Hey, look, we cooked!

The passing of my sister’s wedding last week sort of reminded Dan and me that even though we both intend to attempt to get in shape before our January 2013 wedding, neither of us has done much to actually accomplish that goal. Well, other than buying a treadmill and drinking a lot of vodka tonics. (Because we’re trying not to buy beer. Very logical.) After almost three weeks of no grocery shopping (seriously, we ran out of EVERYTHING. Even triscuits. And pasta sauce. There was nothing to eat. At all.) we finally buckled down on Sunday, and since we were at the store, we figured that instead of our standard Sunday burritos, we would cook something, and make it healthy for once.

We really don’t cook much, other than chili a few times, and risotto a few other times, and I just didn’t feel like eating chili on such a hot day. I googled around for some chicken+pasta+veggies type recipes, and had found a few that looked good… until the light bulb went off and I remembered bookmarking Erin’s Roasted Veggie Chicken Pesto Pasta Salad over a year ago. Perfect! I was afraid Dan wouldn’t be interested in the same varieties of roasted vegetables that I was, but luckily we were on the same page.

to be roasted

We roasted grape tomatoes, bell peppers, asparagus, zucchini, and broccoli while we cooked pasta and seared some Mrs. Dash-coated chicken breasts. (We went with a pound rather than just one breast as recommended.) I was kind of shocked that we managed to time it all so perfectly. And it smelled SO GOOD while we were cooking.

Dan's serving up dinner!

We loaded it all into bowls (with four servings left over, which I’m SO looking forward to) and ate it while watching some Arrested Development. It did not disappoint, not even a little – I would say this is one of the best things we’ve ever made, but we don’t cook so much… still. This was so, so so tasty, and healthy, and flavorful, and I can’t wait to make it again.

roasted veggie chicken pesto pasta salad

(This is also counting for week 49 of the long-forgotten Handmade52 – it really has been months and months since I even remembered that I left this project hanging so close to the end. Project Life, my new love, counts for week 48, and I’m going to enjoy coming up with projects for the remaining week to finish this project for real.)

Week 41: Salad in a Jar

A few weeks ago, I was quickly scanning through old posts on Lifehacker, and came upon this gorgeous recipe on fat girl trapped in a skinny body. I’m constantly struggling with lunch at work, even more now that I stay in more often than not. No matter what I do, I can’t bring myself to be very motivated to put a healthy lunch together in the early mornings, and when I attempt it, I sometimes get it done for a day or two, and then end up buying lunch because I’m too lazy. I need something that I can just grab and go, and yogurt doesn’t cut it, and soup gets old.


So those gorgeous jars of salad full of healthy food sounded perfect. And easy, especially after I realized I could get quart-sized canning jars at the craft store for super cheap. I made my first batch two weeks ago, and even Dan wanted in. (When asked if he liked chick peas, he said, “They sound healthy. So sure.”) I couldn’t find quinoa at the grocery store I stopped at, so I went with orzo instead. These six salads fed both of us for a whole week, and it was fantastic.


We’re back to full work weeks this week, so I put another batch together this afternoon. It’s idiotic how easy it is to put these together. The important part is the layering, so that the dressing and lettuce don’t touch, meaning the lettuce stays fresher for more days in the fridge.

salad in a jar: break it down

For this batch of six salads, I again doubled the balsamic vinaigrette recipe that Julia lists in her post, just olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and honey, although I didn’t blend mine. I cut up two bell peppers, a pint and a half of grape tomatoes, a can of chick peas, a handful each of chopped pecans and craisins, 3 cups of cooked quinoa, and about two bags of lettuce. (You can really jam the lettuce in there.)

130.365 :: salad in a jar

They’re portable, healthy, and super fresh, and I don’t have to do anything in the morning. They shake up pretty well, but both Dan and I have found it easier to dump it into a bowl or onto a plate to eat it. It’s a big, filling salad, too, and let’s face it, I could use to eat some healthier food, especially at this time of year.

Week 35: Fajita Chicken

45.365 :: fajitas!

