July 2014 archive

House Warming

We have been lucky to be able to purchase our first home together. The last two months have been exciting…until we got our “violation” notice from our HOA. Thanks previous owners! We literally have been doing nothing but yard work for the whole month of July. A house warming party was a must for us (more…)

. To say we are blessed with amazing friends and family is an understatement. I mean, who can complain when you end up with 10 bottles of wine by the end of the night. I had every intention to take pictures the whole night but something happened between setting up my food spread and the last guest leaving for the night. I don’t know if I was in a Brie Mac and Cheese with Figs fog or on some sort of Sophisticated S’mores sugar high. Either way, I only took two pictures for your enjoyment. So, um, enjoy?

My spread for the party: Almond Apricot Chicken Salad, Brie Mac and Cheese, Sophisticated S’mores, Muddy Buddies (a party must), a peach crumble you will see tomorrow, some ruffled chips for munching, and some Oreos (Chris’s kryptonite).

“Hey, let’s start this party with a couple’s selfie!” This is the best we could do. Sorry…

Almond Apricot Chicken Salad

Chicken salad. It’s been around since before our parents were parents and their parents were parents. It’s constantly being reinvented into many different delicious combinations. Tarragon, apples, pecans, curry, and mayo-less are just a few of the newer renditions of the classic. Chicken salad appeals to the old and young; older people are reminded of their childhood, eating it between 2 slices of Wonderbread. Younger foodies are appealed by it’s inexpensive price tag and it’s endless options. I, for one, love chicken salad. I like to make a batch on Sunday and enjoy it for the next couple of days. I like it on toast, with crackers and apples, in lettuce wraps, and sometimes, straight out of the bowl with a fork (when no one is looking). (more…)

I was at a party a few months back and someone brought chicken salad as a snack. I couldn’t get over how genius and refreshingly vintage that was. For my house warming party last weekend, I decided to add it to my repertoire. I am always looking for new pairings for my beloved chicken salad and when I get the chance, I like to add fresh fruit. Apricots add a pleasant sweet note, while the almonds add a crunch and the dill is a good reminder it’s Summer. This salad is great with chips, in a lettuce wrap, or on your favorite sandwich bread. In this recipe, I show what kind of chicken I used but really use whatever you like. Rotisserie chicken is a great foundation for a stellar chicken salad!

Let’s check out our exhaustive ingredient line up:

From Top Left to Right: Sliced almonds, Dijon mustard, mayonnaise, greek yogurt, crushed garlic (fresh or jarred), cubed or shredded chicken, red onion, sugar, fresh apricots (have you tried these?), fresh dill, and white wine vinegar (not pictured but always in our hearts?).

This recipe might be hard for you. Just have patience with it. Ok, ready? Throw everything into a large mixing bowl and, um, mix! Taste for seasoning. A bit of salt and pepper are key here.

Chicken salad is light, easy, and great for the hot summer months (when are those coming, again?) I need to go rest after this tiresome and long post. Happy salad making!

Brie Mac and Cheese with Figs

Remember that time I told you that I absolutely love pasta dishes here? Well, I wasn’t kidding. Mac and cheese is a dear favorite of mine but sometimes, it needs a face lift. (more…)

 The cheddar original is always fun but I enjoy feeling like an adult sometimes. And we all know eating figs and brie cheese means we are adults! Figs are in season right now and are delicious raw, stuffed, or made into an elegant sauce for pork, chicken or even a burger topped with goat cheese. I thought this would be semi-vintage and a change of pace to serve as an appetizer.

Our ingredient line up:

From Top Left to Right: elbow macaroni (duh!), onion, fig, butter, balsamic, milk, white wine, nutmeg, flour, brie, gruyere, and parmesan.

We begin with our onions and figs. Cook the onions until golden brown then add the precious figs. Meanwhile, your pasta should be cooking to just below al dente. You can also be horrible at multi-tasking like me and forget about your pasta, as the boiling water overflows onto your cook top. Which ever works for you!

