Thursday, January 28, 2010


Lunch: Pepperoni and Cheese Calzones with Marinara and Strawberry JELLO
Dinner: Chicken and Dumplings (with veggies!), Rice and Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Today is adventure Thursday. Getting off the MARTA train this morning I suddenly felt this déjà vu/ nostalgia for France. Maybe it’s because I’m wearing my Pumas. So, I decided to go on an adventure between making lunch and dinner. I had a lot of time on my hands in France, I often spent my afternoons going on adventures. I decided I wanted to see how far it was to walk to Piedmont Park from the frat. It was a decidedly beautiful day for a walk; Sunny, low 60’s with a cool breeze. So, I strapped on my book bag (which contains my laptop and everything I might need throughout the day and weighs in at around 20-25 pounds) and headed out. I did not look up how to get there; I just headed in the general direction. On the way, I saw the Margret Mitchell house, outside of which there were a couple tourists snapping pictures. I saw a picket line of construction workers in front of a tall building (très français!). I petted a very cute Dalmatian who reminded me of Indie (most likely stupid). I saw a fountain outside of a spa that I really wanted to take my shoes off and walk around in. I did find the park although it turns out I went a rather round-about way which is fine as I was out for adventure. I found a much quicker way back. I also had to stop at Publix on the way back to get some milk as some little thief got into it and I needed milk for the chicken and dumplings as well as the French toast tomorrow. While at Publix, I found some grapefruit Perrier. I decided it was a sign that I had a good adventure because a. I love Perrier b. I love anything grapefruit c. grapefruit flavored Perrier is very hard to find stateside and most importantly c. grapefruit is my favorite word in French (pamplemousse pronounced pomplemousse) also puma is my favorite word in English. (Seriously, say puma a few times and see if it doesn’t make you smile.) I also found out that next time I go on an adventure, I should probably leave my pumas at home or at least wear better socks. (I hate it when your shoes wear the back of your ankles!)

Interesting fact: There was nearly 30 degrees difference between when I got on the bus this morning and when I got on the bus to go home.

About the following recipe:
The boys really love calzones; I also really love calzones. I love calzones because they are disgustingly easy to make and very versatile. I am rather hesitant to put this recipe up because it almost isn’t even a recipe. It’s more like a moment where you say “duh!” and then smack your forehead. But in the interest of keeping it real, I’m going to give it to you. It is honestly very hard to come up with ideas for lunch because they have to be quick (remember I’m cooking for 15-20 in only an hour) and they have to be fairly cheap but they guys also want a hot lunch. That makes variety rather difficult as you can only do so many hot sandwiches in a week, and the guys are rather leery of casseroles. The great thing about these calzones is that it meets all the criteria and it allows me to clean out the cupboards a bit. I’m always finding myself with some extra ham, bulk sausage or salami, a pound here or there. It isn’t really enough to make a meal out of, but throw it in some crust with cheese and voila… “calzone”. I know it probably doesn’t meet the traditional standards of calzone, and if you’re a purist you can call it a pizza pocket or something (although the sauce is not on the inside). I can even hide vegetables inside if I get the urge although I haven’t been that mean yet. I just want to let you know that I’m thinking about it.

Serves 24

6 tubes Pillsbury Pizza Dough, Thin Crust Style
3-4 lbs Mozzarella Cheese (or mozzarella mixed with whatever you got)
4+ lbs Pepperoni (or your favorite filling examples: ham, browned Italian bulk sausage, shredded chicken etc)
Garlic Powder
Parmesan Cheese
Italian Herbs Blend
Marinara Sauce (You can use the jar kind, which they have a large jug of at Sam’s or you can use this recipe for homemade)

Preheat oven to 400. Lightly grease several large cookie sheets. Unroll one tube of dough on a cutting board or on a lightly floured counter. Carefully stretch the dough just a little so it’s about 10x12. Cut into 4 equal pieces. Put a handful of cheese and a handful of pepperoni on each piece. Place the toppings so they evenly cover half of each piece leaving a little room around all of the edges. Take the un-topped side and fold it over the toppings and pinch the sides closed. If the sides won’t stick together, you can roll the bottom lip up a little with the top and pinch it and it should stay closed. Repeat this with all the tubes and you should have 24 calzones. Place the calzones on the lightly greased cookie sheets 2 inches apart. Sprinkle the tops of the calzones with garlic powder, parmesan cheese and Italian seasonings. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with hot marinara for dipping.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Hidden Tomatoes

Lunch Menu: Grilled Cheese Sandwiches, Chicken Noodle Soup and Tomato Soup
Dinner Menu: Roast Chicken, Roasted Red Potatoes and Green Beans

