Thursday, May 30, 2013

Birthday Cake Waffles -- Cape Cod Trip, Happy Birthday Little Bro!

Memorial Day Weekend was an utter blast. I got to spend the weekend on Cape Cod with my roommate, some friends, my boyfriend, and my brother--who turned 21 during the trip!

My brother's first LEGAL drink! Hurrah!

As always, the Cape was filled with delicious food and I hope to do a roundup/review of the restaurants we stopped at. All were pretty dang tasty! The Cape is seriously the best place for seafood. The. Best. Hopefully I'll get my pictures up so I can give a shout-out to the places I stopped at!

Cory planting one on me as I snap a picture

Also great for beaches, even though the water stays at about FRIGID DEGREES all year. This was at Sandy Neck. It was too cold to even think about taking a swim, but I definitely got some sun!--sunburn so severe that I can't wear pants because the lightest touch hurts them. Ugh. Silly me for forgetting the sunscreen. Please note that my boyfriend wore that hat to the beach, with long pants and dress shoes. I kinda love that he dresses like an old man sometimes... I also think I might have to stealthily procure him a swim suit and flip flops next shopping trip...

At the club

To celebrate my brother's birthday my parents (who were staying elsewhere on the Cape) took us out for dinner, and then I took my brother to his first experience at an overpriced club full of college students. I was a little miffed he didn't get a discount on the $10 entry fee, most places tend to get excited at the idea of a newly-minted legal drinker and let at least the birthday boy/girl in for free or a discount, not the Beachcomber. So, it was good incentive to not spend much money on drinks there! Oh well. My brother didn't seem too thrilled by the place, and despite the offer of 21st-birthday-shots from my friends and me, we ended up heading back to our home base for nachos and beer instead.

The next morning I made these awesome birthday cake waffles! My waffle maker has been seriously under-utilized, so it was great to put it to good use and feed our entire group with a bit of birthday flare.

 I forgot my camera card, so these are iphone pics. Pretty good, but I missed my camera.

Birthday Cake Waffles
(Recipe is all over Pinterest but this one is adapted from Buns in my Oven with a few substitutions)

  • 1 box Funfetti Cake Mix
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 3 eggs
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup rainbow sprinkles

-Mix together all ingredients until no flourly lumps are present--lumps from funfetti chips and sprinkles are okay.

-Drop the recommended amount of mix (according to your waffle iron's size, temp, etc) into waffle iron wells and cook until golden brown.

-Serve with chocolate, whipped cream, and more sprinkles!

Note: Cake will be moist, not crunchy like regular waffles.

Another Note: Halfway through, we decided to make our batter stretch by adding batter from a plain waffle recipe. The results were a less sickly-sweet, more crispy waffle. I'm a total sugar FIEND but if you are less so, this might be a better route to take.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Arrested Development Returns -- George Bluth Sr.'s Infamous Corn Balls

Who's excited for Sunday? I know I am!--well, I'll be at the beach, so I won't get to see it until I get back, but GUESS WHAT COMES BACK ON SUNDAY!!!

That's right, just about the funniest, most well-written awkward comedy in existence. I love The Office, but Arrested Development has the kind of awkward that The Office only WISHES it had. I have no idea what my beloved show will be like in its 10-years-older form, but I trust the writers and cast to at least give us a few good laughs regardless of how "good" it turns out. We were expecting a movie, and they did us one better. Thanks, guys! I didn't know much about the show before a friend let me borrow a season, though I'd heard from other friends that it was wonderful, and I soon became hooked. I plowed through the entire series in about a week. All the little twists and turns were genius. The guest stars were perfectly placed. Michael Cera was Michael Cera before it was cool to be Michael Cera.

If I was home this weekend you best believe I'd be throwing an Arrested Development party. And you know what? Maybe I'll still do one, albeit a week late. I mean, look at this Buzzfeed Article. How much fun is that? Despite REEEALLY looking forward to a weekend at the beach, I am pretty sad I'll be missing my opportunity to throw a Bluth-worthy party. So, I knew I had to try to recreate one of these foods for the blog... but which one... Hot Ham Water? Ew. No. Frozen bananas? Delicious, but I was lacking in popsicle sticks. Epic amounts of juice and possibly vodka and toast? But really, I knew what I'd pick all along. Obviously, the best choice...

