Melissa's Table

Experiments with Pinterest recipes!

Stuffed Mushrooms September 19, 2012

Filed under: Cooking,Eating,Food,Pinterest,Recipe,Review — MelGag @ 1:27 am
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If you read my last post (Ice Cream Cake!) then you’ll know the 11th was my husband’s birthday. And what a birthday he had! Eight hours of MEPS! You see, Matt is the process of changing military branches. After three years in the Army, he (and a couple of the guys from his former unit) is joining the Navy. Unfortunately, the transition from Army to Navy isn’t going as smoothly as we’d like. We’re in a sort of military limbo where Matt is out of the Army but not yet in the Navy, so we’re hanging out in Fayetteville (Fort Bragg) waiting for things to get moving.

After spending his special day at MEPS, a fun-filled day of waking up at 4:30 a.m., stripping in front of lots of strangers, and getting poked, prodded and tested, he then got to drive the hour and a half trek home. Great way to spend a birthday, right? Since he was having such a lousy day, I decided to have a little surprise waiting for him when he got home. The ice cream cake was the first part. Part two was…

The PinStuffed Mushrooms by The Girl Who Ate Everything

Difficulty: 4 (1 = Easy Peasy, 10 = Frickin’ Hard)

I figured stuffed mushrooms would be a nice snack when my husband arrived home. Plus, he mentioned a few weeks ago that this was one of the recipes he’d like to try. So away we go!

LOVE stuffed mushrooms!

To read the full post, please visit my new home here!

 

Glazed Pork Chops September 12, 2012

Filed under: Cooking,Eating,Food,Pinterest,Pork,Recipe,Review — MelGag @ 2:18 am
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(Read this post at its new home here.)

 

When I buy pork, I tend to buy tender loin. It’s easy to cook, for me at least, and it generally comes out moist and tender. I have trouble with pork chops. I’m good at eating them, but I’ve never had much luck cooking them. They always seem to come out dry and tough. This is doubtless because I’m thrifty (read: cheap), so I tend to buy the cheaper boneless cuts. I probably overcook them a bit, too. When I went shopping this past week, the family pack of bone-in chops was only about $6. Awesome! So I bought them and, because I really wanted to get them right, I went in search of a good recipe. I wanted something that was relatively easy but wouldn’t dry out the meat. Go go Pinterest! When I stumbled on this recipe, I hoped I’d hit the mark.

The Pin: Glazed Pork Chops by Budget Bytes

Difficulty: 3 (1 = Very Easy, 10 = Super Hard)

Ingredients Assemble!

Hells yeah brown sugar!

The rub in the bowl is made up of the spices you see in the picture, brown sugar (the main spice) garlic, cayenne pepper, paprika, salt and black pepper. Budget Bytes says you can mix whatever spices you like with the brown sugar, but I went with their spice rub suggestion. Saute on medium/high for five minutes on each side. My chops were on the larger side, so as suggested I also put them in the oven for five minutes on 350. In fact, the chops I used were so big I could only fit two in a saute pan at once. Since they’re pretty easy to make, I did two this day and put the other two (already rubbed) in the fridge to cook the following day.

After five minutes in the oven.

Lookin’ tasty! Left = Mine, Right = Budget Bytes

Mine came out pretty close considering they’re clearly a very different cut. A little less glazy, I suppose, but still sufficiently covered in sweet gooey sugar. How were they, you ask. Wonderful! I grew up eating pork chops with apple sauce, so I love sweet pork. The brown sugar rub was perfect! It gave it the perfect amount of glaze.The meat had a wonderfully sweet flavor, and the cayenne and other spices gave just a tiny bit of heat. As for the texture, they were moist and tender and lovely. To be fair, my chops were fatty and bone-ful which made it easier to maintain moisture.

Still, these were the best chops I’ve had in a really long time. I didn’t even use the homemade apple sauce I had ready in case of dryness. (I still ate it, just by itself.) I’m almost ashamed to admit this, and I don’t usually do this, but I liked them so much I picked up my chop to gnaw at the meat around the bone. Nom!

