Posted: April 10, 2011 |
Author: Alyssa |
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There are some foods that intimidate me. Some of them just seem like a hassle, while others I just don’t know what to do with. Seafood is basically a whole category of intimidation for me. Probably because I don’t really eat a whole lot of it, so it isn’t part of my regular repertoire. Recently I’ve been working on challenging myself more, so this weekend I decided to challenge myself in the kitchen. At the grocery store I bought shrimp and scallops. I’ve never cooked either of these, so I wasn’t really sure what I would do with them, but I figured it was worth a shot just to see if I could successfully use these ingredients. When I got home, I decided that it was probably best to divide and conquer. So tonight I tackled the shrimp, and I will get to the scallops later this week.
Today was first truly beautiful spring day so I wanted something a little lighter, but still filling. So I decided to go balls to the wall make a shrimp noodle bowl. For those of you that like to have exact measurements, you are going to hate this recipe. I sort of just made things up as I went, so I didn’t measure anything. As you are making the sauce just keep sticking your finger in and try it, add whatever you think it needs, and then try it again. I will try to give you general amounts, but that the best I can do.
You are going to need
1 egg and one egg white
1/2 (ish) cup soy sauce
1-2 tbsp of olive oil
1/2 cup white wine
small scoop (1/2 tsp?) asian chili-garlic sauce
dash of ginger
juice from 1/2 a lime
1-2 tsp minced garlic
2ish tsp brown sugar
8oz shitake mushrooms
3 green onions
1/2 lb peeled deveined shrimp
1/3 pkg thin rice noodles
First whisk together the eggs and sautee briefly in olive oil until the eggs are cooked through. break it into pieces while its finishing up cooking. They should resemble the pieces of egg you might find in fried rice. Remove the egg from the pan and let sit. Whisk together the soy sauce, chilli, ginger, oil, garlic, lime, wine and brown sugar. Adjust ingredients until it tastes like you want it to. Take about 2-3 Tbsp of the sauce and put it in a plastic bag with the shrimp to coat it with the sauce.
While the shrimp is hanging out in the sauce, set the noodles up to cook according to the package. I usually just put them in hot water for like 10 minutes and they’re good. In a skillet heat like 2ish tbsp olive oil and throw the shrimp in to cook. Toss in the oil and keep tossing them while they cook so that they all cook evenly. Now, this being my first time cooking shrimp I wasn’t really sure when they were done, so I just ate them to see. If any of you have a better way to tell if shrimp are cooked PLEASE leave it in the comments because the first one I tried was not cooked, and I don’t know if you’ve ever eaten an undercooked shrimp, but its gross. Really gross.
Once the shrimp is cooked, set it aside with the egg and toss in the green onion, mushrooms and the rest of the sauce. Cook the vegetables for a minute or two until the mushrooms are soft. Then throw the egg, shrimp and noodles back in with the veggies and toss everything together so it all gets coated in sauce. Cook for another minute, then serve.
You can totally adjust this recipe to your taste (because I made it up) add different vegetables, use a different protein, whatever…
Challenge Shrimp: success
Stay tuned for Challenge Scallop…its gonna be a good one.
Posted: April 6, 2011 |
Author: Alyssa |
Filed under: Alyssa |
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I don’t know about anyone else, but when I get new stuff I can not wait to go home and try it. Clothes, shoes, electronics, kitchen stuff, I have a compulsion to find a way to use it. Many times I will create a situation in which I get to try out my new kitchen toys. For example: when I got my immersion blender, I also went out and bought all the ingredients for garlic soup simply because it was the first recipe I could find that required an immersion blender. Also, I mean, garlic soup, who is going to fight against eating that? Its creamy, garlicky and cheese. If that doesn’t sound good to you, I’m seriously concerned about you.
So recently I got some new pastry tips, but I’m hesitant to make a whole cake or batch of cupcakes mostly due to the fact that after baking and decorating, I would then proceed to eat, and eat, and eat and eat. Now its one thing to eat a whole batch of risotto or rice-a-roni (a secret passion of mine, shut up), however to eat an entire cake is a bit extreme. Luckily, Tuesday was one of my student’s 16th birthday so it was the perfect excuse to make cupcakes! Hooray!! Pink is her absolute favorite color, so I decided to make chocolate cupcakes with pink icing.
