Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween from Medusa and her latest victim, turned to stone!

I know you're all dying to know (har har) who won the giveaway!

There was a whopping 172 entries, but lucky #40 popped up!

Which happened to be Micco of xveganx party! Congratulations Micco!

I remember when your comment came through my email because your sass made me giggle out loud!! I think you're the first person to ever comment on my "All commenters will receive an 8 x 10 autographed, glossy photo of me in the mail" joke.

Email christina at dinneratchristinas dot com with your mailing address and I'll pass it on to Alisa from One Frugal Foodie and GoDairyFree.Org!

Thanks again, Alisa and to everybody for entering! It was definitely a new, fun way to celebrate my birthday! I loved hearing when all of your birthdays were. Nobody shared my birthday exactly, except for one commenter's husband, and one commenter whose was the day before mine!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Cauliflower "Risotto"

Are you looking for the give away!? Head on over here and good luck!

I've heard of using cauliflower to make mashed potatoes if you're on a low-carb diet. But until I saw Alisa's post last week, I'd never heard of cauliflower risotto! I loved the idea and happened to have a head of cauliflower in my produce drawer.

Alisa's recipe is dairy free, due to her allergies, but I took some liberties, listed below. I also doubled her original recipe because we had company for dinner. It made a lot and would probably serve 6 as a side dish.

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 head cauliflower, grated (either by hand or food processor)
1 cup onion, grated
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup broth of your choice (I used vegetarian)
6 Tbsp pine nuts
2 Tbsp parmesan cheese
1 tsp salt
pepper, to taste

Thank goodness for my Cuisinart grating attachment! If it weren't so sharp I'd kiss it! This saved me so much time by grating the whole head of cauliflower and a few little onions in literally seconds.

Grate the cauliflower and set aside. Grate the onion and add it to a large skillet over medium heat with oil and cook for a few minutes until it becomes translucent. Add the cauliflower and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the minced garlic and continue to cook for a minute more. Add the broth, reduce the heat and cover, letting it cook a few minutes. You'll want the cauliflower to be "al dente" with a little texture so it isn't just mush.

Meanwhile, pulse together the pine nuts, cheese, and salt until it forms a powdery consistency. (My food processor was wet from rinsing it out, so mine was a little more in paste form.)

Remove the cauliflower from the heat and stir in the nut mixture until well combined. Add pepper to taste.

We have about half (maybe 3 cups?) leftover. I'm thinking of forming it into patties and pan-frying them in a little oil for a variance. Alisa also suggests adding steamed veggies or leftover meats for a quick lunch.

Thank you, everybody for your birthday wishes! I had a great day! While Sabor do Brasil ended up being closed unexpectedly, we had a nice impromptu lunch at Red Lobster instead. Later, we headed to Medieval Times where we feasted like kings in the green knight's section and cheered him on until we lost our voices!

Saturday I received a wonderful surprise package from Miss Sophia of Burp and Slurp~ (She had told me I was getting a card!)

Inside was a beautiful drawing she did by hand! Also a heartfelt card, two packages of her favorite crackers from Korea, and two packages of nori seaweed sheets. Those are definitely a first time ingredient that I can't wait to experiment with! Thank you again, Sophia, that was really sweet of you!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Birthday Giveaway

The wonderful Alisa of One Frugal Foodie and GoDairyFree.Org was generous and sweet enough to offer not one, but two cookbooks for a dairy free giveaway here at Dinner at Christina's!

While I don't have to cook completely dairy free due to Johnny's whey allergy, I do often incorporate dairy free and vegan dishes and ingredients into our diet for convenience and guarantee. I really appreciate healthy, tasty recipes that both of us can eat and enjoy, without feeling like we're missing out on anything! If you want that too - then you're at the right place!

Up for grabs is Alisa's cookbook, Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance, and Casein-Free Living

Also available to snag is the full color My Sweet Vegan: passionate about dessert cookbook, guaranteed to satisfy every sweet tooth you might have!

There are three ways to enter the giveaway:

Entry 1: Leave a comment below. Need something to talk about?! Tell me what your birthday is, since today is mine!

Entry 2: Re-blog, linking back to this post, and leave a 2nd comment below telling me you've done so!

Entry 3: Tweet the giveaway, linking back to this post, and leave a 3rd comment below telling me you've done so!

Contest will run through Friday, October 30th. I will select the winner using a random number generator and announce the lucky winner Saturday, October 31st! All anonymous commenters, please leave a way for me to get in contact with you!

