Vegas Recovery

A couple weeks ago, I went to Vegas. Which, if you’ve never been, is a really fun town. I actually really enjoy gambling and laying by the pool so its an ideal situation for me.  So my trip involved a little bit of these:

Laying by the pool Mai Tais

and a lot of this:

Slot Machines

But more importantly (because I didn’t win a ton of money) it did involve good food. I’m a big proponent of eating whatever you want on vacation – I mean really! You only live once! Why not enjoy yourself when you’re taking the time to visit a new place. My family has always had a loose rule of  ‘don’t eat in restaurants you can eat at when you at home’, so I do my best to seek out new restaurants. While my travel companions were a little more budget conscious, we did get to eat at a few realllly good places. One of them was Hash House A Go Go, which we realized after we got there had been on Man Vs Food. I love that show – I would never eat that amount of food, but I really love burgers and that show always tells you were some awesome ones are. I got this dish:

Yum!

which is Andy’s Sage Fried Chicken Benedict w/ maple reduction, 2 eggs, bacon mashed potatoes & biscuit. It was delicious. I cannot recommend this place enough. They had some awesome looking drinks on the menu but I wasn’t in the mood to try them. Plus we were heading to get the tiki classes up-post right after breakfast :)

Also this happened on the 109th story of the Stratosphere:

I am not a fan of heights.

After returning, I needed to eat something a little lighter for lunch than my normal meatloaves. I just wasn’t feeling red meat.  So when my friend made orzo pasta salad for a party, I knew I had a good lunch planned for the next week. I can’t seem to find the original recipe online anymore, but it was like a combination of this one and this one. Her salad contained feta and cranberries, which I enjoy but I prefer goat cheese. Plus, I felt like I needed a little bit of salt in mine as well. So I adapted it to my needs:

Ingredients:

  • For the dressing:
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 table spoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • For the salad:
  • 1 bag of uncooked orzo
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cups crumbled goat cheese – I actually just bought an 5oz container and dumped it in
  • 1 cup sliced salami
  • bag of spinach (If serving right away, I would shred and combine immediately. Since I was using this for lunch, I stored the spinich seperately in baggies and combined it during lunch)

Step one: Cook orzo

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Step 2: Whisk together dressing

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Step 3: Combine cooled pasta with dressing. Then combine additional ingredients.

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Step 4: Serve and enjoy :)

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It lasted me a week – if I had done smaller servings it probably would have lasted another few days. Kept really well – delicious!

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Mother’s Day

I have a great family. However, outside of my mother, I’m pretty much the only one that can cook. 

Plus my brothers both left town for Mother’s Day this year (cowards) so brunch was on me. 

I went with my favorites – Baked Eggs, Sweet Potato and Sausage hash and sliced avocados. Oh, and of course Mimosas! 

 

Baked eggs are seriously the easiest food in the world to make. I like to make them in rolls but if you have a ramikien, you can bake in that. I used kaiser rolls for these, and just chose the fluffiest ones I could find in the loose roll bin at the Jewel. 

Step one: slice off the top of the roll and remove some of the middle. Brush with olive oil or melted butter. Preheat oven to 350. 

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Step 2: Crack an egg into the middle of the roll. Add a splash of heavy cream or half and half. Add salt and pepper to taste.

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Cover with Parmesan cheese (asiago would probably be really good too!)Image

Step 3: Put in oven for 20 – 30 minutes, depending on preference of doneness. For the last five minutes, put the tops of the bread that were sliced off in to toast. 

Thats it! Done!  The best part is that it taste good no matter what the yolk hardness is. My mother and dad were late getting to my place, so I left them in the oven to stay warm and they ended up with a harder yolk than I normally like. But my parents both loved it.  

 

Ta da! Image

Oh! And don’t forget dessert! I made cherry brownies – just a box of brownies but instead of adding water, put a can of cherry pie filling in and bake. Delicious! Image

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Birthday Cake!

