The Labors of My Labor Day

I’m gonna be honest…I did ALMOST nothing this holiday weekend. I had plans…plans involving sitting poolside working on my tan.

Expectation

But the weather simply did not cooperate. So rather than chill out poolside it changed to me on the couch. Sorry I’m not sorry.

Reality

It was a good time though. I did do a few things so I figured I may as well share them with all of you.

I recently acquired a Wii (shout out to my sis for moving to Abu Dhabi…aka the Dhabs). Which means this gal now can watch Netflix on the TV!! BOOM. Game Changer. So this long weekend of crappy weather gave me the perfect opportunity to break it in. So maybe I watched more movies than I care to publicly announce on Saturday, but I did manage to get one of my best gals C over for a Sunday Funday movie marathon.
In between movies we got a case of the hungries so we decided to make some food. We settled on pasta with a white wine sauce. A quick convo with Google later we headed to the shops to pick up the few things we needed to make our masterpiece a reality.
Pasta with White Wine Sauce:
Penne with White Wine Sauce
  • Pasta (we used tri-colored penne)
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 shallot, rough chopped (we used onion bc that’s what I had…and I chopped it finely)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 1 tbsp. fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped

You start by sautéing the finely chopped onion with the olive oil. Then we poured in the wine and let it boil. NOW: the recipe said to let it reduce…but we were hungry and tipsy so we didn’t…we just let it boil. Then add the butter until it melts. Take the sauce off the heat and add the lemon juice and parsley (which we took from my herb garden). Then we poured the sauce over our cooked pasta and grated some fresh cheese over it…NOM NOM.

tri-colored is so fun to look at

tri-colored is so fun to look at

 

White Wine Sauce

White Wine Sauce

NOTE: while cooking we were drinking….and we were pretty buzzed. So we didn’t super follow the recipe as written…in that we 1. did not let the white wine reduce at all, 2. did not strain the onion from the sauce, 3. we added garlic and pepper, and 4. we thought that maybe it wouldn’t make enough sauce so we pretty much doubled everything…”lets just add more wine…yeah…and more butter!”…It was really good though. The lemon juice gives it a nice fresh taste.

Since we were at the grocery store anyways, C had the brilliant idea of making some beverages…specifically White Russians. It was a truly excellent idea. So if you’re like me, and have no idea how to make them and don’t feel like asking Google I thought I’d share that as well.

Cocktail Corner: White Russians

-Ice
-Kahlua
-Skim Milk
-Vodka

Put Ice in your glass. Add a shot of vodka and a shot of Kahlua. Top with milk. Stir.

DRINK UP!

Gettin' our drink onnnn....and our cook on

Gettin’ our drink onnnn….and our cook on

All in all I’d say it was a perfect Sunday Funday.

Monday it was more of the same….Les Miserables was on HBO so OBVIOUSLY I had to watch it. But I did take a break from being epically lazy to grab a frozen treat with KT (check her out!!) and stop by Target. I found some cheap curtains ($5!!) for my living room and immediately needed to hang them….and I did. LIKE A BOSS. This girl doesn’t even have a drill….just my raw physical power. BOOM.

Put these guys up with my own 2 hands!

Put these guys up with my own 2 hands!

Happy Labor Day everyone!
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Sometimes I Can’t Afford Groceries…

Except seriously.

Sometimes being in your mid-20s can be rough. And sometimes between paying your heating bill (because winter refuses to end), rent, and student loans (cough Sallie Mae sucks cough cough) you just come up short and sacrifices have to be made. Like groceries.

This is one of those moments for me. And I imagine that many of you out there have been in the same position. So I figured I’d share my go to recipe for when your pantry is as empty as your checking account.

This recipe is a simple dish that is perfect when your pantry is particularly low. I call it Fake Mac and Cheese…so called because in reality there is hardly any cheese in it, it just tastes like homemade mac and cheese.

This is really all you need...plus parmesan cheese

This is really all you need…plus parmesan cheese

Here’s what you’ll need:

-Pasta (any kind will do)
-bread crumbs (italian seasoned work best)
-flavored  bouillon cubes (chicken or veggie work well)
-Parmesan cheese

Simple Cook the Pasta with the bouillon cubes

Simple Cook the Pasta with the bouillon cubes

All you do is add the cubes to the water you boil for the pasta. Cooking the pasta in broth adds such a good flavor. When the pasta is drained you add some breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese (almost equal parts). And BOOM. DONE. It tastes almost the same as homemade mac and cheese and involves practically nothing.

