Tag: cooking

How to Do Fancy Easy

Using some simple tips I made a luxurious lunch inn little time

Pantry Challenge Update 1

Hey guys! I just wanted to give you a quick update on my pantry challenge that I announced at the end of January. I must admit I have not been perfect in the challenge. I have not been to the grocery store since starting the challenge and I have had a lot of fun diving into the pantry.

For examples, I have made tacos:

I made a big pot of curry at one point:

And not going to the grocery store has helped me to reduce my food expenses quite a bit. I haven’t done the math but it is definitely true.

Where I cheated is I went to Trader Joe’s once around the 11th because I needed some of my Indian meals I like for lunches and some fresh veggies. So technically I lasted 12 days with no grocery shopping of any kind, but have made it 19 without going to a grocery store!

Even though I wasn’t perfect I am glad I have done the challenge and want to keep it up! Over the next few weeks I am going to try and eat out even less than I have. Baby steps!

What do you think about my progress? Are you impressed? 🙂

Movie Munchies 1: Apricot Chicken/Blind Side

Hi guys!  I wanted to share with you a very exciting video I just posted on my youtube channel.  It’s called Movie Munchies where we will review a film and make a recipe on the same video.  This week to celebrate the Super Bowl we are talking about 2009’s The Blind Side and making my favorite apricot chicken drumsticks- perfect for game day.  This was a huge challenge for me and I would love to get your feedback.

We’ve already got episode 2 filmed and will probably do this a couple of times a month.  If you have any ideas for good movie/meal parings please let me know!

Making this video required a whole new kind of editing and filming for me so I learned a lot but I’m really excited for the future.  I loved my chemistry with Jacqueline and found the entire experience very rewarding.  I know each episode will only continue to improve.

Thanks for checking it out.

Recipe-
3 lbs drumsticks or other meat
1 cup onions diced
1 cup bell peppers diced
3 cloves garlic minced
1/3 c soy sauce
1/4 c firmly packed cup brown sugar
1/4 c molasses
1/4 c honey
1 14 ounce bottle ketchup
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
hot sauce to taste
1 jar apricot preserves
Olive Oil
Heat up onions, peppers, and garlic till translucent. In separate skillet sear the chicken on high heat to get a golden brown color. Add all ingredients except for jam, heat and then let simmer till it thickens.
Add apricot jam to mixture and poor over chicken.
Bake at 400 degrees for an hour, remove tin foil at 30 minutes. Test with thermometer. Want chicken 165 degrees or higher.
Enjoy! Let me know if you like it and I’ve made it with wings, pork, ribs etc.

Raspberry Jam

I’m not some hipster where everything has to be homemade and local in order for me to enjoy it.  That said, there is something satisfying about crafting your own products.  I have a job that is online and markets others people’s stuff but I don’t make anything myself.  That is why it feels good to take raw materials and make something usable out of your efforts.

Yesterday I had such an experience and I turned a bunch of these:

jam3Into these:

jamIsn’t that impressive? I’m impressed by my efforts at the least! And to make it even better the jam tastes good my friends!  (It’s set up more now than last night when I had this toast)

jam4The great thing is it is very simple to make.  In fact, I didn’t even follow the recipe right and it still turned out right.

I had 10 cups of raspberries and I used 10 tbsp of this real fruit pectin (any pectin will do).

jam5Then you mash the raspberries (mine were very soft so just a spoon was all I needed).  Then I had 20 tsp of lemon juice.  I saved myself from all the juicing by using bottled juice since it is mostly for the acid.

lemon juiceThen add 2 tbsp butter and let mixture boil for 2 minutes.  (I put sugar in at this point but you aren’t supposed too. I read the directions incorrectly but it didn’t matter).

Take off heat add the sugar 10 cups (It makes a lot of jam) and then let it get to a rolling boil again (so it can’t be stopped by stirring).  Let boil for 2 minutes.

Let cool and then skim off any foam and put into jars.  I don’t use a canner for this kind of jam.  All you have to do is put on the seal and ring and turn it upside down and it will set. (you can tell if it is set if you press down on the seal and it doesn’t pop back up on you.