Once the cupcakes were all baked and cooled, I threw together some white icing, mixed in 3 drops of red food dye and viola! I tried out a bunch of my new piping tips, but I think that I played for a little two long and by the end the frosting had warmed up considerably and was becoming way to soft. My bad. Turn out I still have A LOT to learn about piping, but I think some of them turned out pretty cute, and my student really liked them, which was the ultimate point. Hopefully I get another chance to practice soon…I think there is another birthday coming up next week. Sweet!
On another note, while I was in the living room writing this, Jasper somehow managed to knock over a batch of biscuits I had made and was plowing through them by the time I got into the kitchen. Can you see the guilt in his eyes? Can you see his eyes?
Posted: April 2, 2011 |
Author: Alyssa |
Filed under: Alyssa |
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I wish I could say that this was going to be like Oprah’s favorite things where you all get a bunch of awesome stuff as you read this, but I think its time for us to face some facts… I’m not Oprah. I know, I know, in some ways we are just alike. I mean just like Oprah I am adored by all, have a dedication to education, and have an awesome best friend, but thats about where the similarities end. If I were like her in the fact that she has a squillion dollars to with as she pleases, trust me, you guys would all be getting some sweet swag. Alas, I am broke, so you guys just get to read all about my favorite things and pine.
I know this is a food blog, but not all of these things are food related, so deal with it.
1. Free time. Boyfriend and I just went on our first vacation together, and to be honest it was both of our first vacation with a significant other. And if that wasn’t a big enough step for you, we also took it as an opportunity for him to meet my family. It was so much fun, I didn’t want it to end. For those of you that don’t know, boy and I live about 700 miles apart, so just the fact that we got to spend 5 days together continuously was awesome. But also, we got to hang out at the beach, watch the waves, and chill at a tiki bar, so…not so terrible right? Now because this is a food blog, I will in fact give you a run down of two of the places we went that really stand out in my head. First and foremost, if you are ever in Myrtle Beach or the surrounding area you should definitely check out the Ultimate California Pizza. I love pizza, but this is probably the best pizza I’ve ever had. The crust is amazing and I’m super jealous and I want to learn how to make it, and you can put pretty much anything on it. Delicious. We went for the sausage, onion and bacon, but I’m sure anything would be great on it. Boy isn’t really into things like mushrooms or olives (my two favs), so next time I think I’m just going to have to get my own pizza . Second, is a place that I don’t remember the name of, but its not really the exact place we went to rather the idea behind it. We tried out a Brazilian steak house for the first time and all I can say is holy crap. If you like meat, I would seriously consider this option. All the sides are serve yourself buffet and the meat is served tableside. Basically guys come around with tons of different kinds of meat and you can try whatever you want. I honestly thing I had probably about 10 kinds of meat that night. It was super good, although this is definitely a place where you will eat too much.
On the last day of our vacation we went down to visit my family, which was really exciting. I got to hang out with my neice and nephew who are getting so big and are just freaking ADORABLE. It was good to see everyone and I’m really glad that boyfriend finally got to meet more of my family.
2. The Kitchenaid Professional 600 series stand mixer. It is a kitchen rockstar. I still love my Artisan series, don’t think that I don’t, but if my mixer is Greenday, then the P600 is The Beatles. Like the bands, I love them both, and I grew up loving the Artisan, but its just a different level than the P600.
3. Cooking days. Getting back from vacation was sad, but I still had a few days off so I have had plenty of time to cook and cook and cook. Wednesday was particularly good, I made two loaves of bread (one of which will become bread pudding), sausage and mushroom risotto, and chicken stock (half of which went on to become chicken soup). This weekend however, will be more like prep days. We head back to school on Monday so I am trying to build up a stock of good meals and snacks because I know I’m going to be exhausted for the first week. Although now that is (kind of) spring I have a lot more fruit and veg choices which is pretty sweet.
