Sunday, November 9, 2014

Spaghetti Squashing

I went to Chipotle for the first time a couple weeks ago, and all I have to say is yum. After having spent a long time on an Asian kick, Chipotle inspired me with its burrito bowl. I set out to recreate the bowl as a healthy dish.

Enter the spaghetti squash. This was my first time cooking/eating/seeing a spaghetti squash, and man, I've been missing out. Here's what I did to make my bowls:
Slice the squash length-wise, scoop out all the innards, coat the cut edges with olive oil, put face down in a baking dish, and bake for about 40-50 minutes at 350 degrees. Cook times vary based on the size. You really don't want to overcook the squash, as it will turn the beautiful strands of spaghetti into mush. It should feel soft on the outside but not totally collapsing.

Let the squash cool, and then scoop out all of the spaghetti. You now have a canvas, on which to paint your taste buds' dreams.
I started with some of the leftover chicken I normally use in these enchiladas. (It's shredded chicken, cream cheese, and green chiles heated and mixed together.) I also layered on kidney beans (heated on the stove with some mexican spices), fajita style peppers and onions, the scooped out squash, and of course cheese. Lots of cheese. (It was very steamy in my kitchen when I took these pictures.) 
When I filled the bowls, I topped then with even more cheese and then baked for about 20 minutes in a 350 degree oven. If you're concerned about cheese brownage, feel free to cover with foil.
And tada! Mix together any leftover ingredients, put in a small baking dish, top with cheese, and you've got another bowl or two. All I have to say is yum.
After making these a couple times, I decided to go Italian with my spaghetti squash. I cooked chicken breasts in the oven (smothered with a mayo, parmesan cheese, pesto mixture). I chopped it up and added quite a bit more pesto. (You could also add some cream cheese here.)

I layered my squash bowl with spaghetti sauce, the pesto chicken, mozzarella cheese, and the scooped out squash. (This one I topped with mozzarella, but parmesan would be a better choice.) I cooked in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes. All I have to say is yum.

I also used the leftovers here to make a casserole. Yep, all I have to say is yum. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

All Aboard the Presleywagon!

Pattiwagon, meet Presley. She is the daughter of my dear friends Corrie and Michael, and she is a doll. I've never met a happier, cheerier, more go-with-the-flow baby. And she doesn't mind when we use inappropriate trivia names. What's not to love? 
Presley celebrated her first birthday last weekend, so I figured, with such beautiful red hair, who wouldn't need another green dress? 

I did not go about making said green dress in the Pattiwagon way, that is I actually went to Hancock Fabrics. I looked at the pattern books. I selected a pattern. I read the directions. I followed the directions. I bought recommended fabric. I measured exactly. 
I used a very basic pattern, and the seersucker I chose was a dream to work with. The stripes helped in keeping things even, but I didn't feel the pressure to match everything up perfectly. 

I learned how to make a button hole on my machine, and while they are the buttonholes of a novice, I think they're passable. I had the initials monogramed at a local shop. I'm really pleased with how everything turned out. 
Feeling confident, I decided to tackle the matching shirt and pants that were also available in the pattern.
I followed all of my anti-Pattiwagon steps, and everything was going well until I got to the neckline. The train derailed there. I started to list all the problems here, but you're already bored. I need to do a model fitting and take it to my sewing sensei at Thanksgiving for a serger tutorial. Maybe problem #1 (the fact that it is HUGE) will be resolved by the time I actually give it to Baby Presley. 
Happy Birthday, Baby P! 

Speaking of model fittings, have I ever gotten into Project Runway this season!?! Team Sean! (Or Kini!) Season finale is on Thursday! 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Fall Notes

Some things I've been up to lately:
1. Enjoying Germany and everything German. This is the first semester I've taught German I in a couple years, and I have rekindled my love of Germany with this group of students. They are so curious and hungry (both figuratively and literarily) for knowledge of Germany and its customs. This has inspired me to embrace Germany this fall. I've made spƤtzle, this peach kuchen, and bratwurst with sauerkraut and mashed potatoes (a fav of mine). I went to Schweinehaus, a new German restaurant in Memphis for an Oktoberfest celebration, taking in the food, drink, and Masskrugstemmen (stein holding contest). Here are some photos! (Can you guess which dinner I made and which dinner Schweinehaus made?)

