Cooking and Composition

adventures in discourse and dinner

In the Kitchen: Goat Cheese Pasta Bake with Chicken — November 10, 2013

In the Kitchen: Goat Cheese Pasta Bake with Chicken

So, last week Lovie and I had a marathon writing night for NaNoWriMo, and I posted (albeit briefly) about making this delicious pasta bake. One of many things that Lovie and I have in common is our love of both chicken and carbs, specifically in the form of pasta and potatoes.

Normally when we cook, we go for chicken and noodles, especially now that Lovie has perfected it as a crockpot meal. But this week, we were in the mood for a little something different. Thanks to Pinterest, we got it stuck in our heads that we really needed baked macaroni and cheese, but we couldn’t quite find a recipe that we really wanted to follow. So we decided to make one up.

NaNo Sprint Night!

Making up a recipe has never worked out so well.

Ingredients

  • about a pound (1 box) of pasta
  • about 1 cup of half-and-half
  • about 1 cup of milk
  • 6 ounces goat cheese
  • 6-8 ounces shredded Parmesan, Romano, and Asiago cheese
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Red pepper flakes

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2. Bring water to a boil and cook pasta according to package instructions. While pasta cooks, prepare the sauce.

3. Cut the goat cheese into smaller pieces, then combine with milk and half-and-half in a saucepan. Heat over medium-high heat.

4. As goat cheese melts, add in about half of the shredded cheese blend and stir. Season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste. Reduce heat to allow to thicken without overheating.

5. Prepare chicken breasts as desired. We grilled it on a George Foreman Grill for about 10 minutes with just a little salt and pepper.

6. Grease an 8×8 or 9×9 square baking dish with butter (or cooking spray, if you prefer to be healthier).

7. When pasta is done cooking, drain and set aside.

NaNo Sprint Night!

8. Cut chicken breasts into strips or small pieces as desired.

9. Assemble all the ingredients in the baking dish, stirring together to ensure the cheese sauce coats the noodles and chicken. Sprinkle with remaining shredded cheese blend.
10. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until cheese is golden and melty.

11. Eat too much of this delicious meal, spend the next five days thinking about making it again.

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Day 7: NaNo is Better with Sprints — November 7, 2013

Day 7: NaNo is Better with Sprints

Is there anything better than a successful day of writing? How about when that writing actually feels like it’s pulling the plot together and doing something more than being word vomit all over the screen?

This is kind of how I am feeling. Last night, my BFF Lovie (who is now blogging about writing and copyediting and her other loves over at Copyedit ‘Til I Die) and I had a great night of NaNo work. It was much needed because neither of us have been feeling it most of this week. But we did it!

After spending part of the afternoon hanging out and doing real work (read: me grading annotated bibliographies), we hodge-podged together a delicious recipe after decided to make baked macaroni and cheese. I refused to use Velveeta, decided I really wanted goat cheese, and it worked out well! I will share the recipe later, but here is a picture to keep you enticed.

NaNo Sprint Night!
Look at all of this deliciousness.

With dinner a success, we set about to writing. Lovie didn’t get to write on Tuesday, so she wanted to make it about 3,000 words. Both of us had a slow start that consisted of too much time on Facebook and chatting and cackling with our friend Miller, who lives in Delaware and is in the process of starting a nationwide hipster game through this kickstarter. Even if you don’t care about hipsters, it’s worth watching the cool, talkie-esque video that accompanies it.

Then, we GOT TO IT. This is what it looks like when we write:

NaNo Sprint Night!NaNo Sprint Night!

I promise, neither of us are sleeping in these photos.

We also made deeeeeeeelish papaya and passionfruit black tea. And drank out of classy tea glasses.

And here we are! A successful night of noveling, leaving me with 20,883 words and almost halfway to winning NaNoWriMo. Yeah. It feels good.

Snacking, Or Why I Shouldn’t Tune into the Food Network After School — November 6, 2013

Snacking, Or Why I Shouldn’t Tune into the Food Network After School

As you will see on this week’s Friday Favorites, I love love love the Food Network. If I’m watching TV, actively or not, it’s probably on the Food Network. But this obsession with watching these various cooking shows is that I find myself craving a snack, whether I’m really hungry or not.

