Thursday, March 31, 2011

Happy 21st Birthday

Happy 21st Birthday to my sister, Frances!

Yes, my sister actually had to blow out a grill lighter due to my parents' lack of candles. Hehe.

See you guys tomorrow for something delicious!  And to celebrate TGIF!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Spinach & Bacon Salad

Andy and I have been on a little health-kick lately.  We've been over-indulging a little too much, and our bodies are retaliating.  So in order to pay homage to our bodies, we're eating better.  Everything in moderation right?

What I love about this salad is that it's absolutely beautiful.  It's simple.  It's colorful.  It's downright mesmerizing.  And that's before you even have a bite.

The tangy vinaigrette offers a bright awakening of the senses and goes perfectly with the fresh, colorful vegetables.  Needless to say, our bodies loved us for this.

* This post has been entered as part of Denny's & Foodbuzz's BACONALIA challenge for a chance to win.

2-4 cups baby spinach, washed
1 cup red cabbage, shredded/sliced thinly
2 large carrots, peeled and sliced
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
salt and pepper, to taste
4 slices of bacon

In a large bowl, toss the spinach, cabbage, and carrots until mixed.

In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, maple syrup, and Dijon mustard.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Heat large skillet under medium high heat and fry up the bacon until crisp, about 5-8 minutes.  Drain on a paper towel-lined plate and roughly chop into small pieces.

Divide vegetables among two plates and top with bacon pieces.  Drizzle vinaigrette over top and dig in!

You definitely won't regret this.  Andy said he loved this salad, and even said that we need to start eating more of this type of salad.  I've got no complaints there!  I mean, this is practically ready in about 15 minutes or less!  And it was super tasty!

I'm off to a bookclub meeting with my girls - this month's book was The Other Boleyn Girl.  Definitely a good one!  Have you read it?  What are you guys currently reading?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Perfect Morning Start...

Yes.  Coffee.  AND a sweet potato donut, WITH marshmallow-cinnamon glaze.  Seriously... could it get any better?

Now you'll have to excuse me, I'll be cramming last minute for a Spanish test that I have at 4. 

Monday, March 28, 2011

Restaurant Recreations: Fiesta Time Mexican Grill

Happy Monday guys!  Hope everyone had a great weekend.  I know we did!  It was Andy's first official weekend off and he says it felt great!  He's already been told after his 1st week at the new job that he's doing a great job, so he's in high spirits!  I'm still so proud of my little grown up! =)

Anyway, it's been a while since I've done a review so I thought I'd take a crack at it.

On the outside, Fiesta Time in Oldham County looks likes any old Mexican restaurant.  Beer and tequila neon signs filling the windows,  sombreros a-plenty, and margaritas in every corner.  As traditional as it gets, right?  Well, that's what I thought going in anyway.

We walked in at a decent hour, maybe 8:30ish.  The servers seemed to "rush" us a little bit.  The sign on the door said they close at 11pm so I didn't understand why that was happening.  But we continued on, blindly.

We ordered the typical Mexican fare, Andy getting some fajita quesadilla of some sort and I opted for the Combo #2 (a taco, an enchilada, and a chalupa).  We also ordered some nachos for an appetizer and it was just a little lack-luster to even get into.

So what about our food?  I think we were so famished we ate it with no complaints.  But looking back, I have a few key points:

- Not all Mexican restaurants are the same - and Fiesta Time proves it... and not in a good way
- I could have made this at home.
- I did make this at home... and it was 100x more delicious.

Honestly, I wasn't impressed.  Andy's fajita quesadilla was unimpressive (although he seems to disagree and said it was pretty good, but maybe I'm just a snob), and my combo, was well... let's just say I've had better things at Taco Bell (I know, I know - that was harsh).

Bad cell phone pictures irk me - so I apologize.
Fiesta Time Mexican Grille on Urbanspoon
So, first thing I set out to do?  Recreate this sucker!  So let's see how it went...



