Recipe post: Fully loaded baked potatoes

Ross and I made these baked potatoes based off a recipe we found on our crop share’s blog website and I thought they turned out really well! (And by Ross and I made these I mean he did the cooking and I shopped for the ingredients at Safeway, hah.)

 

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To prepare these delicious baked potatoes, you can bake the potatoes like you normally would. Wash the skins well, rub lightly with olive oil, and sprinkle liberally with kosher salt. For cooking time and temperature, this will depend a lot on your oven, but I tend to do 400 degrees for about 50-60 minutes for perfectly baked potatoes.

 

For the filling, prepare the following:

 

1 red bell pepper, sliced into thin strips

1 green bell pepper, sliced into thin strips

1-2 zucchini, depending on size, sliced thin

1/2 onion, thinly sliced

1 package of mushrooms, sliced thin

2 cloves minced garlic

1 14 oz can of diced tomatoes

4 links of Italian sausage, sliced into rounds

 

Heat a few tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet, then add sausage and onions, stirring frequently until sausage begins to brown. Add mushrooms and garlic, and cook until mushrooms begin to brown. Add the zucchini and peppers, and cook for a few minutes more (I would say 2-3 minutes over medium-high heat). Add drained tomatoes, and season to taste. We almost always use the hot Italian sausage, but if you like mild sausage make sure to add a bit more salt and pepper to the mixture — and if you’re like me, you’ll want to add a pinch of cayenne pepper for heat.

 

Once everything is done, you can split the potatoes in half, fluff the insides lightly with a fork, and top with the filling you just created!

 

This filling is also great over rice or pasta if that’s more your speed, and it reheats nicely for leftovers during the week.

Healthy eats with spaghetti squash

I’m always looking for new ways to prepare vegetables. We often get into ruts of, like, salad, glazed carrots, steamed broccoli, stir-fry, etc. A few months ago we tried a spaghetti squash for the first time — I thought it was OK, but my husband didn’t care for it. We tried to prepare it, well, like spaghetti, so I put a tomato sauce on top of it and I think that was what made it turn out kind of weird. This time, I was determined to try something different.

 

I basically used this spaghetti squash recipe from Emeril, but I used some dried herbs instead of fresh. It definitely would have been better with fresh herbs though, don’t get me wrong. We just didn’t have any. However, we usually get fresh basil through our crop share in the summer, so if we end up with a whole bunch of fresh basil I will definitely make this again with fresh herbs.

 

 

Spaghetti squash with herbs

 

Preheat oven to 375.

 

Cut squash in half lengthwise and place, cut side down, in a glass baking dish. Add about 1/2 inch of water into the baking dish, cover with foil, and bake for 45 minutes.

 

Flip squash cut side up and continue baking, covered, for 15 minutes. You’ll know the squash is done when the strands easily pull away from the skin. Discard seeds; add the cooked squash and about 2 tbsp olive oil (original recipe calls for butter, but I prefer to cook with olive oil) to a large skillet.

 

To the squash and olive oil, add about 1/2 tsp salt, fresh ground black pepper to taste, and dried or fresh herbs to taste. I used dried oregano, basil, and a pinch of herbes de provence. Cook over low-medium to medium heat until hot, and stir gently to combine.

 

When we were done, we added some freshly grated Parmesan cheese!

 

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Like I said, I would definitely make spaghetti squash this way again. The only thing about this recipe is that it takes forever due to how long the spaghetti squash takes to cook, but other than that it’s super easy and you can basically use whatever you have around. The spaghetti squash has a much more “neutral” flavor than other types of squashes (which isn’t to say it’s flavorless, most spaghetti squash has a slight nutty flavor with a bit of crunch) so it’s a good conduit for whatever type of flavorings you want to use. I also think this would be great with some sauteed kale mixed in, or perhaps spinach, but strangely we didn’t have either! (At the time, now we do, go figure, haha.)

Food review – Aunty’s Steamed Puddings

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty obsessed with World Market. We can walk there from our condo and that’s dangerous. In addition to having really interesting kitchen supplies, home decor, accessories, jewelry, furniture, beer/wine … they also have a bunch of food. And every time I go in there I see a bunch of interesting-looking food and drinks that I just have to try.

 

I found this in the post-Christmas clearance section last week. No they were not $3.99. I’m not made of money, hah. Like I said, clearance.

 

 

I thought … STEAMED PUDDINGS?! I need that! So it made its way into my basket.

 

The puddings came in two individually wrapped plastic cups covered in foil.

 

 

You just take the foil off and microwave for about 40 seconds. Super easy. You could also make them in the oven or in a steamer basket, I think, but who has time for that? After you microwave it, the top layer of the pudding puffs up like bread and splits in the middle. It’s actually really cute.