CORNBALLS. Thankfully, I was sans Cornballer and avoided getting horribly burned, but the process is pretty simple. Make balls of corn, drop in oil, devour (preferably with some sriracha mayo). They taste like the best corn dog you've ever had, sans dog.

Can I mention how proud I am of my food styling here? See if you can catch all the little references I threw in ;) The photography itself still needs work, but I'm getting there!

Cornballs, sans Cornballer
(Adapted only slightly from Bakin Bit)

1 cup cornmeal
1 cup corn flour/masa
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk (I had none, so I used 1 tbs vinegar in one cup milk)
1/4 cup olive oil
2 eggs
1/4 cup sugar
2 tbs honey
2 jalapeno, seeded and diced
2 stalks green onion, sliced thin
1 cup fresh corn kernels (frozen also works, fresh is best)

Whisk together all dry ingredients except sugar and veggies. Separately, whisk together buttermilk, oil, eggs, and sugar until well combined. Slowly add the dry to the wet and stir until just combined. Fold in veggies. Let sit for a minute or two to thicken.

Fry in a deep fryer or pan fry in a few inches of hot oil at 365 degrees F. Scoop batter into hot oil, being careful not to crowd. With wet hands, form into golfball-sized balls. Fry until golden brown on all sides, cornballs will float when just about cooked through.* Let sit on a paper towel-lined plate and blot off excess grease.

Serve immediately with Sriracha mayo--1 tbs sriracha for every 1/4 cup mayo.**

*took some trial and error to figure out exactly how long they took to cook. Fry one or two to desired done-ness and then cut in half to make sure cooked through. If not, add an additional minute or two.
**In truth (bluth?) I actually ate most of these sans-sauce, they're very good!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Early Summer Musings and Fruit Scones

Summer has begun! I finally step outside in the morning without the lurching fear that I might find snow on the ground--though, in truth, New England weather never really knows WHAT the heck it's doing, so we very well could get snow at random times. However, May tends to be pretty safe.

The winters here are so long that I forget just how much I love summer. When the first sun dress finds its way out of my closet, when the sun is warm enough to forgo a jacket... a joy rises up in me that cannot be measured.

I love getting out of work and still being able to soak up an hour or two of sun while reading a book. And, now that Midsummer Night's Dream is done, I actually have those two hours to myself! Woo-hoo!

If you look very carefully, you can see my boyfriend wearing a dress.

I don't know if I mentioned this before, but my boyfriend was also in this play with me. In the past, boyfriends have rolled their eyes at the idea of coming to ONE performance, actually participating or volunteering to help with the process was unthinkable. But Cory went the extra mile and actually auditioned when I said we always were low on men. I couldn't believe he was serious. What's more--it was his first time ever on stage, and he was wonderful! Even when his part was changed to Francis Flute, who has to dress in drag for the final scene (an awesome part but kind of a lot it's your first time on stage!), he stuck with it and did amazingly. It meant so much to me that he was part of this experience :)

He's a keeper <3

Up next: A weekend in Cape Cod for a little break... and then I'll be directing a short play in an evening of short one-acts with a sci-fi theme. I'm really excited for my directing debut! I think I'll also be doing a musical with a group I've never acted in before, if I get a part.

I'm just addicted to community theater, I can't help it.

And, here's a scone recipe. There's really no way whatsoever to tie the recipe to the blabbing this time. These scones are great--moist, crumbly, not at all dry. A great snack or breakfast treat!

Blueberry, Cherry, and Lemon Zest Scones
(From Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything)
  • 2 cups flour, plus a sprinkling more
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 3 tbs sugar
  • 5 tbs cold butter, cubed
  • 1 egg
  • 1-2 cups of dried fruit (I used blueberries and cherries mixed together)
  • The zest from 2 lemons
  • ½ to ¾ cup heavy cream, more for brushing.

-Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Combine flour, salt, baking powder and 2 tablespoons of the sugar in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles cornmeal.

-Add the egg and just enough cream to form a slightly sticky dough. If it’s too sticky, add a bit of flour, but very little; it should still be sticky. Fold in fruit and most of the lemon zest.

-Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead once or twice, then press it into a 3/4-inch-thick circle and cut into wedges. Place the wedges on an ungreased baking sheet. Brush the top of each scone with a bit of cream mixed with the rest of the lemon zest and sprinkle with a little of the remaining sugar.

-Bake for 9 to 11 minutes, or until the scones are golden brown. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Coming Full Circle and Bacon Jam Recipe

I still remember that early spring morning in first grade. My mom had woken me up early and insisted I wear my pink and green jumper with the white collared blouse to school. The one with the pink polka dot trim on the cuffs, the special occasion outfit. "Why?" I remember asking, "it's just a Wednesday."* It was mid spring and my jumper was probably going to be too warm for recess. "Oh, no reason," my mom said, "I just think you should look nice today."

It didn't dawn on me just then--I was probably worried that my nice outfit would keep me from participating in gym class and I didn't want the teacher to yell at me again--but this was the day Jane Yolen was visiting the school. All grades, Kindergarten through sixth grade, had entered various poems and short stories to Mrs. Yolen, an author in our town, for the writing contest she sponsored every year. Jane Yolen is an award-winning writer, for both children's books and novels, and has been described as "the Hans Christian Andersen of America and the Aesop of the twentieth century." Each year she hand-picks a number of winners from the submissions and awards them prizes for their writing. This was the day she was announcing the winners of the 1994 installment.

That morning, all of us brought our sit-upons (carpet square samples donated from a local home improvement store were the sit-upons of choice) to the gym and shifted restlessly as elementary school children are wont to do during an assembly. I believe I remember a friend sitting behind and braiding my hair, which was down to my waist at the time and even curlier then than it is now. "Ashley!" my friend Shannon hissed, "your mom is here!" I turned around and there she was, my mom in her nurse scrubs, waving enthusiastically at me and beaming. A bouquet of flowers and my favorite candy bar were hidden behind the seat.

"Why is she here?" I wondered, "this is sooo embarrassing! It's not like I'm going to win!"

But, I did.

The book I won the second time I won the contest
(I LOVED horror so it was a GREAT prize!)

My book, "My Garden and the Humongous Flower," had won the honor of "Dearest Tale," one of the many awards given that day. My prize was an autographed book by Jane Yolen herself. I was floored. The story was based on my family's garden plot we rented a town over, as I had recently became obsessed with growing my own veggies. In the tale, the garden grows the largest flower in the world, and the little elf who lives inside gives me a crystal rose that I give to my mother for Mother's Day. I am pretty sure "Humongous" was spelled incorrectly, as neither my teacher nor I knew how to spell it in these days before spellcheck. I had also intentionally included a grammatical error, because a "popular" girl in my class often made the same error and for some reason my 6 year old brain thought this would help my first grade popularity somehow.

The contest had opened my eyes to something I had never considered before (writing!) and despite not winning the grand cash prize, my little kid ego went through the roof: "A famous author picked ME for a prize. I must be an AMAZING writer." And that was all it took to start me writing. I filled hundreds of journals with thoughts and stories. I wrote everything from fantasy to fan-fiction to personal essay to horror. I read anything I could get my hands on in order to note how other authors wrote, and upon finishing a book I would write my own story using inspiration from what I'd just read. I taught myself web design at age ten and began to blog before I even knew what it was. I breathed in words through my eyes and exhaled poetry and prose through my fingertips. My little kid ego with its illusions of grandeur had started it all, but once the passion for writing took hold there was no letting go.

I went on to win a prize again as a 6th grader, and when I graduated high school I was awarded the Jane Yolen Scholarship for students who are pursuing a degree in the literary arts. I picked Emerson College because it was the one college I found with a degree specifically in writing.** And now, years and years later, I am whisper-close to publishing my first book, with a few magazine articles and two fiction stories published already. I credit Jane with sparking my passion for the written word, and have been so grateful that she gave me that award nearly 20 years ago.

My favorite Jane Yolen book, which I am
kicking myself now for not finding for her to sign!

Imagine how honored I was when Heidi Stemple, Jane's daughter and also a widely published author herself, found me on Facebook after my newspaper article in the Greenfield Recorder about my agency representation with Lisa Ekus was published, and invited me to this year's award ceremony. I had mentioned in my interview how the contest had inspired me to start writing, which is how Heidi found me.