Now onto my birthday... which I often try to name as my favorite holiday, until people remind me that it isn't a holiday. It is in my head at least!

A few years ago my mom copied some pages from my baby album to mail to me. I think it's pretty neat to look back on. Her water broke October 20th, but she didn't have contractions, so they put a fetal monitor on her. Late October 22nd the real contractions kicked in! After driving an hour in rainy weather, my parents arrived at the hospital and I was born 6 hours later, at 3:12 am, October 23rd, 1984.

Here are some first comments of some of my relatives after seeing me that my mom wrote down:

Maternal Grandma: "She has long fingers, arms, legs, toes. She's going to be like Carrie" (Carrie is my aunt and it's true - here's the two of us!)

December 2008

Aunt Heather: "It's a good thing she doesn't look like you" (Said to my mom, but we eventually did start to look a lot alike!)

April 2008

Aunt Carrie: "I hope you don't teach her piano lessons" (My mom is a piano teacher, and yes indeed I was taught piano for many years!)

Summer 2000

Here are some pictures of mine for you guys to giggle over:

2 months old

2 years old

Between 2 and 3 years old with my cousin Anne-Marie

3 years old with my cousin Anne-Marie

4 years old with my little brother and his bandaged finger

First Communion, 7 years old

12 years old (is it me or Fran Drescher!?)

I think maybe 13? Again, with my cousin Anne-Marie (why are you in all my pics!?)

Last year's birthday (24) riding horses with Johnny

Johnny's treating me to lunch at Sabor do Brasil, one of my favorites! It's a Brazillian style steakhouse, complete with gauchos coming around with skewers of grilled meats. Their salad bar to die for, too!

Later tonight I'm cashing in my Free noble birthday fellowship ticket to cheer on some knights and eat my heart out at Medieval Times!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

BSI: Acorn Squash (Roasted Acorn Squash with Walnuts)

Come back tomorrow for a birthday give away!

Blogger Secret Ingredient (BSI) this week is being hosted by Megan of MegaNerdRuns and she chose acorn squash!

I love acorn squash and have utilized it as a vessel for stuffing other foods into, mainly. Otherwise I cut it in half and bake, or cut it in slices and roast.

Roasted Acorn Squash with Corn Pudding
Couscous Stuffed Acorn Squash
Stuffed Acorn Squash
Acorn Squash Soup

Yesterday Pioneer Woman posted Sweet-Roasted Rosemary Acorn Squash Wedges and I put them on the menu for dinner - my way of course!

First time ingredient alert! I used two new types of acorn squash I'd never even seen before! Gold acorn (orange) and white acorn (yellow).

2 small acorn squash, cut into 8ths
olive oil
garlic powder
onion powder
~2 Tbsp brown sugar
~1/4 cup maple syrup
~1/2 cup walnuts

First, I cut the acorn squash into 8ths, and spread into a casserole baking dish. Next, I poured a little olive oil over them and rubbed it around so they were all coated.

In a small bowl I mixed together the remaining ingredients for a savory-sweet topping. I spooned this around the top of the squash wedges in the baking dish. Into a 350° oven for approximately an hour and out they came really tender, moist, and caramelized. (Watch the topping, because mine started to brown pretty rapidly at the end!)

There was a savory bite of the garlic and onion powder in the back, but a nice sweetness from the brown sugar and maple syrup. The nuts were absolutely delicious and became almost like a nut brittle topping.

Johnny's friend Goran was over for dinner and while I started to tediously peel the squash away from the skin because I thought it'd be tough, he went for it and tried it with the skin. I'm happy to report it was tender and completely edible!

I kept switching back and forth, taking a bite from the white, and a bite from the gold, seeing if I could distinguish a difference. There really was not a difference in taste, only a small difference in the texture, because the white acorn was larger, so it was a bit juicier.

Served alongside Alisa's cauliflower risotto and pan fried cube steaks. Both posts will be up in a few days!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Quick Corn Chowder

Come back here Friday to celebrate my 25th birthday with a give away!

When we were walking around the Burgoo Festival, after eating our burgoo, we went to our favorite little organics store in Utica for treats. They also happened to be selling corn chowder out of crockpots on the porch for the festival. I wasn't hungry, unfortunately, but it smelled delicious and I haven't been able to get chowder out of my head since then!

I spent two hours bent over my 50 final exam questions for Human Resource Management and afterwards I was so starved my tummy was growling. I wanted the chowder, and I wanted it fast. Chopping and cooking time combined, we were eating this in 30 minutes!

