Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Best Brownies





Ingredients:




  • 1½ cups sugar
  • ¾ cup flour
  • ¾ cup cocoa powder
  • 3 eggs
  • ¾ cup butter, melted
  • ½ teaspoon salt (if using unsalted butter)
  • ¾ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Directions:




  1. Combine the sugar, flour, salt (if using unsalted butter), cocoa, eggs and melted butter and mix.
  2. Do this by hand, until the dry ingredients are just incorporated into the wet, and stop. You don’t need to beat it, and in fact want to avoid producing gluten from the flour. (Kneading flour produces gluten, the springy protein that makes bread chewy.)
  3. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  4. Line a 9×13 baking dish with parchment. 
  5. Pour the batter and spread it out. Don’t try to spread it like mayo on bread, or you’ll move the parchment around. Poke at it with the tip of a rubber spatula.
  6. Bake at 325° for 20-30 minutes. It’s done when a toothpick inserted in the tallest part comes out clean. Keep in mind you’ve got chips in there. If you hit one with the toothpick it will have melted chocolate on it. You might need to poke a couple of spots to make sure you aren’t hitting a chip.



Baked Brown Sugar Chicken Wings with Roasted Red Pepper Cream Sauce




Baked Brown Sugar Chicken Wings with Roasted Red Pepper Dipping Sauce 
(adapted from Domestic Fits)

Yields 3-4 servings

Ingredients:


  • 2 pounds chicken wings
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper

Dipping Sauce:
  • 1/3 cup roasted red pepper, chopped
  • 2 ounces goat cheese
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt



Directions: 



  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the wings, olive oil, brown sugar, onion powder, garlic powder, chili powder, paprika, salt and pepper.
  3. Place the wings onto prepared baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes, using metal tongs to turn at halftime.
  4. To make the dipping sauce, combine the roasted red pepper, goat cheese, sour cream and salt in the bowl of a food processor until emulsified.
  5. Serve wings immediately with dipping sauce.

Nutella Blossom Cookies


It is not uncommon for my roommates and I to get a sudden urge to bake cookies. In fact, this seems to be a weekly occurrence.

This week, Roommate had his heart set on baking something with Nutella. We had a jar of it in the cabinet, and knowing Roommate all too well, I was sure it was expired. And it was!

This tragedy was quickly resolved by Roommate buying a mega pack of Nutella at Costco.

And thus began a four-night streak of nutella blossoms, during which we baked two separate batches and probably collectively gained 90 pounds from all of the shortening.

Worth it.


(Adapted from While I Breathe)


Nutella Blossoms

Ingredients: 

3/4 cup Nutella
1/2 cup shortening (or butter)
1 egg
2 tbs milk
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp baking soda
2 cups flour (use judgement if more needed)
approximately 40-48 Hershey Kisses


Directions: 


  1. preheat oven to 375 degrees
  2. cream together Nutella and shortening
  3. add in brown sugar and granulated sugar until smooth
  4. mix in egg, milk and vanilla
  5. in separate bowl mix salt, baking soda, and flour- slowly add to wet mixture
  6. roll dough into 1 inch balls and coat balls in extra granulated sugar
  7. bake for 5 minutes
  8. remove and press in Hershey Kisses (sing a Christmas song while you do)
  9. put back in oven and bake for additional 2 minutes

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Blue Cheese and Mushroom Gravy Smothered Pork Chops




I may have mentioned that Boyfriend is in Washington D.C. until the end of this month. I may have forgotten to mention that we are hopeless dorks when it comes to missing each other. 

It started with just watching shows online. We've been trying to get through season 7 of 'How I Met Your Mother,' and we've been watching it online...and calling each other first to start the episodes at the EXACT same time so that we can text each other through the whole thing and pretend we're together.

Sad or cute? You tell me.

Anyway, missing each other still, we started using video chatting as a means of staying connected, whereupon I had the brilliant idea to cook via video chat. 

So we decided on pork chops, bought our ingredients, and cooked together....even though we were 2,641 miles apart.

Genius? You tell me.




These pork chops were amazing. I altered the original recipe a little to make them a little more flavorful. The word "smothered" came to mind as I poured the thick, fragrant cheese sauce over my chop. I may have drooled. I probably drooled. 

Okay, I drooled.

Oh, did I also mention that this was the first time I had ever cooked or eaten a whole pork chop? And what a great recipe to start with. Simple, yet elegant and soooo freakin' delicious.


