Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Summer Vacation?

So far I have spent every day of my summer vacation at school, preparing for the summer workshop I teach in July. But it's not as bad as it seems. We have most of the content ready, so this week, we've been getting to do all the fun, crafty stuff.

I have always LOVED making stuff this. I won the science fair in the 8th grade, not because of my science, but because of my adorable graphics and perfectionism with my display board. I studied the effects of caffeine on mealworms, and the graphic motif of my display was a worm drinking a cup of coffee. I mean come on. They had to give me first place.

Our theme for summer workshop is Hollywood, so here are some things we've made:

Huge sign for our main wall. It's 12' x 6'!

MGM replica. New animal discovery. Bion = bear + lion.

Keeping with the theme, we're making a 45 for each group. We'll write the names of the group members on each 45 and hang them on the walls as well. I made eight of these, and here are my two favorites.

On the agenda for tomorrow: Wheel of Fortune board. I'm excited!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Pizza Pizza

I vividly remember not getting everything I wanted as a child. But when I look back at kitchen appliances, I was spoiled rotten. Here is a short list of appliances I asked for and subsequently received:
  • Waffle Iron? Check.
  • Ice Cream Maker? Check.
  • Multiple George Foreman Grills with multifarious functions? Check and Check.
  • Raclette? Cheque.
  • Pizza Stone? Check.
Thinking about this makes me really thankful that I grew up with a family who fostered my love of cooking. UPDATE: I was reminded that I asked for a fry daddy (many times over), which I never received. Maybe there's something to be thankful for there too. 

Enough with the sap. Back to the pizza stone. I still have one and love to use. (Side note: Another great way to bake a pizza - use a cast iron skillet. Put the pizza in a preheated skillet, then bake it in the oven until the top is done. Then, put the skillet on a hot burner to crisp up the bottom.)

Kale, Sweet Potato, and Red Onion Pizza

When I make my own pizza dough, I usually opt for the recipe in my California Pizza Kitchen cookbook, but decided to try out a new recipe for whole wheat dough. While it doesn't quite capture all that is regular pizza dough, I still recommend it. 

I topped the dough with pesto, then loaded up pre-roasted sweet potatoes, red onions, and kale, a sprinkle of pine nuts, and finally mozzarella cheese. 

(For the veggie roasting, I sliced a sweet potato and red onion very thinly with a mandolin. I tore the kale into bite-sized pieces, removing all the tough spines. Then I topped everything with a bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper and roasted it in the oven at 350 for about 25 minutes.)

I baked the pizza on a pre-heated pizza stone at 500 for about 12 minutes. 

Pizza, pre-cheesed

Pizza, post-cheesed and post-baked

I had a ton of leftover veggies, so I turned them into another dish, orzo salad topped with mozzarella. 

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Buffalo Cravings

I'm not really one for chain restaurants, but I do have a permanent and unabated weakness for the following:
  1. Bojangles. Cajun Filet biscuit with bo rounds. Girl, please. 
  2. Chili's. Southwestern Egg Rolls. Former Employee. Can't hate.
  3. California Pizza Kitchen. Not as illustrious as it once was, but Sante Fe Chicken is still friggin' awesome. 
  4. Buffalo Wild Wings. I'm not sure what it is about BWW because let's be honest, there are better wings and burgers elsewhere, but there is something about the atmosphere, the monthly beer specials, the eight thousand TVs that is simply intoxicating. 
I think I just crave wings all the time, and I know exactly what I'm going to eat as soon as I enter BWW. My one and only flavor choice is the plain hot wing sauce, medium heat. I don't want any Asian Zing or Jamaican Jerk touching my wings. 

I was craving that hot wing flavor last weekend, so instead of eating it on fried chicken skin, I opted for a slightly healthier approach.

Here's what I came up with:

Buffalo Chicken Sandwich with Blue Cheese Slaw

I roasted three chicken breasts very simply. I put softened butter chunks between the skin and meat, oiled the skin with olive oil, then salted and peppered generously. I roasted the breasts at 350 for about 30 minutes. You could also do skinless, boneless for an even healthier option. Once they cooled, I picked the meat off and shredded it. I added a couple tablespoons of Frank's Red Hot Buffalo Sauce (Medium) and a teaspoon of a ranch dressing packet per chicken breast. You should taste and adjust the sauce to your liking at this point.

