Bloody. Mary.

I wish I could tell you guys that my house was a party pad the night the San Francisco Giants won the World Series. I wish I could tell you I enjoyed all the Giants fans on the Caltrain during my already-long commute home from work during home games. And I wish I could tell you that I skipped out of my conference in Boston to watch them sweep Detroit like it was nobody’s bizniss (although, I will admit that some conference-skipping did occur, but primarily for hanging out and catching up with lots of GC buddies).

I can’t say any of those things. Baseball just isn’t my thing. Winning is cool though, so it was fun to be around all the hype here at home during the last few weeks. For me, I totally prefer NFL season and watching the Bears, who aren’t half bad this year.

I won’t pretend that I keep up with all the stats, that I know the first and last names of all of the players, or that I attentively watch every second of every game (Chris would call me out on this in a heartbeat, because I definitely use TV-watching as a time to multitask). Regardless, when it comes time to watch games around here, on Sunday, it’s something that has to start early, and it has to be done right. Thank you, Pacific Time Zone.

Clearly, this means you need Bloody Marys, because drinking beer at 10 is only for tailgating at NC State games. Bloody Marys are way more classy, and you all know I am ALL about class.

super-spicy bloody marys
makes ~48 oz, or 6-8 drinks (depending on how thirsty you are!)

printable version

ingredients
garnish
1/2 lb thick-cut bacon
cherry tomatoes
pickled green beans
cocktail onions
whatever else you want to garnish with..

salty-smoky-spicy rim
1 T hot smoked paprika
1 T kosher salt
1 T granulated garlic
1 T celery salt
fresh cracked peppercorn
1 t cayenne pepper
2 limes, cut into small chunks

beverage
32 oz organic tomato juice
16 oz decent vodka (Svedka is what I used)
3 T sriracha
2 T Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 t wasabi paste
juice of 1 lime
1 T chipotle Tabasco sauce
2 T brine from a pickle or olive jar
1 t celery salt
1/2 t kosher salt
a few turns of fresh-cracked black peppercorn

instructions
preheat oven to 400 F. cut strips of bacon in half and bake on a foil-lined baking sheet fitted with a rack for about 20-25 minutes. remove and let come to room temperature.

meanwhile, make drink, garnishes, and salty rim. make the garnishes by skewering the tomatoes, beans, and onions. and make the rim salt by combining all dry ingredients and dumping some onto a small plate (or special rimming salt dish if you have one). combine all ingredients for beverage in a large container. whisk to ensure that wasabi and other ingredients are well-dissolved.

once the bacon has cooled, assemble the drink by running a small lime slice around the rim of your glass, dipping the rim into the rim salt, and then add 1 bacon strip and 1 garnish skewer along with some ice into the glass. pour that tasty beverage on top and drink drink drink.

 

boy, this cat LOVES her bacon so much that she waits patiently at the oven for it. Okay, she looks to be patiently waiting, but truthfully she meowed for 15 minutes straight. and then i gave her one teeny tiny morsel. she lives a tough life…

Advertisements

Fair and Square

One of our favorite types of food these days is ramen. No, not the 10/$1.00 packs that come in all sorts of flavors, like chicken, oriental, and beef, but the actual kind that you are given in a restaurant, in a gigantic bowl filled to the brim with steaming hot broth, ramen noodles, pork (or fried chicken. fried chicken!), and all sorts of other ingredients that have me salivating right this second.

We’ve tried a handful of spots in the city over the past few months, and every time I’m feeling the need for some warm comfort food my mind goes straight to ramen. I can’t get enough of it.

Of course, while waiting for said ramen to make its appearance at the table, it’s never a bad idea to have an appetizer or three. Many of these ramen joints make killer meat skewers, but often times all I want is a freakin’ potsticker. Something about a little sheet of dough enveloping a bite of meat and veggies, and then steamed and served alongside some sort of amazing dipping sauce makes me so amazingly happy. So happy that I could likely eat a couple orders of them and call it a night, if it weren’t for the ramen making its way to the table.