Add the wine and reduce. Keep that wine around; it will be lovely with the mac and cheese later on. Finish with the balsamic vinegar. Look at that dark color! This is simply elegant!

We make our bechamel sauce (milk sauce), season, and add our cheeses. Taste for seasoning and by taste, I mean a few spoonfuls. You can never be too careful. Add your cute macaroni. I was having a party (your invite totally got lost), and thought serving mac and cheese in a portion friendly muffin tin would be more appealing and casual. Just fill up the holes and top with the onions and figs.

Bake until hot and bubbly! This is all cheese and it’s glorious!

Perfection. I’m sorry if that fig weirds you out. They’re delicious. Happy mac and cheese making!

First Giveaway Winner!

whale cups stacked
Thank you to everyone who participated! I’m thrilled to see some new faces! If anything, I’m the winner here; so many green bean recipes and ideas I need to try! I wish I could have bought 36 sets of those measuring cups! So thank you very much!
Now for our winner, who was totally picked at random: Rose, from Maryland! Yay Rose! Stay tuned for more fun giveaways and of course, yummy in my tummy recipes! Have an awesome weekend!

First Giveaway!

whale cups stacked

Because the week has felt extra long. Because it’s Friday. Because I have officially been blogging for a month. Because I love you. I am giving away these adorable Anthropologie whale measuring cups! All you have to do is answer a question in the comments below and leave your email address. This will go until 8pm tonight! So let’s get to business. In my CSA this week, I got about 5 pounds of green beans. I’ve roasted them. I’ve done an Asian thing with them. My question for you is what is your favorite way to eat green beans? Just leave your answer in a comment! I look forward to reading all of your entries. Good luck! Oh, and happy Friday!

whale cups

Just click on the word “comment” below to get your answer in.

Portobello Pizzas

Can I just address the elephant in the room? You might not like mushrooms, let alone huge ones with gills that look like they could fit small a child in one. I get it. I love mushrooms and sometimes wish they had the nutritional value of something very green. I like to use them as a meat substitute or to add a little substance to a dish if a starch isn’t included. These pizzas have been a great summer staple, using ripe grape tomatoes and fresh basil. Those big gills are also removed so these ‘shrooms are more appealing to eat. (more…)

They don’t really taste like pizza but are a good substitute for the carby counterpart if you’re like me and could eat your weight in delicious crust. I’ve made this with sausage and ground beef. Both were yummy. I’m sure some ground turkey would also suffice. This meal is quick with no musses or fusses, just what I like for a weeknight meal. As you can see, Chris loves this dish and I do too.  For a fun hors d’oeuvres, you could stuff baby portobellos with the same mixture. I would say the world is your oyster but I don’t want to make my texture sensitive friends feel more uncomfortable.

I will see you guys tomorrow for our first ever free giveaway! I hope this Thursday flies by for you! Unless you are at the beach, then I hope it’s very long.

Quesadilla Cubans

Pickles and mustard. Mustard and pickles. What if I told you these two ingredients are my favorite part of a Cuban sandwich? Would you give a light little chuckle but then secretly roll your eyes and judge me? I understand if you would. But in all seriousness, without those ingredients, a Cuban wouldn’t be special at all. It’s the magic of making the two kinds of pork and swiss cheese work together. The pickle and mustard cut through all of that richness making you beg for another irresistible bite.

(more…)

Along with my pickle and mustard rant, I also think it’s important to have a flavorful shredded pork. Too many Cubans have I wasted due to pre-made, unseasoned pork. A good Cuban is all team work with not one element in the spotlight (except for the pickles and mustard). I used a pork tenderloin for the pictures but the recipe is for a pork shoulder. It’s a more authentic cut of pork but I was lazy and didn’t feel like driving to the store when I had a perfectly good tenderloin at home. I will post my cooking notes for the tenderloin at the bottom. Ok, ready? Go team!
Let’s check out our ingredient line up:

From Top Left to Right: flour tortillas, limes, pork tenderloin trying to look like pork shoulder, yellow mustard, cilantro, garlic, swiss cheese, orange juice, pickles, dried oregano, and deli ham.