4. My new Champion fitness tone sneakers. They don’t look stupid like the origninal “tone up” sneakers, and they were about 1/4 of the price at Payless and if the soreness in my calfs and ass have anything to say about it, they do SOMETHING. I’m not expecting a total transformation, but every little bt helps right? Actually, while I’m at it…
5. Payless Shoe Source. My sisters have instilled an unhealthy love of shoes in my mind, so going to PSS is like a little kid going to Disney. Especially during summer when I can get all kind of cute summer sandles. yay!
So there you go, a little food, a little random, and a lot of favorite…
There are some things that people keep around as staples in their kitchen. A lot of my friends always have beans in their pantry (gross) for quick meals, I know others that always have home made stock on hand. For me, my staples change with the seasons. In the summer its fresh mozz, tomatoes and basil plants. Spring it tends to be fresh fruit…etc. When I’m coming up on a time with tons of “stuff” going on like going to parties, hosting parties, etc… I tend to keep a couple things on hand so I can throw together good and quick things to bring and serve. Two of the main things are puff pastry sheets and pie crusts. The puff pastry I just buy in the freezer section, but the pir crust, I make a ton of in the food processor and store it in the fridge.
I use a pretty basic pie crust recipe:
- 1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons bleached all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces and chilled
- 5 tablespoons ice water, or as needed
I make four or five pie crusts and store them in the fridge so I can pull them out as needed to make things like this…
Leek and Brie Tart
This is WICKED easy. Sautee 2-3 leeks in olive oil with salt, pepper and garlic. bake the pie crust flat ( I roll it out onto a pizza sheet) at 450 for 10 minutes. While its cooling, finish sauteeing your leeks. Spread leeks onto a paper towel to cool and drop some of its greast. Spread Creme Brie on the cooled pie crust, then spread the leeks on top and you are done.
For those of you that aren’t familiar, creme brie is basically just brie with no rind. Its in the cheese section of the grocery and comes in a plastic container that looks like a wedge of brie. I love it for recipes, because its so easy! This tart is really good, and probably one of my new favorites. I made this again last night but this time added dill and baby bella mushrooms and it was even better. I also want to try it with some pancetta at some point.
This is just the recipe I happen to like right now, but the beauty of having pie crusts on hand is you can use them for so many things, its a great time saver. If you bake it flat, you can put pretty much whatever you want on it. You can also cut it to fit in mini muffin tins and make quick mini quiche, or do what my mom always used to do with extra crust: Roll it out, spread it with butter and cinnamon sugar, roll it up, cut it into pinwheels and bake them until they are brown and delicious.
Pie crust is a great way to make delicious and impressive dishes without putting in a ton of effort. And lets face facts, thats pretty much my goal in life, to impress others while putting in little to no effort
I don’t wear yoga pants, jog “just to clear my head”, or actually enjoy granola unless is has chocolate in it. I don’t begrudge women who do all that, but I will never be one of them. Running pisses me off and yoga pants to me are just really tight sweatpants, which defeats the purpose of sweatpants to begin with. Sometimes I wish that I could be one of these people. I feel like life would be easier if I truly enjoyed exercise and health food rather than just putting up with them as a means of not dying by age 40. I try to eat healthy to a certain extent, but there are some things that I am not willing to sacrifice. Enjoyment of my food is one of those things. To counterbalance my love of butter and sugar, I try to grab healthy alternatives whenever I can. Especially for breakfast, because that is a meal that I’m normally grabbing on the go. Unfortunately I also have an allergy to soy, so I am limited in my ‘quick, healthy’ options. I would love to be able to grab an energy bar or something like it, but in an effort to be everything to everyone most “health food” stuff has been jam packed with soy products so they can be advertised as “high protein”. Aside from fruit, one of the only quick and healthy things that I can go for is yogurt. There is just one little thing….yogurt is DISGUSTING. Something about the texture mixed with that weird tang just makes me want to vomit until I die. I can get down the whipped yogurt because the texture is different, but I’m still not a fan.
