Monday, July 29, 2013

Case of the Mondays -- Healthy Fudge Brownies

 It feels like a Monday.

Like, moreso than usual. Maybe it was the jam-packed weekend I had that included a bit too many Malibu Spiced and diet cokes. Maybe it's the weather.

The air is chilly, and I'm beginning to think New England just skipped August and jumped right to September. I'm beginning to crave Pumpkin Spice Lattes and it's way too soon! GO AWAY FALL, I AM NOT READY FOR YOU YET.

Plus the undeniable urge to just stay in bed under the cozy covers is overwhelming.


Hopefully the heat comes back so I can enjoy the rest of the summer. I still need to finagle how to get a tan, considering next weekend I'll be at another reenactment and covered with too much fabric to get any sun...

As I've mentioned before, I keep trying my hand at diets, but I can't quite decide if my lifestyle would be better suited to "low carb" or "low cal" so I keep wafting between the two, while trying to avoid extreme amounts of gluten because it's a trigger for stomach aches. However, I still love my sweets, which probably is a problem for either chosen diet. This means I've been bopping around Chocolate Covered Katie a lot, because it's one of the best "healthy desserts" blog I've found, with the majority being gluten-free or at least having notes suggesting GF alterations.

I made these brownies because my Farm Share Market Share (like a CSA but I pick it out myself at the weekly Farmer's Market) is becoming more and more zucchini-filled, and because they looked just as decadent as a full-fat/sugar version. Did you guys know that adding veggies to your desserts is not only healthy, but makes them taste BETTER? It's strange, but true! Follow Katie's recipe for a healthy frosting, but I figured my typical frosting could be an indulgence considering the rest of the brownie was so healthy.

These decadent brownies will curb a chocolate craving in no time. And they're basically guilt-free. Even friends not watching their waistlines enjoyed these as my contribution to a recent cookout.


Chocolate Fudge Zucchini Brownies with Fudge Frosting
(from Chocolate Covered Katie)

  • 1/2 cup shredded zucchini (use a food processor for extra-fine shreds)
  • 1/3 cup applesauce (I used one large apple, peeled and microwaved on high for 3 minutes with cinnamon and sugar, until applesauce consistency)
  • 1 cup plus 2 tbsp water 
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3 tbsp flaxmeal
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp vegetable or coconut oil
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 cup coconut flour 
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 cup sugar of choice + 2 extra tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Frosting

  • 1/2 bag semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 stick butter


Preheat oven to 350F, and generously grease a 9x13 baking dish.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the first 6 ingredients and let sit at least 5 minutes. Combine all other ingredients in a separate bowl, and stir until well combined. Pour wet into dry, stir until evenly mixed, then pour into the baking dish. Note: the batter will be THICK.

Using a sheet of parchment (or your own hands, lightly greased), press down very firmly until the brownie batter evenly covers the pan. Bake 19-20 minutes, then pat down hard again with a silicone spatula. Let sit 15 minutes before trying to cut into squares.

While brownies are cooling, prepare the frosting: Melt chocolate and butter over a double boiler until well combined. Pour over brownies and chill in fridge until set. Alternatively, if you'd like a healthier topping, you can use the original recipe's suggestion of 1/2 cup cocoa powder, 2 tbs maple syrup, and 1/2 cup coconut oil. Either will be delicious!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Random Friday Thoughts -- Spinach Ricotta Dumplings

Another impending weekend, another jam-packed couple of days. Tonight I'm having a "low key date night" with the boy as we look after some friends' kids. Tomorrow I'll be driving to New York to see two of my best friends from college, and then Sunday is my boyfriend's party for being one year smoke-free.


I am so beyond proud of him for going an entire year without cigarettes. I've never touched a cigarette to my lips but I've seen friends struggle with quitting. Especially if they've been smoking since they were teenagers. I feel lucky that I've never had to deal with a serious addiction, I cannot even imagine the self control it takes. It'll be good to celebrate such an accomplishment. It's very likely that I never would have hit the "message" button on the dating website we met on, had it said he was a smoker. So there are many many reasons why this is a very good thing.

So handsome.

Then onto Monday, another work week, another week closer to my trip to Austin (anyone have any restaurant suggestions for me??) to mark the end of the summer.

