Sunday, February 19, 2012

From the Pinboard to the Cutting board

Pinterest is awesome and you know it.  On a sidenote I'm planning on giving up Pinterest for Lent.  I spend unhealthy amounts of time looking through pictures and pictures of things.  But one of the most useful "Pinboards" I've created has been for recipes.  It's the best online cookbook you can imagine.  I've been trying to cook more.  I really do enjoy it, but usually I'm exhausted by the time I get home and making a bowl of cereal sounds easier.  Unfortunately, having work during the day and night classes keeps me from being able to make dinner very often.
I know, I know.  Poor Jason, right?  Ask him and he would say he's happy with his nightly dose of chips and salsa, but I've got to practice before the small fries come along.  And that is precisely what I've been doing at least a little here and there.  I've been trying to take pictures of all of my cooking adventures as well, but I'm not so great at this either.  Most of my pictures are either of the first step or the finished product.  I always forget to take pictures of the whole process.  But I'll give you what I got.  So let's begin!

Pizza rolls
When Superbowl time rolled around Jason and I decided it was our time to step up and bring some goodies to Bryan's annual Superbowl party.  Kimberly and Jason pretty much have desert on lock-down and Bryan is an expert at main course dishes.  We decided to tackle the appetizers.  Now, usually there are lots and lots of appetizers but my goal was to try and put a healthy spin on some of the classics.  So first came the pizza rolls:
Here are the ingredients from Pinterest:
3/4 cup flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
3/4 cup milk
1 egg
1 cup mozzarella cheese
Pepperoni slices
Marinara sauce for serving
In an attempt to make it healthier I substituted half of the flower with whole wheat flour, chose turkey pepperoni over the usual, and added in some jalapenos because capsaicin is good for you :)  I also used part skim mozzarella rather than the fattier kind 

To save time: on Superbowl Sunday:  Mixed the dry ingredients the night before
In a separate bowl mixed the moist ingredients together the night before
Added in the "toppings" and put the dough into a muffin tin.  Baked on  375 for 30 mintues
Result:  I personally really liked them.  But they had a very distinct "wheaty" taste that took away from the "pizza" taste.  We were also in a rush when we finished making them so I think they may have been a little underdone.  I may or may not make these again.  There's another pizza bite recipe that invloves mushrooms instead of bread for a crust that I'm excited to try first! 

Next up I made a spicy cauliflower.  This one was probably the biggest hit of the appetizers I made.  They were simple, had a little kick, and healthy all on their own.  
Recipe from pinterest:
1 large head cauliflower, cut into florets
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 tbsp olive oil
I also added in some scorpion pepper spices that Jason and I bought from Zest Fest.  This added a little extra heat and I think it was a good move. 
Again for time's sake: mixed all the spices the night before
Baked in the oven at 400 for 30 minutes
Result:  I really liked these.  Definitely a good healthy snack.  Unfortunately, I don't think they keep very well for a long time, so it's probably best to just make as much as you'll eat in one sitting.  
Spinach Artichoke Dip
Yum yum yum!  Who doesn't love a good spinach artichoke dip?  Well, I guess skinny jeans don't.  What with the ridiculous amount of cheese and sour cream most recipes call for.  But I found a delicious modified version on pinterest.  Here are the ingredients:
  • 13.75 oz artichoke hearts packed in water, drained
  • 10 oz frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed
  • 1/4 cup chopped shallots
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 cup fat free Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup light mayonnaise
  • 2/3 cup Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 4 oz shredded part skim mozzarella cheese
  • salt and fresh pepper to taste
  • olive oil spray
The biggest substitution here is the greek yogurt instead of sour cream.  Anyone can just choose to pick up the "lighter" sour cream, but this substitution is not only fat free, it's also protein packed, and in my opinion tastier.  Yay non fat greek yogurt!  

Chopped up the ingredients in our AMAZING blender
Add in the spinach
Mix it all together and store in refrigerator over night
Put into one of our lovely pyrex dishes and baked at 375 for 25 minutes in our toaster oven :) 
Result: Deliciousness.  Probably my favorite dish.  I love spinach artichoke dip but always feel guilty for eating it.  Now I have a recipe I can make and enjoy with a little less guilt :)  

Jason's Salsa
The ingredients of this dish are a secret family recipe a la the Garcia's and my wonderful husband.  I also forgot to take a picture.  But believe me, it was a huge hit at the party.  And that wraps up our Superbowl appetizer extravaganza! 

Breaded Shrimp
Originally, these were supposed to be included as an appetizer, but when we got to Bryan's there was so much food we decided to save them for later.
Pinterest Recipe: 
  • 16 oz jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined (weight after peeling 12.5 oz)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup egg substitute (egg beaters)
  • 6 tbsp Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 2 tbsp panko
  • 2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
  • Cooking spray (I used my Smart Balance)
I made a couple of changes to this recipe.  First, I added in some scorpian spices here too.  I learned very quickly that I can make Jason like anything I cook just by making it spicy.  Pretty nifty :)  Second, instead of using store bought bread crumbs I made my own.  This was a "healthier" move because it cut out the high fructose corn syrup found in most store bought bread crumbs (Jason and I only buy breads without high fructose corn syrup) it also allowed me to make whole wheat bread crumbs.
Jason helped me make the bread crumbs: First step - make toast
Put into (AMAZING) blender
Bread crumbs! 
The line up: Shrimp, Egg beaters, spices, pan
yummm we also had some jumbo shrimp
Ready to bake!  450 for 7 minutes...flip over all the shrimp and bake for 4 more minutes 
Finished product, served on the beautiful serving tray we registered for
Add in some wine and our super fancy table...ok maybe we still need to buy a real table...and dinner is served!
"artsy" shot
Result:  Very tasty!  Definitely one I'll use again

