Sunday, April 25, 2010

#16 - Pear Crisp a la FABULOUS

The winner in this Sunday's three recipe showdown? The Pioneer Woman's delectable pear crisp.

I have been known to whip up a crisp or two. I even made practice apple crisps during my stint in 4-H (and have a nice scar on my right hand to show for it). But I had never tried pear crisp. Mostly this is due to the fact that until fairly recently, I hated pears. I'm not sure if it's lingering memories of being made to eat them at a baby-sitter's house or the thought of eating the canned varieties with school lunches, but pears were mushy and disgusting in my book. Then I started eating the right kinds. On the right salads. And my world was rocked.

Thank goodness for that or else I wouldn't have this to show for it.

And boy, oh boy, am I glad I have this to show for it. I followed the recipe except I added in oats instead of pecans and as my pears were rock hard, it took an additional 10 minutes. I almost died with anticipation.

#15 - New Pizza Crust Recipe

A long, long time ago, my friend Laura gave me her pizza crust recipe which I've been using ever since. Today, Ken and I decided to use up some of our blue cheese on a pizza and since I had the cookbook out and all of the ingredients, I went with PW's. (Her recipe isn't on her blog, but this is it.)

Perhaps I was trying to do too much. Perhaps I was distracted by the wedding. Or perhaps I was thinking about how I just purchased my first pair of Spanx, but I had a few "oops" moments with this one. A) I didn't realize the recipe was for two crusts. B) I put the double the amount of yeast in. Hey, usually it's one packet. This recipe had MORE flour, MORE liquid, and MORE olive oil. Why would it have LESS yeast? Anyways, it worked out, but I think that it's ultimately supposed to be a bit of a crispier and thinner crust.

Which will I use in the future? Laura's recipe or PW's? The jury is still out....

#14 - PW's Buttermilk Biscuits

Disclaimer: I now call the Pioneer Woman by the affectionate nickname of "P-dub." Ken hates it. He mocks me. But he doesn't mock me when I churn out some delicious foods! And he SHOULDN'T mock me when I'm making biscuits for HIS morning breakfast.

This was the first of 3 "P-dub" recipes that I did in a single afternoon. Ken was getting ready to purchase some horrible chemical-filled biscuits at Meijer and I remembered seeing a recipe in my cookbook for something similar. And thus, I found myself rolling out dough with a soda bottle. I really should invest in a rolling pin.

The results? Who knows? Ken has to eat them tomorrow morning and let me know! (He has also put in a request for some sausage gravy. We'll see...)

Recipe #13 - Cocoa Banana Bread

What to do when one has two overripe bananas and some cocoa powder that is begging to be used up? One types "banana cocoa powder recipe" into google and one ends up with this. A little loaf of this bread got Ken and I through numerous evenings of TV watching and although I found the cake by itself to be a bit too dense, a little ice cream and a little zap in the microwave, made this a yummy treat.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Recipe #12 - Rice Pudding

I've had a rather large package of arborio rice sitting in my cabinet for a considerable amount of time. As much as I do love risotto, I find it hard to believe that it is worth the amount of labor that goes into it. After 45 minutes of constant stirring and adding liquid, the end results, though good, are too blah to warrant the effort.

Thus, when my BFF blog, Smitten Kitchen posted this recipe for Almond-Vanilla rice pudding, I couldn't resist. It also helped that I bought an entire bottle of almond extract for Christmas cookies and hadn't touched it. I couldn't rationalize purchasing vanilla beans for this particular recipe, but even so, the results were tasty enough. I don't think Ken liked the almond extract and next time I may mess around with it a bit more. No doubt an actual vanilla bean would make this magical. But I'm pretty sure vanilla beans could make mud magical.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Recipe #11 - Roasted Potatoes with Blue Cheese Walnut Butter

As you know, my sister is getting married on 1 May (coming up!) and last weekend we made a family trip to the florist to pick out bouquets and all that jazz. Attached to the florist is a country market and when I couldn't think about tiger lilies any more, I popped in to see if they had any parmesan cheese. Not only did they have the parm, but they also had a very enthusiastic owner who pulled me to the side to see if I was a "cheese connoisseur" and apparently I passed the test, because I was soon sampling spoonfuls of English Stilton blue cheese. 1 hour later, Brooke had her bouquets, table centerpieces, and boutonnieres and what did I have? A full pound of blue cheese and endless possibilities.