They’ve been pounding us with commercials for greek yogurt recently, and they make it look so delicious that I thought I would give it a try. Its thicker than regular yogurt so I thought it might be good and I had someone tell me once that it reminded them of cream cheese, but sweet. Whoever the hell that was, LIED. Its even more disgusting than I could have ever imagined. It was tangy to the point of sour, and I couldn’t even get one bite down without getting that whole vomit until I die feeling. Super disappointing…
So I had pretty much given up on healthy snacks and was coming to terms with my fate to be a non-yoga pant wearing, yogurt hating, butter lover, when I came across a couple of articles online about non-dairy products. Now, I know that the words non-dairy tend to make people (myself included) cringe, but hear me out. Coconut Milk Yogurt.
Seriously, try it. Its the same texture as regular yogurt, but without that gross after taste. It comes in tons of flavors, I personally, enjoy the chocolate (I know, you’re shocked) but they have the standard fruit flavors too. It does have a little of that coconut flavor, but its not too strong, and mostly covered up by the flavor of the yogurt. Honestly it almost tastes like a cross between pudding and yogurt, and you can actually believe me, I’m not like that ‘just like cream cheese’ douche. A 6oz container has 170 calories, which isn’t too bad for a quick breakfast or snack. Apparently its relatively new, but most grocery stores are starting to carry it. I like it so much that I might even try cocnut milk ice cream next. Who knows…maybe one day I will even decide to put on skin tight sweat pants and pretend they are real pants.
I think I have found the answer to one of my many conundrums (conundri?).
The last two days of our baking adventure were all about a bake sale. The kids had wanted to do a bake sale, and then when everything went down in Japan, it fit perfectly to raise money for the cause. So Thursday was our bake and prep day, and the kids did great. I basically left everything up to them, just to see if they could do it, and for the most part they did. They baked brownies, chocolate chip cookies, muffins, meringues, and decorated cakes. Although some of the kids were getting a little testy and thought that rather than focus on their own work, it would be funny just to screw with other people’s food. It was a little disappointing to see some of the negativity and immaturity showing through, but it had been a long two weeks for all of us, so I tried to cut them some slack.
Even though there weren’t a ton of people on campus, our bake sale on Friday raised about $100 which I have decided to match, so total we are donating $204 to Japanese Relief.
It has been a tremendously long two weeks, and there are definitely things that I will do very differently next year, but overall it was a really good experience and I think (hope) that the kids enjoyed it. Now if you’ll excuse me I have to sort through an absurd amount of kitchen stuff and figure out what the hell to do with it…
I’ve decided to combine days for the next two posts so this will combine days 2 and 3 of this week. Tuesday we went on a little field trip to Boston to visit a cupcake shop called KickAss Cupcakes. I originally rented a vehicle that could carry all of us, however the night before we were supposed to go, I got a call from the rental place saying they woudln’t have a vehicle for me. Panick Attack. I made those reservations weeks ago and they didn’t know they weren’t going to have something until the night before?! Not OK. Luckily I was able to get something through another company at the last minute.
So Tuesday morning we loaded up and got on the road. Up to that point the kids had been talking about how excited they were and what they were going to get, but the second we walked into the place they all just shut their mouths and stayed silent. Are you kidding me?! I drove an hour for them to act like it didn’t matter. Awesome. So after dragging questions out of them and walking them around town for a while ( we hit up a bread bakery too) we headed back to campus. The plan was to make some cakes and pop them in the fridge overnight so we could work on decorating the next day. I had three groups that wanted to make chocolate cake and one group that wanted to make confetti cake. So when we got back I was giving dual instructions, which got a little confusing, but in the end worked out. With the kids half listening and me giving two sets of instructions at once the kitchen sort of became a culinary “Who’s on First”. But we got through it and ended up with four cakes, which we let cool and stored until the next day. I let the kids go for the day while the cakes were cooling, and as I finished up in the kitchen I noticed that some of the cakes might not be that great for decorating in the first round. So I spent the night and most of the morning baking some cakes that we could learn to decorate on. So when everyone got to the kitchen on Wednesday we were ready to go. I taught them all I know about frosting and cutting (not much at all, but I totally faked it). The kids cakes turned out wonderful, although some of them might want to contemplate the idea that less is more. I believe the highlight of the day was watching one of the kids frost his cake, cover it in chocolate chips, then frost is AGAIN….and then make a face out of every topping possible including sour skittles. The picture below was taken about halfway through the decorating process. In the end he had glasses, a unibrow, etc…pretty much everything but teeth.