 

 

So now it was time to try it.

 

Mmmm, delicious!

 

 

As you can see, the top part is bread-like, and the under-layers are, um, kind of syrupy? So there was nothing about this that was like American pudding. But that’s ok, I wasn’t really expecting that anyway. Here’s what it looked like when I stirred it around a lot in its cup.

 

 

Since my husband is a lot smarter than I am, he actually flipped his pudding out onto a plate.

 

 

The bread part was sweet. The syrup/caramel part was REALLY SWEET OMG. Overall the whole thing was a huge sugar bomb. I would not recommend this if you have sensitive teeth that ache when you eat anything too sugary because this was all sugar, all the time. But I happen to really love sugar, caramel, and whatever sticky toffee is I’m sure I like that too, so this was perfect for me. I couldn’t really taste the dates that were mentioned on the packaging, though.

 

The pudding was heated all the way through (in fact, it was a little too hot) after only 40 seconds in the microwave, and once I was able to stir it a bit, the “sticky toffee” sauce mixed well with the bread-like layers. Portion size was on the small side, but with something this rich/sweet you almost don’t want a huge portion of it.

 

Overall I would say it was worth the few bucks (less than $2) that I spent on it. So yay World Market and your weird food. I will be back to try more weird food items in the future!

 

What’s your favorite type of dessert? Would you try pudding from the clearance food section? 😉

Recipe post – Potato leek soup

As I may have mentioned before, we get a weekly crop share through a local business here. In our last box, we got a bunch of potatoes and a bunch of leeks. Fortunately, I looked on the crop share blog and saw this great-looking recipe for leek and potato soup!

But … of course I couldn’t just make it the way it said. So along with the leeks, I also chopped up 2 sticks of celery, which I cooked along with the leeks. I think that’s why my soup turned out much lighter green than the photo in the recipe that was posted. I was really just wanting to use up this celery, plus I was kind of afraid of all those leeks! I thought it would be mega-onion-y but it was not at all. 🙂

In addition, I added some garlic powder for flavor at the same time that I added the other spices (bay leaves and chili powder).

In the end, the soup was … good. It was surprisingly plenty creamy even though the only liquid used was water, I guess due to the pureed potatoes. But it was lacking something, and I’m pretty certain that something was bacon. Luckily we have plenty of leftovers, so I think we will refrigerate them and this weekend, I’ll cook up some delicious, delicious bacon and add it into the soup.

 

 

PS — How good does this sound?

 

Now if you want to get fancy, and you’ve availed yourself of the aforementioned Black Truffle Salt, you can whip up some garlic truffle oil in advance to drizzle on top of your soup for an added luscious kick.  Just heat 1 Tbsp of minced garlic in oh about 1 cup of olive oil, throw in some Black Truffle Salt and let that simmer away on low heat for about 30 minutes.  Strain out your garlic, and bottle up the oil for future use.  I added a sprig of dried rosemary to my bottle, because the essence of garlic and black truffle was just not decadent enough.

 I guess I’ll have to get out to the Spice & Tea Exchange at some point and get some of that black truffle salt!

Weekend catch-up

Hey everyone — how’s your weekend going? Are you finally breaking away from some of that unreasonably cold weather?

 

First things first, an update on the 52-week money challenge I posted a few weeks ago. We’re up to week 2 and I transferred $51.00 into my savings account today! As I posted originally, I am starting at the “end” of the challenge because I’m impatient and like seeing results right away, LOL. So for those of you keeping track at home (and for my own benefit in keeping track), I now have $103.00 saved. Huzzah!

 

Next up, our Apartment Therapy January Cure for the weekend. This one was a doozy — cleaning out the kitchen, especially the kitchen cabinets. Ugh! I have to confess, we basically never do this. We clean out old food once every few years when we move, and when we notice we don’t have enough space in the refrigerator because of all our half-eaten leftovers. I know … gross.

 

Here are the assignments:

 

1. Clean all surfaces, inside and out, with a good earth-friendly surface cleaner.
a. Counters (and sink) — In progress. Also, we clean the counters at least weekly anyway.
b. Cabinets — In progress. Again I say, ugh.
c. Refrigerator — Done! All old leftovers have been cleared out, and inside/outside surfaces have been cleaned
d. Floor (if it needs it again) — OF COURSE IT NEEDS IT AGAIN! I don’t get this at all. Are there people who don’t clean their kitchen floors weekly? I would consider myself pretty gross compared to most of my friends/blogs/etc. (unless they’re all lying … hmmm …) and I definitely clean floors weekly, either by sweeping/Swiffering or vacuuming.
e. Stove — In progress
f. Other appliances — Microwave and toaster oven are done, and I believe we cleaned the coffee pot fairly recently so I don’t want to bother to do it again at this point, hah.