But when you’re home, that’s another story. I’ve eaten potstickers only quite a few times.

Potstickers are those little treats that look so damn hard to make, but are in all reality, probably one of the easiest dishes to throw together, minus the time. You toss the filling into a food processor, which means your initial chopping skills really don’t matter all that much, as long as things are similarly butchered to smithereens. You put the filling onto pre-made wrappers. You fold them (which is what people think is so dang hard. It isn’t.), and then you steam them. The sauce is nothing but a handful of ingredients whisked together (and for that, there are thousands of choices, but I’m a fan of a spicy peanut sauce, I am). Then you’re ready to chow down.

Sure, they look intricate. And sure, it might take some precision and a little patience, but there isn’t much that can go wrong, even if the wonton shapes aren’t winning beauty pageants. Either way, what results are little pockets of delightful goodness that you, I promise, won’t be able to resist.

You can even take them to a potluck if you want. And when that potluck gets canceled without your knowledge, you can smile a little on the inside, because they just turned into lunch, which means you can eat like, 10 of them, instead of 2. That’s what I call winning – fair and square.

Shrimp & Ginger Potstickers w/ Spicy Peanut Sauce
makes 24 potstickers – 4 servings as a meal, 12 as an appetizer

time commitment: 1 hour

printable version

ingredients
potstickers
3/4 c Napa cabbage, shredded
1/3 c scallions, chopped (+ more for garnish, optional)
1/4 c carrots, julienned
2 T cilantro, chopped
1 T low sodium soy sauce
2 t fresh ginger, minced
1 t dark sesame oil
1/2 t salt
1/2 lb shrimp, cooked
sriracha, optional but totally not optional
24 small wonton wrappers
2 T cornstarch or arrowroot powder
1 T canola oil, divided
1 c water, divided

sauce
1/4 c water
1/4 c reduced fat peanut butter
2 T low sodium soy sauce
1 1/2 T rice vinegar
1 1/2 T chile paste w/ garlic (sambal oelek)
1/2 t sugar

instructions
combine 1st 10 ingredients (sriracha to your liking) into food processor and pulse ~4 times, or until coarsely chopped and mixed together.

working with 1 wrapper at a time, spoon 1 1/2 t of filling into the center. wet the edges of the wonton with a small brush and bring opposite corners together, pinching to seal. place on a baking sheet sprinkled with cornstarch/arrowroot powder.

heat 1 1/2 t canola oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 12 potstickers to pan and cook for 2 minutes, or until bottoms are golden brown. slowly add 1/2 c water, cover and cook for 4 minutes. uncover and cook 3 more minutes, until the liquid evaporates. Repeat again with remaining oil, potstickers, and water.

prepare sauce by combining all sauce ingredients together in a small bowl and whisking until mixed.

serve potstickers with peanut sauce, garnishing with green onions, if desired.

Cobbled Together

In an effort to avoid the grocery store this weekend, I raided the heck out of our pantry to see what we could eat to get through the week. You see, I already have an issue with letting good food go to waste, and this is only intensified when I’m forced to let things go to waste as a result of being away for a few days. These are the times when I might cobble together a recipe with a ton of random ingredients (panzanella salads are great when there’s lots of produce involved, and this Moroccan shepherd’s pie was a great way to use up mashed ‘taters) or conversely, I might make something uber simple using some standby grains or pasta.

In general, they aren’t meals that really make one salivate, but they get the job done, more or less.

Of course, there are always the exceptions – the dishes you toss together, pulling stray carrots and a forgotten bunch of scallions from the crisper to add up to enough stuff to make a meal come together – that somehow end up tasting like you’d planned it that way all along. It helps when you have a few fresh ingredients hanging around (thanks, Joanne, for the tomatoes!), because those are the ones that provide the inspiration, the kick-start to power you through to the end of the recipe, if you even have a recipe in the first place.

(The fresh ingredients are also the ones that make me feel a little less guilty about tossing leftover bagged shredded cheese into a perfect biscuit dough, knowing full-well that a freshly-grated cup of cheddar would have been tons better, not only in terms of taste, but also quality and texture.)