Just add the bread crumbs and cheese

Just add the bread crumbs and cheese

Its a step up from just pasta and cheese…especially when you’re like me and ran out of butter…

Boom. You got yourself some fancy poor kid food.

Boom. You got yourself some fancy poor kid food.

And the fact that it tastes great distracts you just a bit from the fact that you’re poor lol.

Crack Pasta…aka Creamy Garlic Pasta

Listen up folks. The recipe I’m sharing with you today is insane. So good. It’s like crack but in pasta form. Get ready to have your mind blown.

Originally my friend found this recipe on Pinterest and we made it for a ladies night dinner. It was a big hit.

 

The element that makes this pasta so good is that the pasta is cooked in chicken broth rather then water. I had no idea what a difference that makes. It adds so much flavor!

You can find the recipe here. But I’ll spell it out for you anyways.

Creamy Garlic Pasta
2 tsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp butter
¼  tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
3 cups chicken stock
½ lb spaghetti or angel hair pasta
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
¾ cup heavy cream
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

In a pot, bring the olive oil to medium-low heat. Add the garlic and stir, allowing it to cook for 1-2 minutes. Mix in the butter until melted. Add the salt, pepper and chicken stock. Raise the heat to high and let it come to a boil.

Once it is at a rolling boil, add the pasta and cook for as long as the box’s directions indicate. Reduce the stove to medium heat and mix in the parmesan until completely melted. Turn off the heat and stir in the cream and parsley. Serve immediately.

Make this for friends/family/significant others. Its super easy and tastes amazing. It’ll make people think you’re stellar in the kitchen!

Remaking A Classic: Kraft Mac&Cheese

Here’s the thing: Kraft Mac&Cheese is great. I’m a big fan. And I know there are lots of you out there just like me who can’t resist the appeal of that Blue Box treat….and then eat the whole thing in one sitting cough cough…

But there are times when you want to eat something a little more dynamic. This was the case last night. My friend and I wanted to eat something good, but weren’t in the mood to go all out. So we decided to ramp up a classic. We decided to add some salsa and sour cream to our mac&cheese; thus prompting us to call it mex&cheese.

To make this fun revamp here’s the how to:

1. make the mac&cheese per box instructions
2. add about 4 Tbs of salsa (we used medium)
3. add about 2 Tbs of sour cream

Now this was a tasty creation. We did realize that for this to be truly magical we needed to add something crunchy. I recommend adding crushed fritos/doritos/torilla chips.

We also decided to make a classy yet super simple appetizer to snack on while the noodles were cooking: chabbata and brie with raspberry jelly. All you do is slice up the bread, slather on some jelly (fig jam is also INCREDIBLE with brie) and add a slice of brie. If you want to take it up a notch, toss that guy in the toaster over for a minute or two. BOOM.  Super easy and tastes great.

Let’s Talk About Cookout Food!

Its summertime folks. The ideal time for cookouts. So I thought I’d take a moment to talk about some yummy cookout type foods I’ve been fixing up lately.

I recently purchased a Slice-o-Matic…I know you’re all jealous. I’ve wanted one for a while. Check out this wondrous kitchen tool here. Anyways, I also had some cucumbers, so I decided it was PICKLE TIME. Yup, that’s right…I made pickles.

Check out the Slice-O-Matic in action! woohoo!

 

It sliced’em up just right.

 

2 cucumbers worth of pickle slices.

 

In a saucepan: add a vinegar and water (I used a 1 to 2 part ratio of vinegar to water). I also added lots of garlic and some spices. I added about 1 Tbsp of sugar as well. You basically make them to your own preferences. Once its boiling pour it over the cucumber slices in the jars. Close the jars and then stick’em in the fridge. After about a day they’re perfect for eating!

I brought some of my lady pals home for a beach day last weekend and had the perfect opportunity to test out my pickles.

Another classic cookout treat is Macaroni Salad. Now I’ll tell you straight off that this is not my recipe. Its the killer recipe from my Auntie Merri. Its a total crowd pleaser and super easy to make. Below are the ingredients:

 

Cook up the pasta. Add the jar of mayo and the jar of relish (seriously get this exact one…its so good!). And add whatever spices you like…I added salt and pepper, garlic flakes, and a bit of cayenne pepper for a kick.

