Friday, September 26, 2014

We were on a break!

We moved the fish tank.  What do you think Zelda immediately did?

I've been neglectful again, and I'm sorry!

I actually have 4 recipes that I've done that I just haven't gotten around to blogging about for whatever reason.  The thought of posting those and having nothing left in the pipeline makes me feel panicky.

There has been a lot going on recently, and it hasn't left much time for blogging (or, at least, blogging well!), so I've decided to take a short break from my weekly posts.

I'm thinking I'll be back in the swing of things beginning in December, just in time for the holidays!  There will be a couple of sporadic updates before then, because I have one sponsored post that will be going up at some point, and when I make Dennis' birthday cake (which I'm super excited about!), I'll share that.

I'm also considering doing a blog redesign, but I haven't gotten too far into that yet.

Thanks you guys for sticking with me, and I hope you'll be back in December for a less stressed and anxious Sarah Cooks the Books!

Oh, and also, I'll still be around on Instagram and Facebook, if you're so inclined to check out my stuff there!


Friday, September 5, 2014

The Biggest Loser 30-Day Jump Start: Brussels Sprouts with Toasted Hazelnuts

I think Brussels sprouts are one of the more underrated vegetables.

I wasn't one of those kids that has terrible memories of Brussels sprouts being served at family dinners, and not being allowed to leave the table until I'd eaten them.  Truth be told, I never tried the things until I was 27 and my friend Andrea made them when I was at her house for dinner one night.

If you've never tried them, you should definitely give them a shot.  If you've tried them and still have flashbacks from the experience, try this recipe.  It's really delicious, and it might help bring you back around to Team Brussels Sprouts.

Brussels Sprouts with Toasted Hazelnuts
Makes 4 servings


1 lb. fresh or thawed frozen Brussels sprouts
1 Tbsp. olive oil
3 Tbsp. chopped shallots
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. honey or maple syrup
1 Tbsp. chopped hazelnuts, toasted
2 tsp. grated orange peel

Bring 2 quarts salted water to a boil.

Remove the outer leaves from the sprouts and trim the ends of the bases.  Halve the sprouts vertically, leaving the cores intact.

Add the sprouts to the boiling water and cook for about 3 minutes or until they are fork tender.  Drain and immediately transfer to a bowl with enough cold water to cover them.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Cook the shallots for about 2 minutes until softened.  Add the sprouts and cook for another 2 minutes.

Season with salt,pepper, and nutmeg.  Drizzle the honey over this and stir well.

Garnish with the toasted nuts and orange peel.


One Year Ago:  No Post

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Biggest Loser 30-Day Jump Start: Italian Flank Steak with Roma Tomatoes

I know nothing about grilling.  It's a shame, because I've got a cookbook on my shelf solely about grilling that I'll have to tackle eventually, but as of right now, I'm pretty clueless when it comes to grilling.

I was fully planning to put this meat on the broiler rack in the oven, when Dennis asked how I was going to cook this.  I told him my plan, and to say he looked horrified would be putting it mildly.

"That should be grilled," he said.  "You can't put that in the oven!  It deserves to be grilled."

Well, OK.  

He was right, by the way.  I don't know if this would have been as good in the oven as it was over the grill.  That being said, though, if you don't have access to a grill, or you don't know how to use the grill you have access to, you can broil it.

One thing, though.  I don't know if it was the tomatoes I used or the fact that they were grilled or what, but I wouldn't necessarily recommend doing the tomato bit of this.  They were kind of gross.

Also, I don't have a picture of the ingredients for this one, because requiring a marinade always throws me off and I forget.

Italian Flank Steak with Roma Tomatoes
Makes 4 servings (or 2 big servings)


1/4 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp. chopped garlic
1 Tbsp. chopped basil
1 Tbsp. chopped thyme
1 tsp. mustard powder
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 1/4 lb. flank or skirt steak
8 Roma tomatoes, halved crosswise

Combine the brother, vinegar, garlic, basil, thyme, mustard powder, and pepper in a large zip-top plastic bag.  Add the steak and seal the bag.  Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, but no more than 12.

