two different kinds of leftovers to eat for lunches or dinners. She made a meatballs with a great pork sausage marinara sauce and I made stuffed shells. Remember the Chicken Pesto Lasagna Rolls? These stuffed shells reminded me of those lasagna rolls stuffed into a different pasta shape, being just as flavorful and comforting.
One year ago: Sugar Cookie Spoons for Hot Cocoa
Ohio State lost to Michigan State last night in the Big Ten Conference Championship, and therefore lost the chance to go to the National Championship. To add insult to injury, it’s been miserably cold all over the country, including here, with sleet, freezing rain, and below freezing temperatures. Campus was closed on Friday and the St. Jude Marathon was cancelled Saturday as were the group fitness classes at my gym. I lost power on Friday but thankfully only for an hour. All day Saturday I kept expecting it to go out because my lights flickered constantly. As a result I didn’t dare prepare anything that took more than a couple minutes to cook. Which meant it was time for some microwave cooking!
Baking cakes in a mug with the microwave has been a huge trend and has expanded beyond baked goods to meals. Microwave mac and cheese isn’t a new concept, as it can be purchased at your local grocery store, but this is a homemade version using white cheddar for this much needed comfort food. With a cook time of 6 minutes and 30 seconds it was perfect to sneak in before the power finally decided to fail.
Two years ago: Toffee Apple Dip
With my dissertation behind me and only 21 days until I graduate and get hooded for my Ph.D. you’d think I would be care-free and excited. Not so much, more like the same old stress and anxious. I am still working on a couple last experiments per reviewers comments on my paper, job hunting, and worrying about what I am going to do if I don’t have a job lined up by the end of January when my lease runs out. With any luck that last item won’t become a reality, but in the meantime it’s a good time for some comfort food.
Stuffed shells are great comfort food. Those big shells hug in their cheesy goodness of a filling while being wrapped up in a warm blanket of sauce. Sounds like the life, doesn’t it? This sauce happens to be extra special because it is a pumpkin alfredo sauce with sage. Now wait, don’t get discouraged thinking you have to make your own alfredo sauce (but you can if you want). This recipe uses a premade jar of alfredo mixed up with pumpkin puree and a couple other flavor additions to create a great fall pasta dish.
One year ago: Individual Baked Pumpkin Oatmeal
Two years ago: Thanksgiving Recipe Roundup
Last week we had our first frost in Memphis. I even remembered to take my basil plant inside so that it wouldn’t die. Then yesterday I had to turn my A/C on for a couple hours because I cooked up a storm and didn’t anticipate the high of 77 degrees that day. Not that I am complaining about it being warm again, but fall here never ceases to confuse me. The temperatures drop from 70/60s to 30/40s without giving you any time to acclimate with moderate temperatures in between.
Regardless of the warm sunny atmosphere, I am powering through and continuing to make fall recipes because I just can’t get enough. It’s funny that I resisted Halloween for so long and now that it has passed I am pumped for the next two holidays, especially since Halloween used to be one of my favorite holidays. I guess not dressing up this year kind of put a damper on the excitement. Anyway, feast your eyes upon this delicious butternut squash recipe with a goat cheese sauce, which was my favorite part. So much so that I think I may use twice as much goat cheese in the future.
Two years ago: Baked Apple Cider Doughnut Minis
The other day I was looking through my disseration to double-check on some information and I found a silly typo. There is a “he” where it should have been “the”. Oh well too late now, it was sent off for printing two weeks ago! I have a feeling I will find more than just one minor typo in there as time progresses. It’s difficult to find every little thing when you are staring at 187 pages of glorious information. Blinded by the light!
While we are on the subject of errors, I specifically bought scallions to garnish this dish and totally forgot. Apparently I was so hungry while taking photos that I didn’t stop to notice or care because all I wanted to to was devour it! With its beautiful colors, creaminess and crunchy topping staring at me, you could hardly blame me. There was also plenty of kick. Mild-taste buds beware: you may way to omit the chipotle and use a mild salsa.
One year ago: Applesauce-Sweet Potato Pancakes
Two years ago: Crème Brulee
Choosing from the recipes this month proved to be just as difficult as usual for Pass the Cook Book Club. I almost made the Loaded Puff Pastry Sticky Buns but when push came to shove an entrée was more in demand than a breakfast pastry. I had already made ribs for a previous month so I went with the Spicy Macaroni and Cheese.
