Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Conquering the Wish List: #3

I might as well warn you now - this recipe is by no means a drop dead gorgeous plate that screams "eat me right now!" Alas, the difference that stands between what is pictured in my head and what actually makes its way to the plate is, well, vast at times.

So what did we scratch of the wish list this time? Green tomatoes? Nope. Rotten tangerines? Nope. Tomatillos. Yes, they are a dead ringer for both of the above on the outside, but on the inside they are a most peculiar specimen. Actually part of the gooseberry family, they are sold with their natural papery protective leaves on the outside that encapsulate the entire tomatillo, and are usually by the tomatoes in the super market. As you can see on the inside, they look like they could be a green tomato's stunt double, but lack the watery seeds and instead boast an almost spongy interior, perfect for picking up any flavor you put with them.

I chose to go pretty traditional with my tomatillos and quartered, roasted with onions and parlic, and pureed them into submission for green tomatillo enchiladas. Since I am a sucker for any type of Tex-Mex, Mexican, or Spanish food, I thought that I could just wing this foray into the unknown-ingredient-world guided only by past eating escapades. 

Here is the tomatillo sauce, specked with cilantro, up close and personal.

The filling was to die for, and probably the prettiest part of the meal (since the tomatillos lost all of their vibrant green after roasting.) Some poached chicken, and just about every veggie in my fridge, petite diced and sauteed with lots of smokey cumin and garlic.

Green tomatillo enchiladas, all wrapped up, smothered, and ready to be baked.

Up until now the pictures haven't looked too bad. The sauce was a muted mint green, the filling was studded with reds, yellow, and greens, and the enchiladas themselves looked pretty appetizing going into the oven. But when they came out... (makes a face.) Not so much. The sauce had gone from a light green to dark, almost musty green, indicative when you roast something, and not necessarily unappetizing, just not what I was expecting. I suspect more acid, like the juice of one lime, would have been the cure for this. 

Regardless of how it looked, my enchiladas tasted fabulous. The filling was savory and smokey, the sauce was pleasantly different, and I took pride in conquering an ingredient I wasn't all that familiar with without a recipe. All in all, a slightly ugly success!

Any requests on what you would like to see as the next ingredient crossed off the wish list?

Monday, February 27, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day Me!

I know what you all are thinking - Valentine's Day was two weeks ago, what in the world is wrong with you.  But I wanted to share this meal with you regardless of how tardy I was with actually posting the pictures. It was THAT delicious.

I was my own Valentine this year. That being said, my dad sent me some beautiful red roses, along with a box of chocolates (which are already gone or else I would add a picture of those at the bottom,) and a baby teddy bear, all of which were delivered while I was making dinner. Awww!

Funny fact about buttermilk - the stuff stays fresh forever! I bought some a few weeks ago to bake cupcakes with and was a little afraid of what I would find when I opened it up after I unearthed it from the back of our fridge. But behold! It was just as fresh as when I bought it. Yea!!! 

I used leftover Total cereal (yes, I am just like a grandma when it comes to my cereal selections - shredded wheat are my absolute favorite) seasoned with spicy chiotle powder as breadcrumbs for my chicken cutlet, which I dredged in (the forever fresh) buttermilk. I then seared this on both sides to make it crisp and crunchy, and finished it off in the oven while smiling uncontrollably at how happy I was I had come up with this idea on the spot. Just because no one took me to dinner of Valentine's Day doesn't mean I shouldn't eat a nice meal right?

I served this deliciously spicy and sweet cutlet with a peach and jalapeno pan sauce, roasted sweet potatoes, which I left the skin on because it doesn't bother me, and sauteed spinach with mushrooms, garlic, and white wine, topped with a shave of Parmesan cheese. Being single really isn't that bad; it certainly is tasty.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Chicken Stock How To

I have received some requests over my years blogging to post my recipes, or the recipes I am using or am inspired by, so you guys can make whatever I did at home. I have given this a lot of thought and, frankly, haven't done so before because I have just a touch of laziness in me (I know, awful.) But I really want to start doing that, and I though my chicken stock recipe would be a great place to start. 

You may be wondering...

Why in the world would you make your own chicken stock? 
A perfectly valid question.Chicken stock is one of the easiest things to do at home; you just throw it in a pot and wait. You don't have to chop everything nice and pretty, you use leftover veggies out of your fridge so they don't go to waste, you can set a timer and forget about it, AND it makes the most wonderfully subtle difference in anything you put it in. The earthy, wholesome stock makes soup, gravy, pan sauces, vegetables, anything taste like it has been cooking all day. Not to mention the fact that it is way healthier and cheaper to make a big batch every now and then, throw extras in your freezer, and pull it out as needed as opposed to buying those paper cartons. 

