Saturday, November 13, 2010

My mind is BLOWN.

So, as I said before, I have pretty much zero time to cook this semester. And when I do have time, chances are I'm way too exhausted or drained to actually cook something worth blogging about. However, as this is a food blog, I feel okay writing about food in a totally not-cooking way.

Today at the grocery store, I was debating between cooking something for dinner or just eating brie on french bread and some apples--the latter option won out by far. But while I was thinking about what I might cook, and vegetables, I was looking at the asparagus and artichokes. These are, hands-down, my favorite vegetables ever. They're both super delicious, and anyone who thinks differently is crazy.

So I get home, and I'm talking to one of my friends about asparagus, and I mention that it's my favorite vegetable. Of course, I then had to stop and say, wait, no, artichokes too. Both of them. I started thinking about them and how similar they are. The way the leafy part at the top looks, for example, and the way the stem has coarse stringy things on the outside with tender vegetableness on the inside. They have to be related, right?

Artichokes growing (via)

Asparagus growing (via)

They even grow the same way! I mean, the artichokes have a lot more leaves, yeah, but they both grow in a big stalk with layered leaf-like things at the top. I decided that it was about time I figured out just how closely related they are. You remember the whole Kingdom-Phylum-Class-Order-Family-Genus-Species thing from biology, right? It's okay if you don't, really, because I just listed them.

Now, if someone had asked me to place a bet on this prior to my research (highly scientific wiki-ing of the two vegetables), I would have put a lot of money on "family." Their genus and species can be different, but I thought everything above that would be the same. You probably guessed by the the title of this post that my assumption was wrong, but--where would you think they were? Which do you think is the most specific classification they have in common? Think about it. Think hard. Okay, I'm about to tell you, but I'm curious as to what you would have thought had I not told you.

Phylum. They don't have anything in common beyond the phylum. They're both Plantae Angiosperms, but that's it. Branches off after that: Asparagus are monocots and artichokes are eudicots. I don't really know what those mean, but apparently it has something to do with the structure of their pollen and something about their seeds.

They're no more related to each other than they are to lilies! Wow.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Help me out?

Hi everyone! I'm still around, just exploding a little over the sheer amount of work I have this semester--and next semester looks like it's going to be about the same, hurrah!

I don't have a recipe for you today--instead, I have a request. See, I'm taking a Statistics class this semester, which requires that I survey people about something, and I'm trying to get responses from as varied a population as possible. This is where you come in! (And it's about food, and you're reading a food blog, so chances are you're at least interested in the subject.)

I'm doing a project to compare people's living situations with how they eat and see what correlations I can find between the two, so there are a few questions asking about what sort of place you live in, but they're almost entirely about food. And! One of the questions asks that people list their three favorite foods. I figure once I get all the responses, I can pick a few of the common ones and work on getting recipes up here for them! So if you take this survey, you might get a recipe out of it.

Anyway, click here to take my survey. At the end when it asks who sent you to the survey, click "Rachael," because that's my real name.

Thanks so much for helping me out here! (I hope this isn't, like, a completely taboo thing to do, blog-wise. I'm sorry if it is. But...please still take it.)

Saturday, October 23, 2010


Hi everyone! It hasn't quite been a month since my last updated. I feel like I've been neglecting you all! I haven't, really; I've just been so busy with school this semester. Taking three writing classes is definitely do-able, but it's a whole lot of work! It's a damn good thing I don't have a job or anything. I'm right in the middle of midterms right now--last week I had to write an essay and two short stories, which doesn't seem like that much, but I put a full workday into one of those short stories and it's only a draft. (Everything is only a draft right now.) And much to my surprise, I'm totally rocking my Statistics class. Hooray!

Anyway, that's my life for now, and I have a recipe for you! I made this so long ago. I have so many things piled up on my camera that I stopped taking pictures of new things because they just weren't getting done with school. And I haven't had much time to cook, though I roasted a chicken for the first time ever a few weeks ago. This was made for my mom's birthday in August. It is yet another of Patricia's recipes over at Technicolor Kitchen--I'll admit, I have a total blog crush on her.

After my (arguable) success with the Strawberry Balsamic panna cotta, I was excited to try something new, but I generally have difficulty with the idea of making desserts just because. Unless it's something really easy--which it turns out this is! But unless I have all the ingredients on hand and it's only going to take a little while (like those peanut butter cookies*), chances are, I won't randomly make it. I'll wait for a special occasion of some sort, and given how much my mom loves Nutella, this seemed the perfect thing to do for her birthday.

RECIPE: Nutella Panna Cotta
not adapted at all from Technicolor Kitchen

-1 tbsp powdered gelatin (I would imagine you could safely use less if you're not unmolding them)
-1 cup of Nutella (it's a lot of nutella)
-1/4 tsp salt
-1 1/2 cups heavy cream
-1/2 tsp vanilla extract
-1 cup whole milk

1. Whisk together the gelatin and 3 tbsp cold water in a medium-sized bowl. (Don't do it in something tiny--you'll be adding stuff to it.)
2. Put the nutella and salt in a different medium-sized bowl.
3. Pour the heavy cream and vanilla into a medium-sized saucepan, put it over medium heat, and bring to a simmer, stirring frequently.
4. Pour about a third of the vanilla and cream mixture into the bowl with the gelatin and whisk it together, then add that third back into the saucepan.
5. Pour about a third of the vanilla, cream and gelatin mixture into the bowl with the nutella and whisk until smooth. Add the rest of the vanilla-cream-gelatin mixture and whisk until smooth again, then add the milk and do it again.
6. Divide this mixture between ramekins or glasses or cups. Patricia says 8. I say 6-8. I think six would be a large amount, but it wouldn't be absurd. Instead of doing this, I saw that she put hers in teacups and thought it was adorable and I should do the same. Unless you have really small teacups, don't do this. You'll probably get sick. Divide it evenly between 6-8 different containers.
7. Refrigerate until set, then eat!

