Wednesday, November 7, 2012

On Sitting Still...

I feel useless. Not in the silly "my life is a black hole of oblivion/where's my eyeliner and ear-gauges" sort of way, but in the "I can't bend over or wash my hair" sort of way. Why, you ask?

Tadaaaaa:


Don't I look fabulous? Having one's nose cut open really does give one's complexion that fresh-faced glow.   

So, here's how my week has gone thus far:

Monday- My birthday! Which I spent at work. No big deal, but because I was having surgery bright and early Tuesday morning, I couldn't partake in any birthday dinner, birthday drink, or general birthday tom-foolery. 

Tuesday- Surgery day! The nurse tried three times to put the IV in, each attempt bringing my mother's hand closer to danger. When I started discussing going back to work on Wednesday (as the nurse who booked my surgery assured me I could do) my doctor laughed and told me I wouldn't be doing much of anything for 10 days. Then it was my turn to laugh. 10 days was just simply not going to happen. I work in advertising. Thanksgiving and Christmas are just around the corner. Ha. We compromised with Monday or Tuesday. Of course, I only agreed to appease him...Thursday, here I come!

Wednesday- It feels as though I have surgical packing up to my eyebrows. I was able to make it through the night with no bouts of bleeding, illness or the need for more pain meds, which I think is a good sign. However, all the creepy mouth-breathing that I have to do now makes for one hell of a sore throat. I'm still convinced that I could be at work today (albeit a bit loopy). Though, after being threatened with nose-bleeds so ferocious I could require a blood transfusion (and I think I've exceed my yearly quota of needle pokes) I think I'll sit today out. 

  


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

"What's Next?"

It's been almost a year since I graduated college. I remember handing in my history tutorial, getting in my car, and almost making it off campus before I started crying. I didn't understand what I was feeling, but throughout the weeks that followed those same tears kept surfacing. It finally clicked one day that I was trying to come to terms with uncertainty.

Family and friends gathered for the holidays and asked me a dozen times (plus a dozen times more) what my plans were now. I had no idea how to answer. Obviously I wanted to find a job. Obviously I wanted to be successful, but our job market favors experience over ambition and I found myself fighting a losing, uphill battle.

Failure is inevitable every now and then, but so too is success. We set goals for ourselves and measure our success in life on whether or not we achieve them. What if my life goal wasn't a person, place or thing? What if it was a state of being? It was a few months later when I was asked again where I was going and what was next. I didn't cry. I didn't shrug my shoulders and jokingly reply "gainful employment?". I answered with one word and left it at that.

"Happiness."


Truth be told, I've never been sure where I would end up. I'm still not. When people ask me where I see myself in one/five/ten years I still can't even fathom the specifics of the answer they're looking for. All I know is that I want to be happy.


Then again....

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Quiche

My dear friend Katie opened my eyes this weekend to the wonderful world of quiche. Of all the adventurous foods I've tried in my life, I have never once noshed on a quiche. In fact, I would go so far as to say that I actively avoided quiche before this week. I had in my mind the belief that quiche would be some oddly textured, bland, eggy pie. Oh lordy was I wrong.


Look at that beautiful, golden brown goodness! Katie was kind enough to share her base recipe with me and teach me the fundamentals of quiche:

1. Blind bake your crust beforehand- soggy crust is no good for quiche!
2. Measurement are for the weak of heart. Toss everything in until it feels right.
3. Salt and Pepper. Always. 
4. Quiche is delicious hot, cold, and everywhere in between. 

There ya have it! Now let your quiche ambitions run wild! Spinach, peppers, onions, bacon, sausage, chicken, cheddar, Gruyere, bleu.....any combo your little heart desires can meet with success in a quiche. Below is the recipe that Katie made for me- I'd highly suggest this as a great dish for quiche-virgins. 

Katie's Sausage and White Cheddar Quiche
1 pie crust (homemade or store bought)
6 eggs
3/4 C cream
1 pound pork sausage (uncooked)
1 C fresh shredded white cheddar
Salt and Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375.

Blind bake* your pie crust for 20 minutes. Remove from oven. 

In a large mixing bowl, combine eggs and cream. Beat until incorporated, then add cheese, pork sausage, salt and pepper. Pour into pie crust and return to oven. Bake at 375 40-45 minutes, or until golden brown and set in the center. Allow to cool for 20-30 minutes to allow the custard to firm up for serving. 

As I mentioned, I also loved this quiche straight out of the fridge. Make one, slice into serving sizes, then store for a quick breakfast!  



*To blind bake, press your pie crust into a pie plate. Cover the dough with a sheet of parchment paper, then add 2 cups of uncooked rice or beans to the center of the parchment. Bake, then remove parchment/rice from crust. Viola! 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Last Bright Spots of the Year

I took these photos a few weeks ago at the family farm and was beginning to feel badly for not sharing them while the sun was still shining and warm. As fall has decided to set in for real this time, I think today is as good a day as any to post them. It was a bit dreary out, and I was still feeling a smidgen cruddy from my weekend-ruining cold all day. It's also a Tuesday and, as I've come to determine, Tuesday's are the worst days of the week (scientific evidence to follow shortly).

Anyway, I figure we could all use a bit of a bright spot every now and then.