Ok seriously, who doesn’t like birthday cake?

Actually, my dad. He prefers birthday pie. But that’s not this post.

Getting ready!

Getting ready!

My beloved friend, whom I lovingly call J-Bird for no reason other than it amuses me, is having a birthday this weekend! She a low key kinda gal, so we’re having a game night at my place to celebrate and I’m in charge of cake!

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J-bird loves red velvet. It combines her favorite things – chocolate and the color red. I’m not exaggerating when I say she probably lives off sugar. Her favorite breakfast is chocolate chip pancakes. She eats peanut butter and chocolate chip sandwiches for snacks. She convinced me to bake these brownies with cookie dough in them. (They weren’t too bad, but so heavy and sweet).  She does eat normal food once in a while, but if given the choice she’d probably just eat chocolate all day.

Into the oven!

Into the oven!

I like to bake for birthday gifts. Its easy enough, and I usually keep enough ingredients on hand anyway. For this recipe  I just had to buy buttermilk and red food dye. I keep cocoa powder on hand for mug brownies. The rest I use when cooking on a relatively regular basis. That’s one thing I love about learning how to cook, and being a grown-up about it. I generally know what I have in my kitchen if I think of something at work I want to make, and can swing by the grocery store on my way home. Its nice to not have to comb through the pantry every time I have a recipe to try.

Back to cake!

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I halved the original recipe because I only have about six people coming over tomorrow. I know most of them aren’t huge sweet eaters – they’ll each have a slice, but probably no more. And I don’t really need cake hanging around! But it halved beautifully, and I can still split the one round cake to make two layers. The biggest issue was the fact that I don’t own a 1/8th cup for the cocoa powder. But I figured if there was a little too much chocolate powder, it wouldn’t be the worst thing.

Red Velvet Cake (adapted from Real Simple)

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temp

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/8 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

3/4 cup sugar

1 large egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

2 teaspoons red food coloring

1/2 cup buttermilk

1. Heat over to 350. Butter 1 8-inch round cake pan and dust with flour. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
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2. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high until fluffy (2 to 3 mins). Beat in eggs, vanilla, vinegar and food coloring until incorporated.

Adding the red to the velvet. How cute are these measuring spoons?? Gift from my goddaughter.

Adding the red to the velvet. How cute are these measuring spoons?? Gift from my goddaughter.

3. Reduce mixer to low. Add flour mixture and buttermilk slowly. Mix until just combined – do not overmix.

4. Place batter in pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. About 30 minutes.

Anndddd done

Anndddd done

5. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto cooling rack. When cooled completely, ice with cream cheese or white chocolate frosting.

Adding the secret ingredient...cream cheese frosting

Adding the secret ingredient…cream cheese frosting

Maybe next time I write, it’ll actually be healthy. But probably not.

All done!

All done!

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Relapsing

Hello Monday morning.  I did not miss you at all.

I finally sat down this weekend and wrote what I’ve been eating lately – I have some slight stomach issues, so its good when I keep my food journals up to date so I can pinpoint what might have made me sick. And I’ve been feeling off kinda frequently, so I figured it was time to play catch up. What I discovered, is that my diet the last two weeks has been outrageously bad. For me, probably not in the grand scheme of diets.

As I’ve written in here before, I try (and apparently fail) to eat a somewhat Paleo type of diet. Last week I made Blue Cheese Mac and Cheese because I was stressed. My go-to comfort food is mac and cheese, and if I could, I would probably live on blue cheese. Love it. Unfortunately  I live alone – this mac and cheese lasted until yesterday. It was extremely delicious, but definitely not Paleo. The rest of those two weeks was pretty similar – lots of carbs, lots of cheese and even a run to McDonalds (GASP!). No wonder I’ve been feeling sick!

Plus, Saturday night was my parent’s St. Patrick’s day party with my mother’s corned beef, which was also turned into hash for breakfast Sunday morning. Plus lots of homemade cookies. And a few shots of Jameson.  From the party, not breakfast. That would be a little much.