The end of Step 5: This recipe goes pretty quickly and I was cooking alone so I wasn't able to get pictures of all the earlier steps, but honestly, they would have been really boring. This is panna cotta in liquid form! I was amazed at how easily the nutella melted into everything else.

Right before eating. These teacups are deceptively large. The adorable pinkness and print always makes me think they're dainty little teacups, but no. Don't fill a teacup this size with panna cotta unless you really really want to binge on panna cotta. Of course, I'm stubborn, so once I started eating it I had to finish. Luckily I didn't feel all that disgusting afterward, but I'll definitely put it in smaller containers next time. it okay to talk about medical things on here? I hope so. I mean, it is MY blog. One reason I've been cooking less recently is because I have an ulcer (my doctor called it "peptic ulcer disease" but that sounds really bad, so I'm just saying an ulcer). I haven't been forbidden from any foods except soda, coffee, aspirin and advil (yes, aspirin and advil are foods) because different things irritate different people, so the best thing to do is apparently to eat stuff and then don't eat it again if it hurts you. However, this thing is friggen' painful. So if there's any chance that what I'm about to eat might cause a lot of pain, I'm avoiding it. Unfortunately, pretty much every food ever is potentially bad for an ulcer. If you look at that list, you may notice "garlic" is on it. And on the non-foods list of things you're not allowed to have with an ulcer is "stress." (Oh! Hi, midterms!) Unfortunately, a lack of garlic causes a lot of stress for me. Because of this and other similar problems, I've been ignoring the list and mostly just avoiding things that sound painful, but most of my "you should make this recipe" folder sounds sort of painful, so I'm restricted.

Does anyone have recommendations about what to eat with an ulcer that still has flavor?

Anyway, sorry for the medical stuff, and I hope you make the panna cotta! I would not be afraid to eat this right now, and it's super delicious. How can anything with nutella not be?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Leftovers for Breakfast

I think I've mentioned here before that I don't often make breakfast. If I wake up early enough that breakfast is warranted, I either get a latte or eat whatever's left in the fridge from the past few nights. For example, this morning I ate a slice of cold pizza! And I know I mentioned eating the leftover yaki onigiri cold for breakfast. I'll also eat stir-fries, salads, baked goods--whatever is there and doesn't have to be prepared beyond maybe heating up for a minute or two.

Anyway, after a super late night on Saturday (Mike and I didn't get home until 4am after Cabaret and it was soooo amazing and Amanda Palmer puts on a damn good show and I had a drink with absinthe in it and it turns out I don't like absinthe), we slept late and I was in the mood for a real breakfast. Enter the leftovers from the night before--I was really glad, in the morning, that I'd been too rushed and afraid to make the Chicken Creole with an entire cut-up chicken, as per Becky's recipe. Because we ate all the chicken that I cooked in it, we had a whole bunch of the sauce left over, and I had a vision for that sauce.

Creole-Poached Eggs.

With well-buttered rye toast from my favorite bakery.

The recipe for this is basically "make Chicken Creole, have leftover sauce, crack some eggs into it and simmer until the eggs are cooked to your liking." It took maybe 15 minutes to whip up and we had a wonderful Sunday breakfast. At 1pm. And as far as I'm concerned, that's still breakfast because I had to drag Mike out of bed for it. (Hey, it was really only around 8 hours of sleep.)

This has completely cemented in my mind the importance of making big one-pot meals. You can poach eggs in the leftovers. I intend to try to find something else that I can do this with soon, because runny yolks mixed with vegetable-y sauce on delicious bread is possibly the best way to have breakfast, ever. And that huge pile of food is almost completely vegetables! It's even healthy!

Okay, so I'm super excited remembering this and now I'm sad that I don't have anything to poach eggs in for dinner. (And I really want to make huevos rancheros soon!) What does everyone else here eat their eggs with?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Taste&Create: Chicken Creole

It's time for this month's Taste&Create! This month, I was paired with Becky of Baking and Cooking, A Tale of Two Loves. I went through her archives and found that her very first recipe, "Sunday Chicken Creole," is exactly the type of thing I would do if I knew anything about 1-pot cooking, which I don't. But looking over the recipe, I was pretty convinced that I'd love it: peppers, tomatoes, onions and garlic. I mean, that's how I cook. So I'm pretty sure this is at the last minute (or perhaps even late--which I feel bad about, but my classes are INSANE this semester; I think I'll be not doing Taste and Create for the next two months).

So basically, this is an extremely easy meal. And people around me are talking too much for me to type (and I'm in a huge hurry, as usual), so here's a recipe and some pictures!

RECIPE: Chicken Creole
adapted very slightly from Baking and Cooking, A Tale of Two Loves

-4 large chicken breasts
-3 tbsp olive oil
-2 cups chopped red onion
-2 small green peppers, chopped
-4 sticks celery, chopped
-5 cloves garlic
-2 tbsp chili powder
-2 tbsp paprika
-1/2 tbsp smoked paprika
-2 28-oz cans whole tomatoes in puree (Cento's San Marzano tomatoes are in puree; I found that they generally didn't say what the tomatoes were in unless you looked closely at the ingredients. If you can't find them in puree, drain the liquid and use a can of tomato sauce.)
-1/2 cup white wine

1. Chop the peppers, onions and celery. Put them and the minced garlic in a large stockpot with the olive oil and saute for three minutes.
2. Add the paprika, smoked paprika and chili powder and cook for another three minutes.
3. Put in the wine, tomatos, black pepper and chicken. Simmer for 35 minutes until the chicken is cooked thoroughly.
4. Serve over rice.