Saturday, October 6, 2012

Shrimp and Pork Wonton Soup

I'm feeling a bit under the weather this weekend. Fall is settling in nicely, bringing along with it a scratchy throat and foggy head. Boo. I decided yesterday that my Saturday would be dedicated to soup. Chicken Noodle? Too 'blah' for my craving. Slow Cooker Beef Stew? Too 'heavy' for my delicate tummy. Veggie? Lentil? Tomato? All no's.

Today was a day for Wonton Soup.

I'm about to share with you something magical. My cousin's husband first made this soup for me. He's an amazing cook, so I was certain there was no way I would be able to replicate this recipe. However, I was amazed at how simple the ingredients and assembly were and, with the exception of one overly-salty broth snafu (sorry, boyfriend...), this soup has never failed me.

Shrimp and Pork Wonton Soup

6 oz pork, roughly chopped

8 medium shrimp, shelled and ground

1 tsp light brown sugar


1 tbs rice wine or dry sherry


2 tbs soy sauce


1 tsp finely chopped scallion


1 tsp finely chopped fresh ginger


24 wonton wrappers


3 cups chicken stock


finely chopped scallions to garnish


In a large bowl, mix together the pork, ground shrimp, sugar, sherry, 1 TB of the soy sauce, scallions, and 

ginger.  






mmmm, nothing says 'party' like raw pork

Let the mix rest for about half an hour. Take 1 wonton skin, wet down all four sides with water, then place 

1 tsp of the meat mix in the center of the wrapper. Fold along the diagonal and pinch the top point. Press 

each of the outside points into the middle, pinching the seams closed: 



At this point, you could freeze the wontons on the tray until solid and then transfer to a bag for later use. 

Or you could make tasty, tasty soup. Bring 3 cups of chicken stock to a boil in a wok or other large pot. 

Add the wontons and boil for 4-5 minutes. Stir in the remaining 1 TB of soy sauce and extra chopped 

scallions for garnish. If cooking frozen wontons, allow to boil for 10-15 minutes. 



Slurp happy, my friends. 

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Zucchini Oven Chips

A coworker gifted me a very large zucchini this week. I had every intention of making some chocolate zucchini muffins with it, but as my muffin top certainly would not have appreciate that, I opted to go a healthier route.

My friends, I present to you zucchini bliss. (Also, pardon the fuzzy picture- it's difficult to photograph and stuff your face at the same time!) I'm not going to prattle on in this post any longer because I want to finish eating this entire rack before they cool down too much. Make 'em as a snack, appetizer, or side dish- just make them!

Zucchini Chips (recipe from Cooking Lite)
1/2 cup breadcrumbs (I used Italian seasoned ones)
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese 
Dash of salt and pepper (and if you're using plain breadcrumbs, you'll want to add extra seasonings)
1/4 cup milk

Preheat your oven to 450. Spray an oven safe rack with cooking spray and place atop a baking sheet.

Combine breadcrumbs, cheese, and seasoning in a small dish. Add milk to a second dish.

Dredge each piece of zucchini in the milk, then coat liberally with breadcrumb mix. Place on rack and bake for 30 minutes, or until breading is golden brown. Serve immediately.


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Meatballs!

I'm in the midst of a Sunday Bake-a-thon, which means that all this sugar is making me crave something savory. I figured steak was a little too indulgent for lunch (also, it wasn't fully defrosted...) so I turned to a recipe that's stupidly simple, but ridiculously delicious: 3 ingredient meatballs.

I'm sure many of you have seen this recipe on the back of a Heinz Chili Sauce bottle before. I had never tried it until last fall, when my friend Katie whipped these up in the slow-cooker. I walked in the door and was instantly over-taken by the smell of something mouth-watering. I ate my weight in meatballs that night. No regrets.

So, for all of you who haven't tried this recipe, I would highly encourage it! These would be great for casual entertaining, football watching, etc....


3 Ingredient Meatballs
1 bottle chili sauce (you can use Heinz, or be a cheap-o like me and use the store brand. doesn't really matter..)
1 (14 oz)can jellied cranberry sauce
2 pd bag of frozen meatballs (i'd go for the plain, non-seasoned kind)

Ready for this? Dump all of it into a crock-pot and heat until meatballs are warmed through. Or do it on the stove. Either way. Bam. Delicious meatballs are now yours.

Like I said, this is a stupidly simple recipe. I was a little concerned when I opened my can of jellied cranberry sauce and found that it was one, gelatinous lump, but I just spooned out globs of it over the meatballs. Once things start heating up, the sauce becomes smooth. Besides, with words like 'globs' and 'gelatinous' involved, how could this recipe not work out?

But seriously. Make the meatballs.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

My Chili Conundrum



We're having a chili cook-off at work this week. The winner will make their chili recipe for the Mainstreet Chili Cook-Off competition. Great, right? Wrong. See, I'm highly competitive. I NEED TO WIN. However, the task of making at least 3 gallons of chili for the Mainstreet competition is something that I really don't want to ever have to undertake. You see the problem here, right? Do you think I can win, but then graciously hand off my title to someone else so they have to make all that chili? That would be nice...

Oh well.

I made my chili today. I wanted to take my time with it, instead of rushing to get it done after I get home from work Monday. Either this will give my chili time to meld it's flavors and become extra delicious so that I win, or it will go bland from sitting in the fridge un-loved and un-eaten and I'll lose because my chili has turned against me.

