Dec 28, 2010

New Years Resolutions

You know what I love? Snow. No, I love Winter in general. Right now I'm at Kirkwood in Lake Tahoe, looking out the window watching the snow fall. It's really beautiful and I think it's a great way to spend my last week of winter break. Overall, this winter break has been a wonderfully relaxing time for me. The last few weeks of fall quarter were really difficult, especially since I spend the majority of the time in bed willing myself to recover from pneumonia. (Thankfully I got over it just fine, but I think that has more to do with the wonderful magic of antibiotics than will power) I've spent a lot of time over break just sitting on the couch reading and I have loved every minute of it. Seriously, what could be better than curling up under a blanket with a good book? Cliche, I know, but it really is awesome. So now, with less than a week until classes start again, I am contemplating how to manage the next quarter so that it doesn't end quite as dramatically as the last one. The goal is to make it through the quarter without getting sick or stressed out to the point of madness. I've got some ideas on how to make that happen, and hopefully I can stick to it! So here's some of my new years resolutions:

1. More exercise! Exercise is great for de-stressing and staying healthy, so I'm really going to focus on this one most of all. Dan and I will be participating in a fitness program that challenges us to complete a certain number of hours of physical activity every week. The prize is a free t-shirt! I know, it's sad that I'm motivated by a free t-shirt, but hey, I love free.
2. More cooking! Cooking, as you may have guessed, is a really great way for me to chillllll out. Being in the kitchen is soothing and calming and I am going to make every effort to cook as often as possible. (And hopefully be coming up with some delicious healthy recipes)
3. Less worry! I am a worrier. I think it runs in my family. I create endless lists and worry how I will get everything done, I worry that the I will fail a paper I spent days writing, I worry that I will somehow trip and fall while running to catch a bus and embarrass myself completely, etc etc. So I am going to try and stop worrying. Well not entirely, that would be ridiculous. But at least when I catch myself worrying, I will try and get over it and move on without it dragging me down.
4. Balancing time management! I'm not gonna lie, I have awesome time management skills. My calender is perfectly organized and color coordinated, my homework gets charted out on a daily basis, and I'm never late. But sometimes, I think it's too much. This goes right back to the worrying thing. I think I just need to chill out and get over it all! Being organized is great, but hey, I don't need to be organized allllll the time!

So those are my new years resolutions. And I'm stickin' to them!
And as a final note, here are some awesome pictures from Kirkwood. Happy New Years everybody!

Dec 21, 2010

Chana Masala

Confession time. I have an addiction. A relatively healthy addiction, but an addiction nonetheless. I am completely obsessed with Indian food. I've probably mentioned this before, but I seriously cannot get enough! I didn't used to like Indian food. In fact, I was a little bit scared of it because I didn't really like spicy food. But ever since going to Sitar (the best Indian restaurant in Santa Cruz, nay, the world) I've fallen in love. And the fact that Sitar is right on the bus route is not helping the situation. I probably go there way too much, but it's so freaking delicious! Of course, this sudden discovery of a whole new world of food has prompted me to make Indian food at home as well. My all time favorite dish has to be Aloo Tikka Masala, but this recipe I'm giving you today is a close second. Chana Masala is a simple tomato based chickpea curry and it is SO AMAZING. I'm sorry, you all probably read that as shouting. I'm just very enthusiastic when it comes to Indian food.
Last week, I offered to make dinner for my little brother and gave him options like pasta, mac and cheese, sandwiches, and Indian food--surprisingly he chose Indian food! *sniff* I'm so proud! He has learned well. I made him Chana Masala, which we both thoroughly enjoyed and, in my opinion, tasted even better the next day for lunch.

Chana Masala
adapted from Smitten Kitchen
vegetable oil
2 med onions, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp fresh ginger, minced
1 Tbsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne
1 tsp turmeric
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp garam masala
2 cups tomatoes, chopped (I used 1 tomato and a can of tomato sauce)
2/3 cup water
2 15 oz cans of chickpeas, drained
1 lemon, juiced

Heat the oil in a large pan, then cook the onion, garlic, and ginger until browned. Then add all of the spices. I know it's a really long list of spices, but trust me, it's delicious. Cook the onion mixture and spices for a few minutes then add the tomatoes. I only had one tomato so I supplemented with a can of tomato sauce. I also wanted to make sure that this ended up having extra liquid, because I prefer my curries to have lots of sauce. But that's just a personal preference thing. So if you are in a similar fix and don't have enough tomatoes, you could also add a can of whole tomatoes chopped finely. When you add the tomatoes, scrape the bottom of the pan to get any delicious brown bits that may be stuck. Then add the water and chickpeas and let cook for at least ten minutes. I let it cook a little bit longer so that the flavors would meld together more. After it has cooked, add the salt and lemon juice. Stir and serve! Delicious!