Either preheat the broiler in your stove or prepare your grill.

Remove steak from marinade. Place the steak and tomatoes on the grill rack or broiler pan.  Grill or broil until browned, 4 to 5 minutes on each side for the steak, about 3 minutes on each side for the tomatoes. 

Check the steak for doneness by cutting into it.

Let stand for 5 minutes on a cutting board before cutting across the grain into thin slices.


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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

#Mugswap 2014

This is the second year I've taken part in A Cuppa Kim's MugSwap.  Last year (see entry here), I got a fancy tea cup (that I still use for tea!), and this year, I got a super cool old-timey tin mug from Samantha at Bearcub Creations!

Along with my vintage-y mug, she included taffy (which I love!), tea in a caramel flavor (which I'm sure I will love) and a couple packs of hot chocolate (which inexplicably didn't make it into the pictures.)

You may remember last year that I didn't know that a lot of people put extra little goodies in the packages, so I felt badly about sending a package with just the mug in it. 

This year, I put a bunch of cute stuff in the package...but the mug arrived broken, apparently.  Even though I've had really good experiences with receiving packages,apparently, I'm 0 for 2 with sending them.  :0(

I'm so glad I got to take part in this again, and I'm looking forward to #MugSwap2015!

Monday, September 1, 2014

The Biggest Loser 30-Day Jump Start: Doc's Chili

I wasn't 100% sure if this book qualified as a cookbook or not.  It's kind of a "jump start your weight loss" book that just happens to have recipes in it.  

I decided it was a cookbook, obviously, and was pleasantly surprised with the recipes I made out of it.

The only real anecdote I have for this story is that I was talking to my friend, Claire, about whether or not this qualified as a cookbook, and she told me that one year, her mom gave her a Biggest Loser cookbook as a birthday present.  Happy birthday indeed.

Since Claire also knows that it's my personal rule to cook at least one thing out of every cookbook I own, she threatened to send me that Biggest Loser cookbook so I would have to make something out of it.  I'm not sure if she was serious or not, but I guess we'll see.

(Oh yeah, and this chili is really good.  Dennis was a big fan, and he's kind of snobby when it comes to chili.)

Doc's Chili
Makes 12 1-cup servings


1 large onion, chopped
1 lb. ground turkey
1 28-oz. can diced tomatoes with juice
1 15-oz. can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 15-oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup chicken broth
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 Tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. dried mustard powder
1/2 cup chopped green onions
Olive oil for cooking

Coat a large saucepan with olive oil.  Add the onions and cook over medium heat until soft.

Add the turkey and cook until no longer pink, 6 to 10 minutes.

Add tomatoes, pinto and black beans, broth, garlic, chili powder, oregano, cumin, and mustard powder.  Stir well.

Bring the pot to a boil over high heat, then reduce to low.  Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.  

Garnish with green onions before serving.


One Year Ago:  No Post

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Dinner Doctor: Sarah's Popcorn Soup

As you probably guessed, the original recipe isn't really called "Sarah's Popcorn Soup."  It's actually called "Nancy's Popcorn Soup."  However, I'll tell you that the original iteration of this not very good.  It's kind of tasteless and bland (even with the added hot sauce), and I wanted so badly for this recipe to work that I took to my spice cabinet and made it awesome.

It was incredible once some magic was worked on it.  Truth be told, you don't even really need the popcorn -- it's kind of a kitschy topping, but it was fun, and I really liked it.

Also, I'm not known for being terribly observant, and my memory/attention span is roughly that of a gnat, so I had a couple moments the night we had this soup that made me think I was actually losing my mind.