1/4 cup Greek yogurt
1 T mayo
2 T rice vinegar (could also use any kind though) 
small squeeze of brown mustard
juice of 1/2 lime
1/4 c blue cheese crumbles
1 T milk (optional; I like my slaw on the runny side)
2 1/2 cups pre shredded cole slaw cabbage
Seasonings to taste: salt, pepper, splenda

Mix the first seven ingredients together to make the dressing. Add the cabbage and mix well. Season with salt, pepper, and the tiniest sprinkling of splenda. Adjust seasonings as you will. If you want a runnier slaw, add more milk. 

I piled up the chicken on a sandwich round and topped it with a scoop of the slaw. It so hit the spot. Buffalo Wild Wings Who? 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Tardy for the Party

As someone who feels semi-up-to-date in the world of food, I feel like I missed out on two semi-recent food trends. Here are my thoughts, albeit a little late: 

1. Kale Chips
I was somewhat familiar with kale and had heard inklings of making a kale chip over the past year, but I never actually tried it until today. The verdict on the kale chip: meh. The verdict on the half-done kale chip: welcome to my world, you beautiful creature.

Laurel was raving about kale chips at her graduation last weekend, so that gave me the hankering to try them. I made three attempts at getting them the right amount of crispy (using varying temperatures and lengths of time), and all were failures. While they didn't appear burnt, they just feel apart in a crumbled, charred mess when I bit into them. On attempt four, I just decided to take them out of the oven before they got crispy. Winner, Winner, Limp Kale Dinner!!!

Roasted (not crisped) kale is delicious and has definitely earned its spot in my vegetable rotation.

2. Overnight Oats
I'm really into oatmeal right now, so as soon as I saw the idea for overnight oats on Peanut Butter Fingers, I knew I needed to try it. And the verdict...I have eaten overnight oats every day since. They are a delicious addition to my breakfast rotation.

And I now possess a three pound bag of chia seeds. And apparently these are also a new food trend. And what's not to like about that?

***If you're interested in my personal relationship with oatmeal, see below for a literary account.

Are there any other food trends that I've missed out on??

Oatmeal: An Allegory

My relationship with Oatmeal has always been precarious. Things were great in college. Oatmeal was dependable, yet exciting. He was always there for me, but allowed me to mix things up and be adventurous.  The day I lost my soy milk v-card was a particularly memorable milestone. Like many college relationships, I really thought we had a future together. Until one morning my senior year. Out of the blue, I decided that I could no longer be in a relationship with Ol' Oatey. I couldn't explain it, but I was repulsed by the sight and smell of him.

For a few years after college, I was pretty promiscuous when it came to breakfast options. Eggs every which way, Cereal, English Muffins, even Blueberry Muffins. You name it, I tried it. But a few years ago, I decided to give Oatmeal another chance. And he was just as I remember, that is, before everything went downhill. Things have been good between us since then. I don't depend on him everyday, and when I do enjoy some QT with Oatmeal, I try to be really creative with my toppings.

Some of my recent hits:
  • Steel cut oats with butter and heavy cream (How could that not be good?)
  • Quick cook oats made with coffee K-cup left in my Keurig, with splenda and cocoa powder. (A delicious accident!)
  • Old fashioned oats, made with soy milk and a mashed banana on the stove, served with pineapple, coconut flakes, and pecans. (Hummingbird cake oatmeal)
Now I don't want to get burned out, so after this package of oats, I might take a break from Oatmeal. That is if I can resist him, in his new, exciting (dare I say, sexy?) form.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Post Austerity Cooking Binge

A short list of what I made this weekend:

1. Three chicken breasts, bone-in, roasted
2. Chicken and black bean tostada
3. Buffalo chicken sandwich
4. Chicken Stock
5. Whole wheat pizza dough
6. Kale, sweet potato, red onion pizza
7. Mahi mahi for fish tacos
8. Mango salsa
9. Overnight oats
10. Kale chips

I don't think I'll need to cook for a while, which is a good thing this week. I have exams to grade, a classroom to paint, and trivia questions to answer. But I'll make time to blog. Look for some good recipe posts this week. 

Recap: Austerity Measures

On April 15, 2012, I made a vow to avoid going to the grocery for a month. It was an exercise in both creativity and frugality. I wanted to force myself to dig to the back of my fridge for the impulse tahini purchase and make something interesting out of it. I also wanted to be friendly to my budget. Was I successful? No and no. Well, actually maybe and maybe.