Final Rating: 8.5 (1 = Bad, 10 = Best thing ever!)

Note: The only reason I didn’t give this recipe a higher rating is because, while my husband liked them well enough, he didn’t share in my complete and utter love for this dish. For him, I knocked the rating down a tiny bit.

 

Baked Hard “Boiled” Eggs September 3, 2012

Filed under: Baking,Cooking,Eating,Food,Recipe,Review,Uncategorized — MelGag @ 7:33 pm
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(Read this post at its new home here.)

 

It’s difficult to know what to title this post. The pin didn’t have a title. When you say “hard boiled eggs” people know exactly what you’re talking about. You drop a shelled egg into boiling water until it’s cooked. Then you peel and eat. Yumm! In this case, “boiled” is entirely inaccurate seeing as I didn’t boil anything. I baked, but if I say baked eggs it loses the descriptiveness. So, for today’s post, my title will have to be slightly wrong to be sort of right. Or something like that.

The Pin: Baked Hard “Boiled” Eggs by imgfave

Difficulty: 2 (1 = Easy, 10 = Hard!)

I’m just going to go ahead and post the picture directly from this dude’s website.

They look so pretty.

And that’s all (s)he wrote. Literally. That’s all there is on the site about this “recipe.” We like eggs in our house and hard boiled eggs are great to have in the fridge. I’m all for eggs that are “tastier” and “easier to peel” so let’s bake some eggs!

Just about to go into the oven.

I baked them for the full 30 minutes because I’ve been told my oven is not super hot. 30 minutes later…

Well that doesn’t look like the picture!

This is the second time I’ve tried this recipe and both times my eggs have come out covered in brown spots. Since there is no information on the recipe’s site about this phenomena, I was uncertain what was wrong. Is it rust from the pan? Is there gunk dripping from the roof of my oven? Neither! After a few minutes of Googling I found out those brown spots are normal. Thanks Alton Brown (courtesy of Greetings From the Asylum) for clearing that up. Their page has a slightly modified approach to this recipe where you place the eggs into ice water immediately after they come out of the oven. Since this wasn’t part of the pin (and I didn’t read it until my eggs had been cooling for at least 10 minutes), I didn’t do this. Possibly because of this my eggs were slightly overdone. The yolks were a little dry. Next time I would either bake the eggs for the minimum suggested time (25 minutes) or cook them for full 30 minutes then put them straight into ice water.

This second website says, “Baked eggs are better because they are less sulfurous (smelly) and the texture of the finished eggs is creamier.” The pin says they are “easier to peel.” Are they right? Were the baked eggs better?

Mostly, yes. Let’s break it down.

  • Smell: The baked eggs didn’t smell as … well, eggy as their boiled counterparts. Sometimes I find boiled eggs stinky. The baked version wasn’t stinky at all.
  • Peelability: So far, I’ve found that all of the baked eggs are easier to peel. My husband said he found a difficult one, but I’ve yet to encounter a tough shell.
  • Texture/Taste: When I tasted the first batch I made a couple of weeks ago, I thought they had a slightly better texture and flavor baked than boiled, but with this latest batch I didn’t notice a difference. It’s possible they only tasted better because I was expecting them to. I’m not sure. Still, they were good, and I’ll probably continue to cook them this way.

Final Rating: 5.5123479827394712347982734 (1 = Egg, 10 = Egg)

It’s hard to rate an egg. I mean, it’s a hard “boiled” egg. You either like them or you don’t. Now go bake an egg!

 

Southwestern Stuffed Peppers September 1, 2012

Filed under: Beef,Cooking,Eating,Food,Recipe,Review — MelGag @ 5:54 pm
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(Read this post at its new home here.)

 

I’m cheating a bit with this review because I’ve made this recipe once before. When I say I “made this recipe once before” I should clarify. I made a dish very closely based on this recipe. Basically, I took this recipe and modified it slightly to suit my and my husband’s palette. It was essentially the same recipe minus a few ingredients and the main change being the cooking method. This time, I followed the pinned recipe as closely as I could. As we go, I’ll take you through the process comparing both cooking ventures. For ease of reading, my initial endevour will be in italics. First, let’s look at the pin.