I feel like the summer is hardly started and already we're halfway though. With how brutal our winters are, it really is too bad that we don't get a few more days of summer. I've taken a challenge to not flat iron my hair until September, and I'm almost looking forward to it ending just so I can remember what it felt like to actually LIKE my hair... thinking of dropping the challenge early, but moreso I'm disappointed that I cannot keep to a freaking diet as well as I can commit to this silly thing. 



I've been hiding my thighs for most of the summer--I used to love short shorts, and crop tops, but not this year--because of my recent sizable weight gain. I'm hiding in longer skirts because it's cheaper than buying all new pants, since I don't have any I fit into anymore. Getting blood work done next week, to make sure it's not some medical reason. But I have a sinking suspicion it's just that I'm not doing it right. I have too many cheat days, I'm eating too many or too few calories, I'm not exercising right. Despite trying so hard for so long, I'm exhausted. I haven't been to the gym in two weeks and I have only been half paying attention to my diet. Trying to eat more veggies, avoid "bad" carbs, only let myself indulge once a week...

Sigh. Enough of that.

In other, lighter news, my cat finally posed for a Cat Beard picture. Excellent.


Also, in happier news, my dear friend and "bloggy bestie" Sarah from A Dash and a Pinch created this amazing header for me just because she was bored (and probably because she loves me). Isn't it darling? I'd been grumpy that I couldn't afford a blog redesign (they are thousands of dollars) and was getting distressed that I couldn't create a header that I liked. So, out of the goodness of her heart and simply being bored enough to do it, she designed me this amazing cartoonified version of myself. I am super in love with it! I keep looking at my blog and smiling :) She even got my heterochromia and my adorably clumsy cat into the mix. I'd love it if everyone would go check out her blog, to say thanks for me! And look at her romance novels she self-published, links on my sidebar. If you like steamy romances with either pirates or chefs, check them out!

Majestic.

And some housekeeping stuff--I updated my recipes, so it should be up-to-date now. Also, if you haven't already, please follow me on Facebook and Twitter. I made a goal of reaching 1000 Facebook likes and 500 Twitter followers by the end of the summer--help me reach my goal and I'll be forever grateful! Let me know you came from here and I'll follow you back :)


Finally, these dumplings were the best thing I've had in a while. I saw the recipe on a Weight Watcher's site, got all the stuff, and then Amuse Your Bouche posted an even BETTER recipe the day before I had planned to make them! So, using both recipes as a guide, I made a gluten-free version of the dumplings. Topped with homemade marinara sauce, they were surprisingly tasty. I typically get sick of a food after a day, but these ended up being my lunch all week. They are that good. And low calorie and gluten-free, too!

 Ricotta Dumplings
(combination of Weight Watchers and Amuse Your Bouche, with my own embellishments)
  • 2 cups fresh spinach (or one half package frozen, defrosted)
  • 1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup parmesean cheese, shredded or powdered, plus more for top
  • 4 tbs almond flour
  • 1 tbs coconut flour
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 cups marinara sauce (I used homemade, recipe in a future post)
  • pinch of nutmeg

-Preheat oven to 375. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

-Wilt spinach either in the microwave (with a bit of water for a minute or two), or on stovetop with a bit of olive oil. Squeeze out excess water and let cool to room temp.

-Combine spinach, ricotta, eggs, parm, flours, nutmeg, and pepper in a large bowl and stir until well combined. With floured hands, form into balls and place on parchment.

-Bake for 30 minutes, or until edges are slightly browned. Serve immediately with marinara, topped with a bit more cheese.


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Cooling off the Summer -- Kiwi Moscato Popsicles

EDIT 6/23/14: Hey everyone from Buzzfeed! Glad you're enjoying my recipe! Let me know what you think in the comments, and if you enjoy my site feel free to check out the homepage and follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram :)


Summer has finally cooled down a bit--in more ways than one! Not only has the heat wave broken for the time being, but I actually find myself not rushing off to somewhere else once I get home. It's a nice feeling.


I'm sad I had to drop the play I was in--a friend's wedding on one of the performance dates has made me unable to commit to it after all--but I'm enjoying the free time. Weekends are still busy, I'm pretty much visiting friends or off on mini vacations with other friends, but it's a good kind of busy. The kind of busy that I enjoy being. I'm also directing my first play ever, and another play I wrote is in the same night of one acts (I am NOT directing my own, however), so that will pick up soon, but my actors are great with just one rehearsal a week and I haven't entered "Crunch Time Stress Brain" just yet.


