I like peas

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Whole-wheat pasta and chicken in a gruyere cheese sauce

Flipping through the issue of Cooking Light that arrived yesterday, I found a section that featured homey, baked dishes. I settled on this one and went about the preparations. Yes, those green things are peas. I hated peas as a kid, but I’ve come to discover that they’re not so bad. Thing is, most other people I know hate them. Funny how I like these odd little veggies, but can’t stand eggs, mushrooms, and other very popular foods. (Ick…even the smell of eggs grosses me out!) The peas added a nice spring-like flavor to balance the rich, melted cheese.

With all the food shots I’ve been dishing up lately, maybe it’s time to create a food blog.

Double happiness

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Double Ginger Cookies from Cooking Light

When planning our very belated Chinese New Year party, I decided to make things easier on myself by choosing relatively simple dishes that I could also make ahead. These cookies were the perfect choice. Once they’ve cooled off, I can pop ’em in a freezer bag and thaw them in time for the festivities.

They aren’t quite as pretty as they taste. The chunks are actually pieces of chopped, crystallized ginger. I’ve used this spice once or twice in recipes before, but never 3/4 of a cup. While chopping the pieces smaller, I discovered just how good crystallized ginger is! I practically made myself sick nibbling away at it last night. And the batter is so tempting that I had to will myself not to keep sampling.

D&W carries McCormick crystallized ginger for a whopping $7.99. But lucky me, a Penzey’s Spices just opened up in GR a couple of months ago. I got an entire bag — equivalent to about four of the small jars for $14.80.

Oh, and I realize this is counter to my plan to slow down on sugar, but I’ve been doing a really good job with that over the past few days. So I feel absolutely no guilt about partaking at all. Besides, they’re not for me, they’re for the party. Even if I did sneak one after they came out of the oven.

Veggie pizza with a twist

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Potato pizza with red peppers and goat cheese…AKA yum!

I found this recipe while flipping through back issues of Cooking Light in search of Asian-inspired appetizers for our belated Chinese New Year celebration. I quickly set it aside to make sometime soon. Today was the day.

It has a whole-wheat crust and the recipe actually makes enough for two, so you can freeze one for later. I sliced the red potatoes with a mandoline-style slicer I’d bought months ago but never used. It made things quick and easy. The only I’d change is using bottled red peppers next time. Roasting them is just too time-consuming. And a bit messy. The potato-pepper combo turned out to be very filling, especially topped with dollops of goat cheese. And my fave olives — kalamata — are sprinkled over the whole shebang. I’ll definitely be making this pizza again.

On another note, I was flipping channels while on the treadmill today and came across the new VH1 show, Bands Reunited. The featured band for this episode was A Flock of Seagulls. It’s actually a pretty good show if you get the chance to watch. Now, of course, I have “I Ran (So Far Away)” stuck in my head.

Spinach-feta bread

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The third time’s the charm: recipe from Cooking Light magazine

The first time I made this bread, I didn’t spread the filling properly and it clumped together in the middle, leaving me with lovely end pieces but nothing more. The second time I was to make it, my mom had no flour in the house (!) and then she got sick with the flu and wouldn’t have eaten it anyway. The third time, for tonight’s book club, it turned out great. The lesson? Persistence really does pay off.

Being in baking mode right now is ideal since the weather’s taken a turn for the snowy. It’s great to fill the house with warm scents when you’re surrounded by a blanket of the white stuff.

Speaking of which, when I went outside this morning to shovel the driveway, I found to my surprise (and definite delight) that my neighbor had snowblowed everything behind our cars. He was still out there and I thanked him. His response? “Sometimes I get carried away!” And he wasn’t kidding. I looked around and noticed he’d plowed out the driveway of the college girls across from us and the couple next door. What a nice guy!

Herbed beer bread

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Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme

Three different kinds of flour. Four different herbs. Sunflower seeds. And a bottle of beer. And voila — bread! What I love about this recipe is how easy it was to make. No rising necessary. And then there’s that kick I got out of pouring in a bottle of beer and watching it foam. Smelled great. Tasted even better. But these are gifts so I’ll have to do with just a taste.

Recipe from The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion.

Happy New Year!

Banana-oat muffins

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Recipe from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison

I really love to bake. Cooking is great, but there’s something more satisfying about baking for me. I get a kick out of watching balls of dough turn into crispy cookies, or a pan of risen dough brown into a soft, chewy bread. I think the measurements and ratios are what draw me to it. By nature, I like to be guided in my endeavors. I have a harder time just concocting something on the fly. As I cook more, I’m learning to be more spontaneous and creative about things and it’s becoming more enjoyable. But knowing that I need exactly a cup of flour to make the bread is somewhat comforting to me.

I hated to miss out on the baking up festive goodies this year, but I felt so crappy before the holiday that I decided to skip it. Now that I’ve perked up a bit, I’m excited about delving into some new bread recipes. I have a great one for Irish Soda Bread from this same cookbook that I’m dying to make. And these muffins turned out so well that I’ve already eaten two of them. Yum!