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 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?"
"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?"
"'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 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 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.