Step 2!

Also step 2! This smelled so good. I'm just discovering a love for paprika--it's so exciting!

Step 3: It's almost done! Yay!

You can't even see the rice. I should have made more, but this was delicious! I was happy with how it came out.

I tend to chop everything up and mix it together. It worked pretty well for this. The chicken was super tender and all the flavors had fully permeated everything. It was delicious!

Hah! Simple. Dinner that takes less than an hour, and it's so easy for a weeknight when you don't have a lot of time. Which I don't. And even the blog post didn't take much time! YAY! Mike and I are off to see Cabaret now, so go check out Becky's blog--she's got some great recipes on there! (She's got bacon cupcakes in there somewhere, too!)

I hope everyone has some exciting plans for the weekend! I'll be doing statistics homework and writing papers, so I'm glad I'm at least starting it out on a good note!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Yaki Onigiri--Japanese Fried Rice Balls

This is another one of those recipes that I grew up eating. My uncle moved here from Japan. I'd love to say that this means I grew up familiar with lots of different Japanese foods, but really it means I learned how to say "I farted" in Japanese at a very young age, tried to eat a sheet of seaweed once and thought it was disgusting, and got really excited whenever yaki onigiri (which I always just called rice balls) were part of dinner when we were visiting them. I don't clearly remember the rest of the dinner; the rice balls were the key component. I'm sure there were Japanese elements to the dishes, but we never ate something that I thought was really weird (at least, until I was old enough to appreciate it).

I decided at some point to make the rice balls I remembered from my childhood myself. I thought it would be hard to figure it out; luckily, I remembered what the Japanese name for them was and a quick Google search was all I needed to find sufficient instructions, and from there I discovered that the method itself is extremely simple. I wouldn't say I've mastered the technique--I mean, I've made them once. They burnt a little bit, and when I told my uncle he told me that I should make them on the grill next time (well, I guess that'll have to wait until next year--it looks like grilling season is just about over). They were, though, the thing I was looking for.

Yaki onigiri are densely-packed balls (or triangles, or whatever shape you feel like) of sushi rice, grilled or pan-fried with a bit of oil, brushed with soy sauce. That's it. They're such a simple concept, but the flavors involved blend together, the outside forms a nice crunchy shell and the inside somehow becomes almost creamy in the cooking process. Granted, I've never just eaten plain onigiri, but I don't usually think of rice as creamy (not even the rice wrapped around the sushi I get, which I imagine is what I'm using here) so it's an interesting juxtaposition against what you expect. Apparently it is fairly common to get (or make) these stuffed, as well, which would add another layer of complexity that I'm not quite ready for (and don't really feel is necessary).

RECIPE: Yaki Onigiri

-Sushi rice, prepared according to instructions on package (note that sushi rice is NOT cooked by the "normal" rice ratio of 1 cup rice to 2 cups water; my bag had me use 2 cups rice to 2 1/2 cups water), as much as you want to make
-Cooking oil (I used extra virgin olive oil because it's what I have; a vegetable or peanut oil would probably be more authentic)
-Soy sauce or tamari

Other Requirements:
-a bowl of cold water
-a basting brush of some sort
-a grill or frying pan
-onigiri molds or cookie cutters (totally optional)

1. Prepare sushi rice and roll into balls. (Make sure your hands are dipped in cold water to prevent the rice from sticking to them.)
2. Put in a hot, oiled frying pan or grill for a few minutes until lightly browned on one side.
3. Flip. Brush with soy sauce. Allow to lightly brown on this side, too.
4. Flip. Brush with soy sauce. Cook for about 1 minute.
5. Flip. Cook for about 1 minute.
6. Remove from pan.

Step 1: Sushi rice, just finished cooking, fluffed with a fork.

Also Step 1: The rice was too hot to touch at first, so I packed it into little heart-shaped cookie cutters with a fork. It took SO much time that it probably wasn't worth doing, but if I do it again, I'll pack it denser next time.

Step 2: in the pan. This is what the rest of mine looked like. Apparently "round" isn't the traditional shape, but it's what I'm used to and it's tasty, so I can deal.

Step either 3 or 4: Lightly browned and brushed with soy sauce. This side still has to cook for a tiny bit more.

Post-Step 6: The "Eat" step. They're a tiny bit darker than they should be, but they were still super tasty. I love crunchy rice.

Wow! Okay, that was super simple. If you're cooking a lot of them at once, the brush-then-flip thing can get sort of tricky and you'll have to move quickly, but other than that this is easy. Note that it's best to roll the rice into balls as soon as you can after it's done cooking. The site I found these instructions on used cookie cutters as molds, which I found worked really well right when the rice finished--I could use a fork to pack the cookie cutters without burning myself. If you do this, make sure both the fork and the cookie cutter have been rinsed in cold water first. When it comes to the soy sauce, I would recommend not drenching the rice in soy sauce unless you and everyone else you're cooking for really really likes soy sauce. It's a lot easier to just brush a little bit on and leave the bottle on the table for people who want more than it is to make a whole new batch if someone thinks they're too salty.

Yaki onigiri can be made as large or small as you like, in whatever shape, with whatever filling and whatever amount of soy sauce. They're actually quite versatile when you consider that it's just rice! They work well as either a side dish or an appetizer, or even a meal if you're lazy and don't care about getting proper nutrition. They're also finger food! Eat them with your hands. It's important.

I served these with my peanut-sauce panko pork chops and they were delicious together. I bet pretty much any recipe that involves some sort of Asian fusion element would do well with these as a side or appetizer. I also ate them cold for breakfast the next morning, which was just as wonderful.

