Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Culinary Marriage

Man, its been a while. I've been super "busy" or should I say, I've been super lethargic lately. It's a combination of that and the fact that I haven't made much lately that was worthy of posting. But this. Oh, this is a marriage between chipotle and sweet potato. Both of which are on the top of my favorite foods (or ingredient) list. I'm serious about this. The sweetness of the potato and the smoky heat of the pepper is to die. Doesn't hurt the colors also look lovely together as well! Hummus is SUCH an easy food to make, it's hard to imagine buying it. The flavor combinations for homemade hummus are like, infinity plus 1. 

Sweet Potato Chipotle Hummus
((makes about 1.5 cups)

3 cloves garlic
2 cup chickpea
1 sweet potato (about 3/4 cup mashed)
2 T cashew butter (or tahini)*
2.5 chipotle peppers
1/4 t cinnamon
1/2 t smoked paprika
1 t salt

1. First, make sure you've cooked both the chickpeas and sweet potato.**
2. Get out your food processor and toss in the garlic and pulse to chop. 
3. Add remaining ingredients to food processor and buzz until all is combined. You may need to add a bit of water to loosen hummus.
4. Store in airtight container after you've dished yourself out a hefty serving!

Note: I approximated the amount of sweet potato above because the batch I made was exceptionally sweet. Adjust to your taste. 

*I made cashew butter from raw cashew. Add cashews to food processor and buzz until butterized. I do not particularly care for tahini and also don't know how I'd use an entire container of the stuff. 
**I buy dry beans and soak them overnight then cook them on low in a crockpot for 8 hours on low. Bake sweet potatoes in a 400 F oven for about 45 minutes until tender. 

And what better to dip into your hummus than chips? What about homemade chips?? Or are they crackers? I don't know..and I don't care. These were ever so slightly sweetened and earthy tasting, in a good way. Aaaaand they're a cracker-chip you can feel good about eating. 

Whole Wheat Flax Cracker Chips

60 gram flax seed
120 gram whole wheat flour
1/2 t salt
1 T honey
1.5 T coconut oil (melted)
~1/3 C water

1. Heat oven to 300 F. 
2. Pulse seeds in food processor.*
3. Melt coconut oil and honey together in microwave.
4. Pulse all ingredients except water in food processor until combined.
5. In a slow stream, add water just until dough comes together.**
6. Turn dough onto floured surface and roll very thin. 
7. Transfer dough to a baking sheet and bake for about 20 minutes, turing once halfway through so you achieve even browning. 
8. Allow to cool and break into regular cracker size pieces. 
9. Dip into your favorite hummus!

*Nutrition from broken flax seeds or milled flax seed is more easily absorbed. They're packed full of good compounds but aren't accessed when whole. 
**Do NOT over mix the dough. When water and wheat flour are combined, it starts to active the formation of a gluten matrix. This is good in breads because it gives breads chew, but who wants that in a cracker?!? Not me. 

Because cooking consumes approximately 127% of my thoughts, I've been thinking about other hummus combinations. Lemon + thyme. Apple + peanut butter. Can't wait to experiment. As far as I'm concerned, hummus must have: chickpea, fat (tahini, cashew butter, olive oil), salt, spices/herbs and flavorings. 

Actually, I lied. Cooking has NOT been consuming my mind lately, this has:
Oh and this:

This too:

Cruzin and boozin in two dayzzzzz. OH.MY.GOD.

HOORAYYYYYYYY!!! Now to sleep soundly and dream of the Caribbean. :D


Friends Who Actually Eat

Let me begin by saying that people who don't like food and eating are weird. However, it's equally as weird to find someone that is AS obsessed with food and cooking as myself. Sarah, my fellow blogger, definitely matches my level of food love. Mary, a new friend from Boston, is definitely approaching foodie status. We recently went to Hola!, a tapas style restaurant in Marshfield, for dinner. 

Check out the menu and visit immediately! 

Hola is loud, but that is to expected in a fun, energetic restaurant with family style seating. Mary and I ordered the following DE-LISH tapas and flatbreads.

