December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

tree pic 1

Hello everyone! I wanted to make sure to pop by and wish you all a very, very Merry Christmas. I hope it has been a day filled with love, yummy food, and plenty of fun presents. Now, with my greetings properly conveyed, I’ll let us both get back to munching the leftover cookies for Santa.

Merry Christmas!!

December 21, 2011

Peppermint Semifreddo

semifreddo 3

Are you guys aware that I am obsessed with peppermint? If you had any way of perusing the bookmarks on my web browser, you would see definite evidence of it, thanks to the endless barrage of pepperminty holiday recipes that are cluttering my hard drive. White chocolate peppermint mochas have been my go-to Starbucks drink for the past month, most often accompanied by a peppermint brownie cake pop. After I finish consuming those, I pop peppermint Altoids like there's no tomorrow. And then I go home and make peppermint semifreddo, because that's a totally normal thing to do.

candy canes 1

Maaaaybe I'm exaggerating a bit, but there's no doubt that peppermint is my favorite flavor of the Christmas-y season this year. I went through an odd pumpkin streak last year, and a gingerbread one before that, but I think peppermint is going to be a perennial favorite. Which gives me the perfect opportunity to chat with you about peppermint semifreddo and all it's creamy wonders.

December 12, 2011

Gingerbread Waffles

waffles 3
Have you ever had trouble getting into the Christmas spirit? Like when you’re stuck in line at the mall and you hear “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” playing over the intercom one too many times. The teenagers standing in front of you seem physically incapable of lowering their voices below 130 decibels and the toddler behind you keeps coughing its powerful kiddie germs all over your coat. Your forehead starts to perspire, and maybe you get a bit of an eye twitch. All of a sudden, holiday cheer seems like a distant memory of brighter, happier days.

Before I continue on with my story I have to say the aforementioned scenario did not actually happen to me. Well, it hasn’t happened to me all at once, thank the little Christmas angels. But I do hate “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” with a fiery passion.

December 3, 2011

My First Cooking Video

Ah, the things I will do for a chance at a year’s supply of kimchi.

Like the title says, dear readers, this is my very first cooking video. Featuring a delicious recipe for Bulgogi Tacos, this video is an entry into the Kimchi Chronicles video contest, which is offering up prizes dealing with some of my most favorite things—dramas and food. After reading that this contest offered the chance for a year’s premium subscription to DramaFever, as well as a host of Korean food-related prizes, I knew that I had to give this video a try.

The rules simply stated that to enter all you had to do was create a video of yourself making one of the many yummy recipes from the Kimchi Chronicles cookbook. Seeing as my love for Korean food is growing bigger and bigger day by day, I leapt at the opportunity to participate in this contest. The recipe I chose—Bulgogi Tacos—is especially unique in that it combines all the amazingness that is Korean food and marries it with some excellent Mexican flavors as well. Seeing as I’m already a Mexican food fanatic, I thought that this recipe would be a great way to show a bit of who I am and what I love for my video entry.

After a year and a half of anonymous blogging, I hope you guys will enjoy finally having a face to place with the food pictures and geeking out over cheese. So, without further ado, here’s my first cooking video!

November 28, 2011

Thanksgiving Snippets

Since it has now been several days since Thanksgiving, I thought it might finally be time to chat a little bit about what went on at my own celebration. I didn’t want to start blogging pictures the night of because all of you who celebrated the holiday as well were probably just as stuffed as I was. With all the food and commotion, I believe that Thanksgiving is one of those major holidays that we need some time to process. So, since everyone has had plenty of time to digest and eat as many leftovers as possible, let’s treat this series of snippets as a kind of Thanksgiving victory lap.

Obviously, to start off with one of the most important dishes of Thanksgiving, I present you with our turkey. Rather than go the traditional route, this year I opted to try an Adobo Turkey with Red Chile Gravy from Gourmet. Thanks to a deep, savory blend of ancho and guajillo chiles in both the marinade and the gravy, this turkey really amped up the warm, comforting vibe of Thanksgiving. Not to mention the fact that my family practically inhaled it within the immediate 24 hours surrounding that day.

turkey

November 16, 2011

Risotto-Stuffed Sweet Dumpling Squash

squash 1

You know how Superman's only weakness is kryptonite? While I'm not well-versed in superhero lore, I know enough to be pretty sure that there's nothing Superman can do to overcome that substance's power. Whenever the bad guy whips out the kryptonite, you know things are going to get bad. There's no escaping it--kryptonite trumps Superman.

Risotto is my sister's kryptonite.

