Friday, August 29, 2014

Garden Update 5

Having a garden is friggin' awesome, especially when you can pick super fresh cucumbers and make a batch of delicious refrigerator pickles. I whipped up a batch a few weeks ago and they went super quickly because my sister is a pickle freak. Currently there's another batch sitting in the fridge, pickling. We'll probably pop it open this weekend, this glorious three-day weekend.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

What I Ate: Grilled Panzanella Salad

P is for panzanella. Panzanella is a stale bread salad, typically made with tomatoes and cucumbers. Little fun fact: panzanella salad was originally made with onion. It wasn't until the 20th century that we all started to worry about having stinky breath and switched over to less offensive tomatoes.

Panzanella can be pretty much whatever you want it to be. I made mine with grilled vegetables and a lemon basil dressing. You can make yours with fresh crunchy vegetables and a balsamic vinaigrette.
And don't look for a special occasion to make this salad. Just make it some time in the summer when the fridge is stocked with delicious veggies and you've got a stale loaf sitting on the counter, looking sad and pitiful.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Failure Macarons Cake

Macarons are the most high-maintenance dessert to make. You need perfect ingredients that are measured out perfectly and you need to make them on a perfectly non-humid day and your oven needs to be perfectly calibrated; it's pretty easy to mess up.

I made lemon macarons for my friend's bridal shower and since it was an "experimental" recipe (I'd never made this particular flavor before) I didn't realize that the oils in the lemon zest would cause the batter to be a little flatter. That meant I had a few batches come out of the oven looking like yellow Mentos (yeah, the freshmaker) instead of cute frilly macarons.

No worry though, because I turned the duds into little chocolate cakes.
Ingredients:
1 stick butter
4 oz. 100% cacao chocolate
200 g failure macarons
1 egg + 1 egg white
½ cup sugar
pinch salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
*Let's say you wanted to make this cake and you don't have any failed macarons, just substitute in 75g almond flour and 125 g icing sugar.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

What I Ate: Grilled Clam Bake

I flew back from Miami yesterday morning and I'm back at work today. It's always a bittersweet feeling to end a mini-break and have to come back to work. There are several days a year where I contemplate what it would be like to have been born into a rich family and not have to work a day in my life. Those thoughts usually bubble up the day after I get back from holiday, surprise-surprise.

It's actually quite lucky that I grew up the way I did. It's not like my family was ever homeless and I've never gone to bed hungry, but we've seen some struggle in our lifetime. I know the value of a dollar and it's a v. good thing. I've got the type of personality where I'm really not ambitious at all and I honestly hate trying. I basically coast through life, surviving on the fact that I was just born good at some things and milking that to get by. If I'd been born into privilege, I'd probably be the laziest, dumbest, most boring person ever. But I wasn't, so I'm not! (At least in my own opinion, I'm not.)

Anyway, to perk up my no-more-holiday self, I've got a pretty fun dish to share today. It's a faux-clam bake. I've never actually been to a clam bake so I don't know really know what it's supposed to be like. However, I threw together a few components that are typical of clam bakes, popped everything on the grill, and it was so fun and so delicious that I had to share it here.
The main elements of a clam bake are clams (duh), potatoes, corn, and sausage. I also threw in some lemon and wine because both are delicious with seafood. If you wanted to do this, you could also throw in some crawfish, lobster, shrimp, mussels, basically whatever shellfish you're into.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Meatballs

I get the most intense cravings all the time. Someone mentions Thai food and I'm topsy-turvy until I can get some pad kra pow. I see that Rachel Bilson commercial for those ice cream bars and I have to go the store immediately to buy a pack. I smell the neighbors barbecuing outside and nothing tastes good until I've had a big, juicy burger. It's insane. In addition to that weird affliction, I've got some "default cravings" that are just always existent. I can always go for a bowl of cereal. I can always go for spicy Korean food. And I can always go for a big bowl of pasta.