Sangria (5 bucks a glass!)
Stuffed Swordfish 
Eggplant/roasted red peppers/fried garlic/queso fresco Flatbread
Figs/prosciutto/gorgonzola Flatbread (see below and begin drooling)

I started to take pictures - WITH a flash - and embarrassed Mary. :-) As a result, I only have one good photo. This is THE best meal I've had out since moving to Boston 8 months ago. Yuuuumm!

Lesson of the night: Life is fleeting; eat and drink with friends often. As always, be productive; do good things!


You Don't Make Your Own Crackers?

I don't know what goes in my mind that causes me to fixate on certain recipes. Most recently, I became all consumed with the idea of making Cheese-Its. Don't get me wrong; I love the store bought bite-size snacks but they lack aggressiveness when it comes to spice. I've tried the Tabasco and Pepper Jack and both are weeeeak sauce. Hence, the Hot Habenero Homemade Cheese-It is born.

While researching how to make homemade crackers, I stumbled upon a TON of cynics. See below.

"What kind of loser would make crackers?"

"Someone who makes crackers at home doesn't value their own time and needs a social life."

To that, I kindly say up yours. So let's make some crackers.

Habanero Homemade Cheese-Its
8oz of Habanero Cheese, shredded
1 cup whole wheat flour
4 tbs. of chilled, diced butter
Smoked paprika
Chilled water

**Disclaimer: Cabot Hot Habanero cheese is MEGA spicy. Use any cheese of your liking. 
Steps for Making Cracker Gold
Combine flour, butter, and cheese in a food processor. Slowly add chilled water until a firm, dough-like mixture is formed. Roll out between two sheets of wax paper until 1/8 inch thickness is achieved.

Freeze for 10 minutes. Use a pizza cutter to cut into squares. If you're feeling extra fancy, poke the center with a chop stick to get that original cheese-it look.

Bake at 425 for 8-12 minutes. Watch carefully because these quickly go from perfect to burnt. Sprinkle the finished product with smoked paprika - so de-lish!

These are the best crackers I've ever had, but have to admit that they are too spicy for the average person. Conor fed three to his grandma, and I thought she might have a stroke. Next time, I will be making these with smoked gouda!

Be productive; do good things!


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Accidental Skinny Rice

Thing I Do During My 2-Hour Commute to Work
  • look at yummies on Foodgawker
  • day dream about what I'm going to make for dinner
  • feel depressed that I didn't eat more oatmeal before leaving the house
  • smile and think about my amazing students
  • tweet. tweet. tweet some more. 
  • snooze. snore. slobber. wake up at south station slightly disoriented. 
Today was more excruciating than most days because I had an AWESOME dinner planned. Let's get down to the good stuff. 

Creamy Linguica Stuffed Mushrooms
Large Portobello Mushrooms
Portugese Linguica Sausage
Gahlic (I live in New England now)
Smidgen of fat free cream cheese
Splash of coconut milk (or skim if you like)
Smoked paprika
S & P

Step 1
Prepare portobello mushrooms. I pop out the center stem, dice it, and it to the veggie mix. I also scoop out the gills (the flaky, dark underneath jank of the 'shroom). You can leave it; I just don't care for the flavor or dark runny water it produces in the baking process.

Step 2
Saute Portugese sausage until browned (NOT caramelized - proteins don't caramelize...they BROWN). Add in diced onions, carrots, garlic. Caramelize. Add cream cheese (about 4 oz.) and splash of milk. Add S & P. I also add smoked paprika because it's bomb. Milk thoroughly and scoop into mushrooms. Bake for 30 minutes-ish at 400. Garnish with scallions. 

**Half way through the baking process I had to remove extra water from the baking pan so that the mushrooms wouldn't get soggy. 

Skinny Green Goddess Rice
Heaping handful of cilantro
Juice of 1 lemon
S & P
Splash of quality olive oil
Palm full of walnuts
Brown rice

Cook rice according to package. 

Add cilantro, lemon juice, S & P, oil, and walnuts to a food processor until the ingredients are mixed but can still be identified. Toss with rice. Top with extra cilantro and scallions. Serve. 

