Sunday, January 22, 2012

comfort and joy

Winter has finally decided to grace us with her presence, and we have snow of the ground! 

the view from my bedroom window

But busy girls like us can't just sit around all day waiting for a nice winter soup to cook, so Sanne decided there was no better time to test drive her brand new crock pot, a gift from friends Rita and Michael. We pulled together the winteriest ingredients we could think of and left the crock pot on low while we took a trip to Ikea.

Carrots and potatoes, of course...

Celery, which Sanne is finally warming up to...

...some garlic and onions...

swiss chard, a can of stewed tomatoes (+ juice), some homemade chicken stock, thyme, sage, s+p, drained and rinsed garbanzo beans cooked while we shopped.

When we got home, we added a package of Trader Joe's harvest grains and cooked for another 20 minutes.

THEN the real fun started. The other day on smitten kitchen, Deb made salted caramel sauce. I immediately sent the link to Sanne; she had made some of her brownies a few nights ago and we were talking about how great they would be with salted caramel in them. So tonight on the way home, we grabbed some chocolate ice cream on which to put this magical salted caramel sauce.

She followed SK's directions exactly...

SO EASY! I've copied and pasted SK's directions, but you should check out the link, too. Her pictures are gorgeous, and she makes crepes for her sauce.

You will need: 
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter (or, salted but ease up on the sea salt)Two pinches flaked or fine sea salt1/3 cup heavy cream

Make syrup: Melt the sugar over medium to moderately high heat in a larger pot than you think you’ll need–at least two quarts, whisking or stirring the sugar as it melts to ensure it heats evenly. Cook the liquefied sugar to a nice copper color. Add the sea salt and butter and stir until the butter melts. Lower the heat and slowly drizzle in the heavy cream, whisking the whole time. The sauce will foam and hiss; just ignore it and whisk until the sauce is smooth. Set aside until needed. Store in the fridge for up to a week. Rewarm gently to thin it out. 

Oh, and I picked up this espresso maker for $20. And a milk frothier for $5. So along with our pure sugar dessert, we had lattes. Yep, we did.

And they were awesome.

So between tonight's meal + dessert, Friday's Chic-fil-a + movie, and yesterday's big breakfast and chicken quesadillas, it's been a pretty scrumptious weekend. 
How was yours?


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

1 stick of butter + 56 more sticks of butter = Diabetes

By now you have probably heard the shocking news. Paula Dean has type 2 diabetes. I know, I can't believe it either. In honor of the Queen of Booder and Awl, we have decided to fry up some pickles and whip up a big ol' bowl of mac & cheese y'aaaawwwwwwwllll.

To be honest, we were talking about making macaroni and cheese with the white truffle oil we bought the other day, and today's breaking news made it seem rather serendipitous.

I made the m&c the same way my mom does, by mixing cheese, pasta, milk and an egg together and baking it. We used Vermont cheddar and Muenster and mixed in some bacon and about 1/4t truffle oil.

Toward the end of baking, I topped with some breadcrumbs...

Sanne fried up the pickles, which turned out pretty awesome.

This process is fairly easy but definitely messy. Three bowls, one with beaten egg, one with flour, s&p, and red pepper flakes and the third with bread crumbs. (next time I will try cornmeal...) Dredge pickle spears through each bowl and set in hot oil. Cook just until crispy and brown on each side. A few minutes at best.

a little crushed red pepper in the flour

The only thing I would do differently for the macaroni is to make a creamier cheese sauce separately. Otherwise, the flavor was great! Also, Sanne vows on Paula Dean's arteries that she will perfect the frying of the pickle technique. And next time we will have some sort of dipping sauce to go with. Amazingly, besides an array of mustards (5, to be exact), we are condiment free...

What do you like to eat fried? What is your favorite Paula-worthy indulgence?


Monday, January 16, 2012

sushi and slobbages

My Christmas vacation felt especially long this year. I think it probably had something to do with the fact that I had a hand in 4+ parties. I gave you a glimpse at a couple of them, and intended on moving on from there. But then I went back and looked at all the pictures and decided that there is no way I can't share them, even if they are crappy cell phone pictures.

My sister's birthday is right after Christmas, and I wanted to do something different and special for her this year. So I bought her some sushi-making tools, and my mom and I put together a menu and went to the grocery store. We decided to make lettuce wraps, stir fry and salmon and crab sushi. I had done this once before, so I was somewhat confident in my sushi-making ability. This tricky part is the rice. But with my $22 rice cooker I scored on Amazon, we were all set.

The lettuce wrap recipe I found claimed to be P.F. Chang's, and they might have been telling the truth. It was pretty good, and super easy.

you will need:
3 tablespoons oil
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 cup water chestnut
2/3 cup mushroom
3 tablespoons chopped onions
1 teaspoon minced garlic
4 -5 leaves iceberg lettuce

*Because it is physically impossible for me to follow a recipe precisely, I omitted the mushrooms and added bean sprouts toward the end.

