Monthly Archives: July 2012

To Infinity…

… And Beyond.

At least that’s how long I feel it’s been since last weekend when I went to Blacksburg. I had big ideas for this blog last week. I was going to write about a failed (and I mean FAILED) attempt at crock-pot pulled chicken sandwiches. I was going to write about my epic trip to Blacksburg to visit friends. (Don’t worry, those details still coming.) But you know, life got in the way. I wish I could say with what, but… nope. I just didn’t write.

To be honest, I have no idea how bloggers find the time to write every day. So many times per day I think, “I should blog about this!”, and then I just don’t find the time. I’ll tell you a little secret. When I blog more than one day in a row, it’s probably because I sat down and hammered out multiple posts at once, and put them on a timer to publish on a certain day and time. Any other bloggers out there struggle with this? Any tips?

Anyway, I digress. Blacksburg. I graduated from Virginia Tech in 2009, and went back twice in 2010. Once for Halloween and once for graduation. I haven’t been back since, so it was really awesome to go visit some friends who stuck around, eat the delicious food, and just relax.

Yeah. You’re jealous. At least if you ever spent a substantial amount of time in Blacksburg you are. Cabo Fish Taco is a staple to Blacksburg living, and it was just as good as I remembered.

Even better, really, because I was with such great company. I drove down with my friend Brandon, who I worked with at Bull and Bones (foreshadowing!) in Blacksburg, and now work with at Cvent. We were going to meet up with Carrie, another B&B comrade, and I thought while I was down there I’d try to see an old friend Grover and his girlfriend, who I’d never met. She turned out to be even awesomer (is that a word?) than I expected, and THEY brought a friend to lunch, too. Blacksburg is such a small town that there is almost ALWAYS a connecting link, and it turns out that Carrie and Brandon knew Grover and Johanna’s friend, Chris, and thus the party came full circle. Everyone was friendly, everyone had a great time (and more than a few margaritas.)

The afternoon progressed with brewskies and chatting at Grover’s friend’s house, stopping for some staples at the grocery store (most of which ended up unused… I still really want those brownies!!), and home to Carrie’s house to cook a dinner of epic proportions.

But not before hanging out with the ponies.

Yeah, that’s right. Carrie lives on a horse farm. She is literally living my dream. I did plenty of chastising because she admitted she hardly rides, and it paid off – she texted me last week telling me she rode 5 times in one week. That’s RIGHT, don’t let that gift go to waste!

So dinner – well, I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

The next day, I got to ride a beautiful black pony. But first, Brandon’s first riding lesson!

Then my turn.

Then Carrie’s.

Then lunch at Bull & Bones! Back to our old stomping grounds. We ended the trip the same way we started. Good food, good people, good times.

And then a speeding ticket.

Oh well, you can’t win ’em all.

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Chicken Tikka Masala

So, my sister and I have this joke that Dan, my boyfriend, doesn’t really have tastebuds. He’ll eat pretty much anything (save a few key veggies like tomatoes or mushrooms), and everything is “okay”, or “fine”.

Except this.

Dan said that this was “really good.” He even took the leftovers for lunch the next day. And texted me to ask what it was called. And then told me it was good again. Success? I think so.

Anyway, I’m glad he liked it. I sure did. This is actually the third time I’ve made this dish, and I’ve cooked the chicken slightly differently each time. Every time it was delicious, if I do say so myself. This time, for the sake of time (and therefore my sanity), I decided to broil the chicken. This is probably how I’ll do it from now on because it (a) took about 6 minutes and (b) was delicious.

So I’ll just get on with it then. This dish was a Pinterest find (aren’t they all?) and originally came from Favorite Family Recipes. As always, I slightly tweaked a few things, but this was a pretty solid recipe. Definitely go check out their site!