I usually add avocado to this but mine had gone bad. For an extra decadent rice side, add avocado.

For anyone that knows me at all, I'm a cat lady. Not a crazy lady. I've stopped at one so keep reading and stop judging. Now that I live in New English with my booooyfriend, I've been forced to become a dog person - against my better judgement. Depsite Owen's excessive slobber, never-ending whining, and annoying tendency to jump on me when I get home, he did look cute sitting beside the table tonight waiting for scraps. Go Sox?

As always, be productive; do good things!

- J

Monday, February 20, 2012

Trip to The Middle East

Okay, so I didn't actually go to the Middle East but I did make some fabulous food inspired by Middle Eastern cuisine. Lemon, dill, parsley, garlic, yogurt, thyme. SO fresh and light. 

My sister was visiting this weekend so I had finally had someone to share my cooking with! How thrilling. I've been dying to cook up this feast for someone else ever since I ate at this fantastic Lebanese restaurant in D.C. months ago. Anyway, Leah loved the food, especially the tzatziki sauce. You could SERiously eat this stuff with a spoon.....and we may or may not have done that, too. 

I would suggest making each of these recipes in the order that follows to allow flavors to meld. 

Lebanese Chicken
((serves 2))
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 lemon, juiced + zested
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 t Lebanese seasoning (recipe below)
1/2 t salt

1. Combine all ingredients in a plastic bag and rub chicken to distribute marinade evenly. 
2. Squeeze air out of bag and place bag in a dish. 
3. Let marinate for at least one hour or overnight.

Lebanese Seasoning
1 t dried thyme
1/2 t ground cumin
1 t ground coriander
1/4 t cayenne pepper

Tzatziki Sauce
((serves 2)
1 cup greek yogurt
1/4 cup cucumber
1 clove garlic
1 t dried dill
1 lemon
salt + pepper to taste

1. Start by grating the cucumber on a box grater and put in a fine mesh strainer to drain liquid. You can also salt the cucumber to pull more liquid out.
2. Zest the lemon with a micro-plane, as well as the garlic clove. Juice the lemon. 
3. Stir yogurt, garlic, lemon juice + zest, and dill in small bowl. 
4. Refrigerate for at least one hour or overnight. 
5. When ready to serve, squeeze any remaining liquid from cucumber and add to yogurt mixture. Season with salt and pepper. 

((serves 2))
1/4 c dry bulgar wheat
handful of cherry tomatoes
1 lemon
1 T olive oil
fresh parsley and mint
salt + pepper to taste

1. Cook bulgar according to package directions. I cooked mine in vegetable stock to boost flavor. 
2. Juice the lemon and whisk together with olive oil, s + p to make dressing. 
4. Add hot* bulgar to dressing and toss to coat. Refrigerate. 
5. When ready to serve, chop tomatoes and herbs and add to bulgar. 
*Note: I like to add the bulgar when it's still hot because it soaks up more of the flavor!

To assemble your feast: (!!!!!)
Grill chicken on a grill pan 6 minutes on each side or roast in a 400 F oven for about 20-25 minutes. (I'm just guessing here because I grilled mine.)Let the chicken rest off the heat  loosely covered in foil for about 10-15 minutes before slicing. Place the chicken, tabouleh and tzatziki sauce on a plate. Serve tzatziki with some warmed pita bread (or on top of the chicken) and DEvour!

Anne Burell says, "brown food is good" and man is she right. See those nice grill marks on the chicken??!? 

 That color is NOT caramelization. I am not about to go on a rant about how annoying it is when cooks on the Food Network refer to this color as "caramelization". Instead, the browning that occurs on meat is a process called Maillard Browning and involves a series of chemical reactions between amino acids (protein) and sugars when introduced to high heat. It's totally different. 

Today's to-do list is a mile long so good thing it's President's Day and I'm off work! 


