Friday, October 19, 2012

RECIPE: Perfect Peppermint Cookies

So, a weird thing happened this week. My husband's company is having a holiday party today, and one of his coworkers asked, "Will your wife be baking?" -- like, in a hopeful manner. I have a reputation as a good baker somewhere! I'm awesome!

Out of sheer gratitude, I made two batches of my peppermint sugar cookies. These cookies have become my calling card at Christmas time -- they're like sweet little buttons of deliciousness. I can't take too much credit -- the key is my Nanny's sugar cookie recipe, which isn't sickeningly sweet or overly buttery or too doughy. Then I add Andes peppermint chips, which are seriously one of the best inventions of the century.

You'll need:
  • 1/2 cup butter (one stick)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • Andes peppermint chips (these are melty like NOT use candy canes!)

1. Soften (but don't melt) the butter in the microwave. Times vary depending on your microwave, but in my nuclear-meltdown microwave, the magic number is 20% cook power for 2 minutes.

2. Using a hand mixer, cream the butter, sugar, and egg. Add in baking powder and vanilla.

3. Mix in the flour. You can slowly sift it in, or you can just dump the whole cup in and deal with the consequences. I usually choose the later method and end up antiquing myself and most of the kitchen, but I'm impatient. At this point, your "batter" should like granules of sand and you'll think, "I screwed up. This will never become a cookie." That means you did it right. (You can skip the next step if you just want sugar cookies.)

4. Add in the peppermint chips. I use about 1/4 bag for each batch.

5. Wash your hands. Then roll the cookies into 1-1/2 inch balls. Because of the sandy batter, you'll have to really smush them together like you're kneading Play-Doh.

6. Cook at 400 degrees for 8 minutes. When you take them out, the bottoms should be just barely golden, and they should fall apart when you pick them up:

7. Move them to a cooling rack and hang in there, because once they cool, they'll stay together like a normal, well-behaved cookie. Cookies always keep baking for a minute or two while they're on the cooling rack. Keep the faith. If you cook them "to perfection" in the oven, you'll wind up with crispy cookies. 

These are relatively easy and so, so good. Enjoy. I just did. For breakfast.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

RECIPE (long overdue): Sweet and Spicy Leftover-Veggie Skillet

Sorry for the delay in posting...I've been in DISNEY!

Okay. So I know I technically haven't posted in eight weeks. Long story short, "Disney brain" is a real affliction and it starts very early for me.

I mean, in addition to my usual workload, I was very busy counting down, thinking about Mickey-shaped pretzels, brainwashing my boys*, buying Phineas & Ferb t-shirts, etc.

Now here we are, two months later, and I'm like, "Oh right. I have a blog."

So, as you may remember from previous eco-braggy posts, I joined a CSA this summer. (Did I mention I joined a CSA? Because I joined a CSA.) The upside of a CSA is good karma and a general sense of crunchy righteousness. The downside is having a fridge full of vegetables we're not familiar with, which have a very organic tendency to go bad after a few days, with complete and utter disregard for whether I feel like eating white eggplant this week.

So I needed to come up with a veggie skillet recipe STAT to make use of the leftover veggies. CSA pickup is on Friday, so the skillet usually becomes Wednesday's emergency-rotten-veggie dinner plan.

It's super easy. You'll need:

  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground cilantro (or 1 Tbsp fresh cilantro)
  • 1/2 tsp Papa Joe's salt (or a mix of sea salt, pepper, and garlic powder)
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • olive oil

Heat the olive oil in a skillet.

Drop in your veggies.

Mix the spices in a bowl, and sprinkle them over the veggies until it looks pretty seasoned. Don't just dump the whole bowl in the skillet! It all depends on how many veggies you have sitting around -- you may not need the entire bowl of seasoning. No one wants to be crunching on chili powder!

Stir it all around until the veggie look cooked. That's usually about 7-10 minutes, but again, it'll depend on how many veggies you're trying to use up.

The combo of spices may sound weird, but trust me on this one.

Enjoy! The summer harvest is almost over {sniffle}**.

* "In 47 days we'll be eating breakfast with Gooooofyyyyyy!"
** That was both a mournful sniffle and the delightful sound of fall allergies. Leaves, would you just fall on the ground so I can breathe again!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

RECIPE: Cabbage Soup, where have you been all my life?

So I joined a CSA two weeks ago, which makes me feel very green and virtuous, as you can imagine. I eat local produce! Yay agriculture!

But it also means I have to find uses for vegetables I'm not acquainted with, like the freakishly large head of cabbage we got last week. Luckily, while researching cabbage recipes, I found that cabbage gets along very well with ham -- and if you're cool with ham, then you're cool with me. I decided to go with a cabbage soup, but I had to cheat like crazy because I've been neglecting my duties as the resident grocery shopper and the cupboards are pretty bare as a result.  

Get ready for a random ingredients list:

  • one 8-oz. pack of diced ham
  • 1 cup water
  • the seasoning from a Lipton chicken soup packet (We were out of bouillon cubes, so I just fished out the seasoning. A few stray noodles snuck in, but noodles don't cause trouble! Of course, if you have some bouillon in stock, fancypants, go ahead and use that.)
  • half a head of cabbage, shredded
  • 1 tsp Papa Joe's salt (or a mix of sea salt, pepper, and garlic powder)
  • 1 tsp Cajun seasoning
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • half a bag of steam-in-the-bag carrots
  • 1 can of Campbell's Select Harvest tomato basil soup

Boil the cabbage in a pot of water until it gets wilted. Then strain the water and add everything else listed above (including a cup of water). Let it simmer until it's all hot, then eat.

