Teaching myself to cook, one recipe at a time.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Pesto Grilled Cheese Sandwich


Just about my favorite thing to eat during my first trimester was grilled cheese. I’m not talking anything fancy or sophisticated, simply white bread and American cheese, like this stock photo from somewhere on the Internet:

I just couldn’t get enough of them. I’ve never bought so much American cheese in my life.

During the second trimester, I was more open to changing things up a bit. I guess I was feeling a bit more energetic and a little less picky about food. I remembered that my amazing sister-in-law had once made me a pretty incredible pesto grilled cheese sandwich, so I set out to make something similar, based on a recipe that I’d found.

First, I started out with some bread. The recipe said Italian bread, but I liked the looks of this beauty from the Wegman’s bakery.


Butter one slice…


Then put it facedown on the grill or skillet, or whatever you’re using. Add a coat of prepared pesto sauce to the other side.


Then add a slice (or two, if you’re pregnant) of provolone cheese.


Then some tomato slices,


And some American cheese (I overdid the cheese a bit, I think).


Take another slice of bread and put pesto on one side,


Put it facedown on the sandwich, and then butter the other side.


Voila! Now just cook the sandwich as you would any other grilled cheese sandwich. Flip it once if you have it in a frying pan, or just close the lid if you’re using a George Foreman grill.


And there you have it!


Delicious. Simple. Quick. Easy clean up. Cheese.


Can’t ask for much more than that.

Monday, December 2, 2013

DIY Oatmeal Bath

Hello, everyone! It has been some time since my last post, mainly because I really haven’t had the energy or desire to cook much of anything, much less document and share. But the good news is that I’m near the end of pregnancy (28 days to go, according to the countdown widget on my phone!) and cooking may regain prominence. But then again, new moms aren’t known for having time or energy, either, so maybe not for a while.

That being said, I’m officially on maternity leave as of today. This means that you may get some more frequent posts out of me in the near future. I’m not doing any cooking to speak of, especially since I’m on modified bed rest, but I have plenty of pictures waiting to be posted about, so you may get lucky.

For me, one of the distinguishing features of being this late in the third trimester has been itching. It seems that no matter how much lotion I slather on and no matter how often, I still find myself itchy all over. I’ve taken to wearing hubby’s t-shirts and sweatshirts when I can because the restrictiveness of my own clothes seems to make it worse, especially since the temperature outside dropped and the heat came on.

34 weeks

Enter the oatmeal bath.

I read online that oatmeal baths are a great way to soothe itchiness that lotion doesn’t really take care of. I initially picked out an Aveeno product on Amazon, but then I rethought it based on the price. Next, I found myself googling homemade versions, and it turns out that they’re all over the internet. Even better, almost all of them seemed simple enough that a girl on modified bed rest could make them.

Of the recipes I looked at, one of my favorites was in this post by Alejandra on her blog, Always Order Dessert. I decided to copy it. I modified it a little bit, though.

First, start out by grinding up 4 cups of old fashioned oats. Most recipes specifically said to avoid quick or instant oats. Since my food processor is small, I ground up a cup at a time.



I dumped all of the ground oats into a big plastic container.


Next, measure out a cup of baking soda. According to Alejandra, this just acts as a natural, delicate cleanser in place of soap.


I just dumped it in my container with the ground oatmeal. If I had a bigger food processor, I would have mixed them together with that, but I settled for mixing by hand with a spoon.


But first, I added another ingredient. In the comments, someone had sworn by adding powdered milk to baths to increase their luxuriousness. So I did the same! I just added a full cup of it.


Here’s everything together!


Now, Alejandra had suggested adding dried lavender buds (also ground up). I couldn’t find any at the store, though I can’t say I tried too hard because I just wanted to be in and out. Regardless, I found lavender essential oil and decided to use that in conjunction with the oatmeal mixture.


I didn’t put the lavender essential oils in the container with the oatmeal mixture because I figured it’d clump. Maybe if I had a bigger food processor and could have spent some time getting it to distribute evenly, but I don’t. So I put a few drops straight into the warm bathwater. Not hot, because hot water dries out your skin (increasing itchiness), plus it’s not good for pregnant ladies, anyway.


And then I added a cupful of my oatmeal mixture.


Then I stopped taking pictures. Sorry.

First observation:

The lavender smells like heaven. I’ve always loved that scent.

Second observation:

The oatmeal, when first added to the water, looked a tiny bit like vomit. Then it dissolved, making the water milky and creamy.

Third observation:


It made for a really pleasant, luxurious bath. Really. I just soaked in it for 30 minutes, and the only thing that could have really made it better is if my bathtub was big enough for me actually submerge my big belly in it. And if I’d dimmed the lights and lit a bunch of candles. And added music. But I did read a book on my kindle and that was nice.

Final thought:

I didn’t grind the oatmeal as finely as I thought I had. Some of the courser bits ended up on the bottom of the bathtub, but they were easy to wipe up with a paper towel after I drained the water. Regardless, I’ll probably regrind everything before the next bath.