So this week, I’m trying to go back to basics. I’m picking up the ingredients to make my mini-meatloaves tonight, and I’m going to try and make these Slow Cooker Short Ribs for later in the week (they seem almost paleo friendly, so that’ll be good).

But before I switch over, I figured I’d share my favorite non-corned beef hash breakfast. Definitely not paleo, but easy to make.

My family calls these toad-in-a-hole but I’ve heard them called eggs in a basket as well.

I usually start with two pieces of bread, two eggs and some butter.  Melt the butter on a large pan (if you have a  griddle or skillet that works best). While its melting, cut two holes out of the middle of the bread – I usually use a juice or shot glass, but a cookie/biscuit cutter is an easy way to do it. Place the bread on the butter in the skillet, with the cut out rounds to the side as well. Crack an egg into the hole of each piece, add salt and pepper to taste.

Perfect!

Perfect!

Cook until eggs can be flipped (usually about a couple minutes). Remove rounds for a little bit, butter their area again. Flip bread/egg onto melted butter. Put rounds back on other side to continue to grill them.

Not a perfect flip on top, but still good.

Not a perfect flip on top, but still good.

Once eggs are cooked to desired firmness, remove and eat! (Well, probably let them cool a bit before eating). I like mine about over-medium, so its probably just another minute or so. Eggs are so quick!

These are different from just fried eggs and toast – the bread gets grilled instead of toasted, and the butter cooked into the bread is just fantastic.

Delicious.

Delicious.

Now back to my relatively boring breakfast of two sausage links. Not bad, but its no toad-in-the-hole!

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Irish Inspiration

Ireland 017

A couple of years ago, my parents took me and my two brothers to Ireland for our unofficial ‘last’ family vacation. I say ‘last’ as its probably the last one fully financed by my parents, but I’m sure at some point in the future we’ll all go somewhere together again. I’m pretty close to my family – my brothers more than any one else.  We like travelling with each other for the most part, but we all know our limitations. At like day five, we’re sick of each other and need a break. Its almost like clockwork.

Our trip to Ireland was inspired by my parents’ past. They were actually married there, and our trip was their 25th wedding anniversary dream-come-true. They basically eloped, no family or friends were present except for a distantly related aunt that lived near Galway. She was their connection to the church. Our parents have always wanted to show us the location, to take the family there. They had saved for years and surprised us Christmas of the year before. Fortunately, my brother Pete and I had already traveled abroad and had passports. My brother Jack had been tricked into getting one a few months before. (I used the words tricked, because he didn’t connect the trip with the passport at all. He’s very smart but easily glosses over motives or details to actions). We were set.

Kissing the Blarney Stone

Kissing the Blarney Stone

Our trip was ten days long – we flew into Dublin and then drove to Galway, on the opposite side of the country. We spent a few days there, then drove to Cork, then back to Dublin. By the time we reached Dublin, my brothers and I were ready to kill each other. We had been sharing a room for six days at this point, and that’s a long time to put three people in a room. Plus, five people in a car driving all around the country. I’m not trying to complain at all – it was a great trip, a fantastic adventure and something I will never forget in my life. But seriously, day six was it. We had tickets to one of those hop-on-hop-off city tours, so at the first stop, I hopped off by myself. With the agreement that we’d meet back at the hotel at five, I walked around for hours visitng the Joyce Museum, the Dublin Writers Museum,  finding the Oscar Wilde statue…basically just drinking it all in.

Oscar Wilde statue in Dublin

Oscar Wilde statue in Dublin

I got back to the hotel at the designated time and was the first one there. I stopped into the hotel pub for an appetizer since I had skipped lunch and got a red onion and goat cheese tart. Now, at this time, I wasn’t a huge red onion fan, but I was a goat cheese fanatic. It was delicious, and I ate it a few more times while we were at this hotel.