 2. Book clubbing. My book club took an extended summer respite, but we're back on, and I'm glad for it. We just read The Informationist by Taylor Stevens. It's a quick international thriller, not super eloquent, but very engaging.

3. Pottery Class. The ceramics teacher at my new school offers classes for teachers after school. Sign me up for every single one until the end of my career, right? In our first class this year, we made mugs. Once I get it fired and glazed and am enjoying coffee out of it, I'll do another post, but here's a tease.

 4. Map My Running. I am notoriously late to the party when it comes to technology, especially running technology. (I only recently even started running with headphones.) I have discovered the Map My Run app, and I see it as a watershed moment. No longer am I chained to my preordained route, as measured by my car odometer. I can track my pace and splits and distances! WATERSHED! I'm running in a half marathon in one week, so we'll see if it watersheds my time as well.

5. Bulletin Boarding. Avid Pattiwagoneers know that I would quit my job tomorrow if I could become a professional bulletin boarder. My new school does not have community bulletin boards. Travesty, I know. But where there's a wall, there's a way. I volunteered to make this GIANT sign for the cafeteria. (The arrow moves w/ velcro, and the X comes off as well.)  It's 14 feet tall, no joke. I'm happy with it, but it did take approximately forever to complete. I'm in the process of turning a community dry erase board into a bulletin board, so hopefully I'll be able to continue my quest to become the most decorated bulletin boarder in Pinterest history. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Two for Thursday: Easy Dinners

Yes, as the leader of the Pattiwagon, I promote taking time to cook delicious food and enjoying the process of creation. Why buy cheese when you can make it? Even it it takes 36 hours? Why buy honey when you can find it? Even if it involves the stickiest mess this side of La Brea. 

But sometimes, I just want dinner now, or better five minutes ago. And I imagine that you do too. So here are two excellent recipes for those busy fall nights. 

Recipe #1: Shrimp Curry
This recipe is totally inspired from my trips to VH Foods, but even if you don't have an awesome ethnic grocery store, I'm sure you can make it work. 
2T red curry paste
1t vegetable oil
1 16 oz can coconut milk
1 cup chicken broth
variety of cut up vegetables (Zucchini, carrot, mushrooms, and peppers seem to work well.)
1 lb raw shrimp, peeled and cleaned
1/2 pint of slurry (basically crushed tomatoes)
heavy-handed dash of fish sauce
rice noodles

1. Cook the rice noodles according to the directions. I put them in a big bowl, then pour boiling water over them, and allow them to cook for about 10 minutes. However you do it, just make sure to keep them very al dente. They will cook more when you add the sauce. And no one likes mushy noodles. 
2. Put the oil in a big pot on the stove on medium. Add the curry paste and stir it around a bit to "saute" it. Add in the coconut milk and chicken broth and bring to a simmer. 
3. Add in the sliced veggies, keeping in mind that their cooking times might vary. I like to add the peppers last, as I find mushy peppers as abhorrent as mushy noodles. Let the vegetables cook for 3-5 minutes, or until they have just started to soften. 
4. Add in the shrimp and let cook for about 1-2 minutes, or until they curl up and turn opaque. 
5. To finish, I add in a half pint of slurry (from our canning camp) and some fish sauce. 
6. Serve over the noodles. (Or over rice. Or just ingest with a straw.)

