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If you recall, last week I posted that I’m grateful for banana cake with cream cheese frosting. I had to make a dessert for a family dinner last week, and what better dessert to bring than banana cake (recipe)?

YUM.

I will admit, dealing with overripe bananas is downright disgusting. I prefer greener bananas that haven’t gone too sweet, so if a banana has a brown spot on it, it’s too ripe for me. So cutting the skin off a melting banana? Yuck! That being said, this cake was totally worth the initial melting banana revulsion. I also used my roommate’s KitchenAid mixer for the first time and now MUST OWN ONE. This cake was incredibly easy to make and smelled amazing after it came out of the oven. My only qualm throughout the entire process? “1 box of powdered sugar” is not helpful when powdered sugar generally comes in bags, not boxes. That wasn’t a big deal, however, because that allowed my boyfriend and I to taste-test the frosting until we got to the right combination. Overall score: A+

Pretty picture, but I would never put peas in my stuffed peppers.

I wasn’t a fan of peppers up to a year ago, and I’m still not crazy about them, although I do enjoy a good red pepper. I’ve been wanting to try stuffed peppers, however, for a while – I spent quite a bit of time tracking down a suitable recipe. I was picky because I knew that the right mixture of filling would make or break the meal. This stuffed pepper recipe did a fair job on the filling – I knew what I wanted in the recipe and many other recipes called for too many extra ingredients. Overall, though, I think stuffed peppers just aren’t really my thing.

The filling needed more flavor – that was largely my fault. I didn’t add the onion to the overall mixture because I felt that I already had so much onion in the ground beef mixture. But it also needed more garlic and perhaps more spice as well. I would also try using red pepper in the future as that’s sweeter – I used green peppers because I felt that they’re more savory, but now I’m wondering if the sweet and savory mixture might be better. Worth a shot. Overall score: C+

My boyfriend currently only has access to a microwave to cook, so for the holidays, my parents bought him this awesome microwave-cooking book called A Man, A Can, and a Microwave. Seriously, this book is awesome. It has recipes for teriyaki beef and broccoli, chicken parmesan, hot mocha dunk, and about 50 other foods you’d never think to cook in a microwave. We made the chicken parmesan and the veggie breakfast burritos, but the recipe we tried that I want to highlight was the chocolate bread pudding.


It was actually fairly simple. We tore white bread into pieces and set that aside. Then we mixed eggs, milk, vanilla extract, cinnamon, and chocolate syrup. Once those were mixed, we poured it over the bread, making sure the bread cubes were completely soaked. Finally, we put it in the microwave until cooked (about 10-12 minutes). The biggest challenge? Successfully dividing the recipe into thirds – we didn’t want to make a huge batch (nor did we have a dish to cook it in), so we split the recipe into thirds and made 1/3 in two dishes. It was a little heavy on the liquid, but it still tasted good. I’m not huge on chocolate, though, so I couldn’t finish mine. Overall score: B

We still want to try the teriyaki beef and broccoli – one of the ingredients is ginger ale!

*Note: I apologize that I can’t link out to the recipe. If you want to know it, I can get a hold of it.

What’s the most intensive thing you’ve cooked in the microwave?

I had a huge bag of potatoes – which I love – sitting in my cupboard. They had been sitting there for about a month. Needless to say, I needed to use them up, so I decided to try making Rosti Potatoes with Ham and Cheese (recipe below).

Maybe not incredibly appetizing looking, but tasted good.

Not as many substitutions as usual – I used sharp Cheddar instead of extra-sharp, although I used more than 1/2 c. I spread sliced honey ham out instead of chopping smoked ham. And I used a glass square pan instead of a pie plate or skillet. The hardest part of this was grating the potatoes – when you have that many slippery and mostly cooked potatoes, it gets rather difficult to hold onto them and not cut yourself. It tasted pretty good – I wish the potatoes had been a lot crispier and there could have been more flavor (herbs?). Yukon Gold are definitely the perfect potato to use for this, though! Overall score: B- for lack of crunch

Mmmm...broccoli!

2 lbs. potatoes, preferably Yukon Gold, peeled and quartered
1/4 c. chop-ped scallions
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
4 tsp. olive oil
2/3 c. finely chopped smoked ham
1/2 c. grated extra-sharp Cheddar cheese

Set oven rack at the lowest level; preheat to 450 degrees. In a medium-sized saucepan, cover potatoes with cold water. Cover and bring to a boil. Drain and refresh with cold water. When cool enough to handle, grate, by hand or in a food processor. Transfer to a bowl. Add scallions, salt, and pepper; toss with a fork until mixed.