Dan and I haven’t cooked anything at home in a while, and when we were writing our grocery list on Saturday morning, we figured that we might as well make a nice dinner since we were making a big trip to the store to replace all of the food we lost during the power outage anyway. We had this amazing marinated chicken at our friends’ place last month, and Dan loved it so much that he’s been asking if we can make it ourselves ever since, so that seemed like the best thing to try.

handmade52.35 : fajitas!!

The marinade (I’m not sure where Jess got it, but it might have been a Moosewood cookbook?) consisted of a jalapeno, garlic, lime juice, cilantro, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce and a few other things, and wasn’t too difficult to put together. The chicken marinated for about 15 minutes before we cooked it in a pan on the stove (note to self: get a grill pan, asap!). Confession: I haven’t ever cooked chicken this way, and we were trying really hard not to call my mom to ask for advice, just because we really need to start figuring this shit out for ourselves. I got a bit snippy at Dan during the process, just because I feel like I should know this already, and not be so grossed out by raw chicken at the age of thirty.

we made fajitas!

It worked out fine, and we worked well as a team cooking and cleaning as we went. We cooked three bell peppers in the same pan, and then rolled them into fajitas. It was SO TASTY I can’t even tell you. We couldn’t resist second helpings and didn’t end up with any leftovers at all. All in all? This wasn’t a difficult dinner, and one that we both really enjoyed. Plus? It wasn’t unhealthy, which is pretty huge, too.

Week 31: Summer Vegetables and Pasta

I haven’t cooked in a long time, and really didn’t know what I wanted to make. But because it’s the middle of summer, it seemed silly not to cook something that used the seasonal things that are at their best right now. At first, I thought I wanted to make ratatouille, which I have made before but which perhaps wasn’t as tasty as I originally wrote, because I have never been drawn to make it since then. I perused some recipes, and came to the conclusion that what I really wanted to eat was tomatoes and zucchini.

So why didn’t I just make that?

15.365 :: summer in a bowl

The way my mind treats cooking is not always so simple. I did some online recipe searching, and couldn’t decide between a few recipes that were mostly the same. I read once that the evolution of a cook involves moving from strict recipe-following to looking at recipes and taking aspects but combining them into something new. I’m not about to say that I know what I’m doing in the kitchen by any means, but I will say that I did not use a recipe for dinner tonight, but read a few and gathered information, which I then used bits and pieces of in cooking this meal.

Basically? This was just whole wheat pasta, with tomatoes and zucchini, as I’ve said. I cooked up some garlic, an onion, two zucchini and about two pints of grape and cherry tomatoes (because I still can’t decide which type of tomato I prefer), fresh basil, and some other seasonings. I misjudged the cooking time, so the zucchini was a bit underdone, while the tomatoes were mushy…

But Dan and I ate our first truly home-cooked meal in our new apartment, complete with wine and napkins and real dishes and rolls on the side. I cooked, he did the dishes, and we ate an extremely tasty meal together that we both would like me to cook again. So that’s pretty much a win-win situation. Yay!

#29: Bake something just for me, without an occasion

Some days, I really don’t know whether all of these projects I have going are a blessing or a curse. When I’m in the midst of getting ready to move (more on that later this week), they do begin to feel more like the latter.

#29. Bake something just for me

But because I’m a bit of an idiot when it comes to following my self-imposed rules, I power through and do things like what I did on Friday. I had the day off, the usual set-up when I work a Saturday, and I spent the bulk of the day packing and sorting and sweating in general. So Friday evening, instead of relaxing or just sitting still for a while, I decided it would be the perfect time to bake. Because baking something just because is one of the few remaining 30 Before 30 list items, and I hadn’t made anything that could count for Handmade 52 last week, either. And again, I’m an idiot.

soon to be oreos

I originally put this on 30 Before 30 because lately it seems like I only ever bake for parties or for other people. And while I love doing that, there seems to be a lot of things that I’d love to bake, but the masses wouldn’t enjoy. Or, the masses only ever request chocolate chip cookies and holy crap am I sick of making chocolate chip cookies.

homemade oreos

Anyway! My cousin made homemade oreos around Christmastime and I couldn’t stop eating them. I can’t deal with more than three or four of the original ones, because me and chocolate aren’t the best of friends. (Oddly enough, though, cookies and cream is my favorite ice cream flavor. Don’t ask me, I know it doesn’t make sense.) So I have wanted to make them since then, and since the recipe source that I always go to first, Smitten Kitchen, had a recipe for homemade oreos, I was set.