Simple Chili
Loosely adapted from The Pioneer Woman

-two cloves garlic, minced
-1 tsp dried oregano
-2 TB cumin
-2 TB chili powder
-1 TB Chipotle chili powder (or just 3 TB chili powder, but the chipotle is magical!)
-2 tsp onion powder
-1 tsp liquid smoke
-1 TB unsweetened cocoa powder
-1 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper
-16 oz tomato sauce
-1/2 cup beef broth
-2 pounds ground beef (for the love of all things good and great, please use 80/20! think of the flavor!)
-1/4 cup masa harina (corn flour, very important!) + 1/2 cup water
-1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed

In a large pot, brown the meat and garlic. Drain excess fat. 

Okay, confession time. You know how I said to make sure you use 80/20? that's because I screwed up. I used one pound of 80/20, but the other pound I grabbed was.....93/7. I wanted to slap myself. So to compensate, I may have added a 1/2 TB of bacon fat to the meat while browning it...I drained off the fat when it was done, okay? Sheesh...don't judge. Chili with an undertone of bacon flavor? Oh hell yes. In fact, ADD THE BACON FAT NO MATTER WHAT!


Anyway.

When your meat is browned, add in your spices and tomato sauce, plus the liquid smoke. 



Give everything a good stir, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cover your pot. Allow the chili to simmer for an hour, adding the beef broth half way through. I like a little more 'beef flavor concentration', so instead of using ready made broth, I grabbed a whole beef bullion cube and tossed it into half a cup of water. After an hour, whisk together the masa and the water in a small bowl, then pour into chili and incorporate.


Don't skip this step. Seriously. It pulls everything together and gives your chili this amazing corn flavor that just screams 'comfort food!' Between this, the chipotle pepper, and the bacon fat (which we don't need to speak of again...) this chili has some deliciously complex things happening. Throw in some kidney beans, and we've got a party, folks. 


If The Boyfriend were here, I'm sure he'd insist on adding in some vegetables. You can feel free to do that, too. A can of diced tomatoes and onions, some green chilis, etc.... However, I'm going to continue to be an 'Murican and inhale my meat and beans straight up, with the only additions being sour cream and cheese.

'Murica. 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Puttin' the 'carb' in 'Carbonara'

You know what bothers me? All those people who whine about salmonella.

"Don't eat raw cookie dough, L.Z.! You'll die from salmonella!"

"Don't order your eggs over-easy, L.Z.! You'll die from salmonella!"

"Don't go outside, L.Z.! You'll die from salmonella!"

Okay, well, maybe not that last one...but really, people. If eating a spoonful of cookie dough is going to kill me, if dunking my toast in a deliciously runny yolk is going to yield a life-threatening illness, etc...then I'm just going to accept my mortality and keep at it.

So this recipe is for you, all you egg nay-sayers! I dedicate it to all the people who bleach their children's toys daily, who order their steaks well-done, and apply hand-sanitize after every human contact encounter.



Pasta Carbonara 

(this is also one of those recipes that requires you to just sort of wing it. For all you cooking newbies out there- I know, I know...there's a special place in hell for me....)

You'll need the following:
-Pasta (I'm going to recommend linguine and advise against using wheat pasta)
-3-4 eggs or 6-8 egg yolks
-3-4 TB heavy cream
-1 C grated Parmesan (not the stuff in the can!)
-2 cloves garlic, finely minced
-6 slices of thick bacon, diced
-Salt and Pepper

Cook pasta according to package- make sure to salt the water! While the pasta is cooking:

Whisk together 3-4 eggs with the 3-4 TB of cream and the cheese. For those of you who aren't hardcore enough to use whole raw eggs, go ahead and use double the amount of just egg yolks (6-8), as well as double the cream. Set aside

Add diced bacon to a skillet and cook through. You're looking for tender/chewy bacon here, not crispy. Toss in your garlic and saute it with the bacon for a few minutes. When the pasta is done, drain and add it to the bacon skillet. If your skillet has a lot of extra bacon grease, go ahead and drain out a few spoonfuls before adding in the pasta. My bacon was fairly lean this time around, so I didn't do any draining.

Once the pasta has been thoroughly tossed with the bacon, pour in your egg mix. Toss the pasta and egg together quickly- you want to 'cook' the eggs with the warmth of the pasta/pan/bacon, but you don't want to end up with chunks of scrambled eggs instead of a creamy sauce. When the egg mix has been fully incorporated and has formed a thicker, sauce-like consistency, season to taste with salt/pepper and serve immediately.

Just a note- I don't think Pasta Carbonara reheats as left-overs very well, so you should feel free to eat the entire pan in one go.





Monday, September 3, 2012

Because 'Labor Day' Translates to 'Lazy Day' in L.Z. Speak

I had so many productive intentions today. I took tons of pictures from my weekend with the fam- even managing to document The Older Sister making a scrumptious apple tart. I was going to do a huge post- apple recipes, pictures from the farm, pictures of the fam, memories, hopes, dreams.... (well, maybe not those last few...)

But then I got lazy.

I wanted to make Chocolate Cobbler Cake, but I realized that would mean putting forth an effort. Of course, you'll need to understand that I was totally willing to pony-up if it meant I would reap sweet, chocolately rewards. The thought of hot, fudgy chocolate sauce and cake with creamy vanilla ice-cream definitely motivated me.

But then I realized I didn't have any ice-cream.

At this point, I had been dead-set on cake and ice-cream. If I was going to get off my butt and make a cake,  I was going to eat it the way I wanted it: with ice-cream. So...I went to the grocery store. This was a convenient venture, as I also realized I didn't have any food at home.