School's already keeping me super busy (well, and for some reason I've had busy weekends). I'm trying to cook and update but it's hard to find the time! I hope you guys forgive me. I think it'll be easier once I settle into a schedule (and start reading some of my new cookbooks!). Right now, I'm trying to enjoy the last few days of summer, but also wishing the weather would make up its mind! It's at that point where it's getting cold at night so when I leave in the morning I want long pants and long sleeves and a sweatshirt but I'm dying by the time I get out of my first class. How is everyone else enjoying their last moments of summer?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Chocolate Pudding, College-Style

So my classes started up yesterday. Hooray! I'm actually excited. So far, I like them all. Then again, I've only had 3 (out of 5) and only one session of each of those, so I might be completely wrong. I'm probably going to be super busy this semester with all my writing classes, but I'm going to do my best to update here at least once a week. Which really just means cooking something new at least once a week, which I'm usually good at. Recently I've been lazy. I blame knowing that school was about to start and allergies. Anyway.

Since I commute to school, I don't suffer from cafeteria food the way that most college students do. There was, though, a time when I lived in a dorm and had to eat at the dining hall for every meal. Our dorms didn't have any kitchenettes or anything, either. All we had was a refrigerator (mine was usually filled with Mountain Dew) and a microwave (for making Annie's Microwaveable Mac & Cheese). No toaster. No stove. Darkness, desolation. Borderline starvation. (Okay, so I'm exaggerating here, but you get the point.) I wasn't as into cooking then as I am now--I always liked cooking, but I never spent time clicking around the internet looking for new things to make. Which is good. If I had, I would have become increasingly disappointed that I couldn't make anything. So today, I'm going to share with you all something I could have made back then, and something that those of you who are in college and don't have access to much in terms of appliances can make now.

A few weeks ago, I was bored on the internet and saw something that mentioned chocolate pudding. I'm not sure why, but I pretty much immediately needed to make chocolate pudding. I was about to go search for recipes when I thought, "Wait, I'm at Mike's house. He doesn't have things like heavy cream and a double boiler to make pudding with." I almost didn't even look, but I remembered that I had a little bit of cream left there from a cake I'd made, and maybe--just maybe--it would be enough to make pudding. Boy, was I surprised when I found that the top chocolate pudding recipe on didn't use cream at all. In fact, it called for skim milk. The total calories from fat in one serving of this recipe is seven. Seven calories from fat. In PUDDING. So not only can you make this in your dorm room, but you won't get fat if you eat it every day.

If you're at home, and you really don't feel like making stuff in a microwave, you can do this in a double-boiler. It's really not necessary, though. This was excellent pudding.

RECIPE: College Kid Chocolate Pudding
very very slightly adapted from

-1/3 cup sugar
-1/4 cup cocoa powder (I used Hershey's Dark cocoa powder. It's not any more expensive and it tastes SOOOOO good. If you like dark chocolate, I highly recommend it.)
-3 tbsp cornstarch
-1/8 tsp salt
-2 cups 1% milk (I know I said the recipe calls for skim, but I prefer to write what I actually did, and we drink 1%--use skim if that's what you have.)
-1 tsp vanilla extract (optional--I left it out because by the time I was supposed to add it, the pudding was way too thick.)

1. In a large microwave-safe bowl, mix sugar, cocoa powder, cornstarch and salt. Make sure you mix thoroughly. If the cornstarch isn't incorporated into everything else, it'll clump when you add the milk and not come apart and your pudding won't thicken.
2. Add the milk and whisk (with a fork, if you don't have a whisk, which I imagine most college kids don't.)
3. Microwave on high for 3 minutes. Remove and stir.
4. Microwave for another 2-6 minutes, for one minute at a time, removing and stirring after each minute. (The original recipe says 4-6 minutes. I thought it looked plenty pudding-y at 2, though, and after 4 it was too thick to add the vanilla.) When it's thick enough, add the vanilla and stir it in.
5. Separate the pudding into 4 dishes (bowls, coffee mugs, solo cups, whatever) and refrigerate until cold.
6. Serve, topped with whipped cream (if you have it or can steal it from the cafeteria) or just normal cream (if you have it; you probably can't steal this one).

Step 1: Dry ingredients in a bowl.

Step 2: After you add the milk, the dry ingredients will probably make it look really foamy, almost sponge-y. This might also be a side-effect of using the whisk instead of a fork. Regardless, it's okay.

Step 3: Action shot! I wanted to capture how it looked a lot darker under the thin layer of bubbles. This is right after it came out of the first 3 minutes of microwaving.

Step 4: This is after 4 minutes of microwaving. I don't think it needed to be this thick, but it was delicious, so I guess don't hesitate to over-thicken it if you're not sure.

Step 5: I like my pudding in coffee mugs. And if you're a normal college student, you probably have a few of them lying around. The important thing here is, I know there are people out there who can put pudding into serving dishes without making it look like a complete mess. Would any of those people like to volunteer to teach me? Because I clearly need help. (Though, fellow college kids, you probably don't have to worry about what it looks like. Anyone you're feeding this to should be happy enough just to have homemade pudding.)

So there you have it. The easiest pudding to make, EVER. Were you confused when I said you can serve it with just cream? Because Mike was sort of confused when I poured some cream onto mine. I'm not sure why I do this except that I grew up doing it, and I think it tastes wonderful. It's exactly like whipped cream, except it hasn't been whipped yet.

The ingredients and supplies necessary to make this would easily fit in one cube of those wire-grate-assemble-it-yourself shelving units that I know you have in your room. It would probably cost under 10 dollars to be able to make this a bunch of times. And that guy or girl you're after will probably be totally impressed that you made pudding in your dorm room, so it's worth it.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

THIS JUST IN: I love panko!