Now that you're convinced that you will never ever buy chicken stock again...

What do you need?
4 bone-in chicken breasts (or thighs, wing tips, whatever you have on hand - about 2 pounds worth)
2 carrots, coarsely chopped
2 celery stalks, coarsely chopped (including the leaves)
1 small onion, quartered
1 whole garlic clove, peeled
1 bay leaf
1 whole stem parsley (yes, stem and all)
4 or 5 whole black peppercorns
1 tsp salt
4 quarts water (or enough to cover all of the above)
All the aromatics that will join the pot to make my stock delicious.

Throw all of this into a pot, cover with water, bring to a simmer, NOT a boil, and simmer 15 minutes. That's it! Skim the fat off the surface, strain your stock, and ta-da! You have perfectly poached and flavorful chicken and chicken stock to boot. Waste not, want not!

Everyone in the pot!

Let me know how you all liked it!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Soup and Salad Lunches

Allow me to state the obvious; the weather around here has been really nice lately (and by lately, I mean all winter.) It has rarely been freezing, let alone below freezing, like normal winters here, and I have enjoyed it immensely. I hate the cold with a passion, and am always crossing my fingers hoping the groundhog will not see his shadow and promise me springtime six weeks earlier. This unnaturally warm winter has especially been nice since I am living off campus this year and need to walk everywhere, which is common of college students across the country. I have not enjoyed the warm weather, however, in the aspect that soups and stews do not sound as tasty when it's fifty degrees outside. But this soup, made from leftover roast chicken, pico de gallo, black beans, and chili powder. All of this simmered on the stove for an hour or so and turned out to be a deliciously simple soup. I paired this with an effortless salad and I had a yummy lunch to refuel me after my workout swimming laps.

Yummy veggie packed salad

Chicken Salsa Soup

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Peanut Butter is a Food Group

Or at least in my world it is. I know it is not the best thing to be eating on a regular basis, thanks to its calorie density and saturated fat, but I figure there are worse things I could be addicted to. I try to cut my loses by buying the natural kind (I tried to low fat variety and that stuff is awful!) so I figure I am at least not putting so many chemicals and preservatives in my body. And I would like to start making my own someday, but that would require one of those fancy-dancy food processors which is still on my wish list. So all natural, Simply Jiff is what it is.

Given that I am so in love with this legume's spread, I tend to dollop it into a lot of my baking. Last week I made peanut butter and jelly muffins, a first for me. They were delicious, and I deemed them appropriate for breakfast, snacks, and dessert. Topped with a little of my homemade granola and I was good to go! Needless to say the dozen didn't last long at all.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

More Than You Ever Wanted to Know

I thought I would take a blog post to tell you a little bit about myself. Though I do enjoy being "a riddle inside a mystery wrapped in an enigma," (quoted from one of my favorite hows ever - Will and Grace) I wanted to break down the walls of secrecy slightly and tell a little more than what you can already deduce: I love everything that has to do with food!