So… this is a frat kitchen and things break. Things break all the time because a. the things were cheap to begin with, frat boys don’t tend to purchase things with thoughts of them enduring beyond their stay here and b. it’s a frat house and things get used, abused and just plain trashed. Yesterday I noticed that the BBQ chicken I had put out for lunch was cold after an hour. I had put it on the black and decker griddle turned warming plate (they are after all, essentially the same thing), turned the griddle on and left it as usual. The guys, oddly, didn’t say anything about the cold chicken. (Eww… hot things should be kept at 160 otherwise they become a bacterial breeding ground. Besides who wants to eat a cold BBQ chicken sandwich?) I mentioned that we needed a new one to the guys in charge, but in the mean time I have to find a way to keep stuff warm over lunch. While some might enjoy cold tomato soup, I doubt gazpacho is something the guys will go for. Because of this, I have guys traipsing in and out of my kitchen (grrr!). However, it did lead to me to an interesting insight. One of the guys, in complementing the lovely meal I made last night (Swedish meatballs, buttered egg noodles and broccoli and cauliflower), let me know that none of the guys ate the veggies. He said, “We’re just not veggie people”. Then he filled up a big bowl of tomato soup and said, “Mmm, grilled cheese and tomato soup, my favorite!”. One of my rotational lunches is grilled cheese and a choice of chicken noodle or tomato soup. It’s easy and cheap and generally well liked (they are gourmands, not gourmets). While none of the guys may have touched the veggies last night, it seems that tomato soup is the favorite today. Never having monitored the soup intake before, I find it rather amusing. I didn’t even hide the veggie here. It’s right out there in all its pureed goodness. The most amusing part is that the same gentleman from above let me know that I put too many tomatoes in my chili. Yet here he is filling up on tomato soup. Some things I will never understand.

I had my first taste of Swedish meatballs at Ikea. At first I wouldn’t try them because with the light tan gravy, they look a little like they’re covered in snot. Then I tried them, and I found that I loved them. Tyler and I used to live rather close to Ikea and would sometimes go for a lunch of meatballs and walk it off looking at the interesting room configurations (if you’re going, plan on spending an afternoon and coming out with at least 3 things you didn’t plan on purchasing… like a room-size rug and an giant stuffed rat). Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Eww… over processed, mass-produced meatballs from a furniture store?”. Well, we all have our dirty little secrets and one of mine is meatballs. (So you can just hush! I won’t say anything about the McDonalds cheeseburger/ stadium nachos/ movie theater popcorn drowned in “butter” habit you have). Now that we no longer live within lunching distance of Ikea, I had to find another way to get my Swedish meatball fix. I researched recipes on the web, and came across one that looked promising, a little complicated, but promising. Well… it was ruination and a trip to pizza hut that night. With humiliation, I shelved my Swedish meatball dreams and stuck to random trips to the big blue box (Ikea…). Then… it crept back up. I was flipping through my Rachel Ray Orange Cookbook over the holidays trying to come up with some new meal ideas for the upcoming semester when I saw it, a recipe for Swedish meatballs. Say what you will about her, but Rachel Ray’s recipes are usually simple, straight forward and many of them are guy friendly. Well, I tried it out, making a couple changes as per usual, and found it was easy and resulted in a very tasty meatball and gravy. It was perfect to serve to the guys, and I could make a few changes for home to make it more figure friendly (I’m not going to bother with figure friendly for the guys; it’s wasted on them). Besides, who doesn’t love the novelty of a surprise ingredient? Cookies in the gravy…

Swedish Meatballs
Serves 25

10 lbs Ground Beef
1 cup Flour
2 cups Butter
7 ½ cups low sodium Beef Stock*
7 ½ cups low sodium Chicken Stock*
Salt and Pepper
14 slices White Bread, torn up
1 ¾ cups Milk
7 Eggs
2 tbs and 1 tsp Ground Allspice
35 Gingersnap Cookies, ground fine**

Pre heat oven to 375. In a bowl, pour milk over bread slices and soak briefly. Remove bread, squeezing to get rid of excess milk. In a mixer combine bread, ground beef, allspice, eggs, salt and pepper. Mix until combine thoroughly. Using a cookie scoop or your hands, portion out meatballs so they are roughly the size of a walnut (about a large tablespoon’s worth). Arrange meatballs on a cookie sheet so they are about ½ inch apart. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until cooked all the way through.
Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, melt butter. When butter is completely melted, whisk in flour; cook for 1 minute. Add chicken stock and beef stock to the saucepan slowly, whisking while you do to prevent clumps. Season with salt and pepper. Bring mixture to a boil then lower the temperature and simmer for 10 minutes. The gravy should be on the thin side. Add in ground gingersnap cookies, whisking to prevent clumps. Add the gingersnap cookies, whisking to prevent clumps (they will thicken the gravy). Add in the meatballs and simmer for 5 minutes. Serve over noodles, mashed potatoes, rice, etc.
* You may need more stock depending on how thick the gravy turns out; you don’t want it to be too thick as the gingersnaps will thicken it later.
**If get small cookies, you may want to do 40-45 cookies. I used about ¾ a pound of gingersnaps.