These weren’t difficult, and I did leave off a half cup of sugar as Deb suggests to avoid an overly sweet cookie. I think I would try to make the cookies a little smaller next time, though. I learned the hard way why you shouldn’t buy the bottom shelf $7.99 hand mixer at Target while making the filling though. (And didn’t burn down my soon-to-be-vacated apartment in the process.)

The bottom line? These were heavenly. And you should totally make them. They aren’t exactly like oreos, but they are amazing in their own right.

#6: Make homemade pizza

I suppose it’s obvious at this point that I put making pizza on my 30 before 30 list because it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve been hoarding recipes, and although I made pizzas on New Years Eve with Dan and his brother, we used store-bought crusts for those… and even though I wrote on my own list that making my own dough was extra credit… I really, really wanted to try to make my own pizza dough.

So I did. It gets me extra credit on my 30 before 30, AND counts for week 25 in my Handmade52 project, too.


I’m not really sure, sometimes, what changes in my head so that I stop saying “oh, I should do that” and just do it… but that’s what happened last week. I found the yeast at the grocery store (without having to call my mom to ask where she thought it would be, even) and with a whole day off, I decided it was as good a time as any.

homemade pizza!

Making the dough was much, MUCH easier than I expected. (I used the Smitten Kitchen’s easy pizza dough recipe.) I definitely want to try this with whole wheat flour next time. (Side question for you homemade pizza dough pros out there: do you make the dough ahead and … refrigerate it? It seems like a lot of waiting for a weeknight dinner.)


I went simple with this first pizza (and okay, fine, I planned it for a day when my cheese-hating boyfriend wasn’t around, so I could avoid sauce and the large number of meat toppings he prefers. Not that I won’t make this with him some other time) and just used grated Parmesan and mozzarella.

homemade pizza!

And oh BOY was this super tasty. I can’t wait to make it again!

Week 23: Asparagus, Goat Cheese and Lemon Pasta

I realized recently that I haven’t really been cooking lately. At all. (Looking back – it’s been almost ten weeks!) Granted, there has been a lot going on. But now that things seem to be settling (at least until my birthday and moving this summer, but we’re not talking about that right now), I felt like it was time to get back to trying to cook again. Of course, I picked one of the hottest days of the year for my cooking renaissance. Nice.

handmade52.23 asparagus, goat cheese and lemon pasta

Anyway, I wasn’t looking for anything too complicated, and I settled on the Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for Asparagus, Goat Cheese and Lemon Pasta, because it seemed new enough (goat cheese!) but still easy enough for a weeknight dinner. I seem to go through phases with cooking, phases in which I become obsessed with one particular ingredient and only recipes containing said ingredient sound tasty to me. I suppose I could pick worse things than asparagus.


Anyway, it’s still the right time of year to get good asparagus, so I made this for dinner tonight. As per usual, I managed to make more of a mess than might have been strictly necessary, but this came together so quickly and easily! It was creamy but still light, the asparagus was so fresh, and the lemon brightened the whole thing up perfectly. Yum.

(Don’t worry; I didn’t forget Week 22. It’s coming, just later than usual!)