So, anyone who has been having any itchiness issues or just wants to paper themselves without spending much money, I recommend giving this a shot.

Monday, August 12, 2013

4 Ingredient Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

A few months ago, hubby facebook-shared with me a photo of a stack of chocolate chip cookies accompanied by the simplest cookie recipe I’ve ever seen. I just did a little googling and I think that random unknown original facebook-poster stole the recipe from this blog, which shared it back in January.


Hubby was seriously jonesing for this cookies, and because they were so simple and probably delicious, I was willing to give them a try.

Ingredient #1: Creamy peanut butter


Ingredient #2: Granulated sugar


Ingredient #3: Eggs (forgot to take the picture before they were beaten in, sorry!)


Ingredient #4: Chocolate chips.


I didn’t have enough chocolate chips, so I compensated by adding peanut butter chips, too.


It makes a goopy cookie dough. Do yourself a favor and bake it on parchment paper to avoid making a sticky, baked-on mess.


After baking, just move them to a wire rack, just like any other cookie.


Mmmm, they taste delicious!


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Bacon Parmesan Pasta

So, it’s been a really long time since I’ve posted! I have a good reason, I promise.

I’m pregnant!

Ultrasound 12 week 3rd image

Yep, hubby and I are expecting our first baby right at the beginning of the new year!

This means that pretty much since the beginning of May, I’ve been pretty uninterested in cooking. This is partly because I haven’t had much energy, particularly at the beginning when I would come home from work, lay down on the couch, and fall asleep to Friends reruns. But it’s also partly because I just haven’t been interested in food.

Let me clarify. I have been very, very interested in food like boxed mac and cheese and good old grilled cheese sandwiches made with American cheese singles and white bread. Really, anything that involved cheese. But nothing that required effort.

Poor hubby has endured lots of meals that are thrown together with a jar of spaghetti sauce, a bag of frozen meatballs, and a box of spaghetti.

In the past week or two (I’m well into my second trimester now), I’ve started to get back into cooking, but so far it’s been things I’ve made and blogged about before.

Until tonight! You are finally getting a new post about something I’ve made!

Of course, it was a meal based almost entirely on the fact that I haven’t been to the grocery store lately and didn’t have much to work with. Work with me.

I present: bacon parmesan pasta!


Start off with a chopped onion. I had less than I wanted, but the only other onion I had was pretty old and soft. So this was it. Sorry for the blurry pic.


Next, I pulled some bacon out of the freezer and thawed it. I’d purchased it when I only needed a few strips for a chicken salad, so the rest was up for grabs.


I tried to chop it up with a big knife, but that didn’t work out so well.


So I used my kitchen shears. This is why I’m always on hubby’s case not to use these as general household scissors….


Toss the bacon in a big pan and start frying it up.


After a little bit, I added the chopped onion and a teaspoon or two of minced garlic.


While it cooked up, I opened a can of artichokes and chopped them.


Back to the bacon, because I like to jump around a lot. I spontaneously added some pure maple syrup to the bacon/ onion/ garlic mixture.




Oh, did I mention I’ve been cooking pasta in another pot? No? Well, I have. Problem is, I assumed that two boxes of Wegman’s brand farfalle pasta would have the same cooking time and combined them, only realizing later that they have two different cooking times. Thanks, Wegman’s. So some of my farfalle was cooked better than other farfalle.

So after the pasta is cooked and drained, I added a bit of olive oil and tossed it until coated.


I didn’t want to drain the bacon and lose all the grease (potential flavoring), so I just used a slotted spoon to transfer the bacon and onions straight to the pasta.


Then I opened a can of diced tomatoes and added some.


Next, I added the artichokes.


Finally, seasonings. Some salt…


Some pepper…


Some Italian seasoning…


And some basil…


After I’d stirred it all up, I poured in a little of the bacon grease to give it flavor and body. Not all of it, just some.


Finally, some grated Parmesan cheese. This really should have been fresh, not the stuff in a green plastic can, but oh well. Like I said, this was made with stuff I had handy.


And since I wasn’t following my recipe too closely, I went back and tweaked ingredients after giving it a taste. I added more tomatoes, etc. Finally, it was ready to eat!




Quite tasty. Satisfied the pregnant lady’s obsession with carbs, while also giving hubby plenty of bacon. I liked the sweetness of the maple syrup against the savoriness of everything else (that’s totally not a word, by the way). Not the healthiest thing ever, given how much of the bacon fat went into it, but I’m not counting calories right now and I haven’t gained too much weight to date so I can’t say I care too much. It was yummy and it’ll reheat well.

If you’re interested in the original, there it is. It was fairly basic (didn’t have the maple syrup, tomatoes, artichokes, or seasonings), but it’s a good place to start. It was kind of fun to make the dish my own for once, rather than following a recipe to the letter. Enjoy!