Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Playing Catch Up

52 is a big number for me this year. I've got 52 weeks to do more, and that includes reaching my goal of reading 52 books along with trying out 52 new recipes. Currently I'm making great progress with only the latter. Go figure.

Food >Books
No, but I really do love reading though. I had such high hopes as I piled up books over winter break. I kept saying
"This semester is going to be SO great I'm going to have SO much time to read!
(as I piled up 10-15 books that I thought I could finish by Spring Break)

Um, false. Well I've been doing plenty of reading...of email and job postings. I've also kept up with the light reading I've already had to do for class. With introducing more exercise into my schedule I've been far more tired at night then usual, which is great because I am going to be earlier and am not so tired in the morning. 

I'm going to set myself a goal of reading for just 10 minutes before every evening if not more and hope to finish the book I began by the end of January. Key word: hope. 

While I haven't been reading, I've been doing plenty of cooking! I know I've been racking up the recipes for my 52 in 52 challenge, but haven't had time to let you know about all of the recipes. Welcome to my most recent cooking escapades!

Mac 'n Cheese
The recipe I used was originally from Martha Stewart, however I adapted it a bit based on what I had on hand, and making the dish a little more health conscious. Chi Sigma Alpha, an honor society that I'm in, had a reception after our most recent inductions. We had a ton of cheese left over that I ended up with and I knew I couldn't have that just sitting in my refrigerator for fear I'd eat it all. Here's what I came up with...
1/4 cup flour
4 tbs (half stick) margarine
2 cups milk (or soy, almond, etc. I used almond)
Lots of cheese cubed small or shredded (I'm not sure how much i had but i'd say at least two of the regular size blocks you buy at the store)
1 box whatever shape pasta

1. Preheat to 375*
2. Turn on water to boil the pasta. Cook it while you're doing the following steps... (cook 'til al dente so it doesn't get mushy in oven)
3. Heat milk on medium in a sauce pan.
4. In a large skillet or sauce pan melt butter on medium until it bubbles. Once it bubbles mix in flour and whisk until smooth (about a minute). Then slowly add the milk in while you continue to whisk the mixture.
5. After all milk is added in wait for mixture cook a few minutes and start to bubble. Add in cheese and stir until completely mixed.
6. Mix sauce in pot with cooked, drain pasta.
7. Put into a baking pan (greased for easy serving). If you want sprinkle bread crumbs, extra shredded cheese, etc. on top.
8. Bake for about 20 minutes or until browned & crispy on top.

Breakfast Strata
For my friend Lauren's bachelorette weekend, we divided and conquered to prepare meals for everyone. Lauren's sister and I were in charge of breakfast for Saturday morning. Knowing we didn't want to do lots of prep work, but wanted something delicious, I consulted my mom for a recipe she had used to host a brunch a few weeks earlier. The recipe my mom used really only had sausage in the casserole, and I was hoping for a little bit more. As I've stopped eating meat (more to come on that later) I decided we'd go with veggies and do some turkey bacon on the side for those that wanted some.

So I subbed the pound (YIKES!) of sausage and instead used green and yellow bell peppers. We bought an onion and somehow completely forgot about it. I wasn't sure what people cared for but I'd love also including tomatoes, mushrooms, broccoli, black olives...almost anything into this dish. It would be cool to experiment with making a "Greek" strata that would use feta instead of cheddar. Also, we bought some nicer bread from the bakery section to use for recipe. The dish was a hit and was completely devoured!
 We're all looking absolutely lovely at this point...
Forgot to snap a pic before everyone dug in but as you can see it was quite popular!

Champagne Punch
Over break I was at a Christmas party with Lauren where we had some champagne punch made with cranberry juice that she absolutely loved. I decided to re-create that in a different light to make a fun and fruity drink for the bachelorette. Enter berry champagne punch! I looked up a few recipes and then crafted this off what I found and what we were able to get our hands on.
*Not actually our punch*

2 bottles of champagne (I used regular's forever a favorite)
1/2 bottle (2 liter) of diet gingerale
Minute Maid Berry Punch (use to taste, we probably used 1/3 of the carton but this will control the sweetness of the drink)
Frozen berries (we used raspberries & strawberries)

Pour the first three ingredients into a punch bowl. Let the champagne fizz down before adding the gingerale and juice. Afterwards add berries, be careful to not throw the strawberries in or the drink will splash everywhere! Enjoy!

Fajita Chili Soup
To go back to the bachelorette yet again, there was a Harry & David store at the outlets that we went to. They had soup mixes on sale and so I picked up a few. I've been craving some chili with having so many "chilly" days, haha. This one looked perfect!
Naturally, the instructions called for using a pound of ground beef. As I had some Boca crumbles in my freezer I decided to use these instead to keep this chili filling. I also added some diced bell pepper and onions to the "meat" mixture. This was absolutely delicious and I was even able to get Mr. Charming to eat a fake meat for me!

Red Pepper, Avocado & Black Bean Quesadillas
Didn't really need a recipe for this one but got my inspiration from this one that I saw on Pinterest. Since I've stopped eating meat I've been looking for more ways to add protein, and with beans being a good source I found this to be a nice way to add them into a meal. Along with the fat from the avocado it was really filling. I definitely should have diced the peppers and avocado to be much smaller, they ended up falling out everywhere and it was a complete mess to eat. But phenomenal nonetheless! I also didn't have any shredded cheese, but had fresh mozzarella leftover from cooking pizza with MC, so I chopped that up and substituted. 

If you try any of these out let me know how they go. I'd love to hear about different ingredients and substitutions to put your own spin on them!

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