(Adapted from Allrecipes)


Ingredients:


  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 thick cut pork chops
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder, or to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 1/2 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
  • 1 cup baby bella mushrooms, sliced


Directions:


  1. Melt butter in a large skillet, over medium heat. 
  2. Season the pork chops with black pepper, salt, and garlic powder. 
  3. Fry the chops in butter until no longer pink and the juices run clear, or until the internal temperature of each chop reaches 160 degrees F. Turn occasionally to brown evenly.
  4. In another skillet, sauté mushrooms and oil over medium heat until browned. Set aside.
  5. Remove chops to a plate and keep warm. 
  6. Stir the whipping cream into the skillet, loosening any bits of meat stuck to the bottom. Stir in blue cheese. 
  7. Cook, stirring constantly until sauce thickens, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms.
  8. Pour sauce over warm pork chops.


Parmesan-Crusted Chicken with Arugula Salad




While Boyfriend has been visiting his homeland of Washington D.C. for the month, I've been doing a lot less cooking and a whole lot of nothing. 

I don't really like cooking for myself. Half of the satisfaction of cooking comes from watching other people enjoy what I've made. Of course, I have friends and roommates that would be more than happy to eat my food, but everyone is on a different schedule, and it's just really hard to plan around that. 

Without anyone to cook for, I've been living on the last few survivors in our fridge, which include shredded cheese, spinach, and vodka (Did I mention I HATE grocery shopping?). It seems pointless to buy a bunch of food for myself, when most of it will go bad before I get a chance to eat it. And it seems even more pointless to cook for myself when I won't eat left overs. What a waste, right?

Needless to say, before today, I was starving. I'd have pretty much given anything to cook something delicious and shamelessly inhale it. 

It's a good thing I spent the day with my mom, and Boyfriend sent me a recipe to try!

My mom just got back from a health and wellness retreat that sounded like a concentration camp, so she's on a pretty serious health kick. This recipe, from Food & Wine, was a perfect 288 calories per serving without sacrificing a thing in the flavor department.


Parmesan-Crusted Chicken with Arugula Salad
(Makes 4 servings)

Ingredients: 



  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped thyme
  • Four 6-ounce skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (1 1/2 ounces)
  • 4 cups packed arugula leaves (Or spring mix!)
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

Directions: 

  1. Preheat the oven to 475°.
  2.  In a small bowl, combine 2 teaspoons of the mustard with 2 teaspoons of the olive oil and the thyme. 
  3. Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper, then brush them all over with the mustard mixture. 
  4. Pat 2 tablespoons of the Parmesan all over each breast. 
  5. Transfer the chicken breasts to a rimmed baking sheet. Bake the chicken on the top shelf of the oven for about 15 minutes, or until just cooked through and nicely browned.
  6. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the remaining 1 teaspoon each of mustard and olive oil; stir in 1/2 teaspoon of water. 
  7. Add the arugula and tomatoes, season with salt and pepper and toss well. 
  8. Spoon the salad onto plates, top with the chicken and serve.






Thursday, August 9, 2012

Mint Chocolate Cheesecake Popsicles



Cheese on a stick in all of its forms is simply divine, if you ask me. When I found this recipe on Good Life Eats, I was sitting on the couch in our house during a balls-hot day, sweating like a pig, and practically drooling at the thought of something cold and delicious making its way into my belly.

I called Boyfriend immediately to give him a list of things I needed. (Of course, boyfriend had NO idea what a popsicle mold was, so I had to text him a picture from the internet!) When he got to the house with our bounty, I got straight to work. The result was pure, frozen magic.

Minty, cool, refreshing, and absolutely delightful.


Mint Chocolate Cheesecake Popsicles



Ingredients:


  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon pure peppermint extract
  • 1 (8 ounce) tub frozen whipped topping, thawed
  • 12 Keebler Grasshopper Cookies, finely chopped
  • Magic Shell, optional


Directions:



  1. In a large bowl, with an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and sugar on medium-high speed until smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes. 
  2. Add in the extracts and mix until well combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. 
  3. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the whipped topping until until it is fully incorporated into the cream cheese mixture. 
  4. Fold in mint chocolate cookies.
  5. Spoon the filling into a pastry bag or large zip top bag. Snip enough of the end off the bag to allow you pipe the mixture into your popsicle molds. 
  6. Once your molds are full, gently tap the popsicle mold base on the countertop to help release any air pockets.
  7. Freeze according the manufacturers directions.
  8. If desired, garnish each popsicle with Magic Shell and chopped cookies.

Tip: If you have an issue releasing your popsicles from the molds, run a little warm water along the sides of the molds, this will usually cause them to release with ease.

Buffalo Chicken Pizza






I'm seriously considering adding a "Buffalo" section to this blog. If there are two things I'll never get sick of, they're buffalo sauce and caesar salad (I have no idea why!). Buffalo sauce, in particular, is like crack to me. I could literally eat a spoonful of it and be satisfied.