My boyfriend has a new job, the coveted 9-to-5, except 7-to-4, so I'm loving the extra time with him as well. Before, I would get home and it'd still be a few hours before he got out of work, and he would work every weekend. Now we both have weekends off, and get home around the same time. I cannot wait to have a free weekend so we can go away somewhere together, as I was trying to finagle time off to be able to do that on his old Monday-Tuesday days off. The first night of his new job we each made a separate dinner (he made sausage and sauce over noodles, I made a sandwich with goat cheese, tomato, cucumbers, and homemade garlic scape pesto) and watched Cabin in the Woods. It was lovely, and relaxing... well, as relaxing as it can be with THAT movie, it sure was a doozy. But kind of awesome for a horror movie geek like me ;)


The cooler weather (well, not by much, it's in the 80s, but better than 100s!) has allowed me to do what I love most--cook! I was feeling awfully stressy last week, I'd forgotten how much cooking/baking/recipe creating calms me. Sure, I may destroy the heck out of my kitchen. And I may stress a bit after, when I realize I have to do a metric fuckton of dishes, but in the moment I'm at peace.


If only my laptop hadn't decided to crap out on me... it's no fun running from the desktop to the kitchen to make sure I'm following recipes accurately! Time to start saving pennies for the computer fixer guy, ugh--luckily, these pops were a brainchild of my own. No recipe needed. I had always wanted to try making a "poptail" aka a cocktail-popsicle-hybrid, and these were a great first try! Even Boyfriend enjoyed them, and he is not a fan of "girly wine," hah. I attempted dipping them in chocolate, but they were too moist for it to stick. If anyone has any ideas on how to make THAT work, I'm all ears :)

Kiwi Moscato Popsicles
(Makes 8 small pops)

  • 2 ripe kiwis
  • 2 tbs sugar of choice (I used a bit of honey)
  • 1/2 cup moscato
  • 1/4 cup water

NOTE: My popsicle molds are TINY. I am positive that you will need to double this recipe for larger molds. To give you an idea, each well in my pop mold is about 2 shots worth, or 2 oz. 

-Peel kiwis and puree in food processor (or if you're a Pampered Chef FIEND like me then get yourself one of these, PERFECT for this). Stir in sugar and let sit for ten minutes.

-Mix in moscato and water. Fill popsicle wells with just a little bit of headspace to allow for freezing expanding.

-To remove from molds, run warm (not hot!) water over the well and pull stick gently in a corkscrew motion.

Monday, July 22, 2013

These are a Few of my Favorite Things...


So, inspired by the lovely Sues from We Are Not Martha, I decided to pull a bunch of photos off my Instagram account and let you know about some of my new favorite food-related things, plus a non-food-related thing too, heh. I figure, this week I need to catch up on some recipes now that the heat wave has finally broken, but I don't want you all thinking I checked out in the meantime ;) And, because I don't have anywhere else to put it, a poorly-photographed recipe. Huzzah! Things I got for free are marked as such, otherwise it's all stuff I got with my own money :)

Scroll to the bottom if you just want the recipe! (and check out my No-Bake Heat Wave Survival Recipe Roundup or my Strawberry Balsamic Salad Recipe if you don't like these product-y posts)


First off we have a product I received for free via Influenster. I was excited to finally get a Voxbox with a food/drink related item (last time it was more of a beauty box) and after one snafu where all I got in the pack was a bottle of water, the full box came to me with two Dasani Drops to try. I was skeptical about these, since I have tried other brands of water flavor and haven't liked them, but these were actually pretty cool! I looove the coconut pineapple flavor, and I even snuck some rum in it for a low cal cocktail over the weekend. The berry one wasn't my favorite, but I find myself using them to jazz up my water mid-day at work. Fun fact about me: I really, really do not like water. I never have. With a few drops of this flavor, it's a lot easier to get closer to 8 cups a day!
Note: I got this product for free, but opinions are my own. Please email me at quarterlifecrisiscuisine (at) gmail (dot) com for more information and if you'd like a Influenster invitation!