Brush 3 tsp. of the oil evenly over the surface of a 10-inch pie plate or cast-iron skillet. Spread half of the potato mixture evenly over the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle with ham and cheese. Spread the remaining potato mixture over the top, pressing evenly. Brush the remaining 1 tsp. oil over the surface. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the underside is golden and the potatoes are tender.

With a thin metal spatula or a knife, carefully loosen the edges. Shake the pie plate or skillet to be sure the potatoes are sliding freely. Invert a serving platter over the pie plate or skillet. Grasp the platter and the baking dish with oven mitts and carefully turn over. Remove the pie plate or skillet. Cut into wedges with a serrated knife and serve.

Serves 4.

Okay, I’m not really going on a grocery store strike. But I kind of am. I spend a huge portion of my limited funds at the grocery store each month, and when I thoroughly perused my kitchen last week, I realized I had stocked up on a LOT of food. Like, 3 lbs. of pasta. I’m not going to completely ban the grocery store in case I need essentials like bread or milk, but I’m calling a pseudo-strike until I can clean myself out a bit. I’m giving myself a $50 budget for the month. It’s usually $150-200, depending on the month. We’ll see how this goes. Therefore, my Foodie Friday posts may be a bit bland in the next few weeks, but I shall do my best to keep them palatable (oh yes, pun intended).

At least my pantry's not this bad.

I should share that as I was writing up this post, I mentioned to the lovely Kate that I was planning on “going on a grocery store strike and eating up my cabinets.” Her response? “That is awesome. Though cabinets aren’t exactly tasty.” Indeed, they are not. 🙂

I adore lo mein. That’s actually what started opening up my taste for Asian food. My mom sent me a recipe for chicken lo mein, so I figured I had to try it – if nothing else, it looked healthier than restaurant lo mein. It takes a bit of work to prepare, so I waited until my boyfriend came up for spring break. Overall – not bad!


For the most part, it had good flavor. The garlic and the ginger mixed with the sesame oil provided a nice background flavor that wasn’t overpowering – in fact, we felt that we could have used more garlic. My boyfriend particularly enjoyed mincing the garlic. The biggest issue was that it was quite liquid-heavy, even after letting it cook off for a while. The best thing about this recipe is that you can add any vegetables you want  – we used red pepper, water chestnuts, snap peas, mushrooms, onion, and just a little broccoli (no carrot). Overall score: B (I preferred the Sesame Chicken Stirfry)

What’s your favorite Asian food? Have you ever tried making homemade Asian food?

*Note: Sorry about the removal and reschedule of this Foodie Friday!

Tiny pies! When I first saw this post about tiny pies on Not Martha, I couldn’t resist adding them to my collection of recipes to try out. My boyfriend and I tried them last week and they were ADORABLE – and tasty! They were also incredibly easy to make.

First – and the best part about this recipe – you don’t have to make pie crust. You use refrigerated pie crust and yes, it really does taste good. We used a traditional muffin tin, but you can buy pans with smaller holes as well. Cut circles in the crust and press them firmly into the ungreased muffin holes. For the filling, just quickly mix together whatever you choose for your fruit filling – you can even use canned filling if you want. We made three strawberry pies, three apple pies, and one triple berry pie because we had enough crust for one final pie. Note: use cornstarch or flour to thicken up your berry pies – otherwise your pies will drip all over when you bite into them! Overall score: A-

Here are some photos of tiny pies!

 

Tiny pies in the making!

Fresh out of the oven

Oops... 🙂

Yum...strawberry lattice!

These turned out really well!

Little berry one!

Oh, Italian food, how I adore you. My intense love for carbohydrates is probably why I weigh what I do. This week, I had a helper in the kitchen – my boyfriend is in town on spring break! He and I love cooking together, so you might see an expanse of food this week. On Tuesday, we made Pasta Rustica with Chicken (Pork) Sausage and Three (Two) Cheeses, a recipe offered by Williams-Sonoma.

I’ll be honest – it was basically like the lasagna I make, except that it calls for penne pasta instead of lasagna and it mixes everything together instead of creating layers (for that reason, it was probably healthier as I wasn’t piling loads of cheese on each layer). Of course, I loved it.


