Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Pastry ... yea... its his pastry....

Oh me oh my!!

This is Johnny Iuzzini. Isn’t he handsome? He is the 2006 James Beard Foundation winner for “Outstanding Pastry Chef of the Year”. Wait….you don’t know what that is? What the helz is wrong with you?? It’s the Oscars, Tony’s, Grammy’s and Superbowl all rolled into one for foodies. (Foodie- informal term for a particular class of aficionado of food and drink)

He also released a book called ‘Dessert Fourplay: Sweet Quartets From A Four-Star Pastry Chef’


I think it’s the sweet and innocent look on his face and then BAM …. His arms are tatted up. There’s something to be said about a man that looks like he's all vanilla and then all of the sudden there is wide ribbon of dark chocolate. Sweet, innocent with a dark edge. YUM!

Now, I am by far not a fancy chef. If I was put on Top Chef or Iron Chef I would crumple under the pressure…well maybe not crumple but you would see me leaning against the counter drinking a glass of wine whilst my competitors raced around me. As long as I had my red...all would be fine. But this super hunky chef makes me want to temper some chocolate, puff some pastry and cream some whip. I mean....look at those hands! So steady, so sure, so .... so.... manly!

This....by the way starts my new infatuation with what I like to refer to as "hunky chefs..that should date me."

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Thoughts from my mom

"Let's flip a coin between you girls to see whose wedding your father and I will pay for first."

"Mom...neither one of us has a boyfriend."

Prickly Pear Jam!


Said for my mother's benefit as I fell up the mountain into a cactus while trying to get more prickly pears for the baskets my sisters and I make for our friends.

This was not the first prickly pear gathering that we had tried to do this particular year.
Laura (my sister) and I had stopped outside of Wikenberg on the way up to the mountains. We had all been a touch worried since we hadn't seen any near my parents house so we had decided in our infante wisdom that stopping the car on the side of highway 93 with two small puppies was super smart.

And I personally had decided that picking prickly pears in flip flops in high grass where you can actually see the desert floor was equally intelligent.

This actually wasn't at all smart in any way shape or form.
Laura's puppies freaked out and kept hiding behind her legs since the cars were whizzing by us a mere 10 feet away. Which meet I was gathering the fruit (yes, the red bulbs on the top of the cacti are called fruit) by myself .... in the tall grass .... in flip flops.

Whoa boy! I am a smart one!!

The thing with gathering the fruit from the cacti is that you need to use metal tongs as the juicy fruit is covered in teeny tiny opaque needles. Needles that if you get in you are really hard to get out. As I'm congratulating myself on my ability to gather all this fruit by myself with cars whizzing by, a sudden lull in traffic occurs..... and a very distinctive rattle was suddenly heard.

Picture me, Laura and the puppies running for our lives next to the highway with traffic and hauling a bucket full of fruit covered in needles.

Once we got the fruit to my parents cabin we started the hard part, de-needling the prickly pears.

This means that they needed to be boiled and boiled and boiled and boiled and boiled.
To do this, we hooked up the propane tank and a the pot we use to deep fry turkey.
after that, we had to
strain and strain and strain and strain and strain and strain
the softened fruit.
We broke down the fruit and then used a dish towel that we ran the juice through several times.
Whatever you do ...

the juice to hasten the straining. You will get those super fun needles in your jam ... and then on your toast .... and into your mouth!


The first time we did this process we only yielded about half a quart of juice.
Enough to make only 12 jars tiny of jam.
Which is why we then went off to see if there was maybe possibly a few prickly pears left on the mountain.

There is apparently a difference in elevation (silly us). Which resulted in a longer life for the fruit. Hmmm.... I guess the highway adventure was not really needed.

Instead climbing mountains to find fruit would have been "easier". I mean, we did all fall in cactus.
But the juice from the prickly pears from the mountain was amazing!

Yes, this jam requires a lot of work. But oh man.....
This jam is so totally worth it!!

The recipie is for after you have done the juicing.

What you need:
1 package pectin
2 1/2 cups prickly pear juice
3 tbl lemon juice
3 1/2 cups sugar

What you do:
Combine pectin and prickly pear juice and bring to a hard boil
Add sugar and lemon juice and bring to a hard boil again
Boil 3 more minutes, wait until the mixture is glossy
Remove from heat and and skim the foam
Pour into prepared jars and before you seal make sure that that the glass is clean
Put on the lid and rings, make sure the jar 'pops'
Let cool

If you cant wait to try the jam, you can always eat the foam. It becomes kind of gelatinous and is really good.

