Boiled Lobster with Garlic Mashed Potatoes and String Beans

IMG_2291

I’ve been wanting to have lobster for quite a while now, so this week I decided to give it a go. Now that I am getting better with my time management in the kitchen, (aka trying to cook a million things at once and somehow making them all be done at the same time), I thought it was a good idea to try something different, and much more difficult, at least I thought at first.

For this dinner I needed:

lobster

saltIMG_9565

string beans

minced garlic

butter

For the potatoes I needed:

potatoes

1 teaspoon of salt

4 tablespoons of butter

1/4 cup sour cream

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon of milk (or more as needed)

The lobster was much easier to cook than I expected.  I came across a handful of different methods online, but I just took the advice the man at the grocery store gave me and boiled them.  But, before I left for the store I made an ice bucket, which is directly where the lobsters went when I got home.  Because we were boiling three lobsters, I needed a huge pot.  And a huge pot means more water.  And more water means more time to boil.  So, I put my large pot of water on and waited quite a while for it boil.  But, while I waited, I left the lobsters in the ice bucket and I began preparing my potatoes and string beans for our side dishes.

IMG_9708I first put on two smaller pots of boiling water, and then skinned all of my potatoes.  I used Paula Deen’s Garlic Mashed Potatoes recipe, and they were delicious.  But, because her recipe calls for three medium potatoes, and I had a bunch of small potatoes, I think the amount of garlic that I ended up using when it came time to was a little bit too much.  So that is something you will have to look out for.  But anyway I peeled my potatoes and placed them in one of the smaller pots of boiling water.  I let them boil until I was able to stick my fork into one of the potatoes with the potato easily sliding off.  This took about 15 minutes.

While my mashedIMG_1953 potatoes were IMG_0195boiling I began preparing my string beans.  I began by chopping off all of the ends and then I waited a bit, knowing that they did not take as much time as the potatoes or string beans.  But after about 10 minutes, I placed them in the other pot of boiling water and let them boil for about 5-10 minutes.  And then placed them in a frying pan with butter and a little bit of minced garlic. I let them fry for about 15 minutes on low heat so that they didn’t burn while waiting for the rest of the ingredients to finish.

At some point throughout this whole process, (I can’t say exactly when because I was going a little crazy trying to figure out when to start making what so that it all finished at the same time), my large pot was finally boiling!  So, we put the three lobsters in the large pot.  I was originally going to steam them, but I was getting so many different tips that I just decided to boil them.  You will know your lobster is completely done when it is bright red AND you can easily pull out an antenna without any resistance.  This in total took about a half hour.

IMG_2710While my lobsters were boiling, I continued tending to my potatoes and string beans.  I do have to say, my time management may sound a little confusing in this post, but my lobster ended up being done only about 10 minutes after the rest of the meal.  (I know, 10 minutes is actually a long time, but it was super easy to just reheat the mashed potatoes in the pot and the string beans in the pan before serving it).

I went to go check on my potatoes and they seemed soft enough to mash.  So I strained them in a colander and placed them back in the pot with the butter, sour cream and garlic.  I then mashed the potatoes, and added tablespoons of milk at a time until they were at the creamy consistency we wanted.  We probably used 2, almost 3, tablespoons of milk.

Now that our mashed potatoes are done andIMG_8406 string beans, we were trying to keep them warm by leaving them on low heat until the lobster was done.  When our lobster was finally done, when it looked bright red and the antenna came off super easily, we took them out of the pot, let them cool off for about 5 minutes and dug in!  We also had dinner rolls on the side that we had in the oven for about ten minutes.

Even though everything wasn’t done at exactly the same time it was still delicious.  It is hard to manage your time when you haven’t made a certain food before and are unsure as to how long it takes exactly.  Next time I will definitely have the lobster boiling before I start preparing anything else!

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Penne Vodka

IMG_4126I decided to make dinner for my cousin who is a vegetarian the other night.  I was originally going to make zucchini spaghetti, but she knows that penne vodka is my favorite, and told me about the recipe she has for homemade vodka sauce, so we had to make it.  I have eaten penne vodka more than a handful of times, and never actually thought that there was actually vodka in vodka sauce!  Call me dumb, but it really doesn’t taste like it!  Just to give you fair warning, it only requires a small amount of vodka, and you let it cook for so long that all of the alcohol cooks out of the sauce.  So don’t worry, we were still on two feet after eating dinner!