Note, I arrived that the designated time. The rest of my family had thought we were meeting at seven! They had all separated too, I don’t know how they had mutually decided to all be late. While I was waiting, I went back to my room and discovered the show  The IT Crowd, which I found on Netflix as soon as I got home. Hilarious.

Anyway!

I found my travel journal recently, and read about that day. Since then, I’ve wanted to recreate the tart and finally got time to do it today.

Red Onion and Goat Cheese Tart (adapted from AllRecipes)

1 9-inch pie crust

2.5 red onions thinly sliced

2 tablespoons of Olive Oil

3 Egg yolks

2/3 cup half-and-half

5 oz of Goat cheese (can use more if desired)

salt and pepper to taste.

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Line a 9 inch fluted, loose-bottom flat tart pan with pastry. Chill for 15 minutes. Cover with foil, and fill with pie weights. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove foil and weights, and bake for a further 5 minutes. ( I used a premade crust and cooked it according to the directions on the box)
  3. Put onions in a roasting tin, turn up to 450 degrees and drizzle over the oil. Season with salt and pepper. Toss to make sure all onions are coated. Roast for 35 minutes, stirring halfway through. Set aside to cool.
  4. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees
  5. Beat together egg yolks and cream, and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the red onions over the base of the baked pastry. Pour cream mixture over onions. Slice the goat cheese thinly, and dot over the top of the tart.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes, or until custard has just set.

Now here’s what happened to me in pictures:

First, I chopped up all the onions. I meant to use 3 full red onions, but one half looked like this:

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That ended up being for the best. 2.5 onions filled up my pan pretty well. The original recipe calls for five, which is ridiculous.

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Also I went to bake my pie crust, and realized I didn’t have weight. I used my dutch oven instead. Worked well enough:

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As you can see, 2.5 of roasted onions filled up the pan considerably.

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Add your custard!

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Also, read ahead. I had taken out my goat cheese because I assumed it was mixed in with the custard. Not true. Its sliced and layered on top. Because mine was room temp it was too soft – I clumped it. I think you can probably just used crumbled goat cheese as well if you want.

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Success!

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If you’re not a onion fan, its probably not the dish for you. But it doesn’t taste like you’re eating a pile of onions. Mine turned out great, but I’ll have to go back to that hotel pub to know for sure whether its better or worse. Damn. Better book my trip!

So pour a little Jameson or Guinness, turn on an episode of The IT Crowd and eat up! Its just like Ireland :)

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Ok…one more Ireland picture.

The Cliffs of Moher

The Cliffs of Moher

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Oscar Party!

I really love throwing parties. Sure, planning could be stressful but having people over is always fun. The group of friends I have love hosting, throwing, attending or anything related to parties. We have pretty much segmented the year up into holidays people have claimed – I get Christmas. But I wanted to have people over, and we already had a game night recently…

An Oscars viewing party!? Perfect! No one has called that one yet!

So I brainstormed. 9 Best Movie Nominees – 9 menu items!

 

 

So my nine items were:
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Apps/Small plates
Beasts of the Southern Wild – Cajun En Croute
Django Unchained – Bourbon Whiskey Meatballs
Silver Linings Playbook – Philly Cheesesteak crostani
Les Miserables – a poor version of Roulade (mine was Salami and Cream Cheese)
Argo – ‘Argo’choke dip
Zero dark thirty – hummus and pita chips

Desserts
Life of Pi – Coconut Cream Pie
Lincoln – Apple Pie (his favorite)
Amour – Mini Eclairs

All the deserts and dips, I bought from my local Jewel Osco. But the other four I made by hand. Meatballs and the Salami/Cream cheese are easy to whip together. But I thought I’d show some picture steps for other two.

Cajun En Croute is easy enough, just puff pastry, mustard and sausage!

