Friday, April 27, 2012

Education is like a Frittata

I just finished my last week as an Undergraduate student of the University of Kentucky. The final class is in the books, my parents' last tuition dollar put to good use, and I can now look forward to focusing all of my attention on the culinary world. How strange is this? I know soon-to-be-graduates across the country are suddenly confronted with the same realization, that what we have been working on for almost two decades now is finally achieved. Our whole lives have centered around studying, reading textbooks, flashcards, vocabulary terms, finals exams, and term papers. But in just over a week, eight days to be exact, our happiness will no longer be determined by what we earn on a project or the comments we get from a professor on an idea for a thesis. How bazaar this paramount moment is.

I have been asked a lot this week about whether I was excited to be attending commencement next weekend, and all I can say is "yes and no." I could not be more proud to have earned my Undergraduate degree, in three years no less, and to have a definite career path for which I am so incredibly passionate to now turn all of my attention to. But how could I have achieved this so quickly? It scares me to think how time passes in the blink of an eye and, as cliche as it is to say, how it seems like just yesterday I was no so successfully blinking back tears as my parents and sister pulled away after moving me into my freshman dorm room. Mature, adult, professional, pulled together people graduate from college - I cannot be that prepared yet. But yet here I am, coordinating commencement day outfits, pressing my gown, making sure to hang up my tassel and cords, and planning graduation parties. Now only time will tell if I am truly prepared for this huge leap of faith called adulthood.

In a way, education is like a frittata. Colorful and vibrant. Yet nutritious and sustaining. It is what you make of it.  Throw everything together and see how it suits your tastes. Experiment, try new things, but know you will always have those old stand-by's to help you out in a bind. Just a few basic ingredients, steadfast technique, and the world in your oyster... rather, frittata.

Congratulations to all you soon-to-be college graduates out there!

Frittata for One

2 eggs
slash of milk
salt and pepper
1/3 tsp dried tarragon
mix-ins: I used spinach, tomato, onion, and yellow bell pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an oven proof dish with cooking spray. In small bowl, which eggs with milk and season with spices (feel free to customize these to your liking.) Fold in your mix-ins, pour into your oven proof dish and bake for 20-30 minutes, depending on how deep your dish is, or until the middle is set and a knife, when inserted in the middle, comes out clean.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

My Favorite Meal of All Time

I get this question a lot - What is your favorite meal of all time? Tough question, as there is so much delicious food out there, but I have a simple answer. 

Stewed pinto beans with ham hock and cornbread. Preferably accompanied by fresh garden tomatoes and cucumbers. It goes to prove that the best things in life are simple.

The best things in life are also eaten with Scuba Steve spoons...

In the spirit of a simple dinner, I shall keep this post short and simple.

Here is the simple recipe. Happy Country Cooking!

Stewed Pinto Beans

1 pound bag dried pinto beans
1 left over ham hock (no ham hock on hand? Diced thick cut ham will to the trick also)

Wash and pick through the beans to remove any superfluous stones or debris (get rid of any flavor packet that may or may not come with your beans - ick.) Place dried beans in large-ish stock pot and cover generously with water. Let soak on counter overnight. Drain and rinse again, cover beans with water, add ham hock, and cook on low for 5-6 hours or until tender, stirring occasionally.

Told you it was simple.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Sudden Realization

Want to know what I just realized? (Avert your eyes if you don't want to know because here it comes.) My blog acts as a diary for me. *insert thoughtful face here* I have never been one to keep a diary, even as a kid. I always loved the idea of writing down my thoughts and feelings about what is happening around me, and I especially loved the notion of being able to go back and reminisce on past times and reflect. I would try writing for a good week or so, keep my notebook secretly hidden away and only bring it out when I was certain no one was around, write down my thoughts (always dutifully starting each entry with "Dear Diary" because I thought that was the only way to do it,) but eventually keeping a diary and writing EVERYDAY became monotonous and lost its wonder and pizzazz. So I would abandon the notion in favor of playing with my Easy Bake Oven, which was much more my speed.