This is my refrigerator before and after.

I love the fact that I still have the one lonely Miller Light. And note the tahini. 

Regarding the trips to the grocery, I actually went three times, all to buy ingredients for dishes to bring to occasions. Deviled eggs for a barbecue, chocolate pie for a friend's birthday, and fruit salad for dinner with friends. I ended up with some much coveted eggs, milk, and produce as leftovers. (And I didn't feel a little bit guilty about using them.)

Regarding the creativity, I did make some delicious food. My favorite meal was one of my last. Here's what I did:

Meat: I used up the last of my frozen pork. That was truly the gift that kept giving, and I'll be making another pork butt ASAP. I heated it the shredded pork in a skillet with some oil, then took out the pork and coated it in homemade barbecue sauce.

Veg: I found the frozen greens my aunt gave me in January. Using the pork drippings in the skillet, I sauteed the greens in a sauce pot for about 10 minutes. I then added vegetable stock (thank you, pantry), salt, and pepper, and let it cook on low for an hour.

Legume: Last can of kidney beans from the pantry. Last onion, caramelized. In a pot, with barbecue sauce. Heaven.

Carb: Cornbread made with frozen corn kernels and the forbidden eggs and milk.

Regarding the healthiness of my meals, this is where I failed miserably. I really missed fresh vegetables. And now that it's over, I realize that I didn't have as much energy as I normally do during the month of austerity. I didn't gain any weight, but I know that I was missing out on some nutrients.

And finally, regarding the frugality, I did save money in the end, but not as much as I would have liked. I was definitely more tempted to eat out, knowing the alternative beans and rice lurking in my fridge.

So will I do it again? Probably not. It made me realize how much my body needs fresh produce, and I am not willing to give that up for a long time. In fact, I'm headed out to the farmer's market right now to stock up again.

Saturday, May 5, 2012


When my family was in New Orleans for the SEC tournament, we found this little gem of a restaurant, The Ruby Slipper, that was so good we ate there for breakfast two days in a row. The first day I was intrigued by a dish called Eggs Cochon. It sounded like eggs benedict, but instead of Canadian bacon, it included something called "pork debris". Hmmm. Not feeling adventurous, I opted for a traditional breakfast, complete with cheese grits. While that filled my belly, my mind kept going back to the pork debris, so on day two at the Ruby Slipper, I went all in. And it was amazing. A light breakfast it is not, but it was unmitigated deliciousness. Pork debris consists of the crispy bits of meat that fall off a pork roast and into the cooking liquids. And we've reached number 852 in the ways I love pork.

Fast forward to this morning, when I'm lying in bed, contemplating what I'm going to make for breakfast, a beloved lazy morning tradition in my household. And like a lucid dream, the eggs cochon came back to me. Now mind you, my options are a bit limited, as I still have one week before I can go back to the grocery. (Disclaimer: I made a chocolate pie for a friend's birthday, so I went last week for milk and eggs. But when Grandma's chocolate pie calls, you can't exactly let that go to voicemail.)

So I'm thinking of my pantry and fridge, and the different ways I could adapt the recipe. Pork? Check. Eggs? Check. Biscuits? Hmm. I am not a scratch biscuit maker. I have tried numerous times, but I always end up with hockey pucks. I still have some frozen corn, so my mind went to corn cakes. And that sounded downright magical. A star is born, and I'm calling it Juevos Benedictos.

Juevos Benedictos
Corn Cake: I simply followed the recipe on the back of the corn meal for cornbread. I prepared some fried corn, in my favorite method, but left off the lime juice. I mixed a couple tablespoons of corn with 1/4 cup of the batter and fried it into beautiful patties in my iron skillet.

Pork Debris: I used about 1/3 of my frozen pork butt leftovers. I reheated the shredded pork in a hot pan in canola oil until it got brown and crispy.

Eggs: I think poached would have been best, but I'm not an expert poacher, and I only have two eggs left. I wasn't about to risk losing one in a poaching accident, so I went with over easy.

Toppings: A sprinkle of paprika and salsa verde. This is where this dish could improve. I'm not a huge fan of Hollandaise sauce, so I didn't miss that, but I think some sour cream or Greek yogurt mixed in with the salsa verde would be a fantastic addition. And you can't go wrong with a sprig of cilantro.