2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon rice wine vinegar


Bring oil to high heat in a wok or large frying pan.
Saute chicken breasts for 4 to 5 minutes per side or done.
Remove chicken from the pan and cool.
Keep oil in the pan, keep hot.
As chicken cools mince water chestnuts and mushrooms to about the size of small peas.
Prepare the stir fry sauce by mixing the soy sauce, brown sugar, and rice vinegar together in a small bowl.
When chicken is cool, mince it as the mushrooms and water chestnuts are.
With the pan still on high heat, add another Tbsp of vegetable oil.
Add chicken, garlic, onions, water chestnuts and mushrooms to the pan.
Add the stir fry sauce to the pan and saute the mixture for a couple minutes then serve it in the lettuce cups

We also made some of P.F. Chang's "special sauce" by mixing red chili paste (which I will forevermore keep in my pantry, it was so good!) with soy sauce.

I will definitely be making these again. Chinese New Year, anyone?
I don't feel like I need to give instructions on the sushi, except to say that if you want to try this on your own, buy a rice cooker!


birthday girl
sushi spread

Happy B-Day, middle sis!

The last soiree was a Roald Dahl-themed baby shower for my nearest and dearest Madaline, who is expecting twin boys any second now. It was a very small group of very close friends, which was perfect. Everyone brought something appropriately named, and we just sat around and talked and showered our Mad Dog with gifts and food and love.  I looked through some Revolting Recipes and decided to make some Plushnuggets and, of course, Bruce Bogtrotter's Cake. We also had Snozzcumbers, Glob Gobblers, Purple Slobbages, and even some of Augustus Gloop's Favorite Goop!

I've never made Plushnuggets before... have you? They were pretty tasty!
In a bowl, mix 2 mashed bananas, 2T maple syrup, 1T olive oil, and, just for the heck of it, I added a dash of cinnamon.

Cut 3 inch circles from a pastry sheet. I didn't have a pastry/biscuit cutter, so I used a drinking glass. I use a drinking glass to cut holes in my toast, too. Maybe I should invest in a pastry cutter?

Fill the center of each circle with a tiny spoonful of the banana mixture and pinch closed.

cute lil bundle
Brush with egg wash and bake at 400 for about 10 minutes.
Ta-da! Plushnuggets!

These guys are good for breakfast, too.

Augustus Gloop's Favorite Goop was a yummy spinach artichoke dish from Lindsay, Glob Gobblers was Maro's turkey and stuffing, and Purple Slobbages was apple cider cabbage. Other Lindsay and Sara brought Snozzcumbers (from The BFG). Everything was Dahl-icious! (budum chhhhh) There is a picture of all of us at the shower floating around. When I get it, I'll add it here, so check back!
In other news, say hello to our new roommate, Shamus!


Sunday, January 15, 2012

cooking for art kids

Last night, Sanne and I made our periodic pilgrimage to St. Augustine. Well, not the real St. Augustine, but the mall in Burlington, which has a Chic-fil-a and is across from a Chili's which is parking lot adjacent to a Barnes & Noble. Like St. Augustine. Get it? Anyway, we popped into the mall before dinner to check out a couple stores and ended up spending 2 hours in 3 stores. The most damage was done in Williams-Sonoma, where I scored a Le Creuset at a sweet $100 off the original price. 

Although they did have the tagine I've been eyeing, I decided one big purchase in a day was enough. Plus I've got school books to buy. :/

I also came across something interesting-- roasting clay. Basically, you dress your chicken, wrap it in parchment paper and cover it in this clay and bake it. Kind of like in ye olden times. It sounded simple enough, interesting and was on sale for $4, so we thought that it would be a fun Sunday afternoon activity. Not to mention, playing with clay is something these art majors hadn't had a chance to do in several years. :(

Here it is:

So, using the recipe on the box as a guide, we combined lemon zest, thyme, chopped shallots, chopped green onion, s+p, and a little garlic with 1/2 a stick of room temperature butter.

While Shamus looked on, curiously.

This was smeared under the skin of the chicken, who we'll call Henrietta.

Then, we wrapped her in parchment paper-- seam/boobies down.

Although the clay was already rolled and oval-ed, Sanne rolled it out a little more, so that it would fit Henrietta. We just had to be careful not to make it too thin, otherwise it might crack in the oven.

Then, we pinched the clay closed. There were two pieces in the box-- one for the bottom and one for the top. We also did our best to get rid of any air inside.

This was lots of fun. It's nice to have clay under my nails again...

We popped the clay-chicken in the oven at 425 for 1hr 20min while we started the potatoes in a cast iron skillet. We cooked these with chopped shallots, lemon juice and a little white truffle oil.

Once those were almost fork tender, we added them to a baking dish of green beans, threw in some lemon wedges and a couple sprigs of thyme and set it aside until there was about 35 min left for the chicken.

When time was up, we pulled the chicken out and let it sit for about 15 minutes. Then came the fun part!

it cracked a little...


The chicken wasn't quite finished, so we got rid of the clay and cooked it a little longer. Finally, it was time to carve and serve.

Could it be? My favorite side dish of all time? Yes.

This was one of the juicier chickens I've tasted. The dark meat was especially flavorful. And now we can check "cooking with clay" off of our list of things to do.

Sanne used her purchase of the night --a Le Creuset baking dish-- to make some of her awesome brownies. This time, she mixed in some hazelnuts and topped with sea salt. Yum!

Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got some chicken stock to make.

What's the most unusual cooking technique you've tried?