Isn't she beautiful?

And then, out of the "blue" (pun intended), I saw a recipe posting on a blog I frequent for Roasted Potatoes with Blue Cheese Walnut Butter. It seemed easy enough. I like cheese. I like walnuts. I like potatoes. And did I like the result? Yes! Tasty and simple to throw together. Nothing to get too superexcited about, but definitely a nice change to the usual potato recipe.

For some reason I can't get it to twist properly, but you get the idea.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Doesn't count, but....

This can't count towards my recipe total, as I've been known to whip it up a time or two, but I just wanted to share it! And the photo is pretty.... Ken and I made Rachael Ray's Balsamic-Glazed Chicken with Mozzarella from her 365: No Repeat book. This was actually one of the first meals I dared to make for Ken as a surprise. Since that time, we've made it a few times with a variety of cheeses and techniques. I have to say that last night's balsamic glaze was the best we've done! Here's the recipe.

And a little encouragement from Rachael herself:

Sunday, April 04, 2010

#87 - Talk One Person Into Making a 101 List

Success! My friend from my hometown has shared her 101 list with me and is all set to start her own journey at accomplishing things! Best of luck, Nicole! Keep me posted!!!

Book #2 - The BookThief

While I was in Australia I sat at a lunch with some university contacts in Melbourne. The discussion gravitated to books and all of the Aussies were raving about a little book called "The Book Thief." Written by an Australian author and taking place in World War II, I decided to give it a go. After making Ken literally drive all around town to get a copy and finding it in the "Teen" section, I wasn't sure what to expect. I started it at 8:30 p.m. on Thursday and finished it at 9:30 p.m. on Friday. And I got teary. Definitely got teary. And I knew what was going to happen!!!

Recipe #10 - Hot Cross Buns

In honor of Easter and in another moment of inspiration from the Pioneer Woman, I decided to whip up some Hot Cross Buns. Maybe whip up isn't the right phrasing as they take a considerable amount of time with plenty of yeast rising in warm places. My first batch ended up with too-dark bottoms, but the second batch was perfect and these were delicious! Especially warmed up in the morning with some coffee. A new Easter tradition? 

Monday, March 29, 2010

#16 - Throw Brooke a Shower

The countdown is on until 1 May when Brooke gets hitched! And it was my pleasure to throw her a bit of a shower to celebrate the occasion. I read a lot of blogs and wanted something whimsical and fun (and it had to have button candy involved). 

 And Brooke's DQ cake (specially requested):

 Although the party was tame, Grandma Brown bestowed Brooke with a little lingerie. Ooh lala!

Overall, it was a great success. Brooke received plenty of Cubs (ahem) gear, everyone seemed to be on a diet, thus there was plenty of cake and treats to dine on later, and the games were a hit. Now onto the bachelorette party. And the wedding itself. Exciting times!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Salmon Tikka

I finally got a shot of delicious, delicious Salmon Tikka Masala. And you know what? Ken and I are having it again this week. And next week. And the week after.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Book #1 - Kafka on the Shore

I finished my first real book since starting this challenge - "Kafka on the Shore" by Haruki Murakami. I read "Norwegian Wood" and "The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles" before diving into this one, which ranks up there as one of his most famous. Like his other novels, there is a definite element of the paranormal in Kafka. Also like the others, half the time I had no clue what was actually happening. There were stunned schoolchildren, talking cats, portals into the unknown, Oedipus references, and plenty of other odd moments. I enjoyed it (although Nakata chatting in the third person the entire time gets a bit infuriating) and would recommend it; however, I'd more strongly recommend "The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles."