So, here we are, at the moment where I did something like that and actually get to tell you about it, because I truly feel that this new-found recipe is something you just might want to make yourself. I take that back – it’s something you should make yourself. Rarely is there a time in the year where the produce is this perfect, this satisfying, and this accessible than now – when you get to eat fresh corn and! fresh tomatoes ’til your heart’s content. And I’m telling you this: if you do have access to both ingredients, straight from the market or the store, please do purchase them. I think I already mentioned my stubborn desire to avoid those places this week, and as a result my trusty freezer bag o’ corn came in handy here. And while it was fine, mighty fine indeed, I know it could be that. much. better. with just-shucked morsels of yellow goodness.

If the mixture of tomatoes and corn isn’t enough to get you in a tizzy, have you noticed the biscuits on top? Need I say more?! Even though I’ve moved away, I still read the blogs of many Chicagoans, and I tell ya – Midwesterners get some kinda excited about summer produce. Tim over at Lottie + Doof posted a tomato cobbler recipe from Martha Stewart a couple of weeks ago, and it sounded like the kind of food they’d have in Paradise. I figured I could make it work, or something like it, even if I didn’t have but approximately half as many tomatoes, no regular onions, heavy cream, or Gruyere on hand, not to mention a penchant for never adhering to the regular ol’ all-purpose flour suggested in most recipes.

So yeah, you could say this recipe is a pretty far leap from the original, but that’s what happens from time to time. You may not have scallions on hand, and maybe you have a different cheese, or no cheese at all, and maybe you have neither pancetta nor bacon for the smoky twist I was craving. Maybe the carrots aren’t doing it for you, and understandably so, maybe you don’t have 10 types of flour in your pantry (15-20 if you count the ones used almost solely for gluten-free cooking). You might even be one of those people who are afraid of a little shortening in your life, for reasons I just can’t figure out. I promise you – it’s okay, and ultimately, it might even be better to use this as your inspiration, and run with it (after, or course, you put down your knife…).

I’m sure Martha would understand.

Tomato & Corn Cobbler
Inspired by Lottie + Doof; serves 4-6 as a meal

time commitment: 2 hours (~40 minutes active)

printable version

ingredients
filling
2 T evoo
2 oz finely chopped pancetta or bacon (optional)
6 scallions, chopped
2 carrots, medium dice
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 c fresh or frozen corn (2-3 ears if fresh; thawed and drained if frozen)
~1 lb cherry tomatoes
~1 lb heirloom tomatoes, medium dice
1 t crushed red pepper flakes
3 T white spelt flour (or all-purpose)
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

biscuit topping
1 c white spelt flour
1 c whole wheat flour (or use 2 cups all-purpose flour to replace both)
2 t baking powder
1 t kosher salt
4 T cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 T shortening, cut into small pieces
1 c grated cheddar cheese, plus 1 T, for sprinkling atop biscuits
1 1/2 c buttermilk, plus ~2 T more for brushing

instructions
Make the filling. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add pancetta, if using, and cook for 2 minutes, then add onions and carrots, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Add garlic, and cook until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Toss in corn and remove from heat; let cool.

Preheat oven to 375 F. Toss onion/corn mixture, tomatoes, red-pepper flakes and flour with 1 1/2 t salt and some pepper.

Make the biscuit topping. Whisk together flours, baking powder, and 1 t salt in a bowl. Cut in butter and shortening with a pastry cutter or rub in with your fingers until small clumps form. Stir in cheese, then add buttermilk, stirring with a fork to combine until dough forms.

Transfer tomato mixture to a 2-quart baking dish. Spoon large clumps of biscuit dough (about 1/3 c each) over top in a circle, leaving center open. Bake 30 minutes. Remove, and brush dough with buttermilk, and sprinkle with remaining T cheese. Bake until tomatoes are bubbling in the center and biscuits are golden brown, another 30 minutes or so. Transfer to a wire rack. Let cool for 20 minutes.

