Nibbles! Figlings!

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So school is starting, which means posts might be a little slow (hopefully not too slow, though!) This is a little remnant from the summer where I ran a trip to Trader Joe’s and for some reason decided to combine pork dumplings and figs (of course).

The sweetness of the fig when paired with a chili vinegar soy sauce actually works. Also this is super quick to make so makes for a perfect nibble!

 

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Yum! Neua!

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So in case you were confused by that title, Yum Neua is basically a spicy Thai beef salad! I’ve been missing home since being at school over the summer and thought I’d cook some up after spotting some choice looking skirt steak at the supermarket. Let’s get into it!

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I roughly followed this recipe for the dressing/marinade of the salad but made some adjustments as I’m sure you’ll see.

Obviously the “hero” (thanks Gordon Ramsey) of the dish was going to be this awesome meat and I wasn’t sure how to go about maximizing the flavour/ not overcooking such a thin cut so obviously I did some research!
After following these simple tricks to getting a perfect skirt steak – I’d say my meat turned out pretty good-looking.

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I’ll admit I had some trouble slicing them into even slices, but after I finished eating I cooked up another section of beef and better got the hang of it!

(+1 knife skill achievement)
I was a little concerned about the meat being a little rare, but then remembered that the lime in the dressing would further cook it a bit so no worries there!

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Mm Everything looked pretty good as it was coming

together

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But of course I couldn’t just leave it

like that! (It wouldn’t be a real Max dish without some weird substitution) I substituted the cherr

y tomatoes in the recipe for some fresh raspberries, which I hoped would still give it a kick while complimenting the

beef.

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I also cooked up a portion of rice (a boy’s gotta eat!) and though usually yum neua would be but one small dish of many, I was obviously too lazy to  cook anything else. I threw some cucumbers on the side to help me to combat the spice, but it turns out I didn’t really need them. In the future I’ll definitely throw some more chilis in.

So, the final verdict:

My ratings!:
Dishliciousness : 9/10 – The sauce was SO GOOD. So simple but really brought me back to my mom’s cooking and I think had a really good balance. I also kind of liked that I added raspberries, though it might not be for everyone. Also the skirt steak tips really did it and ensured the beef was super tender and flavourful.

Recipe difficulty: 3/10 – It was actually super simple to throw everything together (considering there was little cooking involved)

Overall experience: 4 Max heads out of 5 – Definitely going to make this all the time now

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I SCREAM YOU SCREAM WE ALL SCREAM FOR ICE CREAM (well kind of)

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Hi y’all!

Sorry that it’s been a while (as Max said, I was at home for some time and out of the city without need to cook). Then I had my wisdom teeth out (have yet to see whether my

intelligence has dropped significantly) and was thus unable to eat many yummies (STILL MISSING THE ABILITY TO EAT POPCORN AND MORE IMPORTANTLY KETTLE CORN). Now Max is gone home and EVERYTHING IS FALLING APART.

Well, not everything. I finally got around to perusing the interwebs and finding another recipe. To be honest, I’m not quite sure it’s considered cooking (as there’s little heat involved), but I figured it’d be appropriate for the lovely summer weather.

I’m talking, of course, about HOMEMADE ICE CREAM.

Finding a recipe was not exactly straightforward, I assure you (and if I’m being perfectly honest, I’m not quite sure it’s technically ice cream, but hey, if it looks like ice cream and it smells like ice cream and it feels like ice cream and it tastes like ice cream…), as I unfortunately don’t have, and am not likely to acquire, an ice cream machine. Still, Google does wonders, and gave me multiple ice cream maker-less methods to try. So without further ado…

Recipe of choice: Easy Homemade Ice Cream without a Machine from kevin & amanda, found here.

This recipe was super easy and customizable; dangerously so, as I’ll likely be revisiting it quite a lot in the future. Unfortunately I was/am lacking Max and his fancy camera and picture-taking skills as well as the ability to remember to take pictures during the process, so you’ll have to live with the unartistic photos I just ran and took with my iPhone camera.20130727-204648.jpg

I used the base recipe (2 cups heavy whipping cream and 1 can/14 oz. sweetened condensed milk) and added in vanilla and chocolate chips and Peanut Butter Caramel Sauce from Tracey’s Culinary Adventures found here.