Dude, I could totally do the cabbage soup diet. I've never liked anything with cabbage (stuffed cabbage? cole slaw? ugh) but THIS WAS DELICIOUS. I was all...

Thursday, July 12, 2012

RECIPE: Slow Cooker Apple Pulled Pork with a Kick

It's my birthday on Sunday, and I'm going to celebrate the same way I do every year -- by eating the tops off all the cupcakes. You know why? Because I'm a grownup and I make the rules now. So I can lick the icing and throw away the cake if I want to.

That's pretty much the same reason I eat pulled pork every week. It used to be relegated to the occasional party or festival, but once I figured out how to make it in the crockpot, my instant gratification kicked in and now it's a weekly staple.

I'm kind of obsessed with pulled pork recipes, and constantly shifting my favorites around on the proverbial podium. But I have to say -- this is hands-down my best pulled pork recipe since last year's pulled porkgasm.

You'll need:

  • 1-2 lbs. pork loin (I used boneless)
  • 1 1/4 cup apple juice (we like Mott's Natural)
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp Papa Joe's salt (or a mix of sea salt, black pepper, and garlic powder)
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp Weber Kick'n Chicken spice mix
  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic

Mix everything but the pork in a bowl. Dunk the pork loin in the bowl to coat it, then dump everything in the slow cooker and cook on LOW for 8-9 hours.

You can do the usual tricks to make it extra juicy (marinate it ahead of time, brown the outside of the pork to seal in the juices) but trust me when I say it is not necessary. The mixture just seeps into the pork like magic and makes it crumble -- it literally took me four stabs of a fork to shred the entire roast.

Hubby dressed it up with a slice of muenster and a fresh Jersey tomato on the bakery multigrain from Shop-Rite which is possibly the best grocery-store bread ever.

Monday, July 9, 2012

RECIPE: Horchata!

Horchata has been around for eleventy billion years (or at least a lot of centuries) so I'm not sure why I never discovered it until about four years ago. We were at Blue Tortilla in New Hope (one of my favorite Mexican restaurants) and the owner peer-pressured us into ordering a pitcher. (I was knocked up at the time, and he won me over by whispering in my ear, "Don't worry, zee milk eez pasturized." He knows how to sweet-talk a paranoid preggo!) I love rice, and milk, and cinnamon, and vanilla, so horchata pretty much blew my mind.

But for all my extensive burrito consumption, I haven't had the best luck finding places that serve horchata. So I've been relying on our yearly trips to New Hope, and the one time at Rutgers Day when one of the Latin-Am student clubs had a huge cooler of horchata and the girl running the table was like, "We have a lot left over, so take as much as you want" and I swear I heard church bells.

Anyway. I decided to make my own. And guess what? NAILED IT! On the first try, no less! O-freakin'-lé!

You'll need:
  • 1/2 cup uncooked rice (anything non-instant...I used basmati)
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon (heaping)
  • 1/6 cup sugar

Soak the rice in the water for about 45 minutes. You'll end up with murky rice-water like this:

Dump it into a blender and puree for about 30 seconds.

Then pour it into a pitcher, using a strainer to separate the rice water from the rice.

Throw the rice chunks away. Add the milk, vanilla, cinnamon, and sugar to the pitcher. Stir it up and serve it cold. As Backpack would say, "Om nom nom nom nom, delicioso!"

P.S. Random fun fact: In Valencia, Horchata is called orxata, as in "Or, xata!" or "Gold, darling!" :)

Thursday, July 5, 2012

RECIPE: The Perfect Steak Marinade

I know yesterday was the 4th of July. And I know as a food blogger, I'm supposed to make some sort of patriotic dessert like a star-spangled apple pie or a red, white, and blue parfait.

But here's the thing: I didn't feel like it.

For starters, I don't actually like parfait. I don't even like fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt. I love raspberries, and I love yogurt, but nary the two shall meet in my cup.

So I decided to make a big, juicy steak instead. U-S-A! U-S-A!

And I declared independence (see what I did there?) from bottled barbecue sauce and made my own slammin' marinade.

YUM. I'm eating the leftovers as I'm writing this.

Just a sidenote, I used local honey (from Mill Creek Apiary) in this recipe. We keep it around for our allergies. If you haven't tried it yet, local honey is insanely effective at keeping seasonal allergies at bay.  (You should probably talk to a doctor first if you have severe allergies.) I'd like to thank my hubby's friend Mike for this little gem of holistic brilliance -- I went from wanting to decapitate myself last season to feeling mildly stuffy this season. And all I had to do was drink sugar. GOOD DEAL.

Anyway. Back to the beef. You'll need:

  • 2-3 lb. London broil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tbsp Papa Joe's salt (or a mix of sea salt, pepper, and garlic powder)

1. Throw everything in a Ziploc bag and marinate overnight, massaging the bag occasionally. Just stick it on the middle shelf so whenever you open the fridge, you're like, "Hey, there's my bag o' steak. I should massage it."

2. After it's had 24 hours to soak in, grill it up like you normally would! For me, that means handing it to my husband and saying, "Here, grill this. And don't overcook it!" (I'm very helpful.)

Good job, hubby! I'd say "well done" but it was more like medium-well, am I right? (Sorry. Couldn't resist.)

Then eat. Perfection!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Whose Craft Is It Anyway?

I remember making a project for an elementary school science fair -- I punched holes in construction paper to show how thin the air was in the four layers of the earth's atmosphere. Lots of holes in the troposphere, not so many in the thermosphere. Easy peasy, right? Wrong. Have you ever tried to punch a hole in the middle of a piece of construction paper? How about 200 holes? And of course I started on the project around 8:30 p.m. the night before it was due. My knack for procrastination hasn't changed since the fourth grade; only my bedtime has gotten later.

