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Michigan Pasta (Orzo Salad with Blue Cheese, Cherries, and Almonds) March 4, 2012

Posted by Angela @ Making Food for Friends in uncategorized.
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Most of the time, I cook meals that both Ryan and I will eat and enjoy.  Sometimes, though, I come across recipes or want to try new things that I just know he won’t enjoy, and I use my weekend days when he’s working or weeknights when he’s at practice to make those meals.  This is one of them. Ryan isn’t crazy about fruit all up in his savory meals, so I knew this would be one I’d be eating alone. It’s so good though!  And it’s a perfect salad to make and pack up for a few lunches.  I’m already excited to eat it tomorrow at work. 

Ingredients 

1 cup orzo, uncooked
2 cups baby spinach, chopped
1/3 cup dried cherries (or cranberries)
1/4 cup chopped almonds
1/4 cup blue cheese or gorgonzola
1/4 cup balsamic vinaigrette
salt + pepper to taste

Method

Cook orzo according to package directions. Drain and cool completely.

When the orzo is cooled, mix it up in a big bowl with the rest of the ingredients.  This can be served at room temperature or chilled.   

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Best New (to me) Thing: Tiseo’s Pizza Dough May 7, 2011

Posted by Angela @ Making Food for Friends in products, uncategorized.
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Tiseo's pizza dough

We make pizza a LOT.  A green pizza at least once every other week, I’d say.  I rarely spend the time to make my own dough (I know!  Bad Ang!) and rely on Trader Joe’s bagged dough for our crust needs.  The other day, I was at Western Market in Ferndale and came across bags and bags of Tiseo’s pizza dough hidden way back in the freezer section, in the farthest case, on the bottom shelf.  The dough is $1.29 for a 16 oz bag there, I think.  I brought home two bags and figured we’d give it a try. The dough is frozen solid, but if you leave it in the refrigerator overnight, it thaws out just fine.

Yesterday was another pizza night, and you know what?  Tiseo’s dough is LIGHT YEARS better than Trader Joe’s!!   It is more elastic, easier to roll out (no holes from stretching it too far), holds it’s shape better, gets crispier, turns a really nice shade of golden brown when it cooks, and just tastes better overall than any of the three doughs Trader Joe’s sells.  I like that it’s a local company, too (make in Sterling Heights), and it is really convenient just to keep a few balls of dough in the freezer.

So, there you go.  I’ve tried for years with Trader Joe’s and had what I thought was  a pretty good system down to make it turn out decent (letting it warm up, pre-baking it, not using a rolling pin, etc), but it’s so temperamental, and you never really know how each bag of dough is going to react to the same elements.  I’m glad I found something that is more reliable and delicious.

Eating for Two March 24, 2011

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So, as I get close to the end of Month 6 of being pregnant and enter the last trimester, it’s probably time to write a little bit about what I have been eating, and how my diet has (or hasn’t) changed since getting pregnant. I was extremely lucky to not have ANY morning sickness (and hopefully I am well past that point!).

 

Baby, a few weeks ago!

If I ate what I really WANTED to eat, my diet would probably consist of toast with peanut butter for breakfast, pita bread pizza for lunch, and the Japanese Pan Noodles from Noodles & Co. for dinner. Every day.

japan_pan_noodles

Japanese Pan Noodles....mmmmm

But I know chowing down on a bunch of carbs does not make a healthy baby, so I’ve been doing my best to vary what I eat. Being pregnant means a lot of changes (obviously) but most striking to me has been how my body reacts to foods I had no problem with before the baby came along. To my dismay, it’s mostly healthy foods that I am having trouble with. Broccoli, oranges, tomatoes—all on the “tread with caution” list these days. The baby really just wants me to eat pizza and noodles all day! I was working my way through a 10-pound bag of oranges, because for a while, I loved them, but all of a sudden, my body turned, and eating an innocent orange would soon cause my heart to feel like someone was trying to squeeze it through my throat. Heart burn! Oranges can now only be eaten at certain times, and in certain order—they can’t be the last thing I eat, and I can’t eat too much before or after eating one.

