Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Tuesday 20: Random!

Welcome to the first installment of "The Tuesday 20," where I will share my love of making lists! Each week will have a new category with a list of twenty things that fit under that category. I decided to start it off with Random thoughts and comments to make it a little easier on my currently damaged brain. Hopefully we'll all get a little entertainment out of this concussion!


1. When I have been doing schoolwork for too long, I look like this:




2. I recently realized that the word "hood" stands for "neighborhood."




3. I often wonder how much ice cream I could really consume in one sitting. I'll bet it's a lot.




4. One time my friend Candice and I did a David Bowie photo shoot. I am not ashamed.




5. So far today, I've had two cookies and a beer.


6. That's a lie. I've had three beers.


7. At least I drank good quality beers.


8. That's also a lie. 


9. Do they have dog modeling agencies? Because I think Toby would be great at it...even though he sort of looks like a Gremlin...




10. I want to start using the word "marvelous" more often.


11. Yesterday, I decided to plant a tree in our backyard on a whim. I dragged my roommates into this venture. It didn't fit in the car, I had to dig a huge hole in the backyard by myself, and we had to secure a perimeter around it to keep the dogs out. My roommates are giving it a week before I kill it.



12. Am I the only one who feels like a badass when my muscles are sore from overworking them? I mean, digging a hole killed my triceps. I can't see them because they're behind me, but I bet I have the triceps of a body builder right now.


13. I really shouldn't be digging holes and planting trees with a concussion and a skull fracture.


14. There are three very loud, very obnoxious ice cream trucks that drive around our neighborhood in the afternoon every day during my nap time. I often fantasize about throwing rocks at them.


15. Someday I will own a mini horse. And it will have a giant doggie door and full access to my home.


16. This is a kitten leaping through time and space to escape the evil boss.



17. I just texted my roommate and said, "If you happen to walk into my current situation, I'd like to ask that we not discuss the amount of In-N-Out I have already consumed today, the amount of In-N-Out I will  have likely had by the end of the day, or the fact that I'm sitting by myself watching Teen Mom."


18. I wonder if I could make it in the circus.


19. I lied about my weight while filling out paperwork at the hospital over the weekend.



20. This is what I look like right now:




...I just read this list and realized how freakin' weird I am. Maybe there's still hope for me?....


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Cheddar and Chive Guinness Bread



Cooking with alcohol is one of my favorite things to do.

Why?

A: Because I have a legitimate excuse to drink while I cook.
B: Because being a barista and learning how to taste and pair food and beverages has made me fall in love with pairings.
C: Because it's delicious.

Guinness is my favorite beer. I've spent a lot of my life searching for the perfect pint of Guinness, and have found only a few places that can do on-tap Guinness right (My favorite is Tiernan's Irish Pub in San Francisco!). Suffice to say, food infused with Guinness makes me happier than anything else in the world.

I came across this recipe around St. Patrick's Day this year, when PunchFork posted it from their Facebook page. This was around the time that I was stranded in NorCal, so I completely forgot about it until tonight.

I got a concussion at work this week, and it's been harder than usual for me to eat, so Boyfriend took me to the store to find something for dinner. I saw Irish Cheddar, and remembered how much I wanted to make this bread. I suggested it to Boyfriend, who, of course, didn't need much convincing.

I also must have been feeling extra discombobulated due to my head injury, because I suggested that Boyfriend make it for us...with my supervision, of course!

And you know what? He did a pretty damn good job.

Shit, I wish I could eat this for every meal every day.

(Adapted from The Kitchn)

Cheddar and Chive Guinness Bread

Ingredients: 


  • 2 3/4 cups sifted all purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 (12-ounce) bottle Irish stout beer
  • 4 ounces grated Irish cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped chives
  • 1/4 cup Irish butter, melted

Directions:



  1. Preheat oven to 375° F. Line 8 1/2- x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan with parchment paper, or coat with butter. (I HATE buying extra stuff, but parchment paper is so much easier and cleaner!)
  2. In a mixing bowl, thoroughly whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Pour in the beer and mix until the dry ingredients are evenly moistened. Set aside 1/3 cup of the cheese and fold the remainder into the dry ingredient/beer mixture. Fold in Chives. Transfer the batter to prepared pan. 
  3. Pour the melted butter evenly over top of the dough. Bake about 30 minutes then scatter the remaining 1/4 cup of cheese over the top. 
  4. Return the loaf to the oven and bake 15 to 20 minutes longer or until a tester inserted near the center comes out clean. 
  5. Cool in the pan for 5-8 minutes.
  6. Remove from pan, slice, and serve warm!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Mushroom Chicken Alfredo Pasta



If you know me, you know I usually don't eat left overs. The re-heating process usually ruins left overs for me. Texture and flavor are totally compromised. I love food too much to let that happen.

That aside, there are a few things that don't get ruined with re-heating, and I've developed a couple microwaving tricks to combat the microwave's nuking powers. (Like placing a damp paper towel over anything you're heating up!)

