I love the holidays for several reasons. First and foremost being that I am officially on break from school! I took my last final of the semester this morning and half of me is elated that it’s all over and the other half is frustrated with my performance this semester and anxious about the grades that will soon be posted. All of those are pretty normal post-final emotions for me..I can never fully relax right away. The good thing about being married during this time is that we can lean on each other. The bad thing is that I still have to cook for two lol. I do enjoy cooking but during finals week, eating becomes less of a priority.

Anyway, I’ve learned how to make some simple appetizers (or teasers as I so cleverly entitled this post) that you can serve at a holiday party or any dinner. For me, they are more like light meals since we won’t be entertaining.

Quick story: My husband’s department had a holiday party at this swanky country club. It was a really nice space with gorgeous decorations, and the professors brought their families. But I didn’t really know a lot of people there and it was not that entertaining. We started talking to a German student who is graduating this semester, and he happened to be eating a slice of German chocolate cake. Of course I had to say something about it, and he went on to tell me that German chocolate cake is NOT from Germany. He said that once he got here, he was surprised at the name and looked it up..turns out the dessert is named after a man whose last name is “German”. He was like, “it’s kind of weird tasting.” I was like “yeah, I’m not a fan of coconut on cake.” And he was like, “We don’t even have coconuts in Germany! Oh yea, Germany is known for its lush beaches and coconut trees!”

Yall, I don’t know why I laughed so hard when he said this. I think his accent made it funnier..I probably laughed a little too hard like it was the funniest thing I had heard all night (and it was). Moral of the story: If you’re not having great time at a holiday party, find someone interesting with a good sense of humor to talk to and your night will be saved.

Now for the recipes, first up is hummus! In one of my past posts, I’ve complained about no one buying us anything on our registry. My mother heard this and for my birthday she got me a blender and a food processor from our  list. So for my first use of the processor, I decided to try something simple.

1.Hummus: 2 cans of garbonzo beans, cumin, lemon, curry powder, paprika, olive oil, minced garlic

First time I made this, I completely drained and used 2 cans of beans.


20121125_152434<<My new food processor

I squeezed the whole lemon in there because I like the taste. Overall, the taste was really good and flavorful but the texture was a bit too dry and pasty. You can see the papers in the background..I was in the middle of a 8 hr study session.


I eat it with pita chips or regular tortilla chips..The second time I made it, I used only one drained can of garbonzo beans and poured in a little water. It came out better texture but I lost some of the flavor. I’ll get it right one of these days. To make it pretty for a party, you should garnish it with a parsley leaf or something.

2. Deviled eggs: 4 eggs, mayonnaise or miracle whip, sweet relish, mustard, season salt (It depends on how many you want, 4 eggs makes 8 and 6 eggs makes 12 and so on.)

I’ve always loved deviled eggs and once I found out how easy it was to make, I started making them all the time or whenever I have leftover eggs (usually right before the expiration date which probably isn’t the best policy).


After I boil the eggs, I’m too impatient to wait for them to cool completely so I put them in a bowl of ice and peel them. Cut them long ways and put the yolk in a bowl. Mix in the other ingredients including a little salt. I like a lot of sweet relish in mine.


Put the mixture back into empty eggs.


3. Spinach cheese quesadilla: tortillas, frozen spinach, shredded cheese, chopped onion (optional), season salt and other seasonings

Earlier I gave a recipe for Mushroom Cheese quesadillas and this is fairly similar.

20121125_220357<<Heat frozen spinach in pan and season


Put spinach and cheese on tortilla and top with another tortilla (I forgot but make sure to put cheese as first layer, then spinach, then cheese again so the bottom tortilla can stick). I used our panini grill again! You can use a regular frying pan and it’ll turn out the same. Of course, you can cut them smaller to feed more.


That’s it! Since I’m not a professional, I gravitate to simple recipes that can satisfy anyone and these appe-teasers will definitely make your guests think that you know your way around a kitchen.

Now that I have some time, I will be doing more experiments from some of my cookbooks so stay tuned for possible disasters! lol


Vegetarian Lasagna

Every banquet or event I go to that is held in a hotel including wedding receptions, I am very limited in my options. Lasagna or a plate of steamed vegetables and rice are usually  the only vegetarian plate options. I’ve never been a fan of hotel catering because of this and I usually love all kinds of pasta especially lasagna. Their rendition is always tasteless..I have to make sure the salt shaker is within reach. Anyways, I have come up with my own recipe for a vegetarian lasagna that tastes great..and get this, it includes a little tofu 🙂

Vegetarian Lasagna: frozen spinach, Morningstar griller crumbles, Ragu tomato sauce, onion, minced garlic, oven-ready lasagna noodles, tofu, and shredded cheese.