It was one of the first things that I made back when I really became interested in cooking. Due to its exposure to my little sister's psyche at a relatively young age, she can't get enough of it. At least that’s my theory. It's a perennially requested birthday dish for her and whenever there's a pot of rich, creamy risotto bubbling away on the stove, she can smell it for miles.

I really should've warned the poor kid before making this, though. Rather than stirring together a batch of regular, basic risotto, this time I added portobello mushrooms, asparagus, pancetta, heavy cream, and extra Parmesan. And then stuffed it all in some of the most delicious squash I've ever tasted.

October 30, 2011

Homemade Peanut Butter Cups

trick or treat peanut butter cup

And this is why I love fall.

Fall is the only time of the entire year that is practically solely devoted to food, starting with Halloween. It’s like the inaugural sugar rush to set you up for Thanksgiving and Christmas’s treats to come. A quick holiday to stretch your tummy muscles for occupying the absolute feasting of the next two months. Whoever decided to create a holiday that completely centers itself on the consumption of candy was really onto something.

chocolate fill 1

An incentive such as Halloween seems like the perfect excuse for making homemade peanut butter cups. Smooth little tidbits of chocolate filled with creamy, sugary peanut butter encapsulate all of my favorite candylicous flavors. Not to mention how simple they are to make. Requiring only a handful of everyday staples, these peanut butter cups are great for throwing together when you want a quick munchie and have already eaten all the packaged Halloween candy in your house.

peanut butter add

Can we just take a moment to drool over this chocolate?

pouring chocolate 2

I got a few bars of Scharffen Berger on sale at the grocery store and they have been beyond amazing—so creamy and so smooth!

But, chocolate geekery aside, homemade peanut butter cups are pretty darn awesome. No doubt your house is currently filled to the brim with all shapes and sizes of candy, waiting for oodles of trick or treaters to come bang their candy-coated hands on your front door (unless you live in a neighborhood of octogenarians like I do). What I’m saying is, take a couple minutes to make a batch of these goodies just for yourself. Nothing looks worse than a grown adult wrestling the last Snickers from the hands of a tiny Batman.

peanut butter cup 3

Head over to the fabulous Brown-Eyed Baker for the recipe.

October 12, 2011

Black Bean Hummus

hummus 1

Do you know what I find terrifying?

Like Halloween-level super scary?

More frightening than accidentally watching one of those ghosty shows on the History Channel?

One thing.

A world without beans.

hummus 2

Black beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, cannellini beans—I love them all.

Do you know what else is fabulous?

Hummus.

Because it contains beans.

hummus 3

This black bean hummus goes so far beyond merely substituting black beans for chickpeas. Between the cilantro, lime, cumin, garlic, and jalapeño, this is one of those things that goes from tasty to addictive within a single bite. You can get all healthy with it and pair the hummus with carrot and celery sticks. There’s toasted pita, or perhaps spreading it in a tortilla to help give a normal burrito a flavorful kick. It’s great with chips, if a simple bean dip vibe is what sounds yummy, and that’s really just the beginning of all the marvelous ways you can enjoy this gorgeous stuff.

It’s also insanely delicious licked straight off the spoon at two in the morning.

Um…or so I’ve been told.

Grab the recipe at Cooking Light.

October 1, 2011

Shrimp and Coconut Soup

soup 1

Hiya kiddos!

Remember me? The person who writes this blog?

You know those times when you plan to do something in an hour, but you look up and it’s a week later? That’s what has been happening to me lately in the realm of yummy blog posts. I’ll cook something on the weekend, take tons of photos, and all of a sudden it’s Monday and I have to do responsible things like get an education, have a job, be a functioning member of society, blah, blah, blah. So then it happens that my hard drive gets full of cute pictures and tasty recipes that take forever to see the light of day, which is no way to run a blog.

So, even though I’m surrounded by “important” things like homework and tests, I wanted to leave you with a delicious recipe to tide you over for a few days until I can put together a real post.

soup 4

Fun fact: I just spelled “important” as “importante” because I finished taking a Spanish for Business test about two minutes ago. We’ve been learning about la estructura de empresas, la gerencia, la Administración por Objetivos, y los diferentes estilos de gerencia entre los paises hispanohablantes y norteamericanos.

I’m only showing off because I think I did well on the test.

Watch me end up getting a 60%.

Anyway, this soup/noodly business is so full of yum that I can’t hardly stand it. There’s coconut milk, which is undoubtedly one of the top ten greatest ingredients ever. There’s pretty pops of orange carrots and green onions. There’s noodles. There’s curry powder. There’s shrimp.

Sound good? Give it a try. My family inhaled this in about five minutes flat.

September 22, 2011

Asparagus, Peas, and Basil

final greens

Are you an overachiever?