Recipe #9 - Dreamy Cream Scones

During a routine shopping trip to our local Italian Market, Ken discovered some Devonshire Double Cream and we immediately started hatching plans to make some scones and have some delicious clotted cream. The two slight issues with this plan were that a) I've attempted scones before and they tasted like cardboard and b) the cream was almost $7 for a tiny jar. Not one to be dissuaded, I decided to do a test run with a scone recipe I'd had my eye on for about a week and make my own whipped cream.

Thus, this happened:

And this.

And my tummy rejoiced while my hips took a turn for the worse.

But it was worth it.

How to describe these little gems? Incredibly, fall apart moist. Sweet with substance.

And the whipped cream? I didn't want to overwhip it, so it was a bit runny, but with some jam... absolutely delectable.

Just for Brooke

You think having a fork on the carpet is bad? Check out our usual Mexican night! I think we lived in Japan too long...

Monday, March 15, 2010

Recipes #7 & 8

Leeks. How did I live for so many years without taking advantage of these lovely vegetables? Last night we made Baked Creamy Leeks a la Jamie. Unfortunately, substituting in half & half instead of heavy cream left us with slightly curdled (but not bad tasting) cream. I'm not sure I would make this again "as is," but adding some potatoes and making a potato au gratin could be delish!

Tonight we embraced our inner subcontinent selves and whipped up Jamie's Chicken Tikka Masala. We've tried to make a similar recipe before with really horrible results (i.e. flavors that just didn't melt together properly). However, with the success of Jamie's Salmon Tikka, we decided to give Indian food one more go. And it was good! It had enough heat and enough spice to make it interesting. I whipped up a cornstarch slurry to thicken it a bit and served with rice and naan, it was pretty tasty!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

#97 - Make truffles

I am thrilled! I just made PW's truffles "just cause" and then was scrolling down my list and COMPLETELY forgot I made it it's own number. Nice!

I made these (try not to drool on your keyboard) and although mine aren't nearly as pretty, I am can say that the one I sampled might be one of the richest chocolate foods I've ever tasted. And that's saying something, considering I've thought about entering a 12 Step program for my addiction.

Recipe #6 - Smitten Kitchen's Cheese Straws

Again, channeling my inner Martha, I whipped up these supersimple cheese straws and they are tasty!

These have a delicious kick from the red pepper flakes (my favorite condiment) and I think next time I might also try a parmesan variety without the spice for those who don't like the suck down water after their snacks.

Recipe #5 - Smitten Kitchen's Chocolate & Caramel Crack (ers)

In preparation of some entertaining in the near future, I whipped this up as it seemed affordable and how could it taste bad? Little did I know that it would literally take "crack(ers)" to a whole new level. This is a simple recipe and the results are fantastic. Any time you use sweetened condensed milk, you're moving into my kind of territory. Did I ever mention how in Vietnam you'd have a layer of this stuff at the bottom of a strong cup of coffee? Have I ever mentioned how I would move to Vietnam in a heartbeat? Connected? I think so.

And this is how you improvise a double boiler on a budget!

And the crack. Craic. Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Recipe #4 - Jamie's Salmon Tikka Masala

I can't believe I don't have a photo of this one! Probably because Ken and I are already digging in before it's even done. Rarely do Ken and I have a recipe that we keep coming back to like this one. We've been known to whip it up twice in the same week. The ingredients seem odd, but wow. Just wow.

In "Jamie's Food Revolution," he asks everyone who uses the cookbook to memorize two recipes from each section and "pass it on." Ken has made this for numerous friends thus far and I definitely have it memorized. And now I pass it to you. Prepare to have salmon changed for you forever.

Recipe #3 - Jamie Oliver's Meatballs

Have I ever mentioned my deep love for the Naked Chef? I always found his slight speech impediment endearing, but now that I'm actually creating his recipes, I'm officially in deep.