Remove shelf liners and replace or wash and replace. — We’re just renting so I don’t want to mess around with this, lol. But we are wiping down the inside of the cabinets when they are empty.

2. Remove all food:
a. past its expiration date
b. Unused for more than twelve months
c. In containers that are nearly empty
If a food item is old, throw it away; if it is unopened and you will never eat it, give it away. Aim to reduce the mass of your stored foods by at least 25 percent. — I believe we will reach this goal!

3. Remove all cups, glasses, and dishes that are
a. Chipped, stained or unmatching – unless the unmatching is intentional 🙂
b. Extra or unused
Seriously edit down the odds and ends in your glasses, dishware and servingware. If you notice that you are short on certain items, add a note to replace them to your list of projects.  — The great thing about the fact that we tend to move once every 2-3 years is that we’re pretty good about getting rid of old glassware, simply because it is less stuff to move that way. We got married in 2010 and since then haven’t accumulated a ton of glassware outside of what we registered for. Just a few wine glasses from a winery (and I believe we have broken at least 2 of our original wine glasses), and a few coffee mugs. And can you ever have enough wine glasses or coffee mugs …?!
4. Remove cookware you don’t use. — See above! We don’t tend to carry duplicate cookware from place to place. It’s much easier to pawn it off on someone else or toss it before moving.

 

Another part of this assignment was to cook a meal, which we (and my we I mean my husband as I was out volunteering at the cat shelter!) accomplished on Saturday. We get a weekly crop share from a local vendor and we love looking at their recipe blog in order to get an idea of what to do with all that kale/all those brussels sprouts/etc. So on Saturday, we made this recipe: Shredded Kale and Brussels Sprouts. Unfortunately, we didn’t have any Dijon mustard so the dressing was not as good as it could have been. But it was still tasty. We additionally did not use any cheese; and along with the sliced almonds called for in the recipe we added the roasted seeds from an acorn squash. And we also baked chicken tenders in the oven (no, they weren’t frozen in a bag first!)

 

Tonight’s plan is for steaks, and we will eat the leftover shredded kale and brussels sprouts salad along with the leftover acorn squash.

Crock Pot Pumpkin Turkey Chili (the modified recipe!)

Yesterday I posted an Instagram photo of our pumpkin turkey chili which I served with tortillas:

 

I based it off this base recipe from Allrecipes.com.

 

Now … I’ve made that exact recipe before. And it turned out … OK. Just OK. I even modified the recipe per some of the comments. I added canned corn and black beans, and added diced tomatoes and green chiles (commonly known as Rotel) as opposed to just regular tomatoes. And added extra spices too. But the fundamental problem is that ground turkey is just bland. Plain old bland.

 

So when my husband and I were cleaning out the freezer this past weekend and came upon some extra pumpkin puree, I thought … well I could make the pumpkin chili again, but this time I will do maybe half ground turkey and half Italian sausage. That should add more flavor.

 

But then we realized that we also had cooked turkey left over from Thanksgiving. And then I thought, why not make the pumpkin turkey chili with leftover shredded roast turkey?

 

I first started by sauteeing a diced green pepper, a diced medium onion, and a clove of garlic in 1 TBSP olive oil until tender, and used seasoned salt to flavor.

 

In the meantime, I defrosted my turkey leftovers (about a pound) in the microwave and shredded it with a fork a bit before dumping into my crock pot.

 

Along to the shredded turkey and the garlic/onion/pepper mixture, I added:

 

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

2 cups pumpkin puree

1 bag frozen corn

1 can kidney beans or black beans

1 can green chiles (I used mild, but you can use whatever spice level you want!)

1 can diced tomatoes

1/4 cup chicken stock (plus a few tablespoons more during cooking to make sure it didn’t thicken too much)

2 tbsp chili powder

Ground cayenne pepper (just a very small amount, a few shakes!)

Salt and pepper to taste

 

I cooked everything in our crock pot on high for about 5 1/2 hours, but I will say high on our crock pot is like … WAY too high for a crock pot. So you might want to plan for longer if you’re not using an extreme crock pot. Fortunately, it’s hard to mess up or overcook chili in a crock pot.

 

I thought it turned out much better this time around using the shredded Thanksgiving turkey as opposed to ground turkey. The meat was much more flavorful and you still got the creamy pumpkin flavor coming through. I would definitely make it this way again, plus it was great as a taco filling with a bit of shredded cheddar cheese on top!