Anyway, my dad helped me figure out the logistical hole punching problem through some strategic cutting and folding, and I was pretty sure my rad poster was going to take home the blue ribbon. But then another kid showed up with, like, a working centrifuge that separated blood cells from plasma. Okay, so I don't remember what he actually brought, but I remember thinking, No fair, your dad totally made that!

Not bitter.

Anyway, that's kind of how I feel when I look through Pinterest and see kids' craft suggestions with titles like, "Easy Toddler Craft: Turn an Egg Carton into a Schooner!" I mean, seriously? Did everyone on Pinterest pass on some kind of crafty carrier gene, or are they actually doing the lion's share of the craft while their kids are busy glueing Cheerios in their hair? I really hope it's the latter, or we have some serious work to do in the crafting department around here.

I figured I'd post a sample craft from our house. Here's a train we worked on as a team today. We used a $5 kit from Melissa & Doug. In case you couldn't guess, I was in charge of the wheel stickers and painting a heart. The boys handled the rest.

We also did a bonus bodypainting segment of craft day.

This is what toddler crafts really look like, at least in our house. Not like this or this or this.

And you know what? I don't care if other kids are making Faberge eggs in their spare time. I want my boys to do their own projects, and I think they made a pretty bangin' train today.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Science: It's a Bayside Thing

Is it just me, or is there an uncanny resemblance between this new commercial from the European Commission:

...and this classic gem?

Same fashion sense, same basic production values, same embarrassingly misguided good intentions.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

RECIPE: Faux-Fried Okra

Week 1. Frozen food aisle. I see a bag of okra and think, "Hmmm, okra. That would be a nice change. I'll buy a bag!"

Week 2. Frozen food aisle. I see a bag of okra and think, "Hmmm, okra. That would be a nice change. I'll buy a bag!"

Week 3. Frozen food aisle. I see a bag of okra and think, "Hmmm, okra. That would be a nice change. I'll buy a bag!"

Week 3. Back at our house. My husband wants to know why there's so much freakin' okra in the freezer considering we've never, in the 15-year history of our relationship, consumed okra in any form.

He suggests that maybe I start looking up okra recipes and figuring out how to get the three pounds of frozen okra out of the freezer and into our bellies, so we have room to store some foods we actually eat.

Enter....the faux-fried okra!

I saw a photo of fried okra in a magazine, but the recipe was stupid-hard and I don't own a deep fryer. Nor do I want to get into the habit of deep frying things at my house, because let's be real, okra is just a gateway drug. Today I'm deep-frying green vegetables, tomorrow I'm eating funnel cake for breakfast.

So here's my take on a sauteed okra that tastes a whole lot like deep-fried okra.

You'll need:
  • a bag of frozen okra, thawed
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup crushed Honeycombs (or any corn cereal)
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • pinch of Italian seasoning
  • dash of hot sauce
  • olive oil
1. Grease a skillet with a little bit of olive oil. 

2. Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs and hot sauce together. Stir in the okra until it's completely coated, then strain the excess egg goo out of there.

4. Toss the gooey okra in the dry crumb mix. 

5. Throw the whole shebang into the skillet and cook until the breadcrumb mix starts turning brown.

Now, it turns out I'm not a huge fan of okra. But this made it totally edible, even borderline delicious. I can't wait to try it on a veggie I love, like peas -- my head might explode.


Monday, June 25, 2012

RECIPE: Bacon-Wrapped Chicken, Spinach, and Cheese in the Oven

Two great things about this recipe:

1) It was crazy easy.

2) My husband thought I was some kind of domestic wizard, although I think he just had his bacon goggles on.

You'll need:

  • 1 lb boneless chicken breasts or tenderloins
  • 1 cup frozen spinach, thawed
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan or romano
  • pinch of oregano or Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 - 1 lb bacon

Flatten the chicken with a meat hammer until they're a little less than 1/2-inch thick. (I'm sorry if "meat hammer" isn't the correct term. But you know what I mean.) If you're using tenderloins, you're ready to roll; if you're using chicken breasts, cut them in half length-wise. Each piece should ideally be about 2" wide and 5-6" long.

Thaw the frozen spinach and spread it evenly over the pieces of chicken. Sprinkle parm on top of that, then a little bit of oregano or Italian seasoning. Roll the chicken up. Layer a slice of bacon on top of the fold and wrap around the chicken. Secure it with a toothpick.

You can cook these on the grill, but to avoid the unholy grease inferno of grilling bacon, I put them on the grate from the toaster over and hooked that over a deep baking pan.

Bake at 400 degrees for 40 minutes, or until the edges of the bacon start looking brown and crispy.

We dipped it in Italian dressing which added an extra layer of awesome to an already delicious bacon-y feast.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

5 Things I Am Disproportionately Excited About This Week

1. Fiona Apple's Idler Wheel
After a seven-year wait, I just picked this up at Target. I can't wait to listen to it tomorrow while my boys scream "Turn it OFF! Turn it OFF! Make Phineas & Ferb start!" Loved this video of her in all her nervous glory:

2. Green Day's Uno! Dos! Tre!
Three albums?! It's not even my birthday!

Source: Facebook

3. The Les Miserables movie.
I have a teeny Les Miz obsession dating back to my extremely awkward middle school years. To this day, when the concert special from a million years ago plays on PBS, I'm like, "Abandon all plans! I don't care if it's Saturday! Give me some ice cream and I'll see you in three hours!" So oh my sweet nerdy goodness, I can't even wrap my head around how awesome this is going to be. Hugh Jackman, don't let me down!