Recipe #2: Chorizo Sweet Potato Skillet
This recipe is stolen from Budget Bytes. The combination of sweet and spicy is so flipping good here. The only adaptation I did was precook the chorizo and omit most of the cheese. You should make this recipe tonight. And then again tomorrow. I'll say two words: you're welcome. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Ethnic Grocery Store: An Unabridged Version

I have always been a fan of ethnic grocery stores, more for the museum aspect and less for the shopping aspect. Going to the store would be an adventure, and I would wander the aisles, wondering what I could do with fresh lychees or squid ink. I quickly realized that most of these purchases were for naught, as, for example, I would excitedly buy an entire jar of tahini, use it for one recipe, and then let it languish in my fridge for years. So I became an ethnic grocery store tourist, not a local. 

Buuuuut, I'm getting gutsier in the kitchen. And I have a new commute. And VH Foods is my new go-to store. Here are the pros: 

1. It's the only grocery store I drive right by on my way home from school. 
2. It's in a former Kroger, so it's huge and a veritable melange of ethic foods. 
3. It's not Kroger. Blah. 
4. It's CHEAP! Among others, I took advantage of these sales last week: Limes were 15 for $1.00. Green peppers were five for $1.00. True story. 
5. I'm supporting a local business. I guess (?) They don't have a website, and I'm not really sure about the ownership situation, but the employees are all very nice, and it has a laid-back, halcyon atmosphere.
6. I could go on, but you want a recipe, right? 

So I say all of that to tell you I've been on an ethnic foods kick lately. I've made lots of lettuce wraps and noodles and curries, but the most exciting new thing I've made has been these spring rolls. What, you want some pros to spring rolls? Here they are: 

1. They're delicious. Light and fresh, yet the protein still provides satiety. 
2. They're easy and fun to make. Easy, meaning uncomplicated. Fun, meaning if you like to cook, you'll enjoy the process. They do involve many steps. 
3. They're healthy. Veggies, protein, carbs, healthy fats. Good to go. 
4. They're cheap. The prices below are for about eight rolls. 

I was inspired to make them by the giant vat of raw, head-on shrimp at VH on Saturday. It was a serve-yourself sale, and at $3.00/pound, I took advantage. Now the heads meant a little more work, but it also meant more shrimp parts for the stock I made. 

One man's shrimp trash becomes my shrimp treasure with celery, carrot, onion, peppercorn, water, and about an hour on the stove. 

Back to the spring rolls. Don't be turned off by the long list of ingredients. Hopefully you already have some in your pantry. And if not, hopefully you have a VH Foods nearby. 

For the rolls: 
rice noodles (often called vermicelli) I looked for the skinniest I could find
shrimp (Buy any kind you like. Even pre-cooked would work.)
green pepper 
green onion 
rice paper (spring roll wrappers)

For the sauce: 
peanut butter
Huy Fong chili garlic sauce (like Sriracha, only better)
hoisin sauce
lime juice
soy sauce
brown sugar

The Process: 
Prepare the rice noodles. I boiled mine for about 6 minutes and them let them sit with the heat off for about 3 more minutes. I've seen recipes in which you just pour boiling water over the noodles as they sit in a bowl. I'm not sure which is better, as I'm still a spring roll newbie. Once the noodles are done cooking, rinse them in cold water and let them sit at room temperature for about an hour. Don't worry, you have a lot to do over the next hour. (Price of entire package: $1.39. I made 8 spring rolls with about 1/3 of the package, so  $0.46)

Get another pot of water with a steamer basket boiling. De-head, peel, and devein the shrimp. (Save all that trash for a shrimp stock. Waste not, want not!) Rinse the peeled shrimp well, pat dry, and season with a little S&P. Steam for about 90 seconds. (Next time, I'm going to steam with the shells on. I think that will impart more flavor on the shrimp. They were a bit bland.) You'll know they're done when they turn pink and curl up. Let them cool in the fridge. (Price of ~24 small shrimp: $1.75.)

You can now make the sauce, a sweet and spicy punch of flavors. I didn't really measure, so don't quote me on this, but here goes. Combine about 2 T of creamy peanut butter, 1 T chili garlic sauce, 2 T hoisin sauce, juice of one lime, a dash of soy sauce, and about 1 t brown sugar. Whisk it all together, taste, and adjust. (Price: ??? The cost of this is going to be a bit heavy at first, but nothing here is exorbitant.)