If so, this dish is for you.

Oh, and ignore that piece of olive-y, lemon-y fish in that photo. Really, just avert your eyes.

Full of green things like asparagus, peas, green onions, and basil, this yummy side dish is an incredible combination of healthy and delicious. While we have come to expect different foods or preparation methods to be healthy, we don’t tend to view them as particularly tasty. Plenty of tempting munchies surround us on a daily basis, but they’re usually fried, iced, or basted in butter.

Makes for happy tummies, but not happy arteries.

So, when I come along and announce that a dish can be both delicious and healthy, I can see how it might seem too good to be true. Believe me, though, it is. True, I mean. Like any overachiever, I simply couldn’t be satisfied with just one or the other. Yum-osity and health-osity are two things that can go hand in hand.

Let me break it down…

Asparagus. Healthy? Check. Yummy? Check.

raw asparagus

Basil. Oh-ehm-gee, all kinds of good.

basil and green onions

Green onions. Yes.

green onion

Peas. Like little green pearls of nom.

peas

Here’s where the buttery stuff (and a bit of olive oil) does come in. If there was absolutely none of it, this simply wouldn’t work. I don’t want to scare you guys, after all.

melting butter

sauteing onions

asparagus saute

saute peas

basil add

There’s also a sprinkle of cheese. Yummy yummy Romano cheese, which does all kinds of awesome stuff with these veggies.

grating cheese

You see? We’ve put so many healthy, good ingredients in that pan, paired with moderate amounts of indulgent yummies, that it really creates a perfect side dish. Serve it with any sort of entrée and you’ve got a great meal. Not to mention that it’s a cinch to put together.

Let’s review (because that’s what nerds like to do): Healthy. Delicious. Easy. Quick.

Major, major overachievement. Give it a try!

September 13, 2011

Brown Butter Banana Bread

banana bread 1

Ah, the alliteration!

I had to get that off my chest. Despite my love of bookish matters, I promise not to spend an entire post acting like the literary devices fangirl that I am. Some of you like-minded readers would undoubtedly think it was the greatest grouping of words the English language has ever seen, but some of you would immediately groan and exit the page, causing you to miss out on the glorious beauty that is Brown Butter Banana Bread. Therefore, today I shall set my obsessions aside for chocolate chips and the greater good.

banana bread 5

This batch of soft, yummy banana bread was born out of a truly frightening experience that befell me this past weekend…I had no butter. For two and a half days this recipe lingered in my mind, filling my head with thoughts of nutty, brown butter, gently sweet bananas, and pops of chocolate chips.

I was taunted by the bunch of perfectly overripe bananas sitting on my kitchen counter, knowing that for each day I let them linger, they were cultivating countless hidden bruises to spite me. When the day finally arrived that butter once again entered my house, I peeled them with more than a little trepidation. As someone who had never tried to make banana bread with darkly speckled, super ripe bananas before, I mentally prepared myself for the inevitable hideous surprise awaiting me.

banana bread 4

But there was no hideous surprise awaiting me. Underneath the mottled peels of those bananas there was nothing but soft, smushy, blemish-free fruit. In an instant, they were mashed into pureed perfection.

I was more flabbergasted than when I passed Chemistry class.

As of this moment, I am officially a believer in the ripe banana method. I will distribute flyers and wear a badge. I will create a school club for it and hand out banana bread samples at freshman orientation. Where I used to scoff at the idea and wrinkle my nose at the unattractive banana peels, I now understand what so many people have been talking about. It really does make the whole process delightfully easy.

And like I said before, there’s brown butter and chocolate chips.

banana bread 2

Grab the recipe over at Joy the Baker. All I did differently was swap the strawberries for chocolate chips. If my strawberries hadn’t gone bad, I wouldn’t have changed a thing, because this business is yumsville all around.

September 5, 2011

Grilled Vegetable Tostadas

tostada 3
That photo of a veggie tostada makes me so happy. Perhaps it’s the festive colors, perhaps it’s the underlying knowledge that it’s incredibly healthy, perhaps it’s just a projection of my contented mood, but there’s something so lovely about a fresh, beautiful vegetable tostada.

salsa stir
Looking at that delicious blend of hearty, grilled vegetables and light punches of salsa and feta really reflects how I feel about this fall semester. Yes, I’m assigning emotions to to a pile of grilled veggies. Food blogger, remember?