Monday of this week was a prime example of this. I had to stop by Kroger on my way home to pick up some high-fiber, low-glycemic index pasta. Just being in the grocery store made me hungry. And of course, I ended up in the natural/organic/supposed-to-be-better-for-you-but-probably-really-isn’t food aisle, anxiously hunting for my favorite Kettle Brand chips: Spicy Thai.

They are not to be found.

Instead, I bought some White Cheddar Cheetos (yuuuum!) and a bag of barbecue PopChips because apparently I cannot buy only one bag of chips at a time.

When I got home, I thought I can take an hour or so to relax, have a snack, and then get started on NaNoWriMo for the day.

In case you were wondering, this isn’t wait happened. I ended up watching the Food Network for about four hours and then cooking a cream-cheese-crust pizza with my mom and my brother’s girlfriend.

But as inevitably happens, I spent that whole time I was watching Food Network craving some delicious homemade snacks. Instead I ate over half my bag of PopChips. This did not make me happy. At over $3 and about 3 servings per bag, I was disappointed in myself. Not because I was eating too much (even eating the whole bag of PopChips wouldn’t have killed my calorie intake for the day, but it wouldn’t have been good for me, either) but because I felt like I was wasting money. I felt deceived by my PopChips.

They were delicious, to be certain. I like the subtle crunch they have, in contrast to the typical crunch of regular chips or the crisper texture and bite of my favorite, kettle cooked chips. But I just couldn’t stop eating them. Even after eating half the bag, I still felt like I was starving.

This is the worst kind of snacking.

In hindsight, I’m not sure if I was hungry because the PopChips didn’t fill me up or because I was continuing to watch celebrity chefs cook 3-4 delicious food items every half hour. And that effect is only magnified when competitive shows like Chopped or Cutthroat Kitchen come on.

So much cooking, so much delicious food I could never make for myself.

Even though I’m eating lunch, I’m finding myself salivating over the idea of a snack. Great.

In the Kitchen: Homemade Noodles — November 3, 2013

In the Kitchen: Homemade Noodles

One of the first things I learned how to cook is also one of my favorite things to eat: Homemade Noodles.

Untitled

As far as noodle-making is concerned, this is actually a pretty easy recipe. It’s easy to remember and doesn’t involve a lot of steps. But it can be time consuming if you are making a lot (like my family always does) or if you go with the good-ole “hand roll and cut” method, which we also do because we don’t own any of that fancy noodle-rolling machinery.

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NaNoWriMo/NaBloPoMo Day 2 — November 2, 2013

NaNoWriMo/NaBloPoMo Day 2

Oh, Saturday. It is never, ever, ever as productive as I plan for it to be. Today I was actually way more productive this morning than this afternoon.

I graded nince papers before it was even noon!

For anyone else who teaches, you know that grading is really the worst thing ever invented. Sometimes grading papers makes me feel physically ill. I have to give myself incentives and break it down into smaller batches. Usually I shoot to grade 4-5 at a time, but this morning I sat down at my desk and graded nine papers straight. It felt good. I probably should have keep going and just graded the other seven that I have left, but I foolishly decided to save them for later.

Today was a good day, but I did not do as much writing as I would like. Instead I went to the store with my parents and helped make dinner. Dad deep fried some chicken this evening, so I made homemade noodles. If you have never made noodles from scratch, this is not necessarily a demanding process but it does require a lot of time.

Especially because we do not have a noodle roller or any really easy way to cut them. It’s just me, the rolling pin, and the pizza cutter. But I will post more about the noodles tomorrow because I took lots of pictures (woot!) of me using my mom’s 80’s Oster combo blender/mixer.

I did start writing a new character today, and I even added in a dream/flashback. I’m not entirely sure yet which it is, but either way it doesn’t quite matter. It’s a jarring moment where she relieves a part of an experience that is currently haunting her. This character is one who has the most negative effects from her experiences with reality TV, so I think it’s probably good to see some of what happened even though it doesn’t take place in real time in the novel. I think she’s going to be a much cooler character than I initially gave her credit for.

It wasn’t a total waste, though. I still managed to write 3,499 words to put my total, after Day 2, at 9,850. I like seeing my “Words Per Day to Finish On Time” slowing decrease. If you wrote the same amount every day in November, you would need to write 1,667 to finish on time. Currently, I need to write 1,385 for the next 28 days. That almost 300-word difference doesn’t look like much, but it’s a small comfort early in the month.