And that’s it!! Raspberry is the easiest of all because aside from washing there is no prep work for the fruit.  That’s what made peach jam so difficult is the peeling, pitting and chopping of the fruit.  I have also made strawberry jam and that is so good but is still more work than raspberry (but a lot less expensive).

All of them are delicious and fun to make.  Especially if you have a family it could be a great project.  I would like to branch out into other types of preserves such as ketchups, chutneys and pickles.  Do any of you can or preserve your food?  I’d love to hear your recipes.

Rachel’s BBQ Rub

Hey guys!  It might surprise you that one of my most popular blog posts over the years was a recipe for BBQ sauce I did when I was hard core on the low sugar thing.  It is a fun recipe and lots of people have tried it and liked it.

Rachel’s Homemade BBQ Sauce

My friend invited me to a handmade item co-op tomorrow where we swap items that we have made by hand.  Can be anything from soap to jam to cheese.  I love making jam but didn’t feel up to it this week and they didn’t want sweets (was going to do chocolate covered strawberries!).

I just couldn’t take on a bit project like making jam this week so I thought long and hard about what I could make because I don’t sew or knit or do a handicraft I could swap.  The best thing I could come up with is to make a spice rub.  I looked at some recipes and came up with something I liked. It’s a little sweet and spicy and would be great on pork, poultry and fish.

I also found these jars on amazon with blackboard stickers and I just think they are darn cute.

rachel's rubHere’s the recipe

Rachel’s BBQ Rub

1/2 c paprika

1/2 c brown sugar

2 tbsp chili powder

2 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tbsp onion powder

1 tbsp garlic powder

1 tbsp parsley flakes

1 tbsp salt

1 tbsp black pepper

Pretty simple just mix everything together and put in jar.  The paprika and brown sugar will clump up.  If you don’t like spice than omit or only 1 tsp of cayenne pepper. If you want it sweeter add more brown sugar. It seemed like every batch I made I added a little more of one thing, a little less of another so it just depends.

It was so fun hearing people’s changes and success with the BBQ sauce recipe so I’d love to hear it on this as well.  Please share!

Trees, Turkey, Meals and Lights

Hi guys!  I just wanted to give you a little update on my life.

Well to begin with Christmas has arrived. Got the lights and the tree up!

lightswindowThis year I rented my Christmas tree which is a completely brilliant notion.  Instead of having to store a giant tree all year and lug it out, decorate it by myself, I signed up and for the price of a house cleaning it is set up, stored, decorated and taken down at end of season.

treeAs some of you will remember from years past I have a memory tree with ornaments from travels and all other parts of my life.  I also have little picture frames that have black and white photography of my friends and family, which is especially nice this year as I will not be seeing family and my best friend Emily is away.

I have a few new ornaments to add to the tree.  Some I got in Tampa and these fun Disney ornaments to pay tribute to my Disney project and blog this year.

disney ornamentIn other news Thanksgiving has been a lot of fun.  I went to my aunt and uncle’s for dinner and it was a full house of cousins and relatives.  I was in charge of making the salad and it turned out pretty tasty.

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And now a little recipe.

saladArugula Salad with Butternut Squash and Apple Cider Dressing

Arugula

pomegranate pips  (put pomegranate under water and it makes it easy to de-seed)

butternut squash peeled, seeded and diced into 1 inch cubes

parmesean cheese

walnuts

cranberries

apple cider

apple cider vinegar

olive oil

shallots finely diced

digon mustard

maple syrup

Start with butternut squash on baking sheets with olive oil and maple syrup. Put in 375 degree oven for 45-60 minutes until the cubes are tender but crusted on outside.  While cooking mix 2 tbsp vinegar, 3/4 cup cider, 2 tbsp syrup, 2 tbsp shallots in saucepan.

Cook for 8-10 minutes until mixture has thickened.  Then add1/2 cup olive oil, 2 tbsp mustard, 1/4 cup maple syrup.  Put in jar and shake until mustard is emulsified.  I added a little water because my vinegar was strong.  If you like it sweeter add more syrup . If you want more mustard go for it!