The Pin: Southwestern Stuffed Peppers by Simply Love Food

Difficulty: 4 (1 = Ramen, 10 = Beef Wellington)

I chose this pin because I really wanted to cook stuffed peppers. When I did a search for “stuffed peppers” on Pinterest, this is one of the first recipes listed. I think the first (and last) time I had stuffed peppers was 20 years ago. My Grandmother made them. I remember being extremely excited while she was cooking them. I’d never heard of such a dish! Unfortunately the final dish was a bit of a let down. I vaguely remember thinking they were tasteless (sorry Gramma!), so when searching for this recipe, I decided to veer away from the traditional “Italian” version of the dish. Being that my family (re: my husband) is an avid Chipotle eater, Southwestern Stuffed Peppers seemed the right way to go. Let’s start with the ingredients.

That’s a lot of stuff!

Okay, I substituted one thing here. I used ground beef instead of ground turkey. Sorry folks, but I really hate ground turkey. When I was little, my mom used to try to sneak it in things without my knowing: chili, hamburger helper, etc. She claimed I wouldn’t notice the difference. Apparently my 10ish year old taste buds were pretty good because I could spot the turkey every time, and I didn’t like it. I still don’t, and not for lack of trying. If you like ground turkey, I’m sure this recipe would be just as good, but I’ll stick with beef.

Protein variation aside, the ingredients above entail everything listed in the recipe.  The taco seasoning I used is a different pin that I’ve had on my “Love Cooking” board for some time. It doesn’t warrant its own post, but it’s good. Go ahead and use it.

When I first made this recipe, I omitted a few items:

  • Corn: As I’ve mentioned before, my husband and I aren’t huge fans of corn cooked into things.
  • Cilantro: I didn’t have any in the house and didn’t feel like running out.
  • Avacado: See Cilantro. Yeah, I’m lazy sometimes.

Now as you cook, don’t forget to get distracted by your son raiding your tupperware cabinet. Cooking while chasing a child who is hell-bent on opening every cabinet in the room (the dangerous ones are child proofed, don’t worry!) is a tough.

Thankfully, my husband came along and collected this little punk shortly after I took this picture, so I could cook in relative peace.

Now where was I? Ingredients collected? Check! Tupperware picked up off the floor so I don’t slip on it and fall on my face? Check! On with the cooking!

The peppers went into the 400 degree oven for 20 minutes while I cooked the rice, sauteed the onions and browned the hamburger. Once everything was sauteed, chopped and mixed with the other ingredients, into the semi-cooked peppers it went and back into the oven for another 20 minutes.

I did this slightly different the first time. Per other recipes I found online, I did not pre-bake the peppers or brown the meat beforehand. I cooked the rice and onions, but I left the meat raw. I spooned the mixture (with rawmeat) into the raw peppers and baked them for an hour. Also, the recipe calls for a full 16 oz jar of salsa to be thrown into the mix. I used a little more than half of a jar of salsa, probably 9 or 10 oz.

Twenty minutes later, I sprinkled some shredded cheese over top of the peppers and put them back into the oven just long enough for the cheese to melt. (Note: I went a little light on the cheddar because my husband is not a cheddar fan.) On my first venture I used a mixture of cheddar and pepper jack cheese.

But one is missing! (Left: Mine – Right: Simply Love Food)

Once the cheese was nice and melty, I pulled them out of the oven and topped them with sour cream, cilantro and avacado. The first time, I left off the cilantro and avacado (I didn’t have any, remember?) and opted instead to top with sour cream and the left over salsa.

Found the missing pepper! It was on my plate!

The first time I made this recipe, I really liked it. If I was giving it a rating based on that I’d probably give it an 8. I ate the leftovers for several days and it was yummy. But seeing as my first foray into stuffed peppers doesn’t count, let’s see how my second attempt matched up.