1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
salt and pepper, to taste
1 lb. shredded chicken & beef (I had leftover grilled meats from this meal)
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon dark brown sugar
soft tortillas, warmed


1 cup salsa verde
1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 cup pepperjack cheese, shredded
5-6 soft tortillas


1 cup masa harina flour
1/2 cup water
vegetable oil, for frying
Filling from tacos, above
sour cream, optional

For the taco filling, heat a large skillet under medium high heat and add olive oil.  Saute onion until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes or so.  Add in garlic, chili powder, cumin, coriander, oregano, cayenne, salt, and pepper.  Stir until fragrant, about a minute.

Stir in the shredded chicken and beef (you could definitely just use a pound of ground beef if you wanted, but I had all those leftovers, I couldn't let them go to waste).  Heat until warmed, about 4-5 minutes.

Add in tomato sauce, chicken broth, apple cider vinegar, and brown sugar.  Stir until sugar is dissolved.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste.  Use to fill soft taco shells and top chalupa (recipe below).

For enchiladas, preheat oven to 350F.  Heat a small to medium-sized skillet (large enough to fit soft tortilla in) under high heat and add a thin later of vegetable oil, just enough to coat the pan.

Heat tortillas in oil, one at a time, for about 10-15 seconds, just on one side.  Transfer tortillas to a paper towel-lined plate.  This ensures the tortillas are easier to work with and fold tightly.

Grease a small (maybe 8 x 10) casserole dish.  One by one, place a good amount of both cheese in the center of each tortilla.  Roll up and place snuggly in casserole dish.  Top with salsa verde and any remaining cheeses.

Bake in oven for about 10 to 15 minutes, or until cheese is melted and starting to brown on top.  Broil for 1-2 minutes to crisp up even more, if desired.

To make chalupas, combine water and masa harina until dough forms.  Form dough into 4 patties, about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick.

Heat about 1 inch of vegetable oil in a heavy bottomed pan under medium high to high heat.  You'll know when the oil is ready when a piece of dough sizzles when you place it in there.

Fry each chalupa for about 3-5 minutes (or until golden on both sides) and transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to dry.  Top chalupas with filling from above and sour cream.

No lettuce or tomatoes in the house = a not so colorful picture, but hey... it tasted pretty darn good!

So yeah, needless to say, this produces a lot of food.  So make sure you have company.  Or a large family.  Or a big appetite.

My verdict?  I think my "unauthentic" Mexican Combo #2 far-outweighed Fiesta Time's "authentic" Mexican Combo #2.  From now on, I'll stick to my around-town favorites like El Mundo, El Caporal, or El Torasco.  Do we see a trend here?  I don't know, but my hypothesis is that if it doesn't start with "El", it may not be all that. =)

Have a great Monday guys and I'll see you tomorrow!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Honey-Caramel Ice Cream Sundaes

It's Friday!  Woop.  Woop!  The only bummer about Fridays, for the next 11 weeks, is that Andy has a class until 10pm.  Yup.  Meaning that my Friday nights will pretty much consist of me hanging out with the dogs at home.  I'm so exciting, aren't I?!

With the exception of this Friday night.  My friend Kendra and I just had dinner at Varanese (you know, my fave restaurant in all of Louisville).  Needless to say, I'm in a rather food-induced sort of coma.  It was so friggin' good. 

Yeah, I waited until the last minute to post the last poll winner, didn't I?  I promise, I try to post them earlier, but life gets in the way.  Busy busy, as can be.  But you'll forgive me, I'm sure.  After you see how awesome this ice cream is. =)  Oh... and don't forget to vote for the new poll down below!

Adapted from The Perfect Scoop

1/2 cup honey (buy local! - if you can)
1 & 1/2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 & 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream, plus 1 tablespoon
5 egg yolks
about 10 soft caramel candies
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
bananas, optional
sesame seed brittle, optional (recipe below)
chocolate syrup, optional

Sesame Seed Brittle
Adapted from The Perfect Scoop

1/2 cup mixture of black and white sesame seeds
3 tablespoon honey

In a small saucepan, heat the honey until warm.  Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

In a large saucepan, heat the milk, sugar, and salt until warm and sugar is dissolved.

Pour the heavy cream into a large bowl and place a metal strainer over top.  Pour the honey into the cream and stir until combined.