Speaking of which, I try not to overeat in general, which is kind of hard for me. Anyone who knows me knows my appetite is probably way bigger than it should be, but now I really have to force myself to stop eating before I feel full and eat smaller meals more frequently throughout the day. There are times when I totally go against this, like on Tuesday, when I ate an enormous taco salad out of a mixing bowl at lunch and then finished the meal off with two pieces of pizza that appeared in the kitchen at work. It hurts now to eat that much, though, with the increasingly limited real estate inside me, so I try to pace myself with food and make good choices more often than not.

Being a vegetarian, I’ve definitely made a conscious effort to get enough protein and iron in my diet. I’ve been going through Greek yogurt like it’s going out of style, and have stacks upon stacks of canned beans in the basement, which make appearances in salads, pasta, dips, and more. My favorite lunch of late is the previously mentioned taco salad, made with chopped spinach, black beans, walnuts, chopped tomatoes, feta, cheddar (double cheese is the most important part!), avocado, salsa, hot sauce, and crunched up tortilla chips on top. It’s a lot of nutrition packed into a salad, and with all of the extras on the salad, I can get three good meals out of a can of black beans. Plus it tastes delicious, it’s an easy lunch to bring to work, and it is definitely healthier than pizza every day at noon.

I’ve been really good about exercising throughout this whole pregnancy (save for two weeks when I was too sick/cough-y/infected to go to the gym). I gave up running sometime around the beginning on Month 5, when I started growing and it just became too uncomfortable to run for any extended period of time. I traded the treadmill in for the elliptical, specifically the Precor machine with the adjustable ramp.

My best friend at the gym

I will go to the gym, do 300-400 calories on the Precor, lift some weights, stretch out, and head home. It’s not a KILLER workout, but I think it’s good enough to maintain a decent level of fitness. I’m not really sure how exercise will fit in once the baby is born. I am much more of a first-thing-in-the-morning exerciser, and I am pretty sure that is probably not going to work with having a newborn around who needs to wake up, eat, and be taken care of. I guess like everything else, it will just work out somehow once he is here. Maybe I’ll learn to love the gym at night, but I feel like that is just not in my bones.

All in all, I have been trying to stay healthy and not gain a crazy amount of weight that I will later have to struggle to lose. It is hard—pregnancy makes you ravenous at times, and I haven’t been holding back when I’m hungry. I figure the little guy has to grow, and because of that, so do I, as weird as it is to see my body changing shape by the week.

Tomato Soup with Feta and Basil August 31, 2010

Posted by Angela @ Making Food for Friends in good for a group, soup, uncategorized, vegetarian.
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I spent the weekend up north with Ryan and our friends, camping and tubing down the Rifle River.  We left to come home pretty early on Sunday, and decided to stop somewhere along I-75 south to get breakfast.  As we approached Saginaw, a quick check of what was nearby on Yelp (Yelp is a community-driven website where people review restaurants, stores, businesses, etc) showed that…well…Yelp wasn’t very popular in the Saginaw community.  A nearby Big Boy seemed our best option, but when we got off the freeway, Big Boy was nowhere to be found.  There was a Big John’s, purveyor of cheesesteaks, so I will have to chalk that mishaps up to a confused Yelp contributor.

We got back on I-75 south, and decided to take a little detour into Frankenmuth for breakfast and a quick walk around town.  And that is how I ended up eating a giant calzone at 11am at a place called “T Dubs.” To be fair, the calzone was pretty irresistible… spinach, parmesan cheese, red sauce, ricotta, caramelized onions, and tomatoes all wrapped up in a buttery garlic dough!  Who wouldn’t want that for Sunday breakfast?

After our breakfast at T Dubs, we wandered down the street to one of the many hauses in downtown Frankenmuth, and possibly the best one: the Cheese Haus. While I was not brave enough to try the chocolate cheese, I did leave with two different cheeses: a chicken soup cheese (ingredients list specified “vegetarian chicken seasoning”) and a monterey dill.  YUM.

When Ryan and I arrived home later on, our plan was to make grilled cheese with our new finds and a batch of homemade tomato soup.  But we were hit with unexpected housework upon our return, and I had a bunch work-work to do, so the tomato soup never happened.  Ryan made the grilled cheeses while I sat on the couch doing work on my laptop, and that ended up being plenty of food after the ridiculous breakfast.