I'm back now, and there is still no vanilla ice-cream in my freezer, nor Chocolate Cobbler Cake in my oven. Before you call me a lazy oaf, let me show you why I decided to forget my previous desert plans:


That, boys and girls, is heaven on earth. Sea Salt Caramel Gelato. Holy cow. It's creamy, it's caramely, it's got the perfect salty tang....vanilla ice-cream never stood a chance. And yes, I couldn't be bothered to take a picture before I sampled a rather large portion of this tasty treat. Congrats- you now have photographic proof of my gluttony. 


Also, can I just say that I'm thrilled that it comes in a reusable plastic jar? Cute, practical, and delicious. This gelato has stolen my heart. There were a few other flavors, including a raspberry sorbet. I think I might just have to work my way through them all. And after that task is complete, I'm sure I'll be very comfortable in my diabetic coma. 

Happy Labor Day! 


Thursday, August 30, 2012

Baking! It's not just for professionals...

I've dabbled in the realm of 'no-bake cookies' before. The Little Sister is a big fan of them, so we used to make the standard chocolate/peanut butter/oatmeal recipe all the time. I got fancy after a while- adding instant coffee, a drizzle of Nutella, a sprinkling of sea salt....my no-bake cookies are pretty alright.

Can I tell you a secret? ....I don't actually like no-bake cookies. Sure, I can sort of enjoy one, but overall? Just not a huge fan. That is, until I discovered peanut butter no-bake cookies courtesy of My Soul is the Sky. Just pure peanutty goodness- no cocoa powder or what-have-you. Where once I considered no-bake cookies a 'meh' treat, I now view them as an indulgence. I'm bringing the rest of the batch down to the fam' this weekend- no because I want to, but because I need to. I can't stop eating them.






Peanut Butter No-Bake Cookies

2 cups sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup butter
1 cup peanut butter (I used chunky)
1 tsp vanilla
pinch salt
3 cups oatmeal

Combine sugar, milk and butter in a saucepan on medium heat. Bring to a rapid boil. Allow mix to boil for 1-1/2 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, add peanut butter, vanilla and salt. Stir until smooth and incorporated, then add 3 cups oatmeal. Drop by TB onto parchment paper, or if you're a poor girl like I am just use tin foil spritzed with a little cooking spray. Cool at room temperature until cookies are set. Devour, ignoring feelings of guilt by focusing on the peanut butter and oatmeal...


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

How I Know I'm Becoming a Real Adult....

I made a splurge purchase today. The item in particular was something I've had my eye on for a long while now. Each time I pass by it in the store I go through the same internal conversation:

"Do you really need that?"
"Um...yeah?"
"But you know you can make due without it, right?"
"Well, of course I can 'make due', but that's not the point here. The point is practicality."
"How practical can it be for that price?"
"...you're right. I'll wait for it to go on sale."


So I waited. and waited. and waited. Then, FINALLY, my beloved neighborhood Target came through for me! I saw that it was on sale, and this time around I told that little voice in my head to shove it because I was FINALLY going to buy this......

All Glory to the Swiffer WetJet!

(No, this is not a paid endorsement for the Swiffer WetJet. I wish it was, but I don't think they want a salesperson who's so creepily obsessed with their products....)

I kept telling myself that I could make due with a bucket and rag, just like my momma taught me, but no. I can't. I like cleaning, and when I go on cleaning binges randomly throughout the week, I daresay that I LOVE cleaning. So yes- I am going to buy the WJ and say 'to hell with it' regarding the bucket and rag. 

And this post- ladies and gentlemen, is how I know I'm slowly losing the battle with adulthood. I am downright giddy about buying a cleaning product. Using said cleaning product will be the highlight of my Wednesday. Please direct your pity accordingly... 

Friday, August 24, 2012

A Night Out

Years ago, my cousin introduced me to the strange sounds of Murder by Death. They're a difficult band to describe: a cellist, a lead singer that channels Johnny Cash, and the occasional feramin solo make for a truly unique band....AND I FINALLY GOT TO SEE THEM PLAY A LIVE SHOW!


This was a triumph. For four years I've been desperately trying to see them play when they pass through Minnesota on tour. For four years I've been out of luck...but not last night. Last night I was serenaded to the sounds of one of my favorite bands. I was not disappointed.


The cellist played so hard she broke a string and nearly shredded her bow...


...the percussionist broke out the feramin AND some sweet sparks...


...and the singer was AMAZING, all while partaking in several complimentary shots of whiskey.

It really was an incredible show. I'd encourage everyone to check them out! I'm a big fan of the following songs:




Sunday, August 19, 2012

It's a lovely, sunshiny day here in Minnesota. Granted, the temperature still feels like late September, but that just makes today all the more charming. So charming, in fact, that I couldn't resist taking a stroll around town.

-Let me just be honest with you right now: this post isn't actually about anything important. I just wanted the chance to show off the pictures of the pretty, locally-grown flowers that I happened upon while on my walk. Enjoy!

how sophisticated!

how unique!

how vibrant!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

A Family Recipe



I've mentioned my Auntie M a few times here. Over the years, that woman has taught me many a valuable thing. While I recognize and appreciate all of the important lessons I've learned from her, I will say that one of the most treasured nuggets of wisdom she's passed on to me has been The Banana Bread recipe.