The rest of the kids took a more simplistic approach, but I think they all came out really well!
I didn’t try all of them, because there is only so much cake one can eat without dying, but I brought them to the dining hall and they all got very good reviews.
Two more days until the end of the adventure…I think I can I think I can I think I can…
We kicked off a new week today and we all came back well rested from the weekend and ready to go. Since we were all pretty fresh, I thought we could work on something a little more involved. So we worked on cheesecake in the morning. First we made the crusts and then while those baked, we worked on the filling.
First they creamed together 20 oz of cream cheese with 1-1/2 cups of sugar. They they added 5 eggs and 2 egg yolks. Teaching them to separate eggs was interested. I showed them how to use the shells to separate, but also how to use their hand, which I find easier. None of them was willing to touch a raw egg though….wimps.
After they added the eggs and mixed, they put in 1/4 c of sour cream, 1 Tbsp lemon zest, and 1-1/2 tsp of vanilla. Once everything was mixed together, they poured the filling into the cooled crusts and put the oven at 450 for 15 minutes, after 15 min, turn the oven down to 225 and bake for 1 hour 15min. Once baked, they cooled them in the oven with the door open for about 30 min. They turned out amazingly well! Especially considering it was their first attempt. Only one cracked, but I think that was because it was toward the back of the oven where it was hotter.
During some of our down time I also taught them how to make chocolate ganache and caramel sauce, both of which were delicious.
Since we had to use 2 egg yolks, everyone had 2 egg whites left over after making the cheesecake. Rather than throwing them out, I decided to use them to make meringue cookies. So after they were done cleaning the kitchen, we went back to the mixers and put on the whisk attachments. both egg whites went into the bowl and were beaten until they were frothy. Then we added 2/3 C of sugar slowly, while beating the eggs. Once they added about half the sugar, they added 1 tsp vanilla. Then they kept adding the sugar until it was all incorporated and the meringue was shiny and tight (holds its shape well). Once that was done, they folded in about a cup of chocolate chips, and dropped spoonfuls onto a parchment covered cookie sheet. These will not spread when they bake, so you don’t have to worry too much about spacing them.
My grandmother used to call these forgotten cookies, because of the way they are baked. Preheat the oven to 350. Once it gets to temperature, put the cookies in and turn the oven OFF. Leave the cookies in the oven undisturbed for at least 2 hours. You can literally put them in and then forget them (hence the ‘forgotten cookie’ name). The kids were hesitant to try these because they are a little different, but once they tried them, most couldn’t stop eating them.
I took everything to the dining hall after we were done and both the cake and cookies got rave reviews. They did really well today, so it was a great way to kick off the week!
Today we were all running a little sluggish. Its easy to think of these two weeks as a way to ease into spring break, but the fact of the matter is, it is hard work! Its a totally different kind of teaching for me, and the kids, who are used to sitting for 6 hours a day in class, are now up and about all day. I also wasn’t feeling so hot, so I figured we would just take it easy. We started with muffins, and for the first time the kids were allowed to explore the wonders of stand mixers. Up until now, most of the stuff we’ve been doing hasn’t really lent itself to mixers, and they have been antsy about using them. Although I think that has more to do with their desire to put as little effort into anything as possible.
I have been having them work in partners for a couple of different reasons, but mainly because we don’t have the equipment for eight kids to be doing their own thing. So two groups made blueberry muffins, and the other two groups made chocolate chip. One of the groups also wanted to add cinnamon to their chocolate chip muffins, and it worked out really well. For muffins I find it best to put all the ‘wet’ ingredients into the mixer and then add the ‘dry’ ingredients.