Friday, February 17, 2012

All the Things I Love

Valentine's Day, A Day for Lovin'

First, let me begin by saying that Sarah is much more responsible than me. For the past month or so, I've been slaving away working on a grant and teaching my crazy and awesome students everything from commas to time travel to how to write an essay all while helping them apply for college and commuting 4 hours a day. Enough complaining.

Work has been crazy but now that it's calming down, I can devote more time to my second love, besides my students, to food and writing about food.

The only thing that would my job better is if I taught cooking classes to my students. In 2 weeks, I'll make that a reality (more info to come). But for now, my only way to tie my two loves together is by cooking for my students and then forcing them to tell me how awesome my food is.

For Valentine's Day, I taught them about the brain chemistry involved in falling in love. Did you know that people with OCD are more likely to get themselves involved in co-dependent relationships? Just try explaining aphrodisiacs to a group of 15 teenagers. Following our brain lecture about endorphins, vasopressin, and dopamine, my students "mated" with celebrities and created Punnett Squares to determine what their offspring might look like should they have a child with Reese Witherspoon or Beyonce. Hey! Whatever it takes, right?

At the end of the day, my students got their treats. So cute!

Peppermint Bark

1 bag high quality dark chocolate chips
1 bag high quality white chocolate chips
coconut oil
crushed peppermints

Temper (or slowly melt) dark chocolate chips in a double boiler until smooth. (I use a sauce pan with steaming water and an aluminum bowl. Works just the sam.) Pour the chocolate into a casserole dish lined with wax paper. Cool.

Temper (or slowly melt) white chocolate chips in a double boiler until smooth. Pour the melted chocolate over the cooled dark chocolate and sprinkle with finely crushed peppermints. Cool. Break Apart. Devour.

Chocolate Covered Pretzels

1 bag high quality white chocolate chips
Festive sprinkles

Temper (or slowly melt) white chocolate chips in a double boiler until smooth. If the white chocolate gets hard, you've gotten the heat too high. Just take off the heat and stir and the chocolate will loosen up.

Dip pretzels into melted white chocolate, apply pretty sprinkles, and leave to cool on wax paper. I prefer to only cover half the pretzel. It maintains a nice sugar - salt balance and provides more color.

As always - Be productive, do good things!


Thursday, February 16, 2012

Peanut Butter 3 Ways

Note to self: NEVER buy canned chili again. Even if it's vegetarian, organic AND Trader Joe's brand. If nothing else, I have reiterated the fact that food is better when left to the home cook and not from a can. Unfortunately, my chili-cheese hot dog was collateral damage in this instance.

Well now that I've gotten that out of the way.....

I love peanut butter, which I have possibly mentioned before, thus the name of the blog. So it's no shocker that I'd attempt to make peanut butter. Three different peanut butters at that. 

It is so easy to turn these:

Into this:

But first, breakfast. The BEST bowl of oatmeal has mashed banana mixed in while its cooking, splash of vanilla at the end and any random assortment of toppings. Today it was granola and toasted coconut. 

The star of the peanut butter today is banana. There aren't many combinations I like more than banana + peanut butter. Oh and if there's chocolate in the mix too, I'm soooo down.  

Peanut butter 3 ways
((makes ~1.5 cups))

1/16 ounce bag of unsalted unroasted peanuts
1.5 T turbinado sugar
1/4 t salt
1/2 t vanilla extract
1/70 g bag of freeze dried bananas (I used Trader Joe's)
1.5 T unsweetened cocoa powder

1. Roast peanuts on a sheet tray in a 350 F oven for about 10 minutes. Keep a close eye on them because they burn quick.
2. Transfer 1/3 of the peanuts and a pinch of salt to your food processor* and turn it on until the peanut butter becomes drippy. You may need to stop and scrape the sides and bottom once or twice. This takes about 5 minutes.
3. Transfer your plain peanut butter to a jar.
4. Transfer the remaining 2/3 of the peanuts, sugar**, salt, vanilla and bananas to the food processor and buzz again until smooth. 
5. Pour half of this banana peanut butter into a jar. 
6. To the remaining peanut butter, add cocoa powder and pulse until combined. 
7. Pour this chocolate banana peanut butter into a jar. 
I store them all in the refrigerator to prevent the oil from separating.  

