Cooking up a Storm

As seems to be the trend with me recently, I have food pictures piled up that I need to get posted.

First up is a salad luncheon I went to.  My friend is pregnant (or perhaps she had her baby today) and decided that inviting the girls over for a salad lunch was a great way to see some friends and eat some food, but not have to go out anywhere.

I made this salad:
This is tomatoes, broccoli (raw), black olives and feta cheese.  Yum!

My friend made a nice, fresh, simple salad, and she also made a really tasty homemade dressing for it.
For dessert there was this fruit salad with whipped cream.
In keeping with the fruits and veggies theme, I made a loaf of carrot bread.
And another one of her friends made a fruit salad too.  We enjoyed lots and lots of fruits and veggies that day.  It was a really nice lunch get together.
Then I had to prepare something for a deployed spouses dinner.  I am a Key Spouse (definition to follow), so generally the Key Spouses prepare a dish to bring to dinner that is for all deployed spouses and their families.  This would be those spouses of deployed service members.  We have these dinners, I think, once a quarter.  

This time the theme was a Luau.  I decided to make these very easy pineapple cupcakes.  A friend told me about this recipe last year, but I never got around to trying it until I realized it would be perfect for this occasion.  I decided to pass on the icing, and instead do it as a pineapple upside cupcake.
To make these, you mix one box of yellow (or white or even angel food cake I think) cake mix and 1- 20 oz can of crushed pineapple, juice and all.
Then you can bake as a cake or as cupcakes.
To make mine more like pineapple upside down cakes, I added a cherry.
They came out perfectly!
I even packed some up to take to the girl's at work.
I am definitely making them again.  In fact, I am making them Sunday to send to work with Ryan.

There was still one more function that week that I had to cook for.  This was for our Key Spouse meet and greet.  I am a Key Spouse for Ryan's squadron, which is defined as (taken from Travis AFB description):

Key Spouses are trained volunteers that provide personal, peer-to-peer support for their squadron's families. Their role is to care for families by providing them with information from their squadron's leadership about events, programs, and other available resources during periods of separation. As an official unit representative, they also serve as a point of contact when spouses need to communicate any difficulties they may be experiencing to their leadership. As fellow military spouses who also live with and adapt to military lifestyle cycles and changes, they are passionate about what they do! They are a critical team member of each squadron's leadership, and they are informed, equipped, and empowered to make a difference on base and in the lives of their squadron's families.

Our program is rebuilding now and I am happy to be a part of this new team of lovely ladies.  Since we are mostly all new to this within the squadron, we decided to have a meet and greet so that spouses can meet us and see who we are and know who they can come to if they need it (particularly if their spouse was deployed).

Here are all the goodies we had at our fun party.  Mine isn't pictured, but I made a 7 layer bean dip that disappeared fast!

I forget what these are called, but one side has kimchi in the middle.
More cookies!  We had lots and lots of cookies.
I told you!  Lots of cookies!
Boy was I glad when that week was over because I didn't have to make anything for the following week.

QUESTIONS:  Do you ever cook food for functions?  Make food to send to your spouses work?  What is your favorite salad to prepare?

Passover Friendly

Passover is now well in the past, but my pictures haven't been posted yet.  Yes, I am THAT far behind!

Passover started the night Ryan came home, and continued right up until that 6 course dinner we enjoyed.

Although I did not make this first meal during Passover, it would have worked, and in fact inspired a meal I did make during the holiday (and is also pictured below).

I started with some carrots and mushrooms.
Then I added in some bean sprouts.  I had never bought these before, but this bag was so cheap that I decided I needed to try them out.
The last veggie I added was some broccoli.
In the meantime, I was marinating my fish in some less sodium soy sauce and brushed it with some miso.
It made a really nice meal!  I am definitely making this again.
In fact, it was so good that I made a similar version during Passover, except I had potatoes and green beans on the side.
Last up is Matzo Brei, which is also called fried matzo, although I don't actually do any frying with mine.  It's more or less the Passover equivalent of French toast.

To start, you break up some matzo and soak it in water.
Then you dry it off and egg to beaten eggs.  It's a one to one ratio, so one egg for each slice of matzo.
Then you cook it in a frying pan, just like eggs.
Yum!  There are many ways to enjoy this dish, but I prefer mine dipped in jelly.
I could seriously eat this all year!

I didn't do too much else for special foods during the holiday.  Mostly I ate matzo ball soup, fruits and vegetables.

QUESTIONS:  Have you ever tried matzo brei?  Have you ever been to a Passover seder?  What is your favorite holiday food?

6 Course Dinner

I really must apologize first, and then say thank you.  I am apologizing for being MIA over the past few months.  I have had a lot going on, and I am probably 2-3 times busier than usual, but that will be ending soon, so that is good news.  Then, I want to say thank you, because you are reading this post, so I know that you are still following along with what's going on in my life.  I really appreciate that!