I adore carbs, so naturally I adore banana bread. I like it simple- no walnuts, no chocolate chips, and for the love of all things delicious NO DRIED FRUIT. Seriously, who puts raisins in banana bread? Naasty. That's why I love Auntie M's recipe so much- it's just banana bread. It might be due to nostalgia, but I happen to think it's the best banana bread out there. Of course, the walnut/chocolate/fruit crowd might disagree...

 The Banana Bread

Preheat the oven to 325 F

3/4 C Sugar
1/2 C Oil
2 Eggs
2 C Mashed Bananas (3 very ripe bananas)
1 3/4 C Flour
2 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp vanilla

Ready for this? Add it all into your KitchenAid, and mix it together until combined. Bam. Done. Well, except for the whole baking part...

Grease and flour a standard loaf pan, and pour in the batter. Now, I know I went on a mini-rant about add-ins to banana bread, but technically this isn't an "add-in", it's more of an "add-on": mix together 1/4 C Flour, 1/4 C Brown Sugar, 1 TB Cinnamon, and 2 TB chilled, cubed butter. Sprinkle it on top of your batter and pop it all in the oven for 50-60 minutes:


Check your bread around the 50 minute mark. I leave mine in for a full hour, but that's because my oven doesn't always like to be a team-player. When a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, your bread is ready:



Take it out, let it cool a bit, and then slather a piece with a little butter and dig in. Make sure that you cover the bread with plastic wrap or aluminum foil so it doesn't dry out, especially after slicing into it!

Can I just say how excited I am to have banana bread for breakfast every morning this week?

Monday, August 13, 2012

Graffiti Wishes


I don't condone graffiti. However, I think I should inform you all that my town is....graffiti-impaired. I have yet to find something scrawled on a wall that's truly offensive or shocking. "Love Life"- the most recent graffiti discovery- doesn't exactly scream 'obscenity'.

So, let today be one of those days when you actually acknowledge graffiti. Of course I don't mean the 'F*ck the Police!' kind- I mean the 'Love Life' kind. It's a Monday, it's been a tough day (at least for this Blogista) and I think we all could use a little reminder to love. And after all, everybody knows that you can't ignore random messages of love, kindness, and/or beauty. To do that would be bad juju. 

*But seriously, delinquent graffiti ain't cool, man! (Unless it IS cool, in which case....snap a picture and blog about it!)

Saturday, August 11, 2012

A Reunion and a Recipe



Seeing as it's been a fair amount of time since my last post, I've decided to go all out and share with you one of the highlights of my summer: The Invasion of the Ginger Friend. Ginger Friend is one of my dearest friends from college. We've been through our share of shenanigans, and will continue to do so until the doctor's turn off our life support.


pretty Ginger Friend!


So what's on the docket for the weekend? Cooking, drinking, and general tom-foolery. Also, there will probably be at least one Disney movie going on in the background. We do love our Disney sing-a-longs...

We also love stealing the hats of the bass player and snapping awkward photos at the bar. Exhibit A:



A very mature moment...

Like I said- shenanigans and tom-foolery. Don't hold it against us. We do other things, too. More productive things...like cooking! Last night, we threw together an incredibly tasty soup. (My sailor has pointed out that this seems to be the summer of soup for me, but I don't care-all of the soups I've tried have turned out so darn tasty!)


Coconut Chicken Curry Soup

Start by putting some chicken in the slow cooker. You'll want shredded chicken instead of diced, and I think the most convenient (read: lazy) way to achieve this is to just toss it in and put it on low. I added some chicken broth, lime juice, cilantro, and a sprinkle of poultry seasoning. After 5-6 hours, shred it with two forks and let it sit in the liquid for another hour or so. During that hour, I would suggest basking in the glory that is the smell of slow-cooked chicken. Mmmm...

Or, you could be productive and start on your veggies: a red pepper, a poblano, and some corn. Give them all a quick rinse, then toss 'em on the grill. No seasoning, no oil, no nothin'.


Go ahead and look as awkward as possible while waiting by the grill. It helps with the roasting process.


Make sure to rotate your vegetables- you don't want them to burn! When the peppers are soft and the skins have started to blister, remove from grill and let rest. Trust me- trying to dice up peppers hot-off-the-grill is a stupid plan. No one wins.

Now, pat yourself on the back. Having shredded chicken and freshly roasted vegetables are perhaps the most time consuming and "difficult" parts of this recipe. From here, it's all pretty rapid fire.

Grab a sweet potato, peel, and dice into nice little bite sized pieces. In a wok, bring 4 cups of chicken broth to a boil with the sweet potato, and continue to boil until the potato pieces are fork tender. Add in your shredded chicken (sans cooking liquid) diced peppers (I removed most of the seeds) and roasted corn kernels. Toss in some seasonings and a bit of onion and garlic powder. Alternatively, you could add in some minced onion (but I don't like onion pieces....) and minced garlic. I would have added the minced garlic, but I remembered it too late into the game. Oh well.

Drown your mistakes away with some champagne, mildly obsess about how your arm looks flabby and your stirring looks wonky, and then get back to cooking!

Finally, add in a can of coconut milk. I use the kind that has the nice layer of coconut cream at the top. You should too. Just sayin'

Bring the heat up to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 5 minutes. Add in the juice of 1/2 a lime, and a handful of freshly minced cilantro.

oh baby....



Spicy, sweet, creamy and tangy. The sweet potatoes melt in your mouth, the corn give a little pop, and the peppers have that wonderful smokey heat....it was amazing. We both had seconds. I divided the soup between a gallon freezer bag and a lunch sized portion to eat this week, but after writing this post I'm beginning to reconsider the freezer decision...