But since it’s been so long since I’ve posted, I want to leave you with this tomato soup recipe anyways, because we make it often and it is DELICIOUS.  Don’t skip the fresh lemon juice or the balsamic–both are key.

Tomato Soup with Feta and Basil

Ingredients:

3 ½ cups water or broth
1/3 cup soy sauce
1 tsp onion powder
2 tbl olive oil
2-3 tsp minced garlic
1 small red pepper, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
2 (15 ounce) cans diced tomatoes (I have used fire-roasted and the kind with basil/oregano in them)
½ cup chopped fresh basil
1-2 tbl balsamic vinegar
2 tsp cornstarch
Cold water
Freshly squeezed lemon juice
Feta cheese

Method:

Heat olive oil in a large pot and add onion. Saute until softened and add garlic and red bell pepper. Saute 3 to 4 minutes.  Add salt, pepper, diced tomatoes, and water/broth, soy sauce, and onion powder.

Stirring often, bring to a boil. Bring to low heat and add basil and vinegar.

Remove from heat and puree soup with immersion blender to desired consistency.

Return to low heat. Blend cornstarch into just enough water to dissolve without lumps and stir into soup.

Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes and remove from heat.  Serve with freshly squeezed lemon juice and feta cheese stirred into individual bowls.

This can easily be halved if you only want 2-3 servings.  As written, it makes 5-6.

Options:

This is also good with dill instead of basil.  Think about stirring in a few crumbles of goat cheese or creme fraiche in place of the feta.  Many options exist!

Cheesy Zucchini Pizza August 9, 2010

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I’ll make this short and sweet, because you might want to run out immediately to get some zucchinis for this recipe.  I came across this Cheesy Zucchini Pizza on Eat, Live, Run, and put it at the top of my “to make” list.  It’s the time of year when everyone has zucchini either growing in their gardens or super cheap at the market, and this recipe is a perfect use for them.  I made this as part of dinner last night, and ate the leftovers for lunch today.  I’m seriously considering making it again tonight for dinner–it’s really that good!

Please visit Eat, Live, Run for the recipe—I didn’t change it a bit, and Jenna’s photos are beautiful.

Kitchen Items I Love May 21, 2010

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I have a zillion kitchen items–pots, pans, utensils, gadgets, towels, small appliances, medium appliance, large appliances, that one thing Ryan fell in love with on an infomerical and used once, a mini-burger press, a big burger press, an ancient rice cooker, cookbooks by the dozen, miniature spoons, spices from all corners of the globe, and about 20 coffee mugs, even though neither of us drinks coffee.

But this is not a post about why I should clean out my cupboards (though maybe it should be….).  It is a post about the few items I use almost every day and love, and want to spread the word in case you might love them, as well.

Exhibit A: Tomato Knife

tomato knife

I added this to our wedding registry on Amazon a few years ago because I thought it looked cool, but after three years of using this thing almost daily, I can tell you it is well worth the $7.00 investment.  It has held up remarkably well (though I am very careful about always returning it to the red case it lives in) and cuts like a champ, even though it has never been re-sharpened.  It has a half-serrated blade (is it even possible to resharpen serrated blades?) and a little fork-like end that can be used to cleanly remove the stem of a tomato.  I use it to cut avocados and cheese as well.  You can find it on Amazon: Komachi Tomato Knife.

Exhibit B: Trays from Ikea

The trays we have don’t look like the ones above.  Ours have elephants and a blue/gold/yellow/orange  patterned design.  But they are long gone, from the Ikea 2009 collection.  If you like elephants, you are out of luck.  The birds are what you get for 2010.  But they are pretty cute, as well.   I got two of them for Ryan and I to use when we eat on the couch (which is…ahem…often) and our buddies AJ and Sean were so enamored by the ease of couch-eating the elephant trays provided that they went to Ikea and each got one of their own to leave at our house.  Isn’t that cute?  So now we can all watch American Idol together and eat our meals off perfectly-sized and easy-to-clean melamine trays from Ikea.  I’m into that.