 

Mix it all up and you’re done. BOOM.

 

It makes the perfect side for all your cookout treats!

 

The Case of the Cursed Zucchini Lasagna

There are some things that are simply not meant to be. One of those things was the Zucchini Lasagna I recently made. I found a recipe for the lasagna on Pinterest and was super excited to try it out…its essentially a regular lasagna except instead of noodles you uses sliced zucchini. Yummy right?!

So rather than use store bought sauce, I whipped up some spaghetti sauce in my crockpot the night before I planned on making the lasagna. It totally worked out great. So far operation lasagna was on track.

The problems came the next day. I was planning on assembling the lasagna after work on Thursday, after which I would eat it for dinner and pack it for lunches to stick in my freezer and eat later in the week. Here comes obstacle number one. I get stuck at work until 8:15 pm. Gross. I didn’t get home until around 9 pm…and I was full to bursting with feelings of frustration about the kink work put into my carefully thought out baking plan. I decided to bake the lasagna anyways. Mistake number 1. I was much to frustrated and rushed to attempt this..even though its a pretty straight forward recipe. I rushed through it (I may have also been drinking a bottle of wine too…hey I was at work until 8:15..I deserved it) and did a real bad job. I did an awful job slicing the zucchini, and I skipped pre-cooking it so the zucchini ended up crunchy.

Overall it was wasn’t a total failure…it was just not the way I wanted it to end up. I still brought it for lunch the next day and enjoyed the pasta sauce I had made in Crocket.

See I know what you’re thinking…things didn’t go perfectly, but ‘cursed’? Let’s flash forward to Saturday. I had dished out some of this lasagna for myself and a friend for lunch. We ate it, but on my friend’s attempt at seconds…CRASH BANG. 3/4 of a Zucchini Lasagna are splattered on my kitchen floor. SIGH. The universe clearly did NOT want me to have this lasagna. And when you look at the situation on the whole you can see that it really was cursed.

Maybe next time it will go more smoothly.

A Lesson In Failure Brought to You by the Makers of Fat Free Cheese…

Ok…so  everyone has those few signature dishes that they are especially good at. One such dish for me is homemade mac and cheese. I’ve been making it for YEARS…I don’t even need a recipe, and not to totally brag…its delicious. So it came as an annoying and irritating surprise that I royally screwed it up the other night.

I had decided that I would make come broccoli mac and cheese and that’s what I would eat for the week. Admirable plan. Totally a doable thing….Until it wasn’t.

Mac and cheese isn’t the healthiest of foods. And I generally try to make my meals as low in fat as I can. So I substituted butter for a lite butter-type spread (Brummel and Brown I think), whole milk for skim, and full fat cheese for 75% fat free sharp cheddar cheese. I didn’t think it would make that much of a difference. Turns out it really does lol.

The all low fat cheese sauce ingredients don’t work well together. What happened was that the cheese and milk didn’t incorporate. The result was that there was just a bunch of melty cheese and milk.

These are my go-to spices for jazzing up my mac and cheese. I tend to use these in most of what I cook actually…

Whole wheat noodles with fresh broccoli.

This is how my “sauce” came out. Not cool fat free cheese…not cool. I had to dump out the extra milk from the sauce because milk noddles didn’t really appeal to me.

In the end it wasn’t a COMPLETE failure. I totally ate it all week anyways. Lesson learned though.

Here is my mac and cheese recipe:

2 Tbs butter
2 Tbs flour
2 cups milk
~2 cups cheese (I like extra sharp cheddar but mixing in others is great too)
spices of your choice
box of pasta (whole wheat elbows, penne, and rotelini  work well)
1 cup Italian bread crumbs (optional)

Cook pasta per box instructions.
In a sauce pan, melt butter and stir in flour. Slowly add in the milk, stirring continuously. When the milk starts to thicken up (not boil though) start to add in your cheese. When the cheese is mostly melted add in your spices.
Put pasta into a baking dish and pour cheese sauce over it. Give it a quick stir to make sure its all coated. Top with bread crumbs. Bake on like 350 for about 20-25 minutes until top gets golden. (you can add all kinds of things to it as well…like broccoli, tomatoes, ham, chicken, etc).

Its REALLY easy and tasty. Just watch out when you’re choosing your cheeses! Next time I’m going with regular cheese and keeping my skim milk!