On this particular day, I was craving noodley pasta and not the short-cut kind. And because it was hot out, I wasn't in the mood for red sauce so I decided to go for some green sauce (re: pesto). I was also somewhat ravenous so I wanted to include a protein and what's more appropriate than meatballs with pasta? I know that there are a jillion meatball recipes out there. I don't care; I'm just going to throw another one on the pile today. What's special about mine? Well, I don't know really, but I like them. They're flavorful and tender and great plopped on top of a pile of pasta or inside of a sandwich.
Ingredients [yields 24 small meatballs]:
1 lb. ground beef (I like an 85/15 mix for this)
½ cup onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 slices bread, cubed
¼ cup milk
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
½ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon crushed pepper flakes
¼ cup grated parmesan
1 egg

Friday, August 22, 2014

What I Ate: Kielbasa Hash & Eggs

Good mornin' y'all! I'm headed down to humid, possibly rainy, possibly sun-drenched, sexy Miami this morning for a bachelorette shindig. Whoo! I'm in such a good mood. The bride-to-be, D, slept over last night and we're up and getting ready to go to the airport.

As you may or may not know, I'm a travel bug so I'm used to buzzing in and out of airports so I'm feeling pretty crystal cool right now. I've got my bags packed, I'm checked into my flights, and I'm all geared up and ready to go.

The only thing missing is a hearty, substantial breakfast. I can't survive a day without eating something in the morning. Since we're in a hurry today, we'll probably grab something on the go. But, if we had the luxury to sit down to a meal, I'd probably want to make this kielbasa hash with a lovely runny-yolk fried egg chucked on top.
I love making hash for breakfast. I just grab whatever we have in the pantry and fridge, saute, brown, season, and top with a fried egg. It's not super elegant but it's delicious, hearty, filling, and it gets my morning started off on a really good note. This particular morning (meaning the day I made this, not today), I used potatoes, garlic, mushrooms, onion, hot peppers, kielbasa, and cayenne pepper for a spicy kick. So good.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

George Michael Eats: Blueberry Yogurt Treats

My pup is my life. He's not the best-behaved nor is he the best looking dog, but he's loyal and sweet and does a lot of random cute things and he makes my heart sing. Despite my undying love for my furry best friend (whom I refer to as "my son" all the time), I buy processed dog food and processed dog treats for two reasons. One: it's a time and money saver and two: I don't always know what's good for dogs so it's easier to leave the responsibility up to someone else.

That being said, I do like to give GM some delicious treats once in a while. He gets to eat all of the cucumber butts and meat trimmings and apple peels as I'm cooking. But I like to whip up homemade treats as well. A year ago, I shared a peanut butter and cheese dog treat recipe. I hadn't made homemade dog treats since because we've been giving my dog organic treats from Whole Foods and freeze dried blueberries, which are quite healthy (in moderation). But, one Sunday morning, my sister and I were watching Barefoot Contessa and Ina Garten made dog treats for her guests' pup and it made us want to make some treats for GM too.

This isn't anything like Ina's recipe except for the fact that I sprinkled oats on top. It's just a mish mosh of ingredients that I know are safe for dogs. GM seemed to be a fan (that's quite an understatement considering he jumps like crazy and goes buckwild for these) so I'd call it a success.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

3 Tea Sandwiches

Spot of tea, please! Along with kettle corn at the movies, sexy accents, and rugby, I'd love if high tea became something casual that we Americans did on a daily basis. I mean, what's better than halting your afternoon activities to sit down and sip a cuppa and munch on some yummy sandwiches? I don't know, is it just me that finds that incredibly appealing?