The Others
I also cooked two other meals but forgot to take pictures.  The first was a spicy Greek yogurt chicken and quinoa and the second a spicy curry chicken and brown rice.  Both of these were good.  I don't think the quinoa turned out quite like it's supposed to because I bought it from the bulk bin at our local Kroger.  I'm not totally convinced how fresh it was.  
Both of these were cooked in our crock pot (I love wedding registry gadgets!).  The crock pot is a Master student's best friend.  It is probably the only reason Jason and I get a home cooked meal at least once a week. 

Garden Soup
Every week Jason and I make big pots of soup for us to take for lunch throughout the week.  Jason makes a yummy southwestern inspired chicken soup.  I make a vegetable soup; Jason likes to call it my "If it grows in the ground it's in my soup" soup.  Which might be a little bit true.  But it's so delicious.  Here's the typical list of ingredients:
Vegetable broth
green onion
Red and Orange bell peppers
yellow squash
brown rice (cooked in our saweeet rice cooker) 
sometimes I add in a sweet potato or an additional type of squash (so far I've tried acorn squash and butternut squash) 
Yum!!  This is the soup I credit for helping me lose about 10 pounds before the wedding...hurrah soup diet!
That's all for now!  Hopefully I'll stay on this cooking kick.  This week I have some cod waiting to cook and am going to try Jamaican jerk chicken in the crock pot!  Hopefully I will also remember to take some pictures :) 

Until next time
The Vrly Fries 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

How Could It Be That My God Would Welcome Me Into This Mystery

I thought the 1 monthiversary would be a good time for some of my reflections about marriage.  For the short version please see the definitions of wonderful, joyful, and right in the dictionary.  I can't believe how fast this month has gone by.  Like I told Jason in my note to him this morning, it merely takes me closing my eyes (or scrolling through our wedding pictures for the 100,000th time) to bring back the rush of emotions I had when I saw Jason waiting for me at the end of aisle and the unbelievable joy I felt as we danced our first dance.  And it's not just because our wedding day was that awesome, it's because what it has led to.  What we have become in a month.  We're a family now and I am so blessed to be able to call him my husband :-)  

I know that marriage will not always be this rosy.  The multiple marriage prep classes we did reminded us of this.  It is hard and takes real work to get through some of the toughest times.  I do plan to write more about these sometime in the future.  I know I say that a lot, but so much has happened the past few months it's hard getting caught up with everything.  I'll just say I think the Church does it right.  We are well prepared to love and support one another as we go forth in our marriage.  

Okay now my reflections:  Remember when I said I think the Church got it right?  This extends so far beyond the prep classes.  This extends to the history of the Church, to the sacrament of marriage, to the institution of the Eucharist, to our relationship with Christ.  I remember reading a Christopher West book once and he related a story about his father-in-law receiving Communion the first time after his wedding.  He broke into tears and expressed that "for the first time in my life I understood the meaning of Christ's words, 'This is my body given for you.'"  This always struck me as interesting.  What was this change that was made in him so quickly?  How did the Mass suddenly come more to life for him through marriage?

Well, I can say I believe I experienced something very similar to this the Sunday after our wedding.  I became so overcome with emotions during the Liturgy of the Eucharist.  Here I was kneeling before the body of Christ with my husband with whom I was now one.  This Sacramental mystery we had been welcomed into is an image of our union with God in the Eucharist.  Beyond this I was realizing that every time we come to Mass we get to relive an integral part of our wedding day.  Not just see pictures, watch a video or passively reminisce, but relive, actively participate.  How perfect that the Mass is often referred to as the marriage supper of the Lamb. Christ constantly renews his Vows with us by offering Himself to us in the Eucharist.  So too do Jason and I offer ourselves to one another in marriage, living out our vows.  Even still when I go to Mass I feel I am participating in a new way.  I'm reliving our wedding day, being an active part of the wedding supper of the Lamb, and anticipating the day we enter into full communion with Christ.  It's pretty awesome.  I have read about this through Theology of the Body and believed in the mystery and sacrament of marriage, but to actually experience being a part of it is new and exciting.  It's not better or more perfect than it was before (you can't improve on what is already perfect) but for me it is more complete.  I love going to Mass with my husband  :) I hope in the future as we face troubling times we can look to the Mass as something which can always bring us together and remind us of our wedding day.    

On top of all of this, it has brought even more meaning to the words of our second reading from Ephesians 5 
For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother
and be joined to his wife,
and the two shall become one flesh.
This is a great mystery,
but I speak in reference to Christ and the Church.
In any case, each one of you should love his wife as himself,
and the wife should respect her husband.

If we are able to live out these words I am confident in our marriage.  If we always remember that marriage is a reflection of Christ's love for the Church and strive to imitate and share this love we cannot go wrong.   

And for good measure because no blog is complete without pictures here's a little sneak peek at one of our unedited wedding pics from the photographer (Susan Gilbert):

Happy 1 monthiversary!

The Vrly-Fries