Monday, January 31, 2011

Twist on Lasagna

Last week I made a ton of spaghetti meat sauce and I didn't really have a plan for it until I saw a package of gnocchi in the pantry. I thought I would make a dish similar to lasagna but I would use gnocchi instead of pasta.

If you are unfamiliar with gnocchi, they are potato style pasta in the form of a dumpling. I have not tried to make this myself (although it is on my list of things to do) but I find the boxed variety to be a good substitute for a quick meal.

Little gnocchi
I boiled a box of the gnocchi for just a few minutes. I wasn't sure if I could just put the uncooked gnocchi in the pan since it was going to be baked, but I went on the safe side and boiled them for a few minutes.The next layer was a combination of a container of ricotta cheese, an egg, a cup of mozzarella, half cup of Parmesan, a few tablespoons of chopped parsley, a few tablespoons of chopped onion, and a chopped up piece of garlic. Mix it all up and spread it over the gnocchi.

Next comes the sauce.... I had a combination of turkey and ground beef sauce that I had made before. I just kept throwing stuff into the pot to make it, so I don't have exact ingredients, but has ground beef, turkey, can of fire roasted tomato's, about a half of an onion, a few cloves of garlic, tomato paste, some spices... cook it all up and let it simmer for about 1.5 hrs.

Or you can use plain old spaghetti sauce from a jar if you want an even quicker dinner!!

Once it was all layered I cooked it for about 40 minutes in 350 degree oven. This does not look very pretty once you scoop it out of the pan, but it is quite good!! And it makes for excellent leftovers! Next time I'd like to add some spinach or a layer of zucchini and squash

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Let's see if I can find my Green Thumb
While shopping at the Farmers Market on Saturday I found a booth that was selling "onion bundles" along with other goodies. Since I am an onion lover I stopped to inquire about these bundles. Basically they are a starter kit to grow onions at home. Knowing that i have a bit of a brown thumb i was hesitant to buy them, but I thought for $3 I would give it a try.
I had some planter boxes that I haven't' been using so I think they will be perfect for the onions. I have these extra planters due to my brown thumb so let's hope I have better success with the onions. I didn't want to plant them into the ground because of the dogs and all of the critters we have running around the area. Maybe if I am successful with these I'll look to expand and have a little garden at the house.

They are planted and ready to go! I am crossing my fingers that the cold front that is blowing through this week won't harm the onions. I'll cover them and make sure they are warm, but it is the lack of sun that is concerning to me. You know where I am going with this right? If the onions don't make it I am blaming the cold front! :)

Grow onions grow!! :)

Friday, January 28, 2011

Lunch from a Bus

The other day I couldn't figure out what I wanted to eat for lunch. I was up in the Arboretum area and thought about picking up a taco or two from Chi'lantro. But then I remembered something about a bus serving sandwiches... so thanks to my iPhone I googled this and out out that the bus was just around the corner. Yay!

The menu for Short Bus Subs is on the side of the bus, and they have plenty of sandwiches to choose from. I normally go for some type of turkey sandwich so i picked the Teachers Pet. It has turkey, cream cheese, bacon, onions, avocado, sprouts, tomato and salsa. They also had some vegetarian choices that looked pretty tasty too... oh hell, who I am kidding, they all looked good! I looooove sandwiches.

Since it was such a beautiful day (in the 70's in January, damn!), I took the sandwich to go and went home to hang outside with the dogs. The sandwich had plenty of sliced turkey, and the veggies were stuffed in the middle. The sandwich was toasted but not so toasted that it was dry. There was mention of cream cheese, but I couldn't find it in the sandwich. Maybe there was just minimal cream cheese that was melted in with everything else.
I was really happy with my sandwich! They drive to different locations every day AND they have a bus that is stationary. I believe that one is somewhere off of Muller, and they do breakfast :) I love my breakfast sandwiches so I'll be checking them out soon! If you are looking for an affordable tasty sandwich, check out their website to find out where they have set up for the day.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Jo's 5th Annual Chili Cold Blood Chili Cook Off

Last weekend we headed down to the Chili Cook Off at Jo's on South Congress. It was a beautiful day to sit in the nice temperatures and try some chili. I didn't know much about it before we headed there, just the time, date, location, and who it benefited. That is my minor gripe- it would have been nice to know that it cost $2 per chili try (or $25 to try all 16 competitors). I brought cash with me, so we were fine. It would have also been nice to know who the competitors were and what they were serving (ground beef, turkey, lamb, bean, etc) before hand so we could have come up with a game plan on who we wanted to try first :)

We arrived around 1:30 and found that about 6 of the 16 booths had run out of chili already :( BOOOO! We tried to get there earlier but we wanted to finish cleaning the house before we had fun on Saturday.
After we waited 20 minutes in the line to purchase chili tickets and beers, we headed to the booths to eat some chili. Our first stop was La Condessa, and they were out so we went to the next booth, Bubblin' Red.