I have read numerous times now on the various food blogs I frequent that other bloggers use their pages as virtual diaries, even if they just choose to focus on the food that they cook and consume. Which is exactly what I do, but inevitably little snip-its of the rest of my life get woven in there too, like details about my life, family, holiday celebrations, school, and very soon my college graduation are incorporated in here too. And I very often find myself flipping back through my posts, re-reading for the twelfth time what I've written about having chocolate cravings or using tomatillos for the first time and smiling fondly, grateful for the reminder.

That being said, here are some pictures for my diary. Isn't he just precious!? His name is Lug Nut, and he is one of my sorority sister's service dogs in training. The P.A.W.S. program here at UK trains students to socialize puppies to soon be service dogs, and I have been doing my part to socialize Lug Nut. How adorable! Here, Lug Nut is riding in the car with us... and trying to drive!

**This whole notion reminds me a lot of the book Everything I Ate: A Year in the Life of My Mouth. The author took a picture of everything, and I do mean everything, that he ate for one whole year. Some days are just crackers because he was sick, and other days are much more extravagant because he had a work function or birthday party, but it really is fascinating! I definitely suggest you check it out

Thursday, April 19, 2012


There should be more capital letters up there, because I am THAT excited to finally get my pulled pork sandwich. FINALLY! (Yes, finally. Remember when I was pulled pork-less? Yeah, it was a sad time for me too.)

I accompanied my pulled pork (!!!) with an Asian inspired slaw. But really, all I cared about was the pulled pork. Happy happy day!

I'm really not THAT big of a pulled pork fan, for those of you who are just tuning in. I have just had a hankering for a saucy, slightly spicy, pulled pork sandwich for AGES now. And FINALLY I can put that craving to bed and move on to something else. Because that's how I roll.

Two recipes for you today!

Asian Slaw
1/2 head green cabbage
1/2 yellow pepper, thinly sliced
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
3 green onions, finely sliced
1/4 cup parsley, minced

1/4 cup jalapeno peach preserves
1/2 cup olive oil
1 TB sesame oil
red pepper flakes and salt, to taste

Mix the salad ingredients together and set aside. Melt the preserves with a splash of water in the microwave. Whisk to smooth the now melted jam, then whisk in the olive oil to create a suspension. Whisk in the sesame oil to incorporate, toss in some red pepper flakes and season with salt. Toss with salad ingredients and let sit for an hour or so.Optional: Top with toasted sesame seeds or almonds (I obviously didn't have either.)

Homemade Barbecue Sauce
1 small onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, pasted with salt
2 cups ketchup
1/2 cup mustard
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce 
2 tsp black pepper
hot sauce, to taste

Heat a medium sauce pot with just a teaspoon or so of oil. Cook onions and garlic just enough to lightly caramelize the sugars in the onions. Add the rest of the ingredients and turn the heat down to medium low. If the chunks of the onion bother you then you can now puree your barbecue sauce with an immersion blender, regular blender, or food processor. Just be careful because it's hot! Allow sauce to simmer for an hour or so, then add in your pulled pork and let all that marry a few hours over low heat, or sit overnight and reheat. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

It's Waaaay to Early for Breakfast

The clock in the bottom corner of my screen says 5:24am. 

Even these pictures look tired.

I'm not hungry this early in the morning. Which is shocking because I'm always hungry. 

But I have to eat to have my strength for a whole day at work, then class, then back to work. 

I work at the Woodford Reserve Distillery, in their banquet kitchen. It is a beyond awesome job, with wonderful people, great food, and a fun atmosphere. It requires lots of long hours that usually extend from way before the sun gets up to way past by bedtime. However, that's a small price to pay for such a great opportunity. I am so thankful and thrilled to have earned the chance to work there, so good thing I am a morning person.

Anyway, here is my protein packed breakfast for working champions. Eggs, scrambled with lots of parsley, scallion, spinach, and a healthy dose of red pepper flakes, piled on top of melted mozzarella cheese, spicy salsa, and toasted tortilla. Yummy, regardless of what hour it is.