Next up is my new favorite wine of the summer: Bully Hill Grower's Red. I had this at a friend's house over the spring and LOVED it, but forgot the name. Stumbled upon the bottle, which I did remember, and snatched it up. Now, it is rarely not in my fridge, unless I'm between grocery store trips. I'm not a big red wine drinker, but this mild and sweet wine just really hits the spot for some reason. I would looove to put it into a sangria, but I'd be afraid I'd mess up how perfect it is, so I just drink it plain.


If you're ever in Brattleboro, Amy's Bakery Arts Cafe is just the best place to stop for a snack. They always have the best pastries and their lunch menu is pretty impressive. I found myself wandering aimlessly around Brattleboro while I waited for my brother to be done at his internship, and decided to treat myself to a little pastry--cream puff, my favorite. Plus a nice glass of homemade lemonade. And the seating area has lovely large windows and you can watch the trains go by. It was a nice little date with myself for sure!


Moving on to Office Snacks! Blue Diamond's new Bold flavors are my new favorite snack. The spiciness is a great little kick, and it keeps me from craving less healthy foods during the day. My favorite is actually the lime and chili, but this one was on sale and is my second favorite anyway :) I could eat a whole tin in a sitting, so it's been very hard to portion out snack sizes and not just down the whole lot. So far, so good!


My friend Gilana (she's directing this play and if you live in the Northeast you should go to it, BTW) randomly picked these Real Veggie Chips up for me at her local co-op, because she knew my love of Sriracha... and because I was having a "quarter life crisis" day where I was freaking out about my life--happens often. Anyway, where the Lays Chips severely fell flat, these chips do amazingly. The Sriracha flavor is pronounced and the perfect kick of spice, and the veggie chip is a nice mild backup to the Sriracha. I love these and gobble them down when I want something spicy to dip in hummus or just eat by the handful. They are gluten free, low fat, AND low calorie, so I can snack to my heart's content!



Next up is this month's Ipsy haul! Ipsy is a beauty bag that costs $10/month and delivers full size and deluxe sample sized makeup to your door. I LOVE seeing that bright pink foil bag in my mail box each month, and chatting with other Ipsy users as to predictions for next month's bag. This was a GOOD month and I love all the products I got! Eye shadow, lipstick, SPF, anti-humidity spray for your hair (NOT hair spray), and TWO nail polishes. All for $10! Next to the bag is my face, with all the products, minus one nail polish. This curbs my makeup buying binges ($50 in one go at Sephora in my darkest days) and lets me try products before I buy the full size. I found my favorite hair product ever this way, and they even offer a steep discount if you buy a featured product. I have also tried Birchbox in the past, and while I liked getting products in the mail, the sample sizes were, on the whole, a lot smaller, because the products were more high-end. Meaning I was either upset at paying $10 for something I could get for free at a makeup counter, or I was upset that the full size product was out of my price range. Ipsy typically has less expensive brands, so I'm either excited to get makeup at a discount, or happy that I won't pay an arm and a leg for the full product. It's a win all around, I'm sticking with Ipsy!
Note: I spend my own $10 each month to get Ipsy, but clicking my referral link and signing up via my username referral will give me points towards free products. Sign up if here you'd like!


Recently, I went on a trip to Maine, which is where that photo at the verrry top is taken from. While wandering around Boothbay Harbor, I was roped into checking out the Coastal Maine Popcorn Company with promises of free samples. My first sample was this Dill Pickle flavor and I was just in LOVE. It perfectly captured the flavor of a dill pickle, I was in awe! I tried a few sweet flavors and one more savory before deciding on this as my take home. Now I wish I had more! I'd love to try my hand at making my own, I just am not sure where one would get powdered vinegar...


Also while hanging out in Boothbay, we got lobster rolls at Red's Eats! Apparently, they are famous for their lobster rolls, and are on every Maine Top 10 _____ list there is. I got the butter roll, because I really just wanted that butter and lobster flavor to shine! They aren't joking when they say there is more than a full lobster in each roll--the thing was OVERFLOWING. Next time I think I'd get the mayo version though, since I mostly just picked out the lobster pieces and dunked them in extra butter, not treating it like a lobster roll at all, hah. The fries were also lovely and perfectly crisp. The place was PACKED and the line was LONG, but we managed to find a table on the patio out back. It was a great lunch, and while I was sad I didn't consume a traditional lobster during my Maine getaway, this curbed my craving pretty well.

