Beginner’s cooking with Meg & Palmer: Tacos

I’d taken a break from my culinary escapades — I had a few bits of luck and some serious misses. But Palmer and I were feeling adventurous the other day and decided to make . . . homemade tacos! He’s a serious Mexican food fan, and I’m pretty fond of it myself. Plus Mom was busy, Kate was working on an essay and we were loose and fancy free. So off to Safeway we went!

Palmer makes a winning choice

img_4741Of course, my improvisational skills when cooking are pretty thin. Palmer’s much more of a seasoned chef than I am — though I would never give him the satisfaction of admitting that! — so I let him take the lead. He figured we needed onion, tomatoes, red peppers, fresh lettuce for a salad and an embellishment and, of course, the taco meat. We try to eat as lean as possible at my house, so we went with frozen ground turkey — two packages. That turned out to make a ton of meat, but more on that later!

Armed with our ingredients — we grabbed shredded cheese, salsa, sour cream and tortilla shells on our way out the door — we headed home. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how incredibly bossy I am as a whole, so I pretty much tried to commandeer the cooking of dinner . . . but I was unsuccessful. Right around the time that I realized I was in over my head trying to saute stuff together! I know, I’m lame. But I’m getting there . . . that’s why it’s still beginner’s cooking!


 Yes, I was left mostly to chop — and even that I didn’t do terribly well. Palmer wanted a sharper knife, I found one and he took over my station! If this was “Hell’s Kitchen,” I would have demanded to be left on my own project. But hey, he was a much better chopper. So much better, in fact, that he took over the red pepper chopping as well.


I made my peace with that . . . and moved on to moving things around in the hot pan. Palmer had added in our chopped onion and red peppers, along with some olive oil and the seeds of the pepper. I’m really afraid of popping oil, so it took every ounce of my trepid enthusiasm to stand there and not run away from the loud simmering noises. I guess if I’m going to be a culinary master, I’ll have to stop being so terrified of hot stuff! Eventually, maybe.


And, at some point, I was put back on the chopping station . . . this time to cut up carrots for the salad that I hand-shredded. Yes, it was interesting! But I had a bigger knife now, so things went a little smoother. Don’t mind my evil expression:


And then we just had to add in our meat! Palmer rinsed everything off and threw it in the skillet. I kept everything stirring to prevent any sort of burning, we put the finishing touches on our salad and set the table. And voila!


This might be a classic “it tastes better than it looks” moment, because it was actually pretty delicious. I was proud that I managed to slice up some stuff, let Palmer direct me without pouting and had dinner ready early for the family. Another successful cooking adventure to help bolster up my limited confidence! I’m a much better baker, I think . . . and I made Christmas cupcakes last night. Another post to come!

Birthdays, anniversaries — all in a weekend’s work

Whew! I’m coming off a food and sugar high of fabulous eating and family time this weekend. Yesterday was my grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary and we celebrated with a wonderful dinner, a fantastic cake (made by my grandmother herself — and with her original cake topper!) and tons of presents.

Everything went incredibly well! As always, I loaded up on tons of desserts. Here’s a sample of what we bit into last night:

As always, it seems too pretty to eat! But we did, of course.
After taking tons of photos.

My grandparents (right) on their wedding day -- Oct. 25, 1958

My grandparents (right) on their wedding day -- Oct. 25, 1958

Continue reading

Monster biscuits return as… pancakes!

I gave myself some time to cool off a bit following a less-than-stellar cooking experience last week, but I think I’ve had enough time to recover. All the same, I wanted to take it slow . . . ease myself back into trying not to screw up dinner! I decided to make some cheddar biscuits that seemed to go over well last time — and they still turned out okay, though slightly cylindrical in shape!

Uh oh . . .

Uh oh . . .

I used the same Bisquick recipe as last time, courtesy of Kelly. They’re for cheddar garlic biscuits, made using low fat ingredients instead of the full-fledged good stuff. All I needed was heart healthy Bisquick (2 cups), 2/3 cup of skim milk, and a cup of shredded, low-fat cheddar cheese. I baked the biscuits for about ten minutes at 450 degrees, then made a butter spread (margarine, though) with some garlic powder sprinkled in. The spread was spread (ha!) on the warm biscuits after I pulled them out of the oven.