Julienne a peeled carrot and about half a peeled cucumber. (I also put green pepper slivers in a couple rolls.) Get your herbs ready. I used lots of mint, cilantro, basil, and green onion. I also did a rough chop, but feel free to leave them whole. You're going to want a lot. (Cost of vegetables: $0.67*)

Has it been an hour? How are your noodles looking? (Disclaimer: I have no idea how they are supposed to look. I just read that you should let them "air dry" for an hour before using.) If you're ready, get your rice paper ready. Dip it in a shallow bowl (or plate) filled with water for about ten seconds to soften. It won't feel totally soft, but once you're ready to roll it up, it should be fine. It might take you a couple of tries to get the hang of it. 

Pull the rice paper out of the water, and lay it on a cutting board. Pile on a portion of noodles about the size of small bar of soap. Add on cucumber, carrot, and herbs. Then place three shrimp on top. Roll it up like a burrito, tucking in the sides. It should come out with the shrimp beautifully placed right on top. If not, it will still taste the same. Whew! (Price of rice paper: $1.49 for a package of 15, so I used $0.79's worth.)


Total price: $3.67 for eight spring rolls. If I add in a side of fruit, that's three meals for me. 

Mic drop. 

*Here's the breakdown: cucumber: $0.79, and I used about 1/2, so $0.40; carrots: $0.69/lb, and I used about 1/10, so $0.07; mint: $1.30/bunch, and I used about 1/10, so $0.13; cilantro: $0.69/bunch, and I used about 1/10, so $0.07, basil and green onion, I had on hand.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Seamstress Patti

What to do on a three day weekend? Make two dresses, of course.
These are basically the same dress pattern, with refashioned tank-top tops and attached skirts out of fabric scraps. I wasn't entirely pleased with the teal dress, so I ripped it up on today and started over. It was pulling at the waist, and I thought the tank-top with that green binding looked like a 1970s gym shirt. I took all of that off and made bias tape out of the bottom of the tank. I'm not totally thrilled with how that looks either, so it's still a work in progress, but I do like the skirt with the ruffled top. Tim Gunn or Studio Adventures, can I get a consultation? 

Monday, September 1, 2014

Carrot Cake Baked Oatmeal

I have been tweaking this recipe for the past couple weeks, and I think I've finally achieved shareable status. If you like oatmeal for breakfast, you must try baked oatmeal. It does have a little bit of brown sugar in it, but other than that, it uses only healthy ingredients. AND IT TASTES LIKE CAKE! Dangerously so, in fact. I could stand over the stove, eating it right out of the pan (as evidenced in the photograph below).

Do I have your attention? Here's the recipe:

2 eggs
2 mashed bananas (Use overripe bananas here.)
2 large carrots, shredded
2 cups milk (I used almond.)
1/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 t vanilla
3/4 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1 t ginger
1 t cinnamon
2 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Mix all ingredients except the oats and walnuts. Stir in the oats. Pour into an 8x8 pan. Sprinkle the walnuts on top. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 40 minutes.

You can eat it right away, like me. Ahem. Or put in the refrigerator, and you've got breakfast for the week. I like to spoon out a serving and put it in a skillet on medium while I get ready. Once it warms back up and the edges get toasty, I put it in a bowl and pour on a little almond milk. Yum! Dessert for breakfast!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Five Friday Facts

1. Hurr. I got rid of 17 inches last weekend. Glorious!

2. Project Runway. I have been a loyal viewer for many seasons (double digits, probably), and while I still watch it, this season has gone way to avant garde for my tastes. I prefer the import previous seasons have put on fit, tailoring, and wearability. This season's goal seems to be the weirder, the better. Sandhya must go.