Coconut Chicken Curry Soup
6 boneless, skinless, chicken breasts
Juice of 1/2 a lime
Small handful of fresh cilantro, chopped
1 tsp of poultry seasoning
1 cup chicken broth
--
1 red pepper, grill roasted and sliced thinly
1 poblano chili, grill roasted and diced
3 ears corn, grill roasted and kernel removed from ear
1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
4 cups chicken broth
Scant TB curry powder
1/2 TB cumin
Scant 1/2 TB of onion powder and garlic powder
1 tsp chili powder
Sprinkle of kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
1 can full fat coconut milk
Juice of 1/2 a lime
Handful of fresh cilantro, chopped

1. Add chicken breasts, lime, cilantro, seasoning and 1 cup broth to a slow cooker. Cook on low 5-6 hours, shred, then allow to steep in juices for 1 more hour. Remove chicken from cooking liquid.

2. In a wok, bring 4 cups chicken broth and sweet potato pieces to a boil until tender. Add diced roasted vegetables, chicken, and seasoning.

3. Add in 1 can of coconut milk, stir to incorporate, then bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer for 5 minutes.

4. Add lime juice and cilantro. Serve immediately.


Sunday, August 5, 2012

Stick-to-Your-Ribs Slow Cooker Paprika Pork Stew


It's a gorgeous day outside. It certainly doesn't feel like an August day...the humid, throat-closing, sweltering hot August that I'm used to. Today feels more like the beginning of October- a little warm with a cool breeze...a "windows open" kind of day. That's why I felt like it would be an appropriate day for a stew.



I had a few pork loin chops in the freezer. I wasn't entirely sure what I wanted to do with them. I decided I wanted to find something involving my slow cooker- I get a little nervous about over-cooking pork.

I also found a 1/2 can of cannellini beans in my fridge, as well as some left-over white rice that I knew I wasn't going to eat. There's something about left-over rice that freaks me out....

So, I took a gamble. I gotta say, what I came up with was pretty dang tasty. I'll definitely be making this again!

Paprika Pork Stew
6-8 Boneless Pork Loin Chops
1 cup chicken broth
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 TB paprika
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp basil
2 heaping tsp Mrs. Dash Table Blend
1 tsp pepper
1 1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried sage
1 tsp yellow mustard (plain ol' mustard!)
generous sprinkle of kosher salt

1-2 cups of cooked rice (left over is best, as it's a little dried out)
1/2 cup-1cup cannellini beans, drained

Add the pork loins to the slow cooker and sprinkle generously with the kosher salt. I put mine in frozen, because I never plan far enough ahead to defrost meat.

Mix together the chicken broth and the seasonings, then pour over pork loins and set the cooker on low for one hour, then place on high. My chops were fairly thin, so my pork was done in just under four hours.

Remove the pork and slice into bite sized pieces. *Make sure to slice against the grain!

Add the pork back to the broth, along with the rice and beans. Allow 10-20 minutes for everything to heat up and absorb some of the broth. Alternatively, I'm sure that some left-over baked potatoes would be a yummy addition instead.

And that's it! Being the horrible person I am, I did mix in a little sour cream with my second bowl. (Shhh, don't tell.)

Saturday, August 4, 2012



Well, my sailor left today. He flies out tomorrow morning for Virginia. He'll be there until the week before Thanksgiving. Three and a half months. Here are the things I will miss the most for the next three and a half months:

1. Kissing
2. Friday night drinks at the local bar
3. Gigantic Saturday morning breakfasts (followed by Saturday afternoon food comas....)
4. Walking together along the river
5. Falling asleep and walking up together
6. Kissing

Three and a half months.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

My Favorite Pick-Me-Up: A Recipe

I used to think coffee was disgusting. Then college happened, and before I knew it I was drinking coffee in the morning, in the afternoon, and even at midnight on the outdoor stage in the city park. (Like I said- college days....)

Since then, I've tried to expand my coffee palate. I've sampled lattes, frappes, americanos, black, 2 cream/2 sugar, and a whole lotta others. After countless hours brought to you by the letter Caffeine, I've come to find that a coffee habit can get costly. Fortunately, The Pioneer Woman has managed to save the day (and the bank account) with her Perfect Iced Coffee recipe. I made a double batch of it this weekend, and I gotta say, the mornings this week have been filled with joy. That's how good this coffee is. Try it!

 

Perfect Iced Coffee
1 pound ground coffee (pick something yummy like a Vanilla Caramel, Vanilla Hazelnut, Almond, etc...)
8 quarts water

Combine the water and coffee grounds and allow to steep at room temperature for at least 8 hours. If you have the time, I would suggest mixing it up before bed and, in the morning, straining through a fine-mesh strainer with a cheese-cloth or paper towel folded over. (Otherwise you'll get all that silt-like residue, and that's no good for iced coffee!)

Chill concentrate until ready to use.

To drink, fill a glass with ice and pour it half full of the coffee concentrate, half full of milk (PDub likes to use half-and-half) and sweeten to taste. 

I took PDubs advice and used Sweetened Condensed Milk instead of sugar. 1-2 Tablespoons, mixed vigorously, and I'm in absolute heaven. I also like to use 'coffee cubes' instead of ice cubes to ensure that my iced coffee doesn't get watered down. 