A family friendly/ Slightly Healthier version:
Serves 5

1 ½ lbs Ground Turkey Breast or Ground Chicken Breast
¼ cup Low-Cal Butter (Yay Smart Balance)
2 tbs Flour
1 cup low sodium Beef Stock
1 cup low sodium Chicken Stock
2 slices Whole Wheat Bread, torn
¼ cup Skim Milk
1 egg
1 tsp Ground Allspice
Salt and Pepper

Follow the directions from above

Monday, January 25, 2010

Tough Cookies Kid

It doesn’t happen very often, but when it does it is truly a sight to behold. That is, I’m generally a softy, a push-over, but get me angry and I can shoot with the big boys. Well, they’ve got me angry and all I can say is watch out. So this week will be all about tough love… or maybe tough shit (sorry, I warned you…). After all the problems at the lodge, after all the meetings, e-mails and discussions, they still screwed it up. Friday, there was much gnashing of teeth. I managed to keep my cool, I didn’t hurt anyone. But I think that was mainly because the problem causers stayed well clear of me, and we communicated via phone. I gave them fair warning. I let them know that they are walking a fine line with me and if they cross it again, it won’t be pretty. Well this week, it won’t be pretty.

I bet you can guess what happened. Yup, they failed yet again to get me the information. When they didn’t answer their phones Friday morning, I let a couple of the brothers know that the next week they would be having peanut butter and ramen because a. they didn’t get me the check to pay for groceries and b. they hadn’t told me who was eating. Unsurprisingly, the offenders were found in rather short order and made to give me the information I needed. I went grocery shopping, and it should have ended there. Then I went and checked my e-mail, and lo and behold… the numbers they gave me were wrong. Oops. Did I run out and get more groceries to cover for the mistake. Nope. I sent a very nice e-mail back saying tough shit (there I go again, ok, I didn’t really say tough shit, but it was certainly implied). I let them know I got groceries already and if there are any short comings during the week, they needed to let the brothers know why. I also let them know that their math skills were seriously wanting. I was a French major, and I abhor math. Yet, I still knew that neither set of numbers they gave me added up. (I know how many brothers are on the meal plan, and if the number of people eating is greater or less than the number of brothers on the plan… there’s a problem with the math). Hey they had their warning, I can be my father’s daughter when need strikes. Just ask me how I got out of paying a few for overweight luggage on my way home from France J (even more interesting, ask me how I got my luggage through the metro when it actually weighed more than I did).

I promised a recipe for buffalo chicken pot pie…

It’s in family size because you need to make individual pans otherwise the topping doesn’t turn out… which would be a very sad day.

Buffalo Chicken Pot Pie
Serves 6

2 lbs Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast, cooked and diced (you can use canned if you like, but chicken breast is better)
1 medium Onion, chopped
2 Carrots, chopped
2-3 stalks Celery, chopped
6 cloves Garlic, finely minced
¼ cup Butter
¼ cup Flour
½ cup Buffalo Sauce (I recommend getting the hot variety as it is diluted in the sauce)
2 cups Chicken Broth
Salt and Pepper
½ cup Cheddar Cheese or Blue Cheese Crumbles (I don’t like Blue Cheese, so it’s up to you)
2 cups Bisquick mix
1 cup Milk
2 Eggs
Olive Oil

Preheat oven to 375. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add in onions, celery, carrots and garlic. Sauté until tender 5-6 minutes. In sauce pan, melt butter. Whisk in flour, and continue whisking 1 minute to cook flour. Add in buffalo sauce, chicken stock and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil then lower temp and simmer 3 or so minutes until thickened. Add chicken and veggies to the sauce, and pour into a 9x13 casserole dish.

In a mixing bowl, mix together bisquick, cheese, egg and milk until well combined. Pour over chicken and vegetables, covering completely (mixture will be runny, don’t worry). Bake uncovered for 20-25 minutes or until biscuit topping is golden brown and cooked through. (If you stick a knife in the middle of the biscuit crust, it should come out without any white batter on it.)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Super Fabulous Lasagna Recipe

Here it is, my fabulous lasagna recipe:

Kristen’s Greek Lasagna
Serves 8

1 pkg Lasagna Noodles
1.5 lb Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast, marinated in Greek marinade
1 lg can Crushed Tomatoes
1 15 oz can Tomato Sauce
1 15 oz can Tomato Paste
1 sm Eggplant, peeled and diced
2 Portobello Mushroom Caps, sliced
1 sm Onion, chopped
4-5 cloves Garlic, minced
2 tsp Dried Oregano
2 cups Ricotta Cheese
½ cup Feta, crumbled
3 cups Mozzarella, divided
1 Egg, beaten
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Boil the lasagna noodles until just al dente. Sauté chicken over medium-high heat in a non-stick pan (no oil or spray) until cooked through. Set chicken aside. Sauté onions and garlic over medium heat for 3-4 minutes or until onions are just becoming translucent; add in eggplant. Sauté another 5 minutes or until eggplant becomes soft but not mushy. Add a little olive oil to the pan and brown the mushrooms, giving them plenty of space in the pan. When the mushrooms are browned remove them from the pan and dice them. In a large saucepan with a lid, combine crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, onion and eggplant mixture, diced mushrooms, oregano, salt and pepper. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat for 5-10 minutes or until heated through, stirring occasionally. When chicken is cooled, cut it into small bite-sized pieces (you don’t want large chunks of chicken or you lasagna will be lumpy. In a medium bowl, combine ricotta, feta, egg and 1 cup of mozzarella.