2 Tbsp butter
1 onion, minced
3 small carrots, minced
2 stalks celery, minced
2 cups frozen corn
teeny tiny potatoes
couple Tbsp minced ham
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt
~4 cups milk
1 Tbsp corn starch

Serves 4

To begin, I took a pot and threw in the two tablespoons of butter to melt. I added the onion, carrots, and celery.

Next, I used a first time ingredient - teeny tiny potatoes, about the size of a walnut! I got them at Trader Joe's - have you ever seen anything so cute!? I put in maybe two handfuls. The large ones I quartered, the smaller ones I just cut in half.

Once all of the vegetables are in the pot and cooked through about halfway, add the milk, cornstarch, and ham. Stir to combine and bring up to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer about 10 minutes. You can then blend, or serve chunky - we went the chunky route.

I chose to whip up a quick eye-balled bowl of Bisquick and milk, which I dropped by the tablespoon around the pot, put the lid on, and let it work it's magic for the last 5ish minutes. This created meatball sized dumplings that we scooped out and served in each bowl! Mmm I love dumplings!

Laura at Hey What's for Dinner Mom? awarded me with my 3rd blog award! It's so cute, I love the apron! Thanks Laura!

In order to pass it on you have to answer each question with one word. (I had to cheat once, you'll see why!)

1. Where is your cell phone? purse
2. Your hair? stubborn
3. Your mother? piano
4. Your father? fish
5. Your favorite food? ethnic
6. Your dream last night? forgotten
7. Your favorite drink? tea
8. Your dream/goal? sufficiency
9. What room are you in? office
10. Your hobby? cooking
11. Your fear? bills
12. Where do you want to be in 6 years? entrepreneur
13. Where were you last night? home
14. Something that you aren’t? calm
15. Muffins? pumpkin!
16. Wish list item? money
17. Where did you grow up? North Carolina
18. Last thing you did? brush teeth
19. What are you wearing? clothing
20. Your TV? off
21. Your pets? two
22. Friends? far
23. Your life? mundane
24. Your mood? content
25. Missing someone? yes
26. Vehicle? Jeep!
27. Something you’re not wearing? earrings
28. Your favorite store? clearance
29. Your favorite color? green
30. When was the last time you laughed? recently
31. Last time you cried? yesterday
32. Your best friend? cousin
33. One place that I go to over and over? Jewel
34. One person who emails me regularly? Freecycle
35. Favorite place to eat? ethnic

I'm going to pass it onto:

Nicole of Just Sweet Enough who hasn't posted in awhile and I miss her!

Allie at Live Laugh Eat who I just discovered through the BSI contest and have really liked reading her blogs and seeing her use up leftovers creatively!

A at Please Don't Eat Me because she's had a rough couple of weeks and needs all the love and hugs she can get! :)

Maggie of Say Yes to Salad because I love reading her posts, she explores much more than healthy food, instead focuses whole body nutrition. I also love Healthy Yum!

My cousin Anne-Marie at Part of the Whole because she needs an award, this will be her first!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Reuben Cousin

Sunday night I was watching The Next Iron Chef and Chef Mullen won the challenge with an Asian inspired reuben. He was describing all of the components, and it sounded so crazy it might work. The judges loved it and were commenting how there isn't a person out there who doesn't love a reuben! I had to feel a little silly at that point, because I've never had one!

So, with corned beef leftovers in my fridge, I thought it was a perfect opportunity to try at least a reuben cousin - my variation, with what's on hand.

2 slices wheat bread, buttered
corned beef, sliced
cheddar cheese
dill pickle slices
brown mustard

I pretty much just cooked it like a grilled cheese! I buttered both sides of the bread, assembled it, and reduced the heat and put a lid on. I left it alone for about 2 minutes on each side so the inside could get hot and everything melty and crisp.

When I cut into it, I have to admit I felt like Sophia! She always creates complex flavor combinations (most times with cheese!) that I would never think of. This was pretty out there for me, the most daring my grilled cheeses have gotten before this is adding sliced ham!

All in all, I really liked it! There was the salty tenderness of the corned beef, the cheesy goodness, and then the tart backgrounds from the pickle and bites of the brown mustard. All balanced by a crusty, buttery bread!

I also finally did something with my Twitter account! There's a link in the taskbar on the side, if you want to follow me! I found a lot of you to follow, but I still need to track some of you down...