I put the popcorn garnish on mine (Dennis didn't want the popcorn), and set it on the table while I did a couple of things.  When I got back to the table, there was no popcorn on the soup.  I was pretty sure I'd put some on there, but I also know how quickly I forget things, so I didn't think much of it and put more on.

I went into the kitchen to do something else, and when I came back, the popcorn was gone again.  At this point, I was fairly certain I was losing my mind, and I actually looked over at Dennis to see if he was snatching my popcorn when I walked away.  He wasn't paying any attention.

(Have you figured it out yet?  I hadn't.)

Apparently, when popcorn is in liquid, it kind of shrivels and 'disappears.'  I'm kind of embarrassed how long it took me to figure it out, but I did eventually!  (NOTE:  The popcorn shrivels.)

(EDIT:  Don't forget to enter the KitchenAid giveaway, found here!)

Sarah's Popcorn Soup
Serves 4 to 6
From "Nancy's Popcorn Soup" in The Dinner Doctor 


(You may notice an extra ingredient in this shot, as well as several others missing.  I changed this recipe a LOT.  Some stuff in the original, I didn't even bother with at this point.)

2 cans cream-style corn
1 can regular corn, drained
2 cups chicken broth (or veggie broth if you want it to be vegetarian)
2 cups half and half
2 Tbsp. butter
2 cups popped popcorn
(Starting here is where I added spices, etc. Mine was pretty spicy.  Change amounts accordingly.)
1 Tbsp. Tabasco sauce
1 Tbsp. garlic powder
1 Tbsp. Cajun seasoning
1 tsp. nutmeg
Black pepper to taste
Shredded cheese (optional)

Pour corns (plain and cream-style), half and half, and broth into a large pot and heat over medium heat, stirring constantly for the first few minutes.  Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the soup thickens and is hot (not boiling).

Stir in the Tabasco, garlic powder, Cajun seasoning, nutmeg, and black pepper.

Cook, stirring occasionally, until it has reached desired thickness.

Remove from heat and stir in butter.  Taste and add more seasonings as needed.

Garnish with cheese and popcorn.


One Year Ago:  No Post

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Dinner Doctor: Grilled Caesar Chicken Salad

I know, I know.  I just did a "recipes from boxes in your pantry" book last week.  And I was irritated about it.

I guess the difference between this one and that one is that this one brands itself as a cookbook that "doctors canned, frozen, boxed, bagged, and ready-made deli food" into meals.  It's up-front and honest about what it is, and what it's doing, and it doesn't pretend that Velveeta is gourmet.

But I digress.

In the book, this recipe only has two ingredients.  Doesn't get much easier than that.  However, I decided to make this one into a chicken salad instead of just the chicken, and it was so good.  So good.  You don't have to have this one as a salad, but I highly recommend it.

I also didn't do all the pounding of the chicken that was called for, so I had thick chicken pieces that I honestly did not understand how they were so good.

Grilled Caesar Chicken Salad
Serves 2
From The Dinner Doctor


(Obviously, I took this picture before I decided to make this into a salad.)

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken (The recipe calls for breast halves.  I used breast tenders.)
1 cup Caesar salad dressing (I and the recipe both recommend Newman's Own.)
Salad fixin's (The punctuation on this made me stare at it, hard, for like 5 minutes.)

Place the chicken in a large bowl (glass or ceramic preferably) and pour the dressing on it.  Make sure the chicken is well-covered.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or foil and place in the fridge.  Let marinade for at least 4 hours, or up to 24 hours.  (I did mine for roughly 24 hours.  I think leaving it in there longer is better.)

The recipe recommends using a real grill.  I used a George Foreman grill.

Shake excess marinade off and place chicken on grill/GFG.  

If you're using a grill, flip the pieces every couple of minutes to cook evenly.  

If you're using a GFG, close the lid until the chicken's internal temperature reaches at least 165°F.

Slice chicken, prepare salad if that's what you're doing, and serve.


One Year Ago:  No Post