Thursday, March 18, 2010

It's a Planter!

I need to develop a green thumb so I have an excuse to own such a wonderfully unnecessary planter as this.

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Earl Grey, my all time favorite kind of tea, in Cupcake form - a no brainer!

I'm not sure when my obsession with Earl Grey tea started, but tea time in my apartment at school is a regular ritual morning, noon and night and I have had the opportunity to try a lot of different teas. Earl Grey is the only tea that I can ask my parents for because no matter whether it's made by Twinings, Bigelow or Celestial Seasonings, I know it will be wonderful. Essence of bergamot was a big mystery to me for a while, I couldn't quite place the flavor, but with a little research I learned bergamot is a citrus fruit in between a lemon and a grapefruit. In fact, Lady Grey tea is almost exactly the same as Earl Grey except it also has lemon added. Bergamot is also used in perfumes and soaps - right next to jasmine as one of my favorite scents. With so much passion for tea, and having just made guiness cupcakes, I am determined that my next baking project will contain earl grey. How lucky for me this recipe was in April's Food Network Magazine...

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St.Patty's Day means Guiness, but when you're under 21 it means Guiness Cupcakes

Also from the food network, I stumbled upon this recipe when looking for Irish recipes other than beef hash and braised cabbage or whatever it is called. I did not realize it would make so many (30 cupcakes in all), so I sent some with my boyfriend to his work. I am told they were devoured early this morning.

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St. Patty's Day means eating green food even if it is only remotely Irish

The food network had a whole article in their last issue about green food for St. Patrick's Day - green ravioli, green shrimp, green drinks and green grilled cheese. Originally, I thought the "Irish" grilled cheese would be a good appetizer before the rosemary roated potatoes were ready, but I was so full after eating two sandwiches I could barely eat the dessert (Chocolate Guiness Cupcakes- my next post). In the interest of not overeating, I am going to cut down the recipe to serve 1 person.

1/2 Tbsp chives
1/2 Tbsp parsley
1/2 Tbsp scallions
1 Tbsp butter, softened
2 slices white bread
Irish Cheddar Cheese
Bread and Butter Pickles

Mix the softened butter and three types of herbs together. Cover the inside of the bread in butter and layer on cheese and pickles. Once the cheese is melted and the toast grilled to perfection, melt more herb butter on the outside and serve!

These sandwiches were so delicious, but all the butter made me a little uncomfortable. If too much fat has that effect on you too, try using less butter, healthier butter or pam butter spray to grill them.
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Frying Food Attempt #1

       My first attempt at frying food was a parmesan crusted tilapia. First, the fish is covered in egg and then it is coated in flour and parmesan cheese. Before I knew what I was doing, I mixed the flour and egg together and couldn't understand why it was such a goopy mess (see the fillet in the back of the picture - uh huh not very pretty). I had to read the directions like five or ten times to figure out my mistake but the second one turned out much better. Not sure if I actually want to learn how to fry chicken or leave it to Colonel Sanders.
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Monday, March 8, 2010

Drool! Part II

You guessed it, these are all the same item rearranged into a cake stand, a party platter, a dessert tray and a punch bowl! How can you not love it?!?

Sunday, March 7, 2010

A bag of this, a tub of that, a can of this...

Friday was Spinach Artichoke dip day and it was way delicious! I noticed that almost all the ingredient measures are based on the commercially available size, not what actually produces the best taste. Why is 1 8 oz tub of cream cheese the correct amount? Why not 6 oz or 7 oz? I will have to experiment with less cheese and see if it tastes the same. The one alteration I did make is use half the sour cream and it didn't seem to make much difference!
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Urban Inspiration

Clearly this book at Urban Outfitters is aimed at College Students...

Friday, March 5, 2010

Happy Hour at Home

My absolute favorite College Park bar food is the Spinach Artichoke dip from Santa Fe Cafe. It comes out of the back piping hot and still bubbling, very green but also very cheesy and you cannot taste any one flavor or tell how they make such a wonderful creation. The pita gets gobbled up quickly and then only the salty tortilla chips are left... maybe I am the only one who notices but the fatty, cheesiness of the dip with the salty chips is just a little too much. 
Flashback to last Tuesday...perusing the aisles of my favorite Bethesda grocery store and I see a can of artichoke hearts calling my name. My phone is dead and I have no idea what is in spinach artichoke dip but I know that I have to make it. 
Flashforward to this morning...I go to the convenience store, recipe in hand, and am so grateful they actually have sour cream, hot sauce, whole wheat pita and shredded mozzarella. If only they had a beautiful plate for me to serve it on:
When my food looks like this, I will be satisfied. 