I learned something about myself with this and a previous recipe, I don’t like cilantro as a garnish. Cooked in to a dish, I love it. Mixed in guacamole, mmmmm. But used as a garnish, it’s just bad. Cilantro aside (and I took most of it off my pepper), this recipe was good, but not as good as my first. I don’t think the cooking method made much of a difference. I’m guessing it was the topping. The salsa on top really gave it the flavor punch it needed. Without it, I felt the dish was slightly bland. The kind of bland that extra salt wouldn’t fix. It’s sort of like eating a hamburger without ketchup or mustard. Not terrible, it just needed a little something else, and while the sour cream and avacado gave it creamy texture, they didn’t give it much flavor. Next time, I’d top it with sour cream, salsa and avacado. (Pretty wild, I know.)

Final Rating: 6 (1 = Bad, 10 = Great)

 

Keep-It-Tight (Ugh!) Tilapia August 24, 2012

Filed under: Cooking,Eating,Fish,Food,Pinterest,Uncategorized — MelGag @ 1:58 pm

(Read this post at its new home here.)

On a whim, I bought a couple of tilapia fillets at the commissary a couple of weeks ago, and they’ve been sitting in my freezer ever since. I love fish, but I don’t buy it terribly often. This is partly because it’s more expensive than other meats (yeah, I mean chicken), but mostly because I’m not very good at cooking it. I never seem to get it quite right. I fail at seasoning, and I’m never sure how to tell when it’s done cooking. But since I bought the damn fish, I decided to find a recipe and cook it. I didn’t have any tilapia recipes pinned, so I did a search for “tilapia.” This was the first recipe that came up. It looked pretty and seemed simple, so we cook!

The Pin: Keep-It-Tight Tilapia by Eat Clean Diet

Difficulty: 3 (1 = Super Easy, 10 = Too Hard)

Let me start off by saying I seriously hate the name of this recipe. “Keep-it-tight”? Really? Had I bothered to look at the name at the time of pinning, I might have skipped this one all together, but the text under the picture on Pinterest just says “tilapia.” I was so enamored of the picture on Eat Clean Diet’s site that I didn’t catch the name until after I’d cooked and eaten it.

FISH!

There are many spices in this recipe but (AMG!) no salt. I ought to have known something was amiss by the website’s name, Eat Clean Diet, but I didn’t. (I need to learn to pay attention to stuff, don’t I? Shame on me!) In fact, I didn’t notice until was was gathering the ingredients for this picture. I probably would have chosen a different pin if I’d known, but this recipe seemed simple and best of all, I had all the ingredients in my house! It was too late to turn back, and though I enjoy salt, I decided to be true to the recipe and make it salt-free.

The Seasoning

I minced my garlic and put it and my seasoning into the oil. It’s a very strange looking concoction. The instructions advise you to “dip each filet into the seasoning” and place it in the pan. I used the recommended amount of everything (oil, spices, etc), but I wasn’t able to dip very well. There wasn’t enough liquid to cover the fish. I wound up pouring the mixture onto the fish which you’re instructed to do before cooking anyway.

About to go into the oven.

I was supposed to line my pan with parchment paper. Well, I didn’t have parchment paper, I and really didn’t want make a trip to the store for one thing. So I skipped the parchment paper (Sorry guys. I have failed you all. I know.) and baked my tilapia for 10 minutes on 400.

Left: Mine – Right: Eat Clean Diet

Mine didn’t look as pretty as the recipe’s photo, but then, my pictures rarely do. For having no salt, it was good. Not wonderful, but still good. It had decent flavor with just a little kick of heat. I liked it enough to eat about half of my fillet before adding salt. So much for eating clean! My husband agreed it was good. He ate all of his salt-free. The recipe’s picture looks fresh and inviting, but mine came out heavy and a bit too oily. Perhaps if I’d used parchment paper it would have soaked up the oil. Honestly, I’ve never used parchment paper (mostly because whenever I look for it, I can’t find it), so really have no idea if it would make a difference. Still, a decent dish if you’re trying to “eat clean” or just cut back on salt.