If you’re a regular reader, you will know from my last post that I was getting a bit overwhelmed and more than a bit busy with all the recent changes in my schedule. I’m happy to say that now, almost two weeks into the school year, I’m really getting into the groove of things. There’s still a boatload of responsibilities between college, work, blogging, and the like, but I now suddenly find myself enjoying this level of activity. Rather than lazy days of summer, where the biggest obstacle of the day was doing some laundry and convincing myself that running is a fun form of exercise, having deadlines and due dates and projects has helped me reestablish a pleasant sense of structure to my days.

veggie layout
Now, before I sound too enthusiastic, I have to admit that this weird, peppy, “yay-more-homework!,” sort of concept does not always fit with my regular personality. Over the past two weeks, one of the hardest things that I’ve had to learn—something that I’ve struggled with throughout my years of schooling—is the art of balance. I’m sure there’s more than a few of you out there who agree with me on this, but I’m the sort of person who loves nothing more than having every chore finished, every assignment turned in, every project complete and ready to go. It is then that I feel like I can finally relax and do things that I enjoy.

grilling green onions
While this technically sounds like a wonderful version of reality, it’s also one that I’ve had to accept does not normally exist. Whether it’s with school or work, there is always going to be a stream of things that need to be done and there will always be another task that you feel like you should be doing. In the past, I had tried different methods to remedy this predicament, from blazing through hours of homework only to find myself exhausted and burnt out, to completing a tidbit of work and then returning to the cozy comfort of my Netflix queue. As you can imagine, neither method works well. As it turns out, balance is best and compartmentalization is key.

See that college-level vocab? Two weeks in and I’m smarter already.

grilling mushrooms
Vegetable tostadas figure into this idea of balance as well. If you just ate grilled veggies, the dish would feel heavy and flat. If you chose to subsist on salsa and feta cheese, well, that would be delicious, but surely such a concentration of cheesy sodium and lime acids would be ill-advised. You’d get all bloated and need to use ultra-sensitive toothpaste to deal with the enamel erosion. My point is, this dish, much like practically everything else in the world, is best when there’s a balance.

grilling zucchini
When you’ve got your priorities in order and there’s an equal amount of work and play, good things come along with it. You’re able to go with the flow and enjoy periods of productivity and relaxation. You’re able to find a bunch of Zumba videos on YouTube that make exercise more fun and you get to eat more chocolate chip cupcakes as well. You’re able to combine the healthy nutrition of portobello mushrooms, zucchini, and green onions with the equally healthy mixture of fresh tomato salsa and pungent cubes of cheese. You feel good, you look good, and you’re taking care of business. It really doesn’t get better than that.

tostada 1

August 29, 2011

Daring Bakers’ Challenge: Truffles and Candies

pate 1

The above photo of strawberry paté de fruits looks entirely normal and would lead you to believe that this challenge went off without a hitch.

This is not the truth.

Much like my first Daring Bakers’ Challenge a year ago today, this challenge was a hot mess.

strawberries pre processed

Before we go into details, let me tell you a little bit about this challenge. The August 2011 Daring Bakers’ Challenge was hosted by Lisa of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives and Mandy of What the Fruitcake?!. These two sugar mavens challenged us to make sinfully delicious candies. This was a special challenge for the Daring Bakers because the good folks at http://www.chocoley.com offered an amazing prize for the winner of the most creative and delicious candy.

August 22, 2011

Salsa de Piña Asada con Habanero: Roasted Pineapple Salsa with Habanero

salsa 2

Salsaholism [sahl-sah-hawl-ism]

- Noun.

1. A condition characterized by the excessive and compulsive consumption of salsa to the point that it interferes with a person’s health and ability to function in day-to-day life. Signs of this disorder include, but are not limited to, disappearance of tortilla chips, cilantro-induced separation anxiety, and unusually ferocious protection of pineapples, mangoes, tomatoes, and the like. Side-effects of salsaholism are generally manifested in one or more of the following conditions: panting; water-gulping; salty, tortilla chip lips; and an unreasonable amounts of happy-dancing. While it is possible to cure salsaholism through intense cognitive behavioral therapy involving a series of whistles, chili peppers, and short track speed skating, most sufferers of salsaholism, or salsaholics, are notoriously resistant to treatment and will regularly refuse to admit that they have a problem. Above all else, salsaholics should be kept away from any combination of the following ingredients:

Roasted pineapple, as the tempting amalgamation of sweet and spicy is simply too much for even non-salsaholics to bear.

pineapple 1

Red onion, due to its festive purple color, which lures potential salsaholics into a false sense of security.

red onions

Habanero peppers, because it is their kryptonite.

habaneros

Cilantro, for its fresh flavor and hypnotizing beauty.

cilantro

salsa mix

When the aforementioned ingredients are mixed together, along with a squirt of fresh lime juice and a pinch of kosher salt, the tasty results are too much for even the most serious salsaholics to withstand. In order to avoid finding the salsaholic crouched in a corner, shoveling chip-fulls of pineapple-habanero glory into their greedy mouths, and fiercely hissing at passers-by, family members and loved ones are advised to keep salsaholics away from this blog post at all costs.

salsa 3

Oh…wait. You’re a salsaholic, aren’t you?