What You Need:

For the Marinade

  • 1 cup yogurt (any kind will do – I even accidentally used Vanilla before and it was still delicious. Though I’d stick to plain if you can.)
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1 Tbsp minced fresh ginger. Here I used about a tablespoon of ground ginger instead of fresh
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces

For the Sauce

  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 8oz. can tomato sauce
  • 1 cup heavy cream

What You Do:

  1. In a large bowl, combine yogurt, lemon juice, cumin, cinnamon, cayenne, pepper, ginger, and salt. Stir in chicken, cover, refrigerate up to 1 hour. I only had time to marinate for about 25 minutes, but I’m sure the longer the better.
  2. While the chicken is marinating, make the sauce: Melt butter in a large skillet. Saute garlic for 1 minute. Season with cumin, paprika and salt. Stir in tomato sauce and cream. Simmer on low heat until sauce thickens, about 20 minutes.
  3. About 10 minutes into the simmering, line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and place the chicken under a broiler set to High. They really only need about 7-10 minutes, so check at about 5 and flip if you want some browning on both sides.
  4. Once your chicken is cooked (no pink center), and your sauce has been simmering for 20 minutes, add chicken and continue to simmer for 10 minutes.
  5. Transfer to a serving platter and serve over rice.


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How Do I love Sundays?

Let me count the ways.

Hey, okay, I know it’s Thursday. It’s been a busy week.

But Sundays. When you get an honest-to-goodness, real, relaxing Sunday… Well, I just don’t think there’s anything better.

You can see from the picture above that my Sunday was pretty great. I woke up and took Jameson to the Dog Park, where he, my 60 pound mutt, was the smallest dog there! I kid you not. The dog count went something like this:

  • 4 Bernese Mountain Dogs
  • 3 German Shepherds
  • A gaggle of labs and retrievers
  • 1 Great Dane
  • Jameson

It was so awesome. He thought he was one of the big dogs, and insisted on wrestling with the biggest guys there.

Anyway, I know why you guys really come here. Sure maybe the hook of puppy pictures brings you in, but just like the dogs, you come for the food. Which brings me to my second adventure of the day: French Toast Muffins. Thank goodness for (1) Pinterest and (2) A stocked baking cabinet. I woke up hungry, checked my boards and found something I had all the ingredients for, and 30 minutes later, voila! Breakfast!

This recipe originally came from Velvet Lava. I tweaked a few things, and, well, it was awesome. I brought the leftovers to Book Club later that evening and they were a hit. Without further ado:

French Toast Muffins (aka Snickerdoodle Muffins)

What You Need:

For the Muffins

5 Tbsp butter, melted
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 c. milk (I used Vanilla Silk)

For the Topping
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 tsp. cinnamon

What You Do:

Preheat oven to 350F.

  1. Combine all dry ingredients in a medium sized bowl. Add wet ingredients and stir until combined.
  2. Scoop batter into greased or sprayed muffin tins (I used my awesome olive oil spritzer. You could use olive oil, butter, or Pam).
  3. Divide evenly into your 12 muffin tins. I got 12 small-ish muffins, but you could be more generous and get 8-10 larger ones. (I liked the smaller muffins so I could roll them in the topping mixture).
  4. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until they just start to turn a bit golden at the edges.
  5. For the topping, mix sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl.
  6. Place melted butter in another small bowl.
  7. Dip the warm muffins in melted butter (you can dip just the top, but as per the recommendation from Velvet Lava I dipped the whooooole thing!
  8. Dip/roll the muffin in cinnamon sugar.
  9. Devour

Since it is already Thursday, and I’m realistically not going to write a post about my week from Sunday to now, I wanted to also talk about my two book club meetings this week. Yes, two. I’m so popular.

Book club #1 met Sunday night (enter leftover muffins, blue moon, cheese spread, and Puck the kitten.) We discussed “The Fault In Our Stars”, which is a young adult novel about a 16 year old girl with lung cancer. It sounds depressing, but it was actually quite funny, witty, heartbreaking, and fascinating all at once. We all really liked it, and I encourage anyone looking for a quick read (or good audio book, apparently) to give it a try.

Book club #2 met Tuesday night, and there was a FABULOUS spread of food.

And also some fabulous beverage refreshments courtesy of Marie.