Continue reading

Beginner’s cooking with Meg & Palmer: Chicken & vegetables

My boyfriend graciously offered to make dinner for my family the other night! And, since we’re all trying to eat better and Palmer is steadfastly improving his own diet, we had to go healthy.

I’m not embarrassed to admit Palmer is a much better cook than I am! We all know about my adventures (and extreme misadventures) in the kitchen. I was happy to lean back, relax and take some tips from someone else for a while. And hey, Palmer bought us a really nifty vegetable steamer! Which was a very nice complement to the chicken, sliced thin, he seared.

We had fresh green beans (steamed with the new gadget, served with just a little butter) and chicken with seared peppers and zucchini. I was getting a little nervous listening to all the sizzling and popping coming from the pan, but I’m told this is normal. I just have a little PTSD from the oil poppin’ incident of early October ’08.

But everything turned out great! Palmer carefully watched the meal and whizzed around the kitchen like a pro. I, of course, swooped in still in my work clothes toting my digital camera to document the process. He cooked whole wheat pasta to be served beneath the chicken and vegetables, and it tasted quite delicious. I wasn’t sold on the idea of whole wheat after last week, but I realize that — like everything — it’s all in how you prepare it. He added some butter and, I think, a little onion? Very good!

Delicious! Healthy, quick and easy. Though my parents aren’t big on the peppers and zucchini, they gamely went along with it! It’s definitely a nice, fresh alternative to eating leftovers — or the crazy stuff I concoct. But don’t worry, I’m getting back in the culinary ring very soon!

Fall party food & sunsets

Another successful family birthday party! My grandmother never fails to pull off a really fun bash. We celebrated my uncle’s big day, which is actually Tuesday . . . but who can get together during the work week? Needless to say, the food was delicious. I ate way too much but can hardly contain myself with “party food” all spread out before me. As my mother always says, “It tastes so good because you never make it for yourself!” And this, apparently, is true.

We spent much of the afternoon watching the Cartoon Network’s old “Goosebumps” re-runs from the mid ’90s with my 11-year-old cousin — a surefire good time. And hey, the Redskins beat the Eagles today! So the gentlemen were all happy — including my dad, who’s on his way back from Philly.

Continue reading

Dinner last night

Yeah, I don’t eat so well when I’m spending the weekend working at the store! Well, correction — I eat well, but I don’t eat healthy. I eat the opposite of healthy. I pig out on high-fat, caffeinated things! And they’re so delicious!

I’ll do much better today . . . we’re getting ready to head over to my uncle’s birthday party. My grandmother is cooking — and I’m ecstatic!

Beginner’s cooking with Meg: Mustard chicken

So last night was another culinary adventure — this time with a real recipe and everything! Dad got Rachael Ray’s 365: No Repeats cookbook pretty cheap and, after pouring through it for a little bit, much of it seems like something I’ll need a little more skill to attempt. But I did find this awesome recipe for chicken with mustard sauce! Since it didn’t require grilling, coring or baking, I figured I could give it a whirl.

My first stop was, of course, to the grocery store for my needed supplies. I even made a list and everything! How responsible of me! I went through the recipe on my lunch hour to figure out what we wouldn’t have in the pantry. This included onion, chicken broth, sour cream and fresh lemon. Grabbed that stuff and headed home.

Next up in my “thirty-minute meal” was to prep all my ingredients. I have to admit I had a little help from Dad on this part. The chicken breasts were huge so we cut them in half and trimmed off all the fat (we’re all on dietary restrictions around here; have to eat as healthy as possible.) I chopped up the onion, sliced the lemon in half (that was fun!) and dirtied way too many bowls. But I eventually got the chicken seasoned with thyme, lemon, salt and pepper. It was smelling pretty delicious already! Guess I was doing something right!

Continue reading