Dec 16, 2010

Daring Cooks: Poached Eggs

Jenn and Jill have challenged The Daring Cooks to learn to perfect the technique of poaching an egg. They chose Eggs Benedict recipe from Alton Brown, Oeufs en Meurette from Cooking with Wine by Anne Willan, and Homemade Sundried Tomato & Pine Nut Seitan Sausages (poached) courtesy of Trudy of Veggie num num.

Guess who lost track of the days! This post was supposed to be put up two days ago, but silly me, it slipped my mind. Things have been crazy around here and I've been super-duper busy. But that's no excuse! Here's this month's Daring Cooks challenge! This month's challengewas to perfect a poached egg and include it in a dish. I've made poached eggs before, specifically for eggs benedict, so I wanted to do something new with a poached egg. I was curious what a poached egg would taste like on pasta, so I did a little research and decided to make a sort of non-traditional pasta carbonara featuring a poached egg as the topper. I LOVE poached eggs on pasta. I don't think that I can have pasta carbonara any other way now. I've been spoiled by the delicious runny yolk and there's no turning back.
This dish is very rich--this is like your weekly value of carbs, cheese, and butter in one meal. With that in mind, feel free to tone down the butter or cheese, but I believe that if you're going to eat carbonara, you might as well go all out.

Poached Egg Carbonara
adapted from epicurious
6-8 slices of bacon cut into small pieces
1 lb spaghetti
2 Tbsp butter
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
chopped parsley
poached egg

The first step in making carbonara is to fry up the bacon. I know that bacon is bad for you. I know that it's just chock full of unhealthy fats, but bacon needs love too. Fry and rejoice.
While the bacon is cooking, get the pasta water boiling. Add the pasta and keep an eye on it until it's done. When the bacon is done cooking, remove the bacon from the pan and pour out most, but not all, of the grease. Add the butter to the grease and let it blend together in a delicious marriage of flavor. When the pasta is ready, remove about 2 cups of the pasta water, then drain the rest. Put the pasta directly into the pan and add a healthy dose of pepper. Then add the cheese and a bit of the pasta water. Add more water as necessary to form a smooth sauce and prevent the pasta from sticking together. Heat for 2-3 minutes, then add the bacon and sprinkle parsley on top.
Now here's the most important part: poaching an egg. It's actually pretty easy to poach an egg, but it takes a bit of practice if you've never done it before. First get some water boiling and add a couple teaspoons of vinegar to the water. When the water is at a boil, turn the heat down to a simmer. Crack an egg into a small bowl or ramekin, you don't want to crack the eggs directly into the water or chaos will ensue. Stir the simmering water gently to create a little whirlpool. Carefully drop the egg into the spinning water and let it sit for a bit. After it's calmed down and stopped spinning, you can gently use a spoon to unstick it from the bottom. I prefer to make poached eggs in a nonstick pan because it makes this one step easier. It generally takes about 3-4 minutes to cook a poached egg depending on how runny you want it. If you want the yolk fairly solid, it will need to cook for a while longer. When the egg is cooked to your liking, carefully remove it with a slotted spoon. Don't worry if the egg isn't perfect or if the edges are a bit ragged. If it really bothers you, you can cut off the messy edges and make it a perfect circle.
After you've got your eggs all poached up, put one on top of each bowl. This made about 4 servings, so you will most likely need 4 eggs. I like my poached eggs very runny, but my parents like them a little more solid. Cook the eggs to your liking, but I strongly recommend making them runny. The yolk spreading through all the pasta was amazing! It adds so much flavor to the already delicious pasta. Look at that yolk! It's just melting all over the pasta!

Dec 9, 2010

Fried Chicken

So I've finished my finals and now I'm back home safe and sound. And for the record, I kicked my finals' butts! I realize that finals technically don't have butts, but I kicked their metaphorical butts. Of course, I won't get my grades for another couple weeks, but I'm fairly positive that I did well. Mission accomplished.
I'm home now, and loving it. Today I made cookies for my little brother and his friends, did some christmas shopping while the mall is still relatively empty, and just generally chilled out. It was wonderful. And I'm looking forward to another three weeks of the same! I've already started cooking and baking like a mad woman and I don't expect that to slow down anytime soon. Having been denied the ability to create and invent in a proper kitchen for a whole quarter has pushed me over the edge. I think I'm going to end up making my brother be a guinea pig for a lot of culinary experiments over break, but I'm sure he won't mind. He loves giving me brutally honest opinions and then eating himself sick.
Anyway! I promised to give you all my recipe for fried chicken that I invented last week! Now don't get in a fuss, I know I promised it sooner, but come on I had finals. (Aunt Kate...I'm looking at you. :)

Fried Chicken--Pinto style
3-4 Chicken breasts, cut into strips
Gluten free bread crumbs
Corn Chex cereal
2 eggs
Italian seasoning
Oil for frying