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Craft-Impaired

I'm what you would call 'craft-impaired'. Try as I might, my glitter never falls nicely, my rhinestones are a little off, and my stitching isn't necessarily pretty. Passable-yes. Pretty-no.

I attempt crafts- I'm just one of those unfortunate individuals who's project doesn't quite turn out. It's not horrible, it's not admirable, it just 'is'.

So imagine the twinge of jealously I felt when I walked into one of the local knitting shops only to discover that not only can these people knit yarn, but they can apparently KNIT METAL:


Truly, I'm more impressed than jealous...and by "more impressed" I mean "totally desperate to own all of these". Seriously, how cool are those? I'd say especially cool, considering they're locally handmade. 

Maybe someday I'll be cool enough to learn to make these myself...

HA! Who am I kidding? I can barely put my earrings in somedays, let alone knit up an entire a bracelet. What I really mean is: 

Maybe someday I'll be cool enough to ship one of these off to a lucky blog reader- provided there actually ARE any blog readers. 




Monday, July 30, 2012

The Mysterious Mexican Bakery

I did a lot of cooking and baking over the weekend. A LOT. Call it a coping mechanism, call it a stress reducer, call it whatever....I'm sick of recipes right now. I would love to post all of the nummy things I made and give out step-by-step guidance to the perfect venison roast stew, buffalo chicken, iced coffee and breakfast muffins...but I won't. Seven loads in the dishwasher plus infinitely pruny fingers from hand-washing has left me exhausted with the cooking world. At least for this evening...

So. I present to you...............................The Mysterious Mexican Bakery. It's a thrilling tale. Nestles in the downtown of a small town in Minnesota, there sits a bakery. There is no signage, no store front, one can hardly see into the windows- and yet! there are tasty things inside.


Instead of launching into a paragraph in which I describe how I'm drooling over each sugar crystal above, let me give you a little background as to how I came to frequent TMMB. When I was still fresh and green at my job, one of my fellow co-workers extended the branch of awkward office friendship (that has since become less awkward, more friendship) and asked if I would like to join her for a quick walk downtown. 

Side note--for those of you working office jobs I sincerely suggest taking a 10-15 minute jaunt around the block as a mid-morning break. It's a great way to perk up! But I'm sure you all knew that already, because this is the age of health, fitness, and denial about the McDonald's lunch.

Anyway. Back to the tale. 

As we were strolling along the streets, my co-worker suggested that we stop into 'the bakery that our boss likes'. Well. If the boss likes it, I suppose it's my duty to visit a bakery. Sometimes my job is so taxing...

On a completely unrelated note, I feel like my skirts might be getting a little tighter. No clear reason as to why. But again, back to the tale:

We ducked inside a very small shop that I never would have taken as a bakery. From the outside, I would have guessed vacant office space- though I say that mostly because I couldn't see through the windows and there was no signage anywhere to indicate the tasty treasures inside. Boy was I wrong. Cases and cases of sugary, golden pastries. Some filled with a wonderfully spiced cream, some dotted with candies and nuts, some glistening with eggs wash straight out of the oven. It was beautiful. 

And now, on random and unpredictable occasions, the office will feel the craving. The craving for cinnamon churros. For sugar dusted crossed buns. For Tres Leches cake. And off we go to The Mysterious Mexican Bakery (still with no signage or storefront) where $5.00 will buy you 5,000 calories. 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Simple Success- Cinnamon Sugar Breakfast Bread


I was skeptical when I found this recipe. Quick breads have always been touch and go with me- some work, some fail spectacularly. Quick bread success has, for me, been hard to come by. But this simple recipe was fool-proof through and through. It only took minutes to mix up and pop in the oven, and after 45 minutes of the tortuously delicious smell of cinnamon and sugar wafting through the air, I was glad that it only took minutes to scarf down two pieces of this simple, successful quick bread.

Cinnamon Sugar Breakfast Bread
1/3 cup sugar
2-4 tsp of cinnamon

2 cups flour
1 TB baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup milk
1/3 cup oil

Preheat the oven to 350. Mix together the 1/3 cup sugar and 2-4 tsp of cinnamon (amount based on taste). Set aside.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Add the egg, vanilla, milk, and oil and mix only until all the dry ingredients are wet.

In a greased loaf pan, pour in 1/2 of the batter. Sprinkle the cinnamon/sugar mix, then top with the remaining batter. Sprinkle with additional cinnamon/sugar if desired.

Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan and placing on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container, ziploc, or aluminum foil.

I would highly recommend heating up and topping with butter for a tasty breakfast treat!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Butternut Squash Soup



I was strolling through the produce section at the grocery store yesterday when something caught my eye. Butternut Squash. I adore butternut squash. I never used to. I used to think it was just another of those random vegetables that happened to look lovely as a table decoration. However, all of that changed when I ordered a Butternut Squash and Lobster Ravioli on a whim.

There was an excellent Italian restaurant in the tiny town I went to college in. This restaurant was one of those small luxuries afforded to those of use who chose to seek higher education off in the boonies. I had a friend who waitressed there, and one night she brought over this mystical ravioli. Once she opened that take-away box, I was suddenly seduced by the scent of butternut squash, cream, and sage. Next time I was able to go out to eat, I went straight to this restaurant, ordered the ravioli, and fell in love with butternut squash.

Since that dining experience many years ago, I've been meaning to try my hand with butternut squash. I figured that the perfect first step would be butternut squash soup. After reviewing countless recipes, I decided to say 'the hell with it' and make up my own.