This is my first time doing NaNo, and I’m still feeling pretty good about it! Other NaNos, how are you doing?

NaBloPoMo November 2013

Feta and Parmesan Veggie Pasta — October 13, 2013

Feta and Parmesan Veggie Pasta

Thursday, I made the mistake of going to Kroger hungry. This is a very, very big mistake.

I tried to temper this mistake by using a basket to do my shopping rather than a shopping cart.

This attempt was unsuccessful.

Parmesan and Feta Veggie Rotini
Who needs to exercise when you are carrying this basket of groceries around?

Halfway through my shopping trip, I decided I was not just buying a few lunch/breakfast items and, instead, that I was making dinner. Mom has been working late because of parent-teacher conferences and Dad is, well, almost always working late. We are lucky to even decide what we are having for dinner by 6pm, let alone have it cooking. So, in the middle of the grocery store, I decided to make dinner.

The result is Feta and Parmesan Veggie Pasta. Overall, everyone seemed to enjoy the dish. Dad and I agreed that it seems to be missing something, and I’d love some ideas. My family doesn’t usually use a lot of seasoning, so I have to work them into herbs and spices a bit slowly!

Untitled

This meal served five with some leftovers.

Ingredients

  • 1 box of pasta of your choice. Rotini worked great for us!
  • 1 bag of frozen mukimame
  • about 1 pound of asparagus, cut on the diagonal into half-inch pieces
  • about 1 pound of baby bella mushrooms
  • about 1 pound chicken breast
  • 3-4 TBS Olive Oil, divided use (to saute mushrooms and chicken)
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • About 1 TBS lemon juice
  • Salt, to taste
  • Pepper, to taste
  • Parmesan Cheese, to taste
  • Feta Cheese, to taste

Directions

1. Begin sauteing mushrooms in 1 TBS olive oil. Add lemon zest. Cover, but stir occasionally to prevent sticking. At the same time, bring water for pasta to a boil.

Parmesan and Feta Veggie Rotini
This is my favorite way to cook mushrooms.

2. Cook chicken breast in a covered saute pan with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper.

3. When water begins to boil, cook pasta per package instructions.

4. When mushrooms are browned and mostly cooked, add about one half TBS olive oil and the asparagus to the pan. Continue to cook, covered, stirring occasionally.

Parmesan and Feta Veggie Rotini
Yummy asparagus, waiting to be cut.

5. Heat mukimame. I used the Private Selection brand, which came in a steamable microwave bag.

6. Drain pasta. Add a touch of olive oil, salt, and pepper.

7. Combine cooked chicken, mushrooms, asparagus, and mukimame with the pasta.

Parmesan and Feta Veggie Rotini
There’s actually a lot of green in this pan.

8. Add Parmesan cheese and stir.

9. Add Feta cheese and stir. Enjoy!

Parmesan and Feta Veggie Rotini

I really enjoyed both making and eating this meal. It was quick, easy, and included a lot of my favorite foods. . .pasta, feta, mushrooms! Yuuuum yum!

Pork Chops and Feta Green Beans — September 26, 2013

Pork Chops and Feta Green Beans

Lately, I haven’t been doing much cooking, but last night I decided to treat my family to a rare delicious dinner relieve some of the stress I’ve been feeling through cooking. It was not really a strenuous dinner to cook–I just shook some seasonings onto the pork chops and stuck them in the oven. But the real star, I’m proud to say, was my decision to add feta cheese to some sauted green beans and mushrooms.
Pork Chop Dinner

Pork chops waiting to go in the oven. There may only be five of us, but we usually cook for an army.

Pork Chop Dinner

Apparently, pork chops are also my brother’s girlfriend’s favorite dinner. She suggested mashed potatoes. These came out perfectly.

Pork Chop Dinner

Perfect pork chop dinner. PERFECT.

Although a few of the mushrooms started to char a bit, I really think the Feta Green Beans with Mushrooms stole the show. And all I did was saute some mushrooms in a little bit of olive oil. When most of the water was cooked out, I added in the green beans. Since not everyone loves feta as much as me, I served it on the side so the family could take as a little (or as much) as they wanted.

Next time you are hungry for a hearty, fall meal that is also very easy, just turn on the oven, pop in some seasoned pork chops, and saute up some mushrooms and green beans. And think of me when you pour on some feta cheese. YUM!