Here, we discussed A Tree Grows In Brooklyn by Betty Smith. This is a timeless novel about a girl who grows up in Brooklyn in the early 1900s. We had a great discussion about some of the main themes, and overall, I think everyone really liked it.

All in all, a good Sunday, good week so far, and a super freaking long post.

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So Much To Celebrate!

On Wednesday, I got home from work at 4:00 in the afternoon, laid in bed, and tried to take a nap, while Jameson ran around the house acting crazy. Why did I get home so early? I had to be at work at 6 am. Two days in a row.

This wouldn’t have been so bad, except my “friends” keep doing such inconsiderate things, like “getting engaged” and “having birthdays”.

Psha. My life is so tough.

Obviously, I’m kidding. A little lack of sleep never rarely killed anyone!

Monday night, me Katie, and Anna (best friends since high school), went out to dinner. We got home, and Patrick (my roommate, Katie’s beau), was sitting on the front steps with his friend Brian, and beer. We’re sitting outside, shooting the shit, and I go inside to see Dan and Jameson. I show Dan a weird text Patrick had sent me during dinner that said, “Don’t. Tell. Katie! What restaurant are you at and how far along are you in dinner?” We both agree it’s weird, but he won’t do “it” tonight! He has a friend over, and so does Katie!

I walk outside, and everyone tells me I’m an idiot. As I was walking past Patrick, he was getting down on one knee, and I totally missed it! (Jameson, I will never forgive you, you cute creature!)

Needless to say, AHHHHH!!!! MY BEST FRIENDS ARE ENGAGED!

Congratulations to two of my favorite people on the planet. I’m so stoked for you guys, and can’t wait to plan and celebrate with you!

Celebration numero dos, the very next day. My best friend from college, Sabrina, turns 24! the fourth edition of 21!

We went to one of my favorite restaurants (her choice, not mine!) Co Co. Sala in DC. As always, the food was amazing, and the company was great, too. After, we went back to Sabrina’s new AWESOME house (seriously, it’s huge and awesome), ate cupcakes (which Sabrina and I had made earlier in the day), and met her new room mates, who are also awesome.

So much awesome in one post. I don’t know how you people can stand it.

Wednesday, I acted like a child and did a lot of whining about how tired I was and got almost 9 hours of sleep. My life is so tough. But you guys are worth it.

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Super Late 4th of July Recap

I know, the 4th of July was more than a week ago. I’m behind the times, okay?

My 4th was pretty sweet. I started out by going on a sweltering hot trail ride with Laura. It was our last ride together, since she’s moving to Newport News next month to go back to school. Ambitious chick! It was an awesome ride, I’m so glad we did it!

After a very hot ride, and a very cold shower… well… I had no plans. I know, what 20-something living in the outskirts of D.C doesn’t have plans for the 4th of July? This one! And you know what? it was awesome.

My best friend, Katie, came over with her parents’ dogs, Brynn and Dozer, and the pups had some play time and naps. Shortly after, she and Patrick (her boyfriend, my room mate. Go figure) left for a cookout at one of his friends houses, so Dan and I took it easy, made dinner, and watched way too much Battlestar Galactica. (We’ve recently finished the series. Bittersweet, and also, WHAT THE WHAT?!)

So, what does a girl who doesn’t eat red meat or pork eat on the 4th of July? Glad you asked. I got this recipe for Double Bean Burgers with Avocado Basil Cream from one of my favorite blogs, How Sweet It Is. I’m usually impressed with her recipes, and this one did not disappoint. Even Dan liked them! (He didn’t try the avocado cream though.) So, here’s the scoop:

What You Need:

For the Burgers:

  • 1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (15 oz) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 large egg + 1 large egg white, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 6 whole grain buns, toasted if desired

For The Avocado Basil Cream:

  • 2/3 cup sour cream
  • 1 avocado, chopped
  • 10 medium basil leaves, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • pinch of pepper

What You Do:

For the Avocado Basil Cream:

Add basil and avocado to a food processor, blending to combine. Once somewhat smooth, add in sour cream and blend again until combined. Add in salt and pepper, taste, and season more if desired.