I used a cranberry walnut mixture I bought at the store but if you don’t have that then I would roast the walnuts before.

When serving add arugula, butternut squash, walnuts, cranberries, pomegranate pips, parmesean shavings.  Add all ingredients and top with dressing and serve!

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Since I wasn’t cooking Thanksgiving dinner I decided to order one from my local market, Harmons, so I could have some leftovers!  It was pretty cool I got everything from a full turkey, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, gravy, sweet potatoes, stuffing, green beans, rolls and 2 pies for $100.  Pretty cool right?

So I portioned it all into meals and have them ready in my chest freezer for many holiday meals to come! Pretty clever right?

dinner dinners

So that’s my little holiday update. I hope you are all doing great and having a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend.  Make sure to check out Scrooge month on my other blog.  I’m having a blast watching and writing about these films of the story I love so much. I just posted yesterday about the Alistair Sims classic and today on the Disney stop motion effort.

European Style Grocery Shopping

veggies

I’ve spoken a number of times on this blog about food, cooking and the challenges of shopping for one.  Lately I’ve been trying a new strategy that has been working out very well.

This article explains the shopping philosophy and how it saves money, gives the best food http://www.wisebread.com/buy-your-groceries-european-style

Basically the idea is instead of buying in bulk or cooking large quantities, you go to the grocery store every day and buy what you need for that day or perhaps for 2-3 days.

This is smart for the following reasons

1. You get the freshest ingredients

2.  It avoids waste saving money and time

3. Fresh, seasonal ingredients typically are the least expensive

4. For a single woman who eats out a lot it makes it easy to eat out without spoiling food or meal plans waiting to be made.  You can just plan on eating out instead of shopping.

5. With a grocery store in walking distance of my house it isn’t really any  more work to shop everyday.

6. Less groceries and less mess.  Today I dirtied a few pieces of silverware and 1 plate instead of tons of pots and pans.  Of course, I can plan an everyday meal that uses a lot of pots and pans but at least I know that’s what I am doing and can plan accordingly instead of just having ingredients and trying to make something good out of it.

7.  It allows you to order what you are in the mood for on a particular day.  Not stuck eating leftovers or ingredients that sounded good a month ago.

Today for example I went to the grocery store purchased a rotiserie chicken, a kale salad and twiced baked potato they make at Harmons and stuff to make easy crepes for dessert

The other day it was a tub of chili, another it is chicken and sauce.  A lot of items are hard for me to purchase because I just can’t eat them fast enough.  A loaf of bread for instance is hard for 1 person to polish off before it is either stale in the fridge or moldy outside.

With European grocery store I can  buy just what I need for that meal and be done with it.

It may seem like this type of shopping would be more expensive and while I haven’t done the math I don’t think I’ve spent much more if any.

I know that such shopping might be impossible if you have a family but if you don’t, give it a try.  I bet you will love it!

Plus, you get to sound all suave and debonaire with your European shopping trip… 🙂

How do you shop for evening meals?  What strategies work for you?

Nora Ephron: I Feel Bad About My Neck

noraephronus

Any friend of the blog knows I love Nora Ephron.  If I could write like anyone it would be her.  She had a way of finding humor in the everyday female experience. Something as little as getting coffee, watching a movie or baking a cake could be witty and full of heart.

She unfortunately passed away in 2012 but in addition to her many movies (directing and writing) she wrote several delightful books of essays including the 2006 I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman.  This is not an important book but I kind of love it and it was our choice for book club this month.

Unfortunately nobody that had read the book was able to attend so I am going to share with all you what I would have shared with all of them.  Let me set the scene to start (I always try to make everything pretty but tried especially to honor the uber-classy Miss Ephron.