My experience with panko bread crumbs has been, until recently, extremely limited. It seems that some of the sushi I enjoy is covered in them, but that was really about it. Luckily, this changed fairly recently after Mike's roommate bought some and allowed me to use it to make pork chops. I didn't even document it because I didn't think it'd be all that exciting--just breadcrumb-covered pork chops, right? But they were SO good, and this method is simple and super adaptable. (You could use normal breadcrumbs if you want, too, but it's not as exciting.)

My usual "let's bake some chicken or pork" recipe can be found here (I used to post things on recipezaar before I started this blog). It's really simple and comes out nice and crispy, but I'm glad to be able to change it up once in a while, and for some reason, the panko discovery makes that a lot easier. I guess I'm reluctant to use anything aside from the egg/mustard sauce with normal breadcrumbs, but panko just seems more versatile. The only problem with writing up this recipe is that I'm a terrible judge of how much panko I'll need to cover everything, so I pour some in a bowl and have Mike add more as I need it and I therefore have no idea how much panko I end up using. This method works fine, as long as you know you have enough panko--less than a cup for 3 or 4 pork chops and you'll probably need to get more. (Actually, the same could be said for the sauce, but it's probably closer to half a cup before you need more.)

So, my new pork chops, with two different sauces! Hooray!

RECIPE: Panko-crusted Pork Chops
by me

-3 or 4 pork chops
-about 1/4 cup flour
-at least half a cup of some type of sauce (I have used barbecue sauce and Bangkok Padang Peanut Sauce and loved them both; if you want to use something thin [like teriyaki or something] maybe simmer it with some cornstarch to thicken it.)
-at least 1 cup Panko bread crumbs

1. Find three small bowls (like you would eat cereal out of, unless you're one of those people who eats cereal out of a HUGE bowl). Put the flour in one, a decent amount of the sauce (about 1/4 cup) in another, and about 1/2 panko in the third. Spray a baking sheet.
2. Trim as much fat as you can off the pork chops. I find it works best to coat them one at a time, so:
3. Take the first pork chop and dredge it in the flour until it's almost completely white. Then dip it in the sauce and cover it--the amount of sauce you put on it will, of course, determine how strong the sauce's flavor is, so if you want subtle flavor, try to completely cover it with as little sauce as possible, and if you want lots of flavor, see how much sauce you can get to stick to it. (I've tried brushing the sauce on instead of dipping. It didn't work nearly as well and it was a lot messier.) Then put your pork chop in the panko and cover completely. Place the pork chop on the baking sheet.
4. Repeat step 3 with the rest of the pork chops, adding more panko or sauce to the bowl as needed. (It's nice to have someone else to help with this so you don't contaminate the containers with your meat-hands, but if that's not possible, wipe them down with a disinfectant afterward.)
5. Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes and then eat! With...sides that are appropriate for the sauce that you used.

This is the time I tried brushing them. It wasn't all that bad, but I prefer the dipping method.

I forgot I used my brownie pan! Works just as well as a cookie sheet, just smaller. But it probably wouldn't work for four pork chops.

Rice pilaf and corn seemed appropriate sides for the BBQ ones.

I thought one picture that showed how they all looked at each stage would be appropriate, even though it was sort of annoying to set up. Keep in mind that when you pick them up to move them to the next bowl, your fingers will remove some of whatever you just covered them with. It's okay, though. (This one's the peanut sauce. Yummy!)

The finished peanut one! Somehow the panko stuck better here, but that's probably my fault. I think we ate corn with it again, because, well, summer. And yaki onigiri, which I'll be posting soon.

Okay, so this is so simple that it seems weird to even have a blog post for it, but I have to talk about why I love it. I'm not sure if I mentioned this in my spare ribs post, but I really don't like barbecue sauce in most situations. (Acceptable uses for barbecue sauce: ribs.) However, this recipe--even with a lot of sauce--comes out with such a subtle flavor that it's wonderful. It doesn't overpower the pork (which is why I usually don't like it), it complements it and allows you to enjoy both flavors. I think the peanut sauce flavor came through a bit more, but it still wasn't overpowering. Pork chops get a bad reputation for some reason, but they really do have an excellent flavor on their own. (I really mean on their own--when Mike makes them, he just tosses them in a frying pan until they're done and browned on both sides. I was skeptical at first, and I usually cover them with pepper, but they're super tasty! And I cover everything with pepper.) So, I love having a way to make them that adds another flavor without destroying the pork's flavor completely, and this is perfect for that. And the panko! It's so different from normal bread crumbs--it won't get soggy and there's way more texture. The flavor's really different, though I'm not quite sure why.

I seem to have failed at both a Friday update AND a Tuesday update. I've been super distracted, trying to enjoy the last two weeks before classes start up again on the 8th. I can't believe it's already September! My birthday's on Saturday, AHHHH! (On the plus side, I get sushi and cake. And probably crayons. Yes, I asked for crayons for my 23rd birthday, what of it?)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Taste&Create: 4 Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies

Hi everyone! Look at me, blogging on a Tuesday like I'm supposed to. I was super excited to be paired with Dragon Musings for this month's Taste&Create. She has 3 kids, I believe, and does a lot of cooking with them that results in some pretty awesome things, like stegosaurus shaped calzones (which I can't find right now but I love dinosaur-shaped food so they must be delicious). She also posts a new flash game every Friday, which frequently consumes my weekends if I'm not careful, and menu plans on Monday which cause me to admire her ability to plan out what she's going to eat. I definitely can't do that. So check out her blog, but first look at how AWESOME these cookies are!