If you want help....... you'll have to call my Mom or my aunt Mary Ellen.

New Design!

Welcome to the new and improved website! Thanks to my little sister who is a media genius and helped me update this rusty ole’ thing to something much more visually appealing!

Heidi was kind enough to update this into something much prettier. I still use a spiral day-planner for my week instead of the nifty calendar on my phone, that's how technologically handicapped I am. Heidi was sweet enough to take time to make this more visually appealing. She worked hard while I enjoyed a cup of joe in my pj's at my parents cabin.

Thanks lil' sister!
Now please teach me picnic.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Thoughts from my mom

“We’re going to go up there and flirt with all the college boys!”

“Oh good! You’re going to go be a cougar! Rar!!”

“Mom, I’m not that old”

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Quick Ratatouille, comfort food

Well folks, on those days when life seems like it's just tough and the men are all thick and stupid, this is the dish to reach for. Its supper easy and supper yummy. It helps cure the knot in your stomach cause he didn't call and is apparently a huge moron.

Things you need:
3 cloves crushed garlic
1 med eggplant, halved and sliced crosswise (half-circles)
3 med zucchini, sliced
2 cups mushrooms, sliced
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 can stewed tomatoes
1/2 c red wine
1 Tbl Olive Oil

Heat olive oil in the dutch oven. This one is my sister's, she got it for Christmas and was nice enough to let me try it out! Once the oil is heated add the garlic and thyme and Sauté. I really love the frozen garlic that I bought from Trader Joes. When I'm in a hurry it makes this faster and easier!

Pour the wine into the pan and stir. YUM!
If your using eggplant add them and the squash. I don't like the texture of eggplant so I don't use it. Stir to coat all the veggies and the add the tomatoes. Let this delicious joy simmer until the squash is tender.

Add mushrooms and let simmer until cooked.

When you plate, add cheese. It makes it even gooeyer and yummier! See easy and once you eat it you will taste how super comforting it is.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Roasted Veggies and Chicken Salad

Personally, I LOVE veggies!! I'm pretty sure it comes from having a huge garden which my mom worked tirelessly in to grow organic, delicious veggies in as I grew up. I personally am not able to keep a cactus alive but hopefully one day will be able to semi create the same magical feel that I had in her garden in my own. Until then, thank goodness for the local farmers market!!

This is a nice, quick dinner to whip up when I want something that's light. The original recipe is one that was in an inStyle magazine in 2003. The marinade is light and delicious. And since the lemon tree in the backyard (which, thank goodness is watered by a timer) has started to yield fruit, I wanted to pull this out!

I recommend following the steps for marinating your food first since both have to sit for about 30 minutes to soak in the yummy flavors. This is the perfect time to pour yourself a cup or glass of whatever weeknight goodness you like after a hard day. Since I don't drink on weeknights, for me its a glass of sparkling water with a lemon. I swear I'm not pretentious!! Now if its a weekend....pour yourself the rest of the white wine and sit back to wait while the flavors meld together! Then you can go ahead and roast the veggies and chicken.

This will make enough for 10 people.

Things you need:
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup white wine
1 tbsp chopped fresh oregano (or basil, I love basil!!)
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tsp sugar

Marinate your Dinner!!
Mix all ingredients in a glass jar with a tight fitting lid. Since I'm huge on recycling, I kept an old glass salad dressing jar and it works perfect when I make marinades. Shake really well.

Maybe dance around the kitchen and sing a bit while you do this. May I suggest something from gLee? Perhaps their version of 'Forget You'?

Chicken Deliciousness

2 1/2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breast
salt and pepper

Cut the chicken into strips, season with salt and pepper and place in plastic tupperware. Pour the marinade over the chicken. Allow it to sit for 20 min.

Marinade for Veggies
1 cup olive oil
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
2 cloves of garlic minced
1 tsp dried Italian seasonings

Throw all ingredients in a glass jar with a tight fitting lid and mix well. Dance again.