In a medium bowl, whisk egg yolks until combined.  Slowly pour the warm milk mixture into the egg yolk bowl, whisking constantly.  Then transfer egg yolk mixture back to sauce pan over medium heat.  Stir constantly with a heatproof spatula until mixture thickens and coats spatula.

Pour the custard into the strainer over the heavy cream and stir until mixed together.  Place bowl in an ice bath to cool.  Once at room temperature, cover mixture with plastic wrap and allow to sit in refrigerator overnight.

The next day, melt the caramel candies with 1 tablespoon of heavy cream in a microwave safe bowl.  (30 second intervals until caramel is smooth should do it).  Let cool to room temperature.

Take custard mixture out of the fridge and prepare in ice cream maker according to manufacturer's directions, about 30 minutes or so.  About a minute or two before it is done, drizzle cooled caramel into machine to create a "swirl".

To prepare sesame brittle, heat 3 tablespoons of honey in a sauce pan until warm.  Add sesame seeds and fold in until coated with honey.

Preheat oven to 350 F and line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.

Spread honey-sesame mixture over foil in an even layer.  Bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until golden.  Watch it carefully because it can burn rather quickly.  Let cool until hardened.  Then break up into pieces.

In a medium skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of butter.  Slice banana into 1/2 inch slices.  Add bananas to skillet and fry until warmed and slightly browned/carmelized.  Remove from skillet and allow to cool slightly.

To assemble sundaes, place 3 scoops of ice cream in a bowl.  Top with semi-warm bananas (in my opinion, there is nothing better than warm bananas and ice cream!) and sesame seed brittle.  Drizzle chocolate sauce on top, if desired.  Try not to eat the whole thing.  I dare you.

This was awesome.  Damn awesome, if I do say so myself.  I loved the ice cream.  The honey and caramel were two different dimensions of sweetness that paired so well together.  Try it out.  I know you'll love it!

Enjoy your weekend guys!

What should I make this weekend???

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Shh... Don't Tell

Is it bad that I get excited over finding glassware?
My parents left this morning to visit my sister in upstate New York.  Since my other sister was on her way back from Florida today, there was nobody to go walk my parent's dogs. 

And since my place of employment is just a few blocks from my parent's house, guess who was forced to volunteer to do so?  Yeah, me. 

So I took it as my chance to raid my parent's house.  And I found these bad boys... of which I'm borrowing.  Indefinitely.  Or until I'm found out and forced to return them... which then my mother will presume I really liked them and get me some for myself.  See how this process works?  It's win-win.  =)

It's bloody cold outside (it went from 80's to 40's - and I'm a NOT happy about that!).  So I'm going to spend the rest of the day trying to finish our bookclub book for this month (The Other Boleyn Girl - it's over 600 pages!).  Enjoy the rest of your Thursday guys!

And check back tomorrow for some ice cream.  I'm hoping if I post that, it will tempt the weather gods to return my warm weather.  I demand it!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Flank Steak Tacos

This past Sunday, I had a few friends over for a little shindig.  I was kind of worried because there was a forecast that it was supposed to rain all day, but you know what?  It didn't rain a drop!  And it was great because for the first time this year, we got to eat out back on the patio.  It was the perfect weather, the perfect company, and some damn delicious food!

We've been on a healthy kick this week, and this was a perfect way to start it off.  The simplicity of the salsa and the lean cut of meat made for a delicious meal!  Even mocha was happy about it -

Adapted from Food & Wine's recipe

3 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
4 scallions, chopped
small handful of cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup mint leaves, chopped
1 jalapeno, halfway seeded (I like the heat) and minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
juice from 1 lemon
salt and pepper, to taste
1 large flank steak (about 1-2 lbs.)
olive oil, for rubbing
warm flour tortillas, optional
sour cream, optional
1 onion, sliced
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 green bell pepper, sliced

Light a charcoal grill under medium high heat.

Take a medium sized sheet (12 by 12 inches) of aluminum foil and place onions and both bell peppers in the middle.  Drizzle a little bit of olive oil over vegetables and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Gently toss and fold over edges of aluminum foil to loosely enclose ingredients.  Place on indirect heat on the grill and allow to cook for about 20-25 minutes or until softened, but still somewhat crisp.

