The other day, when I was trying to grow plants from food (that’s a whole different post), I decided I had a lot of food that needed to be used up. Spinach, cilantro, some shredded chicken, and lots of celery. And since I love just throwing things into my crockpot and seeing what happens, I thought I’d give 10-bean soup a whirl. I was feeling good about it, despite my 30% success rate with making soups. (But those 30% are good, let me tell you. Another 30% is good according to Chris, but not to my picky taste, and the last 40% is just not.)
If I may say so, this one came out in the 30% success pool. And it’s filling and good for you to boot.
1) Assemble the main characters: In this case it was chicken broth and dried 10-bean soup from Sprouts. (Isn’t it pretty in a mason jar? My new dry goods storage system.)
2) Still chicken broth, but I wanted to point out, as this is the first time I’ve used this particular broth, that this brand comes out dark yellow and really smells like delightful chicken broth right out of the carton. Seriously, my soup smelled and looked like soup immediately thanks to this broth. I think it came from Sprouts along with the above Sprouts branded one.
3) All right, lets start chucking things in there. First, some beans. I used about a third of my jar, which I think was way too much in retrospect. I forgot that dried beans soak up liquid, whoops!
4) I had lentils, too, so in they went for extra dose of protein. You know, along with those ten different kinds of beans.
5) Shredded chicken.
6) Chopped carrots. Why are they in a square? I don’t know how it happened. It just did.
7) Lots of chopped celery.
8) I’ve never used dried garbanzo beans until this soup. They’re thick, so I was a little worried that they wouldn’t soften enough during the cooking time without soaking overnight, but they were nice and squishy by the end!
9) I love cilantro in soup.
10) Nosy cat. (Not part of the ingredients.)
11) Spinach goes in everything, by the way.
12) Not the greatest picture at all, but it shows the final mess. Not appealing looking, I know.
13) Forgot, I had to use up this dill, too. In it went!
14) And while my back was turned to the crockpot, this little stinker found his favorite spot, despite the ominous water bottle waiting to squirt his cat butt off the counter. 
The verdict?
My take: After pulling it out of the freezer for a quick and easy meal tonight, it’s still holding strong. I think I’ll add some more spice to it next time, maybe cumin seed or red pepper flakes. I like my soups best when they make me cry, and this one’s about a 2 on the spicy scale. Still delicious, still healthy, still filling. 
Chris says, “Mmmmm…. good,” and then returns to playing his Star Wars computer game. Sigh. I need to feed him when he’s not concentrating so hard on his screen.

Dinner + Exercise

These are the only photos I took today.

My theme for dinners this week was No going to the store. Not for anything. Meaning even if I found a cool recipe I wanted to try out, I had to use what was on hand as a substitute or wait. I’ve gotten into the bad habit of running to the store for that one spice, or sauce, or broth, and then when I’m at the store I end up stocking up on pantry items. Had to get through some of that stuff finally. So tonight’s dinner was spicy thai shrimp stir fry with a side of barley. I successfully used up the rest of our barley, a bag of frozen stir fry veggies, and a bag of sliced peppers. Our fridge, freezer, and pantry are getting lighter!

After dinner I had the sudden urge to go running. Hate when that happens. Also, I love it, because otherwise I would have gone right to sitting at my computer desk, and that burns negative 200 calories thanks to the snacks I bring with me. Speaking of running, I tried on Nike Frees this weekend when we were shopping at Plaza Bonita, and apparently the shoes I’ve had for years are absolutely ridiculous. Who knew? (My husband will say he knew, and that he’s been trying to buy me nice shoes for years. I think I might let him this time.)