Jane Yolen to the far left, this year's contest winners, and me on the far right.

So this morning I spoke at the award ceremony that started it all. I wasn't prepared to speak, as Heidi had told me it wasn't necessary, but when Jane handed me the microphone I knew I had to say something. I usually pride myself in my public speaking abilities, but flying on improv skills alone I was a bit nervous and my voice felt shaky. I asked if anyone there likes writing. Nearly every hand flew to the air. I asked who REALLY likes writing, the hands went higher. I think the three of us beamed at that--so many budding writers!--I mentioned how I had won a prize in the contest twice, and how I went to college to be a writer and now I am working on publishing my very first book. I told them to write, and never stop. Don't be discouraged if you don't win the contest, if you love to write, just write. I hope it encouraged them. I thanked Jane for having this contest, and for inspiring me. When we posed for a picture the little girls on the end were motioning for me to stand near them. My heart melted.

I watched as excited children received their awards, the autographed books, and the checks. I saw children hugging and cheering on their friends, parents snapping pictures (now on iphones instead of cameras) and handing out hugs and kisses and flowers. I smiled as widely as I would have had they been my own children, though I am likely years from having any of my own. I remembered what it felt like, that first spark, that first little seed of encouragement that THIS was something I enjoyed more than most things. This was something I was good at and more importantly, loved doing.

I hoped at least some of those winners, the tiny hands clutching shiny new books, I hoped some of them were feeling that same spark I felt so many years ago.

*Full disclosure: I don't remember if it was actually a Wednesday, but today is Wednesday, so I decided to pretend I remembered it being Wednesday.
**My official degree is a BFA in Writing, Literature, and Publishing with my focus in fiction and magazine and book publishing.

And, you know, because this is a cooking blog, here's a recipe for bacon jam. Because bacon jam is a thing that exists. I'm still not entirely sure how to use it correctly, but I assume it's great on toast or sandwiches. I used it as a topping for panna cotta and was satisfied but not blown away by the results. Less is probably more when it comes to bacon jam, in my opinion. But it's definitely a condiment worth trying!

Bourbon Bacon Jam
(Adapted from Martha Stewart's Recipe)

  • 1 1/2 pounds sliced bacon, diced small
  • 2 medium yellow onions, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup packed dark-brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 3/4 cup brewed coffee
  • 2 beef bouillon cubes
  • 1/4 cup bourbon

In a large skillet, cook bacon over medium-high, stirring occasionally, until bacon is lightly browned and cooked through but not crispy. Transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Reserve 1 tablespoon of bacon fat from skillet and swirl it in the pan. Add onions and garlic and cook until onions are translucent. Add vinegar, brown sugar, maple syrup, bouillon cubes, bourbon, and coffee and bring to a boil, being sure to deglaze the pan of any browned meat bits. Add bacon and stir to combine. If needed, add additional brown sugar and maple syrup, to taste.

Transfer to a 6-quart slow cooker and cook on high for 4 hours. Transfer to a food processor; pulse until coarsely chopped. Let cool, then refrigerate in airtight containers. Will keep in the fridge for a little over a month.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Chef, or Food Writer? -- Spicy White Wine Mussels

A conversation I had with a friend:
"I have a great opportunity for you!"
"Really? About what?"
"Your cooking!"
"My... cooking? Or you mean writing? My blog?"
"No, your cooking. [the restaurant across the street from my community theater] is starting a program where they let local chefs into their kitchen for a night for special menus! You could make a menu and open it up to their customers and make it yourself in their kitchen! I gave them your name."
"But... I'm not a chef, I'm a writer. A food writer, but still--"
"But you cook."
"I do but--"
"It'd be a great opportunity to promote your book, you should think about it!"
So, I thought about it.

Not that I ever thought seeing my dishes on someone's paid-for plate would ever be a reality for me, or even something I was remotely interested in. After all, I want to write about food, not make it for other people in the very intimidating restaurant business where as a waitress I was once stiffed a tip for not letting my table purchase alcohol without proper ID. And, remember, just a few years ago I could hardly make toast.

Me, in the kitchen. Running a restaurant kitchen?
Hard to picture...

