Saturday, March 1, 2008

3 Easy Recipes

Trader Joe's is having a recipe contest. Winning entries will be served at the sample food counter, plus the winners get a bag of Trader Joe's goodies!

The recipes can only have up to 5 ingredients, so we labeled some as optional. Here are our entries:

Knife-and-Fork Flatbread Pizza
1 piece Trader Joe's Flatbread
1/4 c. Trader Joe's pizza sauce
handful shredded mozzerella cheese
sliced fresh mozzerella cheese
fresh basil leaves
optional: sliced fresh vegetables

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray tin foil or baking sheet with non-stick spray (VERY important if you use tin foil!). Place flatbread on tinfoil or baking sheet. Spread flatbread with pizza sauce (not too much or pizza becomes sloppy). Place fresh basil leaves on top of sauce. Sprinkle with desired amount of shredded cheese. Place slices of fresh mozzerella on top of the shredded cheese. Sprinke with salt and pepper. Add any desired fresh vegetables (optional). Bake until cheese is melted. Transfer pizza to a large plate or cutting board and eat with a knife and fork.

Autumn Butternut Squash and Chicken Bake
1 pack Trader Joe's whole cut chicken
2 c. Trader Joe's brown rice (instant works best, but the frozen also works)
2 c. Trader Joe's Butternut Squash soup (diluted with 1 c. water or chicken broth)
1 package Trader Joe's cubed butternut squash (or other cubed squash available)
spices to taste: coriander, cinnamon, cumin, paprika, salt, pepper
due to the 5 ingredient max, we did not include broccoli in this recipe

Place brown rice in a large casserole dish. Pour diluted butternut squash soup over rice. Mix in cubed butternut squash (and broccoli). Place chicken pieces over rice mixture. Coat chicken with spices.

Cover casserole dish and place in preheated 400 degree oven for 50 minutes. Remove cover and cook for 10 minutes.

Chicken and Tomato Bake (adapted from a dish my parents ate and loved in Italy)
4 skinless chicken breasts
1-2 potatoes
2 sliced tomatoes (with the jelly!)
fresh basil leaves
olive oil
optional: 1/4 c. tomato sauce
due to ingredient limit, we didn't include an extra veggie, but I usually like to add zucchini slices or something else

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice potatoes very thin (use the slicer on your cheese grater). Spread sliced potatoes on the bottom of a large greased baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. You can spread a small amount of tomato sauce over the potatoes, if desired. Place chicken breasts (thin, if possible) on top. Salt and pepper the chicken. Place tomato slices and fresh basil on top (also the extra veggie). Drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
Cover with tin foil and bake 20 minutes. Uncover and bake 20 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.

Friday, February 29, 2008

A team of 11... and we still lost!

I'm on break from school this week, so Steve and I decided to get a super Quizzo team together last night. We invited the best Quizzo players we know, namely Leah and Jess, as well as a few others. We expected that our team would have maybe 4-6 members, because usually only about a quarter of our invitees show up. But this time just about everyone came, and our team had 11 members. So you'd think we'd have won! Nope. Somehow we came in 5th or 6th place. Oh well.

It was still a lot of fun - I'm glad everyone showed up. We won a round, so we got a free pitcher. And I won an Eagles pint glass filled with beer cozies and keychains by answering the question "what is the newest book from Oprah's book club" (answer: A Fine Balance). I haven't read the book, and I don't watch Oprah, but I have to admit that her book club is generally pretty good - 100 Years of Solitude was one of her book club books, and that is one of my favorites. My mom actually gave me the book A Fine Balance and told me not to be put off by the fact that it is an Oprah book. So thanks, mom. If you hadn't specifically thought that I'd dismiss the book because of Oprah and hadn't warned me against that dismissal, I would have never remembered that A Fine Balance was in the Oprah Book Club, and I would have 4 less Miller Lite keychains.

I don't think that there were any particulary interesting questions last night (Steve may remember some though), so I'll rewind to Quizzo a few months ago. Question: What tree's sap is turpentine made of? Answer: Pine. Reason we got the answer right: Pine rhymes with turpentine.


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

I like the name Quinn

Here is an awesome video we found on Youtube during our Manfred Mann kick. It was posted by somebody named tkent34. Enjoy.

Steve's take on the tagine

I really liked it...sure it was a little less Moroccan than I expected and turned out more like a regular old stew. But that's not the worst thing that could have happened. The meat turned out nice and tender and the potatoes and veggies had a nice texture.

