Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Chicken Stir fry

We wanted our first "real" meal in the new kitchen to be stir fry (preferably venison, because it's super tasty, super healthy, and super free!)... finally had it tonight! It was chicken, but it was still delicious.

We made chicken stir fry because Nathan's mom and grandma aren't huge venison fans, and we were hoping they'd join us for dinner. Nathan's mom didn't get a chance to stop down, and his grandma is pretty weak (she's going through chemo). So it was just the two of us tonight.

I found a delicious recipe online at cooks.com a while back, it calls for venison/beef... We tweaked it to fit the vegetables we had available, and it was great. This time around, we kept everything the same (as our first time) and just switched out the meat. 

The chicken gets cut up into little strips so that it cooks quickly in the pan (or wok, if you've got one... which we don't). The recipe calls for 2 pounds... 

Then, the marinade: 2 tbsp wine/beer (we used tasty home brew the first time, tonight was just Miller Lite... which worked out fine), 2 tbsp soy sauce (we use 1 tbsp soy and 1 tbsp teriyaki... if you're trying to avoid soy for health concerns, go ahead and do all teriyaki), 1 tbsp cornstarch, ¼ tsp powdered ginger, ¼ tsp black pepper, ¼ tsp garlic powder. Put the meat in a bowl, pour the marinade over it... then, either marinade the meat for 1 hour at room temperature or overnight in the refrigerator. 

It doesn't look appetizing at all right now. But, it will be.
(Photo courtesy of me)

The marinading period is a good opportunity to cut up your vegetables. We like to use baby corn, broccoli, mushrooms, green beans, and peas. Water chestnuts, carrots, and onions are also great options (if you're not cooking for Nathan).

After the meat has marinaded long enough, add 2 tbsp of oil to a pan or wok and get it nice and hot. Drain the meat from the marinade (but don't get rid of the marinade... we just move the meat straight from the bowl to the pan with tongs). Add the meat, lightly brown it, and remove. Then you'll add your vegetables to the oil. Before adding vegetables, consider the cooking time for each of them. You'll add the vegetables, one by one, and leave them cooking. If you let your vegetables get mushy in the pan, they will not taste as good. Today, we added the broccoli too early... Once all your vegetables have been lightly cooked, add the meat back and pour the marinade over everything. Reduce heat and let everything simmer for 4-5 minutes.

So much green! So healthy! (Photo courtesy of me)

While you're preparing all this, keep in mind that you'll want a pasta or rice of some sort to go with it. Don't by Knorr Side-in-a-bag Lo Mein, it's pretty awful. White rice, fried rice (a whole nother kitchen endeavor), egg noodles... all great options. Cook accordingly before your stir fry is done simmering.

Once everything is done, plate the pasta/rice first, then cover your plate with stir fry and eat up! We've barely got any leftovers (but the leftovers we do have will be my lunch tomorrow, I guarantee it!)

So, what's for dinner at your house tonight?

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Pizza Pockets

I love Totino's pizza rolls (I also thought they were called Tostino's until about 30 seconds ago). But in an effort to increase my cooking abilities and eat healthier (so, not pre-made frozen dinners), I wanted to try to make my own. Enter: Pillsbury commercial showing easy weekday meals!

Attempt #1: Failed horribly. We used crescent rolls, which don't fold in half well and form awkwardly shaped pockets. Not a huge deal, but not very visually appealing. We also used the cheapest pizza sauce I could find in the store, HUGE DEAL. It tasted terrible. We ate them, and I kept saying "These aren't too bad, I guess..." Nathan kept saying "They're good, good job." Then, I asked the important question... Should I make them again? The truth comes out when you ask this question. Maybe someone can deal with a horrible meal for one evening, but again and again over the course of our lives together? No effin' way. "Well, the cheese is good. And the rolls are good. And the pepperoni is good!"

Attempt #2: Multiple changes. We used Pillsbury flaky layers rolls. They're round, so they fold into half-moons. They don't come flat, so you have to squish them like pizza crust to get a flat circle before filling them. Also, started using Ragu pizza sauce "for homemade pizzas!" and it is delicious. It actually tastes like pizza sauce. And then the pepperoni and price chopper shredded mozzarella like last time. They were tasty.

Attempt #3 (tonight): Cooked them in the new kitchen! So it took a lot longer, because I had to keep finding things (because Nathan organized all of it). Also, used 2% cheese instead of whole milk cheese, it seemed to be stretchier than whole milk cheese. I think they were just slightly undercooked, but Nathan seems to think this made them a whole lot better. He also had a lot of fun making his "personal pan pizza" out one of the rolls.