All Grown Up

I hope you all had yourselves a lovely weekend. Over our way, it was a perfect June Saturday and Sunday (maybe even a little atypical for us, from what I’ve heard). We kept busy on Saturday by having a tasty dim sum brunch with new friends, shopping for layers (key here people, key!), and hanging with more friends over food and wine.

Sunday involved the regular grocery shopping and farmers’ market events, and then a challenging bike to the Golden Gate Bridge, at which point Chris drove over and met me where we proceeded to have a nice lounging hour looking at our gorgeous new city. Of course, Sunday also included a nice conversation with my Pops.

I’ve talked about my Pops quite a few times, from tales about his old-fashioned habits to bonding when Gramma died to cutting up chicken. But my favorite blogstory involved a discussion about one of his best meals – breakfast. Every Saturday & Sunday, the ‘samich’ would surface: plain, white untoasted bread, extra-crispy bacon, floppy American Kraft cheese (only the best, friends), and a heavily peppered fried egg left out at room temperature on that cream colored plate with the brown rim, a chip on its edge. It was my very favorite breakfast, for a lot of reasons.

Breakfasts around these parts are generally nothing to write home about – a bowl of cereal or oatmeal, a smoothie, or maybe a homemade granola bar if I’m feeling motivated, is about all we muster up. If I ever do become one of those people who like to be awake at the crack of dawn though, you best believe we’d begin our day with these samiches, French toast, pastries, egg casseroles, and fresh coffee, maybe even some homemade juice from the juicer I’ve yet to buy.

This week was a little different, since I’ve been craving something that included the words “cheese” and “bacon”. It seemed that there was no better time than Sunday to make my own version of the sandwich I woke up to every weekend morning of my childhood. This one is a little bit fancier, a little more mature, in way – loaded with all the local Bay Area ingredients I could find, including a new addiction of mine, sourdough bread (where has it been all my life?!). Also, the bread is crunchy, a total no-no according to my Pops, at least in the way of breakfast samiches.

Bells and whistles aside, at its core this samich is nothing but pure comfort, through and through. It’s crunchy, it’s cheesy, and it reminds me of those samiches I used to eat so often, only it’s a little bit different. Nonetheless, I doesn’t change my memory of them; it just makes it even better.

I would say these same things to my Pops when talking about our relationship. Sure, I’m much older now and yeah, you could say I’m more mature than I used to be, for the most part. And of course, I’ve moved away not just once but three different times, each a little further away than before, but knowing those facts doesn’t change too much. At the end of the day, I’m still his little (grown up) girl, no matter where I am.

My Bacon, Egg, & Cheese Sandwich
inspired by my Pops; makes 2

printable version

ingredients
4 pieces of thick-cut bacon
2 eggs
salt & pepper
2 T butter
2 slices of sharp cheddar cheese
4 slices of sourdough bread, ~1/2″ thick
small handful of baby spinach

instructions
cook bacon in a large saucepan until nice and crispy; let drain on paper towel-lined plate. remove some bacon fat from the pan, if it seems like a lot.

over medium-high heat, crack both eggs into the same pan; sprinkle with salt and pepper. cook on one side for a minute or so, then flip and cook on the other side another minute or so. remove and set aside.

wipe down the pan, and over medium-high heat, melt butter. on one slice of bread, add a slice of cheese, an egg, then 2 pieces of bacon; top with another slice of bread. once butter is melted, put sandwiches into the pan, pressing down on them with a spatula. after a couple of minutes, use spatula to flip sandwich and cook on the other side. remove from heat and plate; place spinach between top slice of bread and bacon.

Simply Refreshing

Years go by pretty quickly if you aren’t careful. Before you know it, you’ve been married for 5 years, and while it doesn’t sound like an extra-long time, it probably is when measured against marriages these days that last a year or two or often times much less, if you’re counting those drunken Vegas ventures.

Anniversaries for us usually equate to spending a quiet night together, just the two of us: dinner, a movie (that I always fall asleep to), and a card. We aren’t big gifters, but we acknowledge the day and make sure we’re extra-nice to one another. You know – no screaming or food fights or whatnot.