So the process went something like this:

  1. Pause in MCAT studying. Decide to make ice cream. Decide on recipe to make. Buy ingredients.
  2. Start peanut butter caramel. Mix together everything (except corn syrup because I didn’t have any and didn’t want to buy it) and set aside to cool.
  3. Wait while caramel cools and try to study more. Meanwhile, place bowl + hand mixer metal things and heavy whipping cream in fridge.
  4. Mix cooled caramel (around half of the recipe) to sweetened condensed milk. Add a handful of chocolate chips and a splash of vanilla and maybe a little cinnamon. Mix together.
  5. Whip heavy whipping cream using hand mixer (just keep beating until stiff peaks form).
  6. Fold whipped cream into sweetened condensed milk mixture. Notice that ice cream is not in fact becoming peanut butter caramel swirl but is in fact all mixing together. Start to panic mildly. Try to swirl in more caramel so ice cream looks pretty. Fail because caramel has hardened in fridge. Give up and cover ice cream with squiggles of Magic Shell chocolate topping instead.
  7. Stick ice cream in freezer overnight.

Let me tell you, this ice cream, though sticklers might tell you it’s not ice cream since such and such or whatever, is SUPER YUMMY. It’s definitively peanut butter chocolate ice cream and is so creamy and delicious that I’m a little skeptical that it came out of this container in my freezer (are there magic pixies in there who make these things happen?). Sure, the method may not work for everything, and it’s no Ben & Jerry’s or Häagen-Dazs or whatever your drug of choice, but it’s cold and sweet and wonderful nonetheless.

My ratings!
Dishliciousness: 10/10 (hey, it’s ice cream!)
Recipe difficulty: 2/10 (might be difficult if you don’t have an electric mixer, need to buy specific ingredients you might not have, waiting for the ice cream to freeze is a little difficult 😉 )
Overall experience: 4.5 Connie heads out of 5! I love the easiness and customizability of this recipe and will definitely make it again.

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I give it another week… tops. Maybe more like 2 days considering that large chunk already missing…

Happy National Ice Cream Month everyone!

Nibbles! Double Feature

Hey Guys!

So it’s been pretty quiet around here recently, but we’ve got some good excuses! (not really) I actually had a whole post planned out with pictures taken and everything, but then my harddrive failed and I didn’t get a chance to back up the latest photos – so that was kind of a bummer. Also, Connie’s been back home and without us being in the same city to motivate each other, it’s been pretty slow.

Which isn’t to say that I haven’t been cooking! I just haven’t really been following recipes. So I figured who not post a little to give you guys a taste of what I made with bits and pieces from home – here we go:

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1) Openface Beef+Mushroom+Spinach Sandwich and 2) Chicken Tom Yum

1) It’s literally what it sounds like. From the bottom up:

– Whole wheat bread, toasted
– Herb + garlic goat cheese
– Spinach and mushrooms sautéed in garlic and shallots, salted
– Beef seared in a pan
– Fried egg
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2) Mostly followed this recipe

Made with rice noodles, chicken, and mushrooms
garnished with cilantro
Had to improvise and make due without kaffir lime leaves and tamarind

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Hopefully there will be more to come! Cheers!

I don’t wanna TACO ’bout it… except that I do :)

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So this post was supposed to be done on Sunday, but unfortunately I, unlike Max, am:

  1. Not super organized with respect to this blog. Or life, really.
  2. Apparently quite disposed to losing drafts. It’s already happened twice, and this is only my second post on here…
  3. Bad at publishing. And keeping pictures in.

I’M SORRY.

Now that that’s over with, what I really wanted to talk to you about was my intense love of summer (in honor of the recent solstice). Summer sunshine, the faint scent of honeysuckle on summer breezes, the fact that it’s suddenly okay to eat ice cream at any time of day for any meal, the lack of classes (and the stress that comes with them), shorts and sundresses and sandals, playing with things like water guns and bubbles, more festivals, picnics, cooking outside, the lush green of deciduous tree leaves, the pervasiveness of some of the best fruits… the list really goes on forever, so I’ll just stop there and save you my rambling. Basically, summer is THE BEST.

In terms of food, what I really love about summer is the freshness things tend to have. Growing up, my family had a vegetable garden, so I equate summer with beautiful juicy tomatoes, plenty of zucchini (mostly finding its way into delicious breads), various types of salad leaves, beans, and luscious blackberries and raspberries. Thus, to really celebrate the start of summer, I wanted to make something that captured that freshness. For some reason, in my mind that immediately equated to summer tacos, something I previously had just about zero experience with. Surely, this couldn’t be too hard…

Recipe of choice: Fried Summer Squash Tacos with a Charred Corn Salsa from A Cozy Kitchen, found here.

These tacos are everything I wanted them to be; fresh yet substantial, and just bursting with flavor. Basically, they’re composed of 3 parts:

THE TORTILLA:
Courtesy of Trader Joe’s, because I was NOT making tortillas. I chose the little ones because I like mini things.