Finally, these potatoes.


When you're a self-proclaimed "good cook" and have a (hopefully!) forthcoming cook book, you tend to get volunteered to cook meals for friend gatherings. We were camping on a friend's relatives' backyard on an island in Maine and decided to only use their kitchen for brunch in order to be as undisturbing as possible to our hosts. Actually, I am pretty sure I volunteered myself for this endeavor, but after I put together these hash browns (or are they "breakfast potatoes"?) the first morning in Maine, it was decided I'd be making them again. I randomly threw them together in the midst of helping to make bacon and eggs for everyone, not using any sort of recipe, and they came out fantastic. So I had to share, even though I'd left my camera at home.

The pictures were from my phone, so they really don't do it justice. But, here's the recipe, just in case.

Ashley's Improv Hashbrowns
(Enough to feed 7 friends)

  • 1 package of bacon (for the grease!)
  • 5-8 large Russet potatoes, scrubbed and cubed
  • 3-5 tbs olive oil
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp assorted herbs (pick what ones you like best! Rosemary works amazingly well)
  • salt and pepper, a few good shakes

-Preheat oven to 350.

-Prepare the bacon and reserve all of the grease. Set bacon aside to eat with the rest of your breakfast--here I had poached eggs with Sriracha on a homemade oatmeal bread.

-Toss potatoes with olive oil and herbs. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet and pop into the oven for about 20 minutes, flipping the potatoes about halfway through. When done, potatoes should be fork-tender but not mushy.

-Heat the reserved bacon grease in a large skillet. In batches, fry the potatoes until crispy and drain in a bowl lined with paper towels. Serve immediately.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Strawberry Balsamic Vinagrette -- Heat Wave Salad


Inspired by my round-up of 30 Low-Heat Recipes to Survive a Heat Wave, I decided to post the recipe for this amazing salad which I threw together after I realized my Pintester Challenge dish was going to fall flat. Remember this beast?


Yeah. The pork? Not so tasty. Like really, if you haven't read about my Pork Debacle, go do so. I barely made it out alive. But the salad? Magnificent. It truly saved my dinner that night.

And this vinagrette?


Definitely on my rotation of homemade salad dressings forever now. It's amazing, and it's been over a week and it's still going strong. I think I'll toss it in the trash over the weekend, just to be safe, but since I'm so sporadic with my salads, it's good to know I can keep it around for a little while at least.

This is how Finn feels in the heat.

Thankfully, the heat wave is supposed to break on Sunday. This is a godsend--I'm really missing my oven. I love salads, but I get so sick of them so fast. And being able to walk around and actually ENJOY the sunshine, instead of leaping from shady spot to shady spot and still finding my makeup melted off by the time I reach my destination. Uncool.


Strawberry Balsamic Dressing

  • 5-8 large strawberries
  • 2 tbs sugar or honey
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 tbs balsamic vinegar, or more, to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • salt

-In a food processor (or hand-crank Pampered Chef Food Processor, like I have and love), puree the strawberries with the sugar and let sit for ten minutes.

-After ten minutes, add the remaining ingredients. Taste, and adjust ingredients to your liking. Store in the fridge in a lovely glass bottle. The olive oil may become viscous in the fridge, so when ready to use, allow to sit at room temp until liquid again. The dressing will last about a week and a half to two weeks if kept refrigerated.

For the salad: I used a spring mix from my Market Share haul from Kitchen Garden, boiled some golden beets (also from the share), then sliced them thin and added them to the salad with some bits of garlic scapes and goat cheese. Simple, delicious.

Note: If you happen to be lucky enough to NOT be in a heat wave right now, I imagine roasting the strawberries with a splash of balsamic before pureeing would be DIVINE. I will definitely try this next time.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Heat Wave Survival -- Roundup of No-Bake Recipes!