Since 5 years seemed like a bigger “accomplishment” than the prior 4, we once had big plans of spending a couple of weeks back in Italy – a week in Florence and perhaps another week north, somewhere a little more secluded than the moped-ridden streets of our favorite city. It seemed appropriate since we’d met there 10 years ago this summer, appropriate and we are long overdue for an international trip. But stuff happened, ya know? We moved across the country, we got new jobs which means limited vacation, and I must admit – we live in a pretty cool new area, so we weren’t that crazy about a big trip right now anyways.

So the Italian countryside got, well, the boot. But never fear – we still have plans for the ‘big event’. Last night, we bought lightbulbs from Home Depot, and that started off our wild and crazy weekend. But for serious, I did get some gorgeous strawberry-colored flowers, which is always fun in an office full of girls. I think we’ll take it easy on today, our actual anniversary, but first thing Saturday we’re headed to Sonoma where we’ll do none other than one of our favorite things: drink wine. We also have reservations at a fancy restaurant, and for the second time, we’ll see just how easy it is to hop into the car and head to wine country.

But at the end of the day, I’m just thankful to be married to this guy. Yes, he stresses over lightbulbs and yes, he plays video games with headphones on, but aside from those minor details, he’s nothing short of awesome. And being married to someone like that, for 5 years and hopefully 5,000 more, is easy to explain: it’s just refreshing, plain and simple.

Strawberry Soda
makes just enough for 2

printable version

time commitment: 5 minutes

ingredients
8 strawberries
2 sprigs of fresh mint
juice from 1/2 of a small orange
2 T raw sugar (turbinado)
ice
1 can club soda

instructions
in a large glass or shaker, combine strawberries through sugar. using a muddler or wooden spoon, muddle the ingredients until they are thoroughly mixed together. add a couple of ice cubes and the can of club soda (if you don’t have enough room for the whole can, just add what you can) and stir until drink is cold.

pour drink through a strainer into two tall glasses, and if you have more club soda, feel free to add the rest here, tossing in an ice cube if needed. voila!

Keeping it Simple

I took a trip to San Francisco, my future home, this past weekend. I wonder when that won’t sound weird.

My cat took the trip with me, taking her first, and hopefully her last voyage across the country via a 747 loaded with passengers. She was relatively well-behaved, and fortunately she handled the situation much better than I’d anticipated, only meowing constantly during the drive to the airport and during the last hour of the flight. She even clung to me for dear life during the security walk-through, and here I was worried she’d claw and run away. Not too bad, really, all things in perspective.

We made it into the San Jose airport, Chris waiting at the baggage claim, and drove into Cupertino only to find that my cat’s sister, who’d taken the maiden voyage earlier in the week, was not nearly as enthused about big sis’ arrival as we’d expected she’d be. Growling and hissing throughout the weekend, she made sure to assert herself as much as possible, claiming her territory with a quickness and keeping consistent with that theme way after I’d left on Sunday.

Aside from the cat fights, literally, the weekend went just fine. I did realize that, the second I leave my husband alone for a week, he regresses to bachelor mode. Meaning, I opened up his fridge and after two weeks of living there, there were still 4 items in it: eggs, milk, crystal light, and Target brand shredded cheese (!). The pantry also held three distinct items: cereal, Frank’s hot sauce (for the eggs, silly), and cat food. The only thing missing is a case of Bud Light in the door, but I’m gonna chalk that up to him having a cold and being a little bit busier than he’s used to.

That being said, I felt the need to make dinner Friday night. For one, I hadn’t cooked since our big party, which I should remind you was only a week ago so that isn’t really that long. But second, I felt the need to make that temporary apartment feel a bit more homey, and buying olive oil and pasta was a good start.

Let’s just say that the kitchen is lacking a few amenities, but it’s by far stocked with enough tools to make do. Needless to say, it’s a kitchen where you have to keep things simple, and I’m ok with that for the next few months. Heck, I don’t even know if I have it in me to churn out some of these 10-step dishes I’ve talked about in the past, even if I wanted to. Moving is hard work, that’s for sure. But even so, there’s always pasta, and that means a lot.