THE SUMMER SQUASH BATONS:

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Honestly, I was skeptical of these at first. A vegetarian taco? My thoughts in a word? “Ehhhh…” I very nearly substituted chicken for these but then for the sake of remaining true to the recipe didn’t. The verdict? THANK GOD I DIDN’T. These are so yummy, and definitely substantial enough to carry the tacos. I chose to bake instead of fry them, but because the corn IMG_7364(more about this soon) was taking so long, my oven was occupied. As a result, I attempted to fry some of them… until I realized that my entire room was filled with smoke, and I was in danger of setting off the building’s fire alarm. After that I opened a couple of windows and stuck to using the oven. They still were as crispy and yummy as any deep-fried fries you might find. Since we had so many (I didn’t exactly strictly follow the recipe with regard to amounts…) my roommates enjoyed eating some of them with ketchup as fries. Also, squash is now my favorite thing to cut; it provides just the right amount of resistance and yet cuts like butter.

CHARRED CORN SALSA:

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THIS IS MY FAVORITE PART OF THE ENTIRE MEAL. The flavors combine perfectly: the sweetness and slight smokiness of charred corn, the kick of jalapeño, the freshness and acidity of the lime juice, all mixed together with red onions, ricotta salata (which I subbed for the unfindable queso fresco), and cilantro. Granted, this was also the most IMG_7371time-consuming part of the meal, simply because I lack a grill or gas stove or any other sort of similar fire source. I tried to char the corn using the oven, but even after nearly an hour of cooking (when it had clearly cooked and even begun shriveling), it was no closer to browning. Finally, I gave up on the conventional oven (mostly because I needed to cook the squash batons), and threw the corn into the toaster oven on high for a few minutes, when it finally charred a little. Still, all that grief was worth it when it all came together.

SO?
I would definitely make this again (maybe even just the individual components), though I’d take into consideration the time commitment and probably find a different way to char the corn.

My ratings!
Dishliciousness: 8/10
Recipe difficulty: 5/10 (It wasn’t that difficult, except maybe actually frying the squash batons…)
Overall experience: 3.5 Connie heads out of 5! I spent much of the time cooking panicking because I didn’t realize how much time everything would take, but I really enjoyed the outcome.

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Taco: AHHH I’M FALLING.
Lime slice: “I will never let you fall/ I’ll stand up with you forever…~”

Morning After – Complimentary!

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So I woke up this morning with a lot of leftovers from my first recipe and decided to bring some to work for lunch! To add a twist, I cut up an avocado and threw on some more pomegranate seeds to make the dish more of a summer daytime meal. I love how the complimentary colors (hey whut art theory!) make the dish so vibrant. It definitely hit the spot!

So basically:

1) Reheat pasta

2) Slice avocado in half, remove pit, slice lengthwise and scoop out with spoon.

3) Salt and pepper avocado to taste

4) Throw on more pomegranate seeds (really this recipe is unnecessary, I covered everything above ^ )

5) Yum!

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Nibbles! CHOCOLATE SQUARED

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Hey y’all!

I’m definitely not Southern. I don’t even think I’ve been to the South (besides a family trip to Florida and another to Texas). So I’m not quite sure why I used “y’all”. But hey, apparently modern English is the only Indo-European language with just one form of the word “you”, so maybe we need an informal version!

In any case, it’s Connie (just in case you couldn’t tell it wasn’t Max by the excessive babbling), and this is my very first post on this blog! I’m currently typing this with very red-stained (not blood, don’t worry) hands from Max’s beets earlier.

This past Tuesday, it was one of my good friend (and current roommate)’s birthdays, and so Monday night I whipped up some chocolate cupcakes to surprise her (quick shout-out to Mama-I-Am! Love you girl <3). With little over an hour before midnight, I decided to give it my best shot and make everything from scratch.

Recipes used:

  • Chocolate Cupcake Recipe – The Ultimate Chocolate Cupcake Test Baked by 50 Bakers and Counting, found at Cupcake Project here
  • My Favorite Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe, also found at Cupcake Project here

Notes:

  • I opted not to add coffee in my cupcakes, mostly because I don’t have a coffee maker or really access to one as far as I know of. Also, I’m not such a fan of instant coffee, nor do I own any.
  • I used Nestle dark chocolate chips for my chocolate, and Hersheys Cocoa Powder for that choice (for the frosting as well).
  • I was unable to find cupcake liners, so I used nonstick cooking spray on my nonstick cupcake pan, and everything turned out alright, though I do wish I had the cupcake liners for aesthetics’ sake.
  • I used slightly less powdered sugar than was called for (approx. 2.5 cups), and because I had none in my room, I used my handy dandy Magic Bullet to grind up regular granulated sugar. It kind of worked, though my frosting is probably slightly grainier than it should be.