In a medium bowl, combine tomatoes, scallions, cilantro, mint, jalapeno, garlic, and lemon juice.  Mix well and season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Rub the flank steak on both sides with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Grill over high heat until charred and cooked to about medium rare to medium, about 8 minutes per side.  It really depends on the size of your flank steak on this one, the timing can vary. (I think I had a steak a little under 2 lbs.)

Transfer steak to a cutting board to rest for about 5 minutes before cutting. 

Warm your tortillas on the grill for about 30 seconds, if you want to.

Now I know this may be blasphemy, but I first cut the steak in half, along the grain.  I wouldn't normally do this, but the steak was so wide and I didn't want huge slices in my small tortillas.  Then slice against the grain and transfer slices to a platter.

Place about 3-4 steak slices in the tortilla shells and top with salsa, grilled vegetables, and sour cream. 

We served this with a side of rice and black beans.  It was seriously the perfect springtime meal.  We couldn't have asked for better weather (the breeze was light, the warmth was perfect!).  So next time you're in a rut for what to make... let this be it!  You won't be sorry!  Enjoy your Wednesday guys!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Just the right kind of note...

The soundtrack for the day is all blues.  I've just been listening to Clapton, Stevie Ray, Joe Bonamassa all morning... Am I depressed?  No, not in the slightest.  I just love the blues.  It's a cloudy day and it just seem fitting.  Plus, I just love bluesy guitar licks.  Almost.  Just almost, makes me want to bust out my guitar and start playing - I haven't played in over a year.  (Interesting new fact about me, eh?  - I'm somewhat musically inclined)

But anyway, I did say almost.  Instead, I've been making ice cream this morning.  Yeah, you know.  That ice cream that won last Friday's poll.  So hopefully, I'll get around to posting it either tomorrow or Friday.

Sesame seed brittle - my new favorite snack AND ice cream topping =)
 I've also been reading up on my new cookbook.  From e-bay.  Seriously.  E-bay is a gold mine for vintage cookbooks.  And considering I just decided at the beginning of the month that I'm going to start collecting odd and vintage cookbooks, this was a perfect way to start it off.

Over 700 pages of jam-packed awesomeness

isn't it's thickness beautiful?!
So excited to try stuff out of here
 I think the reason that I'm mostly excited to start reading this one is the fact that it's from 1945.  1945.  My own mother and father weren't even born yet.  Meaning all of these fancy (sometimes unnecessary) gadgets of today aren't even around or required for this sort of stuff.  And I don't know about you, but being a student, I don't really have the budget for certain things that are in cookbooks of today (i.e. a sous-vide machine).  So it'll be interesting learning the methods of a time where things were different.  Times where food was still just as good as it is today.

Do you guys have a favorite vintage cookbook?  Or just an odd one that's not mainstream?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Chicken & Butternut Squash Tagine

Happy Monday guys!  It's a beautiful 79 F here and we're definitely enjoying it while we can!  Hopefully it's here to stay, but I hear through the grapevine that it might get a little chillier later this week.

We ate pretty haphazardly this weekend and have really been feeling the effects of it.  So we've decided we're having a salad week to get back on the "healthy" train.  Seriously, we were getting out of control.  I'm surprised we didn't hold ourselves an intervention.  Do you guys ever get that way?  How do you get back on track?

This is one of those healthy recipes that turned out just okay.  With some tweaking and ingredient swapping, I'm pretty sure it can be stellar.  I just think it was one of those things where I tried to do too much with it.

Adapted from Pham Fatale's recipe

3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
4 dried plums, quartered
4 dried apricots, quartered
1 onion, sliced thinly
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon red chili flakes
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon garam masala
pinch of nutmeg
1 teaspoon paprika
zest from 1 lemon
juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
salt and pepper, to taste
2 tablespoon honey
1-3 saffron threads
14 oz. can diced tomatoes
8 oz. jar of marinated artichokes, chopped
1 cup chicken stock
1 large chicken breast, cut into 1 inch pieces
small handful of parsley, chopped
1 large butternut squash, peeled and cut into cubes

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Toss butternut squash in a little bit of olive oil and place in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet.  Season with salt and pepper.  Bake for about 20-25 minutes, or until starting to brown.