For this homemade vodka sauce recipe we needed:

1 1/2 sticks of butter

1 can crushed tomatoIMG_4770

garlic (3 or 4 cloves)

1 pint of heavy cream

3/4 cup of vodka

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 lb pasta 

To start off this recipe, I first chopped up my parsley and minced my garlic so that it was already prepared for when I needed it.  I then began cooking.

IMG_8699I put my butter in a large saucepan and sauteed the garlic.  This was very quick, I let all of the butter melt, then threw the minced garlic in and gave it a few minutes to cook while I stirred it around every so often.  After preparing my butter and garlic, I poured in the whole can of tomato sauce and 3/4 cups of vodka.  As you can see in my ingredients image I just bought little shooters.  We used 3 original Smirnoff shooters and it amounted to 3/4 of a cup.  We let this cook for about 30 minutes so that all of the alcohol could cook out, and so that all of the ingredients could absorb into one another and maintain one fluent consistency.

After letting this cook for 30 minutes, I put on a pot of boiling water because you can’t have vodka sauce without penne!  I let the water boil while I addedIMG_2932 the other ingredients into the sauce.  We added the cream, parsley and Parmesan cheese.  I stirred these together and let this cook for about 15 minutes, stirring every so often to allow the sauce to thicken a little bit.  I added the penne into the boiling water, (we used mini penne), and by the time that was done boiling the sauce was just about done.

We then poured the pasta into the sauce pan and had a wonderful meal to enjoy!  We also had a loaf of fresh Italian bread that we had on the side.  If you like penne vodka sauce, try out this recipe that my cousin gave me.  Although it takes a little while for the sauce to cook, it is super easy and super delicious.   It is perfect for an afternoon that you have nothing to do and can’t decide what to have for dinner.  Plus, there is such a small amount of ingredients that it isn’t even pricey!

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Bacon Wrapped Jalapeno Poppers

IMG_8891Who doesn’t love football Sunday?  If you don’t, you don’t have to answer that question.  Because this week we had to do a live blog post, I figured there could not be any better way than to make some good finger food while watching football!  And that is exactly what I did, and am still currently doing.  Unfortunately, I am not a huge fan of either of the two teams that are playing right now, but if I had to choose one, I’d have to go for the #Patriots, for reasons called ‘Tom Brady’.  It’s lookin’ good for us right now, 28-20!  While I watch, I am enjoying these great jalapeno poppers, that took a little while to make, but definitely worth it for a football Sunday.

For the jalapeno poppers I used:

15 jalapenosIMG_7070

2 packs of bacon

cottage cheese

shredded cheddar cheese

Adobo spice and garlic powder

You can use however many jalapenos you want, I’m thinking I should have made more than 15 because they went so fast!  This snack is pretty easy to make, it is just a little tedious and time consuming so be prepared.  I started by first preheating my oven to 400 degrees.  I then rinsed off my jalapenos, and then began preparing them.  I first had to remove all of the seeds.  To do this I cut off the top of the jalapeno, I then cut it in half long ways, and cut out everything from the inside, including every last seed.  After doing this, you should have two pieces of jalapenos that resemble small, tiny green canoes.

IMG_3779As we all know, jalapenos are unbelievably hot and spicy.  But, you will not truly, fully understand that until you slice into a jalapeno and end up getting jalapeno juice in your eye.  Besides the fact that my nose and mouth were already burning from SLICING these peppers, the pain I felt when my eye started burning almost makes me contemplate wearing goggles next time I make these.  Good thing it is the seeds that make jalapenos spicy and they were unnecessary for the recipe because I’m not sure if I would’ve been able to handle much more spice after this preparation.