When I began this blog, I was not one to think up a recipe on my own. If you go back far enough--please, don't, the pictures are abhorrent--you'll mostly see either recipes pulled from cookbooks in my personal collection or Google searches, or simply links to outside recipes since I didn't feel right copy and pasting. I was unsure of my abilities in the kitchen, and refused to stray from what was written lest I create something inedible.

Random Cat Picture to break up text!
My cat, Finn. Duh.

These days, I'm happy to say, I find myself rarely following a recipe word-for-word. I'll glance at it once or twice, then search for similar recipes to compare cooking times and techniques, and when I have the bare bones of the process down I just go wild. More often than not, I end up with something ranging from absolutely delicious to at least mostly enjoyably edible. Recent posts link back to content I've "adapted," often showing little resemblance to the original content.

I look back on these two years of food blogging and am so proud of myself for coming this far. Could I compile a menu of recipes for an actual restaurant? Why not? I'm already conceiving 100 recipes for my cookbook (which is being pitched by my agent RIGHT NOW OMG), I already have dinner parties for friends about once a month. Though my timing isn't the best--appetizers and main course should not come out at the same time--timing is something that I can fix.

For you dog lovers, Random Dog Picture to Break Up Text.
Random Dog is my roomate's dog, Baxter.

I think, to be a truly well rounded food writer, one needs to understand all different angles and aspects of careers in food. I'd love to be a food critic for a day, or be on a farm tending to vegetables and livestock, just to know what those sides of the industry are like. Running a restaurant for a night would surely put me out of my comfort zone, but even if I failed miserably I'd be all the better for it and my writing would improve. This goal I have of being a food writer (or publisher!) as a full time career feels so close, but I know I still have so far to go. Chef and writer are not necessarily mutually exclusive, and perhaps to be one or the other you must appreciate both.

So, I'll think about it. I know I COULD do it, I'm always up for the challenge. The idea is apparently still in the planning stages, so I have time. We'll see if they call.

In other news, my play opens this weekend! If you're in the Western Mass/Western New England area you should come check it out. Free to all under 18, $10 otherwise. I play Tom Snout

Rockin' the I'm-not-a-lady hair hiding hat.

And Cobweb the Fairy.

Midsummer was always one of my favorite Shakespeare plays, probably because it was the only one I read in high school where someone did not die. It's hilarious, to say the least.

Oh and, because I apparently hate having free time, I just applied to direct a short play this summer. We'll see how that goes, and if I'm chosen, as I've never directed before (only acted). Again, it'd be a really fun challenge!

And now, back to recipe development. These mussels were on sale for just $1.99 per pound, and though I'd never made mussels before, the deal was too good to pass up! I knew that I loved spicy mussels, and I loved mussels in white wine sauce rather than the heavy tomato sauce they sometimes come in at restaurants, but could not find a recipe that combined the two. So, I made my own. The results were pretty fantastic.

Spicy White Wine Mussels
(Used Ina Garten's Recipe for times and liquid amounts for steaming)

  • 1.5 lbs mussels, rinsed and de-bearded
  • 1 tbs butter + 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced
  • 2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp hot chili oil
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 handful of fresh parsley, diced
  • 2 tsp capers, optional
  • salt and pepper, to taste

-In a dutch oven or large saucepan (make sure you have a lid handy), heat the butter and olive oil until combined. Stir in the onion, garlic, pepper flakes, cayenne, and chili oil and heat until onions are translucent and garlic is fragrant.

-Add the wine and broth and stir until combined and just barely simmering. Add the mussels and cover immediately. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, until mussels have opened and cooked through. Remove from heat and stir in the parsley and capers. Let sit for two minutes with the cover on. Remove any mussels that have not opened and serve hot with sauce spooned over the top.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Meyer Lemon Curd

Lemon curd has got to be my favorite thing that I can make from scratch. At least right now. During Meyer Lemon Season. It's so tangy and sweet and flavorful--PERFECT on French toast, as a fruit dip, as the center to a lovely lemon tart--the possibilities are really endless.

My last purpose for lemon curd was to fill my 2 Year Bolgiversary Cupcakes:

But the remaining jar has been used mainly for sneaking spoonfuls or dipping strawberries in.

I'm not sure how well curd actually cans, or if it's possible to can it, but it keeps for over a week in the fridge. I know Meyer Lemon season is ending soon, but this is just as good with regular lemons, just a little more tart.