Assemble lasagna in a 13x9 baking dish. Start with a little sauce on the bottom, top with noodles, completely cover sauce by overlapping the noodles slightly. Top the noodles with 1/3 of the cheese mixture, add ½ the remaining sauce and ½ the chicken. Top with noodles then cheese mixture, the remaining sauce and the remaining chicken. Top with one more layer of noodles, remaining cheese mixture and the reserved mozzarella cheese. Bake uncovered for 20-30 minutes or until bubbly and the cheese on top is beginning to brown. (You may want to put a cookie sheet under your lasagna pan as some of the sauce might escape).

Monday, January 18, 2010


While part of me is still fuming at college boys, I am happy I had today off. It was one of the most beautiful days we’ve had in a while. Not joking, it was 63 degrees today. It is supposed to be beautiful for the next few days. Huzzah! This is what January in Georgia is supposed to be like. If only we still lived close to Piedmont Park… I could have taken Indie, our dog, for a good, long, terrifying walk. (Have I ever mentioned that he’s terrified of just about everything? He loves the idea of going for a walk; he just hates the actually doing it because there are other people out there and dogs and trash cans and cars and balloons and wreaths and children and ducks and leaves the blow in the wind and…). If only George (the cat) would allow me to walk him. I think he would love it. He’s so curious (curious George, get it? Get it? Oh, never mind), and he loves meeting new people. If he didn’t find the leash and collar so repugnant, I would totally walk him.

In cooking news, I auditioned for a reality show this weekend called Master Chef. I don’t really know what it’s about other than they were looking for amateur cooks and it had something to do with Chef Gordon Ramsey. So you just might see me on the boob tube in the future. Odds are you won’t, and even if I did make it, I most likely wouldn’t make it out of the first round where I would be blasted by the judges, told that I am an abysmal cook and should be relegated to nothing more complicated than Kraft Mac and Cheese and Tuna Helper. It was quite possibly one of the strangest things I’ve ever done. To start with, the application was twelve pages long. Twelve Pages! It included such questions as “Have you ever hit anyone in anger?” and “What is the last spontaneous thing you instigated?” or “Describe yourself in one word”. I like to think that I require more than one word to define. Then you had to bring a dish. They wanted something impressive something that is unique to you and your style of cooking. Well… huh. I’ll admit I was stumped. My style of cooking tends to be less impressive and more comfort, more like Snoopy slippers and less like Manolo Blahnik 6 inch, peep-toed heels. On a good a good day I might achieve brightly colored plaid rain boots (thanks Katie!). The point being, what in the world would I make? The other problem was how to keep whatever I make warm. The website expressly promised that they had no facilities for keeping anything warm. So, with all that in mind I decided to make Greek lasagna. Greek lasagna came about because my husband insisted that lasagna was gross, more specifically that ricotta was gross (he actually referred to it as cottage cheese... big difference!!!). I had on hand chicken, lasagna noodles, feta and spaghetti sauce. Thus Greek lasagna was formed. I updated It later with some sophisticated things like vegetables and I added the ricotta back in (mixed with the feta) because otherwise it was didn’t stick together. But all in all, it is a dish that is 100% truly mine.

I learned about the audition Friday afternoon from my mom (who heard it from a co-worker who reads this blog. Hi Martin!). I stayed up late chopping, boiling, sautéing and baking. I was up early the next morning so I could take a picture of the dish, make sure that it was as hot as possible, wrap it in layers of towels and then a really large insulated bag (Yay Sam’s Club bags!) and drive the hour+ it took to get to Buckhead. The Friday before had been sunny and warm and lovely. Saturday was cold, windy and drizzly. I didn’t bring an umbrella. I had to stand in line in the cold, rainy drizzle for nearly 3 hours. My lasagna actually stayed warm. I couldn’t feel my toes by the time I got into the building, but my lasagna was warm. Once I actually got in, I was shown to a small desk space in a room full of people (it was an auditorium in a cooking school) I had less than 5 minutes to plate my dish before the judges came by. I have never plated a dish for presentation in my life. So it took me about 2 minutes. I put it on a plate, threw on a little oregano and called it good. Like so:

So, I had time to observe the people around me. The woman next to me had this behemoth… thing. If my dish was Snoopy slippers hers was… well… shoes a crazy person makes out of cardboard boxes and aluminum foil. When describing it to the judges she called it pasta cake. It had chicken and spaghetti in it, beyond that I don’t know that I could explain it. I think the outside was over-baked lasagna noodles, and she didn’t try to keep hers warm. So it was cold pasta cake. Oy. Then it was my turn. The male judge took a tiny bite and asked me questions. Who taught you to cook? Why do you like to cook? What’s in your dish? How did you cook the eggplant? He looked really distracted while I answered his questions. I don’t think he looked me in the eyes once. The female judge did not try my dish, but she did give eye contact and asked a couple questions and then it was over. Less than 5 minutes tops. I stressed, I cooked, I stood in the rain for 3 hours, and I got 5 minutes. Oh well, it was an experience. Although on second thought, maybe I don’t want to meet Chef Ramsey and be on TV. I like laboring under the illusion that I am a competent and even sometimes creative cook.

Tomorrow I’ll post the recipe for my fancy Greek lasagna.

Friday, January 15, 2010

You Can Get Anything You Want at Alice's Restaurant (but not at Kristy's)

Being a fraternity chef may seem all fun and games, but there is a dark side. A dark side that makes me jump up and down yelling “KILL! KILL!!!” (I love referencing Arlo Guthrie). The dark side is that I work for frat boys. I know I know this seems rather obvious considering I’m a fraternity chef. But take a moment and really think about that. What would it really be like to work for a bunch of college boys who have crazy drunk parties and throw around perfectly good sausages (this is the 4th time I’ve found sausages or hot dogs thrown around the morning after a big party. I wonder what Freud would say.) If you answered frustrating, sometimes nauseating and generally resulting in the pulling out of one’s own hair/ kicking of concrete walls, you would be correct. Don’t get me wrong, I love cooking for the brothers. My dad thinks it must be the world’s perfect job. But, sometimes I would like to bring a big hammer and knock them all on the head a couple times.

The problem generally lies in the fact that I have to rely on getting all the information I need to successfully complete my job from a couple of frat boys. Things I need to know that they need to tell me: How many people are eating this week? When am I working and when am I not working? What is my budget?

In order to help smooth the flow of information I set up a schedule for myself, and let all interested parties know. By Monday, at the latest, I give them the menu for the next week so the guys on half meal plan can determine what meals they want to eat. On Friday immediately after serving brunch at 10:30am, I go shopping for the next week’s groceries (unless there are extenuating circumstances requiring that I shop on a different day). By Friday at 10:30 I need to know the four things I mentioned above. Number of times I’ve been given all four things by Friday at 10:30… probably about twice. Which generally doesn’t create a major issue as I am a smart enough person to take previous information (how many people generally eat lunch on Wednesdays, that more people will eat pizza than grilled cheese and tomato soup… etc) and apply it to the present situation. The problem is we’ve started a new semester, so the numbers are very different from last semester. Unfortunately, I don’t have an accurate count of those numbers. So, after asking the steward (the person who is supposed to get me this information) just about every day this week to please get me the information before I go shopping Friday… Well, it’s currently Friday at noon… Not only don’t I have the information, but I was just now told (at noon on Friday) that next week they will only need me for lunches as it’s rush. Ok… so what’s my budget? “Uhhhh… I don’t know.” When will you know? “Umm…” I live over an hour away and can’t go home and wait for you to figure it out, when is the soonest you can get it to me? “Can you give me an hour?” It’s probably a good thing that conversation took place over the phone because I’m afraid instead of kicking the concrete wall that I was kicking I would have been kicking a person. Also, I may have been shooting daggers out my eyes and breathing fire.

I think I need a little stress therapy today. So everybody sing with me…

You can get anything you want at Alice's Restaurant
You can get anything you want at Alice's Restaurant
Walk right in it's around the back
Just a half a mile from the railroad track
You can get anything you want at Alice's Restaurant

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Let Let Me Know What's Your Fantasy...

Wednesday Lunch: Chicken Gyros and Vegetables with Hummus Dinner: Brats, Baked Beans and Coleslaw

It’s entirely possible that I’ve lost my mind (what little of it was still considered sane). I get a bee up my… well… and decide to make something exotic or special. Tzatziki isn’t any easier to make than it is to spell. Why did I feel the need to make homemade tzatziki? (Probably because it can’t be purchased at the grocery store and it would be expensive to purchase it at my favorite Greek restaurant). Perhaps I’m merely miffed at the unappreciative audience that pokes at the bowl and says “what’s that” in a voice that suggests that I am, in fact, feeding them smashed worms. At least I didn’t make homemade hummus. Maybe I should feed them smashed worms… Except then I would have to get worms and smash them. In truth, the tzatziki turned out beautifully. I guess sometimes it’s hard for me to remember I’m feeding a bunch of college boys. They give me free range of the menu and the kitchen and sometimes I feel the need to act out my cooking fantasies because, let’s face it, Tyler isn’t about to eat that stuff at home. In case you’re wondering tzatziki is a cucumber-yogurt sauce that is put on top of gyros. At least the guys appreciated the gyros… The chicken would have been even better had it been grilled, but I already have to grill the brats today. And, I think I’ve mentioned before my utter detestation for that specific cooking appliance.