I was recently poking through some new food blogs and came across this one, who gave me the idea to share a little more about myself. Here are the questions that she asked - 
  1. What made you laugh this week?  The notepads my mom gave me for Valentine's Day, which said "Advice from a Squirrel: 1. Be Active 2. Go out on a Limb 3.Plan Ahead 4.It's OK to be a little Nuts" Check them out over here!
  2. If you were a dog, what breed would you be? A Sheltie, I have two cuties at home and I miss them terribly! If you want to see a picture, check them out over here (scroll all the way to the bottom.)
  3. What book–any type–do you recommend most right now? I made a New Year's Resolution to myself to read The Bible, and I am giving myself a year to do it, so I have been working diligently on that. On the side, however, I just finished The Making of a Chef, which traces the life of a chef as he goes through the Culinary Institute of America's degree program. It was FABULOUS, and lent it to someone who claims he is a non-cook and he enjoyed it as well.
  4. If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be? Stewed pinto beans, cornbread, kale, and home grown tomatoes and cucumbers (I may have been asked this a time or two before, I was ready with my answer.)
  5. Team Gale or Team Peeta? I have no idea what this is referring to, so moving on...
  6. What’s your go-to recipe? Quick bread: banana walnut, cranberry orange, pumpkin cinnamon; you name the combination, I love quick bread!
  7. What’s your favorite color highlighter to use? Blue! Though I used to be a staunch yellow highlighters only kind of girl 
  8. Are you superstitious? Not really. I step on all the cracks I want, but have a lucky pair of panties.
  9. What sparked your commitment to healthy living (food &/or fitness)? I was a chubby kid, but was active so wasn't unhealthy, just was too young to understand nutrition and calories and all those things.  Then in the eighth grade, I decided I didn't want to be "pleasantly plump" and took control of my health. I brought my lunch to school every day, danced and swam more, and no longer drank soda or juices. A few years later, here I am balancing all my meal, drinking water, and exercising five times a day.
  10. What was your favorite childhood stuffed animal / blanket named? I had a stuffed alligator named Mr. Chomp Chomp.
  11. What’s your favorite color to wear? Pink! I have a ton of pink.
And here are a few more:
  1.  Almond Butter or Peanut Butter? Peanut Butter - it is a good group in my world.
  2.  What made you smile today? Today I smiled at how well my "soup of leftovers" came out. A little salsa, grilled chicken, black beans, and jalapenos, and I had dinner.
  3.  What’s the last thing you do before falling asleep? Read a few verses of the Bible and say a prayer.
  4.  Treadmill or elliptical? Elliptical every time, though I would much rather swim laps.
  5.  Favorite piece of jewelry? I love pearls, and I am especially excited for the pearl ring my mom and dad gave me for my 21st birthday. It should be finished this weekend so I will be happy to share a picture once I pick it up.
  6.  First thing (not a person or pet) you’d save if your house was on fire? 
  7.  If you have a smartphone, what’s your most-used app? I do have a smartphone!!! (a few more !!!! just for excitement) I love the Google App (so I can access Google Docs and my two additional Google Calendars), Words with Friends (my sister has beaten me all but twice), and MyFitnessPal (so I can track my calories and physical activity.)
  8.  Which of your family members are you closest to? Oh my gosh - totally my mom, sister, and grandma all together.
  9. Would you rather shave your head or get a tattoo of a baby elephant on your leg? Oh my gosh really? I can't believe this was one of the questions. I guess shave my head, at least that isn't permanent, though I think I will stay away from the shavers and the tattoo shops.
  10. If you work out, what time is ideal for you? Of course I work out! In the morning, right when I get up. The gym isn't crowded, I can take a moment to stretch before and after my workout, and then shower and be done with it for the day. I always feel so accomplished afterwards and I can just concentrate on homework or studying in the evening.
  11. Sweet or savory? Sweet. Every time.
What do you want to ask?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

It is Totally Still My Birthday

I don't know if I have mentioned this before, but I celebrate my birthday every year for an entire month. Not one day, not one party, an entire month worth of . Why you ask? Because birthdays are way too fun to celebrate for only one day. That being said, it is still my 21st birthday!

Here is the beautiful cake Mommaw made me for my birthday party a couple weeks ago. Isn't it gorgeous?! She does such a wonderfully impressive job, I am always so blow away by her perfection and attention to detail. I can only hope to be half as proficient as she is so that I can make birthday cakes for my grand babies.

Decorated with yellow and purple pansies, how perfect!?

Lemon cake with raspberry jam filling. Yummy, perfect for a birthday celebration.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Coffee Cup Wisdom

This past weekend I visited home and one of my first stops was to my favorite coffee shop in town. I ordered a latte I hadn't had in a while (light, no whipped cream, and half the shots, just the way I like it,)  and suddenly felt so much better about the bitterly cold weather outside. The snow was coming down like it rightfully should be in February, the wind was blowing enough to cut right through my thickest winter coat, and I still didn't mind because as I watch the snow swirl outside and sipped my latte, I noticed what was written on my coffee cup.

The question posed by this very inquisitive cup was "What will you stay up for?" Good question, since we all value the precious few hours we get nowadays. The answers varied from "the newest episode of The Desperate Housewives," to "to hear my 3 year old ask me 'what letter does S start with?'" So that made me wonder, what will I be willing to stay up for?

I will stay up to watch a Disney movie, to be a sympathetic ear and shoulder to cry on, and to read another few verses of the Bible. Definitely.

And I ask you the same question. What will you stay up for?

As you ponder, here are my birthday dessert pictures!

Rustic Apple Tart

Peanut Butter Blondies

Individual Fruit Tarts, glazed with honey

Peanut Butter Pretzel Sandwiches (a birthday present from my roommate, Mary)

Mint Dark Chocolate Mousse in a Milk Chocolate Cup

Mocha Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Filling and Salted Caramel Frosting

Our dessert bar!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

It's Getting Squirrelly Around Here

Happy Valentine's Day all!

