Teaching myself to cook, one recipe at a time.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Dog Treats

It’s common knowledge that I have two dogs that I love and dote on. Here they are, gnawing on bones under the coffee table.


They’re my babies, but with all the time I spend in the kitchen, I’ve never made them anything more special than a hardboiled egg. I have had a recipe for dog treats for a while but decided to finally give it a try. I could tell from the directions that it would be as time consuming as making sugar cut-out cookies at Christmastime, but I bought smaller cookie cutters and figured it would make a lot of treats, so I was willing to give it a shot.

First, start off with some oats.


Add some butter and boiling water, and let it sit for 10 minutes.


Meanwhile, prepare the following: shredded cheddar cheese…


A beaten egg…


And milk (I poured it in with the egg)…


The recipe says to include cornmeal, but some reviewers opted for wheat germ instead, since cornmeal isn’t the best thing to be giving dogs. I wasn’t sure how that would change the consistency, so I went with a mixture of both cornmeal and wheat germ, in addition to a touch of sugar and some beef bouillon granules. I figured that I wouldn’t be feeding these treats in large quantities, so a little bit of cornmeal wouldn’t be the end of the world.


Mix all of that (the cheese, egg, milk, and dry ingredients) in with the oatmeal mixture.


Next, start beating in whole wheat flour.



As it gets stickier and more stiff, curse yourself for doing it by hand instead of in your Kitchenaid mixer like a normal person would have done.




Finally, it should be a big, smooth lump.


Roll it out on the counter with a rolling pin and start cutting. The recipe said to leave it a 1/2 inch thick. That seemed pretty thick and I tried to go with it, though my second batch was thinner.



They baked for a lot longer than sugar cookies, about 40 minutes. I did two trays worth, both as packed as the one shown here.


Luckily they didn’t expand. I didn’t think they would, since they didn’t have much butter or oil or anything that would help them spread out, but I was glad nonetheless.

These treats won’t last nearly as long as regular milkbones that you’d buy, since they’re not full of preservatives, so I have mine in a big zip lock bag in the fridge. I suppose I should move some to the freezer.

More importantly, the verdict?

The dogs LOVE them. I do break them into much smaller pieces, but the dogs do really like them. This is significant, as they’re picky. Max has been known to reject most of the treats that the people at the store thought he might like, actually spitting out pieces of beef and venison and looking at the staff like, “Why would you give me that? It tastes like crap!” But he and his little sister, Kaya, both really like these. In fact, when I bring them on walks, both dogs are absolute angels. Wonderful!

P.S. Yes, I tasted them. Not bad. But not good either Smile

Friday, July 22, 2011

Stuffed Shells

A while back, a coworker accepted another job and decided to leave our company. We had a pot-luck luncheon in her honor. I was the idiot that volunteered to bring the main course.

I needed something that could be easily transported and microwaved, since we were doing the lunch at our off-site meeting. I also wanted something that wouldn’t be too expensive or time-consuming to make, as well as something that would appeal to a lot of people, since I was new to the company and had no idea what people’s food preferences/ allergies/ etc. were.

I decided on stuffed shells.

First, boil a box of jumbo shells in lightly salted water until they are tender.


I shattered this glass bowl while cleaning up after this meal, so I hope you enjoy the picture of it.


Next, in a large bowl, combine eggs…


…. ricotta …


… shredded mozzarella and parmesan…


…and salt, pepper, and dried parsley.


Mix well.


One by one, stuff the cooked shells with the cheese mixture. I use a spoon to help out. I also put too much cheese in each, end up with far too many shells and no more filling, and then go back and squeeze them all to get more cheese.


Voila! I have two square dishes because these will fit in a microwave. They are oven-safe and microwave-safe, so they’re perfect.


In a large bowl, combine tomato sauce (I think I used a jar of spaghetti sauce) with mushrooms. The recipe says to add in more mozzarella and parmesan, but I didn’t like the way it turned out when I did this last time, so I’m doing it a little differently.


Spread the sauce on top of the shells.


And THEN sprinkle with mozzarella.


It was late, so I packaged them up to bake the next morning.


The next morning, since I don’t need to be at work until 11, I baked the shells. Mmmm, don’t they look nice?


They were pretty good, in my opinion. I noticed that some people picked out the mushrooms so maybe I shouldn’t have added those, but overall they went over very well. In fact, I intended to have the leftovers for lunch for the next few days, but they disappeared pretty quickly from our shared fridge that I had to go out and buy a sandwich instead. I’ll take it as a compliment.

Comment if you want the recipe, since it’s already printed.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Sangria! Sangria!

Planning bridal showers from 400 miles away is hard. I guess I let the bridesmaid that was close take care of most of the details, though I tried to contribute what I could. My favorite contribution: sangria!


I had the idea of doing signature cocktails at this bridal shower. I think I was picturing learning how to make one drink and using a cocktail shaker all afternoon. I certainly didn’t want to use a blender, partially because I thought we’d be outside and partially because they’re just too noisy and annoying. The other bridesmaid suggested doing something with a punchbowl instead, and that seemed like a pretty good idea to me.