Source: Facebook

4. Canon 40mm pancake lens.
How cute is this?!? Finally, I can shove my camera in my diaper bag and still have room for actual diapers! Okay, so I don't technically own it yet. But it's on my B&H wish list, so let's be's just one retail therapy session away from being mine.

5. Johnny Depp is single. 
Fun fact: Several years ago, I was commissioned to write a Johnny Depp biography, which received overwhelmingly positive reviews and little emoticon hearts from six middle-school readers on Amazon who were obviously forced to read it for a book report.
Anyway, he's single again and I figure it's like the lottery -- somebody's gotta win.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

RECIPE: Oven-Roasted "Jerk" Pork

How nerdy am I? I totally just looked up "jerk" on Wikipedia to see if this was actually a jerk recipe. The short answer is no -- it doesn't have Scotch bonnet peppers. But it has allspice, so it's halfway there. Jerk-inspired? Jerkish? I don't know. Either way, it takes about five minutes to prep and it's delicious.

You'll need:
  • 1 lb pork loin (give or take)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1 tsp Papa Joe's salt (or a mix of sea salt and black pepper)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
Mix everything together but the pork. Two options here:

1) If you're making dinner NOW, put the pork in a casserole dish and pour the mixture over it. It should be pretty grainy, so really rub it into the meat. Cook at 350 degrees for 45-60 minutes (until it reaches temperature). 

2) If you're planning ahead like a good Girl Scout, marinate the whole thing in a Ziploc bag overnight to really get the flavor in there. Then cook it same as above. 

I was going for a toddler-friendly version this time around, but feel free to add peppers to make it spicier. 

My husband loved the pork, but the REAL star was the sweet potato stacks you see on the side. Holy yam heaven. They were amazing! They were so good that my carb-counting hubby shoveled them down like he was loading up for a marathon. The recipe for those is here. I used parsley instead of thyme and light cream instead of heavy, but otherwise I made them verbatim. Honestly, the recipe sounded so weird that I felt like I must be screwing something up, so I didn't even attempt to tweak it (beyond substituting the stuff I didn't have in stock). But oh. Oh my. It was good.

Monday, June 18, 2012

ROOST: Awkward Conversations 101

Just came across an article via Pinterest called "8 Great Date Ideas for Moms and Sons," which sounded cute, even though I always think it's a little awkward to call it a "date." Besides, what constitutes a date? They're toddlers -- we hang out all the time. Is it a "date" if we stop at Panera on the way home from running errands? What about the playground? What if I only take one of them food shopping? Is there a minimum fun-quota that has to be met? If we meet up with my friend and her kids, is that a double date?

But semantics aside, I like having special hangout days with my kids, by which I mean days when we have either more fun or better food than normal. We are particularly fond of the Thomas aisle at Target, and lunch at Chipotle.

He licks the foil just like his mama!

So I figured the article might have some creative suggestions. I mean, Pinterest is the home of black-olive penguins and reindeer cupcakes -- surely these date ideas would blow my mind!

But it turns out the idea behind the article is to lure your kid with a fun activity and then trick them into a super-serious conversation. 

For example:

Head to the tennis court, the batting cages or shoot hoops.... Talk to your son about what it means to be a 'real man'....  Let him know that real men don’t have to be good at sports, or even like sports.

Holy bait and switch! "Hey, son, let's hit the batting cages. You go first. Wow, you knocked it out of the park...but that doesn't make you a man." Awkward. Then there's this one:

Take a day trip or an overnight trip.... Road trips are great for tackling heavy subjects.  While your eyes are on the road, he might feel more comfortable opening up about life topics. 

I just had a flashback to about 15 different car rides with my mom in high school. That's not a date -- it's entrapment. 

The article also suggests taking him out to his favorite restaurant and then asking him what kind of wife he sees himself having. Really?! "How's the burger and what kind of woman do you want to marry?"  That's like the person who announces on their first date that they want five kids. Sloooow doooown

Don't get me wrong, I think communication is important, but can't I just hang out with my kids sometimes? And, you know, just try to be as approachable and non-judgmental as possible, so I don't have to trick them into talking to me? If we're going to call it a date, let's at least make it fun. You know, so they want to go on a second date. 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

READING: You're Not Doing It Right

This week's read:

My obsession with Michael Ian Black dates back to The State (Toothbrush! Pants! Barry and Levon!). I've seen him live twice (Stella and stand-up), read just about everything he's ever written (from McSweeneys to Purple Kangaroo), and pretty much use Twitter solely to follow* him.

So it was no real surprise that I liked this book.

It was surprising that it made me cry.

In fairness, everything makes me cry, but still. Based on our two-decade stalkership, I was expecting the usual dark humor and dick jokes with the added bonus of snarky parenting stories. Which isn't inaccurate. But given that Black is fairly private and almost always in character, I was surprised at how unflinchingly honest his memoir is. He doesn't bare his neurosis in the calculated, cute way that an actress might "confess" that she loves video games and cooking shows. He bares it all in a very uncool way that kind of makes you (meaning me) want to punch him and then hug him, or hug him and then punch him. Getting his ass kicked by a fellow nerd in high school, exploiting his father's death to get unlimited access to sugary cereal, sobbing over a Creed song in his car, being the Judgmental Sober Guy at parties, threatening to divorce his wife over alarm clock settings, worrying that he's failing as a parent -- none of these stories are terribly redeeming, except in the bravery required to share them in the first place.