IMG_7572Once I got all of my jalapenos sliced and gutted, I began dressing them up.  I started by filling them with cottage cheese.  I did about 5 at a time just to set myself some sort of pace.  After filling them with cottage cheese, I sprinkled a little bit of garlic powder and Adobo spice on top.  I then created a little mountain of shredded cheddar cheese, wrapped it in bacon, held the bacon in place with a toothpick and set it on a non-greased cookie sheet.  It is not necessary to grease the cookie sheet because the bacon creates so much grease within itself.  I then placed them in the oven for about 30 minutes.

I noticed while they were in the oven that IMG_5322a good amount of the cheese was oozing out onto the pan while they were baking, so when you are wrapping the bacon around the jalapenos, try to make sure that you are wrapping the bacon over the ends of it as well.  Of course, this is much easier said than done, especially after your hands are all greasy and cheesy.  This is what I mean when i say that this requires some tedious work.  Some of the cheese came out on mine and they were still good!  So, if wrapping the ends becomes too much of a hassle, I wouldn’t stress over it too much.

Thanks to all of that tedious work I am now enjoying the Patriots-Colts game with some awesome and delicious bacon wrapped jalapeno poppers!  To top it off, the score of the game is not 42-20, Patriots!  We all know, football Sunday is always better with some unhealthy finger food and a beer.  Enjoy!

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Grilled Eggplant with Tomato, Mozzarella Cheese and Spinach Vinaigrette

IMG_4176In my Intro to Horticulture class, every few weeks we get greens and vegetables from the garden that we planted in the beginning of the semester.  Last week I got eggplant, tomato, spinach, peppers, kale and mustard leaves.  I figured I might as well try and make dinner with it, because last time all I used was the tomatoes and the rest of it went to waste.  So, I made  Grilled Eggplant with Tomato, Mozzarella Cheese and Spinach Vinaigrette.  The recipe that I found actually called for basil pesto, but giving that I didn’t have any basil, I looked up to see if spinach would be an acceptable alternative and it was.  This delicious healthy dinner recipe can be found at Domesticate-Me.com.  Just remember that it originally calls for basil, and I switched that out for spinach.  It ended up tasting great so if you get stuck in the same predicament, spinach will work just fine.

For this recipe I needed:

eggplant, however much you’d like (I used 2 small eggplants)

1 tomato

fresh mozzarella cheese (I used regular mozzarella)

extra virgin olive oil

saltIMG_2302

For the Spinach Vinaigrette I needed:

1/3 cup fresh spinach, packed

2 cloves of garlic, peeled

2 1/2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar

5 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

I started by slicing my eggplants into round slices.  It calls for 3/4 inch slices, mine weren’t exact.  I sprinkled both sides of each slice with salt to help them dry out and let them rest in a colander for about 25 minutes.  While I let my eggplant dry out, I prepared my spinach vinaigrette.  This spinach vinaigrette IMG_0757was actually so good that I decided to make just that the following week to use a salad dressing.

I used a food processor to make the vinaigrette.  I put all of the ingredients for the vinaigrette into the food processor.  I actually chopped the garlic cloves quite a bit before I placed them in the processor to hopefully make it easier to blend in.  Honestly, I have no idea if that matters or actually helps but I did it anyway!  The recipe says to puree the ingredients, so I alternated between chopping and grinding until it was a smooth, green liquid-y vinaigrette.  I then diced my tomatoes and placed them in a bowl on the side with 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil and just a little bit of salt, and let the tomatoes and the vinaigrette sit until it was time to be used.

When the 20 minutes was up for my eggplant, I tookIMG_9422 a grill pan and set it on medium heat with a little bit of olive oil.  I then took my eggplant out of the colander, patted it dry and placed it on the grill pan.  I brushed a little bit of olive oil on the top of the eggplant slices and sprinkled a bit of salt for flavor. I grilled the first side of the eggplant for about 8 minutes, and then flipped it.  When I grilled the other side, I sprinkled a little bit of salt and I then put mozzarella squares over top of the eggplant and put a lid on the grill pan because I wanted the cheese to melt a little bit.  I tended to veer from the original recipe a bit at this point, but that is the wonderful thing about cooking because it allows you so much freedom to make things however you’d like.