Time to go to work. Check Woodford out here:

Monday, April 16, 2012

What to Make When you Have Nothing to Cook With

I haven't been to the store in two weeks. Shameful I know. Especially when I really love grocery shopping. I'm not joking. Absolute truth. I get so excited by the prospects of what will be when I get all those fresh ingredient home from the grocery, I almost can't contain myself and usually end up spending too much money. Reasons why being a personal chef and caterer is perfect - I am guaranteed LOTS of grocery shopping in my future. (Stifles excited giggles.)

Conversely, I also get really excited when I have limited items to work with, as was the case this weekend. Being a good cook isn't just about making things taste good, but also about how you utilize your ingredients and make them be the best versions of themselves. Somehow I was able to make cornmeal, canned tomatoes, and chunk tuna into a satisfying and filling Italian-inspired dinner.

Parsley polenta, stewed basil tomatoes, topped with chunk tuna fish.

I was able to use the left overs the next day to make crispy polenta cakes with tomato sauce!

Parsley Polenta

1 cup water or chicken broth
1 cup milk (I used skim)
1/2 cup yellow or white cornmeal (medium or finely ground)
1/3 cup freshly chopped parsley (bonus points if it is Italian flat leaf parsley)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Combine the water and milk in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir in cornmeal with a whisk slowly to prevent lump-age. Continue to cook until mixture thickens, about 5 minutes. Take polenta off the heat and stir in parsley and cheese (if mixture is too thick, add a splash of scalded milk.) Season with salt and pepper.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Easter Weekend: Part III

I want to start this post out with a shout out to Shelby and her incredible efforts in her indoor drum line escapades this winter. Girl decided she wanted to be on the winter drum line (which isn't too far fetched considering that if I decided I was going to be on the drum line, the experience of teaching me would be akin to teaching an elephant to fly) and then taught herself how to play the marimba and off she went to local and state competitions. Talk about raw talent and determination. Overall, the Pride of AHS Indoor Drum Line earned 9th at state, and wracked up a few 1st's throughout their season. Congrats Shelby!

As promised, here is part three to Shelby and my's epic Easter weekend. We spend Sunday with our grandparents, preparing Easter dinner, catching up on school and graduation plans (since Shelby and I both will be walking the big walk this May), and of course surrounded with wonderful, wholesome food. Shelby took all these pictures for me, so feast your eyes and enjoy!

One of our apetizers - along with Spinach Artichoke dip with beer bread (which you can see here) we served artisan crackers with fig jam and assorted cheeses.

Now on to dinner time! We roast a ham for Easter, glazed with brown sugar, Dijon mustard, and orange marmalade. The delicious crust that results is the best part!

We added this side dish to our traditional spread this year. Roasted asparagus with an orange balsamic vinaigrette, topped with toasted pecans. Delish!

Shelby's favorite! Scalloped pineapple - a concoction that  is essentially a pineapple bread pudding.

Parsley mashed potatoes. Every holiday I seem to be made mashed potato queen, so every time I try to mix it up a bit.

Green beans, stewed with lots of ham and onions.

No Easter dinner is complete without deviled eggs! Ours are of a traditional breed, with creamy yellow centers and a tangy vinegar zip.

Seven layer salad - no longer in layers. Salad greens, peas, green onion, mayonnaise, a sprinkling of sugar, Cheddar cheese, and chopped bacon. That's it!

Our whole Easter dinner table, complete with pastel place settings - very Easter-esque indeed.

Our dessert selection. How freaking cute is the cupcake tower complete with chocolate eggs?!

Strawberry Angle Food Cake, one of my mom's favorites, finished with a dollop of additional whipped cream of course!

Carrot cake cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. How adorable is this plating?!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Easter Weekend: Part 2

What is better than breakfast? Dessert for breakfast.

What is better than dessert for breakfast? Dessert for breakfast that is dressed up to resemble something slightly more healthy than dessert for breakfast.

This past weekend my sister and I spend all Easter day with my beloved grandparents. I made the comment to Shelby Saturday as we were making the journey north that I was anxious to see and taste all the wonderful things that Mommaw had in store for us. It is always such a treat to visit Mommaw and Boppaw (see here where I discuss how their house serves as my vacation home - all of these points are still completely valid.) We prepared this Peanut Butter Banana Bread Pudding the night before and stuck it in the fridge so that it would be ready for us after sunrise church service Easter morning. It was so nice to come to back this devilishly divine dessert... I mean breakfast.