She emailed me to ask about my peanut butter and chocolate chip banana cookies, since she lives in Australia and they don't have peanut butter chips there. I, sadly, didn't know how to go about replacing things with peanut butter to get both tastes in there, but I asked her to let me know if she figures it out because I've been looking for a good peanut butter cookie recipe. She responded pointing out that she'd just posted a peanut butter cookie recipe the day before. Apparently I'd been too distracted to check my RSS feed, because I definitely would have noticed that, but I checked and was super excited to see that she had, and that they looked like the peanut butter cookies I remember eating when I was a kid. So here's the recipe! It's the most amazingly easy thing I've ever made. If you screw up every food that you ever cook, you can make these and they will be perfect. Just trust me.

RECIPE: 4-ingredient peanut butter cookies

-1 cup peanut butter (the kind with lots of ingredients, like Skippy or Jif, not the kind that is just peanuts or peanuts and salt)
-1 cup sugar
-1 tsp cinnamon
-1 egg

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Put all the ingredients in a bowl and mix them until they reach an even consistency.
3. Roll them into balls and place them on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper. Squash crisscrossed fork marks in them (as pictured below).
4. Bake for 8 minutes.

Step 2, part 1: put everything in the bowl.

Step 2, part 2: Mix everything until it looks like this.

Step 3: roll into the balls so they look like the balls here, and then squash with a fork so they look like the fork-squashed ones here.

Right out of the oven. Isn't that the most gorgeous peanut butter cookie you've ever seen?

I was SO impressed with this recipe. Not only is it incredibly simple, but it tastes exactly like a peanut butter cookie should. The consistency is very cookie-like, which I didn't expect given the lack of flour--Mike just ate one and asked me how they seem so cookie-like without any flour. So, other bonus: gluten free! (Assuming the peanut butter is gluten free. I'm not sure. I couldn't find anything on the label saying it was, but I couldn't find anything saying it wasn't, either. And I'm sure if it's not there are brands out there that are.) The whole thing took probably 20 minutes, and most of that was fork-squashing because I'm a bit of a perfectionist.

The only problem I had with this recipe was actually the cinnamon. I feel blasphemous even saying that--anyone who knows me knows that I put cinnamon in EVERYTHING and a teaspoon of cinnamon in a pie recipe translates to two tablespoons, but it was sort of weird with the peanut butter flavor. I think, though, that this is my fault--it was only weird for two cookies, so either I got used to it quickly OR I should have mixed the cinnamon and sugar together first so that it was evenly integrated. Whoops. I should know to do things like that by now. I'm pretty sure that the cookies that tasted too strongly of cinnamon just had a higher concentration of cinnamon in them than the others and it would be fixed if I followed normal baking protocol instead of getting excited to take a picture that clearly showed the four ingredients. Oh well.

So go make these! You probably have all the ingredients. I got 17 cookies, so it doesn't even make so many that you'll have to give them away or get sick from eating only cookies for the next few days. And don't forget to stop by Dragon Musings and check out her flash and such.

Friday, August 20, 2010

PGG's Panzanella

It seems like forever ago that I told you all to buy the Poor Girl Gourmet cookbook. Have you bought it yet? Because if you have, then this post is probably completely unnecessary, but if you HAVEN'T then I'm sharing my new favorite recipe with you. (I'm not quite sure if it's my absolute favorite, but it's definitely up there.)

Panzanella is a bread salad based in the idea of "cucina povera"--poor cooking. This also includes things like Minestrone, so I'm pretty sure Italians are just geniuses when it comes to cooking with not much in the way of funds. This is the recipe that I spent about an hour staring at after I bought Poor Girl Gourmet, trying to figure out exactly how it worked (bread salad? really?) and what "ricotta salata" was (and whether my grocery store would carry it).

There are lots of reasons to make Panzanella for dinner. Have some day-old bread? Excellent. Don't feel like actually cooking? Great! Leftover chicken? Wonderful. Tomato/basil/mint plants going crazy? Perfect. In the mood for a light dinner? Well, here you go! Seriously. Any excuse is good enough and this is the easiest thing in the world to make and toss together. If you don't have day old bread lying around, there's probably a rack of day-old baked goods at your grocery store. There isn't one at mine, of course, but that didn't stop me--I just sliced it up fairly thick and toasted it first. (I mean, toasting is sort of the same thing as making bread go slightly stale really quickly. Sorry if I just ruined toast for you.)

I only have one picture here because it's way too easy to require multiple pictures, though if you really want pictures of bread cut into cubes then I'm sure I can get some to you next time I make this.

Hmm. It doesn't look nearly as completely gorgeous as it tastes, though it looks better in the cookbook. This is also before I figured out the right setting on my camera. Anyway, if this picture doesn't look mouthwatering to you, ignore it and try the recipe.

RECIPE: Panzanella
Adapted very slightly from the Poor Girl Gourmet cookbook

-1/2 lb day-old bread (the cookbook recommends ciabatta, which my grocery store doesn't sell--I went with a completely different country and used a multigrain boule, and I'm sticking with it)
-3 medium tomatoes (large on the vine tomatoes)
-1 medium shallot
-1/4 pound feta cheese crumbles (book recommends ricotta salata; again, my grocery store doesn't carry it, but I love the feta)
-1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
-1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped
-2 leftover thin-sliced chicken breasts (or equivalent amount of cooked chicken), shredded (this is completely my addition and therefore you can leave it out for a vegetarian version)
-1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
-1/4 cup white wine vinegar

1. Chop the bread and tomatoes into cubes. Put them in a large bowl. Mince the shallot and add that, along with the feta, basil, mint, and chicken. Let sit for about 20 minutes to half an hour.
2. Mix together the oil and vinegar in a small bowl. Pour it over the bread salad. Stir. Eat.\

It seriously doesn't get any easier than that, and I can't get over how good this is. I added the chicken to make it a more filling meal than just a salad, but it's absolutely not necessary. And I can't help thinking how easy it would be to adapt--tomatoes are out of season now? People are eating squashes? I can add some squash, okay. Cool. The best part? You're serving four people for under $10. If you buy things on sale, it's a lot under $10.