Cooking fantasies… it just seems wrong, but I do have cooking fantasies. I fantasize that I have a lovely, state-of-the-art kitchen filled with gleaming appliances and a cupboard full of pretty dishes to show off my masterpieces. Then the pantry… ahh the pantry. The pantry and the fridge are full of top-notch farm-fresh ingredients. The pantry (which is approximately the size of my current kitchen) looks like a cross between a specialty food store and a real farmers market. There is also an herb garden somewhere nearby which really is a fantasy as I have two brown thumbs. In the fridge there is crème fraiche, butter from a local dairy and unpasteurized cheese. (Ok… I might have separate dairy fantasies, so sue me!) Then the best part… the best part of all, I make whatever I want. I make all sorts of exotic and foreign dishes. From curry (both the Indian and the Thai varieties) to ratatouille. I might even make whole meals without meat (GASP!!!). I might just come up with something on the fly. Then, there are people there to eat my creations. People who love food and don’t say “Eww, what’s that?” or ask if I’m putting onions in something (in a dear God, please don’t put onions in that voice) or rip apart a carefully constructed dish to surgically remove all traces of mushrooms. They aren’t a bunch of sycophants though, they just aren’t picky and they’re adventurous and willing to try something new. Sigh… Somehow, unless I win the lottery, I doubt these fantasies will ever come true. (In case I do win the lottery, how much do you think it would cost to hire a bunch of foodies to come over for dinner every night? I would have to change the blog name to Adventures in Gourmet Cooking.)

Here is a delicious recipe for chicken gyros with homemade tzatziki:

Chicken Gyros with Tzatziki:
Serves 15

For the Chicken:

4 lbs Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast
1 large Head of Garlic, peeled and smashed
1 small container of plain yogurt (the little container, like you would have for breakfast)
½ cup Red Wine Vinegar
1 cup Olive Oil
½ cup Lemon Juice
¼ cup Dried Oregano
3 tbs Parsley
Salt and Pepper

Mix ingredients together until well blended. Pour over chicken breast, cover and refrigerate for a couple hours or overnight.
Heat non-stick skillet over medium high heat (no pam or olive oil please, we want to get a good sear on the chicken. If you use a non-stick skillet it should be just fine) Add the chicken and cook for 7-8 minutes or until golden brown on one side, then flip and continue cooking until golden brown and cooked through (if you’re chicken is golden brown and not done in the middle, you can throw it in the microwave for a couple minutes to finish it out without burning it). Allow chicken to rest 5 minutes after cooking. Cut lengthways into thin strips. Serve on warm pita bread with tomatoes, feta, red onions and tzatziki.
Note: This would be excellent grilled.


1 large (16 ounces) container Plain Yogurt
-Or- 1 16 ounce container of Greek Yogurt (if using Greek yogurt, skip the straining step)
2 tbs Olive Oil
1 tbs Red Wine Vinegar
4 cloves Garlic, minced very fine
1 Seedless Cucumber, peeled
1 tbs Oregano
A large dash of Lemon Juice
Salt and Pepper

To strain: line a colander with two heavy duty paper towels (or a few coffee filters or cheesecloth if you want to get fancy) pour yogurt over paper towels. Put the colander on top of a bowl. You want to use a bowl that is smaller than the colander so the bottom of the colander doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl. Cover the colander and refrigerate overnight.
Remove the bowl and colander, discard the liquid in the bowl and dump the yogurt into a mixing bowl. The yogurt should be considerably thicker.
Grate the peeled cucumber with a fine grater. You want it very small. You can use a food processor to shred it, and then run a knife through the shreds until it’s chopped fine. Squeeze the grated cucumber to remove some of the juice. Mix in with the yogurt. Add the remaining ingredients and stir until well combined. Refrigerate for an hour; stir before serving.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Start Your Slaving Job to Get Your Pay...

Monday Lunch: Cheesy Pigs in a Blanket and Chips Dinner: Spaghetti with Meat Sauce, Salad and Garlic Toast
Tuesday Lunch: Sloppy Joes, Tater Tots and Pineapple Dinner: Chicken Stir Fry and Rice

So I am now officially back at work. I’m not sure whether or not to be happy about this. On one hand I love cooking, getting a pay check, and not spending all day feeling like a lumpy couch pillow. On the other hand, I like sleeping in, dislike having to walk 6 blocks in the cold when I can’t find my hat or gloves and I sometimes I want to spend all day being a lumpy couch pillow. Also it means grocery day twice this week and having to figure out what the guys did with all my stuff (the answer: threw it away or hid it; and no, they’re not sure which one it is). The good news is they actually pretty much cleaned the kitchen. They cleaned out the fridge and “organized” the pantry. They also scraped off the seasoning on the griddle. I’m still confused about that one (also I don’t know how to re-season a commercial griddle).