I wanted to do something really beautiful and decadent worthy of Nora so I made this russian cream
I wanted to do something really beautiful and decadent worthy of Nora so I made this russian cream

To make the Russian Cream you simply mix 2 cups sugar with 2 packets unflavored gelatin.  4 cups cream.  Heat till hot but not boiling.  Cool down and mix in 4 cups sour cream.  Put in molds.  Let set in fridge overnight.  Unmold and serve with fruit. It’s an easy recipe but it looks beautiful.

We had a pretty pink spread
We had a pretty pink spread
I found these beautiful peonies and I couldn't resist
I found these beautiful peonies and I couldn’t resist

So now you feel like you are at book club. Let me tell you about it.

One of my favorite essays Nora says:

What I Wish I’d Known”

People have only one way to be.

Buy, don’t rent.

Never marry a man you wouldn’t want to be divorced from.

Don’t cover a couch with anything that isn’t more or less beige.

Don’t buy anything that is 100% wool even if it seems to be very soft and not particularly itchy when you try it on in the store.

You can’t be friends with people who call after 11 p.m.

Block everyone on your instant mail.

The world’s greatest babysitter burns out after two and a half years.

You never know.

The last four years of psychoanalysis are a waste of money.

The plane is not going to crash.

Anything you think is wrong with your body at the age of thirty-five you will be nostalgic for at the age of forty- five.

Write everything down.

Keep a journal.

Take more pictures.

The empty nest is underrated….

Here was my version of

What I Wish I Had Known by Rachel Wagner

Travel more when you are young

People will not be real with you a lot of the time

Privacy is overrated

A $100 couch is just as comfortable as a $1000 couch.

Do not select the appliance package when you buy your house

Leaving singles ward sucks. Be ready.

A plate of spaghetti will change your life

The dream job is coming

DVR is a game changer

Date more in college

Panic attacks are the scariest moments of your life

Mr Sunshine is still hiding at 33.

Can never own too many maxi dresses

Aside from the basics most of what you learn in school you will never use

Good choice not going into debt

Look up open water swimming in 2001 not 2011

Paying dues will take you ten years

You are a leader. Stop resenting it and embrace it.

Nora and Cooking

Another essay I love is called Serial Monogamy:  A Memoir.  It is actually all about her relationship with cooking and food.  Throughout her life and marriages Nora had adventures in food.  At 16 her mother gave her The Gourmet Cookbook, then the Flavor of France, Julia Child, Michael Fields, Craig Claiborne, Lee Lun’s Chinese recipes, Marcella Hazan, Martha Stewart and Nigella Lawson.  Cooking took her through changes in career, 3 marriages and her children.  She even has internal dialogues with the chefs. It reminds me of the rat in Ratatouiee that has conversations with Chef Gusteau

She ends the section in a very sweet way “I especially like making her roast beef dinner, which is very much like my mother’s except for the yorkshire pudding.  My mother didn’t serve yorkshire pudding, although there is  recipe for it in The Gourmet Cookbook.  My mother served potato pancakes instead.  I serve yorkshire pudding and potato pancakes.  Why not?  You only live once”

I love that.  You only live once so make two starches at dinner.  It’s a lovely little essay.

Nora on Parenting

My favorite essay is on parenting.  Even though I am not a parent I am a child of parents and I find it very moving. She starts out saying “I gave birth to my children, which was not that long ago, when there was almost no such thing as parenting as we know it today”

“Back in the day where there were merely parents, as opposed to people engaged in parenting, being a parent was fairly straight forward.  You didn’t need a book and if you owned one it was by Dr.  Spock, a pediatrician and you rarely looked at i unless your child a had a fever…back in those days no one believed that you could turn your child into a different human being from the one he started out being…”

“All this changed around the time I had children. You can blame the women’s movement for it-one of the bedrock tentes fo the women’s movement was that because so many women were entering the workforce men and women should share in the raising of children; thus the gender neutral word parenting and the necessity of elevating child rearing to something more than the endless hours of quantity time it actually consists of.