This is the same basic breading that we used on the mozzarella sticks. Same idea, same method, just with chicken. We cut the chicken into pretty thin strips and after frying, ended up cutting those strips in half so that there would be enough for a lot of people. Aileen decided that it was basically popcorn chicken and next time we make it, we're going to try cubing the chicken to see what happens.
First make the dredge; smash the Corn Chex cereal to pieces and combine it with the bread crumbs. I used about a 2:1 ratio, 2 cups bread crumbs to 1 cup cereal. Add a good amount of italian seasoning and salt and set aside. Beat the two eggs in another bowl. Dredge the chicken in the eggs, shake off the excess, and roll in the bread crumb mixture. You might need to pat the crumbs onto the chicken to get it to stay. Try experimenting with cereal size, sometimes smashing the cereal to crumbs helps it to stick to the chicken better.
Heat the oil in a large pan until it is screaming hot. I don't have a thermometer, but the way I test out how hot the oil is is to put a bit of water on my finger and flick it into the oil. When the water bounces around and snaps a lot, then the oil is ready. Put the chicken into the oil and cook for about a minute. Flip the chicken over and cook for another minute. Depending on how thick the chicken strips are you may need to cook it longer. We cut them in half, which was helpful because we could see if they were done all the way through and adjust cooking times appropriately. Again, play around, you also want to make sure that you aren't burning the crust.
Once all the chicken is cooked, it's time to dig in and eat some tasty, tasty chicken!

Dec 5, 2010

I'm back!

I'm so happy right now! And I want the world to know it! The kitchen problem isn't fully resolved yet, but it's close enough that I got to make two meals in it this weekend. Progress!
The first meal we made was spaghetti and meatballs. You've all seen that one on here before, but if you haven't tried it out yet....please. Go make some spaghetti and meatballs. You won't regret it. We changed it up a little bit this time by attempting to make mozzarella stuffed meatballs. They turned out alright, but I don't think that we used enough cheese. They were good, but there wasn't that element of cheese-splosion that I was going for.
But tonight...oh man....tonight was amazing. In the words of my little brother: dude. so epic.
Now I know that this might upset a few people, but I'm going to admit something shameful. before tonight, I had never had a mozzarella stick. I know! A horrific truth. Tonight, I got to experience mozzarella sticks for the first time and baby, there's no going back now. I may be forced to eat mozzarella sticks every day for the rest of my life. Ok thats an exaggeration. But at least once a week.
We also made fried chicken strips and I'm fairly positive that I've invented the most amazing fried chicken recipe of all time. Hint: it includes cereal.
Today I'm going to share with you the mozzarella stick recipe just because they are my newest obsession, but the fried chicken recipe will be coming up soon!

Mozzarella Sticks
String cheese
Gluten free bread crumbs (I used Hol Grain brown rice bread crumbs)
Corn Chex cereal
2 eggs
italian seasoning
Oil for frying

You may notice that there are no measurements in this recipe. That's because this is a free for all mozzarella stick making extravaganza. Don't measure! Go wild!
First cut the string cheese sticks in half so that you have two 2" sticks. Crush up a few handfuls of the Chez cereal into small pieces. They don't need to be superfine, just small enough that they'll stick to the cheese without falling right off. In a large pan or plate combine the bread crumbs and the cereal. I did about a 2:1 ratio, 1 cup of bread crumbs to 1/2 cup of crushed cereal. But this is a no measuring extravaganza, so feel free to alter that ratio as you see fit. To the bread crumbs add a good dose of italian seasoning and a pinch of salt. We used Pappy spice because Pappy spice is amazing, but italian seasoning is a great substitute. In a small bowl beat the two eggs into submission. Now for the dredging! Dip the cheese sticks in the egg, shake off the excess, and roll it in the bread crumb mixture. You might need to pat the crumbs onto the cheese to get it to stay, but it'll stick on there. Make sure you cover the ends too or else the cheese will just melt all over the place. After the cheese has been dredged put them on a foil lined cookie sheet. Once all the cheese is done, put the whole cookie sheet in the freezer for at least ten minutes.
While the cheese is freezing, heat up some oil in a pan. I would say about a half an inch of oil will work. When the oil is screaming hot, and I mean hot, you can start frying. Try frying just one first to make sure you know what you're doing. Using tongs, put the cheese sticks in the oil and fry for about thirty seconds, spinning it around constantly. You want to get the outside golden and crispy before the cheese starts melting all over the place. It shouldn't take more than thirty seconds to get them all crispy and delicious. I also wouldn't recomend frying more than three at once because they need to be constantly moving. When they're done cooking, put them on a paper towel lined plate to drain. Then dig in! But be careful, there's lava hot melty cheese in there.
This is the only picture I got of the mozzarella sticks, sorry it's really bad quality, but I was too busy focused on the plat of deliciousness in front of me to worry about pictures.

Ah it's good to be back :)