Meyer Lemon Curd

  • 4 Meyer lemons(regular lemons are larger, you may only need 3 if not using Meyer)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 stick butter, cold and cut into cubes

-Finely zest the lemons--I use the second-smallest grate on my cheese grater--and mix well into the sugar.* Juice the remaining lemons, you should have about a half cup. If you do not have a half cup, you may juice another lemon or simply add water or a bit of citrus juice until you reach 1/2 cup.

-In a double boiler, mix the sugar into the lemon juice, whisking thoroughly until combined.

-Slowly add the eggs, whisking vigorously to avoid scrambling. Whisk constantly until mixture is thick and coats the back of a wooden spoon. Remove from heat and stir in the butter until melted.

-Keep in the refrigerator for up to 10 days, preferably in a sterilized glass jar.

EDIT: I think I've been lacking in the cat pictures lately. So here's some more.

P.S. I'll be pulling a winner tomorrow...

Click Here and leave a comment on the post to enter to win a FREE download of this awesome app by T. Susan Chang!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Happy Cinco De Mayo! -- Roundup

So, sometimes you make a ton of Mexican food for a holiday that is very food-centric in order to have a kick ass blog post but don't have time to photograph it and then when you finally have time on the day of the holiday itself--you are kind of feeling sickly from too many Margaritas the night before and decide to just eat the leftover food and not take pictures.

In other words, I am 25 and I clearly cannot drink like I'm 21 anymore. Life happens.

I hope you're all celebrating today and eating the best tacos, it's gorgeous outside. Me, I'm in bed with the windows open trying to drink enough seltzer to get rid of this tequila headache. Thankfully I drank my fill last night and have today to recoup--Margarita-overload tonight would mean feeling like this at work tomorrow and being hungover at work is not something I'd like to make a habit of because I'm supposed to be an adult now.

If you're saving your celebrating for tonight and need some recipe options, I've got ya covered! Here's what I've posted this week and in the past to get you started:

Oldies (look how gross my photography skillz used to be!):
Homemade Guacamole
Roasted Salsa
Taco Pizza
Fried Fish Tacos
Tortilla Soup
Chicken Enchiladas
Margarita Cupcakes

This Week:
Strawberry Mango Margaritas
Chorizo-ish Burrito Bowls
Jalapeno Poppers

And I figured I'd give you this one, despite the crappy picture quality:

I took this picture before devouring this the night I made it. This steak taco was kind of the winner of the evening when I had my Thursday Night Cooking Endeavor to make Cinco De Mayo food. I feel bad I couldn't do it justice with a nicer, better styled picture. But today I'd rather put everything into a bowl and eat it cold so as to spend less time not in bed.

If the recipe looks lazy it's because I feel lazy right now.

But trust me, this thing is TASTY.

Steak Tacos with Chimichurri Sauce and Pickled Onions

  • 1 lb flank steak
  • Jalapeno Popper Herb Mix (based on Emeril's Essence, double my measurements from the poppers)
  • Chimichurri Sauce (recipe below)
  • Pickled Onions (1 red onion + 1 cup vinegar + 1 tsp sugar, refrigerated 1 hour)
  • Queso Blanco
  • Warm flour tortilla
  • Guacamole

-Rub steak with herb mix and let sit (chilled) while you prepare the onions, chimichurri sauce, and guacamole. After about 20 minutes, cook steak on a hot grill or skillet until done to your liking--I like medium rare. Let sit five minutes after cooking, then slice by cutting against the grain.

-Assemble tortilla with desired amounts of all other ingredients. Eat.

Chimichurri Sauce

  • 1 cup firmly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup cilantro
  • 3-4 garlic cloves
  • 1 tbs Italian Herb mix
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

-Pulse all ingredients in a food processor until consistency of pesto. Serve over meat.

DON'T FORGET--GIVEAWAY! I'll be pulling a name sometime this week, don't miss your chance to win a free download of T. Susan Chang's CookShelf App! Click Here to Enter!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Cinco De Mayo 3 -- The BEST Jalapeno Poppers

These are the perfect appetizer. My secret is that I buy the jalapenos as "seconds" produce--you know, the part of the grocery store with the discount produce that's lumpy or almost passed. For whatever reason, I ALWAYS see bags of jalapenos there. Perhaps they're just a delicate pepper that bruises or wrinkles easily? A bag of seconds jalapenos is typically under a dollar! And, since you're breading them, you cannot tell that they're ugly. SCORE!