Butternut Squash Soup
1 squash
3 cloves garlic, roughly minced
1 TB Butter
1 TB Bacon Grease (or butter/olive oil- but bacon makes everything better!)
2 tsp dried sage
1 tsp basil
1/2 tsp onion powder
liberal sprinkle of kosher salt
pinch of cayenne
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup whole milk or 1/2 and 1/2

Begin by scooping out the seeds and such, then chopping the squash into 1 inch cubes. Set aside.

Heat butter and bacon grease in a large skillet. Add garlic and sage and cook for a few minutes. Be careful not to burn the garlic!


 
mmmm, garlicky goodness

Add the squash to the pan, stirring to coat. Sprinkle with kosher salt, pepper, basil, and onion powder. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. 




Next, add in 4 cups of chicken broth and a pinch of cayenne. Bring the pan to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes, or until squash shows no resistance to a fork.

In small batches, puree the broth/squash until smooth. Add 1 cup of whole milk or 1/2 and 1/2 if a richer taste is desired, or omit if calories are being considered. Give a final taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.




























Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Microwave Minute Magic



Don't get me wrong- I'm a big fan of baking. From scratch, buttered-and-floured pan, cooling rack baking. It's therapeutic. Last fall I baked to help ease my heart- I baked to get through a difficult senior semester - I baked to grow a friendship. Baking- it's part of me. But sometimes, I'm just too tired at the end of the day to whip out the KitchenAid and bring the butter to room temp. 

Enter Microwave Minute Magic. 

I've seen a huge amount of recipes lately for microwave cakes, cookies, and brownies. I decided to test out the brownie. Obviously it's not the same as a brownie tenderly crafted from hand-chopped chocolate, but in a pinch this brownie is definitively passable. 

1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup brown sugar or white sugar
2 TB cocoa powder
pinch salt
2 TB canola or vegetable oil
2 TB water, milk, or coffee (USE COFFEE! - honestly, coffee should always be used in chocolate baking)

In a microwave safe mug, mix together the dry ingredients until thoroughly combined, then add the liquid. You'll end up with a very thick paste- that's a good thing. Go with it. 

Place the mug in the microwave for 1-2 minutes. I have a very small, weakling of a microwave, so I would suggest checking the brownie in 30 second increments- just poke your fork along the side to check and see if it's cooked all the way down.   

Let cool for a few minutes before eating. I *highly* recommend topping with vanilla ice-cream (and perhaps a drizzle of caramel...) as it is a little bit rich. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Something Refreshing



It's so humid out...the kind of humid where I'm sweating anytime I poke my head outside. It's also hot out...the kind of hot where I'm fairly certain I'll suffocate from the heat whenever I have to get into my car. I've been trying tons of things to stay cool:


Cold showers
Sitting in front of the air conditioner
Having a cold drink
Sitting in front of the air conditioner

What a variety! I must say, all of these things have worked out splendidly. Last night I indulged in a little Monday night happy-hour. It was still relentlessly hot and humid, but the sun was starting to sink and I figured it would be a great time to sit outside on the pub deck and enjoy a cold one. I tried something new last night and I'm pretty sure I love it. I say 'pretty sure' because it's odd, it's different, and I still don't expect the taste every time I take a sip: Schell's Shocked Radler 

(photo taken by Chad Aldrich)

For those of you unaware, a Radler is a German-style beer concoction usually comprised of a 50/50 or so mix of beer and lemonade, soda or juice. I first had one of these tasty things in Deutschland itself! 50/50 Beer and Lemonade....it was delicious. Everyone looked at me like I was a crazy person when I'd ask for the same mix in an American bar. After explaining what it was, everyone wondered why I didn't just go for one of the conveniently bottled Shady's that so many breweries have taken up. Granted, I do enjoy these brews, but they seem a little 'off' compared to a hand-mixed Radler.

The Schell's Shocked Radler is a mix of grapefruit juice and a lighter ale (I'm assuming, but don't quote me...). It's light, it's smooth, it's not overly sweet/tart/hoppy/beery...it's just a simply refreshing beverage. Try one!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Silky Summer Legs


Holy Cow. I can't even begin to describe to you how smooth my legs are. I honestly can't stop touching them. After seeing this shaving sugar scrub on Pinterest, I decided I should give it a whirl. Having soft, smooth skin is one of those things in life that I strive for. I lotion, I exfoliate, I massage- anything to have deliciously touchable skin. This sugar scrub makes every attempt before look like child's play. Here's what you do:


Combine 1 1/4 cup sugar, 1/2 cup oil (I used olive, but use whatever!) and 3 Tablespoons lemon juice.


Hop in the tub and let your legs soak for a few minutes. Shave.

Massage the sugar scrub onto one of your legs for about a minute. Rinse, then shave again. Pay attention to your razor head, because it's about to get all sorts of gunky. Exfoliating with the scrub loosens up all the dead skin and dirt, and the 2nd shave will get all of that nastiness off your legs. Once you're done shaving, rub the scrub on once more, then rinse and repeat on other leg. Go ahead and apply a little bit of lotion afterwards if desired, though I would recommend against anything with shimmer, tanner, or fragrance.


I won't lie to ya- I used this scrub on my entire body, anywhere that I could reach. I was a little worried that exfoliating, shaving, and exfoliating again would cause a lot of irritation (especially since I have fairly sensitiv skin) but my legs have never felt better- no itch, no burn, no bumps...just silky smooth skin.