Look how gorgeous this table is! Mommaw added these flowers from her garden to make this photo just perfect.

Peanut Butter Banana Bread Pudding, dolloped with vanilla Greek yogut and served with fresh fruit. As Shelby said, a tribute to Elvis Presley himself.
Peanut Butter Bread Pudding

1/2 loaf Hawaiian sweet bread, or similar white bread, cubed
1 cup half-and-half
1/2 cup (chunky) peanut butter, melted
1 cup sugar
4 eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp salt
4 ripe bananas, thinly sliced

Mix the half-and-half, sugar, peanut butter, eggs, salt, and vanilla in a large bowl. Add bread cubes to mixture and toss to coat. Gently fold in bananas. Pour mixutre into greased individual ramikins or one large baking dish. (Cooking time will differ depending on what vessle you choose.) Cover and refridgerate for four hours or overnight. Bake at 375 degrees for 50 minutes (large baking dish) or about 20 minutes for inidividual ramikins.

** We used chunky peanut butter and wished we had added additional chopped peanuts for more texture contrast - if you are a chunky peanut butter fan then I highly recommend this.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Easter Weekend: Part I

I hope you all had a wonderful Easter holiday this past weekend! Mine was perfect, filled with a long visit with my sister, fun in the sun while wearing pretty dresses, and of course, lots of yummy food! Here is part one of my weekend, in picture form.

A yummy, protein packed breakfast I made for Shelby and I before we headed to the racetrack for the day. Toasted bagel thins, fresh tomato slices, fried eggs, and scallion. Simplicity at its best.

I overcooked my eggs a little bit, but they were nonetheless delicious.

Shelby and I at Keeneland Horse Track. We felt oh so glamorous in our Derby hats, and I even won $20!

Shelby's very first plate of sushi! Now we just need to work on her chopstick skills...

From left to right: BBQ eel roll, tempura shrimp roll, and california roll.

Shelby and I also tried Local Taco, a restaurant that just opened up down the street from campus. Since we are both suckers for Tex-Mex, we just had to go. And I've already been back - scumptious!

Blackened yellowfin tuna, seared with pico de gallo and arugula, served on a homemade tortilla.

Pulled brisket in mole sauce, topped with pickled onion and cilantro, also atop a freshly made tortilla.

Stay tuned for Easter weekend, part two and three!

Monday, April 9, 2012

I Used to be Scared

I used to be scared of technology in any kind, but not anymore. (I am helping to co-host a Social Media Week here at UK - for more details, check this out.)

I used to be scared of saying no to someone, and I still have trouble doing so sometimes, but I am getting better.

I used to be scared to merge onto the interstate, but now I am a merging queen.

I used to be scared of drive thru's at restaurants and banks, but now I just avoid them all together, so it's a wash.

I used to be scared of fat and calories, but now I embrace a little here and there in my diet.

I (wish I could say) used to be scared of spiders, but I am still terrified of them and am convinced that I will never get over this fear. And I am ok with this. Spiders and I don't have to be friends. Ever.

Similarly, I'm terrified that if I ever have the misfortune to have to go to the hospital and be knocked out for something, that I will wake up from anesthesia alone. I haven't told very many people this, so simply stating this fact is a step towards getting over another fear of sharing too much.

I used to be scared of getting lost, but that has happened so many times now that I have learned to just enjoy the (usually prolonged) journey. As the old adage goes, getting there is half the fun.

When I set out to write this blog post, I was like "ok, this topic is something new and different, not what I usually post," and thus thought that it would be a breeze. I've worked on this baby for over an hour now! I know right?! Not much to show for it, but sharing what scares you is hard. It's also invigorating and comfortingly uncomfortable. It reminds you that you are human, much like watching the evening news or your memories of 9/11 do - they humble you and remind you that you're NOT invincible, you're NOT perfect, and that it is perfectly ok. You have obviously made it this far without being perfect, and what scares you is part of what makes you you. I am perfectly fine with being the Katelyn that shreaks when she sees a spider, is uncomfortable with drive thru's, and still has to consciously and consistently encourage herself to say no.