Conversely, you can blame the backlash against the women’s movement- lost of women didn’t feel like entering the workforce or even sharing the raising of children with their husbands, but they felt guilty about this, so they were compelled to elevate full time parenthood to a sacrament”

She goes on to talk about the pressure people feel molding their children into these ivy league perfect people and then they grow up.  I LOVE the ending and I hope my parents feel a little bit of this when we are all back with all our idiosyncrasies and choices:

“Meanwhile, every so often, your children come to visit.  They are, amazingly, completely charming people.  You can’t believe you’re lucky enough to know them.  They make you laugh.  They make you proud.  You love them madly.  They survived you.  You survived them.  It crosses your mind that on some level, you spent hours and days and months and years without laying a glove on them, but don’t dwell.   There’s no point. It’s over.

Except for the worrying.

The worrying is forever”

I tear up whenever I read that.  The worrying is forever. I can picture my parents worrying about me and it makes me feel loved and I’m grateful for that love.

In Conclusion

Some of the essays are quite humorous.  There is one about her scandalous non-affair with President Kennedy and another about her life in an epic apartment in New York.  They aren’t all equally great but I love them.

It is the perfect summer book.  Light, heart felt and beautiful.  I don’t want to oversell it but I love it.

I’d love to hear your thoughts if any of you have read it since I didn’t get to talk much about it this morning.

nora-ephron-quote

 

 

Happy Irish Day!

irish dinner

Happy St Patricks Day! I love entertaining and finding an excuse to celebrate and today I celebrated St Patricks Day a day early.

I also got to celebrate using my pressure cooker for the first real time! It’s pretty intimidating putting it all in there, hoping you have it right and then hearing it whistle and sputter.

It sounded like it was about ready to explode the whole time but I didn’t peak and after an hour my corned beef and cabbage was looking good and tender (normally takes hours, so the pressure cooker was a success!). I finished off rubbing it in brown sugar and roasting in the oven so it got crystallized and sweet.
irish dinner 3

I added mashed potatoes made with sour cream, milk, russet potatoes and butter to the meal and it was delicious! (See recipe below)

My cousin Danielle and her husband Corey came and my sister and her roommate Becca. In between dinner we played Balderdash and then Danielle brought a yummy cheesecake. All in all it was a great and delicious night!

Btw, according to Wikipedia St Patrick’s Day is a day of feasting to commemorate the arrival of Christianity into Ireland. What better way to celebrate then by feasting with friends on Sunday.

Life is good and I hope you all have a wonderful day and week.

Top of the morning!

corned beef and mashed potatoes
Pressure Cooker Corned Beef and Cabbage
3 lb corned beef brisket
1 large green cabbage
1 bag baby carrots (or 3 carrots peeled and diced)
2 apples diced
1 onion chopped
1 packet of pork rub seasoning (I used this brown sugar rub I got in my Tyler Florence fancy box. It is for pork but worked great with the corned beef)
rub
brown sugar and agave for roasting
Put apple, cabbage, carrots, onion in bottom of pressure cooker.
Cover beef with spice mix on all sides, put on top of veggies. Add water until just gets to the bottom of the beef.
Put pressure cooker on high for about 10 minutes and then turn to low (for me it was a level 4 on the stove).
Let cook on low for an hour and 15 more minutes.
Then take meat out and rub with brown sugar and drizzle on some agave. Put in 400 degree oven for 15 minutes until brown sugar is crystalized and bubbly (don’t let it burn!)
Make sure to cut it against the grain and as thinly as possible to keep it from being tough.
Serve veggies and meat.

Mashed Potatoes
8 russet potatoes peeled and diced
1 cup sour cream
1/2 stick of butter
1/4 cup of milk
salt and pepper
Cook potatoes till tender then mash adding milk, butter and sour cream to taste. If I’m going to splurge and eat potatoes I make them really good but it’s up to you.

The downside to using the pressure cooker is that it is too watery to create any kind of gravy but the sour cream in the mashed potatoes made them flavorful enough on their own. You could also add garlic if you wanted.

So, that was my fun night. What did you guys do this weekend? Anything fun? And don’t worry. I will be wearing green on the actual holiday. In fact, check out the youtube channel because I will be opening a very special My Ireland Box in honor of the day. So fun!