One of my favorite re-heatable food groups is pasta (Yes. Pasta is a for group. Well, it is now...). Re-heated pasta tastes almost as wonderful as it does fresh (hen it's re-heated properly, of course!).

Like I've mentioned before, Boyfriend and I like to go up to the mountains to Big Bear about once a month, and as much as I love trying new food in new restaurants, my bank account ain't so happy. So this time, I made mushroom chicken alfredo pasta at home for us to reheat and enjoy in our cabin. A loaf of french bread, a quick salad, and a cheap bottle of pinot grigio later, and we have ourselves a ten dollar gourmet meal. Win.

Mushroom Chicken Alfredo Pasta

Ingredients:

For The Sauce

  • 1/2 stick butter 
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups parmesan cheese, grated
For The Pasta
  • 3 cups rotini pasta, uncooked
  • 1 whole raw chicken breast, cut into strips or cubes
  • 1 1/2 cups baby bella mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • fresh basil, chopped
Directions:


Sauce:
  1. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Add cream and allow to simmer for 4-6 minutes.
  3. Whisk in garlic and cheese. Set aside.

Pasta
  1. Cook pasta according to directions on box.
  2. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper.
  3. Sauté chicken in a medium frying pan with olive oil until cooked through. Set aside.
  4. In the same pan, sauté mushrooms with garlic until soft and browned.
  5. Add chicken and alfredo sauce to mushroom mixture.
  6. Fold noodles into sauce mixture.
  7. Sprinkle with basil and black pepper and serve





Sunday Sweets With Sam! Episode 3: Quick Garlic Balsamic Baked Chicken


Welcome to another episode of Sunday Sweets with Sam! This week, I made a quick chicken breast and some bomb sandwiches with homemade focaccia and balsamic garlic aioli. I'd say Sam, Boyfriend and New Roomie were pretty happy by the end of the day.


Here's a bit of background on the chicken I used for the sandwiches:


Have I mentioned that I'm a lazy asshole? Well, if I haven't, let me tell you now: I am a lazy asshole.


Believe it or not, most of the time I don't even feel up to cooking, and I have to force myself to do it.


That being said, I have become a master of simple chicken marinades. Chicken breast is the perfect meal for a lazy asshole. All I have to do it marinade and bake. The end.




Quick Garlic Balsamic Baked Chicken Breast


Ingredients:


  • Two whole chicken breasts (Thawed or frozen)
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. Rub chicken breasts with salt and pepper.
  3. Combine oil, vinegar, lemon juice, garlic powder, basil, salt, and pepper in a large bowl.
  4. Place chicken in bowl and evenly coat breasts.
  5. Marinate for thirty minutes to two hours.
  6. Place chicken with marinade in a shallow baking dish.
  7. Bake for 20-25 minutes if thawed, or 45-55 minutes if frozen.
For the sandwiches, I sliced up the chicken, spread some aioli on some fresh baked focaccia bread, and topped it with fresh spinach. Damn good.





Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes with Bailey's Buttercream Frosting



I think I've made these cupcakes more than I've made any other ones. To say they are my favorite would be a complete understatement.

The first time I made them, it was for Candice's 21st birthday, appropriately on St. Patty's Day (Pictured above!). I knew I had found something wonderful.

Guinness always brings me back to my summer in San Francisco, where I spent my evenings searching for the perfect pint in the city. 

Guinness is a phenomenal beer, and paired with chocolate, it is absolute bliss. The bitter chocolaty-stout flavor of the cupcakes is offset by the sweet, creaminess of the Bailey's buttercream.

There really isn't much else to say about these cupcakes. I think they do a pretty damn good job of speaking for themselves.


(Adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes with Bailey's Buttercream Frosting




Ingredients:


Cupcakes

  • 1 cup stout (Guinness)
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup sour cream



Bailey's Buttercream Frosting 

  • 3 to 4 cups confections sugar
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons Bailey's (I usually end up adding more to really get the flavor!)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. 
  2. Line 24 cupcake cups with liners. 
  3. Bring 1 cup stout and 1 cup butter to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.
  4. Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in large bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend. 
  5. Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine. 
  6. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. 
  7. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined. 
  8. Divide batter among cupcake liners, filling them 2/3 to 3/4 of the way. 
  9. Bake for about 27 minutes, or until tester inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean.



Frosting:

  1. Whip the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer, or with a hand mixer. It should be light and fluffy. 
  2. Slowly add the powdered sugar, a few tablespoons at a time.
  3. When the frosting looks thick enough to spread, drizzle in the Bailey's and whip it until combined. If this has made the frosting too thin, beat in another spoonful or two of powdered sugar.
  4. Ice and decorate the cupcakes.
  5. Eat.
  6. Die happy.


Friday, May 18, 2012

Balsamic Garlic Aioli Sauce




I've never been a huge mayo fan, so I'm constantly trying to find interesting ways to keep myself from eating dry sandwiches.

Aiolis are a really great way of disguising mayo and giving it a facelift.