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Easy, Healthy, Quick Meals - Part I

Before I came to college, I had already tried many different kinds of "veggie burgers". My family ate Boca Burger's, Gardenburgers and Dr.Praeger's California Burgers. My Dad even puts them in his grilled chicken sandwiches to get extra veggies in his diet. Consequently, I feel somewhat qualified to say that these are real tasty, especially when cooked in a George Foreman Grill, covered in melted provolone cheese and served in/on your favorite form of bread (today, I used Naan). 
After talking a lot about people in college who "don't cook", I hope I can give people some ideas or inspiration to take simple steps towards eating healthy. These are really great because they can be frozen for later...I am going to find out how long they stay good in the refrigerator. 

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

When you have lemons, make Lemon Bars!

No meal is complete without a little dessert, and for my spaghetti and meatball dinner there was a whole lot of dessert! A 9" x 13" cake pan full of lemon bars was enough dessert for probably 10-15 people! Well, maybe 10-15 girls...3 grown men could wolf them down pretty easily! I don't own a food processor, so after beating the crust batter with an electric mixer, I just molded it together with my hands until it had the consistency almost of cookie dough. It was actually really easy for me, but I am starting to realize that maybe some of my projects are no longer what I would consider beginner baking... I guess I forget what it was like to never know what they want or what it was supposed to look like. It means I have improved, but that this blog may no longer be just a college-age girl struggling to figure out how to cook. It may actually be about sharing a passion for cooking that is increasing everyday with every new ingredient or recipe that comes my way. 
On the other hand, making this big meal on Sunday was truly exhausting. Waiting for everything to cook so I could put the next thing in the oven, worrying about times and temperatures... it was a little stressful. I hope in the future I can plan my meals better so that both dinner and dessert do not require the use of the oven - even though it is by far my favorite kitchen appliance. That I even have a favorite kitchen appliance! It is such a change from a year ago when most of the meals I ate were at the Campus Dining Hall and I thought I was doing well when I cooked pasta in a hot pot and sauteed vegetables from the salad bar. In the past few weeks, I have been doing a lot of reflecting on my cooking and it really has become a major hobby of mine - I love experimenting with food in my free time, but also sharing food with others and learning how to accommodate everyone's dietary needs and desires. If I could find a meal that would satisfy vegetarians, avoid allergies, be kosher and most of all be healthy. It probably doesn't exist...

Wow I got way excited for a second there...I need to calm down about food...

Monday, March 1, 2010

Scrumptious Spaghetti, Melt-in-your-Mouth Meatballs

I made these unique meatballs along with some classic lemon bars for an early dinner with my roommate's friend. She is a journalism major and wanted to interview me about this blog and my cooking. I'm not sure how I look on camera, but maybe I will post the 90 second segment she ends up producing. The meatballs got a lot of complements and required little preparation. (
I was glad that dinner was so low-effort after squeezing 8 lemons and baking up the crust for the lemon bars. Once I sprinkle powdered sugar on top, I will post pictures.
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Drunken Risotto - A delicious first meal for the hubby's new house :)

After reading so many other blogs and recipes online I can't help but adopt the use of the word "hubby". I often read reviews that read like, "made this Sunday night, hubby didn't like it, probably won't make it again." Well, if I was writing a review of this Rachel Ray recipe (will try to post it), I would have to write, "made this last friday, hubby had seconds and thirds, will definitely repeat."

3 cups dry red wine
2 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
3/4 pound bulk Italian sweet or hot sausage
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
Salt and pepper
1/3 pound spinach leaves, stemmed and chopped (about 2 cups)
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup grated pecorino-romano cheese

In a large saucepan, combine the wine and chicken stock; keep warm over a low flame.
In a large, heavy pot, heat the EVOO, 2 turns of the pan, over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook, crumbling the meat, until browned, about 2 minutes. Add the onion and garlic and cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Stir in the rice and season with salt and pepper. Add the warm wine-stock mixture a couple of ladlefuls at a time, stirring vigorously after each addition and letting the liquid evaporate before adding more, cooking the risotto for 18 minutes.
In the last 5 minutes of cooking, stir in the spinach, a handful at a time, to wilt. Stir in the nutmeg. In the last minute of cooking, stir in the butter, then the cheese.