Open, finished and folded, and Nathan making his "personal pan pizza"
(Photo courtesy of my cell phone)

So... Pillsbury flaky layers, Price Chopper shredded 2% mozzarella, Hormel pepperoni slices, and Ragu pizza sauce. Open the rolls (don't be alarmed when it pops... make sure the dog is not around when you're opening it, he may also become alarmed). Squish them into flatter circles, they should increase in diameter quite a bit. Place onto cookie sheet (the cookie sheet shouldn't need spray/butter/non-stick anything). Spoon pizza sauce onto roll - thick on one half, slight coating on the other. Then, add some cheese and pepperoni (or whatever you love on pizza. We keep it simple). Fold them in half - I find that it helps to hold the pepperoni down with one hand and fold over, to keep insides from spilling out. Press down with a fork around the edges to make a seal, so that sauce doesn't ooze out and burn all over your cookie sheets. Poke holes on the tops with your fork! It allows some of the juices to cook out, and makes them look pretty on top... Also, they don't come out like giant balloons of hot air if you poke them.

Usually, we eat them with a knife and fork because they're a little big for finger foods (and also, if you don't take the time to cut them, you will burn your tongue/roof of your mouth). Since all our silverware is not away yet... we ate with our hands (and yes, I burnt my tongue).

Yummy, yummy. Murphy would also like a bite...
(Photo courtesy of my cell phone)

So, what's for dinner at your house tonight?

Friday, February 24, 2012


We went out for dinner tonight... 1) We had no non-meat meals to make. 2) The kitchen was still chaotic. The neighbors invited us to some restaurant in Troy that is totally grime-tastic, but serves really delicious food. It was a seafood night since it's the first Friday of Lent! I'm not really a practicing Catholic, but I still follow some traditions. So I had fried scallops and shrimp. Tasty, tasty.

Once we got home from dinner, we started organizing things! We have a counter top now. And everything is out of the office and in a cabinet of sorts! We turned the butcher block into our bar, all the alcohol is in there now. Pretty sweet. Ok, here it is:

GAH stuff everywhere! Nathan is freaking out! (Photo courtesy of me, on my cell phone)
I let Nathan organize pretty much everything, because he would just reorganize afterward anyway. I got to pick out the canisters today at Walmart though (only like $20 for all four) and pick out where they go though! Woohoo!

Hopefully we'll start cooking soon! Stirfry is scheduled for Tuesday, but being switched up to either chicken or pork tenderloin due to dinner guests' preferences... *grumble*

So, what's for dinner at your house tonight?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

First meal in the new kitchen... bust.

SO! The kitchen is not complete yet. But it's really close. All that's left is the counter top and the trim around the windows/doors... Oh, and knobs. Those aren't really a necessity, though. I'm still considering not putting any on. I think they'll finish it off though, so we might add them anyway.

I babysat the neighbors' daughters yesterday (all day), so I left a white room with no cabinets and came home to this:
First few cabinets! And a preview of the color! (Photo courtesy of my cell phone)

Woohoo! I was relieved, I wasn't sure how the color would look with the oak cabinets, I think it's pretty sweet. The amount of dust on the drop cloth covering the fridge is DISGUSTING. That's clear plastic.

Anyway, then I had to go to one of my night classes. So, I left Nathan hanging out with his buddies and hoped for the best. This picture is from when I came home from that class:
SO MUCH IMPROVEMENT!  (Photo courtesy of my cell phone)

So nice! The fridge is slid into place, the bottom cabinets are in (including the lazy susan, which apparently needs to stick out 6 inches from the wall on each side? weird), and the sink is all hooked up (I love our giant sink top).

Today, Nathan hung the last few top cabinets, and I helped him get the microwave hooked up (one of those over-the-stove with a vent kind). He was supposed to finish the counter top today, but a piece of it was warped so it didn't work out... After a few choice words, the manager at Home Depot said he can bring it in and get a replacement. (Keep your fingers crossed that it'll be in tomorrow!)

We originally decided that our first meal in the new kitchen would be venison stirfry... because it is FANTASTIC. Alas, that did not happen today. I came home from my afternoon class at 8:30, Nathan got home a little later... we were too hungry to take the time to make a real meal.