Side note: I also occasionally use griller crumbles with tomato sauce on regular angel hair pasta with some seasoning

20121011_195913  20121011_200836


OK now back to the lasagna: First, I cook the frozen spinach, griller crumbles, garlic, and onion in a frying pan with some olive oil.


Then, I add the tomato sauce and seasonings like oregano, season salt, etc and mix it together in the pan. In a separate bowl, I crumble the tofu and add some salt and pepper. The reason I decided to add tofu is because it kinda looks like the ricotta cheese that is usually in lasagna and since I’m slightly lactose intolerant, I decided not to have too much cheese..also, tofu makes it healthy right? I use a casserole dish (wipe it with some oil so it doesn’t stick) and start layering. First layer is the sauce/meat mixture and then add the crumbled tofu, then add the cheese. Next layer the pasta..I used the no-name brand lasagna noodles and broke them in half to fit the baking dish. Then repeat the layering until the dish is full (oh yea and preheat oven to 350 degrees)




20121102_19413320121102_19500120121102_195408 <—Cover with foil and put in oven for an hour and then you get the following:

20121103_145234   20121103_145421

It would probably look a little better without layering the last tofu so the white stuff isn’t on top. My husband isn’t a fan of tofu but he really likes this dish because you barely get that “tofu taste”, it kinda just blends in with the rest of the ingredients. And let me tell you, this is delish! Better than any hotel catering, that’s for sure. Enjoy!

Cookbooks: A love/hate relationship

I own several cookbooks and I’ll list all of them on here sometime..One of my policies is that I never buy anything at the grocery store that I will only use once unless it’s for a special occasion like a dinner party or holiday. Alright, that’s phrased kinda weird..what I mean to say is that I look for recipes that use things that are already in my pantry or if I buy it, I know that I can use it again in another butter.

I also believe in the Law of Substitutions which mostly came from my mother, but at times, this law can work against you. I will explain the law in another post, but first I have something to get off my chest..

Here is where the love/hate comes in: I love the creativity and diversity of cookbooks and above all, I love the pictures! BUT I hate that I have to search the high heavens for “special” ingredients or buy special kitchen utensils and appliances like a blender or electric mixer (side note: I specifically used a blender as an example because it was on our registry and no one bought it for us so I’m slightly bitter). And above all, I hate that my version of the meal looks nothing like the glossy pictures!

The above cookbook is one of my favorites to love/hate. I picked it up at Barnes and Nobles from the sale table (another philosophy of mine, never buy anything that’s not on sale)..I have tried and failed several recipes from this book but I keep coming back for more in hopes of actually creating something that will impressed people (and by people, I mean my meat-eating husband and myself). It hasn’t been all bad..I have “mastered” some of its recipes. Like the one I am sharing with you today: Cheese and Spinach Tart. As you can see from the pictures, this is very gourmet-lookin stuff..after further research, I’ve found that there is actually a career or art form in food photography! There’s a technique involved! Upon this discovery, I have since decided to not feel bad and to stop comparing my creations with that of the pictures. However, there should be some disclaimer or warning on the inside cover like: The objects in this book are not as they seem when you make them at home (or something more clever). Ok I digress.

Below is the pretty picture with the relatively simple instructions for the tart, I’ve also included a pdf file in case you would like to try this at home:

cheeseandspinach  <—click the hyperlink for the full recipe

The following pictures are my attempts at recreating this tart:

First of all I don’t own a roller, so I used this lovely shot glass to roll out the dough. Also, the dough part required “mustard powder” which I don’t have so I used a lil onion powder and garlic powder (see Law of Substitutions).

I also don’t own a circular baking pan like the one in the picture

Voila! The finished product! Now, the recipe calls for you to cut the remaining dough with a “lattice pastry cutter”..So in comparison, I think I came pretty close right?

All in all, it ended up tasting pretty good. Kinda like a spinach quiche and the dough tasted like pot pie crust. We ate it with instant mashed potatoes (since I didn’t feel like making anything else lol) and my husband said it was good. Ya hear that fancy cookbook people?! I don’t need your stupid lattice cutter!

Some professionals might say that cooking is also about presentation and I agree that presentation does make food look and consequently taste better (in some cases). But to those of us who aren’t that great on the presentation side of things, I say find an awesome food photographer in your area and maybe he can make it look better 😉

That’s it for now, remember to eat and be merry!

(Ok seriously, does anyone have any suggestions on a good signing off catch phrase? Cuz that is not the one)