Anyway, it's not like we're not allowed to have tea in America. Just put a kettle onto boil, grab some crustless bread and salmon, and slap together some snacks and tuck in. These are the sandwiches we had at D's bridal shower and I think they were a hit. I mean, people were eating them without spitting them up so I'd say they were a hit. They look adorable and are perfect with a teacup full of fragrant tea.
There really isn't anything incredibly innovative about the flavors of these tea sandwiches but hopefully they'll offer you a little inspiration and make your tummy growl.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Raspberry Macarons with Raspberry Mascarpone

This Friday, I'm hopping on a plane and heading to hot, humid, sexy Miami Beach and I've already got the jitters. D is coming over on Thursday evening so that we can carpool to the airport on Friday. I'm starting to get the fun-anxiety butterflies (not the dread-anxiety ones) because this is the time when things are getting exciting; I finalize my packing list, get all my last minute errands completed, and start gathering my things together in the corner of my room so that they're ready to shovel into my luggage. I'll probably start packing this evening because I'm a freak and I like to pack way in advance.

In addition to the citron macarons, I also made raspberry macarons for D's bridal shower. I mean, it doesn't get sweeter and cuter than tiny pink macs, right? They were absolutely perfect for the bridal shower but they'd also be great for a little girl's birthday or baby shower or any feminine-themed party.
Ingredients:
raspberry macarons [yields 3 dozen 1-inch sandwiches]:
66g egg whites (about 2)
33g caster sugar
73g almond flour
120g icing sugar
10g freeze dried raspberries
pinch cream of tartar
pinch salt
+pink food coloring

raspberry mascarpone filling
15 to 20 raspberries
¼ cup mascarpone cheese

Let's talk about these cute pink shells, okay?

Monday, August 18, 2014

What I Ate: Baked Eggs

Breakfast on weekends are always a little more elaborate. I sleep in a little and wake up with the sun instead of my alarm. Sometimes I've got a recipe planned; sometimes I just go with it. Potatoes, eggs, cheese, and bacon are usually good contenders.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Frozen Banana Ice Cream

F-f-f-friday, people! Even if someone punched me in the face right now, I'd still be riding the euphoric buzz I've got on from the knowledge that the weekend is just barely out of reach. Sometimes I think it's kind of sad that I just work for the weekend but you know what? Contrast is important. You've got to have some lows to really appreciate the highs. You know what I mean?

To celebrate this momentous occasion (what occasion? That it's Friday), I've got a delicious frozen treat for you today. It's frozen banana ice cream, if you couldn't tell by the post title and the glaring photo below, doy. Frozen banana ice cream has been around for a few years now. It's great and popular because it's healthier than regular ice cream and it's much easier to make. And if you don't have an ice cream maker but you do have a food processor, it's perfect. I've never been the biggest fan because I don't care much for the taste of banana. However, the banana flavor can be covered a little with some stronger flavors. I'm sharing a few of those today, as well as my technique for making banana ice cream.
Ingredients [yields 1 pint]:
3 bananas
¼ cup milk

+ candied bacon
+ cocoa powder
+ sweetened coconut flakes
+ sprinkles
+ chocolate chips
+ vanilla extract

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Coconut Shrimp (2)

Summertime around these here parts equals heat, humidity, and practically no desire to cook. It's tough to motivate myself to stand in front of any sort of heat source. I mean, we have central air conditioning, thank goodness, but we're not made of money, you know. So we keep it at 76F at the coolest, and that's only on days where it's hot enough that your skin literally bursts into flames the second you step outside. But, that doesn't mean you're not tempted to have a good, satisfying meal. I don't know about you but salad seventeen meals in a row will not cut it for me.

Luckily, I have a solution: coconut shrimp. Shrimp cooks up so quickly that you're only standing in front of the stove for maybe five minutes, max, and then you can immediately enjoy the fruits of your labors while standing in front of the air conditioning vent and fan combo you've set up for yourself. You know the drill.
Ingredients [serves 4 as an appetizer, 2 as a meal]:
½ lb. shrimp
½ cup potato starch (you can substitute cornstarch if you don't have potato starch)
½ teaspoon salt
1 egg
¼ cup coconut flakes
¾ cup panko breadcrumbs
oil for pan frying
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon Sriracha
dash of Worcestershire sauce

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Spicy Pickled Pink Radish

This summer is just whizzing by way too quickly. I lost about half of my summer to North Dakota and once I got back, I had so many obligations and parties and little trips here and there that it's made the time go by rather rapidly. It's both good and bad. I'm a pretty introverted person so when I've got an overload of social obligations, I start to burn out and I need a month of by-myself-recovery-time. This weekend should be a somewhat quiet one. I've got a dress fitting, which shouldn't take too long, and an appointment to get my haircut and a lunch with family. It's probably the "quietest" weekend in a while and I'm looking forward to it immensely.