Week 14: Lemony Spring Risotto

The food supply situation in my apartment reached danger levels over the weekend (no jelly! no string cheese! one more slice of bread! no cranberry juice!), so I used the trip to the grocery story as motivation to actually cook something new, which I haven’t done in a while. I have been wanting to make this recipe found on the Weight Watchers site recently, because I haven’t yet cooked every type of risotto that exists. The recipe had all sorts of tasty-sounding ingredients: asparagus, peas, and lemon. It may not feel like spring outside, but I can force spring in my kitchen.

handmade52.14 lemony spring risotto

I only modified the recipe a bit – mostly by adding way more vegetables than they said to use. (I used about a pound and a half of frozen cut asparagus, because the fresh stuff at not-my-usual grocery store looked so sad, and a whole package of frozen peas, rather than a measly cup.) My only complaint about this recipe is due to my own error – it was a bit TOO lemony, but that’s because I went a little overboard when zesting the lemon and didn’t measure what I ended up with; it was most certainly more than the teaspoon that was called for.

But these? These are some leftovers I will look forward to eating (as opposed to that potato stew which is still in my freezer, making me feel guilty).

Week 11: Tomato and Sausage Risotto

handmade52.11 tomato and sausage risotto

I had a few days off in the middle of the week this week, and spent them perfecting my relaxation skills. (Translation: I sat on the couch and read two and a half books while Dan played video games. And it was awesome.) However, I wanted to cook for Dan again, both because he was on his third full week out of work after eye surgery, and because I didn’t have any bright ideas for Handmade52 this week. This particular risotto recipe has been at the very top of my food obsessions list (well, food that I make, and that list also includes chili and huevos rancheros), but I haven’t made it in quite a while, and I haven’t ever made it for Dan. Dan doesn’t do cheese, period, so I had to adjust this recipe so he would eat it. (Before you ask, yes, he would be able to taste and object to even a small amount of shredded parmesan cheese baked into something.) Basically, I added a bit more wine, salt, and butter, and omitted the cheese entirely. And really? I didn’t taste the difference. And Dan went back for seconds, so I’d say this was a success.

Week Nine: Chili

handmade52.9 chili

While this week’s Handmade52 project isn’t something new to me, it was a special request, and something that I haven’t made since August (really?!) (sidenote: having now been posting regularly on flickr since the fall of 2006, it sure does make looking back in time for tidbits like “when did I last make chili?” much easier!).

This recipe originally came from my friends at IBP manor, and I first made it myself in 2008. I made it on Friday night because Dan asked me specially to make it for him… and since he’d had unexpected and intense eye surgery on Monday (for a torn and detached retina… if you start seeing things floating in your vision that weren’t there before, go to the eye doctor, for real) and has spent the week recovering, I was obviously more than happy to do whatever he asked. (Turns out? It’s really freaking difficult when someone you love goes through something like this and you’re an hour away and can’t do much to help. He’s doing better now, but the recovery process isn’t quick, and he’s been pretty uncomfortable. Playing video games by now, but still, not a happy camper. Also: eye surgery is GROSS and one’s eye after eye surgery? GROSS.)

Anyway! I made chili and a double batch of corn bread and it tasted better than I remember. (I made it spicier than I would normally for Dan, and I liked it more than I expected to.) Here’s my version of the recipe, just for my own records.

IPB Chili, ET Style

Makes about six servings
1 large onion
3 cloves of garlic
3 bell peppers
1 habanero pepper (I used a little less than 2 on Friday)
2 tbsp chili powder
1/2 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp kosher salt
1.5 pounds ground turkey
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
1/2 bottle of dark beer
3 15 oz cans of beans (I use kidney, light kidney, and black)

Start by cooking the onions, garlic, bell peppers, and hot peppers in a few tablespoons of oil. Once things start to soften, stir in cocoa powder, chili powder, cumin, and salt. Cook for a minute or two, then add in ground turkey. Stir regularly while the turkey browns to make sure it’s cooking evenly. Once the turkey is evenly cooked, stir in diced tomatoes and a half a bottle of beer. Let that come to a boil, then simmer for 15 minutes or so. Once the flavors have all combined, stir in the beans (drained and rinsed), and a handful of chopped cilantro. Heat until the beans are hot. Top with grated cheddar, unless you are a cheese-hater.