Final Rating: 5.5 (1 = Bad, 10 = Awesome)

 

Crockpot Chicken Noodle Soup August 21, 2012

(Read this post at its new home here.)

 

If you frequent my home page, you’ll know that I had an ear issue this past week. Let’s just say I haven’t had my ears professionally cleaned in 32 years. Happily, this is mostly resolved because earaches are not good times! But, just as my ears were clearing, my husband came down with a tummy bug. He’s better now, and so far my son and I haven’t caught it. (Fingers crossed!) While he was sick, the only thing he wanted to eat was soup, so, being the kind and loving wife I am, I went out twice the first day and bought him Chicken Noodle Soup. On my second outting, I realized we were wasting money. I could make soup just as tasty and healthier to boot. And so I did.

The Pin: Crockpot Chicken Noodle Soup by The Quilt Ladies (via Creatively Domestic)

Difficulty: 3 (1 = Easy, 10 = Really Hard)

There are actually two versions of the recipe on this page. I went with the crockpot version because it seemed easier, and I’m all for simplicity when I cook.

Yup, looks like soup to me!

This recipe calls for “one 15 oz can of whole kernel corn, drained.” While I tend to stay true to the recipes I use for this blog, I deviated a bit when it came to the corn. My husband and I love fresh corn on the cob, but neither he nor I particularly enjoy corn when it’s cooked into things. So I left it out. Feel free to put corn in your soup. I’ll allow it.

I gathered the ingredients together and prepped my veggies the night before.

I don’t normally take many pictures during prep, but this looked kind of pretty.

I eyeballed the measurements when chopping, so this is probably slightly more than half a cup of each. The plan was to throw everything into the crockpot when my son got me up at the butt-crack of dawn the following morning. And he did. He woke me up around 6 a.m., so I started crocking around 6:30. The instructions are short and sweet, “Add everything but the noodles and cooked chicken to the crock pot on Low for 5-6 hours, the last hour turn on High, and add noodles and chicken.” Simple right? Perhaps too simple for me. The only seasonings are salt and pepper. I really had to restrain myself from putting in garlic or onion powder or basil or… I think you get the point.

For the chicken, the recipe calls for “2 cups cooked chicken chopped or 2 cans canned cooked chicken.” I try to avoid canned food in general, plus canned chicken is kind of gross. I could have bought a rotisserie chicken, but I opted to cook my own. Since there are no chicken cooking instructions, I made up my own. I baked six boneless skinless thighs for about 45ish minutes on 300. I wanted them almost done, so they wouldn’t overcook in the crockpot.

Seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and basil.

Around 11:00 I added the cooked, diced chicken and the egg noodles into the crock pot and turned it up to high. At this point I also added an extra cup of chicken broth (I used six cups total instead of the recommended five) because I was worried the noodles would soak up all the the liquid. This happened to me on my last crock pot soup adventure. That batch of lentil soup came out more like soggy mush than soup. Anyhoo, an hour later, I had soup!

Left: Mine – Right: The Quilted Ladies

It was really good though I suppose it would be difficult to make bad chicken noodle soup. It was exactly what my husband’s crampy upset stomach needed. I’m glad now that I restrained myself and didn’t add any extra seasoning because the flavor of the broth was perfect. The green onions and the white onions along with a bit of salt and pepper gave it the perfect flavor. The vegetables were soft, but not mushy. Next time I cook this I would add more carrots and celery. We like a lot of veggies in our soup. My husband felt the chicken was a little bland. Either I didn’t season it well enough when I baked it, or the seasoning came off in the broth. Either way, this is probably my fault, not the recipes. Still, this wasn’t overly noticeable since the broth was so flavorful. The only real issue was that the egg noodles were slightly mushy. I don’t think they needed the full hour on high in the crock pot. I would say put the chicken in for the last hour and the noodles in for maybe the last 30 minutes.

Overall this was a really good chicken noodle soup recipe. I’d make this one again.

Mmmmmmm.

Final Rating: 7 (1 = Bad, 10 = Delicious!)