Of course I'm going to tell you again to go buy that cookbook, but also don't forget to check out her blog. It is just as lovable!

And speaking of blog love, you should also go check out Pixie's most recent post. She loved my blog so much that it inspired her to start documenting her food! I'm so flattered! And I must say her stuffed chicken breasts look delicious; she seems to have the "presentation" thing down much better than I do, too.

Friday, August 13, 2010

We're still not sure who killed Amanda Palmer, but I put her into a food coma and that's pretty awesome.

Hi guys! I promise there's food in here, but I have to be a fangirl for a moment. You'll probably learn more about me than you could from all the rest of my posts combined here. If you don't want to hear about me (or, well, about Amanda Palmer, really) you can scroll down to the recipe.

Today I'm going to take you into a fantasy world that is very much like the real world that you live in right now, except that you're me a few weeks ago.

There's a lot of music that I listen to, a lot of art that I look at, a lot of books and comics that I read. I'm not going to say these things that I do are the best things, but they're usually the things I love (okay, except for the music, my car doesn't have a CD player so I'm usually stuck listening to whatever's on the radio). With all the media that we have such easy access to these days, it's easy to not think about it most of the time--but I bet you all have someone, an artist, writer, musician, something, that really makes you think or care or push yourself or whatever. Think for a bit and I bet you'll come up with someone--a song that changed you, a poem that you memorized in grade school and never forgot, a book that suddenly made your mind click in the right way so that you're looking at the world in a way that makes sense to you now.

Now imagine that there's a thing that you do. Something that you do and know you're doing well and people love and appreciate--in my case, food. And that person who changed everything has a blog, and they write in their blog about a show that they're doing that--wow, is only about an hour away, that's not a bad drive at all. And there are rehearsals, and there are a lot of people, and the rehearsals are long, and they need to eat. And that person--your person--needs people to do your thing and bring it there. Amanda Palmer needed people to bring food to Cabaret rehearsals in Cambridge. My person. My thing. I couldn't not do it.

Most of the time when I mention her to people, I get a weird look and a confused "who?" in response, so for those of you giving me that look right now, she is a musical artist and force of nature. (I say "musical artist" because I really feel that in this case "musician" doesn't cover it.) Now, I didn't know anything about Amanda Palmer a year ago. I'd be giving you the same look that you're giving me right now if I were on the other end of this conversation, but that changed drastically in a very short period of time.

I don't know exactly how to describe Amanda's music. I think she files it as "punk cabaret," which may not make sense if you're not familiar with it, but I promise it fits. What I can say about it is that when I was introduced to her solo CD "Who Killed Amanda Palmer" (there's a book now, too) I was in a really bad place that I needed to get out of. I'm not going to describe it in depth--there was some depression, some anxiety, some trauma--I was broken. I'm not going to give Amanda all the credit here (I cannot express my gratitude to Mike for being there and talking me through things or just holding me when I break down in the middle of the night and he has to be at work at 6am--he has been my rock and he doesn't understand how much he's done). But when Mike's not around, or when I need to be alone, I listen to her music. And it was listening to her music that started making my brain tick the right way again, that pushed me to go beyond just crying to Mike and heal myself. It's not quite "empowerment," there's more to it than that, but I can't express it. And then at some point, she freed herself from her record company, and to celebrate she posted a free song for her fans. I listened to it and I cried and I laughed and I suddenly knew that despite everything, I was going to be okay. So that's what Amanda Palmer means to me. What she creates helped me find my own strength that I know was there all along, but not quite within reach, and jump up and grab it and hold on to it. At some later point, I started feeling depressed again, and with that strength that I'd found I was able to fight it off by myself without running back to antidepressants or just being miserable, and it felt great to be able to do that. Amanda, if you're reading this, thank you so much for doing what you do.

It's not like I'm completely better now. Honestly, people terrify me. I've always been shy around people I don't know, but for some reason in the past few years I get scared to go to parties. Social anxiety isn't fun at all. Mine's bad enough that, when Amanda made that blog post about wanting people to bring food, I was almost too scared to send an email about it. But I did, and I worked things out, and I thought about food and what kind of food vegetarians and vegans and people who can't eat rice-based products and carnivores all love, and I made a whole lot of falafel and I went to that rehearsal and fed the cast of Cabaret, including Amanda Fucking Palmer. (I hope people here aren't offended by swears, but I'm pretty sure that if you write a lot about her you have to include that. It may or may not actually be her legal middle name. Okay, it's not, but her lawyers apparently actually thought it was, and it belongs there. I can't censor her.)

Okay, okay, I'm getting to the food. Here. Sorry. I didn't turn into a burbling puddle of fangirl when I met her, so I kind of had to here, just because I needed to get it out. (I doubt it would even be possible to turn into a burbling puddle of fangirl around her--she's so down to earth and so real [in the sense that I usually expect people who are even remotely famous to have some manufactured personality]). She's an incredible person to hang out with. She asked me about me, and we talked about how cool it is that the internet lets people who are artists make a living off their art without "making it big" and how cool that is, and about food comas and crazy schedules, and I told her about how I sort of want to be her fiance when I grow up (oh, right, she's engaged to Neil Gaiman, if you didn't know that--somehow it seems right that my two favorite famous people/biggest influences are going to get married).