Comments:

This is the lightest cupcake batter I have ever seen. Perhaps it’s because of the sour cream, or the not-very-much flour, but the batter before it’s poured actually feels extremely light and airy, which I found very interesting and quite pleasant. I somehow made 20 cupcakes from this 16 cupcake recipe, but it’s now been 2 full days, and I have just 2 left, with very few people involved in the eating process. I can only conclude that they were good. This is most definitely a recipe I’ll make again.

Also, I am most definitely not a frosting person (generally I scrape the frosting off of my cakes because I find it a bit too teeth-hurtingly sweet), but I really enjoy this frosting. That’s also probably a good thing, considering I probably have almost 2 cups left of it… the one thing it does mean is MORE CUPCAKES HOORAY. My waistline is crying a miserable pitiful plaintive cry.

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Unfortunately I have no pictures from the day of the birthday when the cupcakes were actually (nearly) beautiful, but I gave Max one today to eat for dessert! Since the frosting came directly out of the fridge, it pretty much refused to spread, resulting in the rather less attractive lump-smear in this photo. Lesson learned: frosting should be room temperature before applying. Max chose to decorate it with the 4 pomegranate seeds you see.

Overall? I’d consider this recipe trial a pretty resounding success. I managed to finish before midnight and trick roommate into thinking they weren’t for her, only to surprise her at the front door with a plateful (and the lovely Mama Son, another roommate/friend). The recipe was super fun and really straightforward, and definitely one pretty much anyone could do. There are delicious cupcakes in my room (though not for long, I have a feeling), a container of yummy frosting in the fridge, and happy tummies all around.

First Post!: Droppin’ the Beetz

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Hey All, Max here!

So first post – this is exciting! I don’t want to waste your time so let’s jump rightin:
THE RECIPE

Spicy Cajun Sausage Pasta with Beets, Goat Cheese, and Pomegranate Seeds
Adapted from this recipe over at Not Without Salt:
http://notwithoutsalt.com/2011/01/15/dating-my-husband-2/

Just add:

Spicy cajun sausage (sliced and cooked in a pan)

Pomegranate seeds (even if Connie strongly advised against them)

Cilantro (because I had some cilantro lying around and cilantro makes everything better!)

THE BREAKDOWN (aka how it all went down)

I love colorful food, so I jumped at the chance to make this really striking looking pasta dish – I mean how difficult could it be to make a sauce, right?

IMG_7308So, I didn’t have any whole wheat pasta and I didn’t find any whole wheat farfalle at the grocery store, but I thought having little red bowties in my food was too good of an opportunity to pass up, so I went ahead and just got some – In the end I think I managed to get the al dente texture that I wanted (thumbs for being able to boil water!) though I probably should have saved the pasta for last, seeing as how it was the simplest thing and leaving the pasta sitting there for a while made it a little cold/ dry.

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I was a bit skeptical of cooking a whole onion, since I don’t really use onions on a regular basis, but it all worked out in the end! (It probably had to do with the fact that I left these on for like 15 minutes until they started to brown rather than the 5 required by the recipe…)

IMG_7309 This is Connie dangerously “grating” the beets with a peeler. I feared for her life (especially since on the episode of Masterchef we were watching one girl cut her finger clear off… I tried to chop the beets to make the process go faster, but those pieces weren’t as cooperative for turning into sauce… Darn!

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Oh, also we forgot about the walnuts we left in the oven so ended up having to re-toast the walnuts, since our first batch was toast…

The sauce in the end didn’t end up as consistent as in the original recipe, probably because we didn’t grate the beets (also, I don’t know if this is a dumb question, but what the heck is cooking liquid?? – I just added water because at one point the sauce was more like a cooked beet salad.)

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On a positive note, I’m really glad I made the changes that I did to the recipe – the sausage helped turn this into a whole, hearty meal (and the spicy kick really played well with the flavour of the beets/ goat cheese). The Pomegranate seeds helped to add acidity and lightness so that the dish didn’t become overwhelming, and the cilantro added colour! (because as much as I wanted this to be a red dish, it would have looked pretty intimidating to the casual observer.)

SO?

I definitely would want to try this recipe again at a later date because I feel like a beet sauce could be super versatile tool to have in my cooking recipe – imagine a picnic side of cute red bowties! So adorable (and probably what the original creators intended…)

My ratings!:
Dish deliciousness (dishliciousness?) : 7/10
Recipe difficulty: 6/10 (It was pretty straightforward, I just think it requires more time/ a grater)
Overall experience: 4 Max heads out of 5 (A fun kickoff to this blog, no?)

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Overheard in the Kitchen:

Connie: “Let’s embody vegetables!”
Max: “Ok ouch, hot boiling steam is hot”
Connie: “So what do you use to stir your pasta? Chopsticks. So what do you use as a cutting board? Aluminum foil.”

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