November 27, 2010


How was your Thanksgiving?

Both Robbie and I attended an "orphan" Thanksgiving potluck, hosted by a fellow graduate student in the English department. I made a slightly soggy cherry pie and this spinach puff.  It was a fun night with great company and great food, including a really good Gooey Butter Cake (?), a perfectly roasted turkey, some terrific cranberry sauce and delicious butternut squash bread pudding.

check out my puff in the back corner amongst other great food

November 23, 2010

Tips To Make Cooking Quicker And Easier

It occurred to me that I have a few little tricks I use to make decent meals quickly and without a lot of fuss. Nothing groundbreaking here; these are mostly common sense. Still, they may be helpful to consider, especially if you're feeling culinarily-stressed around the holidays.

-Make grains in large batches: About once a month, I make a huge pot of brown rice. I then section it out into individual servings and freeze them in plastic bags, then defrost them as needed. This is great because I'm not always stuck waiting for rice to cook (it takes so long!) and also because I can defrost exactly the amount if rice that is necessary for the recipe I'm making (no waste!).

I also like to make a big pot of quinoa on Sunday nights so I can use it as a side dish or base all week.

-Buy preminced garlic: I have a feeling a lot of people will find this sacrilegious, but for me it's much easier to just plop some already chopped garlic out of a jar than deal with buying cloves and slicing them as needed. Cuts prep time quite a bit for me, as I use garlic very frequently, and a big jar lasts me months.

-Always have canned tomatoes in the cabinet: I buy canned tomatoes almost every third time I grocery shop, because I use them so often. They're perfect as a base for so many different things, including chili, pasta sauce, tacos, enchiladas, jambalaya, whatever. The store brand ones are often very cheap and already flavored with stuff like oregano and green chile, too.

-Don't be afraid to modify the recipe: If you don't have something you need, don't be afraid to omit it or substitute for something similar. This recipe tasted perfectly fine without onions, and this one was fine with extra spinach instead of kale. For baked goods, I especially like subbing for eggs with applesauce; the recipe always ends up really moist (use about 1/4 cup applesauce per egg). For an added bonus, it's vegan.

Have any similar time-saving tips? Anything you do to simplify recipes or simplify cooking in general?

On an unrelated note, here we are, your Master of Fine Eats bloggers, dressed up and clowning around at an event last weekend.

Photo by Yvette Lopez

November 14, 2010

In Which I Finally Make Frittata

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you know I am a big fan of egg dishes (see here, here, and here). Eggs are easy, healthy, and can be dressed up to taste really delicious with only minor time and effort.

I frequently come across frittata recipes on food blogs, especially on 30 Bucks A Week (they are always whipping up these incredible looking frittatas from random ingredients they have laying around. It's intimidating in a weird foodie way). I never had the oven-safe pan required to make one, though, until I recently bought a cast-iron skillet.

I like making brunch on the weekends, so I decided to try a frittata last Sunday morning and was pleasantly surprised at how easy it actually was. I sort of quickly threw this together after googling a few recipes, and it came out really well. It's easy enough that it doesn't feel like work, but tastes good enough that it feels a bit more festive (special? weekend-worthy? I don't know) for a Sunday brunch. I'm thinking frittatas could also be good for dinner, with a little salad and some some crusty toasted bread.

Spinach, Asparagus, & Feta Frittata
hands-on time: 10 min total time: 20 min

6 eggs (I used 2 eggs, 4 egg whites)
splash of milk
7 or 8 asparagus stalks, woody ends removed, chopped into 1 in pieces
handful of torn baby spinach
2-3 green onions, chopped
feta cheese to your liking (I used an herb blend)
2 glugs olive oil
chopped garlic to taste
an oven safe pan or skillet

1. Preheat oven to 450. 
2. Saute the asparagus with the chopped garlic and olive oil, about 5 minutes, until it turns a bright green.

3. Stir in the spinach and green onions, cook until spinach wilts.

4. Beat eggs thoroughly with just a splash of milk added, then pour into pan, making sure eggs are evenly distributed throughout pan.
5.  Sprinkle about half of the feta on top, then cook eggs and vegetables on low heat for 4-5 minutes.

6. Once the mixture has begun to set (but there is still egg liquid in the pan), add the rest of the feta and transfer to oven for 7-10 minutes.
7. The frittata is ready when the cheese is melted and the egg is set, but not browned; you can try inserting a fork or toothpick to see if it comes out clean. 

The feta that I used was extremely salty, so there was no need to add any more salt to this recipe, even after cooking. I loved this frittata so much I made another one the very next day, with tomatoes, spinach, and shredded Mexican cheese. I think the shredded cheese may have actually turned out better than the feta, and the tomatoes added some necessary juiciness. This would be easy to tweak by using different greens, adding onions or other vegetables, or changing the ratio of egg whites to eggs. 