Sadly, the frat house is rather empty. Apparently most of the guys do a co-op program during the winter semester, which means they aren’t at school and therefore are not here to eat my fabulous cooking. My little brother, for example, left for Tennessee Sunday to co-op for some big company. Who’s going to bother me every day and now who am I supposed to eat lunch with? I hate to admit it, but it will be a lonely semester without my dorky little brother. Since the house is so empty, the numbers I have to cook for have gone down and so has my budget. While one might think it would be easier to cook for fewer, they would be wrong. It’s actually cheaper per person to cook for more people (hooray buying in bulk!). Also, it’s been hard for me to scale back mentally. I have to keep reminding myself that there are only 8 people eating lunch today (I may have made 5 pounds of sloppy joes any way…). Apparently my I can cook for 2, 20 or 40 but not 8 or 15.

Being a normal, red-blooded girl, I relish compliments. Sure, I should be humble and say, “Aww… you’re too kind! You shouldn’t say that…” but let’s be honest. We all love compliments; we revel in them. Today I got a lovely compliment from one of the guys. He informed me that he hated sloppy joes, but he loves mine, and that he would only eat mine. Ok, so sloppy joes aren’t exactly a culinary masterpiece, but it’s always nice to hear that someone loves your cooking and that you have even converted them to a dish they previously avowed to hate. So, without further ado, here is my super fantastic sloppy joe recipe:

Kristen’s Sloppy Joes
Serves 8-10 frat boys, probably 16 normal people

5 lbs Lean Ground Beef
2 cups Spaghetti Sauce (I like Ragu traditional because it doesn’t have chunks)
2 packets Sloppy Joe mix*
½ cup- 1 cup Ketchup (depends on how saucy you like your joes)
3 tbs Mustard
3 tbs Horseradish (not the creamy style, the “prepared” style that’s in the refrigerated section)

Brown and drain the ground beef. Add the remaining ingredients and stir until well combined. Cook over medium until bubbly and heated through, about 2-4 minutes. Serve with pickles on hamburger buns. (Or, you can be like one of the guys and pour the meat over tater tots and top with shredded cheddar cheese for .. Sloppy Tots? Hmm… must think of a better name, that just sounds disgusting)

*Note: If you can’t find sloppy joe mix packets (and they can be hard to find) you can always substitute a mix of garlic salt, onion powder, chili powder, black pepper and just a little flour. I don’t have any measurements for how much, but I’ve used those spices in lieu of the packets and it turns out just fine.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Oh where oh where did my waistline go? Oh where oh where could it be?

Somehow between living in the south, living with my husband and my love of everything sweet and chocolaty I seem to have gained a few pounds. As it is New Years and I need to make one of those pesky resolutions and all that, I’ve decided to try getting back into a healthier life style and lose a little weight. There is only one fool-proof method I’ve found for losing weight. The best part is you don’t even realize you’re doing it. There is no weighing, measuring, or any of that nonsense. It just happens like magic. I call it the “Living in France” diet. Yup, that’s it. You move to France, and magically the weight disappears. I lived there for one semester and lost 20 lbs. I didn’t diet; I didn’t give up alcohol or chocolate (or any of the other wonderful, sinfully delicious desserts that are found on every street corner in la belle France). Of course, I walked absolutely everywhere not only because I had to but because I could. Also, I found my true love there: the market. Every Saturday the center of town became a festival of food complete with street musicians and performers. I’d never seen so much fresh and varied produce all beautifully laid out like a painting. It was so different, so beautiful, so inviting. I simply had to try everything.

Sigh… I still shed a tear when I think of the fresh artichokes and the jam lady (mmm raspberry lavender jam! Ooo or pumpkin citrus marmalade). Sadly the France diet is a little out of reach. Getting a job there is next to impossible plus Tyler has no desire to move out of Georgia let alone out of the country.

It looks like I’m going to have to stick with the old fashioned method… diet and exercise. As Weight Watchers and gym memberships are really expensive, Tyler and I are going to have to go it on our own. We’ve purloined a couple Weight Watchers “Getting Started” books and are going to use those to help guide us. Indie, our dog, has also promised to help by being more insistent that we walk him every day (the lack of sidewalks and street lamps make walking him out here in the country a bit harder). So in the spirit of going healthy, here is a healthier main dish that I found that Tyler absolutely loves:

Bourbon Chicken
Serves 4

2 pounds Chicken Breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
1-5 tbs Olive Oil
2 cloves Garlic, minced fine
¼ tsp Ginger
¾ tsp Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
¼ cup Bourbon (or Apple Juice)
¼ cup Light Brown Sugar
2 tbs Ketchup
1 tbs Cider Vinegar
½ cup Water
1/3 cup Reduced Sodium Soy Sauce

Heat oil in a large skillet. Add Chicken pieces and cook until lightly browned. Remove chicken and add remaining ingredients to skillet. Cook over medium heat stirring constantly until well mixed and dissolved. Add chicken and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Serve over brown rice.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Ahoy Mateys! Happy New Year!