3 zucchini
2 yellow squash, cut length wise
2 red bell peppers, seeded and cut in strips
2 eggplants
2 bunches of asparagus

This is where you can indulge your creative side. The veggies listed are a suggestion. I usually don't use eggplant because I don't really like the texture in my mouth. Instead, I throw in some red onion or broccoli or carrots. Anything that you like!! Place your choice of veggies in a roasting pan and pour the marinade over the veggies BUT save 1/4 of a cup of the marinade. Toss the veggies with tongs and set aside for 30 min.

Lets Roast!

Heat the oven to 450F and line two baking dishes with foil. One is for the chicken and the other is for the veggies.

Pour the extra marinade off the veggies and season with salt and pepper. Arrange so that they are in one layer and roast until tender. The veggies have to roast longer. The original recipe advises to roast each type of veggie separately but I'm lazy so I do it all together. But if you do this some of your veggies will softer than others as each takes a different amount of time to cook. If you want the conformity you can bake each type of veggie separately.

Heat the oven to 450F and line a baking dish with foil. Pull the chicken strips out of the container with tongs and place on the foil, discard the marinade from the container. Bake for 8-10 min until cooked all the way through.

Toss 2 bunches of arugula and 1 head of romaine lettuce with the remaining marinade. Arrange the veggies and chicken on a plate and enjoy!!

A vision board for the new year...

Have you heard of a vision board? I had but hadn't really done one until this past year at work. I wasn't so sure about at first, it seemed a little too "hooky-pookey- new-age-find-yourself" but once I got started I had a TON of fun!!

The whole idea is based on 'The Law of Attraction' which says that anything we give attention to in our lives we will attract, and it can be both positive or negative. I know, I know, pretty feng shui type stuff. But when I really think about it, I do tend to get whatever it is that I put my mind to or that I really really want. So does this mean that when I really want something I am able to get it through simple hard work or sheer determination, or is that I am attracting those opportunities via some great unseen new age energy of the universe?

I'll tell you something, when I was younger all I wanted to do was be in the entertainment industry. It was something I wanted so badly I could taste it. Have you ever had something like that? Something you want so badly you could feel it in the makeup of your DNA? That you dreamed about it so often it was your reality? It was really the only goal that I ever had. A few years after high school I moved to CA and started to work towards that goal but took a detour when I decided that instead of this goal, I was only to move to Oklahoma to follow a boy. Silly, I know. Once I got back on track, lost the boy and moved back to AZ I was laid off from job. Man! Tough break, right? No. I was volunteering for a film festival and started talking with a woman who lived in LA and worked for movie studio. I talked my way into her giving me job which I did until I decided that maybe that I needed to get my degree.
At which point I was promptly able to get a job back in AZ...working for a college...where I can get my degree.

Now, is this just my ability to get what I want? Or do I attract what I want because of some sort of law of attraction? I'm not sure. But what I do know is, I'm not taking any chances. All hail the new year and my new vision board!!

What do you think?

White Chocolate Cupcakes

One of the gals at work got married this past weekend. Because it was so close to the holidays, as a group we decided to throw her a work party after the wedding. I got so excited to take on the challenge of throwing her a work party! I knew I wanted to do cupcakes because when you do something at work its much easier and faster to have cake in cup. And honestly ... .who doesn't love cake??!!? When I asked her if she wanted chocolate or vanilla she responded 'white chocolate' and I went 'YAY! Something new!!'

I searched and searched and found the perfect recipe.

White Chocolate Cupcakes

For the cakes:

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
8 ounces high-quality white chocolate, chopped bar or chips
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
5 large egg whites

For the frosting:

6 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
4 1/2 ounces high-quality white chocolate, chopped bar or chips
Up to 2/3 cup confectioners' sugar, to taste (see note)

Position an oven rack to the center of the oven and preheat it to 350 degrees. Line two 12-cup muffin tins with paper liners, 12 in one and 6 in the other.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter, sugar and vanilla until very light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

Melt the white chocolate in a double boiler. When it's just warm to the touch, stir it into the butter mixture on low speed, just until combined--it may separate a bit, but it will come back together. With the mixer on low, alternate adding the flour mixture and the coconut milk in three batches until well-blended. Transfer the batter to a medium bowl.

Clean and dry the bowl of the mixer. Whip the egg whites on medium high speed until they reach soft peaks, about 4 minutes. Gently fold the egg whites into the batter in three additions.

Fill the muffin cups no more than 3/4 of the way full with the batter. Bake one tin at a time until a toothpick just comes out clean and the tops spring back when lightly touched, about 20 minutes. Invert the cupcakes onto a cooling rack, then turn them right side up and let them cool completely.