November 9, 2010

Crockpot Chicken Enchilada Soup

This is an incredibly easy and surprisingly tasty recipe. I made it on a Friday night (when I was staying in, lame), but I will probably make this pretty frequently now that it's getting cold outside---just put the stuff in the crockpot in the morning and have a hot, spicy soup ready to eat when I return from class.

sorry for the lack of pictures. The blue stuff is blue corn tortilla chips

Crockpot Chicken Enchilada Soup
Hands on time: 5-10 minutes Total time: 3-6 hrs

1 can chicken or vegetable broth
1 can chopped green chilies (the teeny can)
1 can or jar of enchilada sauce (I used 505 brand)
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can or package of frozen corn
2 cups water
3-4 cups shredded chicken (more, if you want it)
couple tbsps of garlic
cumin and chili powder to taste (at least a tsp each, I'd say)
optional: 1 onion, finely chopped and quickly sauteed in olive oil before putting it in the crockpot
optional: cilantro for garnish

1. Put the chilies, sauce, tomatoes, corn and chicken into the bottom of the crockpot.
2. Add the broth, water, and spices.
3. Cook on high heat for 3 hours or low heat for 6 hours.

If you wanted, you could add some pre-cooked rice or quinoa in there, as well, about a half hour before you're ready to eat it. I like putting tortilla chips in the bottom of the bowl before I put the soup in, then topping it off with some shredded Mexican cheese.

November 5, 2010

The Cooking Shit Storm of '10

So read this.
Two days later we have this, this and this.

The last one is the start of a meme, which might be the first and most interesting food related meme I've seen.
Some of my favorites:

"Jennifer Griffin Warthan Cooks Source says "That's what she says" a lot. A lot."

"Dionisis Souliotis Cooks Source is the reason we can't have nice things."

"Lauren Pedersen Cooks Source is the reason I use Rape Ax."

"Elizabeth Hentze Cooks Source is the reason you should hide yo' wife, hide yo' kids and hide yo' husband."

(Thanks to Roxane Gay for the tip off).

November 4, 2010

Where I Take A Classic And Make It Classier

A staple for fall weather is soup, and nothing goes better with soup than grilled cheese.  I love all sorts of varieties of grilled cheese.  The coffee shop down the street makes a grilled cheese with grated cheddar, tomatoes, and onions.  It's delicious.  But it's a little bland.  Properly making a sandwich is an art, and making a grilled sandwich is high art.  The only time I've gotten into a physical confrontation with my mother, was over a grilled cheese sandwich (I wanted to butter both sides of the bread; she thought I was taking too long).  This recipe takes the grilled cheese and makes it a little more fancy in a southwestern sort of way.  Take the normal recipe (cheese and buttered bread) and add roasted onions and green chili.  Use the gooey American cheese slices and then you have something with a kick that tastes like a relleno.  Use ranch dressing or salsa to dip the sandwich.

Grilled Green Chili and Cheese
1 sliced green chili
2 slices of onion
4 slices of American cheese
4 pieces of buttered bread (one side or two, it's your decision)

Saute the onions and chile in the same pan that you're going to grill the sandwiches in.  When they are finished sauteing, place the buttered bread, butter side down, into the still hot pan. Place a cheese slice on top of each slice of bread.


When the cheese begins to melt, place the onion and green chili mixture on one slice of bread and place the other slice of bread on top of that.  Press it down a little bit to melt the two slices together.  Keep cooking until the sandwich is the way you like it.

November 3, 2010


Do you ever not cook because you don't want to do dishes?  (I hate dishes)

November 2, 2010

I Miss Cooking

This has been by far my busiest semester in the 2 years I've been here at NMSU, and as a result I'm barely cooking, which makes me sad. I'm in Master's workshop (a class where we workshop our book-length theses), a nonfiction workshop, and an awesome lit class about girlhood. I love my classes and I feel like I'm learning and producing quite a lot, so that's pretty good, but it feels like something is sort of lacking.

Cooking is a big stress reliever for me, as well as being a means to creativity outside of the realm of writing, so I am really missing it. When I cook I use my hands, my sense of smell, my vision, my tastebuds---and I like using these things as a companion to and in addition to the constant thinking and analyzing I do in my academic life.

I've been productive as a student and as a teacher, but when I have a free minute, I want to lie down on my couch and watch Hulu. I don't want to do the huge pile of dishes sitting in my kitchen sink, or go to the grocery store, or chop vegetables. The only thing I've really made in the last week or so is a chicken enchilada soup that I made in the crockpot, so it hardly counts as cooking (I'm going to post the recipe sometime this week, so check back for's really easy!!). Greek yogurt, Mexican takeout and a pot of quinoa have been my staples for the past couple of days, and I'm missing the variety of flavors I usually have in my diet.

Thanksgiving break is coming up in a few short weeks, so I hope I can find some time then to make a few really good meals. If I don't, I might go crazy (not to mention nutritionally-deficient.)

What do you do when you're too busy to cook? Does eating well when you're stressed matter to you? Are all graduate students doomed to a diet of boxed macaroni and cheese and Lean Cuisines?


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