Hey guys! So, as some of you may know, the Northeast is experiencing a heat wave right now. I love Summer to the ends of the Earth and back--I feel like all winter I'm just counting the days until warmer weather--but even a self-proclaimed sun-worshiper can't quite thrive in 100 degree conditions. I am super grateful for my AC unit, courtesy of my parents who felt bad I was rigging up a wind tunnel with budget store fans in order to keep from sweating out my life, and my icebox of an office (seriously, they CRANK the AC up at work, I typically wear sweatshirts!), but venturing outside or into non-AC'd rooms of the house is a challenge. This means that I have absolutely no desire to turn on my oven. On Day 1 of the heat wave my boyfriend and I went out to a lovely dinner--which ended up costing about $60, after we succumbed to drinks and appetizers in addition to our meals, oops! At least the leftovers made a good lunch... Since neither of us had the money to continue to buy dinner this week (my bank account is angry at me and will be slightly in the negatives until pay day), we've been trying to make do with recipes that require the least amount of heat possible. For me, this means lots of salads from the goodies we picked up at the farmers market this weekend with our Market Share card.

I love salad, but I don't love salad 7 days a week. Next time, I knew I had to be prepared.

My blogger friends volunteered to help me in this quest, and I have rounded up the best recipes out of the bunch to share with you all! All involve minimal heat--either by using an outside grill (and running far away to cool off until it's done), a stove top, or a crock pot, which is quickly becoming my Kitchen VIP.


Enjoy :)

Salads
Buffalo Bleu Chicken Salad -- The Noble Pig
Asian-Inspired Chopped Salad -- Crumbs and Chaos
Bacon Farro Salad -- The Spiced Life
Waldorf-ish Chicken Salad with Chobani -- Cupcakes and Kale Chips
Spinach, Spaghetti & Mango Salad -- Cook the Story
Simple Chopped Salad -- Organized Island
Easy Chicken Salad Recipe -- The Culinary Life
Curried Quiona Salad -- The Culinary Life
Boston Blue Salad -- Modern Christian Homemaker
Indian Chickpea Yogurt Salad -- Healthy Slow Cooking
Grilled Vegetable Salad -- Delicious Dishings
Blood Orange Salad -- Quarter Life (Crisis) Cuisine

Main Courses
Hot Italian Giardiniera -- Healthy Delicious
Crock Pot Dr. Pepper Pulled Pork Sandwiches -- Cupcake Diaries
Teriyaki Chicken Skewers -- Cupcake Diaries
Watermelon Gazpacho -- The Tomato Tart
Slow Cooker Buffalo Macaroni and Cheese -- Snappy Gourmet
Fresh Spring Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce -- Fifteen Spatulas
Crockpot Beef Brisket with Balsamic Blackberry Sauce -- Lemons for Lulu
Open-faced Beet Sandwiches -- Farm Fresh Feasts
Maple Teriyaki Salmon Sushi -- Farm Fresh Feasts
Slow Cooker Baked Beans -- Quarter Life (Crisis) Cuisine
Fried "Rice" -- Quarter Life (Crisis) Cuisine
BBQ Chicken -- In the Kitchen with Jenny
Fresh Salmon Lettuce Wraps -- Prep2Eat

Desserts
Rosewater Parfaits -- Healthy Slow Cooking
Lemon Icebox Pie -- Cravings of a Lunatic
Fresh Mint Cookies and Cream Ice Cream -- A Dash and a Pinch
Birthday Cake Waffles -- Quarter Life (Crisis) Cuisine
Strawberry Mango Margaritas -- Quarter Life (Crisis) Cuisine
Instant Mini Cheesecakes -- The Christian Homemaker

Thanks to everyone who submitted round-up ideas! It was awesome to check out so many new blogs, and now I have a bunch of fun new recipes to try! Can I just say that Cravings of a Lunatic's Icebox pie is something I've been DYYING to try FOREVER? It's true. I'm glad she contributed it! This was a lot of fun and I'd love to do another one :) I'll announce the next one on my Facebook Page, so make sure you're following me if you'd like to participate!

In other news... somehow I was able to finagle tickets to Austin to visit a friend at the end of August! I am super excited. Foodie Friends: where should I visit? I am so excited to try tacos and BBQ, both of which I hear are excellent down there.

And be sure to look for my salad and dressing recipe, up next on the blog! :)

Monday, July 15, 2013

Goodbye Strawberry Season -- Strawberry Coconut Milk Ice Cream

In New England, certain things are far too short. Like Spring. Blink and you miss it, and the weather goes from bitter cold to sweltering hot almost over night. Strawberry Season, much like Spring, seems to pop up quickly and end just as fast, and soon the only thing you're left with is bland grocery store strawberries without the character and depth of flavor the fresh-off-the-bush variety can give. If you've never had a strawberry fresh off the bush, warmed by the sun, you're seriously missing out. 