*I now use a Cuisinart 7-cup food processor and it works perfectly. Before I was using a Kitchen Aid 3- cup food processor and it just never worked right. 
**You may not need to add this sugar, as the bananas are sweet on their own. Of course though I didn't think of this until after it had been added. The crystals of turbinado sugar are rather large and if it's not added to the peanut butter at the beginning of the process, the crystals wont melt and you'll have a grainy texture. So, I wouldn't suggest adding the turbinado sugar at the end, only at the beginning. 
NOTE: substituting honey, agave, brown rice syrup, etc. will change the texture too because it will bind up the peanut butter and prevent it from becoming drippy. 

Peanuts + salt. 

 Peanuts + banana.

Peanuts + banana + chocolate. 

So dead tired. One day, I'll come home from work and just veg out on my couch instead of finding a zillion things to do around the house. 


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Chocolate + Orange

It is amazing how many dishes a single girl can make in the matter of a few hours. I swear I must spend at least 3 hours in and out of my kitchen in the evenings. I already washed my dishes from breakfast and dinner, by hand, and then, magically, I have another whole sink. Those will just have to wait until tomorrow. Tomorrow will be my productive day. I will do dishes, finish up this application to Simmons, email URI, fold the laundry that has now been sitting in my dryer for four days, and clean my apartment in preparation for my sister's visit! YAY! You saw it, and must hold me accountable. I MUST do everything on that list. 

Anyway! Chocolate! I like Valentines Day because it gives me a perfect reason to incorporate chocolate into my dinner. Although, I shouldn't need a reason, I should just do this on a regular basis. And yes, I can consider this dinner because it had two eggs AND bread--kinda like a breakfast for dinner deal. Enter: orange infused chocolate bread pudding. The idea came about because I had some bread in my freezer begging to be used up. Stale bread. What better way to use it up than to make bread pudding?!? I can't think of a better fit. How perfect was it that it just happened to be Valentines Day, too?? Now, just plain old chocolate bread pudding sounded boring so I was thinking about what I could add to it. I first thought to add some cayenne for a kick of heat but decided against that. Then I remembered chocolate and oranges are a lovely match (Valentines Day pun??).

Orange Infused Chocolate Bread Pudding
((1 serving))

1 cup of milk
2 slices of bread
splash vanilla
small pinch of salt
1 t orange zest
30 g dark chocolate
1 T unsweetened cocoa powder
2 eggs, beaten

1. Preheat oven to 375 F. 
2. Cut bread into bite size pieces and soak in 3/4 cup of the milk + vanilla + salt+ orange zest while you prepare the rest. 
3. Melt chocolate in microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring in between. Only heat chocolate until just  melted. Stirring with a fork in between helps chocolate melt evenly. 
4. Stir together remaining 1/4 cup of milk and the cocoa powder. The cold milk will chill the chocolate down a bit before it's added to the eggs so they won't scramble. 
5. Stir soaking bread, melted chocolate and beaten eggs all together.
6. Pour into oven safe dish and bake for about 20 minutes. Check for doneness and adjust cooking time accordingly. 
7. Garnish with orange zest and a drizzle of maple syrup. Enjoy warm!

*Note: you may want to add a touch of sugar to the recipe. I do not like overly sweet food for dinner, but I did drizzle mine with a bit of maple syrup. 

Perfect combo. 

Naked orange.

Something is missing you say? No, I do not have a picture of the final result. Something about bread pudding is not photogenic. Maybe it's because it comes out as a brown mass of bread cooked in custard. Sorry, you'll just have to make the recipe yourself to see the outcome. Trust me, you'll be happy you did.


Friday, February 3, 2012

Week one: no cooking

I can do nothing in silence. Well, with the exception of reading and writing, writing blog posts to be exact. Flux Pavillion may not be the most relaxing music in the late hours of a Friday night, but it still seems appropriate, but then again, when does it not?? To me anyway. 