For those of you who are keeping track, this is our 50th post together! Can you believe it? Me neither - seems appropriate that it fell on Valentine's Day. I hope you all are having a sweet Tuesday!

Valentine's Day in particular is turning out to be a little squirrelly this year. As you may or may not know, I am a proud Alpha Gamma Delta sorority sister, and our mascot is the squirrel. Why? I am not sure, but rumor has it that we, as a sorority of women, look towards and prepare for our futures. Whatever the reason, look at all the wonderful Valentine's Day presents I received this year from my parents and grandparents - how they find these things I have no idea, but I am so grateful!

Yep - squirrel EVERYTHING! Cookies, grocery pads, dark chocolates, and a grey squirrel bookend.

How. Cute. Are. THESE?! Mommaw made these for me and my fellow AGD sisters for Valentine's Day, how  precious!! You can tell she spent a TON of time on these, but they were so well received - she certainly earned the "best grandma EVER" award. Really though, she does.

Excellent advice from a squirrel: Plan Ahead, Stay Active, Go Out on a Limb, and It's OK to be a Little Nuts. 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Post 50 Planning

We are quickly approaching 50 posts (two more posts to go) and I am trying to decide what I should make for the memorable anniversary. I love baking and sweets, obviously, but as you will see below I have gone a little overboard on the sweets lately in order to celebrate my birthday - this is not a bad thing and I by no means complaining, mind you, I simply don't think my hips can take much more. I have journals and journals filled with ideas, recipes, and notes about cuisines and things to try, and I have been flipping through them to get ideas. (I know paper and pencil is not the most efficient way to do such a task, but what can I say? I am a traditionalist who sticks with what she knows. And technology and I don't get alone so I can't automate the system.)

Do you all have any suggestions or requests? I am all about trying something new, but am not against revisiting an oldie but a goodie. Or maybe pick something off my wish list to try, that sounds like fun! (check it out over here is you forget what's on there.)

While you ponder that - here are some photos!

Homemade granola! Made with oats, walnuts, raisins, agave nectar, and a little cinnamon. Easy squeezy.

I plan on eating this on top of yogurt, mixed into a salad, topping a baked sweet potato, 3and any extras will be baked into some pancakes at the end of the week - but I doubt it will last that long.

Have a happy week!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Ode to Hash

 Hi friends! T.F. (almost) F.

I was able to stay away from the chocolate this evening. Achievement? I think so.

But I feel into another trap - breakfast for dinner. Which I have done for three nights in a row now. Bad thing? I think not. It's nutritious, tasty, quick to prepare, you don't need a lot of ingredients, not to mention the fact that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. So why not eat it twice?

And now, my ode to hash. Hash, what a fabulous fruit. It is diverse and flexible, you simply can't mess it up, and you simply can't eat the same hash twice, I'm convinced it's impossible. I took this opportunity to clean out the fridge before traveling home for the weekend. I was able to use a left over potato, some red bell pepper, a sweet onion, and some chipotle and chili powder to make a spicy savory version. By letting the raw diced potatoes steam a bit in a shallow skillet with some chicken broth, then cooking off the liquid and crisping the veggies, I was able to impart some great, cooked-all-day flavor to my hash. MMMM...

Topped here with a perfectly poached egg (still my favorite way to prepare eggs), some seared turkey smoked sausage, and topped with a shred of cheddar cheese and chopped parsley.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Conquering the Wish List: #2

My mother would be horrified to know what I was doing right now...

I just got home... twelve minutes ago. I have homework and an exam tomorrow to prepare for tomorrow. And all I can think about is chocolate.

So what do I do instead of cracking the books? Huddle in the kitchen all sneaky-like (as if being covert will hide the fact that I am making cookies) and mix up a cookie dough in what has to be record time. No joke, three minutes flat and I had scratch-made cookies in the oven - talk about breaking a land speed record. I had a glass of milk poured and the mess cleaned up before the oven was done preheating.

But now what?! I still don't have chocolate! The eight minutes it takes to bake up these beauties seems to be an eternity! What do you mean I can't just eat the raw cookie dough by itself and call it a day? (not to say that at least a tablespoon full didn't "accidentally" fall into my mouth on its way to the cookie try...) I mean, there was only one egg in it after all - and I don't even care about salmonella, I just need chocolate in my system. Right. Now.

Oh my gosh that was the oven timer be right back!

Ok. I feel better. More human again.

Avage nectar - the guilt free sweetener
 And afterall, I was checking another wish list item off my list. So this slight procrastination was well worth it. (full list can be found here.)

Back to Consumer Behavior studying.....