I'm not saying I related to everything. In fact, I want to make a point of saying that I DIDN'T RELATE TO EVERYTHING! But it was still equal parts heart-wrenching and hilarious.

And the last four pages and the appendix are pure genius.

Loved it.

* stalk

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

READING: Free-Range Chickens

This week's read:

Two questions: Why have I never heard of Simon Rich before, and how fast can I read everything else he's written?

I bought this book on a bargain rack for 50 cents and read it this morning, cover to cover, in an hour -- because it was awesome, and also because it was short. It's all McSweeneys-style conceptual humor (lists, imagined dialogue, and one fantastic Choose Your Own Adventure story) so it's easy to breeze through while, say, your toddlers are watching Doc McStuffins

Rich mines a lot of material from his awkward childhood and an obsession with bad TV shows, and consequently, I related to waaaaay too many stories. I think I dog-eared every other page. My personal favorite was "Worst Nightmare," in which he falsely confesses to a murder rather than admitting that he spent his workday watching back-to-back Nanny 911 marathons. (Oh, freelancing. I love you.)

"My top secret seventh grade diary" was quite possibly taken word for word from my own diary. "The only emails I could receive that would justify the frequency with which I check my email" was painfully true. And as someone who's paranoid about almost everything, I loved "A conversation between the people who hid in my closet every night when I was seven" (still true for me today) and "What I want on my tombstone when I die of encephalitis next week" (posthumous passive-aggressiveness for friends who underestimated his mosquito bite).

Is it weird if I list every story? I won't, but I liked them all. 

And now I'm only five weeks behind, and for that, I want to hug him.

RECIPE: Mexican Pulled Pork in the Slow Cooker

I think it's pretty well-documented that I'm addicted to pulled pork. So, without further ado, here's another way to make pulled pork! This time it's Mexican -- just in time for Cinco de Mayo if, like me, you're probably going to spend Cinco de Mayo eating nachos on the couch while watching Tosh reruns.

By the way, this recipe was a uniting force after this weekend's sweet potato war. Hubby and I both agreed that this recipe was a winner: "One of your best of all time," he declared.

You'll need:

  • 1 lb. boneless pork loin
  • 1/8 cup lime juice
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp Goya Salsita (or any green chile sauce)
  • 1 tsp Mrs. Dash's fiesta lime seasoning*
  • 1 tsp Papa Joe's salt
  • 1 tsp ground cilantro
  • 15 oz. can of diced tomatoes

Throw it all in the slow cooker. Cook on LOW for 8 hours. Shred it up and enjoy! I served it with a mix of corn, black beans, and fresh avocado with a few shakes of chili powder and Papa Joe's mixed in. Feliz Cinco! :)

* SUBSTITUTE: a few heavy shakes each of chili pepper, paprika, cumin and cayenne
** SUBSTITUTE: a few heavy shakes each of sea salt, ground black pepper, and garlic powder

Monday, April 30, 2012

RECIPE: Sweet Potato with Ham, Black Beans, Pineapple, and Swiss Chard Cheese Sauce (Jeez, is that title long enough?!)

"A house divided against itself cannot stand." -- Abe Lincoln 

Maybe Abe was talking about Swiss chard? Because the leafy green turned out to be extremely divisive at the dinner table last night. By which I mean I loved it, and hubby hated it.

It started with a LivingSocial deal for Suburban Organics. Basically, Suburban Organics will ship fresh organic fruits and veggies to your door. I have trouble resisting group buys to begin with, and I love getting mail, and I love eating, and I love when things are marketed as organic or local or free trade or any other feel-good words. So hellz yeah I was getting this deal.

My box arrived a few days ago, and it contained some old faves (avocado! bananas! a medium-sized grapefruit!) but it also contained Swiss chard, which I couldn't have picked out of a veggie lineup. I posted a plea for recipes on my Facebook page. Suburban Organics was cool enough to link me to a few recipes on their site, but their recipes were a bit too...well, straight-up chard. As a chard virgin, I felt more comfortable mixing the chard with a bunch of other ingredients.

Enter Brianne at Cupcakes and Kale Chips, a.k.a. my aforementioned former foodie roommate. She sent me a very complicated recipe for Mexican sweet potatoes. I dumbed it down big-time and added ham (I needed the bone for split pea soup this week). And it was nothing short of amazeballs.

Except hubby heartily disagrees with me. His exact quote was, "Eww, what's that smell?" followed by several affirmations that it tasted as bad as it smelled, and finally, the helpful suggestion, "Don't ever cook chard again."

Me? I LOVED IT. So tasty. There were, like 17 unique and delicious flavors going on in my mouth, and it was still delicious. Imagine throwing a party and inviting your work friends, your college friends, your gardening-club friends, and your Civil War reenactment friends and everyone miraculously gets along.

Anyway. You have to be your own judge, but I thought it was awesome. (P.S. I was also directed to this tasty-looking recipe at Smitten Kitchen, but went with the Mexican recipe because I had already eaten half a brick of havarti and figured an au gratin might not be the best idea for dinner. But I'm putting it in the mental database -- clearly, for a night hubby's not home!)

You'll need:

  • sweet potatoes (I made three)
  • Swiss chard (I used four big leaves or stalks or whatever they're called)
  • olive oil
  • Papa Joe's salt
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 15-oz. can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 Tbsp lime juice
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp cumin
  • 1 cup canned pineapple chunks, drained
  • 1 tsp ground cilantro
  • 1 cup diced ham

STEP 1: Stab the sweet potatoes with a fork a few times, and cook them in the microwave on HIGH for about 10 minutes.