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Pumpkin Muffins

The Fall baking adventures going on in blogland are remarkable! I actually had to make myself a list of all the great things I want to try so I wouldn't forget! There were 6 things on the list so I knew I couldn't decide and asked Johnny's help to narrow it down. Up first was Pioneer Woman's pumpkin muffins!

Believe it or not, we had to go to three grocery stores to track down plain, canned pumpkin! Trader Joe's came through for us! The checkout clerk jokingly asked us how we were going to carve the can. Then him and Johnny cracked themselves up, saying that wasn't a half-bad idea to etch into the can of pumpkin and put a candle inside!


1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
4 Tbsp butter, cut into pieces
1 heaping cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1 egg (I just realized he was left outta the above pic, poor guy!)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup raisins (optional)

Topping (optional):

2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 400° and grease 12 muffin pans. Sift flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt. Cut in butter until all incorporated.

In a separate bowl, mix together pumpkin, evaporated milk, egg, and vanilla.

Pour pumpkin mixture into the flour mixture. Add raisins, if using. Fold gently until mixture is just combined. Pour into greased muffin pan.

If using the topping, sprinkle over the top of muffins. Bake for 25 minutes and allow to cool for 15 minutes. (Ours were a little underdone at 25 minutes, but smelled so good we didn't care! I'd go for 2-5 more minutes in the future!)

I'm a little surprised they didn't rise more, but Ree's didn't either. They're pretty dense, almost like a moist pumpkin bread, instead of a fluffy, airy muffin. They were still ridiculously delicious and our house has never smelled so good!

I chose to forego the extra cinnamon topping, so Johnny halved the little recipe and put it on his 6 muffins.

Ree also shared a cream cheese frosting recipe with three ingredients: cream cheese, butter, and powdered sugar. I'm not a fan of powdered sugar frostings, so we chose a simpler approach - just a dollup of cream cheese over top a warm muffin.

Mmm, what a delicious dive into the Fall baking season! I can't wait to try more recipes and share them with you!

Also, sorry for the lack of recent posts. I'm in accelerated college courses, so while everybody else is gearing up for their midterms, I'm actually preparing for finals! (gulp!) I have a pantry full of new squash to try, so I hope to get some inspiration from there and get some new posts cranking out again once the dust settles!

Help Mara at What's for Dinner? celebrate her 1 year anniversary by entering her giveaway! Congrats Mara!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Burgoo and Ramen

A tale of two soups!

Burgoo, as listed in my Food Lover's Companion is a thick stew full of meats and vegetables. It's popular for large gatherings in America's southern states.

I'm glad I ran across this definition by chance in the book a few weeks ago. We had planned way in advance to go to the Burgoo Festival in Utica, Illinois this past Sunday. I thought it was just a cute name for the festival, but now that I knew it was based around big pots of stew I was excited!

There were huge individual cookers full of the stew, all lined up. It smelled delicious in this area and workers were stirring with the big oars, pulling out big stew pots worth of the stew, and serving it up into little cups.

I couldn't really get a good angle since most of it was blocked off, but here's an attempt at a close-up of one of the big, full pots being stirred. (I also captured the guy in the grey sweatshirt busy at work -- texting!)

Here's me and a goofball Johnny enjoying our little bowls of burgoo! It was a chilly day, in the 40's, so a warm cup of hearty stew was welcome!

Today we ate a really late lunch, so we weren't hungry for dinner until really late. I don't like to eat big meals late, so I opted for a fallback we use on lazy nights. It's a kicked up ramen!

Ramen is a really cheap, fast meal. I always have some on hand in the pantry, but I never make it according to instructions. I'll show you guys another favorite dish with ramen next time I make it! Did you know there's tons of cookbooks devoted to cooking with ramen!? It's a great starter for a dish.

First step:

Throw this crap out!

Ramen gets a bad name because the seasoning packet is chock full of nasty stuff. The noodles aren't that bad, though! See??

Into a small pot goes 2 cups of water. Then, just throw in a mixture of whatever fresh and frozen veggies you have on hand and bouillon of your choice. I prefer to use a vegetarian vegetable bouillon that is a lot healthier and way less salty than the ramen packet. You could also use stock or broth, whatever your preference, or what's on hand.

Feel free to also throw in any leftover proteins you have on hand, too! Once it's boiling and the veggies have a head-start in the cooking, throw in the block of noodles. Set the timer for 2 minutes and viola! you have a simple, fast, healthy dinner.

Tonight's included:

2 stalks of celery
1 large carrot
1/2 green pepper
1 shallot
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup frozen spinach
1 chicken breast
2 blocks of ramen noodles