The recipe for this one was really something I just threw together one day when I really wanted a sandwich.

And, yes, I have accepted the fact that garlic, basil, and balsamic are my go-to ingredients. And why shouldn't they be? they're delicious!






Balsamic Garlic Aioli




Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup light mayonnaise
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced finely
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Directions:
  1. Combine ingredients until smooth.
  2. Refrigerate for up to 5 days.

Parmesan Garlic Basil Focaccia Bread




I may have mentioned the magic in the heavenly smell of fresh baked bread.

I may have also mentioned the story of moving into the house I'm in now, where the only kitchen item I owned was a jar of yeast.

To say the least, I like bread.

And I really like focaccia bread.

My favorite focaccia can be found at a little hole in the wall sandwich shop  in Big Bear called Amangela's. The focaccia bread there is literally melt-in-your-mouth to-die-for. Every time I get the chance, I go there and get a french dip on the garlic basil focaccia and I enjoy three minutes of heaven as I inhale the whole thing by myself.

I did my very best to recreate the experience for myself in the comfort of my own home, and I think I came pretty close.


Parmesan Garlic Basil Focaccia Bread


Ingredients:



  • 1 package active dry yeast (1/4 ounces)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups lukewarm water
  • 4 cups of all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3-4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, minced
  • 4-5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
Directions:
  1. Combine yeast, sugar, and lukewarm water in a large bowl. Allow it to sit for 10-15 minutes. It will be foamy.
  2. Add flour, 1 tablespoon olive oil, garlic powder, dried basil, and and salt. Knead until well combined.
  3. Form dough into a ball, place it in a lightly oiled bowl, cover. Put it in a warm area and let rise for 1 hour, or until it has doubled in size. 
  4. Knead dough down and cut it into eight equal-ish sections.
  5. Form sections into balls.
  6. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  7. Place balls on lightly oiled baking sheet, cover, and let rise for 30 minutes.
  8. Poke small dimples into the dough with your fingers, and drizzle dough with olive oil.
  9. Sprinkle dough with parmesan, fresh garlic, fresh basil, and sea salt.
  10. Bake 15-25 minutes.
  11. Serve warm or use as sandwiches

Sunday Sweets With Sam! Episode 2: The Best Baked Mac EVER.



I wish I could explain to you the degree to which I love cheese. I'm afraid if I try to, I'll end up crying, writing a soulful article on the importance of cheese, and I will inadvertently cause a group of 80's musicians to re-create the "We Are The World" music video.

So I'm just going to give you food recipes that reflect my undying love for cheese in a way that I could not otherwise express.

Mac n' cheese is one of my favorite vehicles for cheese, mostly because of the nostalgia it holds. When my brother and I were wee ones, our parents divorced and we were left to fend for ourselves in the kitchen more often than we were used to. The one thing that we could always count on to be in our cabinets was a stack of those delightful dinosaur-mascoted, blue Kraft macaroni and cheese boxes. It was really the only thing my brother knew how to make at the time, it was easy, and it was delicious. 

Moreover, one day, my tactful Mexican dad improved the boxed mix by accident. He spilled the day-glo orange sauce powder packet all over the kitchen. Determined to save the already-cooked noodles, he replaced the sauce packet with real cheese, creating a melty, stringy, cheesy mess of a plate of food that was absolutely amazing and awe-inspiring.

So when my brother made it for us as an after-school snack, he always added real cheese, too. I haven't had boxed mac any other way since. In fact, I hate the watery consistency of it without real cheese so much that I won't touch it unless it has real cheese mixed in.

I guess you could say that my pickiness as an eater is a good thing, as it has enabled me to pick out the very best of the best recipes. Shit, I'd call that a talent.

I've tried a lot of baked mac recipes, and the only one I've ever really loved was one I stole from a recipe book my old roommate got as a house warming present from her mom when we moved into our apartment. I've used it a few times, and eventually improved it enough to put it here.

And of course, Sam took pictures for me (After I flaked on him a few times!), only improving the master craftsmanship that was put into this dish. Sadly, he didn't get to try any. He brought his older brother, Scott, along for the shoot and I made the mistake of giving him a plastic fork so he could try some on their way home.

Sam didn't even have a bite. Scott ate it all. He will never touch a plastic utensil in my house again.


The Best Baked Mac n' Cheese EVER!



Ingredients:

  • 2 cups elbow macaroni, cooked and drained
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup 
  • 1 cup milk or heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce (I usually use cholula, and sometimes I'll throw in a bit more than is called for!)
  • 2 cups shredded cheese (Any cheese will work. I use a mix of sharp cheddar, mozzarella, and gouda!)
  • 4 tablespoons dry bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter
Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Combine cream of mushroom, milk, dijon, hot sauce, and cheese in a large bowl.
  3. Fold in cooked macaroni
  4. Spread macaroni mixture into an ungreased, shallow baking dish
  5. Mix melted butter with bread crumbs and sprinkle them on top.
  6. Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until it is golden brown and the cheese is bubbly in the center.

Thanks, Sam!!