STEP 2: Rub some olive oil on a pan. Chop up the Swiss chard (I found a helpful tutorial here) and heat it in a pan with the garlic and a few shakes of Papa Joe's salt (or a mix of sea salt and black pepper).

STEP 3: In a bowl, mix the red pepper, black beans, pineapple, chili powder, cumin, cilantro, ham, and and lime juice.

STEP 4: The chard should be pretty soft now. Add the cheese and milk to the pan until melted, then puree the whole shebang in a food processor.

(No, seriously, this is the dumbed-down version! I am telling you, my friend is nuts in the kitchen.)

STEP 5: Cut open a sweet potato, scoop in some salsa, and pour a little bit of the cheesy chard sauce on top.

STEP 6: Ignore husband who clearly has no taste buds.

STEP 7: Steal hubby's rejected cheesy chard sauce and mix it into your eggs the next morning. OM NOM NOM all over again.

Thanks for the recipe, Brianne!

READING: Not So Funny When It Happened

This week's read:

One of my favorite Henry Rollins quotes is, "Read or don't, but you can't catch up."

That said, I'm a few weeks behind on my 52-week project. I blame my heavy workload the past few weeks, which is a good thing -- I'd rather be writing than reading.

But I also blame this book. The full title is Not So Funny When It Happened: The Best of Travel Humor and Misadventure but it should have been called Not So Funny When It Happened: And Still Not Particularly Funny Now. I bought it because it featured travel stories from Dave Barry, Anne Lamott, David Sedaris, and Bill Bryson, along with about 30 others. Guaranteed win, right?

As it turns out, the only stories I liked were the ones by...Dave Barry, Anne Lamott, David Sedaris, and Bill Bryson. And even the Dave Barry piece wasn't half as funny as anything in Dave Barry's Only Travel Guide You'll Ever Need or Dave Barry does Japan. Some of the stories, like "Close Encounters of the California Kind," read like a seventh grade summer-vacation report, or a lame bar story. Some were just boring. I really related to "Fear of Not Flying," an essay about arriving at the airport obscenely early -- and having a husband who casually wanders off to the bathroom during final boarding -- but I wouldn't call it funny. Just relatable, and slightly panic-inducing.

I was so unenthused that I only dog-eared two pages, and looking back, I have no idea why I dog-eared them. I can't find anything particularly funny or thought-provoking on those two pages. I think I just felt weird having all those unfolded pages in a book.

Oh well. I'm done, and I can move on to the next. I'm six weeks behind now, so I don't know if I'll be able to catch up -- but Henry Rollins says I can't anyway, existentially speaking. So I'll just keep reading :)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

RECIPE: S'mores Pops!

I'm feeling snackish today. Maybe it's because the last of the Easter candy finally ran out. I could literally eat a baker's dozen of these s'mores pops right now. (But I won't. Really. I won't.)

You may remember my recipe for portable s'mores from a little while ago, which was inspired by my love of campfire food and my fear of forest fires. These s'mores pops are inspired by both of the above, plus:

  • my annoyance with hauling my butt all the way to Joann Fabrics for melting chocolate every time I want to make something chocolate-covered;
  • several unsuccessful attempts at making cake pops. In fairness to myself, "unsuccessful" is a bit too harsh. I mean, no matter how fugly they were, they were still chocolate-dipped cupcakes. But they weren't adorable like cake pops are supposed to be;
  • a surplus of popsicle sticks;
  • an unexplainable competitive streak which made me determined to bring the cutest dessert of anyone at our most recent family gathering, nyah nyah nyah.

To get past the melting chocolate problem, I used my husband's oil trick from our recent chocolate-covered pretzel cookoff. See step 3.

You'll need:

  • a bag of marshmallows
  • a bag of chocolate chips (I used the Nestle minis)
  • about eight whole graham crackers
  • popsicle sticks
  • 2 tsp. vegetable oil
  • wax paper

STEP 1: Crush the graham crackers in a bowl.

STEP 2: Put a sheet of wax paper on a cutting board or plate.

STEP 3: Put the chocolate chips in a bowl and microwave on 50% power for 30 seconds. Stir, then microwave on 50% power for 15 seconds. Stir. Repeat in 15-second intervals until the chocolate starts to melt. Mix in 2 light teaspoons of vegetable oil and stir vigorously* until all the chocolate is still thick and goopy, but completely melted.

STEP 4: Hold a marshmallow by the edge and dip into the chocolate, followed by the crushed graham crackers. Lay the marshmallow "clean"-side down on a sheet of wax paper. Keep going until all the marshmallows are coated.

STEP 5: Put the marshmallows in the fridge for 15-20 minutes to set the chocolate.

STEP 6: Take the marshmallows back out and poke 'em with the popsicle sticks.

STEP 7: Do your cute little presentation thing, to really drive home to point of how awesome you are. I got these glass jars at Target for $5 and wrapped them with cheapo ribbon from Joann Fabrics -- clearly I can't escape that store even when I try.


* Kind of a favorite word of mine right now.

This recipe was featured on...
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Perfect timing...I'm adding this recipe to the S'mores Week Roundup at!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

RECIPE: Baked Barbecue Tofu

Tofu is a weird food. The words "bean curd" freak me out, to be honest. I it curdled soy milk? I don't actually know the answer, and I've never Googled it because I don't want to know. Just in case I'm right.

The first time I tried tofu was at a Whole Foods near my old office. They had chipotle-lime tofu in the salad bar, and compared with the rest of the lunch options at Whole Paycheck, tofu had one distinct advantage -- the salad bar charges by the pounds, and tofu doesn't weigh much. I mean, a pound of tofu is the size of a brick. (Unlike tomatoes and watermelons, which are pretty much the biggest salad bar rip-offs ever.)