Luckily, Ken doesn't feel threatened by my obsession with Mr. Oliver and fully encourages me to scope out his book as much as possible.

Before I left for Australia, Ken and I whipped up Jamie's meatballs (adding our own touches). Oddly enough, Ken and I have never attempted meatballs before and these were delicious. We added onion and green pepper to ours and next time, we'll work a bit on the frying method, but overall... Fab.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

# 9 - Bake a Cake from Scratch

Ken thinks I have a "thing" for the Pioneer Woman. It might be the excessive amounts of butter, obsene amounts of whipping cream, and an abundance of tongue-in-cheek witticisms, but I think Ken might be onto something. :)

I received PW's new cookbook for Christmas and have been following her blog since I lived in Japan. I've done quite a few of her recipes already and over the weekend, decided to tackle her famous Chocolate Sheet Cake. I've never made a cake without a mix and although I had to make this recipe into cupcakes (owing to a lack of a sheet cake pan -- next Christmas!), it turned out great! Chocolately goodness. It made a ton more frosting than I needed and I think that if I spread it out into a large pan, the ratio of frosting and cake would be out of this world!

I could use this as one of my new recipes, but I'm just going to let it bask in the glory of being my first cake. Also, I made banana bread (using up extra yogurt) and PW's artichoke dip yesterday. My apron is getting a workout!

Monday, February 01, 2010

Welcome to The Nunnery

Welcome to The Nunnery

Work is incredibly stressful right now as I prepare to take 240 students to Sydney in the next two weeks (and somehow get myself packed up and ready to go). In response to the nightmares that keep waking me up out of deep slumber and the cold sweats as I sit and stare at my growing "To Do" list, I decided to tack on two extra days in Melbourne for some R&R.

My colleague mentioned staying at The Nunnery and I think it looks like a totally unique and restful weekend for me! A little shopping at the farmer's market, a leisurely coffee or two, perhaps a winery tour or a drive along the Great Ocean Road. I can't wait to be back in Melbs!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Recipes #1 & 2 - Jamie on a Friday

Recipes #1 & #2:

Jamie Oliver's Fish Pie & Banana Tarte Tatin

It's not especially beautiful in this shot (and please ignore the nasty bits on the stove), but this fish pie was chock full of salmon, swordfish, and shrimp, as well as plenty of cheese and potatoes. Ken and I agreed that it was missing a little "something," but Jamie recommends serving it with ketchup and ketchup makes everything delicious, right? Next time I think we'll use parmesan or something saltier for the cheese.  
Then for dessert, we hit up another Jamie recipe. Although we didn't feel like buying superfine sugar for one recipe and thus, the caramel didn't dissolve properly (or get golden brown), this was delicious! Now I need to figure out what to make with the other half of the puff pastry.

What's the deal with all of the Jamie recipes? I had a $50 gift card from my birthday LAST year and on a whim finally decided to spend it on "Jamie's Food Revolution." Between these recipes and my new "Pioneer Woman Cook's" recipe book, this number on my list will likely be taken off quickly and efficiently.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Day Zero

The list is finally ready! I've posted it on this blog (rather than the Shaking Off the Dust) and I'm ready to cross some items off! As I mentioned before, it's difficult to predict what life changes will occur in the next 2.75 years, but hopefully, this list will bring some great memories and help me to take care of some lingering items.

Here's to a successful 2010, 2011, & part of 2012!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The List

This list has been a bit more daunting than I originally thought. I'm at #81 and struggling to come up with 20 more! Help?!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The List

I've hit the big 3-0 with grace (at least I hope it was graceful). I also hope that the next ten years bring as many amazing experiences, new friends, and new foods as my 20s did. I also have 9 years to plan my next tattoo. My "thing" is that I'd like to get a tattoo to best represent the decade that I just finished. Thus, my 20s are represented by a design that reminds me of travels and is also on my foot, reminding me of all that my little toes have traveled.