Step One – Chop!
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Step two – bundle!
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Step thee- Bake!
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The Philly Cheesesteak crostani was a little bit more labor intensive – but seriously good. Everything tasted great, but the one people kept going back to was this Crostani…I think it was the cheese wiz…

First, you have to slice a baguette and toast the slices:

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Slice a ridiculous amount of meat and veggies, then saute them:

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Then cover those toasted baguettes in cheese wiz

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Place meat, then veggies on top of baguettes and bake for a few minutes

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YUM!

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Outside of the food, we all thought that Seth was pretty funny, but the show was soooo longggg. People came over for the preshow, so they were here from like five hours to watch tv. A little tiring. And there weren’t really any surpises, except for Jennifer Lawrence falling down. But really, we all expect her to do something silly, don’t we?

My favorite joke of the night was the Sound of Music one – I burst out laughing at the first cut-away.

In all, enjoyed making the food and everything but next year I think I’ll let someone with a DVR host and I’ll bring snacks.

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Alternative Valentine’s Day

I have never been a part of a romantic, big gesture, Valentine’s Day. Despite my best efforts and my romance novel addiction, my life has not played out in that fashion. But honestly, its never bothered me in the slightest.

The people in my world – family, friends, neighbors – have never once put the notion that Valentine’s Day was exclusive to romantic love. In my world, its always been a celebration of all kinds of love.  My dad put heart shaped boxes of chocolates under mine and my brother’s pillows. I don’t think I ever saw my parents go on a date for the big day – they would take the children out instead. Me with my dad and my brothers with my mother. There was no mentions of gifts, though my mother got a much bigger box of chocolates than the rest of us.

My friend use to buy the girls in her life a rose for Vday. My best friend sends cards. My grandparents sent cards. (We’re a big card buying group of people). The neighbors would bake cookies to share. My aunt sent me candy a few times. These people love me, unequivocally. I don’t need a date on a random day in February to know I’m important to other people – I have wonderful people that are willing to illustrate it without effort.

I think its a myth that you need to be part of a romantic couple to enjoy a day that celebrates love. There’s all different kinds out there that are accessible. While I’m single this year, and not thrilled about it, I’m not going to sit home and dwell or be sad. I’ll call my dad, I’ll send some cards to friends and maybe watch a cheesey rom-com. I’ll tell someone I love them, and mean it.

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Lunch issues

I have serious lunch issues. Well, not serious. But lunch issues, nonetheless.

I like bringing food for lunch. As much as I like eating at resturants, that adds up quickly.  I’ve never been a sandwich person (though I occasionally stop at Panera or Subway. But then I don’t have to touch the lunchmeat, which I find gross). I don’t eat frozen dinners because (A) I’m cheap, and (B) I’m picky. Plus, something about those weirds me out, thinking about the chemicals and fake ingredients that are in them. I’m sure they’re fine, I know people that enjoy them. I’m just not one of them.

I tend to eat leftovers for lunch, or make something early in the week that can last. Lately, I’ve been on a mini meatloaf kick. I make about 24 of them, and freeze them three at a time. They’ve been great for lunches! But then I get teased that I eat the same thing everyday. Really, I can’t win.

Look at all that color!

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Once again showing my lazy nature, when I make these, I buy all precut veggies. The grocery stor near my house sells a  blend of diced pepper, and another one of celery/onion/carrots diced. I usually don’t put celery in there, but I like buying them all together so I can make tuna/chicken salads later.

Unfortuantely, the container is very large and makes my fridge smell like onions.

The recipie I found for this is here, at another Paleo Blog. That’s not the place I originally found it, but its the exact same recipie. Its pretty easy, and I’ve made it easier by not measuring anything. I double this to make my 24 muffins.  And I always add bacon.

 

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I use silcone cups because they’re easier to clean up. It takes a little while longer to bake them and they end up a little smaller. But overall, I’m in favor of them! They’re so easy to clean! (I got these from World Market).