We first start with la marinade. Put your cilantro, orange juice, limes, garlic, oregano, and a dash of salt in a blender. That’s right, we are blending our limes with their rinds on! I told you this was going to be flavorful! Blend until pureed.

Now, we take half of that marinade and pour it over the pork. Turn it a few times to coat then leave it alone. It needs to marinate for a while. How fresh does that look? We then slow cook our pork (hello crock pot!) so it will be fork tender and easy to shred.

Do you know what comes next? We shred! Take a sample! Take two! You’re the cook and I think you deserve it!

Let’s assemble our quesadillas! Take a tortilla, schmear some mustard on it. Use yellow or spicy brown mustard. This is NOT the time for dijon. Feel me? Then scatter your pickles on top of the mustard. Then place your cooked deli meat on top (I know I didn’t show that step. Forgive me?). Take a healthy handful of that delicious shredded pork and put on top of the ham. Then, add your swiss. Lastly, schmear more mustard on another tortilla and place on top.

If you have a panini press, then this is the time to break it out. If you don’t, just heat up a skillet with some butter. Place your quesadilla in the skillet once heated and then top with another pan. After a few minutes, take the top pan off and turn over your quesadilla for even cooking. Once golden brown and the cheese is melted, remove from heat, cut and serve! This has all the yummy components of a Cuban sandwich but in fun quesadilla form! Happy ‘dilla making!

For the pork tenderloin: I made sure the silver skin was off (it won’t cook down but be tough and chewy). I cooked the tenderloin in a dutch oven at 200 degrees for about 3-4 hours. Then shred. The meat can be somewhat dry so add a little bit of the cooking liquid if it’s too dry for you.

Snowpiercer

snowpiercer

Spoiler Alert: Although nothing is fully given away, please be aware of the content that is discussed or insinuated.

There are many movies right now that take place in the future. Some threaten an extreme global warming event, others show how politics and power can be taken advantage of. Within these intense, futuristic themes, there is a fear that drives people to do unimaginable things. In his first English film, Joon-ho Bong takes us for a train ride; but this isn’t a Driving Miss Daisy kind of ride. (more…)

Due to a failed global cooling experiment, only a chosen few make it onto the Snowpiercer; a train that can’t stop moving and if it does, humanity dies. There are social classes within this train: the very rich in the front and the very poor in the tail. Of course, the poor are brutally oppressed by the rich for the sake of the rich being able to enjoy luxury. We follow, Curtis (Chris Evans), who has been on the train for 17 years and has experienced first hand how people can turn into savages when put into desperate circumstances.

Right off the bat, we are shown how the tail end of the train is treated and we are endlessly hoping for a revolution. Without giving too much away, we get to see every car in the train as we move towards the front of the train, where the owner of the train, Willford, lives. Each cart offers its own horrifying or rather comical entry as each door is opened to an unknown. To add to the tension, there is also the outside elements, like snow and ice, that have an effect on the passengers. As one violent fight scene takes place, there is a call for a stand still because it isn’t safe for people to be standing while the train plunges through ice.

Like the train, this film doesn’t stop. From the get go, we are forced into a world where there are no windows and the food is a dark jelly substance that people eat with their hands. Soon after, a revolution begins, offering its own triumphs and terrifying disappointments. Chris Evans offers a different type of superhero than he’s used to playing. He is indeed still charming and fighting for the good of people who can’t fight for themselves but in a much dirtier way (literally). This character isn’t overplayed, he simply gets the job done. There are a few moments where we see into Curtis’ soul and are not sure if we are swooned or horrified. It offers the question if what we think a good guy is really exists here. Curtis reveals to the audience that even the “good guys” still have to spill blood (not their own) to selfishly survive. Although he is repentant of his past cannibalistic acts, is his repentance the only thing that separates him from the filthy rich who abuse the poor for their own comfort and survival? There is no grey line, just steel doors that separate one life from the next.