My 101 list is 3/4 of the way done and I hope to have it done by the weekend! I want to start crossing things off!!!

I've also booked my ticket to Australia and am ready to put in some long hours to get the students (and myself) ready.

In the meantime... Cheers to 2010!

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Celeb Blogging

Now that I’m back to blogging, I wanted to share something that I find absolutely awesome! So I started reading a blog on in Japan about self-worth and body image. Along the way, the author joined Facebook and asked her readers to become her “friend,” which I did. I still read her blog on a daily basis and she has also appeared on the Today show and other various news segments (so she’s a bit of a celebrity). I even opened up a “Health” magazine the other day and there she was! With an article!

Anyways, she has “thumbs upped” my photos and posts on occasion and then today I commented on her post asking for advice on what to read. She not only responded on the comment, but also wrote me a note on my blog. I’m friends with a celebrity!!! Wahoo! I might also be amped up on excitement for my birthday, going to Australia & because of my new mantras that I’m repeating, but still! I think it’s cool. Maybe you don’t?!

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Pondering a Decade

In just four short days, I will officially be leaving my Roaring 20s and heading into the 30s (Depression Era?!?! - just kidding). The last 10 years have been full of new experiences and adventures.

Some of the tops?

1) Visited over 15 countries.
2) Slept at the foot of Mount Everest and at a 4 a.m. pee break, looked up to see the moonlight on the finally revealed peak.
3) Experienced a violent storm across the road from the Great Wall.
4) Zipped on the back of a complete stranger's motorbike in Vietnam.
5) Got caught in a downpour after riding bikes to Franz Josef Glacier in New Zealand.
7) Ate numerous helpings of zenzai while lounging on Okinawa's beaches.
8) Overcame my fear of karaoke.
6) Got Simon the Peacock added to my foot in honor of my love of Pier 1 and Indian motifs.
7) Worked a range of jobs from being a teacher to working at a video store to manning a copier to living in Japan to working in luxury travel to working with study abroad students.
8) Lived in two dorm rooms, 6 apartments, & various extended stays at my parents' house.
9) The beginnings of a love for indie films, indie music, and a slightly indie lifestyle.
10) Went from never having set foot in a gym to becoming a gym rat.
11) Walked the streets of Cambridge and introducing the now famous, "eat a bit, drink a bit, have dessert, drink a bit more, eat a bit more" method of trying to stay warm during winter months.
12) Learned to be comfortable enough to go to a movie at any time all by myself. (also can now eat at a restaurant by myself and not feel weirded out by it)
13) Got my belly button pierced and then 5 years later, lost ring in a toilet at the Dalai Lama's home.
14) Began an addiction to NY Times crossword puzzles and hopefully, in the next decade, proceed past Wednesdays!
15) Became the queen of flashing peace signs in photos.

Ah, good times, good times.

And as I enter this next stage and as my last 101 list from Japan has expired, I'm working on a new list which will be posted here shortly. I'm only on #30 but hope to have it complete by the weekend and then I can start crossing items off.

It's odd because these lists truly reflect what is most important at the time that they were composed. In 2.75 years, perspective changes and items that were once relevant cease to even be a goal any more.

Currently, my list has a very "health-focused" feel to it. This is in part to the fact that I am itching to overcome my back injury and mostly due to my recent readings of books like "Ominivore's Dilemma" & "In Defense of Food," as well as viewings of documentaries like "Food, Inc." However, as I start to approach the time in my life when it's important to make good health decisions for later, there are definitely worse things that I could be focusing on!

I've also been trying to show my hand in the kitchen more often and this evening's shrimp 'n grits and last week's caramel from scratch lead me to believe I might actually find success in more instances than not! I'm going to continue to try new recipes and hopefully stretch myself even more.

Enough for now. The list will be posted shortly and then hopefully Rachel will be back in the blogging world once again!