Once I let the other side of the eggplant cook for about 8 minutes and the cheese looked like it was getting a bit softer, I took the eggplant off the grill pan.  I then placed the eggplant slices on a plate, layered it with a little bit of the diced tomatoes, and topped it off with a little bit of the spinach vinaigrette.  I then got to enjoy a nice, healthy, homemade, almost FREE, dinner!  If you’re trying to do an easy, healthy dinner one night during the week, and you’re a fan of eggplant, I highly suggest this recipe!

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Pumpkin Cinnamon Pull-Apart Bread

IMG_7331This is probably one of the most complicated (but best!) recipes I’ve dabbled with so far.  I do have to admit, I messed this one up BIG TIME.  And although this blog is about teaching myself how to cook and bake and it is inevitable that I am going to run into some major bumps in the road here and there, I still got pretty upset about it because I knew exactly what I did wrong.  I wanted so badly to make this for Thanksgiving this year but thought I should probably practice it first, and the fact that I messed it up bummed me out because I didn’t think I’d be able to pull it off for Thanksgiving.  But, thanks to my awesome boyfriend, he went out and bought me new ingredients during my short time of distress so I could give it another shot.  And let me tell you, I did NOT mess it up the second time!

Two things to note before making this recipe I would like to share with you are 1. it takes an extremely long time, because you need to let your dough rise twice, so make sure you start early in the day.  And 2. this recipe actually is for TWO loaves of bread!! Not one, but TWO, so be prepared to share some deliciousness with your friends and family!!

I got this recipe from a blog I found on Pinterest called Mel’s Kitchen Cafe.  The ingredients that this awesome recipe called for are:

Bread:

1 1/2 teaspoons of saltIMG_3904

1 1/2 teaspoons of yeast

1/2 cup of granulated sugar

5-6 cups of all purpose flour

1 cup of milk

1 15oz can of pumpkin puree

Cinnamon Filling:

2/3 cup of packed light brown sugar (I used regular brown sugar, not light brown)

2/3 cup of granulated sugar

1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon of fresh ground nutmeg

4 tablespoons of melted butter

Vanilla Glaze:

2 tablespoons of melted butter

1/8 cup of packed light brown sugar (again, I used just regular brown sugar)

1 1/2 tablespoons of milk

1/2 cup of powdered sugar

1/2 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract

To start off this long process of Pumpkin Cinnamon Pull-Apart Bread, I took out my mom’s large mixer and put in it the salt, yeast, sugar and flour to begin making the bread.  I let these mix on a low speed.  I could have mixed it myself with my hand, BUT I had the huge mixer so decided to just let the mixer do its thing.  While that was mixing, I warmed in a sauce pan the milk and butter.  I kept it in the saucepan until the butter was melted, and then let it sit for 5 minutes to cool down.

IMG_2787Now pay close attention because before I continue onto the next step, I want to tell you what NOT to do, because this is the part where I messed up and there was no way to solve this problem.  I poured the milk and butter into the dry mixture I had in the mixer, and it almost instantly formed a dough.  I still had the pumpkin puree that had to be mixed in with the dough!  So, although I almost had a dough by the time I realized the milk, butter and puree should have all been poured in together, I poured it in anyway.  So now I have dough, and pumpkin puree mixing around just forming an orange goo all within the mixing bowl because it was not able to mix into the dough once the dough was already formed.  There was no way this ‘dough’ was going to be any sort of appetizing, so I got upset, complained a little bit, until my boyfriend came over with new yeast and pumpkin puree, (they were the only two ingredients I actually had to buy), so I could try it again.

DO NOT make the dough before pouring in your pumpkin puree. When your milk and butter are cooled down a bit, pour that mixture AND the pumpkin puree into the dry mixture already in the bowl AT THE SAME TIME!  I even made my mom do it with me because I was nervous I’d mess it up again.  But luckily we did it right!

IMG_2257We let this mix in the mixer for a little bit, adding extra flour when needed, to make sure all of the dough was getting pulled from the sides of the bowl.  When it was one large ball of dough, with the puree fully mixed in this time, I took the dough out and kneaded it on a lightly floured cutting board, and adding more flour until it was only slightly sticky.  I then placed it in a large bowl covered in saran wrap and let it sit while I went to cheering practice.  The recipe calls for about one hour, I let it sit for about two.