My goal for June was to pick a whole flat of strawberries and teach myself how to make and can jam. That didn't happen this summer, unfortunately. It is now July and my grand strawberry aspirations did not pan out, and the fields are bare of strawberries for another year. The farmers markets are even running low. No jam, sigh. However, my lovely and wonderful boyfriend picked up TWO PINTS ($5 each, yikes!) at a farm stand somewhere in the middle of the season, and I was able to make one strawberry recipe for you all in that time.

After devouring an entire pint raw, that is. Isn't he the best?

However, the great thing about New England is that once one special crop has passed, and equally tasty one takes its place. Perhaps I'll have better luck with blueberry or raspberry season! And of course, I never let a fall pass without picking apples. It just cannot be done.


Strawberry Coconut Milk Ice Cream
  • 2 cans full fat coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 cups strawberries, rinsed and hulled
  • 3 tbs honey, more to taste (vegan: use maple syrup)
  • *I also used 2 egg yolks, but in retrospect because the liquid is not heated, you should probably avoid this*


-Put one can of coconut milk, upside down, in the fridge overnight. When ready to make your ice cream, skin the coconut cream out of the liquid--it should have collected at the top of the can. In a large bowl, combine cream with the other can of coconut milk (shaken to fully distribute the cream and water) and set aside.

-Use a food processor to chop the strawberries into small chunks. If smoother consistency is desired, puree. Mix in honey and let sit for 15 minutes to allow strawberries to release their sweetness. Taste, add more honey if desired.

-Combine coconut milk and strawberry mixture (add egg yolks here if you're feeling daring) and let chill in the fridge overnight.

-Make according to ice cream maker's instructions. Note: it will be perfect consistency right out of the machine, but once stored in the freezer it will freeze solid. However, microwaving on half power in increments of 40 seconds until soft will get it at perfect consistency again.

*You can leave the eggs out, I just threw them in there because the mixture was not thickening up as I had hoped.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Pintester Movement -- My Lackluster Pork Experience


This is not only the tale of how I stepped into the Pintester's shoes for a day, but of how I found myself face-down in spilled pork juice product while trying to salvage the remnants of an experiment gone horribly awry. enjoy!


When Sonja Foust, of Pintester.com, announced the Pintester Movement Challenge, I knew I had to join up. I read many, many blogs on a daily basis, but only a few bloggers qualify as a "Blog Hero" to me. Sonja is one of those people. She takes the Pinterest Pins we all see everywhere ("Easy!" "Three ingredients!" "Do it yourself!") and shows us how "easy" they really are--usually, she ends up with results that are a far cry from the pretty pictures we keep re-pinning. And with the snark and humor (and endless supply of penis-shaped crafts), it makes for one of the most entertaining reads you'll find on the internet.

The Challenge: Recreate one of the pins that Sonja has already tested. Because food is kinda my thing, obviously I was going to recreate one of her Food & Drink pintests. I needed something fairly cheap, easy, and that wouldn't totally go to waste. For whatever reason, I decided on Apple Cinnamon Slow Cooker Pork Loin.

Original Pin Pic from Here

This is weird, because I don't really like pork. I enjoy bacon, as does everyone, and pulled pork with BBQ is one of my favorite things. But ham? Gross. Pig Roasts? Like watching a horror movie. Ground pork? What would you even USE ground up little pig bits FOR, anyway? (oh, right, meatballs, but still!) Pork loin? Eh... I really want to like pork loin. I do! But each time I make it or get it somewhere, it's just disappointing. Dry, bland, meh. So, why I chose this pin is anyone's guess.

In true Pintester fashion, I cheated at the directions a little bit. Discovering that a pork loin was a whopping $11--too rich for my budget-blood--I opted for this pork steak type situation instead, which was Buy 1 get TWO free at the local grocery store. Why buy MORE pork when I'm ambivalent about it? I have no idea. I was caught up in the spirit of the Pintester Movement, I guess. And stupid tricks of advertising.