I'm also looking forward to every cucumber harvest that my little tiny garden produces because we've been making some delicious pickles this season and every batch disappears in just a few days. In between harvests, I've been pickling whatever else I can. Pickles are so delicious but they're especially satisfying in the summertime. They're cold, they're acidic, they're crunchy; basically, they're the best. Baby sister bought a whole package of cute pink radishes and we ran out of uses for it pretty quickly. We added sliced radishes to every salad for weeks but it felt like the stash wasn't diminishing at all. So, I made a batch of quick pickles.

Pickling radishes is fun because they turn pink all over and look super cute!
Ingredients:
6 to 8 pink radishes, sliced
1 mini cucumber, sliced
1 jalapeƱo, sliced
1 cup water
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoons sugar
¼ cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon crushed pepper flakes
¼ teaspoon fennel seeds
1 clove garlic, smashed

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Food Truck Festival 2014

This past weekend, my sister and I had a little "sister time." That's just what we call the fun activities we plan because we're sisters and we're spending time together. Aren't we a creative pair?

There was a food truck festival just a town or two over so we decided that for lunch, we'd just head over and get a good sampling of delicious food.
The festival was being held at the County College of Morris. It started at 10:00 with $5 admission (free for kids 12 and under) and free parking.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Lemon Macarons with Lemon Curd

A few weeks ago, I found myself in a somewhat high pressure cooking situation. I had volunteered to make macarons for my friend's bridal shower. I mean, I suggested that we have macarons and then I said I would make them. No one coerced me into doing this. I decided to make a citron macaron - citron is French for lemon - and I needed these to be perfect tasting and perfect looking because they were for a party and strangers would be looking at them and eating them.

Well, these lemon macarons didn't turn out perfectly (no feet!), which was such a shame. Thankfully, they were really yummy. I think the reason for the imperfect look and perfect taste is because I used fresh lemon zest. The zest added lots of delicious flavor but it was too oily, which made the batter fall flat. Next time I try this recipe, I'll zest a lemon a day or two ahead and let it dry out a little. That being said, the shells were still really, really good. And isn't taste the most important part?

Luckily, everyone enjoyed these cuties, so it was great! Be warned that macarons are incredibly finicky little buggers. I talk extensively about them in my first ever macaron post, if you'd like a little history and a slightly more detailed set of instructions.
Ingredients:
lemon curd
½ stick butter (¼ cup)
⅔ cup sugar
2 eggs
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1 lemon (¼ cup)
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt

lemon macaron shells [yields 3 dozen 1-inch macaron sandwiches]
66 g egg whites (about 2)
33 g caster sugar
73 g almond flour
130 g icing sugar
1 tablespoon lemon zest, dried at least 24 hours
pinch cream of tartar
pinch salt
+ yellow food coloring

Let's start with the curd!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Horchata

I am definitely a shortcuts kind of person. I don't mean that I like to cut corners, but if there's an easier and/or more efficient way to do something, I will definitely do it. For example, I never make a special trip to check the mail. Instead, I will walk my dog and on our way back, I'll grab the mail. Or, if I want to give myself a manicure at night, I change into pyjamas, wash my face, brush my teeth, and put my hair up beforehand so that I can just relax while they're drying instead of trying to do all of that stuff while my nails are still tacky and end up ruining them. You know the drill.