Cooking with Pinterest

I’ve mentioned before that I’m really on a cooking kick lately. I’m growing to love having a Sprouts market about 3 blocks away, especially since I’ve recently discovered they sell spices by the ounce there. I’ve been Pinteresting ways to store spices today, and it looks like Chris and I will be making a special visit to the Container Store after church tomorrow to pick up some little stackable tins. 
I’ve really expanded our cooking resources in the last few months because of all this new cooking. Among other things that haven’t often appeared on our shelves are red peppers, apple cider vinegar, lentils, canned crushed tomato (yes, us! Consuming a form of tomato!), dried beans, and most recently today, a whole slew of Thai related ingredients: coconut milk, curry paste, and lemongrass. These were for tonight’s specialty, Thai Coconut Curry Soup. The recipe I used can be found here, but I did adapt it a bit for what I had on hand. 
My new favorite Hipstamatic pak, Foodie, was my weapon of choice for tonight’s documentation of dinner.
1. Ingredients: chicken broth, curry paste, lemongrass, lime juice/zest
2. Cilantro! Best stuff on earth. I’ll put it in/on anything.
3. Ingredients: Bean sprouts, ginger, cilantro root
4. Chris and Ryan, chillin’ like the villains they are, while the current episode of Big Bang Theory plays in the background.
5. Halfway through.
6. I’m a clean as I cook kind of girl, and after I’d started washing some of our cooking prep tools I was struck with how much yellow we have in our kitchen. My mother-in-law once asked me what ‘color’ my kitchen was, and I thought I’d navigated more toward greens over the years, but as it turns out yellow is actually far in the lead. I love it when things are monochromatic.
7. Soup!
8. Jack!
9. More soup!
My thoughts on this recipe:
1. Super yummy. I love the gingery, coconuty taste of Thai soup, and I’m so happy I can successfully make it on my own. I am ridiculously picky about soups. I LOVE soup when I get it right; I’ll literally eat soup for days when I find the right one. If it’s just a little too bland or off, though, it’s completely ruined for me. In the past, this has been my pumpkin soup and carrot/ginger soup, which Chris ate up enthusiastically while I popped a can of Campbell’s Vegetable Beef in the microwave to satisfy my soup craving. This soup is definitely on par with the restaurant taste of most Thai soups.
2. I would not use that many rice noodles again. The recipe calls for an entire box, which I was skeptical about because there were a lot of noodles, but after double checking I figured the volume of noodles would dwindle as it separated in the broth. It did, but the noodles seemed to soak up a ton of the broth which was disappointing; I really like brothy soup, and it turned out almost all noodles by the end. I would probably only use a quarter of a box for next time.
3. For the lemongrass, I had to do a little research to figure out what parts to use and what to throw away. The recipe called for puncturing the stems to release the flavor and tossing them in the soup for cooking, and removing when it was done. From what I read on one site, the lemongrass is mostly edible, so I chopped some very fine pieces of the lower halves of the stems to keep in the soup; the top parts were cut and thrown in whole for flavor only.
4. I had no idea you could buy frozen ginger. I just used some fresh ginger we had on hand. 
5. I didn’t have fish sauce, and I didn’t really want to buy something new just for one recipe, so I substituted with oyster sauce that I always have on hand for when I make heavenly beef and broccoli. I don’t think it changed much. 
6. While I usually LOVE green onions, I found them overwhelming as a garnish for this soup. I didn’t realize how much the flavor was being affected until I got a spoonful sans green onion, and the gingery coconuty taste was in full force. Yum.
All three of us really liked the soup overall, so it seems to be a winner. Next up on my list of Pinterested recipes: Vegan chili.

January the third

One of our “goals” this year is to be more healthy, especially in what we eat. So on December 31st, I spent a good deal of time looking up recipes for all natural or raw foods that we might be able to start incorporating into our diets. This week has been fun to try some new things I wouldn’t even have thought to make- like this carrot ginger soup here. Granted, it was still a little bland for my taste (even after adding cumin, red pepper flakes, oregano, garlic salt, and the green onions topping), but it sure felt healthy going down. Chris liked it just fine though, and he even took a big container of it to work with him the next day. I found that a small bowl was great for dipping organic spiced crackers into, and the soup sure made my lunch box smell nice and spicy!

For anyone wanting to check out more of the healthier recipes I’ve found, here’s my Healthy Recipes pinterest board. So far we’ve also tried the edamame dish and the jazzy pinto beans, both of which weren’t amazing, but still came out tasting okay. We’re just not used to eating non-processed, non-salted down dinners yet. 😦  I do have high hopes for the french lentil soup, though Chris says he’s a little “souped out” right now, so it’ll be awhile before we try that one. (And I have three containers of my spicy chicken noodle in the fridge right now to go through first.) I did try to make my own chicken stock last weekend, with the leftovers from a grocery store Rotisserie chicken and the odds and ends from some carrots, onions, and celery. It smelled amazing in my kitchen that day. So far we’ve only used the broth in the carrot soup, so I’m not sure how much different tasting it is than the boxed kind. I’ll have to try it in my spicy chicken soup to really compare.