Tilda Swinton plays Mason, a satirical mannish woman who is in charge of the societal structure of the train. She is obviously meant to expose what the rich are like, since we are stuck in the tail of the train for a bit. She shows us how self indulgent the front of the train is and how reckless they are with their indulgences. We laugh at her but in the same moment we hate her for what she represents. Although we all want to relate and connect to the impoverished protagonists, we might have more in common with Mason than we would hope. Bong is exposing what “rich” really means and how easily we all can have the rich mindset, even if we do not have the same bank account.

One theme that keeps getting repeated by the rich passengers on this train is balance. Without balance, the train can’t run and keep everyone safe from the unlivable environment conditions outside. Balance isn’t natural and must be maintained by some sort of sacrifice. Unfortunately, it’s the poor that have to constantly sacrifice to keep the balance in effect. The question being presented to us is what do we think is more important: equality that risks quality of life or balance. Naturally, we all would choose equality without really thinking of the consequences. If we are living some sort of comfortable life, then we have balance to thank.

This film is quite a ride (pun intended) and it’s rather difficult not to watch it from the edge of your seat. There is violence, there are disappointments, there are manic moments, and there are saddening scenes. If you have 2 hours to kill one night, I highly suggest watching Snowpiercer. That will be the fastest 2 hours of your life.

Sophisticated S’mores

Let me tell you a story about a girl. A girl who has no concept of time and has to be at a family BBQ in 3 hours. A BBQ that is an hour away and she wants to make cheesecake. Cheesecake that has to set for at least 2 hours or else she will have a chocolate mess on her hands. She decided to take her precious, Saturday morning time going to yoga. She needs to gather herself for the day. She goes home and starts to make her cheesecake. She’s calm and collected and isn’t even worried about her time allotment. Do you want to know how this story ends? It ends with a girl, frantically cutting and trying to pose chocolate that is literally melting in front of her. Don’t worry there’s a happy ending and it’s 50 people at a BBQ who don’t care what the food looks like as long as it tastes great. Lucky me, I mean her. Gosh, the nerve of some people. She needs to get her act together. I present to you: Sophisticated S’mores. (more…)

Here’s the ingredient line up:

From Top Left to Right: Eggs, melted butter, vanilla, heavy cream, marshmallow fluff (organic, of course), sugar, graham cracker crumbs, toasted coconut, greek yogurt, semisweet chocolate, and cream cheese.

We pulse our graham crackers until they are crumbs. We add our melted butter and some vanilla. Pulse again.

Place the graham crumbs in a 9×13 pan, lined with buttered foil (you’ll be thanking me later), and evenly press the crumbs into a crust like so. Finger outlines=homemade.

Now, for the reason we are all here: cheesecake! Cream the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, fluff, and yogurt. Add the eggs, one at a time. We got ourselves a filling! Pour onto the crust and bake. And whatever you do, do NOT open that oven door! Your cheesecake depends on it!

After the 3 annoying steps to bake this thing, your cheesecake should look (somewhat) like this. Let that creaminess cool completely. Please and thank you.

As you wait for the cheesecake to cool and you haven’t picked a leetle piece from one of the corners to sample, we can make our other additions that make this dessert something special. We toast our coconut in a dry pan over medium low. Keep an eye on those suckers. They want to burn so badly. Once they are golden brown, take them off the heat.

This is where our cheesecake goes from dessert to sheer decadence. Two words: chocolate ganache. It sounds so fancy but is only two ingredients. Chop your chocolate so it will melt easily and place in a heat proof bowl.

Put your heavy cream in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Pour over chocolate and whisk until melted. As the chocolate cools, it gets thicker. Look at that shine! No, this isn’t a shampoo commercial.

All we need to do is combine the trifecta! Pour that chocolate over the cheesecake and make sure it’s evenly distributed. Sprinkle with the coconut.

You will have something that looks like this. But here is where I made the biggest mistake. Instead of saving some extra fluff to drizzle on top, I thought eating it with extra graham crackers was a better idea. Save some fluff to heat up and drizzle on top of this goodness. You’ll be glad you did.