After Kita mentioned that she thought there was an uneven proportion of cheese to pasta, I decided to double the pasta instead of reducing the cheese. Because when is there ever too much mac and cheese? Also, the recipe originally called for cayenne pepper and sour cream but I did not have cayenne (apparently forgot to add it to my grocery list after finishing it off), so I used chipotle chile pepper and you all know how much I love substituting things like sour cream with Greek yogurt.
In the end, it was much better than the spicy mac and cheese I’ve made before but it wasn’t quite as creamy as some others. However, the flavors definitely outweighed the slightly less creamy nature. I especially enjoyed the textural addition of croutons on top. I will definitely reheat the leftovers in my toaster-oven to ensure those crunch-factors don’t get chewy!
One year ago: Chicken in Basil Cream Sauce
Olive oil is one of those things that I typically buy the generic store brand of. Mostly because it’s less expensive, and also because I generally cannot tell the difference unless using in a recipe where it is the main attraction. So when I received a bottle of Carapelli Extra Virgin Olive Oil to try out, I made sure to pick out recipes where I would be able to taste the difference.
The first thing I decided to make with my bottle of Carapelli Extra Virgin Olive Oil was herb infused olive oil. I got excited thinking about what I would cook with the infused oil once it was prepared, but to my disappointment it grew mold in the air-tight container stored in the refrigerator! Next time I’ll use a different method that doesn’t require leaving the herbs in the bottle. Thankfully I still had half a bottle remaining to try something else in the meantime.
After my failure to make infused olive oil, I decided to prepare something a little safer – homemade pesto. My basil plant had been growing out of control and it seemed fortuitous. This olive oil made me fall in love with my homemade pesto all over again. Pesto is definitely one of those things where the quality of the olive oil matters.
With the remaining small amount of olive oil, I decided to make crispy gnocchi by pan-frying cooked gnocchi in olive oil. This results in what you would expect – gnocchi with a crispy exterior. Served along with the Lighter Chicken Parmesan I shared yesterday, this meal was a hit!
What’s better than jalapeno poppers for an appetizer? Jalapeno poppers for dinner!
When I first made this dish, I cut the milk in half because it seemed like too much but also doubled the pasta because it was too little to pass for 4 servings (st least for me without any sides). It turned out absolutely fantastic but I felt like it would have tasted more like a jalapeno popper if the Parmesan was substituted with more cheddar. I realize that without the Parmesan it’s not really an Alfredo sauce and instead more of a mac and cheese sauce but I’m here for taste, not technicalities!
Since Bob also planned to make this meal, I told him about the modifications I had made and the additional changes I thought would be good (I also suggested cutting the butter in half but he didn’t try that). Turns out I was right about the cheddar making it taste more like a jalapeno popper, in addition to the other changes I had already made. I have written up the recipe to reflect those changes. The picture however, is pre-cheddar increase so the sauce doesn’t have much of a cheddar-colored tint to it. I may need to whip it up again for football viewing tomorrow!
One year ago: Hazelnut Praline Paste
I dropped that ball yesterday and missed posting for Single Serving Sunday. You may not have even noticed (which if that’s the case maybe I should rethink those posts), but in case you did my apologies. I had a quick single serving breakfast recipe that I had every intention of preparing and posting, but the first time it did not come out right and then I ran out of eggs and didn’t get to the store until it was too late to fuss over. Maybe by next weekend I will have it ready haha.
With one week until I need to send the final draft of my dissertation to my committee I have been in super-productive mode. Hence my lack of a post yesterday. I did next to nothing other than write all last week until Friday afternoon when my brain died. After sending my Introduction to my advisor I just couldn’t process nerdy thoughts, so I took the night off and hung out with friends Friday night. The rest of the weekend wasn’t as writing-productive as I would have liked, but I feel less tense and my apartment is cleaner. Accomplishments come in many forms.
For all my fellow stressed out people who are desperately trying to get things done while still getting some sustenance, here is a quick and healthy meal for you tonight. It’s kind of like those healthier pasta recipes that mix in fettucine-sized slices of zucchini. This time whole wheat spaghetti is mixed with broccoli slaw and tofu which has sauteed into a spicy-honey sauce and topped with peanuts, cilantro and green onion. It’s spaghetti gone Thai!