Okay, okay, okaaaay…you are not a salsaholic and you do not have a problem.

I agree, you can stop eating salsa any time you want.

But yeah, you’re totally right. Roasted pineapple salsa with habanero sounds like a great snack.

I’ll grab the bowl, you grab the chips?

chip dip

August 15, 2011

Daring Cooks’ Challenge: Appam and Chicken Kerala

curry 5

Can you believe it?! I’m finally back into the groove with the Daring Cooks and Daring Bakers challenges. After hit-and-miss spring and nonexistent summer attempts, I’ve kicked things back in gear and I’m ready to get cooking.

This month’s challenge was hosted by Mary, a lovely blogger and longtime member of the Daring Kitchen challenges. Mary, who writes the delicious blog, Mary Mary Culinary was our August Daring Cooks’ host. Mary chose to show us how delicious South Indian cuisine is. She challenged us to make Appam and another South Indian/Sri Lankan dish to go with the warm flat bread.

coconut milk

When I saw that our entire challenge revolved around Indian food, I knew things were going to get fun. Despite my love of almost all foods and all cuisines, I’m especially fanatical about Indian food. Whether it’s the complex mixtures of aromatic spices, the satisfyingly hearty array of flat breads, or the incredible diversity of dishes and cultures spreading across the subcontinent, India and its food have always held a special place in my heart.

With this challenge, the Daring Cooks were assigned to make Appams, a type of South Indian flat bread consisting mostly of rice, yeast, and coconut milk. Along with that, we also had to make any type of South Indian or Sri Lankan dish to serve with the appams. For me, this dish was the delicious Chicken Kerala.

appam spatula

However, before I go off skipping through the fields, singing songs of curry-love, we first need to discuss the process of making appams. As much as I hate to generalize this tasty form of flat bread, I have to say that it actually tastes very similar to hot grits—except in thin, crepe-like form, made with rice instead of cornmeal. What definitely does make appams completely unique is the method of preparation, which proved to be both easy and daunting.

First, it’s a question of soaking about 1 1/2 cups of uncooked rice overnight. The next day, that rice gets drained and whirled through a blender or food processor until smooth. To that pureed rice, one adds a mixture of yeast, sugar, and water—giving it all another quick buzz through the blender/food processor/Magic Bullet until smooth. Yet again, this mixture sits overnight at room temperature, allowing the yeast to do its work and allowing the mixture to slightly ferment. The next day, this concoction is combined with coconut milk and salt, then cooked in a pan much in the way you’d cook crepes—pour, swirl, etc. After that, it’s simply a question of how many can you eat with how much Chicken Kerala before you’re too full to move.

appam 3

Now, I can’t gloss over things and avoid telling you about the few mishaps I encountered on my way to appam-licious glory. At first, it was challenge enough to muster the patience to take the 48+ hours to bring this dish to fruition. In my previous skimming of the challenge recipe earlier in the month, I neglected to spot the second overnight resting/rising time for the dough—an unhappy surprise, but one that was overcome.

Also, I think I’ve led you to believe that it’s easy to perfect that whole “pour, swirl, cook” technique for cooking the appams. Truly, it took me almost the whole bowl of batter before I hit my stride with the process. Initially, I would pour a small ladle of batter into the pan and it would immediately solidify and stick, foiling all of my attempts at graceful batter-swirling. Buzzing it with an immersion blender solved that problem quite nicely, helping to further liquefy the rice bits. I also discovered that it worked better for me to cook them over medium-low heat, rather than over medium-high heat. As far as quick cooking goes, I don’t have those kind of reflexes.

curry 2

If the task of making appams now suddenly sounds scary and insurmountable to you, please take heart. Eating a savory and subtly sweet appam with a bowl of spicy chicken and potato curry is more than enough reward. Seriously, this Chicken Kerala, with its familiar blend of ginger, garlic, and chili, along with the creaminess of coconut milk and the bright punch of fresh cilantro, was the perfect accompaniment for this challenge’s appams.

It was also the perfect accompaniment for my lunch, snack, and dinner all in one day.

curry 6

If you’d like to give the appam recipe a try or learn more about the challenge, take a peek at the info packet from the Daring Kitchen website.

If you’d like to make a tasty pot of Chicken Kerala, look no further…


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