Just so everyone knows, as a small reward for all my hard work (more to come on some of that in the future), I am taking a nice, and very long, trip.  It's mostly vacation, mixed with some education, and a little work tossed in.  The main focus of my trip will include Spain, France and Israel, and I plan to blog about all of it.  During that time the focus of my blog will be just food and travel, with much less emphasis on nutrition (other than when I write about the nutrition conference I am attending).  I invite all of you to tune in and follow along, and if you know anyone that really enjoys reading about travel and learning about International foods, please feel free to pass along the link to my blog.  In total I will be spending time in 6 counties, and with layovers included I will technically be "visiting" 9 countries total, although only in the airport in 3 of those.  Expect to see posts starting in the second half of May.

So I guess it is fitting that the 6 course meal we enjoyed on base last week was called "A Taste of the World".  This was a special meal prepared for a select few (not kidding, even though we had to buy tickets, to even get those tickets you had to enter a lottery).
Here I am with Ryan, my super wonderful husband, who only appears on here every so often.
The neat part about this dinner, other than the champagne and wine included, was that the chef prepared all the foods in a cooking demo, so we could recreate all the dishes at home.  It was like being on the set of Emeril or something, or at least what I would imagine that is like.  Once the demo was well under way, they started serving us the meal.
The first course was a spinach dip in a fresh baked bread bowl.
Let me also mention this was the meal on the last night of Passover, which ended as the sun went down, so I was able to end the holiday the right way by indulging in some bread.  The dip was actually prepared with chicken base, so I did not eat any of that, but from what I understand it was amazing.  I cut off some bread from the outside to enjoy.
Next came the salad.  This was a spinach and berry salad, complete with a nice, homemade dressing.
The next course was also one that had chicken base, but I had spoken with the chef in advance, and much to my surprise, he prepared this amazing dish for me.  This was shrimp, scallops and vegetables in a ginger sauce, with a side of white rice.  It was amazing!
The real third course was this pasta dish with a corn sauce.  Ryan said is was good but definitely different.  He said it was like corn chowder on pasta.
Then came the 4th course, which was the one I was most looking forward to.  This was the lobster.  Since Ryan does not eat lobster, I had one extra, which I took home with me (and I made the most amazing lobster omelet with it 2 nights later).
The 5th course was the steak.  Ryan ate some of this, and then brought mine home with him.  He said it was ok, but he is not a big fan of rare meat, and that is how this was prepared.
The final course was dessert.  This was a drunken strawberry cake.  It was really tasty, but I was so full it was almost (yes, I said almost) too much to eat.
Overall, this was a great night out, with good food and good music (there was a live jazz band).

QUESTIONS:  What is the most courses you have ever been served in a meal?  What is our favorite "taste of the world" food?  Do you have any travel plans coming up?  What would you most like to see me write about in my upcoming travels?

Japanese Cooking Class-Meatballs

I know what you are thinking: Why on earth did I go to a Japanese cooking class for meatballs?

As a vegetarian, this seems like it would be the last class I would want to attend, but I did go and I did enjoy it.  Here's why:

1) I go to mingle and socialize with others interested in food and the Japanese culture.

2) I was able to immerse myself in the culture.

3) I actually learned a little about Japanese foods (non-meat products) and cooking methods that I can use later on.

Even if the cooking class is making food I can try, I still learn something every time, and for me, that is most important.  So, I still went to the class on making a meat ball and dumpling soup.  The guest chef was the head of the team that recently won a local cooking contest.

I took pictures, but I did not actively partake in preparing the meat balls.
I did however take an interest in learning about the Chinese Yam.  It can be used in cooked foods, but it can also be eaten raw.  It's actually sweet and not exactly what you would imagine it tastes like.
What they did with the yam was very cool, so I am glad I learned this.  It was mashed.  Ok, it was severely beaten.
While we took turns beating the yam, the instructors had the chicken boiling to make the stock.
Then I headed over to watch the meatball making.  The meat was rolled into balls, with a piece of yellow and a piece of white cheese enclosed in the center.
There you have the meat balls for this soup.
Meatballs complete with the cheese.  The meatballs where then cooked in some oil.
After beating and beating the yam, the chef added a thickening agent (sorry, I want to say corn starch, but I know that wasn't it), and we mixed it and mixed it until it became a dough.
Then the meat balls were ready to be added to the soup.
They also prepared some vegetables for us.  This is one of the reasons why I like the cooking classes.  Otherwise I would have no idea how to prepare and cook many of the Japanese vegetables.
I was more than happy to get my hands dirty rolling the yam dough into balls, which we also stuffed with cheese.
Everything was added to the broth, and you can see this turned into a very lovely looking soup.
Then one of the instructors surprised us by serving up some rice she prepared with vegetables.
Overall, it was really a worthwhile experience, even if I don't eat meatballs.  I love taking these cooking classes and I look forward to the next one, which is for making potato croquettes.  Can't wait!

I also want to congratulate my husband.  I didn't write anything before on my blog, but my husband had been away for 6 weeks and just returned home.  He was at Noncommissioned Officer Academy down in Okinawa.  All of his hard work really paid off and I am so proud of him for being honored as a Distinguished Graduate.  He finished in the top 10% of his class (there were around 70 people total).  This is a wonderful accomplishment.

QUESTIONS:  Have you ever tried a Chinese yam?  Have you ever made homemade meatballs?  Have you ever made some version of dumplings?  Have you ever taken a cooking class?