Saturday, January 29, 2011

cooking - and eating is an art form

In my previous post, a few of you asked for recipes for my vegetarian chili and baked ziti. I'm one of those cooks who likes to create as I go. I can have an idea in my head for what I want to make - for example, let's take the vegetarian chili - and I'll gather more inspiration by looking up vegetarian chili recipes online or in cooking magazines. One recipe might use eggplant and another, fresh pumpkin. Those ideas only fuel my creativity to try certain ingredients in my own dish. It also depends on what I have on hand. I like using beer in my chili, but if I don't have any (which I usually don't, since we're not beer drinkers), I use beef broth. OK, so I know beef broth isn't vegetarian, but since I'm a flexitarian, I don't mind using beef broth for the flavor.

Thus said, I did write down the recipe as I was cooking the chili, so I can share this one with you:

1 T. olive oil
1 lg. yellow onion, chopped
1 med. green pepper, chopped
2 sm. poblano peppers, chopped
3 ribs celery, chopped
2 lg. carrots, diced
1 zucchini, diced
1 yellow/summer squash, diced
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 c. frozen corn
1 15.25 oz. can kidney beans, rinsed & drained
1 15.25 oz. can black beans, rinsed & drained
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 14.25 oz. can beef or vegetable broth
3 T. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. McCormick cocoa chili blend OR 1 T. unsweetened cocoa powder
  Optional toppings: sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese, chopped green onions

In dutch oven, heat the olive oil and then add onion - garlic. Saute for 8-10 minutes, or until veggies are just about tender. Add corn through broth, mix well, then add seasonings. Cover and simmer on low heat for 1-2 hours. Ladle into bowls and pass the toppings.

As for the baked ziti, I don't have a specific recipe. I used whole wheat penne-shaped pasta as I couldn't find whole wheat ziti. You can use homemade marinara sauce, but this time I used Trader Joe's low-sodium marinara sauce. I added cubed pieces of fresh mozzarella, torn pieces of fresh baby spinach, shredded mozzarella cheese, and Italian spices. Bake and enjoy.

I love recipes such as the ones above, because there's so much room for creativity. Try different kinds of veggies or beans in the chili, or add different types of peppers such as jalapenos or chipotle.  if you want to add meat to the baked pasta dish, add cooked ground beef or turkey, or Italian sausage. Experiment with seasonings.

Oh, so the picture at the top of this post? That's my son, eating lo mein. Disclaimer: I raised him to have good manners. Really, I did.

Monday, January 24, 2011

comfort food

When it looks like this outside...
gray, bare trees, snowy...

It's time for something warm, filling, and comforting.
 In this case, vegetarian chili.

I like my chili topped with shredded cheddar cheese, with a side of warm cornbread.

 Or, perhaps you'd care for a plate of baked ziti with mozzarella and fresh spinach?

Those are a couple of the dishes I made for dinner last week. What's been cooking in your house?

Monday, January 17, 2011

the basement re-do is coming along

 More bookcases are set up...

Love the new IKEA couch, as the material is a thick, soft cotton - and it's actually a slipcover. One of the cats threw up on it the first day (of course!) and it was so easy to take the cover off the cushion, throw it in the washing machine, then let it line dry. The rug that is on the floor is temporary - I realize it doesn't match at all. We haven't purchased a new rug yet and the cement floor is very cold, so this rug will have to do for now.

 The two black side chairs are also from IKEA and have slipcovers. The floor lamp? IKEA again.

In this picture, you can also see a little bit of the black side table. From you-know-where. Besides rugs, we also need to buy some art for the walls and a curtain for the one little window (not pictured) that's down here.


Friday, January 7, 2011

puttering around with living room decor

Funny how spaces look so sparse and boring when the Christmas decorations come down, don't they? Here's what I have going on in part of the living room right now. I like to play around with making different vignettes on tabletops and shelves.

I'm having a hard time with this cloche though. I like what I have in it so far...but it needs more. Any ideas? Maybe I should also tie a ribbon around the top of the cloche?

I've always loved the picture below with the girl in the winter scene. I picked this up at a resale shop a few years ago.

I bought this table last year at Goodwill for a few dollars. It is solid wood and love the curvature of the legs. I was going to sand it down and paint it last year, but ran out of time. In the meantime, I stashed the table in the basement. I came across it the other day and thought, "Why not use it as is for now; it'd look pretty in the living room with some plants on it."

Monday, January 3, 2011

it's a start

I have quite a few books. OK, I have a lot. These are the ones that have been piled on the floor in the spare bedroom (which, "one day", will be a guest room/office). I've been waiting until our basement was finished and we got new bookcases before I brought all these books downstairs.

Well, the basement is now finished - but we don't have the new bookcases yet. Hubby and I went to IKEA the other day and we really liked their "Billy" bookcases in black. But, then my "hey-i-have-an-idea-how-we-can-save-some-money" thinking kicked into gear. I thought we could take our old bookcases and spray paint them black. However, hubby pointed out we'd have to wait for warm weather so we could do it outside. And let's face it, in northern Illinois that probably won't be for another four months. And, he also pointed out that he doesn't like the cheap, flimsy fiberboard backing on our bookcases. BUT. We didn't check out the backing of the IKEA bookcases - and I have a feeling it's the flimsy stuff, too.

Sooo...being the rather impatient sort and wanting to get started, we hauled all the books  (umm, I also have 2 bookcases full in the spare bedroom!) downstairs and put them on the bar.

Hubby took one of the old bookcases from the garage and hauled it downstairs for me. I then piled it with at least some of the books.

See? I DID make a dent. There's actually clear spot on the bar!