But then I tried to make tofu at home, and to say it didn't go well would be an understatement. I bought a lump of tofu, chopped it up, threw it into a pan with some seasoning, and after about 20 minutes I had a pan full of what looked like spicy curdled milk. So, I resigned myself to the fact that Whole Foods was working black magic on their tofu and I'd have to keep paying them $5.99 a pound to do so.

I waited four whole years before trying again. Luckily, in the interim, someone had tipped me off to the secret of slicing the tofu into 1/2"-thick slabs and pressing it between several layers of paper towels to absorb all the moisture. Once I had that little trick in my wheelhouse, it was a whole different story.

Until now, we've mainly been sautéing tofu in a teriyaki sauce. But then I came across a few recipes for oven-roasted tofu and figured I'd give it a try -- mainly because the cook time was only 25 minutes, and I was working on taxes all day and had forgotten to cook anything. I went with a barbecue theme because, well, those were the ingredients I had in stock.

Verdict: Delicious and so much easier than sautéing!

You'll need:
  • 1 lb. extra firm tofu
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 1 Tbsp lime juice
  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • a few shakes of Frank's Red Hot

STEP 1: Mix everything but the tofu in a bowl and stir vigorously. Once you add the tofu, you're going to need to be gentle, so now is the time to get your aggression out with the whisk.

STEP 2: After drying out the tofu per the instructions above*, toss it (gently! did I mention gently?) in the bowl with the sauce.

STEP 3: Line a baking sheet with tin foil, non-shiny side up, and spread the tofu out in an even, single layer.

STEP 4: Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes or until edges start to look golden-brown.

That's it! I served it with a broccoli-cauliflower Steamfresh packet and Alexia sweet potato waffle fries. Yum! Perfect summer meal (since it's apparently already summer here in the Northeast).

* I slaved over a bright computer all night** writing this post for you! Read the paragraphs!
** Okay, I was primarily wasting time on Facebook. And yes, I just footnoted a footnote. That has to be some sort of new literary device -- can we name it after me?

This recipe was featured on....

Sunday, April 15, 2012

RECIPE: Slow Cooker Spicy Adobo Pulled Pork

So, if you're following along, you know that I've basically spent the past week torturing my family's palates with spicy foods (well, except for the less-adventurous toddler, who's been eating a lot of rigatoni and apple slices). This was the last installment of my self-proclaimed Spicy Food Week. It definitely has a kick, which you can mellow out by using less adobo sauce*.

You'll need:

  • 1-2 lbs. pork
  • 1 can chicken broth
  • 1 can of Goya chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 Tbsp ground cumin

Throw everything into the slow cooker and stir it around a bit. I plucked the peppers out after stirring, because I hate the soggy texture of canned peppers -- but pluck them out after you stir, because otherwise you'll waste a lot of sauce. (The chicken broth sort of "rinses" the sauce off the pepper. That's the best way I can explain it.) Cook on low for 6-8 hours.

I served it with a sliced avocado and Goya rice with pigeon peas**, but it would be the perfect meat for burritos, quesadillas, enchiladas, fajitas, or taco night***.

*This tip has been brought to you by Chef Obvious.

** One of those boxed mixes. I don't know what pigeon peas are, and I certainly don't cook with them of my own accord.

*** Have I forgotten any delicious uses for tortillas?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

RECIPE: Spicy Buffalo Chicken Dip

I know, buffalo chicken dip recipes are a dime a dozen. But this one is particularly simple, spicy, semi-healthy, and super-delicious...if I do say so myself. And I do. I'll put my money where my mouth is on this dip. Or actually, I'll put this dip where my mouth is, repeatedly, until the bowl is empty.

I think I got a little lost in that metaphor. And I made myself hungry.

Anyway, check out this bowl o' yum!

You'll need:
  • (3) 5-oz. cans of shredded chicken*
  • 4 oz. Philadelphia cream cheese**
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup Frank's Red Hot
  • 1/2 cup blue cheese crumbles
Mix it all in a bowl and microwave it for a minute or two, or put it in the oven at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Let it set for a minute or two before you start dipping. I like red peppers for dipping.***

* Or 2 cups of the real thing, but the canned stuff is shredded so nicely and I just don't have the patience.
** Well, any cream cheese will do, but I have to represent my home turf.
*** Not true. I like nachos. But let's pretend.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

RECIPE: Quick Chicken Curry with Spinach Chole

If you've ever made Indian food, you know it's a laborious, hours-long epicurean journey of chopping and rubbing and overnight-marinating and simmering and slow-cooking and hunting down approximately 1,937 ingredients you can't pronounce.

That's why I usually end up buying the Trader Joe's Indian packets. I mean, $2 and 90 seconds in the microwave, and you have tofu and veggies in a creamy curry. And it's delicious. For real, why would I try to compete with that?

Here's why: Because I bought some plain Chobani yogurt a few weeks ago, and my husband ate it before I had the chance to use it. So I bought some more, and he ate it again, and I was like, "Dude, I bought that for a recipe!"and he was like, "Oh really? Because it's been in the fridge for a few fortnights*" so I vowed to use yogurt in a recipe ASAP to prove I had a plan all along.

So I decided to come up with a chicken curry recipe that's actually semi-easy. Is it as good as real chicken tikka masala? No. But it also doesn't take longer to prepare than an actual plane ride to India, so at least I win on that front.

What you'll need...