Heat a large skillet under medium high heat and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil.  Add the onions and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.  Stir in garlic and chili flakes until fragrant.  Add 1/2 of the diced tomatoes, coriander, cloves, cumin, nutmeg, garam masala, and paprika.  Cook for another couple of minutes and then stir in yogurt.  Add a little bit of the chicken stock to the mixture and, with an immersion blender, puree the mixture until at a smooth consistency.  Simmer on low heat while preparing the remainder of the dish.

Heat a medium skillet under medium high heat and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil.  Add artichokes and stir fry for just a few minutes.  Transfer to a plate and set aside.

Using the same skillet, add ginger, lemon zest, bay leaf, plums, apricots, and remaining 1/2 cup of tomatoes.  Cook for about 2-3 minutes.  Add the reserved "sauce" mixture from above, as well as the honey and chicken stock.  Bring mixture to a boil and stir in butternut squash.  Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes while you prepare the chicken.

Preheat oven to 325 F.

Heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a dutch oven and add chicken pieces.  Cook for about 2-3 minutes per side, or until browned.  Don't worry if it's not cooked all the way, because it will finish in the oven.

Pinch saffron threads between fingers to break up and combine with 1 tablespoon of water.  Drizzle the liquid over the chicken in pot.  Pour sauce over chicken and top with reserved artichokes and chopped parsley.

Bake for about 10 minutes and then lower heat to 300 F.  Cook for another 20 minutes or until chicken is fully cooked.

Serve with some rice and dig on in!

Like I said, this wasn't mind-blowing, but it wasn't bad either.  I really enjoyed all of the components, separately, but I think together, they didn't quite all work.  I may even try this without the sauce and just transform it into a stir fry!  Enjoy the rest of your Monday guys!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Ribeye w/ Asparagus

Okay, remember that whole statement from Thursday of me saying that I was going to be getting into some debauchery, but not 'really'?  Well, 'really' happened.  Hehe.  I've been a bit behind (obviously, since there was no post yesterday), so I couldn't just leave you guys empty handed.  And hopefully I'll be up to speed Monday!

So let's talk Ribeye.  A lot of people kind of stray away from ribeye cuts.  Too much marble to work around, and all that jazz.  But me.  I love a good ribeye.  I actually LOVE the marbling (am I sick?  I don't care!)  And the beauty of a ribeye to me, is it's simplicity.  You don't have to jazz it up, you can just let the good grass-fed beef (assuming that you bought a grass-fed beef product) speak for itself.  And to pair it with some simply sauteed asparagus and squirt of lemon juice?  And you have yourself dinner in seriously less than 20 minutes. 

Think I'm crazy?  Think I'm lying?  Try it for yourself.  I'll show ya! =)


1 lb. boneless ribeye steak
salt and pepper, to taste
olive oil, for rubbing
about 15-20 asparagus spears
juice from 1 lemon
lemon slices, optional
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, optional

Preheat oven to 500 F.

Heat a large oven-proof skillet under high heat. 

Rub ribeye with olive oil and generously season with salt and pepper on both sides. 

Place ribeye in dry skillet and cook for about 30 seconds.  Using tongs, flip over and cook an additional 30 seconds.

Carefully place skillet in oven and cook for about 3-4 minutes per side, for a medium rare/medium.

Carefully remove skillet from oven and transfer steak to cutting board to rest for about 5 minutes.

While your ribeye is resting, you can prepare your asparagus.  Gently toss the spears with some olive oil, salt and pepper.  Squeeze the juice of half of a lemon onto the asparagus. 

Carefully wipe the skillet used for the steak clean with a paper towel (it'll still be hot, so make sure you're careful!) and heat under high heat.  Melt 1 tablespoon of butter to the skillet and add asparagus.  Saute for about 2-3 minutes or until starting to soften, but still crisp and green.

Cut whole ribeye in half to serve as two steaks.

To plate, arrange about 6-7 spears on a plate and top with one ribeye steak and serve with a lemon wedge.  You can also top your steak with a little pat of butter, if you'd like.