First put 1/2 C unsalted butter, two eggs, 1/2 cup of milk and 2/3 C sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and set it to about medium until the ingredients are all blended together. In a separate bowl, whisk (or if you are my students “wheesk”) together 2 cups flour, 2tsp baking powder, and 1/4 tsp salt. With the mixer running, slowly add the dry ingredients until they are all in the batter. Mix just until all the dry ingredients are incorporated, but the batter will not be smooth. Thats ok. Fold in about 1-1/2 cups of whatever you are adding (chocolate chips, fruit, etc…) . If you want to add cinnamon or any other spice, be sure that you only add about 1 tsp because a little bit goes a long way. Bake at 375 for about 20-25 minutes. Since I wasn’t feeling well, I didn’t get a chance to try them, but the kids certainly went to town on them, and they looked great!
After the muffins were done and we had cleaned up a little we got to work on some chocolate chip cookies. We worked with a pretty standard cookie recipe, because no matter what recipe you use, the secret to great cookies is to undercook them just enough to keep them soft and melty. Even if you have someone who wants to make giant cookie…
I’ve been bringing all our stuff up to the dining hall for everyone to enjoy, and we’ve been getting great reviews! I’m very proud of my group for working so hard this week, and I’m excited to see what they will do next week.
I might have been a bad girlfriend today…I texted boy to tell him that we were making pizza and bagels today and as I pressed send, it occurred to me that those are two of his favorite things. I might as well have told him we were brewing beer and making hot wings. My bad…
Anyway. Today was a pretty good day. We started out by making our pizza dough and while that was rising we made our bagel dough and ran to the grocery store to get our pizza toppings. Turns out taking 8 teenagers to the grocery store is a bit crazier than you might imagine. Here are the highlights: 1. Broken jar of pasta sauce. 2. Kids calling me mommy and asking for ridiculous things. 3. Strange looks from the women who work there. 4. A three minute conversation about why mini pepperoni might not be a good idea.
Once we got back from the store we punched the dough, and cut it into two pieces. While the dough was resting, we punched down the bagel dough and shaped it (into a bagel shape, for those of you who aren’t following closely). We set those to rise and got to work on our pizzas. Rolling out the dough was a challenge for some, but that is to be expected. Its hard to roll dough out evenly when you aren’t used to it, and the dough was pretty elastic. I think some of the kids are starting to realize just how much patience baking takes sometimes. Once the dough was rolled out, we topped it and baked it. Some of the kids were a little over zealous with their toppings, but I was impressed that they listened to me and none of them went TOO crazy and ended up with a structurally unsound pizza.
After lunch (aka watching the kids stuff themselves with pizza and try to pass out on the floor), we went to work on the bagels. Some of them (all of them) had a little too much time to rise so a couple of the kids re shaped them and made them smaller while I boiled them. We finished cleaning up while they were baking and by the time they came out of the oven it was time to go, but I set them aside for breakfast the next day…they look pretty good!
1-1/2 C warm water
2-1/4 tsp (one .25 oz envelope) of active dry yeast
4-1/2 to 5 C flour
1-1/2 tsp salt
Mix together the water sugar and yeast and let sit at least 5 minutes until it is foamy, then add the flour and salt and mix until dough forms. Knead on a floured surface until the dough is smooth and stretches like elastic. It shouldn’t be sticky at all. Put it ina greased bowl and let it rise for about an hour. Punch it down and cut it into 2 or 3 equal pieces (depending on how big/thin you want your crust) and cover it loosely with plastic wrap to let it rest for about 30-60 minutes. Roll out, top and bake at 400 for about 15-20 minutes. In order to prevent sticking, you can coat the baking sheet in yellow corn meal.
2 cups warm water
1/2 oz (2 envelopes, or 4-1/2 tsp) of yeast
5-6 C flour
2 tsp salt
This is basically the same process as the pizza dough: let yeast, water, sugar get foamy and mix in dry ingredients. Knead, let rise to double, punch down, shape and let rise again. When its time to bake set the oven to 400. In a large pot bring about 12 cups of water to a boil with 1 Tbsp sugar. Boil the bagels for about 30 seconds on each side before you put them on a greased (or cornmealed*) cookie sheet. Bake for 5 minutes, flip them and then bake them for another 30 minutes. Surprisingly these were easier than I expected, and they came out pretty well.
All in all a good day in the kitchen. Stay tuned for more adventures!
*if “facebooked” is a word then I can use “cornmealed”…so there