Exhibit C: The Dutch Oven

So you want a dutch oven, but you are not rich and can’t afford a Le Creuset?  Not to fear—I am here to tell you that the Lodge Dutch Oven is a fine substitute at about 1/6 of the price.  Here is the secret.  Go to Amazon, search for “Lodge Dutch Oven.”  Pick the nice blue one above, because it is the cheapest, for some reason.  The other colors cost more.  Look below the picture—see that section where it says “Frequently Bought Together”?  That little metal knob is the key to success with this thing.  The Lodge Dutch Oven is shipped with a plastic knob that is oven-safe up to 400 degrees or so, but if you are going to use it to make no-knead bread or anything else that requires a high temperature, you will be faced with a melted plastic mess that will ruin any plans you might have had for using the dutch oven more than once. But if you get that little metal knob and replace the plastic one as soon as you get it, then you will be set for life.  Bonus: the little metal knob says “Le Creuset” on the top, so if you care about those things, there you go. Amazon: Lodge Dutch Oven.

Exhibit D: Egg Spatula

Confession: I am HORRIBLE at making eggs.  It’s because I don’t really like them.  I’ll eat eggs if they are scrambled up and disguised with the taste of cheese or pesto, but eating just an egg?  Not for me.  Ryan likes eggs, though, and I will sometimes make him two eggs in the morning before work.  I still think I am pretty bad at it, even after years of trying, but he eats them and claims they are just fine.  I think this little egg spatula is the reason I have any luck at all making those things.  It’s small and flexible enough to get under the egg and flip it perfectly, almost every time.  My mom found it at Marshall’s, but you can find it on Amazon as well, if you want a little egg spatula in your life: Egg Spatula.

Exhibit E: KitchenAid Mixer

So, I don’t use this every day.  It doesn’t fall into the same category as the four items above, but I love it nonetheless.  I was fortunate enough to receive the mixer as a hand-me-down from my aunt, and I immediately fell in love with it.  A mixer like this makes baking a snap, and I haven’t even scratched the surface of what I can do with it.  I want to try making pasta with some of the special attachments, and pizza dough with the dough hook.  But even just using it as a straight-up mixer is light years easier than anything I’ve used in the past.  I’ve seen good deals on these on the internet, but they never last long, so you have to be ready to buy when you come across one at a low price.

That is all for now!  What kind of kitchen gadgets can you not live without?

A CHALLENGE! Can I stay out of grocery stores for a week? April 29, 2010

Posted by Angela @ Making Food for Friends in uncategorized.
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I walked in the grocery store yesterday with a specific goal in mind: pick up a small container of non-dairy yogurt, a bottle of mango vodka, and a few limes.  I walked out 40 minutes later with enough food to feed a small army of hungry people.  As I struggled to find room in my cupboards for four boxes of lasagna noodles, several jars of various sauces, and other random finds and realized there was no room (it all went in a bag in the basement), I decided that a challenge might be in order. See if we can go a week (at least) buying absolutely no new food, eating only what we have in the cupboards, fridge, and freezer already.  Not only will this save some money, and make us eat some of the food I’ve hoarded away, but hopefully I’ll be creative and come up with some new recipe ideas in the process.

Let’s be honest, though—this isn’t going to be difficult.  The whole reason this popped into my head is because I was bringing home enough food to eat for an entire month when I really only needed drink materials for a small party the following night.  I’ve always loved grocery shopping.  I end up at a minimum of one grocery store a day, and often/always walk out with more than I went in there for originally.  I’m on a first-name basis with the majority of the staff at three different stores, and don’t even want to think about how much time I spend thinking about food, shopping for food, prepping food, eating food, and cleaning up food every day.  I love searching out new recipes and ingredients to try.  This makes for a very full kitchen, and a hodge podge of odds and ends that can probably be used up in some creative way.  I try to do this sometimes (feta-walnut-pepperocini quesadillas, anyone?) but never stick with it for more than a day before I just have to go buy an ingredient for some new recipe I want to try.

But what about fresh vegetables and fruits?  And I’m sure Ryan is thinking, what about my turkey sandwiches for lunch?  Maybe the best way to start this is to give us a small budget (say, $25) to go to the store or the farmer’s market on Saturday or Sunday and stretch that money as far as we can to get all of the fresh items we will need for the week, and then that’ll be it, and we’ll have to eat what we have until the following Saturday or Sunday.

If I come up with any interesting new combos, I’ll be sure to post it on here….until then, let the pantry-raiding begin!