Seriously.  Simplicity.  At. It's Finest.  No joke.  And what did I tell you?  Dinner is ready in 20 minutes!  Enjoy the rest of your weekend guys! 

And I know I've been all about the meat this week, but I promise next week will be a little 'sweeter' and 'lighter'!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy St. Patty's Day

Happy St. Patty's Day guys!  I'm headed out to get into some debauchery (not really) with some friends. 

Oh... and Happy Birthday to my brother!  He's the ripe old age of 33!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Pot Roast w/ Red Wine Gravy

Served piping hot!
I've started a wine bottle collection.  I have this genius idea that I'm going to incorporate them into our wedding table decor, but I haven't the slightest idea of how to do so.  I keep going back and forth with whether I want to just simply put some flowers in them, some candles, some sticks - who knows.  But I do know that I'm starting to not have any room for these wine bottles. Seriously, I've got over 100+ in random closets/pantries around the house.

And before you guys gather together and hold an intervention in my honor, I didn't drink all of the wine in those bottles.  My friends did.  Hehe.

But besides empty wine bottles, I also have a bunch of almost full ones in our bar area.  Lots of half-drunk red wine bottles.  I'm a white wine drinker, myself.  I don't mind red wine, but it's just not my preference.  So I end up opening them, drinking a glass, and forgetting about them.

So what to do with all of that red wine?  Hmm, I cook practically 7 days a week, so why not use them in some dinners!  Why was is not that obvious before?  Yeah, sometimes the things you need are right in front of you.  First thing I thought of to use that red wine was pot roast!  Red meat and red wine just can't be beat.


2 lb. beef chuck roast
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 & 1/2 cups red wine (I used a Merlot)
2 & 1/2 cups beef stock
1 large onion, sliced
8 oz. sliced mushrooms
10 slices of bacon, chopped
1/2 cup flour
salt and pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Place roast in a large plastic bag and pour red wine in with it.  Seal bag tightly and let marinate in fridge for about 3 hours.

Remove roast from bag and pat dry, reserving the wine.

Plug in your crockpot and turn it to the high setting.  Pour beef stock, sliced onions, and mushrooms into crockpot.

In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil under medium high heat.  Add roast and sear, about 2-3 minutes per side.  Remove roast from pan and set aside on a plate.

In same skillet, add chopped bacon and fry for about 8-10 minutes, or until bacon is browned.  Remove bacon from skillet with a slotted spoon and dry on a paper towel-lined plate.  Once dry, add bacon to crockpot.

Stir in flour, onion powder, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper to liquid in crockpot.  Mix until flour is dissolved and no clumps are present.  Add roast to crockpot and pour remaining red wine from marinade over top.  Sprinkle thyme over roast and season with salt and pepper, if desired.

Let cook in crockpot for about 6 to 8 hours, or until roast is tender and falls apart when cut with a fork.  Serve with mashed potatoes or other comforting side dish.

This was one flavorful gravy.  And you all remember my love for gravy right?  Andy loved this too.  He's not normally one for leftovers, but he made sure he had some set aside for his lunch today.  This isn't traditionally Irish or anything, but it could definitely sub in for a comforting St. Patty's Day meal!  Enjoy your Wednesday guys!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

I've Got An Itch...

... and not of the unhealthy variety.

These came a couple weeks ago and I've been itching to get them started.  But it's still early yet.  Couple more weeks and I can probably start them inside so they're ready for mid-April planting.

Not pictured are the Truffle Tomatoes (really excited about this hybrid) that I ordered plants for, instead of seeds.  I tried doing the tomatoes from seeds last year, and they just wouldn't grow, so I figured I'd allow myself for a head start by purchasing the plants themselves.  They get delivered closer to actual planting time, so I'm pretty excited about those!  Also, I've decided to grow some herbs - parsley and cilantro, because I use them the most in the kitchen (and I hate when I buy a bunch and it goes bad before I can use it all!).