Mac'n'cheese with hot dogs? Yep, we went there. We had the hot dogs in the kitchen freezer (as opposed to the chest freezer that has an insane amount of venison and a few hams). And the mac'n'cheese got put into the cabinet last night during our organizing spree (We have so much storage and not enough stuff to fill these cabinets with... odd). So, Kraft mac'n'cheese with 2% milk and real butter (because we're not as healthy as I'd like yet)... and hot dogs boiled in water. Yum. Really, the idea of this alone used to make me want to puke. Now, it's one of my favorite things to eat when I need something quick. My favorite is when you add peas to it. We have frozen peas because Nathan doesn't like canned veggies, and they taste so good mixed in. Also, I coat everything in ketchup. Nathan coats everything in pepper... so much pepper that when I breathe, I can taste the pepper in my mouth. So, the best is mac'n'cheese+hot dog+peas+ketchup, but tonight it was sans peas.

I think I get this gross-food-combination thing from my sister... Oh, well.

So, what's for dinner at your house tonight?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

New Kitchen!

So, if you can remember how excited I was for the new stove... try to imagine my current excitement:

We're completely redoing the kitchen:

(Photo courtesy of myself, on my cell phone. The dome isn't up, but please feel free to admire the boob light.)


Nothing exciting now... (actually, this was last night) but IT WILL BE. Since this picture was taken, we went to Home Depot and picked up all our cabinets, counter top, knobs, paint, blah blah blah... Nathan already did 2 layers of spackle (while repeating "I hate sheetrock. I hate sheetrock. Our entire real house will be knotty pine."), tomorrow, he's doing one more layer and sanding.

Hopefully, we'll be painting on Monday... cabinets will get hung Tuesday, counter top will be put together on Wednesday, finishing touches on Thursday... it would be pretty sweet.

So imagine this space full of oak cabinets (we wanted hickory, but Home Depot said 7-10 days and really meant around a month, so no thanks), a golden/brownish/yellowish granite-looking laminate counter top, and paint that I think is called "tea time" and is also a goldish brown... Don't imagine baby poop, because that's what that description sounds like to me right now.

Until the kitchen is done, I'm not cooking anything. But, I will tell you about my romantic Valentine's Day meal! Since we're redoing the kitchen, we're strapped for cash. I offered to cook dinner. So, I made my mom's meatloaf and double-baked (cheat) mashed potatoes! And then we had a side salad. And Valentine cupcakes for dessert!

1 sleeve of Ritz, 1 lb of ground meat (venison for us), 1 egg, a "swoosh" of milk (something less than a quarter cup, gotta love Mom's directions), and enough ketchup to make everything look red. I say: The more ketchup, the better.
Crush up the Ritz into tiny pieces. Combine everything (except meat) in a large bowl. Then, add the meat. Mix it all up thoroughly. Form a "loaf" in some kind of oven-safe pan, I use a pyrex. Bake at 350° for an hour. Remove it from whatever you baked it in so that the grease doesn't harden onto the bottom of the loaf.

1 box of mashed potato flakes (too much work is involved in 'real' mashed potatoes for 2 people to eat, even on Valentine's day), water, milk and butter (as called for on box), 2-3 tbsp of cream cheese (or sour cream if you prefer).
Make the mashed potatoes according to the directions on the box. Then, pour them into something you don't mind using your hand mixer in (it would've scratched the pot I cooked originally cooked them in). Add the cream cheese (feel free to use a lot more, the more you add... the creamier and more delicious they are). Mix, mix, mix. Put into an oven-safe pan, I used another pyrex. If you were to bake them directly after originally making them, they'd need about 10 minutes in the oven. I made them in the afternoon (along with the meatloaf) so I could just stick everything in the oven once Nathan got home. That made them cold (duh). If you're moving them from the refrigerator to the oven, give them about 25-30 minutes. I added them at the end of the meatloaf's bake time, so the oven was still at 350°.

To make them both super festive, I made the meatloaf in the shape of a heart and sprinkled some swiss cheese on top of the potatoes in the shape of a heart. I was hoping the cheese would bake and get a little dark (so it would actually be visible), but that's alright. Here's a picture of them on the butcher block before I set the table:
(Photo courtesy of me, on my cell phone.)

Pillsbury Valentine's day funfetti cupcakes (vanilla, with red sprinkles mixed in to make spots). Pillsbury vanilla frosting (already came pink, didn't even have to use food coloring) with sprinkles. Followed the box directions (but didn't cover them afterward, so the one I bit into this morning was as hard as a rock).
(Photo courtesy of myself, on my cell phone. Ignore the failure of the bottom left cupcake).

So, I hope everyone had a wonderful Valentine's Day. And I hope my kitchen gets finished on schedule!
Tonight, we had sauerbraten at my mom's to celebrate my sister's birthday... I'm hoping to conquer that dish one day, but it's definitely not happening anytime soon...

So, what's for dinner at your house tonight?