Yes, I had substitutions (it’s my charm). We used a low-fat pork sausage instead of chicken or turkey sausage, which would have required buying links and de-casing them. We also didn’t have enough onion and chose to use only one clove of fresh garlic instead of two cloves. I don’t like ricotta, as mentioned in my Spinach Lasagna BĂ©chamel recipe post, so I used cottage cheese. I don’t care much for parmesan, so I sprinkled more mozzarella and a pinch of cheddar cheese on top. Lastly, I ran out of penne pasta (bad planner), so we cut up two lonely lasagna noodles to add to the dish. Everything else came together very smoothly – the spices mixed well in the sauce, my boyfriend was a whiz at garlic mincing, and the pasta baked perfectly. Overall score: A-

For dessert, my boyfriend and I tested out Japanese Kit Kats that his sister brought home.


We believe the flavors are original, green tea, cherry blossom, sweet potato, blueberry cheesecake, strawberry cake, strawberry banana smoothie, mint vanilla(?), wasabi, and cheese. We specifically requested sweet potato (me) and green tea (him/me), so we tried those last night. Very tasty, especially the green tea one! I want to collect all of them, which my boyfriend says is impossible. We shall see…

What’s your favorite Italian dish? Have you tried Japanese Kit Kats?

This week, I decided to try making Pappardelle with Squash, Mushrooms, and Spinach, mainly because I had most of the ingredients on hand and it looked fairly simple. It was fairly simple to make and was rather tasty!


Per usual, I had some substitutions – I had a lot of linguine on hand, so I decided to use that instead of pappardelle or fettuccine pasta as the recipe calls, and I realized that I had almost no mushrooms when the time came to add them. I had no sage, so I used a little parsley instead. Lastly, I didn’t feel like buying parmesan as I rarely use it, so I used mozzarella instead. The substitutions didn’t seem to make a big difference – it tasted great!

I started by getting the noodles cooking on the stove so I could focus on cutting up the squash and sauteing it in butter. The squash needs to cook thoroughly by the time the recipe is done, so it might even be a good idea to prep the squash ahead of time so the noodles don’t have to sit for long. Next, I added the few mushrooms I had, and later the spinach as that cooks very quickly. As soon as the spinach was cooked, I added the pasta and a little cheese, tossed, and voilĂ ! Pappardelle (linguine) with squash, mushrooms, and spinach. Overall score: B+

I also made Mama’s Macaroni and Cheese last night, which was not as amazing as I’d hoped, but decent.

Do you like squash? If so, what’s your favorite recipe?

This week, I tried out two new recipes, both of which turned out and I wanted to share. First, I made spinach lasagna bĂ©chamel last Thursday to bring to my boyfriend’s house for the weekend to save on dining costs. I love lasagna, but I’m trying to eat healthier and I had heard that this lasagna was a healthier alternative to traditional lasagna, so I thought I would give it a try.


Photo: PhamFatale

I’ll be honest. I thought I butchered this recipe. I did a few substitutions, which seemed like a bad idea once I was in the construction part of the recipe. First, you have to make the bĂ©chamel sauce, which combines six cups of milk with two sticks of butter (uh, healthy? really?) and flour – which makes a paste that you have to stir constantly. My hand was killing me by the time I was done! I also substituted cottage cheese for ricotta (I don’t like the texture of ricotta), which surprisingly worked well. Lastly, I didn’t have fresh parsley, so I had to estimate the proper amount of dried parsley. Somehow it all worked out – it ended up tasting just fine! It is definitely not a healthy alternative, however – I used 16 oz. of cottage cheese and two and a half bags of mozzarella cheese. The best part about making this – using regular lasagna noodles without boiling them first. Brilliant! I would make it again, but definitely prefer my traditional lasagna. Overall score: B-

I also made Chipotle’s Cilantro Lime Rice, which was AMAZING!

I was very excited to try out this recipe: Sesame chicken stirfry.


Photo: BBCGoodFood

I love sesame. Like, LOVE. So you can understand my excitement in trying this recipe out. Let me just say – this is somewhat difficult to manage if you don’t own a wok. Unfortunately, I didn’t even have a nonstick pan to use, so I was stuck using a “stick” pan because it was the largest I had. The hardest part was cooking the pieces of chicken – you had to coat them in a batter and fry them, but they kept getting stuck to the pan. I liked this recipe enough, however, that I will likely buy a wok to use in the future so I can continue to make this without sticking fuss. I also played with this recipe a bit. I don’t care for snow peas, so I added broccoli, green beans, mushrooms, and onions instead. I also used a traditional stirfry sauce with some sesame oil since I couldn’t find a sesame stirfry sauce. Paired with brown rice – it was delicious! Overall score: A- (for the difficulty in prep)

Any great recipes that you have under your belt?

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