Any helpful gardening tips?  Last year, I ran into the problem of squirrels digging in my soil (fixed that by putting some racks in the soil - unconventional, but hey, improvisation never hurt anyone) and ants.  I'm trying to stay as organic as possible, so I didn't use any pesticides last year.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Mixed Grill w/ Spicy Bourbon Sauce

Happy Monday everybody!  Honey Caramel Ice Cream won out the poll (by a landslide!) last Friday, so look forward to that sometime this week.  We had a pretty good weekend, going out to dinner with friends and just enjoying this beautiful weather!  Which has turned into gray skies and cold rain!  What a way to start a week off huh?

It was a beautiful weekend in our neck of the woods.  Temps were 65F or above and guess who had to work on Saturday?  Me!  Couldn't enjoy any of it!  Well, any of Saturday, anyway.  I did get a pleasant surprise when I came home Saturday night though - found out I got a $2000 scholarship toward the Fall Quarter of Culinary School!  Major score!

Good thing I had Sunday off... and the weather was still just as nice.  So we took the opportunity to bust out the grill for the first time this year and fire up some good meats!

Adapted from Bon Appetit's recipe

For Marinade:

3/4 cup dark brown sugar
6 large garlic cloves, pressed
1/4 cup mild molasses
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 & 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
1/2 tablespoon Sriracha
salt and pepper, to taste
3 green onion, chopped

For Meat:

1 rack of baby back pork ribs (2 lbs.)
8 beef back ribs (3 lbs.)
8 chicken drumsticks
1 cup beef broth
1 tablespoon bourbon

To prepare your marinade, in a medium bowl, combine brown sugar, garlic, molasses, soy sauce, rice vinegar, chili powder, ginger, and Sriracha.  Mix until sugar is dissolved.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste, then add green onions.

Sprinkle meats with salt and pepper on both sides. Let sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes.

Place pork ribs and chicken on a large rimmed baking sheet.  Place beef ribs in a metal baking pan.  Use half of marinade to coat all meats and let sit at room temperature for 1 hour.  For remaining marinade, cover and set in fridge until ready to grill.

Position one oven rack in bottom third of oven and another in top third of oven.  Preheat oven to 350F.

Add beef broth to metal pan with beef ribs.  Place ribs meat-side down on top of broth (if not already in that direction).  Cover baking sheet with pork and chicken, as well as pan with beef, tightly with foil.  Place chicken and pork on lower rack and beef in top rack of oven.

Bake the chicken and pork for about 45 minutes.  Remove from oven and open foil.  Cut pork rack into individual ribs pieces and place on a large platter.  Place chicken on platter, as well.  Bake beef for a total of 2 hours, then remove from oven and open foil.  Place beef ribs on platter.

Carefully oil grill racks with a kitchen towel and fire up charcoal grill under medium high heat.

Meanwhile, prepare your bourbon sauce.  Pour the pan juices from pork, chicken, and beef baking sheet/pan into a medium saucepan.  Carefully spoon off the fat.  Boil juices until reduced by half and slightly thickened, about 25 minutes or so.  Add bourbon (I used Woodford) and bring mixture back to a boil.  Remove from heat and season with salt, pepper, and additional Sriracha, if desired.

Place meats on grill (I had to do this in 2 batches - had enough room for the pork ribs and chicken on the first batch, and then the beef ribs on the 2nd batch) and brush with reserved marinade.  Grill until slightly charred, about 10 minutes or so, turning occasionally.

Serve meats with prepared bourbon sauce and your choice of grilled veggies (we stuck with potatoes and asparagus). 

This was definitely a great way to kick off the grilling season, let me tell you.  We tried to invite people over so we wouldn't seem so gluttonous with all this meat between the two of us, but nobody bit the offer.  So they definitely missed out!  So next time you need an idea for a barbecue/cookout - let this be your answer!  Enjoy your Monday guys!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Donuts & Chocolate Malt Milkshakes

Remember when I said there were 3 winners for the last poll?  And I said I would post them all?  Yeah, I got a little busy with slurries of Making A Blog Video, Celebrating Andy's new job, and just life in general.  So you guys get a double feature today with the other 2 winners (the 1st one was the Samoas!).

Now some might argue that Donuts and Chocolate Milkshakes don't go together, but I beg to differ.  Most people drink milk with donuts, right?  I know we do, at least.  So why not amp up the milk and add some ice cream and have yourself a milkshake?  Sounds pretty darn compatible to me!  Hehe.  Either way, both of these recipes are winners, whether you keep them separate or share them together!