As I said earlier, I will not be creating any recipes or cooking for the next week. BUT I have been microwaving instant oatmeal this week for breakfast, and this would indeed constitute as cooking. After all, the definition of cooking is the application of heat to change the food's chemistry. I'm no expert, but I did study food in college and now talk about food or look at food all day for a living. ;)

This week could not have started off better, as you can see below. This little bakery in DC is called Sticky Fingers. They're a vegan bakery and small deli-type joint. The texture of these cupcakes were unbelievable. And the flavor. OMG. As I'm sure it's evident, I like peanut butter. Below is a chocolate fudge cupcake with peanut butter frosting. The cake was so moist (Danielle would kill me) and the texture was spot on. The frosting?? To die. Before devouring it, I had a large bowl of veggie chili but had to first take a finger full of frosting, as illustrated below. My friend got the Johnny Cashew,  a chocolate cupcake with cashews! Not a combination we'd ever heard of but she said it was fantastic! They also put on a drizzle caramel sauce. YUM. 

Our hotel offers unlimited, free drinks for two hours each night. Enough said. Friends thought it'd be funny to bring me back a glass of wine each time they re-filled their drink regardless of whether I had finished mine already or not. Thus why there are 3 glasses pictured, not just one. Not to worry, I was always raised to never, ever let anything go to waste. Even if this stuff tasted awful. We ate dinner at a pizza restaurant that night and I open the menu to see "guilt-free pizza", a vegetable pizza without cheese. First thought was, is this a joke?? If you're going to have pizza, have pizza. Am I right!?!?! So uh, guess what I ordered? guilt-free pizza. It (in)sufficiently met my expectations and left me unsatisfied. I will completely take the blame here and vow to never eat a guilt-free pizza ever, ever again. 

For dinner last night we went to this local chain called Clyde's. The atmosphere and decor was fairly casual and their menu looked fantastic. I took a picture of my dish, but it just looked like a mass of food and didn't do it justice. (Not like any of my pictures are very good, but I'm gonna get better!) I had a maple roasted acorn squash that was stuffed with sauteed spinach, spaghetti squash strings, and dried cranberries. So. Good. 

Texture is everything. I've been so into texture lately. My only morning fare is oatmeal. Maybe I'll move on from this phase sometime in the future, but I sure hope not! It is so adaptable and the combinations are endless. I have been chowing on this TJ's microwaveable oatmeal all week. Not what I'd typically go for because I like to cook it stove-top, but not a bad alternative for an extended hotel stay. Oatmeal has a chewy, creamy texture, so I have to off-set that with crunchy granola and it's perfect. With a glob of melty peanut butter though, of course!

Our hotel is only two blocks from a Whole Foods. YES. The closest one to home is over an hour away so the fact that there's one so close to me this week has already been a problem. We spent over two hours in there just tonight. Class got out early so when I came back to the hotel I napped. What an amazing feeling and yet so foreign. I literally did not go a day in college without a nap and now since I'm a responsible adult with a real job, there's no time for that. TWO hour nap today could not have been better. Sleeping makes me hungry. Scratch that, I'm always hungry, or at least I always want to eat. Enter: two hour trip to WF. We each filled up plates of their endless cold and hot bars and went to town. (See spread of food below). The sushi was great. I don't care that my job has taught me that sushi can be very dangerous and make me very sick. I choose to ignore the facts and scarf it down anyway. 

After dinner we literally walked through WF for no less than an hour and a half. Yes, I like to walk around grocery stores and read food labels in my spare time. Maybe I also do this for a living  and should find another hobby, but again, I choose not to. We probably spent the most time deciding which chocolate bar to try--20 minutes maybe. If you've seen how extensive the chocolate section is you'd understand, or if you're an indecisive female you would understand, too. I finally decided on pear almond dark chocolate. Not a combination I would have put together, but I trusted WF. Am I glad I trusted WF?? UH, yes, duh. The pear flavor is so natural tasting and the almonds are perfectly crunchy. Again, texture.

I can't wait to sleep in tomorrow. No more of this 5:30 am. No more of this 1 hour commute to work. Is this what it's like to live in city?!?!?! If so, I can still dig it.