  • 1-2 lbs. chicken
  • 6 oz. Chobani plain yogurt
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp garlic
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp Papa Joe's salt (a mix of sea salt, pepper, and garlic power)

  • 2 tsp ground cumin (yeah, more cumin)
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp Papa Joe's salt (yeah, more salt)
  • 8 oz. tomato sauce
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 tsp ground cilantro
  • 1 tsp Coffeemate Simply Sweet Cream

Combine the marinade stuff in a large ziploc bag or bowl and let it sit in the fridge for an hour or two or three. When you're ready to eat, saute the chicken and marinade in one pan until it's cooked through, and simmer the sauce in another pot for 20 minutes. Mix them together.

For the spinach chole, I just bought a box of chole and added in 1/2 cup of spinach. I can't handle the time commitment of soaking beans, and I'll never out-chole a packaged chole anyway.

બોન ખોરાક
If that's not Gujarati for bon appetit, you can blame Google.

* I'm paraphrasing. He would never say "fortnight."

Monday, April 9, 2012

RECIPE: Bacon-Wrapped Jalapeno Recipe (a.k.a. Alligator Bites)

My brother-in-law Mike and I are basically polar opposites, but we share one very important belief:


I mean, when you see the words "bacon-wrapped" in a recipe, you know it's a guaranteed win, right?

Anyway. Mike served these at a party last month, and I stole the recipe and have pretty much found every possible excuse to make them. The recipe is short and simple, but it also presents several opportunities to burn yourself, so don't skim over the disclaimers in your rush to consume bacon.

You'll need:
  • one pack of bacon (I like the new Oscar Meyer Selects nitrate- and nitrite-free kind!)
  • a bunch of fresh jalapenos (Short and fat work best. I think I used eight in the above photo.)
  • 4 oz. cream cheese (I like Philadelphia cream cheese!)
  • 1 Tbsp. Old Bay seasoning

STEP 1: Slice the stems off the jalapenos, cut them lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds and meaty stuff. 

STEP 2: In a bowl, mix the cream cheese and Old Bay. Scoop the cheese mix into the hollowed-out jalapenos. 

STEP 3: Wrap each jalapeno with a slice of uncooked bacon and secure it with a toothpick.

STEP 4: Place a metal grate (I used the one from the toaster oven) over a baking pan or a casserole dish. Lay the wrapped jalapenos on the grate, and cook at 400 degrees until the bacon browns to your liking. You can also grill them -- that's how Mike made them, but I'm too lazy and pyrophobic to cook outside.

  • When you're chopping fresh jalapenos, you might want to wear gloves, especially if you're using an extra-spicy variety. Don't touch your eyes. Be careful if you have asthma. The best idea is to trick someone else into doing this part of the job. It sucks! 
  • If you ignore the above disclaimer and end up with jalapeno burn-juice on your hands, wash with dishwashing soap, then soak your hands in lemon juice for a few seconds (make sure you get the lemon juice under your nails, too!), then once more with the dish soap. Lick your finger as a test before touching your eyes.
  • DO NOT use a cookie sheet under the grate! The bacon fat will drip down through the grate, so use a fairly deep dish or baking pan (like a brownie pan) to keep the fat from burning your hands or turning your oven into a box of fire.
  • Control yourself when it comes out of the oven. The cheese is hot lava for the first minute or two.
As long as you follow these guidelines, you'll enjoy injury-free deliciousness.

P.S. If you like gardening, jalapenos are ridiculously easy to grow! 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

RECIPE: How to Rescue Almost-Ruined Chocolate Covered Pretzels

Originally, this post was going to be called "How to Make Chocolate Covered Pretzels" for the benefit of anyone who, like me, doesn't have the crafty gene and needs to be handheld through the process the first time. (And yes, I'm calling it a craft. You can't buy sugar and flour at Joann Fabrics, but you can buy melting chocolates! Hence it's a craft.)

I was making chocolate covered pretzels for a friend's Easter Egg Hunt. Things started out okay. I put the chocolate in the microwave for a minute on 50% power.

I kept popping it back in for 20-second intervals at 50% power until it got nice and melted.

Or so I thought. While I was microwaving, I was also telling some long-winded story to my husband and I apparently overshot the melting process a little, because when I tried to dip my pretzels, they turned into delicious-but-fugly chocolate globs.

Now, here's where my hubby and I went in different directions. I wanted to take the easy way out; he is an engineer. So we present you with two options for rescuing chocolate covered pretzels when you get distracted and accidentally overcook the chocolate a little bit.


Crush the pretzels and dump them in the bowl of goopy chocolate until you have a pleasing pretzel-to-chocolate ratio.

Scoop one-inch balls of pretzel mush out of the bowl and let it set on wax paper. Done! Wasn't that easy?

But my husband doesn't do easy. So he decided to go with....


Add vegetable oil to your chocolate, 1/2 teaspoon at a time, until it hits a consistency that seems conducive to dipping and evenly coating pretzels. For my husband, this ended up being around 2 teaspoons. Then dip and set as usual.

[EDIT: Okay, hubby wants me to alert you to two things. First, the interweb warns that you should never add more than a tablespoon! And second, even with only two teaspoons, it took a lot of stirring to get it to cooperate. This is why I stand by my pretzel clusters!)

He would want me to point out how much nicer his look than mine. But I would like to point out that I sabotaged him by making him test out his scientific theory using peppermint chips, and everyone was a little scared of the mint pretzels. Even though they were delicious, much like Snyder's York Peppermint Pretzel Dips, which are the best thing since sliced bread and I don't know why they're not in stock anywhere! But I digress.

Anyway, both methods work very well in their own way, so don't abandon ship if your melting chocolate isn't cooperating! And I'm happy to report that all the pretzels played very nicely together on a party tray.

The End.