What makes you you?

* I am still working on my Easter blog post - don't think I forgot! Tune in soon for more on glazed ham and Easter eggs.

** Thanks Graceful Fitness for the theme of this post.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Not-so-French Onion Soup and a Championship

So just in case you hadn't heard... THE UNIVERSITY OF KENTUCKY WILDCATS ARE NATIONAL NCAA CHAMPIONS!!! Sorry to all you other college basketball fans our there, but Queen's "We Are the Champions" played just for us this weekend, and I sang it at the top of my lungs.

As I am sure you are also aware, Lexington, Kentucky was THE place to be this week. No, it wasn't scary like the news portrays it. It was actually really amazing to see everyone out in the streets, painted with blue from head to toe, restaurants staying open until way past closing time to make sure all us hungry fans were fed, and the UK fight song being blasted from every speaker in the city.

So after a weekend of celebration and half a week filled to the brim with work that you ignored for days, what is better to eat than soup heated up with a huge toasted cheese crouton? Not much. You should also be amazed that this recipe contains butter because it is extremely rare that I ever use the lipid. Enjoy it while it lasts kids.

Not-so-French Onion Soup

4 medium yellow onions, sliced thinly into half moons
2 TB butter
1 TB sugar
a lot of patience - yes, this IS an ingredient
2 TB whole wheat flour
3 cup beef broth
3 cups skim milk
1tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 dried bay leaf
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley

Cut the onions in skinny half moons (see first picture below.) Cook these onions in the oil and sugar for 45-50 minutes on medium low until golden brown and sweet smelling. This is where the patience comes in, because you have to cook the onions low and slow to develop the deep, rich, and hearty flavor French onion soup is indicative of. Stir the onions as little as possible. That being said, add a huge dollop of patience and just let these onions do their thing. Once you've achieved your golden brown color, add the flour and toss to coat the onions. Allow to cook for an additional few minutes to cook off the raw flour flavor, then add the liquids and the seasonings, stir to combine, and cover to bring to a simmer. Simmer until all flavors have married.

Serve this with a piece of toast cut to fit the top of your bowl (or in my case, over-sized mug) with garlic paste and cheese broiled on top. 

Onions after 2 minutes...
...and after ten minutes...
... and after thirty minutes...
Finished soup, ready to simmer all afternoon.

Monday, April 2, 2012

April Fools Day Burgers

Call me crazy, but I have never really gotten into April Fools Day. I have an uncle whose birthday is April Fools Day (Happy Birthday Brodie!) and I too this day I think that today is the most appropriate day to have a birthday if you are an uncle, but other than that, I am usually one of those poor, unsuspecting victims onto which terribly hilarious things happen on April 1st. Today, so far so good, I haven't fallen victim yet. But there is still time - my friends and family know how gullible I am and I can't imagine them not taking advantage of this fact.

What does intrigue me about this holiday of shenanigans is the fact that you can trick people with food. Now THAT is a much better use of evil genius if you ask me. For instance...

Oh so clever!

So for this April Fools Day, I made burgers. I know, not too mysterious, but at least they are chicken burgers, not beef ones. I know there are some of you prank masters our there rolling your eyes at my weak attempt at trickery, but you can consider this a prank on your taste buds.

Italian Chicken Burgers

1 pound ground, all white meat chicken
8 saltine crackers, crushed
1/2 cup julienned spinach leaves
1/2 medium white onion, minced
1/3 fresh minced parsley
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp salt

3 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 egg

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place ground chicken in a large bowl and break apart with your hands. Add all the remaining ingredients and mix with hands. Do not over mix or your burgers will be hard and and disk-like. Patty into burgers while heating a few tablespoons of oil in a saute pan. Brown burgers on both sides, them remove to a sheet pan covered with foil and finish cooking in the oven (bake for an additional 8-10 minutes or until cooked through.)