And, in what I feel is probably also Pintester fashion, I totally forgot about the deadline and ended up having to do this in a hurry. So, I woke up early that morning, pulled the ingredients from the fridge, made enough noise to thoroughly piss off my downstairs neighbors who already think I'm too noisy, and rushed the process. Upon returning home from work, a friend had promised me a Girls' Night of wine and movies and I was rushing to get the pork thing done and plated and photographed before I missed the boat on a night of wine. And, if you know me, you know I'm not one to pass up on wine.

When you're dealing with a fruit fly invasion,
a sippy cup is the safest place for your wine.

Sonja's review of the finished recipe stated that the pork was too bland, despite the apples and cinnamon. I decided to try and rectify this in my edits. If pork with apples is too bland, what would make it not so bland? I decided stuffing some cheese in there was a good start, and that brie with apples and cinnamon would be amazing. I threw in some other additions to try to jazz it up a bit as well.

"This will be DELICIOUS!" I said, cackling to myself. I imagined the Pintester herself giving me kudos for a job well done. My delusions of grandeur know no bounds. I am a Millennial, after all.

Pintester's original "results" From Pintester.com
The Testing:
Original Pin Source
Pintester's Test
Pintester Movement Page

Ingredients Suggested in Original Pin:
  • 3 pounds porkloin
  • 3 red delicious apples, sliced
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 1 cup red onion, sliced

Ingredients I used
  • 2 pork steaks (no idea what cut it was, sorry)
  • 2 golden apples
  • 4 slices of brie
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced
  • 1/2 cup red wine

I took the pork meat and sliced it in half, butterfly style. Next, I used a meat mallet to pound them down to a half inch thickness.


I placed four apple slices, a few onion slices, and two brie slices in each pork flap, sprinkled with cinnamon and brown sugar, and rolled them up. To ensure they would not unravel in the slow cooker, I used toothpicks to seal them closed. I think Sonja would make a penis joke here. Here, let me try...

I tried to make stuffed pork loin and instead made Pinhead's Penis.
Ehh?

Anyway... I sprinkled them with more cinnamon and sugar, then put in the pot with the remaining ingredients. The wine was an afterthought--I knew that slow cookers relied on liquid to cook the food, and I doubted the apples would provide enough, so I threw in the wine and some water. In retrospect, something sweeter (juice, applesauce) would have been a better option. Then I set the slow cooker to low, and went to work for the day, to return 8 hours later to a pork dinner that would change my feelings forever about "the other white meat"!


But when I came home and peeked inside my 80s-era crockpot that my mom had let me borrow and I've refused to return (because it is AWESOME), I discovered that the pork had adhered itself into this pork ball thing. Assuming this meant it wasn't done, I turned the entire mass over, put the crock on high and waited one more hour.

This time when I attempted to remove the pork from the slow cooker, it fell apart. The cooker was filled with what looked like soup, and the smell was not very appetizing. I hoped it tasted better than it looked.

Pork. Mess.

...it didn't. The pork had dried out too much--possibly because of that extra hour on high--there was far too much liquid, and the brie had melted into oblivion. I had a passing thought that the watery mess in the crock pot could be reduced to a sauce, but the unappetizing smell convinced me this was not going to happen. I whipped up a quick salad (roasted golden beets over field greens with goat cheese and strawberry balsamic dressing) so that dinner wouldn't be a total waste, and went to take pictures of the mess anyway. I discovered that if I ate the dry meat with a bit of the salad dressing and the brie, it was edible. Also pairing it with a big glass of gin punch didn't hurt.

Toothpicks and pork--the meat that bites back.

And this is where I fell square on my face and hard onto my right leg. While transporting the pork mess to my dining room to photograph, apparently some of the soup-juice-runoff had fallen off the plate and my tread-bare sandals slipped out from under me and I fell face-first into my floor. I pulled myself up, amid some colorful language, and photographed my sad creation.

So, despite my best efforts, this pin-test was a fail on multiple fronts. I think I need to give up on pork loin and accept that some pins simply cannot be saved, despite your best intentions.

Overall, it actually was a fun challenge and I'm glad I participated, despite the large bruise slowly growing on my keecap. I hope to do another one in the future, though this time I might try a baked good instead, and I (probably) won't make the mistake of rushing it again!