Sunday, March 25, 2007

French Dip Panini

My hubby and I made these yesterday for a quick lunch between raking up dead stuffed animal parts in our backyard and watching the boys' state basketball tourney on TV. Lucky for me, I got to make lunch while David raked most of the backyard! Now I can actually look out the patio doors and see the grass and not white balls of fluff everywhere (it also helps that I finally cleaned Jonas's doggy slobber off of the doors...). I was surprised how quickly these sandwiches went together - and how yummy they were! In fact, we're having them again for lunch today because we have just enough for one more meal and we can't seem to get enough of them. So, here they are.

From this month's Everyday with Rachael Ray magazine:
4 tbsp butter, softened (divided - don't use it all up at once!)
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 tbsp cornstarch
2 cups beef broth
1 lb sliced roast beef
1 baguette, split lengthwise and sliced into 4 sections (I just used a French loaf)
4 oz sliced pepper jack cheese

1. In a medium saucepan, melt 2 tbsp butter over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook, stirring, until translucent, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the cornstarch and cook for 1 minute. Whisk in the beef broth.
2. Add the roast beef to the sauce and warm over low heat.
3. Preheat a nonstick grill pan (or just use a nonstick skillet) over medium heat. Spread the remaining 2 tbsp butter on the outsides of the baguette sections (like you're making a grilled cheese sandwich). Using tongs, top half the sections with the warm roast beef, reserving the sauce. Top with the cheese and the remaining baguette sections. Place the 4 panini on the hot pan. Weigh down with a heavy skillet and cook for 2 minutes, then flip the panini and cook for 2 minutes longer.
4. Remove the panini from the heat and divide the among 4 small bowls for dipping.

They're a little messy to eat, but completely worth it!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Five Grain Pancakes

Here's a great recipe for homemade multi-grain pancakes - the recipe is from "Food for Friends; homemade gifts for every season" by Sally Pasley Vargas. It makes a HUGE amount of dry mix - which you can then divy up for all of your friends and family. Just be sure to include the recipe for mixing the pancakes up!

Makes 5 3-cup packages:
5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
1 cup rye flour
1 cup corn flour (I've substituted soy flour, which was easier to find in my area)
1 cup brown or white rice flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup powdered buttermilk
3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup baking powder
2 tbsp. salt
4 tsp. baking soda
1 cup toasted wheat germ
1 cup oat bran

Measure all ingredients except the wheat germ and oat bran into a LARGE bowl and mix thoroughly with your hands. Sift the flour mixture and add the wheat germ and oat bran. Mix again.

Divide into 5 portions of 3 cups each. If you want to make larger packages, simply distribute the mix in amounts that are divisible by 1 1/2 cups.

Directions for making 10-12 pancakes or 4-5 waffles:
1 1/2 cups dry mix
1 egg for pancakes or 2 eggs for waffles
1 -1 1/2 cups milk
2 tbsp. melted butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract

In a bowl, beat together the egg(s), 1 cup milk, melted butter, and vanilla. Stir in the mix. Thin with additional milk if needed. Cook on a lightly oiled griddle or waffle iron until browned on both sides.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Great Big Sea Concert

I went to a concert on St. Patty's Day with my mom. My hubby and I had originally bought the tickets thinking it would be fun to hit a concert and then go out to the bars, but he was gone for the weekend in Atlanta so I took my mom instead. We saw a band out of Newfoundland - Great Big Sea - which I was introduced to a few years ago by a grad student in my old lab. I've listened to a few of their CDs, including one live one, and they have a fun repertoire of music including irish drinking songs, Newfoundland folk songs, and songs of their own - all of which are fun to sing along with. I figured the concert would be entertaining if nothing else, but I was blown away by how much FUN it was!! The concert was in a fairly small venue (compared to the major ones in Mpls and St. Paul), but it was sold out to the doors. They were selling bottled beers for outrageous prices - but those sold out by intermission! The crowd was a little crazy (not unexpected considering it was St. Patty's Day and bars opened at 8:00am!) but everyone seemed to know most of the songs and they all sung along and danced the night away! I would totally go to another concert and now I'm looking up song lyrics and trying to learn all of the songs so I can better sing along, too!! If you're interested, you should check them out at their website! (I have one of their CD covers posted to the right under 'listening to...')


I've decided to start posting some recipes - I've been on a major kick to try out new recipes every week and I want to share them with the blogging world! I'm really just trying to swap recipes with the Fixen Vixen, so I'm hoping that if I start she will respond with some good ones of her own! If you have any good ones that you've tried out lately - or are looking to try out soon - please post them in the comments section or on your own blog!