This chili has a nice subtle flavor, nothing that wow'ed us but it was a tasty chili. Next up was the Hyde Park Bar and Grill. They were dressed up as Smokey and the Bandit characters. They were pretty hilarious!
Their chili however was really bad. Like after a taste we were done with it. It was very soupy and the meat (?) was soooo small like little pebbles. Texturally it was off, but the flavor was also off. I couldn't figure it out, but it was almost like there was a vinegar in there. But I wasn't willing to take another bite to figure it out. Unfortunately that little cup went directly into the trash.
While washing the Hyde Park chili out of our mouth with beer, we headed to Lili Chili. We got the very last bit of their chili and it was really good. I believe they used beef and lamb. There was a slight smoky taste and the texture was excellent. I wish we had gotten to them sooner and got a full cup of chili

I remember reading that 24 Diner won last year, so we headed over to that booth to make sure we got a taste.
Their chili was damn good. They didn't use beans (yay for me!), they had chunks of beef (honestly I couldn't tell if it was beef or pork, but it wasn't ground beef), with great seasoning. They added their own onions, cilantro and corn bread to the cups, where other booths let you pick and choose what you wanted. Honestly, I like the idea of being able to pick and chose, and trying a bite before all of the extras. But this worked for 24 Diner and I still loved their chili.
They were even giving away free Tito's Bloody Marys. Yes Please!

Contigo Austin

These guys ran out of chili before we got there, but they said I could take a photo of them :) Thank you guys, you get to be on my blog that is read by all of 6 people :)

Empty pots were all over the chili festival

After eating chili, we watched the band play. Good tunes, tasty chili (for the most part), and a beautiful day, we couldn't ask for anything more. Well.. okay, I guess we did want more chili, but next year we know to show up earlier :)

He was adorable!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Eating Right in 2011

I was thumbing through my Cuisine at Home magazine when I came across a section was lightened up pasta sauces. I immediately zoned into the Alfredo sauce because I normally avoid it like the plague because of the calories and fat. I knew I wanted to throw some broccoli and shrimp in with the pasta to make a meal, so on I went to Central Market to pick up some things. I knew I wanted a good Parmesan cheese to use, since it was the only cheese in the dish.

I actually had high hopes for this sauce, thinking it would be a great substitute but it fell a little short. The sauce was a little flavorless but it had a nice consistency. Next time I plan on adding a LOT more cheese, I think that will help. Sure, it won't be as light weight as it could be but oh well. Jim and I agreed that this was totally edible but it is a reminder that we are trying to eat better. I want to find those dishes that are good for us and DON'T taste like it!

Lite Alfredo Sauce
from Cuisine at Home magazine


2 cups skim milk (we had 1% so I used that)
1 cup park skim ricotta cheese
2/3 cup 2% Greek-style yogurt
1/4 cup minced onion
2 Tbsp chopped garlic
1 tsp kosher salt
1.2 tsp ground nutmeg

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil or 4 tbs unsalted butter
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
zest of 1 lemon
Black pepper
Blend milk, ricotta, yogurt, onion, garlic, salt, and nutmeg in a blender until smooth.

Heat oil in a saute pan over medium heat, whisk flour until smooth. Whisk blended mixture until smooth. Simmer sauce until it thickens (for me took about 10 minutes). Stir in Parmigiano-Reggiano, zest and pepper.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

My Wednesday
always starts with coffee and the pups following me around

and since it was my day off, I made some eggs for breakfast (along with a little onion and potato)

Thanks to a cold front, we have been hovering around the 30's for the low and high

Love my PJ's!

Even though I really wanted to be lazy, I got up and went to a work out class!

It kicked my ass but I felt great that I went.

I tried StEat out for the first time. I was going to be good and get some grilled shrimp and miso soup, but I went down a different path as soon as I saw the Chipotle Pork Gordita with guacamole. The sandwich needed more of the slaw that was supposed to be on the top for a much needed crunch. The gordita was good but a little dense so it could have held up with the slaw. The meat was good but a little dry. They have a huge and diverse menu, so I'll be back to give them a try.

Since I still had some energy left after working out and eating so I went to North Loop and looked around some of the thrift shops.

Lots of cool things that fit in the time frame that our house was built
I am digging these lights. We have a den that has horrible lighting and I think these would be a nice addition and they go with the house. The thrift store is having a sale on their lighting this month, so I'll have to decide if they will be purchased or not.

I spent a lot of time outback with the pups playing with the Frisbee and chasing them around. They are pretty hyper with the cooler weather :)

Love this one of Chewie! He was watching the squirrels run around in the trees

Tonight was a light dinner. Sauteed chicken breasts in olive oil with a little orange juice and hoisen sauce, sauteed Brussels Sprouts (LOVE Brussels sprouts) and rice.
After dinner I took a shower since I was still pretty funky from my work out. The hot water was NICE
While I was showering, Chewie jumped on to our bed and took a little nap. I actually think he was ready to sleep for the rest of the night, but he ended up coming out to the living room with the rest of us.
Me, the couch and the kids. If you'll notice, the pups are the most comfortable, and I am contorting my body just to sprawl out on the couch.
Dilemma... what to use in my cocoa?!? ;)

And the rest of the night was spent catching up on shows on DVR and of course Top Chef. Hopefully I didn't bore you to much with my day! :)