Now, about how Des normally "overspices the shit out of things." First of all, that quote may have been taken out of context, but in truth, Des is a good cook and I like her food. She occasionally falls victim, however, to the same misconception that led to the creation of Coke 2.

See, back in the day, Pepsi had its infamous blind taste test challenge where people were asked to take sips of both Coke and Pepsi (having no knowledge of which is which) and then decide which they liked better. The majority of blind taste testers chose Pepsi after this test, and Coke got very alarmed by the results. So they directed their chemists or cola-ologists to create a cola that would win in a blind taste test against Pepsi. The result was Coke 2. Unfortunately for CocaCola, Coke 2 was a massive flop, and there was a people's uprising to pull the nasty crap off of the shelves and put old Coke (now called CocaCola Classic) back on the market.

What does this have to do with anything? The lesson here is that a blind sip test is not the correct measure of a beverage's overall flavor quality...Because you don't just sip a soda, you drink the whole thing. For more on this, read Blink by Malcolm Gladwell.

This same principle applies when cooking. You don't necessarily know if the dish needs more spice just from a small taste test. When you eat the whole dish, the spices compound on you and pack a lot more kick than they do in a little taste. This is why great chefs require a combination of talent and experience.

Anyway, like I said, Des is a great chef, and the tagine dish is not going to end up in the garbage, but we will know next time to let her follow her instinct and go a little heavier on the spices.


Tagine... 1st attempt

This is my first time blogging and I don't like it. I don't think that anyone cares what I have to write about what we made for dinner tonight. But Steve says that we signed up to blog because we might make a few dollars if enough people click on the ads and we are poor because I have no income, so I have to write. So here I go, but know that I feel really stupid doing this.

I got a Moroccan tagine for Christmas this year and Steve and I were really excited to use it. We have gone to Marrakesh in Philadelphia a few times and have loved it - it is a 7 course Moroccan meal and it is a lot of fun - I would recommend going - it is $25 and it is your night's entertainment. It used to be BYO, which was great, but now it's not. But the carafe of wine is only $12, so that's not too bad. Anyway, we were excited to use the tagine since we love Marrakesh so much. Then I saw a Take Home Chef episode where Tyler made a lamb tagine. So I invited my parents over for it on the last day of my finals. However, instead of shopping and cooking for my parents after my final, I decided to go to the bar at 11: 30 am with classmates to celebrate by getting drunk on margaritas. While drunk I cancelled on my parents, invited my friend Leah over to hang out, and then cancelled on her because I was hungover. I have to remember to stay away from sugary drinks like margaritas in the future - they are really too syrupy and give me headaches. Beer, red wine, or gin & tonics for me. Even the tonic can be too much - I wonder what a gin & diet tonic would be like?

Anyway, the stupid TLC website doesn't have the Take Home Chef tagine recipe up yet even though the episode was on close to 2 weeks ago and may have been a rerun. But the lamb was going to go bad soon, so since I'm off from school this week so I decided to find another recipe on Here's the recipe I used if you are interested:,,FOOD_9936_6848,00.html. My tagine unfortunately cannot be used on the stovetop, so my options were limited. If you are in the market for one, I'd definately say to get one that you can use both on the stove and in the oven. I made a few changes to the recipe based on other recipes I saw out there - added almonds, minced ginger, and 1/2 lemon. I also didn't make the harissa (I'm not even sure what that is) and made a saffron couscous instead of the basmati rice.

The tagine kind of turned out like a stew without too much moroccan flavor. Next time I'll have to be more aggressive with the spices. Usually Steve complains that I "overspice the shit out of things", but this time I didn't because it was the first time I've made anything moroccan, and I wish I had altered the recipe as usual. I think next time I'll add more cumin (yum!), paprika (yum!), honey, and lemon. I think I will also sear the cubed lamb on the stove before putting it in the tagine in the oven - it might keep the flavor in more. Everything was cooked really well though (it cooked for 2 hours!), and Steve said he liked it, so it wasn't a failure or anything. Just a learning experience.

So that was the tagine experience. My parents and Mal are coming over for tagine in 2 weekends (after they get home from spring break in Vero Beach - this is the 2nd time they've taken Mallory on spring break, and they never took me!). So hopefully it will turn out a little more flavorful next time. Then we'll probably go out for karaoke at Yeats and the karaoke-mummer guy will hit on Mal.

So this whole blogging thing wasn't so bad once I got into it. Now back to my boxed wine (Pinot Evil) and the Buddy Holly Story on TV Land.