One of my all-time favorites:
Pork Carnitas from Real Simple

2 to 2 1/2 pounds boneless pork shoulder
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 cup apricot jam or preserves
2 jalapeños, sliced into rings and seeded
1 red onion, roughly chopped
8 small flour or corn tortillas, warmed
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1 lime, cut into wedges

Heat oven to 300° F.

Place 2 large sheets of aluminum foil on a work surface, one atop the other. Place the pork in the center of the foil and season on all sides with the salt, pepper, and cumin. Spoon the jam over the pork, turning to coat. Scatter the jalapeños and onion around the pork. Fold the double layer of foil around the pork and crimp the edges to seal tightly. Place in a baking dish. Roast until fork-tender, about 4 hours; let cool. Unwrap the pork, reserving the juices and discarding the foil. Use a fork to shred the pork. Transfer to a bowl. Pour the cooking juices, onion, and jalapeños over the pork and toss. Serve with the tortillas, cilantro, and lime wedges.

Tip: The best place to warm the tortillas is in the oven: it's quicker than a skillet and less drying than a microwave. As soon as you remove the pork, turn off the heat, wrap the tortillas in foil, and warm them for 10 to 20 minutes.

Yield: Makes about 6 servings

CALORIES 396 (30% from fat); FAT 13g (sat 4g); SUGAR 5g; PROTEIN 39g; CHOLESTEROL 125mg; SODIUM 800mg; FIBER 3g; CARBOHYDRATE 30g

Real Simple, JUNE 2006

These pulled pork tacos are one of mine and my hubby's favorite meals to make. You can make them over the weekend and have leftovers for the next few days. We make fresh guacamole to top them with - but you can't forget the fresh lime juice, kosher salt, and cilantro!

Here's a recipe from the Cooking Light magazine I subscribe to:
Shrimp Chalupas with Mango Salsa

1 mango, peeled and chopped
3 tbsp. chopped red onion
2 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
juice of 1 lime
1/4 tsp. kosher salt

1-1.5 lbs large raw shrimp (peeled and deveined)
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp chipotle chili powder

corn tortillas
olive oil

Mix first five ingredients in a bowl to make the salsa; set aside. Sprinkle salt and chili powders over shrimp, mix to coat. Heat 1 1/2 tsp olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Cook the shrimp 2 minutes per side, or until done (no longer translucent). Remove from pan and keep warm. Wipe the pan out with a paper towel, return to heat. Add 1 tsp olive oil and about 3 tortillas. Cook 30 seconds on each side, or until tortillas bubble. Repeat with remaining tortillas (I would suggest just making as many as you need right away and if someone wants seconds, make another round fresh). Place about 4 shrimp in each tortilla and top with mango salsa.

These were SUPER good and took only about 20 minutes to make - the longest part is peeling and deveining the shrimp, so if you purchase some that are all ready to go it'd be even faster! The chipotle chili powder is hot, so back off on that if you don't like spicy food - just use more regular chili powder (or use all chipotle chili powder if you like it extra spicy!). Also, the mango salsa is good on its own - and really easy to make!

That's all for now - I can't remember the recipes for the rest of the week and I don't have my magazines with me. I hope this inspires some of you to try out one of these recipes - or find new ones on your own! And please - share!!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

We Got a Couch!

My hubby and I made our first major furniture purchase since we bought our bed almost two years ago. We bought a couch! Well...actually I picked out the couch while David was in Atlanta for the weekend (don't worry, I had his full permission - I think he just didn't want to have to go through any more furniture shopping!). Since I didn't have David around, I figured I'd better bring along some reinforcements. By the end of the evening Laura, Arin, and I had picked out the perfect brown leather couch (although the girls tried really hard to get me to buy another, more comfy, but much more expensive one!). After I was done with all of the paperwork, though, I found them lounging out on "my" couch eating free cookies. I can't wait for it to get here!