Best appetizer for Cinco De Mayo.

Baked Jalapeno Poppers
(barely adapted from Emril's recipe)
  • 12 jalapeno peppers, halved lengthwise and seeded
  • 1 cup cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup shredded cheese of choice
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp Italian mixed herbs
  • 1/4 tsp chili pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup panko crumbs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a small dish, mix together all the herbs.

Mix together cream cheese, shredded cheese, and 1 tbs of the herb mixture. Spread 1 tablespoon of the cheese mixture into the middle of each jalapeno half.

In a small bowl, beat the eggs. One at a time, dip the jalapenos into the egg and then toss with panko crumbs.

Place the peppers cut side up on the baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes, until jalapenos are soft.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Cinco De Mayo 2 -- Chorizo-ish Burrito Bowls

 Last night I tore apart my kitchen making Cinco De Mayo recipes. Thankfully, some friends came over to help me eat the results, because I sure as heck couldn't have done it myself.

We were too busy eating to really take many pictures...

I created the following:

  • Homemade chicken enchiladas (recipe forthcoming if I can get a good picture of them), 
  • Corn tortilla failure that turned into delicious chips -- I suck at making tortillas, but misshapen tortillas + hot oil = CHIPS!
  • Roasted corn and bean salad
  • Two kinds of salsa (mango and regular)
  • Baked jalapeno poppers (recipe forthcoming)
  • Guacamole
  • Steak tacos with chimichurri sauce and pickled onions
  • Impostor-chorizo sausage tacos (scroll down for chorizo-inspired recipe)
  • And I got all the ingredients for Margaritas and my lovely roommate assembled them for me 

The chorizo was a last-minute idea. I LOVE the chorizo burrito bowls at my local favorite Mexican joint, Mesa Verde, and knew there were recipes floating around on how to make your own. As I zipped around the supermarket looking for the various peppers used and coming up with nothing, I realized that making authentic chorizo was pretty hopeless. So, I decided to fake it. I found some pre-made mole and used that, since it included many of the peppers needed in the sauce.

The result? Pretty dang close! I was really impressed with the flavor. My boyfriend, hater of all vegetables, used the chorizo as extra filling for his Meat & Cheese Taco (steak, cheese, chorizo) and a little bit of mango salsa.

The veggie hater. Gorgeous eyes though!

Though I used them as tacos last night, I decided that a better use for them would be to make burrito bowls! This was my lunch at work today and it was absolutely amazing. The photos are kinda crappy since I had very little natural light to work with, but trust me--this is worth doing.

Chorizo-inspired Burrito Bowls

  • 1/2 cup Brown Rice
  • 1/4 cup Chorizo (recipe below)
  • 1/4 cup Roasted Corn Salad (recipe below)
  • Sour cream (optional)
  • Salsa (optional)

Imposter Chroizo

  • 1 lb spicy ground Italian sausage
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/4-1/2 cup pre-made Mexican mole (found in the International Foods section of most grocery stores or make your own)
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup hot water with 1 chicken boullion cube dissolved inside
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp chile powder
  • 1/2-1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tbsp Italian blend herb mix, or equal parts oregano, basil, thyme to make 1 tbsp
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

-Over medium-high heat, cook the garlic until fragrant (use a tiny bit of oil). Crumble in sausage, and cook until brown. Add all of the remaining ingredients and stir until well combined and hot. If not thick enough, a mixture of 1 tsp cornstarch and 2 tsp water can be added.

Roasted Corn Salad

  • Corn kernels from 2 ears of corn
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
  • 1/2 lime, juiced

-In a dry skillet, cook the corn over high heat until lightly browned. Remove to a small bowl. Combine all ingredients and refrigerate for at least an hour for flavors to blend.

Assemble burrito bowl: Rice with a squeeze of lime, then corn salad, then chorizo, with salsa and a dollop of sour cream.

DON'T FORGET! I am giving away a free download of T. Susan Chang's Cookshelf app on my last post. Head on over for details on how to win!