Happy New Year…
Ok, so I’ve been woefully negligent in posting of late. I apologize, but in my defense, it has been the holiday season and much of it was spent elsewhere (as in not at home, and in some cases, nowhere near an internet source). The holiday season is now (finally!) at a close and I start back to working and slaving the in frat house kitchen next Monday. This week will be spent trying to sort out the enormous pile of music my dad gave me (and the enormous pile of laundry that’s built up in our frequent jaunts out of town) as well as finishing up some minor last-minute before I get back to work things such as fixing my car, Dora. Since it’s a week for catch-up, I thought I might get you guys caught up to speed as well.

Christmas Eve we managed to lock ourselves out of the house, and had to go bother my landlord (who lives in the middle of nowhere). I prefer not to think about it. So, after we finally managed to get ourselves back inside. We packed our bags and left again for my parents’. Christmas Eve and Christmas were spent with my family. Which means the drinking began as soon as we got back from 6pm Christmas Eve Mass. It started up again with mimosas with breakfast, continued as all the in-laws arrived (my sister’s in-laws and my mother-in-law) and went on straight through dinner. Dinner was as marvelous as we all hoped it would be, and much meat was consumed. My mother-in-law stayed through the weekend until Sunday morning. In order to entertain we went to see Avatar at the IMAX, and the GPS stopped working on our way home as we were on a dark country road with no idea where we were at or how to get home. Luckily, we weren’t far from recognizable territory and made it home.

The week after Christmas was spent babysitting my nephews. I dearly love my nephews, and consider them quite the cutest things going. That being said, I’ve decided to never have kids. I know that Patrick was sick and that Alex… well Alex is two, but oh my golly goodness! I’m fairly sure if I ever have to do that again, I’ll have a nervous breakdown. Between poor Patrick screaming because he wouldn’t eat (and would not let me put him down, or even sit down while holding him) and Alex’s general 2-year-oldness (“No!” “I can’t!” “MY POOP!”), I was fairly sure I was going to lose it! I still love my nephews; I’m just not sure I want some that I have to take home with me…

New Years Eve was not the bacchanalian revel of the past. There was no bar-hopping, clubbing or drunken revelry as in the college days. It was more low-key. After a day babysitting my nephews, Tyler and I went out to dinner with our friend Lee (whose birthday is the 1st) and then we all returned to the house to play Rock band until midnight. We were in bed before 1am. Kind of pathetic, I know. To bring home the point of exactly how pathetic we were, our neighbors were having a loud raucous party. The middle-aged neighbors with kids… they rocked into the wee hours of the morning. Sigh…

The next day (the 1st) we celebrated my husband’s and my brother’s birthday at my parent’s. The theme was pirates. We all made our own pirate hats and eye-patches out of craft foam and string (my dad was the hammerhead shark/ butt pirate, sometimes it’s better not to ask). We played pirate dice ala Pirates of the Caribbean; pirate dice is one of my favorite games and it translates nicely into a drinking game (btw, don’t bother going out to buy the official game, all you need are a couple packages of extra dice, a few plastic cups and the rules which can be found online). There were also pirate-themed coloring pages, word finds, and such. Much fun was had by everyone, including my husband who was given many pirate-themed shots of rum by my father. Ahoy Matey!

Here is what I made for Tyler on his birthday yesterday:

Chicken and Shrimp Paella
Serves 6-8

¾ pound Boneless, Skinless, Chicken Breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
¾ pound Shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tbs Olive Oil
1 small Onion, chopped
5 cloves Garlic, minced
1 Red Bell Pepper, cut into strips
1 Green Bell Pepper, Cut into strips
1 can Diced Tomatoes, drained
2 cans Low Sodium Chicken Broth
1 ½ cup Long Grain Rice
1 tsp dried Oregano
½ tsp Tumeric
½ tsp Paprika
¼ tsp dried Thyme
1 can Diced Chile Peppers
Salt and Pepper to Taste
1 Cup Frozen Peas

In a heavy, shallow sauté pan with a lid (or a paella pan) heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Lightly season the shrimp with salt and pepper. Add the shrimp to the oil and cook until just pink on both sides, about 4-5 minutes. Remove shrimp and set aside. Add chicken and cook until browned on all sides. Remove chicken and add in the onion and garlic. Cook until the onion is soft and translucent. Add the chicken and the remaining ingredients (except for the shrimp and frozen peas) mix well and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover. Simmer for 20-25 minutes until almost all of the liquid is absorbed. Stir in peas and shrimp and cook for an extra minute.