Like I said in my little story, I didn’t have time for my cheesecake to set before I had to cut it. That’s why the bars are dripping with chocolate. Make sure you allow yourself at least 2 hours for them to have fridge time. These take a little work but are soooo worth it. They are S’mores with a cheesecake twist. Sometimes, it’s good to be an adult. Happy sweets making!

The Leftovers-Episode 3

What to do when you’ve been left behind? What to do when you think you were worthy of transcendence but instead you are left with a paralyzed wife and a church you can’t afford to keep? “It’s a test” you keep telling yourself in hopes you are somewhat passing. No one was taken from you on Heroes Day but compared to what your life is like now, you kind of wish they were. In a very “Lostonian” way, this week’s episode of The Leftovers changed its pace and focused on one man’s story. For the last two weeks, we have been mainly following a broken police chief and the people he encounters. We have been shown, only on the surface, how the disappearance has affected everyone who wasn’t taken. It’s obvious that the world is a less safe, more cynical place and since there are no answers to the disappearance, there is nothing left to lose . Living recklessly seems to be everyone’s motto and since “our dogs aren’t our dogs, anymore”, maybe that also applies to our kids, teenagers, spouses, etc. Nothing was left unscathed that day and the best anyone can do is survive because making it better isn’t going to happen. (more…)

In this third episode, instead of following the usual characters and story lines, there is a shift in attention. We are shown the life of the sad and controversial pastor, who doesn’t have a congregation tithing and therefore paying his monstrous bills. He is disliked by many due to his crusade of revealing the dirty laundry of those who disappeared. It is assumed that those who disappeared were innocent, morally good people. He takes his precious time to photocopy stories as handouts so people can see the truth. This is his effort to make sense of Heroes Day and perhaps, to console his disappointment that he wasn’t part of the chosen ones.

We begin in front of a church where pastor Matt is putting up a sign that says, “He is always with you”. This is a foreshadowing of how the episode pans out and how absent God feels to Matt. He then goes inside the church and is telling those few who are listening, an anecdote of a young boy. This boy starts to resent his baby sister since his parents are only paying attention to her. He gets diagnosed with leukemia and miraculously survives. This boy is Matt, the minister, and this story explains a lot about his character. In his life, he has been the chosen one, the one who survived something that usually kills its victims. He had visions of being head of an ever crowded church and where people would run to him for answers. As we learned, that isn’t the case and Matt’s role in the town is more of a nuisance than a blessing. Matt’s struggle is incredibly painful to watch as he as to come up with over $100,000 in cash to save his church and we learn his wife is paralyzed. He can’t even seem to pay the lady who takes care of his wife and he is at his end with what to do. There is a picture in his wife’s room that I assume is Job, a Bible character who was constantly being tested by God. Matt religiously stares at this picture for answers. He realizes he has to steal and gamble if he has any chance of saving the church. The irony here is he has passed judgement on those who led a sinful life before they disappeared, not knowing their circumstances or having grace on their hardships. But now he has a desperate circumstance that calls for a desperate act.

His desperate act is the start of unfortunate and honestly, uncomfortable to watch moments where his hope is taken away. He gets brutally attacked 3 times in this episode and the last time costs him his church. He is too late to make the payment, since he was in the hospital for 3 days (not one like he thought). While he was unconscious in the hospital, there is a montage of events that happen. Some are from Matt’s past and others are from his present. Most of the people he interacts with in this montage are absent of any emotion, even though serious things are going on. This is insight into how Matt views his neighbors and that no one wants to help those in need. After Matt wakes up, we learn the people in white bought his church. He has treated these people with kindness, sometimes risking his own safety to help them. This isn’t the world where kindness gets you friends anymore. It’s dog eat dog and he slowly realizes this as he watches them take over the church. What hurts the most for Matt is that it wasn’t about the people in white betraying him but that the God, whom he has so faithfully followed, betrayed him. His sign that was put up in the beginning of the episode was taken down and Matt’s hope went with it. He wasn’t chosen to disappear and he also wasn’t chosen to be the leader among the lost. He wasn’t chosen and it’s that fact that haunts him.

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