 

Coconut Curry Noodles August 15, 2012

(Read this post at its new home here!)

 

One of the things I miss about living in a large, dynamic city like Atlanta is the food. Atlanta has sooooo many restaurants. And I don’t mean places like Applebees or Ruby Tuesdays. I mean quality authentic non-chain hole-in-the-wall restaurants. Whenever we had friends or family visit, we had a wealth of eating establishments in which to partake. From the Richard Blais’ famous Flip Burger to the lesser known, yet always busy, Thumbs Up Diner, we never wanted for a place to eat in Atlanta. A favorite of mine, was a Thai restaurant called Amaryn’s*. My sister-in-law brought us here on our first trip to the city. I thought it was good but nothing special. We ventured back a few weeks later, and that’s when I discovered their Chicken Panang Rice Bowl. This dish is possibly one of my favorites of all time. The sauce (or perhaps you’d call it a broth?) was thick and creamy. It was the perfect amount of sweet and spicy. I’ve never found another panang or any sweet curry dish quite like it. Thus, when I came across this dish, I was hoping that maybe… just maybe… I’d find a similar flavor.

The Pin: Coconut Curry Noodles by Considering the Campbells

Difficulty: 4ish (1 = Canned Soup, 10 = Turducken)

Even though I’ve been eyeing this pin for a while, it was ultimately my husband who chose it. Let’s see how he did! The ingredients.

Olive oil not pictured here.

The olive oil is not pictured above because the list of ingredients on the website didn’t include olive oil, so I wasn’t aware I needed it until I’d already snapped my picture. I guess you’ll just have to use your imagination.

There were a few vague points in this recipe. I had to use a bit of common sense. For example, when using the skillet, the site does’t specify how hot the pan should be. I went with medium. It’s hard to go wrong with medium heat, right? Also, the ingredient list calls for “a handful of baby carrots.” Well, is that a figurative handful or a litteral handful? And if so, who’s handful? Mine, my husbands, my sons? Maybe I’m being persnickety (yeah, I just went there), but to be fair it was unclear. I decided to match the amount of carrots to the amount of peppers.

Did I do good?

Just a side note on the carrots. The only reason I gave this recipe a  difficulty level of 4 instead of a 3, was those damn carrots. Let’s just say my knife skills are… lacking. I have a tendency to cut the corners of my fingernails when doing “fancy” knife work. (I suppose that’s better than cutting through my finger though.) Not to mention, my knives are awful. They were the $29.99 special over five years ago! Hells yeah! I know, I really need to upgrade. So, thin slicing carrots is a difficult task for me.

The recipe called for 1/4th cup of soy sauce. Now, when I’m testing these pins, I try to be as true the recipe as possible. Having said that, I only used 1/8th cup of soy sauce. I like soy sauce, but 1/4th a cup sounded like way too much. I figured I could always add more later if it needed it.

Despite my substandard knife skills (I didn’t cut my finger nail!) and the recipe’s imprecise directions, I somehow managed to complete the dish. And here is the final product.

Left: Mine – Right: Considering the Campbell’s

I’m no plating master, but I think it came out pretty. But how did it taste? Have you ever eaten a dish that seems okay at first but tastes progressively worse after the first bite? It’s one of those, at least for me. I started out thinking it was okay, but about 1/4th of the way in, I just couldn’t finish it. I hate wasting food, but I had to dump it. My husband just plain didn’t like it. I think he ate maybe two bites.

How best to describe it? It tasted like slightly spicy chicken broth with soy sauce in it. In a way, it was almost bland. The coconut milk was almost non-existant. I could barely taste it. The carrots and peppers were nice. They added a nice crunchy texture to the rice noodles. My husband and I both agree that the cilantro looked pretty but didn’t go with the dish.

Needless to say, Coconut Curry Noodles didn’t match up to the Chicken Panang Rice Bowl. This is definitely something I would not make again.

Final Rating: 2 (1 = Terrible, 10 = Awesome)

*In Googling the link to Amaryn’s I’ve discovered they’ve closed. QQ.