To make the frosting, beat the cream cheese, butter, vanilla and salt together until light and smooth. Melt the white chocolate in a double boiler and cool until it is just warm to the touch. Scrape the white chocolate into the cream cheese mixture and beat to combine. Taste the icing and check the texture--if you like your icing sweeter and with a bit more body, add in some confectioners' sugar. If the frosting is too soft to spread, refrigerate it for about 20 minutes and then whip it for 30 seconds before using. Ice the cupcakes generously and decorate as you wish.

The iced cupcakes can be kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days

Link to original recipe

Saturday, January 1, 2011

An Old Standby in a New Way

I was asked by someone at work to be part of their Christmas cookie exchange. She said it was because (and this is a direct quote) "I'm going to make something great. You make great cookies and I don't want just the broke ass cookies that some people might make."

So to keep my reputation pristine and provide something that would knock their socks off, I searched and searched. Finally finding something in the December issue of Food and Wine that fit what I was looking for.

My sister Laura and our good friend Randi (who I prefer to call Randizzle, cause she's the human equivalent to sparkles) came over and I hoodwinkned both of them into taking pictures while I made these. I poured some wine and started on the project

Peanut Butter Filling

1. 7 1/2 ounces white chocolate, chopped
2. 1/4 cup heavy cream
3. 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
4. 3/4 cup smooth peanut butter
5. 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Chocolate Cups

1. 1 1/2 pounds bittersweet chocolate, chopped and tempered (see Note)
2. Fifty 1 1/4-inch-wide, sturdy foil cups
3. 2/3 cup seedless raspberry jam
4. Maldon salt, for garnish

1. MAKE THE FILLING: In a microwave-safe bowl, microwave the white chocolate in 20-second bursts until softened. In a small saucepan, bring the cream and corn syrup to a simmer; stir the cream mixture into the white chocolate. Stir in the peanut butter and salt. Transfer the filling to a piping bag fitted with a medium tip.

2. MAKE THE CHOCOLATE CUPS: Spoon the tempered chocolate into a piping bag fitted with a small tip. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set half of the foil cups on the sheet and fill them with chocolate. Tilt the cups to coat them completely, then pour the excess chocolate into a bowl. Turn the coated cups upside down on the baking sheet and let stand for 30 seconds; turn the cups right side up and let stand until the chocolate is firm, about 10 minutes. Repeat to make the remaining chocolate cups.

3. Half-fill the cups with the peanut butter. Spoon a rounded 1/2 teaspoon of jam over the filling. Pipe chocolate on top of the jam; tap gently to level the chocolate. Top with a few flakes of Maldon salt. Let stand until set, about 15 minutes. Store for up to 1 week.

Taste Test....

These are AMAZING! The white chocolate cuts the peanut butter and makes it a touch sweeter with a lovely depth of flavor.

I should have used a mini muffin pan but I used a regular one. which pretty much created crack in a cup. I ate a whole one. I couldn't stop, I even thought "Oh, this is big. I'll just have a bite." But once I got started I couldn't stop!!

15 min later I was like the tasmanian devil! I could feel the energy running through my veins! It was nuts! The lack of ability to concentrate on anything was totaly worth it though~

(link to Food and Wine recipe)

Happy New Year!!

Yay!! Happy New Year!

This past year has gone by so quickly! Its been a busy year with many changes and new experiences. I made several resolutions in that half assed manner that people usually do,
like promising to lose weight, be more fiscally responsible, stop procrastinating...etc. All those well intentioned personal goals that I seem to make every year.

But this morning I woke up, went shopping, didn't do the homework that's due on Monday and chose to go to dinner with friends instead. And you know what? It was a super awesome fun day. One goal that I will for sure, no matter what, start doing? I will blog more and I will finish the book that my sister and I are writing.

So, to sum up ... this year I will

Write More

Whew....that's going to be soo hard. How ever will I do that?
(hee hee)

The one big thing that I will do?
I will be more open to new experiences! I really will! Life is so fast and concentrating on the future sooo much keeps me from enjoying the present.
So, I'm going to enjoy the present right now by drinking this lovely glass of wine and digging into a homemade peanut butter and jelly chocolate cup.
Tomorrow, I'll blog the recipe.

Good night friends and welcome to 2011!