3. Molly meal. I went to the Olive Branch farmer’s market last weekend, and a sweet farmer loaded me up with green beans and kale for $5. There are perks of rolling up five minutes before closing. (Are my continuous mentions of being cheap getting old? Let me know. I’ll stop.) I have been eating these veggies all week. While my beans are no where near Molly’s or Jane’s they are passable. And I'll take a passable Molly meal over no Molly meal. The kale, on the other hand, has been, like my hair, a glorious revelation. I know kale has reached hackneyed status, but I still like it. If you haven’t tried this salad, get yourself some kale and go for it. I dare you to find an easier salad dressing that mustard, mayo, and lemon juice. (I do prefer Chinese mustard. *fancy*)

4. Also a recent revelation has been baked oatmeal. I have documented my relationship with oatmeal here. I’m back on the oatmeal wagon, but this time around, it must be baked, casserole style. I’ve tried this blueberry recipe and this vegan carrot cake recipe. The verdict? I liked the flavor of the carrot cake better, but the texture of the blueberry one was perfect. The eggs made a big difference there. The next time I make it, I’ll be experimenting. Stay tuned. 

5. Why is running 10 miles easier than 6x600 meters? For the first time in 7 (?) years, I did not sign up for the Memphis marathon or half marathon. I was too happy last year that it got canceled to justify going through the process again. Instead, I’ve been working on my speed and trying to get my 5k time consistently below 24:00. I’m running a race at my school this weekend. Wish my luck! I’d like to prove that Frau C has a little BA in her.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Eggplant Lasagna

This is a recipe I came up with about six years ago when I was attempted to cut down on carbs. While I'm obviously back on the carbs (See sourdough posts here, here, here, and here. Yep that's still going on. Side note, when did this blog become a sourdough blog??), this recipe has stayed in my cycle. I especially like to make use of it right after tomato camp when I'm flush with spaghetti sauce. Here are the instructions:

2 eggplants
1 jar marinara sauce
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1 egg
1 cup mozzarella cheese (or more, if you're feeling cheesy)

Step 1: Prepare the eggplant.

The most important technique here is getting out all the excess moisture from the eggplant. If you don't, it will end up mushy and your lasagna will be very liquidy, so take you time with this step. First, slice the eggplant longways, about 1/8" thick. If you have a mandolin, by all means, use it, but just make sure to use the "thick" setting. If the eggplant slices are too thin, they will just disintegrate.

After slicing, I lay down two paper towels and sprinkle salt on them. Then I lay down the eggplant slices on top of the salted paper towels and sprinkle more salt on top of the slices. I have a modicum of counter space in my kitchen, so I layer paper towel, salt, eggplant, salt, paper towel, salt, eggplant, 
etc. (Be careful here! This is not your lasagna. Don't get confused and try to eat it. )

I let the paper towel lasagna sit for about 30-45 minutes or until I can see a lot of water beads on the top eggplant. That means the salt is sucking the moisture out. Then I press the paper towels to soak up any more liquid, dust as much salt off the pieces as I can, and bake the slices on a greased pan in a 375 degree oven for about 10 minutes. 

Step 2: Stations

While that's baking, I set up my stations: cheese and sauce. My cheese station is the ricotta, egg, and parmesan mixed together. You could also just use shredded mozzarella here. If you're a certified Pattiwagoneer, you know my sauce station. (Hint: It's canning camp sauce.)

Step 3: Build it. 

When the eggplant is a little browned, I take it out of the oven. Now I'm ready to roll up my sleeves and start building.

Start with a layer of sauce.

Add a layer of eggplant and a layer of the ricotta mixture.

If I'm feeling extra cheesy, then I'll also put a layer of shredded mozzarella on here.

Keep layering until you've used up all your eggplant. Then end with a layer of shredded mozzarella. Bake it in the oven for about 20 minutes or until the edges are bubbly and the top is beautifully toasty.

You can enjoy it now or let it cool and put it in your freezer. It's a great treat to have on hand. Feel free to experiment with other veggies. I've added squash, zucchini, and mushrooms. All delicious! Enjoy!