When I got back, my dough was doubled in size!  I leIMG_9358t it sit in the bowl for a few more minutes though because I had to make the cinnamon filling.  I mixed the brown sugar, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg in a bowl and placed it on the side.  I ripped my large ball of dough in half, (because I am making two loaves), and took the first one and rolled it out to be about 20 inches by 12 inches.  I then melted two tablespoons of butter in the microwave and spread it over the rolled out dough.  I then used half of the cinnamon mixture to cover the dough.  There is a large amount of cinnamon mixture so do not be afraid to be generous with it.

IMG_1196I then cut the dough in six strips, long ways.  (There are great images on the original recipe that are extremely helpful for this step).  After cutting the 6 long strips, I stacked them on top of each other and cut the stacked strips into 6 sections.  I then laid these in a greased bread pan, back to back, and covered it in saran wrap.  I messed this part up at first and laid them out in the pan incorrectly but the images on the original recipe are very helpful and I suggest referring to them.  I repeated the same exact steps with my second half of dough.

I then, to my surprise because I didn’t read the whole recipe before I started it, had to let this sit for another hour!  Be prepared to take a while on this recipe, as I said earlier.  But anyway, I let my two loaves sit for an hour.

I preheated mt oven to 350 degrees when the hour was almost up, and when the loaves were ready, I took off the saran wrap and let them bake in the oven for about 35 minutes.

IMG_2718When they were FINALLY done, I took the two loaves out and let them cool off for a few minutes.  While I waited for them to cool, I prepared the vanilla glaze by mixing the melted butter, milk, sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract.  I did this in a measuring cup that had a spout so that it would be easier to pour over the top of the bread when the time came.  I then took the loaves out of the pan by loosening them from the sides with a butter knife.  Because this is a pull apart bread it was a little difficult to get the bread out of the pan without it ‘pulling-apart’ so hopefully you guys will have a little more luck on your side than I did.

I placed the loaves on a drying rack that laid over a sheet of wax paper and poured the glaze on.  I then poured myself a large glass of milk, ripped off a piece of my Pumpkin Cinnamon Pull-Apart Bread and indulged.  I am so excited that this ended up turning out awesome because I was pretty upset when I messed it up the first time.  I can’t wait to make it again for Thanksgiving, and am so excited that this recipe already calls for two loaves because I can make it for my family and my boyfriends family without having to do the whole entire process two times.  If you’re up for a long, days worth, delicious challenge, try making this bread!  And best of luck to whoever gives it a shot!

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Spaghetti and Meat Sauce

IMG_5418 (3)I made this Spaghetti with Meat Sauce the night after I made the Mexican Tacos.  So, it’s been quite a few days.  But, this is such a simple meal to toss together, (and affordable!) that I can still easily remember at the top of my head exactly what I did.  The reason I decided to make this first of all, was because when I made the Mexican Tacos, we had so much ground beef left over I had to do something with it.  There have been a few times that I had bought ingredients to make a meal or some sort of dessert, and did not get around to using all of them, and they unfortunately ended up going to waste.  I am trying to work on buying ingredients that will work for numerous recipes and not just one.  I am getting better at it, but it is something I definitely need to plan ahead and become more organized about.

For this recipe I needed only a handful of recipes:IMG_5854

1 box of spaghetti (I only used half)

1 jar of spaghetti sauce (I only used half, again)

1/2 pound of ground beef

I may not have had exactly 1/2 pound of ground beef, (I did not have anymore than that), but regardless of the amount, it doesn’t matter so much.  As long as it is not overwhelming the spaghetti sauce, any amount should work just fine.  I started off by putting on a large IMG_2430pot of boiling water for my spaghetti, and then placing my ground beef in a large frying pan.  I did not put any oil in the pan because the ground beef, when it cooks, creates it’s own grease.  The ground beef takes quite a while to brown, so my water was done boiling before my ground beef was done cooking.  So, I sprinkled about a teaspoon of salt in to the boiling water and added the spaghetti.  I was only making dinner for two so the entire box was not necessary.  I believe I used slightly less than half of the box.  At the same time I preheated my oven to 350 degrees because we had frozen garlic bread sticks that we were having on the side!