Then when they cool, I put them in tupperware and store in teh freezer. Every day I bring my lunch (which is most days) I just grab a container and a little baggie of carrots. I also buy a huge bag of baby carrots and put them in little baggies that I keep in a bowl in the fridge.

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Easy! Now if I could just stop getting teased…

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Puttering around the kitchen

I have a tendency to have a very empty fridge. I hate grocery shopping and I eat mostly vegetables and meat (see: Lazy Paelo), so while the meat stays good in the freezer, my veggies tend to go bad fast. Or I have frozen ones. My freezer is generally full.

What I do have a lot of is condiments. Lots and lots of random sauces, spices and add-ons that seem to live in my fridge forever.  So when I realized I had a defrosted steak sitting in my fridge from Saturday (when I chose to go out to eat with friends instead of cooking it), I decided to figure out a way to use up a few of those jars.

Here’s what I used: some olive oil, garlic, horseradish, dijonnaise mustard, worcestershire sauce, and some salt/pepper.  I kinda eyeballed everything, but I would guess I used a tablespoon of the garlic, horseradish and mustard, a teaspoon of worcestershire  and two or three tablespoons of olive oil. I whisked it all together and then coated my steak in it.

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(I took these photos with my phone, so not the best quality…)

I didn’t feel like getting a grill dirty, so I broiled my steak in my tiny broiler with the leftover sauce dumped on top:

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I’ve never tried broiling my meat before, so it turned out tougher than I intened. I prefer my steak to be medium rare – this was probably well done. I did about 4 minutes on each side.

Then some steamed green beans, and I was done! It actually tasted pretty good, if I do say so myself! I might try a little less olive oil next time, but I’ll definately attempt this again.

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Happy Monday!

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Ideas

I have a one track mind. When I get an idea, or want to do something, it tends to stay front and center until its done. I get this way with party planning, a recipe I want to try or an argument I’m having with a friend that didn’t get resolved.

Currently I’m obsessing about an Oscar party I want to have. I know its a month and a half away, but I sent invites to all my friends and spent the morning thinking up recipes that I want to make that relate to the Best Picture Nominees.  I can post my final menu and how it turns out once I’m done, but I think I’m most of the way there already. The hardest two are Zero Dark Thirty and Argo since they mostly take place in the Middle East and I’m not as familiar with the food from there. I did live in Egypt for a while, and have a fondness for their sweets (seriously, the bakery in Maadi I lived near have the best cakes I’ve ever had in my life) but I don’t know how to make any of that myself.

Fortunately, there’s also Life of Pi to consider. Pie. Done.

More on topic, I recently had an irresistible urge to have one of my favorite easy-to-make dishes. Roasted kielbasa and butternut squash. Except, I didn’t have squash or kielbasa at home. So I drove an extra 15 minutes out of the way to Trader Joe’s to pick some squash up. They didn’t have kielbasa though, which brought my excitement level down. Regular sausage works, but kielbasa is just so much better with it. Then, I tried to drive home and it took – no joke- like 45 minutes because of ridiculous commuter trains at 6pm. Rush hour is no joke, even in the suburbs. I was suppose to be at play rehearsal at 7 but I got home at like 6:30 and was starving so I just showed up to my rehearsal at 7:30. The whole thing was silly – I had food at home, and would have gotten home at 5:30 and wouldn’t have been late to rehearsal  But my brain was screaming that it wanted squash and kielbasa.

It was totally worth the effort though. Its literally the easiest dish I make within my lazy paleo perimeters. I buy prechopped butternut squash (from either Trader Joe’s or Standard Market). I buy kielbasa. I put the squash in a 9×9 pan and pour some olive oil and seasoning salt over it. Mix. Chop kielbasa, mix into squash. Put in oven at 450. Take out in 45 minutes to an hour, or when squash is soft. Eat when cooled off.

I love it. I seriously would every week if I didn’t have to make a special trip out to buy the squash. Technically  I could just buy a regular one and chop it myself. But I really really hate dealing with peeling the squash.

 

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