Spaghetti & Meat Sauce
serves 4

time commitment: less than 30 minutes

printable version

ingredients
1 T olive oil
1 lb ground organic pork
2 16 oz jars pasta sauce (I used San Marzano tomato-basil)
salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
1 box spaghetti

instructions
in a skillet, heat olive oil. toss in pork and cook until browned. dump in pasta sauce, add salt and pepper, and bring to a simmer.

meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook spaghetti for about 10 minutes, or until al dente. drain, and serve with above meat sauce.

When life gives you taters

So by now, hopefully you’ve read all about our Thanksgiving shenanigans. You know that we rocked a lot, drank a lot, and probably ate even more, if that’s possible. And while we tend to go through a good portion of the food over the days following the big Turkey Day, there are always stragglers in the fridge after Sunday.

Ya’ll know I’m a stickler about food-wasting (except brussels sprouts & radishes), so it’s only fitting to talk about the excess, or lack thereof.

The pie was easy – we ate most of it. The sweet potatoes were gone, as were the rolls and the broccoli casserole. The turkey got folded up into tortillas and topped with cotija cheese and salsa. That was easy, too. The cornbread pieces Jon left in the crisper were perfect when toasted and served with this soup I found in the freezer. He finished whatever was left after that as a late-night snack this past weekend.

Then there were the mashed taters. Simps makes enough mashed potatoes for an army – and if I remember correctly, they usually get eaten (or maybe she takes them home…), but this year there was some hanging around.

Usually, I’m not one to turn one food into something else; I’ve never been able to make much use of the “eat this tonight, then turn the leftovers into this tomorrow” recipe suggestions. To me, I make a dish to eat a certain way, and that’s the way I eat it until it’s gone, or frozen, or accidentally left out on the counter instead of taken to work – you get the point. But the lonely mashed taters (and Brook’s leftover bowl of stuffing, taters, and only he knows what else) inspired me last week – that and my refusal to go to the grocery store.

And whoever said that change is a bad thing, anyway?

Moroccan Shepherd’s Pie
inspired by Brook & a Cooking Light recipe; serves 6

time commitment: a little less than 1 hour; 35 minutes active

it seems that all I have to do to satisfy the Hubs is throw some chewy fruit and cinnamon in a dish, call it Moroccan, and poof!, he’s slap happy. This is a traditional recipe for English Shepherd’s pie, but with a Moroccan twist. I didn’t have quite enough mashed potato to cover the whole top, so I improvised with a quickly-roasted acorn squash. you could use all mashed potato, or any winter squash for a little sweetness, even canned pumpkin puree would work. also, you may notice cheese in the pictures. While i put it in this dish (just because I had some…), I don’t think it needed it, so I’ve left it out below.

printable version

ingredients
1  T all-purpose flour
1  T butter, softened
Cooking spray
1 1/2  c chopped onion
1 1/2  c chopped carrot
1 lb ground beef
2 1/2  T tomato paste
1  c chicken broth
5 pitted dates, finely chopped
1/2 t g cinnamon
1/2 t curry powder
1/4  t freshly ground black pepper
1  T fresh thyme leaves
1/2  t  salt
1/2 t fresh ground pepper
2  c leftover mashed potatoes
1 c squash or pumpkin puree
smoked Spanish paprika

instructions
Preheat oven to 350.

In a small bowl, combine flour and butter together and sit aside. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add onion and carrot; sauté 5 minutes. Remove vegetables, and add beef to pan; cook 5 minutes or until browned, stirring to break apart. Stir in tomato paste, and cook 3 minutes. Stir in broth. Return vegetables to pan, and bring to a simmer. Stir in dates, cinnamon, curry powder, thyme, salt, and pepper. Add flour mixture, and cook for 1 minute or until thick, stirring constantly.

Spoon meat mixture into an 8-inch square glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray, spreading evenly. Mix potatoes together, and spread the potato mixture evenly over meat mixture. Sprinkle with paprika, if desired. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.