I waited quite some time for these two to cook for a while before putting my sauce in a sauce pan because the spaghetti sauce cooks and heats up fairly quickly.  So when I felt I had only a few minutes left for the ground beef and spaghetti, I poured my spaghetti sauce into a small sauce pan.  Because I only used half of the jar, I placed the rest in the fridge so that it did not go bad.

I put my garlic bread into the oven and drained the IMG_9609spaghetti with a large colander.  I then drained the grease from the ground beef which I am still having difficulty with.  I tried using a wooden spoon to hold the ground beef in the pan while I drained the grease into a small soup can, but the ground beef didn’t want to stay in the pan!  So basically trying to drain the grease took me forever, BUT, I will figure it out one day!

After the long process of draining the grease out of myIMG_3161 ground beef, I tossed the sauce into the sauce pan with the ground beef.  Next, I poured the sauce that was now mixed in with the ground beef into the large pot with the drained spaghetti.  This, I was told after the fact, was a bad idea.  Why?  Because I could have gotten a cooler picture if I didn’t mix the sauce in first!  Regardless, the sauce was getting mixed in at one point or another and the deed had already been done.  But, by the time I made plates of spaghetti already mixed with the meat sauce, our garlic bread sticks were done!  So I took them out of the oven, stuck them on the side of our lovely spaghetti dinner, and dug in!

This is such a simple recipe that anybody could do.  It is super quick and super affordable!  If you’re ever stuck on a week night and are unsure of what to eat because you don’t have hours to spare for dinner, spaghetti and meat sauce is the way to go!

 

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Apple Cider Sangria

IMG_5943My roommates and I were supposed to have a Halloween party this year.  I can’t say that I am upset it did not happen, because not having to clean a mess in the morning is always nice!  So, for the party we were supposed to have, we decided to make some homemade apple cider sangria.  I’m not normally a fan of sangria, but this was not bad!  My one roommate had a recipe she uses at home that we intended on following, but the other roommate who went to the store forgot to get a few ingredients, so we made do with what we had.  The ingredients that we used were:

1 bottle of pre-made sangriaIMG_5946

1/2 gallon of apple cider

3 cinnamon sticks

3 apples

1 bottle of red wine (we did not have this while making the sangria)

IMG_5945We started this recipe off by putting the apple cider in a large pot and letting it heat up on a medium flame for a few minutes.  When it started to heat up, we added the three cinnamon sticks to the pot as well to allow some of that flavor to soak in for a bit before mixing it in with the rest of the ingredients.

While the cinnamon sticks were heating up in the apple cider on the stove, we poured the pre-made sangria into a large jug that we used to hold the sangria.  We used a large funnel to do this so that we didn’t make a mess.  Once the sangria was in, we did the same with the warm apple cider.  We made sure to get the cinnamon sticks into the jug as well.

We then chopped up three apples in to large cubes.  We did not want small chunks of apple in the sangria because nobody wants to drink something with tiny pieces of fruit in it; that could just become a hassle and it could be a huge choking hazard.  We did have to make sure that the pieces were small enough to easily IMG_5944get in and out of the jug though.  So, we chopped up the apples and them placed them in the jug.  We then let the sangria sit in the refrigerator for about an hour and a half before drinking it to make sure that it was nice and cold.

When we went to drink it, we realized that the red wine we were missing was a very crucial ingredient.  The sangria was too sweet without it.  That night when we were all taste testing it, we made do without the wine.  But, the next day, we went out and bought a bottle of red wine.  With this we would each fill our glasses half full with red wine, and the rest of the way with sangria.  At this point, it was delicious!

Giving that we ended up not having our Halloween party, we didn’t have to share our homemade sangria with anyone else!  While it sounds a little selfish, we have to remember that college is stressful and sangria helps with that stress.  Only thing is though, if you follow this recipe for apple cider sangria, make sure you do not forget the red wine!

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