Hope you guys have a really awesome weekend!  I know we will... starting with tonight's dinner at The Village Anchor!  And don't forget to vote in the new poll... I'm in an ice cream mood!


Adapted from My Kitchen Snippet's Recipe

1 & 1/2 cups flour
1 tablespoon sugar
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
2 cups vegetable oil, for frying
powdered sugar, optional

In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt, and yeast.  Combine well.

Slowly pour in the milk and mix until a sticky dough is formed.  Then incorporate softened butter into the dough.

Knead dough on a lightly floured surface for a couple of minutes until it is smooth and elastic.  Place in a clean, greased bowl and cover with a warm kitchen towel until slightly risen, about 1 hour.  My dough didn't rise that much, or well... I was a little antsy and didn't want to wait that long for it to double.  You can let it rise longer if you want, but my finished product turned out pretty delicious, so if you're impatient like me, then this is fine.

Pull off small pieces of dough and form small 1 inch round balls.  Place on parchment-lined baking sheet.  Cover with warm kitchen towel and allow to slightly rise for 1 more hour.

In a large cast iron skillet, heat 2 cups of vegetable oil under medium high heat.  You'll know when the oil is ready when you can add a small piece of dough and it sizzles.

Add dough balls in batches (I did about 5 per batch) and fry for about 1-2 minutes per side, or until donuts are golden brown on both sides.

Transfer cooked donuts to paper-towel lined bowl to cool slightly.

When all donuts are complete, take a paper bag (or you can place them in a large bowl to toss) and add donuts to bag.  Pour desired amount of powdered sugar in bag and close.  Shake until you coat the donuts all over.

I loved how the powdered sugar sort of melted on the still-warm donuts.  It was perfect.  They were very reminiscent of a funnel cake in donut form.  And we all know how much I love funnel cakes.  Next time I may try filling these babies with jelly or chocolate cream or something delicious!

Chocolate Malt Milkshakes:
Adapted from Smells Like Home's Recipe

Chocolate Malt Sauce:

1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 tablespoons chocolate malt Ovaltine
2 tbsp dark brown sugar
pinch of salt
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For milkshakes (makes 2 - perfect for when your fiance refuses to share):

1 pint chocolate ice cream
5 tablespoons chocolate malt sauce
2/3 cup milk

Whipped Cream:

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon clear vanilla

For the chocolate malt sauce, add cream, corn syrup, Ovaltine, brown sugar, salt, and 3/4 cup of chocolate chips to a small saucepan under medium heat.  Bring to a boil and stir until chocolate has melted.  Turn heat down to low and let simmer for about 5 minutes.

Remove from the heat and stir in the butter, vanilla, and remaining 1/4 cup of chocolate chips.  Let the sauce cool for about 10 minutes.

To store extra sauce, cool the sauce completely and refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 5 days.  Reheat in a microwave or over low heat on the stovetop.

For each milkshake, I added 1/2 the ice cream, desired amount of chocolate sauce, and milk to a cocktail shaker and used my immersion blender to blend it up until smooth.

Drizzle some chocolate sauce on the inside portion of some chilled glasses (we got a little messy with this) if you want and pour blended shakes into each glass.

Quickly whip up some fresh whipped cream (or use some pre-made - I won't judge!) by whisking heavy cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla together in a bowl until soft peaks form.  Top each shake with the cream and get ready to fully indulge in a glass of happiness.

I could see Andy's permanent smile just glow on his face as he ate this.  He loved every bite and even tried to sneak a bit of mine after he finished with his!

So yeah, lots of good treats that can prep you guys for some good times this weekend!  And I just realized a genius idea for the remaining chocolate sauce (because yes, you will have leftover chocolate sauce unless you just load your milkshakes with it!) - it would be perfect drizzled over those donuts or inside as a gluttonous filling!  See... I told you milkshakes and donuts go well together!  Don't forget to vote in the poll!

I want ice cream.  And ice cream sundae, to be exact.  So help me decide what flavor ice cream to use and I'll surprise you with a delicious sundae!!  Have a great weekend guys!


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