So, when a recipe requires you to soak something and wait and there's really nothing else you can do to contribute to the dish while you're waiting (except maybe watch seventeen episodes of Friends back-to-back) it irks me a little. I wish I could be mixing or scraping or rolling the other ingredients while the mixture soaks. With recipes like this, I'm like, is it worth it? Well, homemade horchata is one of those recipes; it's uncomplicated and 90% of the recipe is just waiting. I debate whether the effort is worth the reward because it involves so much patience and not much else. I'm leaning towards yes, it's worthwhile, but only because I'm drinking some as I type this and it's really sweet and delicious and it's making me v. happy.

If you've never had horchata before - pronounced "or-CHA-ta" - it's a cinnamony sweet almondy rice milk. And right there, I've basically described the four ingredients it takes to make this drink: cinnamon, sugar, almonds, and rice. It's dairy-free, which is great for my mild lactose intolerance, and frankly, it's just dessert in a glass which is fantastic.
Ingredients [yields 4 to 6 servings]:
1 cup long grain rice
1½ cups blanched almonds
cinnamon stick
3 cups warm water
4 cups cold water
¼ to ½ cup sugar or agave nectar
+ground cinnamon

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Blueberry Mojito

I know our blueberry picking trip was forever ago but I've got another blueberry recipe today. Sometimes I make stuff and document it and then forget about it and I'll be blogging and think, "Oh shi-, I mean shoot! I completely forgot about that!"

Well, I couldn't not make a blueberry mojito with the awesome fresh berries we picked. I mean, I had to pay homage to my college days (back when the blueberry mojito was the yummiest way to consume plastic bottle alcohol, re: cheap alcohol) and get my buzz on whilst getting a good dose of antioxidants and vitamins. I think this is the fifth type of mojito I've shared on the blog so far and I've shared a total of (maybe) ten cocktail recipes. I guess I just really love mojitos?
Ingredients:
2 oz. chilled clear rum (I'm a fan of Bacardi and I blame 50 Cent)
6 to 8 mint leaves
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon blueberry syrup
¾ cup tonic water

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Grilled Pork with Rice Sticks

I've been swamped at work lately. It's a good thing because the time passes much more quickly and it means that we've got work and who can complain about that right now? However, I am getting slightly burnt out. It's times like these that I'm thankful for an outlet, i.e. cooking and this blog. As tempted as I might be to just grab some takeout after work and pass out on the couch during a Chopped marathon, I know that I can unwind and get my head in a good place by doing something fun after a grueling day at the office.

That being said, I still crave takeout. I'm a big fan of Thai and sushi but we also do a lot of Vietnamese takeout because it's friggin 'delicious. There's a place nearby, Viet Ai, which has become a family favorite. In the winter, our go to is pho. But since hot soup isn't usually my prerogative in the summertime, when it's warm out, our go to is H1, which is "grilled sliced pork on tiny rice sticks." It's kind of exactly how it sounds but in addition to the pork and rice sticks, you get lettuce, pickles, cucumbers, mint, and a dipping sauce. You make little lettuce wraps with the ingredients and it's awesome.

Even though it's much easier and quicker to just order this from the restaurant, it's fun and delicious to make this at home too. And like I said, cooking is my way to de-stress and prevent myself from going crazy so it's almost a necessity for me. Plus, if for some sad, depressing reason, you didn't have a Vietnamese restaurant near you, you can just make this yourself!
Ingredients [serves 4]:
pork & marinade
4 pork chops, sliced
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon Vietnamese fish sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 cloves garlic, smashed
2" piece of ginger
2 tablespoons oil

lettuce wrap
6 oz. package rice sticks
1 head green leaf lettuce (or whatever lettuce you prefer, red leaf, butter, romaine, etc.)
30 to 40 mint leaves
2 mini cucumbers, sliced (the mini ones don't have offensive seeds; English cucumbers also work)
pickled carrot & daikon (I have a homemade version on my blog)
sliced hot peppers (I like serrano or jalapeno)

nuoc cham / dipping sauce
1 tablespoon Vietnamese fish sauce
juice of ½ lime (about 1 tablespoon)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons water

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Tandoori Chicken

We've been grilling up a storm at home. We're cheapies and we don't jack up our a/c which means that we've got to keep our house as cool as possible. That means we avoid turning on the oven and just resort to grilling. It's a good thing because I love grilled food and it keeps the house cooler; two birds, one stone.