For the Burgers:

Mash beans with a potato masher or fork. Add in garlic, paprika, onion powder, salt and pepper, mixing to combine. In a smaller bowl, lightly beat eggs and add in 1 tablespoon olive oil and breadcrumbs, stirring to mix. Add the egg mixture to the beans, and mix thoroughly to combine, bringing it together with your hands if needed. Separate the beans into 6 equal sections and form patties.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon olive oil (or as much as you need). I used my spiffy olive oil spritzer. It’s awesome. Add burgers and cook on each side until golden, about 5 minutes. Remove and serve with avocado cream on whole wheat buns!


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Are These For Real?

Seriously. These cupcakes. I’m pretty sure they’re not real. Except, they have to be, because I made them, and if I do say so myself, they were awesome.

Chocolate. Peanut butter. More Chocolate. What the heck?

Enticed yet?

You should be. Try ’em for yourself.

These delectable treats came from Susannah’s Kitchen. I think Susannah has a death-by-chocolate wish. But I’m okay with it.

What You Need:

For The Cupcakes:

  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For The Peanut Butter Buttercream:

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons softened unsalted butter,
  • cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

For the Chocolate Coating

  • 8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil

What You Do:

For The Cupcakes:

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F and line muffin pan with 10 cupcake cups.
  2. Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.
  3. Separately, combine sugar, buttermilk, oil, egg, and vanilla until smooth. Add dry mixture and whisk until blended. Fill cupcake cups, dividing evenly.
  4. Bake 25 minutes and let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the Buttercream:

  1. Combine sugar, egg whites, and salt in bowl of electric stand mixer.
  2. Set up a double boiler (bowl over pan of simmering water.) and gently whisk until mixture registers 160 degrees F on instant-read thermometer.
  3. Transfer bowl to electric stand mixture, and whisk on medium-high speed until mixture thickens to a whipped cream consistency.
  4. Keep mixing on medium speed, and add butter, one piece at a time, until combined and creamy. Whip in peanut butter and vanilla and beat until smooth.

I have a nifty little icing tube thingy that helps me pipe icing beautifully (or so I tell myself), but you can also use a pastry bag. Pipe as much frosting as you want onto each cupcake, and chill until buttercream is completely firm. This takes about one hour. (Note: As much as I loved these bad boys, the icing kind of is the consistency of butter, so if you’re not into that, you can probably try adding less butter.)

Make the chocolate coating

Place oil and chocolate in a medium bowl and melt over a pan of gently simmering water. Stir until chocolate has melted and mixture is smooth, and transfer to a large coffee mug.

 

You are now ready to combine all of your amazingness into a chocolate covered chocolate cupcake with peanut butter butercream. What?! Holding cupcake by the bottom, carefully dip into the chocolate. Be sure to submerge all of the buttercream. Repeat x9.

I put them back in the fridge so the chocolate hardens into a shell.

Nomathon.


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My Favorite Go-To

When I’m in a pinch for time, or just feeling slightly lazy, my favorite go-to meal is spaghetti with marinara sauce. It’s quick, easy, and you can make it exactly the same or insanely different each time you make it.

My variation shown here is pretty similar to how I normally make it, give or take a few spices and vegetables here and there:

What You Need:

  • 1 Green Pepper, diced
  • 1 Onion, diced
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced or crushed
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 can tomato sauce
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • a few fresh basil leaves, chopped or whole
  • a few fresh oregano leaves, chopped or whole
  • a sprig of fresh rosemary, chopped or whole
  • a sprig of fresh parsley, chopped

What You Do:

Heat about a tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan or wok, and sautee your onions and peppers until onions are slightly translucent.

Add your garlic and continue to cook for about 30 seconds. Add diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and tomato paste and stir to combine. Add your herbs, and any other spices you want, and simmer.

Cook the desired amount of pasta (I use spaghetti). Serve with Parmesan cheese and garlic bread!


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