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Jonas has an ear infection

Our dog has been shaking his head for a few days now so we finally dug out of the snow and took him to the vet this morning. This is his second ear infection in a few months, so the vet is warning us that it will probably be a chronic problem (which may be a sign of allergies in labs, evidently). It pretty much sucks, but at least I feel better getting some meds in his ears. This visit was a not-so-good one because Jonas decided he was kind of scared of the vet and didn't want anyone to come near his ears. They had to put a muzzle on him in order for the vet to look into his ears and get some swabs (poor guy!). I was kind of amused when the vet was explaining to us about the normal flora of dogs' ears (my words, not his). He told us that they normally have low levels of yeast ("which look like peanuts under the microscope") and cocci ("those are circles, and are normally Staph"), but sometimes these bugs like to overgrow in the dog's ears and that's when they cause problems (gee, no kidding?). I tried really hard not to shout out "I'm a microbiologist, I could probably come back there and do the Gram stain for you!" I'm thankful that he was at least accurate in his explanations or I may not have been able to resist. Evidently he was concerned about a Pseudomonas infection ("those are rods"), because he kept saying that if he saw lots of rods on the swabs we may have to give Jonas oral antibiotics - and then he tried to go into the fact that a lot of the Pseudomonas strains are antibiotic resistant, which makes it even more problematic. Thankfully Jonas just had another yeast infection, so we're officially back on meds. The other bad part of the visit was when they had to bring in a couple of vet assistants to tackle Jonas down and clean out his ears - afterwards he spastically shakes his head, letting all sorts of saliva and ear crud fly all around. We noticed he had blood all over the back of the head once he calmed down - his ear had gotten cut when he was playing with the neighbor's dogs and had started bleeding and running all over his head and into his fur. Luckily we got him cleaned up while we were waiting for the vet to check out the "peanuts and cocci" under the microscope. You know, I start to worry that I spend too much time talking about my animals on this blog, but then I remember that they pretty much run my life so what else would I have to talk about if they weren't around? Oh, and for those of you that were wondering - Jonas now weighs 96 lbs!

I made friends with the wolf-dog!

Yesterday I went out to play with Jonas in the snow (which is up to my knees in our backyard, by the way) and found him in the neighbor's yard - again. Normally he hears me yelling and runs to the back corner of the yard to the area of the fence that is slightly bent so he can easily jump over. Yesterday, however, he evidently wanted to stay with his buddies because all three of them (Jonas, wolf-dog, and a new puppy that they just got) came over to the fence to see me. Both Jonas and the puppy were pretty friendly, but the wolf-dog didn't quite know what to think - he kept barking at me. But then he got close enough to smell my hand and all of a sudden he was letting me pet him. This is a major accomplishment for me. Now, if we could just persuade the new puppy to learn how to jump over the fence and come play with us, we could be even with the neighbors (our dog goes into their yard, theirs comes into ours, everyone is happy). I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

More SNOW? Are you freakin' kidding me!?!

The weather is officially bad enough that the national news has picked it up. Here's what they say:

Heavy Snow, Winds Hit Midwest, Plains

By TIMBERLY ROSS, Associated Press Writer

OMAHA, Neb. - A big winter storm hit the Plains and Midwest with heavy wet snow and swirling winds that created whiteout conditions Thursday morning. A North Dakota couple were killed when their car overturned.

The storm, which could bring a foot or two to some areas by Friday, closed hundreds of schools and some highways.

"It is snowing and blowing. The wind is blowing really hard," said Angela Jones, of Superior, Wis. "The flag out there is whipping around."


More than 140 school districts canceled classes Thursday in Minnesota even before the heavy snow arrived.

By Friday, snowfall totals were expected to be a foot or more in southern and central Minnesota. In northeastern Minnesota, the totals could hit two feet. The weather service warned of blowing snow and possible blizzard conditions in the countryside.

"We're going to get pummeled," National Weather Service meteorologist Byron Paulson said.

It's the second major snowstorm in a week for the Minnesota area. The Twin Cities got 9.1 inches of snow last week, and other cities further north recorded more than one foot. Winona, in the southeastern corner of the state, got 28 inches.

I made it into work for a few hours this morning, but was strongly encouraged by first my husband and then my mom to head home asap. So, I guess it's kind of like a snow day for me - although I have to grade assignments for the class I'm TAing, so it's not as much fun! The U officially just closed down (for the first time since 9/11, I believe) so I guess it's pretty bad out. My parents in southern MN have informed me that the major interstate (I-90) has been shut down in areas and they're not even venturing out of the house to do any more hog chores (which is a pretty big deal for them, especially my dad who I assume will be completely stir crazy in about an hour!). Oh well, at least my hubby has the XTerra, so he shouldn't have a hard time driving the few miles to get home at 6:00p.m. Now if only we could get pizza delivered for supper...
It's good to know us Minnesotans at least know how to have fun in the snow - maybe if I get bored I'll try this out with Jonas!