Recently, I whipped up a batch of tandoori chicken on the grill. It's not the most authentic recipe - I don't own a tandoor - but it was still delicious and simple to make. It's a great dish for summer because you need a decently warm heat source to get good color on the meat, re: a grill. I also whipped up some cashew and raisin pilau except I used coconut milk and added peas. I guess it was a bit of a hybrid of pilau and coconut peas & rice. I doctored up leftover flatbread pita into a makeshift version of naan, slathered in a good amount of butter and sprinkled generously with minced garlic and sprinkled gently with crushed pepper flakes. Oh, and of course, we also had some red onion chutney, except we had no red onion so it was vidalia onion chutney (still delicious).
Ingredients:
1½ lbs. chicken (I used drumsticks but thighs or breasts would work)
¾ cup Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons grated ginger
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Monday, August 4, 2014

What I Ate: Blueberry Galette

Galettes are better than pies because they're easier and quicker to make, which means you can eat them sooner! Plus, they're a handheld treat that you can grab and go, which is kind of perfect for busy gals like me.

Friday, August 1, 2014

White Cake with Bavarian Buttercream

Originally, this post was scheduled to go up sometime mid August. This was just due to the fact that I had a bunch of entries already queued up and ready to go. I made this cake for a friend's bridal shower and it ended up being quite popular. In fact, it was a much bigger hit than I could have ever imagined and there was a high demand that I share this recipe v. quickly so here it is, two weeks earlier than originally planned. I rearranged several posts to make room for this one. You're welcome, cake addicts.

About a month ago, my fellow bridesmaids and I started planning a luxe bridal shower for the lovely bride-to-be and I volunteered to make the cake. Why? I love cake. I love making them and decorating them and eating them. I feel like if I were given a Bruce Bogtrotter moment (re: an opportunity to eat an entire cake on my own) I could totally champion my way through it. I don't know what it is about this fluffy beast of a dessert. Perhaps it's the fanfare, since cake is generally a celebratory dessert that's only brought out for special occasions. Or maybe it's the beauty of stacked layers and frosting and how it looks like it could make a really comfy bed. Or it could just be the sugar. Yeah, it's probably the sugar.

Anyway, I was brainstorming a little about what kind of cake to make and I decided to do a white cake with a simple buttercream, because it's really neutral and a crowd pleaser. But since this was for a really special occasion, I thought, why not do pink ombre layers?
Ingredients [yields three 9-inch layers and enough buttercream to frost the cakes]
white cake
2 sticks softened butter
½ cup shortening
2½ cups sugar
5 room temperature eggs
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

*This cake recipe can be halved. However, since it's difficult to add two and a half eggs to a recipe, I recommend using two eggs and substituting the half egg with 2 tablespoons of milk or plain yogurt.

bavarian buttercream
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean
⅔ cup sugar
3 egg yolks
1 egg
1 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons cornstarch
4 sticks cold butter

**Again, this recipe can be halved but we face the issue of halving eggs. Use one egg yolk and one whole egg.

***By the way, you could totally flavor the cake and buttercream however you want. For example, you could add lots of lemon zest or coconut extract and coconut flakes or orange zest or cinnamon extract and ground cinnamon, you get the idea.

First we'll discuss the cake. The moist, fluffy, sweet, crumby cake. This cake is really delicious. I mean, of course I think that; I made it. But in all honesty, it's v. soft, airy, cuts easily (making it great for serving to guests), and isn't cloyingly sweet. That last trait is the best, in my opinion. My sweet tooth is on the smaller side so when something is too sugary, it literally hurts my teeth.
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