That being said, once I found the recipe for the perfect pizza dough, of COURSE I had to make a buffalo chicken pizza.


Buffalo Chicken Pizza


Ingredients:

  • Perfect Pizza Dough
  • 1 whole chicken breast, cooked and shredded (You can also use shredded store bought rotisserie chicken)
  • 2 cups of shredded cheese (I used a mix of mozzarella and cheddar)
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, coarsely chopped

Directions
  1. To bake, preheat the oven  to 500˚ F.  Place a foil lined cookie sheet in the oven and allow it to heat up for 15-30 minutes.
  2. Transfer the dough to your shaping surface, lightly sprinkled with cornmeal.  Shape the dough with lightly floured hands.  Brush the outer edge lightly with olive oil.  Top as desired.  
  3. Bake until the crust is golden brown, and cheese is bubbling, 8-12 minutes.







Beer Marinated Brats with Beer Carmelized Onions




For me, summer means beer. The amount of nostalgia I feel when taking that first, crisp sip of beer on a hot summer day is unreal. The last two summers have found me lounging in a pool with my best friend, drinking Bud Light Lime and taking in the sun and the smell of barbecue that always seemed to be wafting through the air.

To be honest, we had a barbecue back then, and we could have barbecued, but I'm not to great with grills. I always end up burning the food...and myself. 

This summer, I decided to tackle my fear. Sausage seemed like an easy place to start, so we picked up some bratwurst and a case of lager. And damn, was that a good idea.



Beer Marinated Brats with Beer Caramelized Onions



Ingredients:

  • 6 beef bratwurst links
  • 24 ounces of beer (We used a lager)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 golden onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 6 hot dog buns
  • sour kraut
  • mustard (We used whole grain spicy mustard)


Directions: 
  1. Pour 12 ounces of beer into a ziplock bag with the brats. Allow them to marinate for 1-8 hours. (I realize this is a huge variance in time, but in a pinch, an hour is enough time.)
  2. Saute oil and garlic in a pan over medium heat for one minutes. 
  3. Add onions and 6 ounces of beer. Cover and allow beer to simmer.
  4. Uncover and stir onions. When the mixture becomes dry, add the remaining beer and sauté until the onions have reached a deep, brown caramel color.
  5. Grill brats on medium heat until heated through.
  6. Toast buns on grill until heated through.
  7. Put your brat together and eat up!


Perfect Pizza Dough



For a long time, I have been on the hunt for the perfect pizza dough recipe. One of my requirements for the perfect dough was that it couldn't take too long to rise. Usually, I make pizza on a whim, and I don't really have time to wait 8 hours for dough to rise. 

So you can imagine my excitement when I found this dough recipe on Annie's Eats, complete with a list of tips and tricks for the perfect dough. (Click the link and check it out! It's really helpful!)

If you don't have a pizza stone, you can also use a foil-lined cookie sheet in its place. We've used this method before, and it worked well enough. However, pizza stones can be quite inexpensive (Got mine at Walmart for 12 bucks!) and TOTALLY worth it. The hot stone allows the bottom of the crust to begin baking first so it becomes crispy without burning the rest of the pizza!



Perfect Pizza Dough 

Yield: enough dough for 2 medium pizzas or 4 calzones

Ingredients:



  • ½ cup warm water
  • 2¼ tsp. instant yeast
  • 4 cups (22 oz.) flour (preferably bread flour), plus more for dusting
  • 1½ tsp. salt
  • 1¼ cup water, at room temperature
  • 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil



Directions:

  1. Measure the warm water into a bowl.  Sprinkle the yeast over the top.  Stir until combined and allow it to sit for about five minutes, or until yeast begins to foam.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the bread flour and salt, mixing briefly to blend.  
  3. Measure the room temperature water into the measuring cup with the yeast-water mixture.  With the mixer on low speed, pour in the yeast-water mixture as well as the olive oil.  
  4. Mix until a cohesive dough is formed.  
  5. Switch to the dough hook.  Knead on low speed until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes.
  6. Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, turning once to coat.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size, 1½-2 hours.
  7. Press down the dough to deflate it.  
  8. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface.  
  9. Divide the dough into two equal pieces.  Form each piece of dough into a smooth, round ball.  (If freezing the dough, wrap in plastic wrap and freeze at this point.)  Cover with a damp cloth.  Let the dough relax for at least 10 minutes but no longer than 30 minutes.
  10. To bake, preheat the oven  to 500˚ F.  Place your pizza stone in the oven and allow it to heat up for 15-30 minutes.
  11. Transfer the dough to your shaping surface, lightly sprinkled with cornmeal.  Shape the dough with lightly floured hands.  Brush the outer edge lightly with olive oil.  Top as desired.  
  12. Bake until the crust is golden brown, and cheese is bubbling, 8-12 minutes.



Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Norcal Anniversary Trip Random Fun Facts!

Here are a list of random Fun Facts from our Anniversary trip up the coast of California!

1. Shot Glass Madness: Early on in our venture, we decided that we were going to start collecting shot glasses from everywhere we had been. Boyfriend suggested that this could easily get out of control. I wasn't completely sure of this at first, but it quickly became apparent that you can buy souvenir shot glasses pretty much anywhere. Yup. He was right. Out. Of. Con-trol.

2. COWS!: As we made our way through central California, I realized just how many cows are roaming around the hills on the sides of Highway 1. Shit, I love cows. They're like big, slow, mooing dogs. I also realized how close they were to the sides of the road, and how easy it must be to pet them. I made it my goal to pet one before got home. We saw cows close to the sides of the road numerous times, but didn't have much time to stop. I pretty much squealed with excitement every time. When we finally found a place where it seemed possible to touch the cows, I got out of the car and found myself strangely terrified. When I finally got the balls to get close enough to touch the two cows close to the fence, they scattered. I tried a couple more times with the same result. So grazing livestock cows are afraid of people. I was more or less devastated....until I saw this ad on craigslist while I was looking for places I could pet a cow:

"My girlfriend's favorite animal is a cow and it would mean the world to her if she could pet a cow, maybe even feed it. I'd be willing to pay for the experience. I would like to do this on the 21 of June, because it would be our 1 year anniversary.

Thank You."

I squealed again with excitement, assuming that Boyfriend had posted this. Sadly, he did not, BUT it's still a pretty weird coincidence.

3. Corner Windows: One thing I noticed about coastal California was all of the weird folded corner windows. I had never seen them before. These windows are literally bent at a 90 degree angle on corners of houses overlooking the ocean. It totally baffled me, so I did a fair amount of research. I found out that they're really trendy in central Cali because they provide panoramic views. Strange that I haven't seen them on houses near SoCal's beaches, though. 

4. Stripper Heels: A few weeks before our trip, boyfriend made an offhand comment about how he wanted me to wear high heels. I ended up buying a pair to go with my fancy outfit for our dinner at Black Cat Bistro. I NEVER wear heels, nor do I have the slightest clue how to walk in them. The night before our trip, my roommates made me practice in them by walking around Home Depot and Target. It was pretty traumatizing. They also made an appearance at a Classy Bitches Night at our house a couple weeks later...

5. Car Meltdown: The drive back home to Southern California was pretty brutal. It was long and once we got to LA, there was some pretty significant traffic. Now, keep in mind, I had been sitting in the car without a break since San Luis Obispo. With traffic, that was almost 4 hours of sitting in a tiny car with a smelly dog and Boyfriend. In addition to this, I was exhausted and dehydrated. By the time we got to LA, we were so close to home, but so far with traffic. I was getting claustrophobic, the car was stuffy, the sun was too bright. I completely lost it. 

I had a full on temper tantrum in the car, complete with irrational, broken sentences and uncomfortable, erratic body flailing. Thank Jeebus I have such a patient Boyfriend who was able to remain calm during this, because I'm pretty sure anyone else would have thrown me out of the car, or at least slapped me in the face. I was so upset I was almost crying. This went on for almost an hour, during which I made a series of high pitched groans and whines while shifting and squirming uncomfortably in my seat. I also argued aimlessly with Boyfriend about which route to take. I had no clue which route would be best-- I just wanted to get home. I basically just yelled at Boyfriend about how he was wrong until I ran out of reasons to yell and I fell asleep.

Hello, internet. My name is Jillian and I behave like a two year old when I've been in the car too long.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Sticky Balsamic Steak







Ingredients:


Marinade Rub
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced and smashed
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 lbs petite sirloin (You can really use any kind of steak for this marinade, but for this recipe, petite sirloin takes flavor well, is cheap, and is good for broiling!)
Glaze
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar

Directions:

  1. Combine garlic, rosemary, sugar, pepper, and vinegar in a small bowl. It will be thick. (It's kind of a wet rub.)
  2. Rub steaks with mixture. Cover with foil, chill, and let marinate for 1-24 hours. (I know this is a huge variance in time. 24 hours will produce the most robust flavor, but I definitely know what its like to think about dinner last minute and need to marinate something quick. It's still delicious when marinated for only an hour!)
  3. Make glaze by combining vinegar and sugar and reducing over medium/high heat until it has reduced to about 1/4 cup.
  4. Dry steaks and broil for 3-4 minutes on each side, or until center reached 145 degrees F.
  5. Brush steaks with glaze and enjoy! (You can also brush the steaks with the glaze a little before they are done and grill them for a nice smoky flavor!)