You may have noticed up there that I said I made a whole lot of falafel. I'm posting the recipe, of course. I was asked for it. I'd be posting it anyway, but that seems important. I made double-batches of this recipe, and I made three double-batches, so essentially six of these. It was a lot of food. It was stressful for a couple minutes when I wasn't sure they were going to finish in time for me to put on real clothes and pack things up and drive to Cambridge. I'm going to tell you right off the bat not to make double-batches of this unless you have a HUGE food processor--it was quite difficult to integrate everything at times and required a lot of "pulse, stop, push stuff around with a spoon, put the cover back on, pulse again, repeat." If you don't have a food processor, that's totally okay too! It'll take a lot longer, but you can dice everything really small and fork-crush the garbanzo beans into it. And the best part of this recipe is that it's baked instead of deep-fried--no greasy oil making it heavy in your stomach and it's SO much healthier. YES.

RECIPE: Baked Falafel
Adapted from ChowVegan

-1 15-oz can garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
-1 small onion (or large shallot), chopped
-2 or 3 cloves of garlic
-1 tbsp fresh parsley
-1 tbsp fresh cilantro
-1 tsp lemon juice
-1 tsp coriander
-1 tsp cumin
-1/4 tsp dried red pepper flakes (double for spicier falafels) (yes I know it doesn't pluralize like that just work with me here)
-2 tbsp flour
-1 tsp baking powder
-IF YOU'RE FORK CRUSHING: 1 tsp olive oil (adding this in the food processor will make it come out very liquid)

1. Drain and rinse the garbanzo beans. Leave them in a colander in the sink until you use them so they drain adequately; you don't want to add too much extra liquid here.
2. Slice the onions, peel the garlic, and throw them both into the food processor along with the parsley and cilantro. Pulse until everything is finely minced; it will sort of look like a coarse crushed ice type of dessert.
3. Pour in the garbanzo beans and everything else (coriander, cumin, lemon juice, red pepper flakes, flour, baking powder). Using a wooden spoon, try to stir the mixture enough to get the garbanzo beans at least slightly integrated with the onion mixture--this will probably be a lot easier in single batches than it was in double batches.
4. Turn on your food processor and let it do its thing, stopping frequently to mix things around and make sure it's fairly evenly textured. It won't be perfect, but if you don't do this you'll end up with hummus at the bottom and mostly-whole-garbanzos at the top. Be careful not to let it go too long, or you'll just end up with hummus.
5. Heat your oven to 375 degrees (F). Take out and oil some cookie sheets. Roll the falafel into balls and press them to make patties, placing on the cookie sheets. They don't spread like cookies, so you can put them pretty close together, but keep in mind that you do have to flip them halfway through baking so if they're too close that gets difficult.
6. Bake your falafel for thirty minutes, taking it out and flipping them over halfway through.
7. When your falafel is done, let it cool for a few minutes, then serve in a pita with lettuce, sliced tomatoes, and tahini sauce. (Adding hummus is a common practice, but it's one that I don't understand since falafel is pretty much hummus that's been processed for a shorter time and then cooked. If you want hummus, you can add it.)

The tahini sauce recipe that I used was perfect and can be found here. I followed it to the letter, so there's not much point in my typing it up again (it's late and I'm sort of tired).

Step 2. If you're using a food processor, slicing things like this works--if you fork-crush the garbanzo beans, mince everything really really tiny. (Instructions for fork-crushing are at Chow Vegan, linked above.)

Step 2, continued. This is just the above stuff after being processed for a few seconds, but it looks so fresh and delicious that I had to take a picture. I don't know why it looks so dessert-like to me.

Step 3. Everything else, added.

Step 4. If you look closely, you might notice a whole garbanzo bean or two. That's okay--I just crushed them with the spoon as I came across them. It's better to have more texture than to turn your falafel into hummus--can you see on the right how it sort of already looks like hummus on the bottom?

Step 5. This was a little closer than they should be, but like I said, only because it was difficult to flip them.

This was a lot of falafel.

It got eaten, though!

By Amanda Palmer! (Sorry I'm pointing at your boob, Amanda. I was trying to point at the sandwich to say "I made that!" but I guess I couldn't really tell where the sandwich was.) Are you familiar with The Princess Bride? You know that part where Buttercup kisses the King because "he's always been so kind to her, and she's killing herself once they reach the honeymoon suite" but he's too excited that she kissed him to process what she said and just says "Isn't that nice. SHE KISSED ME!" Well, that's sort of what it was like, except Amanda wasn't planning on killing herself or anything. It was just sort of awesome and surreal, so despite the fact that I'm all scrunched up and the camera added like 50 pounds to me (that's a lie, maybe 10) it's my favorite picture ever. (Photo credit to someone in the cast who took the picture with my camera. I'm terrible with names so I can't tell you who.)

And, of course, the rest of a hungry cast, all of whom were SUPER COOL. (Photo credit to Amanda's phone, I'm not actually sure who took the picture. Someone in the cast. Amanda posted in on twitter.)

And then Amanda went into a food coma power nap and told me it wasn't creepy if I took a picture as long as I promised it was sexy. I think this is a pretty sexy nap picture, don't you?

OKAY I'm pretty exhausted now because it's been a busy few days and is going to continue to be a busy few days, so I'm gonna leave you with that. And I'll probably come back and edit this post to add some appropriate links tomorrow. And I know I said I'd post Friday and it's technically Saturday, but I'm still awake so to me it's still Friday. ALSO THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT: since it's technically Saturday, it's now officially Mike's birthday! Wish him a happy birthday in the comments, he totally deserves it. HAPPY BIRTHDAY MIKE I LOVE YOU.

Oh, one more thing. If you're anywhere in the Boston area--actually, within four hours of the Boston area, go see Cabaret. I saw a little bit of rehearsal and it was amazing. I can't wait. Buy tickets here.