The bride is a big fan of wine, particularly red wine. Sangria was the natural choice. To be honest, I wavered a bit on it because I hadn’t ever had any that I loved. In fact, when I’ve had it in the past, I’ve thought that the wine would have been better without the pulpy bits of fruit and only politeness kept me from removing the fruit. But in doing a little research, I found a recipe that had such overwhelmingly positive reviews that I had to give it a try. After all, it was the perfect combination of the bride’s favorite drink and summertime.


I didn’t take pictures of the process because it was a little chaotic. Anyway, my hands were covered in sticky, sweet fruit juice. And I admit, I felt silly enough taking close-ups of the punch bowl after it was assembled.

But the process is simple. Just combine brandy (I picked up a $10 bottle, doesn’t have to be anything fancy), lemon juice, lemonade concentrate (I used pink lemonade concentrate), orange juice, a bottle of dry red wine, sugar, and soda water if you feel like having fizzies.

The recipe also called for triple sec, but the liquor store didn’t have it. I forgive them because the lady behind the counter gave me advice on how to treat my sunburn so that it didn’t hurt so much when I tried to sleep.

I also forgot to pick up orange juice, but compensated by squeezing fresh oranges.

And I forgot the soda water in the first batch. Oops.


Anyway, drop in fresh sliced limes, lemons, and oranges, along with some maraschino cherries, and you’re good to go.


The recipe said that you’re supposed to chill it, but I’m proud to say that it never really got a chance because I kept having to make more. In fact, the host ran out to get more red wine because of it.

A general note: if you plan on making multiple batches, buy enough lemons and limes to float new slices in each batch, since the red wine stains them.

I found time to have some, as well. And it really was so good. It did not taste like fruit floating awkwardly in dry red wine, but more like a sweet red wine with fruit undertones that were complemented by the floating fruit slices. Served on ice in cute little punch cups, it turned out to be the perfect drink.

Now I need an excuse to make some more.

Recipe: here or on Tastebook shortly.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Garden-Fresh Tomatoes

I bought some beautiful, plump, juicy, bright red tomatoes from the farmer’s market one Saturday. They were so colorful and beautiful that I couldn’t quite resist.


Then I remembered that I have a love-hate relationship with tomatoes. I generally like them, particularly when cooked, but I can’t handle large chunks of raw tomatoes. I never liked tomatoes as a kid, and my like of them as an adult is accompanied by the caveat that they can’t be too tomatoey. If they are in large, raw chunks, they gross me out. I never, never put them on my salads, and if they’re put there by other people, I’ll be childish and dice them. But sometimes, in the right dishes, I do really like them. I know that sounds weird, but I know I’m not the only one (right Ashly?). Anyway, so here I am with this bushel of tomatoes and no idea what to do with them!


I also happened to have some chopped red onion in the fridge, so I used the “search by ingredients” function on allrecipes.com to search for something that could use both. I guess I was feeling creative, plus I just didn’t want either to go bad before I got to use them.

I found a recipe for chickpea salad with red onion and tomato. It sounded unusual, but I had all the ingredients and it was really highly rated, plus I liked the idea of making a light salad instead of something heavier, like a pasta dish.

Firs step, chop up those tomatoes.



Open a can of chickpeas, drain, and rinse. Be excited to have something to do with chickpeas other than make hummus.


Here are the rest of the ingredients: parsley, salt, pepper, olive oil, and lemon juice. The parsley is supposed to be fresh, but I didn’t have any and decided to make do with dried. I was also supposed to add chopped garlic, but I overlooked it somehow.


Dump it all together with the tomatoes and chickpeas.


And voila!


To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much from this. It was so simple and all. But I tasted it, then tasted it again, and then tasted it again. I forgot the garlic until the next day, but it was so good without it. I couldn’t believe how much better this recipe was than I expected. I think I might make this for my next potluck, since I always end up making an entrĂ©e and spending up twice as much time and money as everyone else.

But, truth be told, I didn’t think it was as good the next day. Interesting, since the recipe recommends chilling it. But it was still good, and I ate the whole thing within 3 days. The fact that it’s healthy made it relatively guilt-free.

But I still had tomatoes to use up!

I happen to love bruschetta. Bruschetta was what got me over my lifetime fear of raw tomatoes, actually. The flavor and texture of it is somehow much yummier than simple chopped tomatoes are. Don’t ask me to explain, just go with it.

Anyway, I did a search for bruschetta recipes but couldn’t find one that I wanted to follow. The ones I found had ingredients I didn’t have, or incorporated flavors I didn’t want, or just didn’t seem right somehow. I decided to invent my own. Dangerous, but exciting!

First, chopped up my beautiful tomatoes.



I added some olive oil.



Then I added some dried basil (should have been fresh, but didn’t have any), plus salt, pepper, and chopped garlic.


And then I mixed it all up with some shredded mozzarella. Then I think I may have added some oregano.


Of course, bruschetta is useless without toasted bread of some kind to put it on. But I didn’t have the foresight to buy French bread or anything else appropriate, so I used wheat bread.


Sliced it in quarters and then popped them into the toaster oven until crispy.

And that was my bruschetta.


It was really good! I didn’t measure anything so I don’t know if I can replicate it. But we ate a lot, so I am certainly motivated to try. I recommend giving it a shot. If you do, let me know how it does. What do you do when you make bruschetta?

Recipes in tastebook shortly.