Happy eating this new year!

How to make chocolate covered pretzels:

Step one: Develop a craving for chocolate covered pretzels from a co-workers’ amazing baking contribution to the staff Christmas party. 
Step two: Decide you cannot live without more chocolate covered pretzels.
Step three: Gather the following: chocolate chips, shortening, and a bowl.
Step four: Mix 1 cup of chips to 2 tablespoons of shortening in bowl.

 Step five: Microwave for one minute and thirty seconds.

Step six: Put away your roommate’s dishes (and your own red Mickey Mouse bowl) since you’ve got the time.

Step six: Mash the remaining chocolate chip lumps to create a nice, soupy texture.

Step seven: Sneak a picture of your hot husband wrapping the last of your Christmas presents.

Step eight: Toss in some pretzels.

Step nine: Drown pretzels.

Step ten: Lay drowned pretzels on a cookie sheet covered with wax paper.

 Step eleven: Fill cookie sheet with deliciousness.

Step twelve: Put cookie sheet(s) in fridge to set for about an hour.

Step thirteen: Think you could do the same with the butterscotch chips in your pantry.

Step fourteen: Discover that butterscotch chips do not melt well in the microwave. (In fact, they cause said microwave to smoke, and your condo to smell like burnt toast all night.)

 This is not what deliciousness looks like.

Step fifteen: Go down to the garage and find the cute Christmas tins your sister-in-law left when she moved out last November.

Step sixteen: Still waiting for the deliciousness to set in the fridge? Eat leftover sushi. (Don’t worry, it was leftover from like three hours ago.)

 Step seventeen: Try the butterscotch again, just for kicks. This time, use the stovetop and watch to make sure bubbling blackness doesn’t happen again.

Step eighteen: Learn butterscotch chips just suck, despite what your husband says, but still make him his own batch of butterscotch pretzels. He’s hot, after all, and what can you do?

Step nineteen: (Not pictured.) Fill Christmas tins with deliciousness. Store in fridge until the 25th.

What’s a new wife to do

… when her husband’s a better cook than her? Or at least more experienced. Or maybe just quicker at throwing meals together. Or just capable of looking in the fridge, tossing some things together, and voila! A dinner!
Seriously, it makes a new wife a little worried that she’s not pulling her weight around here. (Except for laundry, anyway. She does have the monopoly on the laundry.)
So what’s a new wife to do?
Bust out the crock pot. That’s what.
Chris may have the upper hand when it comes to creating meals from leftover things in the fridge, but I have the patience to go look up some yummy new recipes online and work out a real meal plan for the week that won’t break our bank. First round: Spicy beef roast with rice and edamame. I was a little wary this morning when I dumped in the can of pepperoncinis, and really wary when I came home from work and the entire house smelled very strongly of said pepperoncinis, but it was totally worth it when I tested a piece a few hours later. I love that the crock pot makes any kind of meat just fall apart. 
Chris gives it a 6 on the New Wife’s Cooking Scale. The scale, which we just hashed out in the last two minutes goes something like this: 1 is ‘I never want to eat this again.’ 5 is about at ‘I liked it, you did a good job, but I don’t love it enough that it should be a weekly dish.’ And 10 is the best home-cooked meal he’s ever had, which he claims ranks up there with some of his mom and grandma’s dishes (I know, awwwww, right?) So I’m happy with a 6. As long as my meals land between 5 and 10 I think we’ll maintain the happy little newlywed life we’ve got going on here. 🙂 And who knows, maybe I’ll be cool enough someday to attain a 10.
Something I learned from tonight’s cooking experience: frozen peas do not microwave well. I had little imploded peas come out of the steamer bowl, and they did not taste good like that. Edamame, however, comes out great, especially with a little butter and garlic salt. 
Stay tuned later on in the week, when the leftovers from tonight’s crock pot meal become spicy beef enchiladas!