Sunday, December 29, 2013

Back to Basics: French Toast

For years, I served as my dad's sous chef. He taught me almost everything I know about cooking, and he inspired my love of food.  Nowadays, there are few things my dad will willingly admit I cook better than he does.

However, this French Toast recipe is an exception. My dad and my siblings request this recipe every time I come home.  The vanilla and sugar in the recipe lends a slight sweetness to the French Toast, but it is not overwhelming or cloying.  

Buy yourself some challah, invite your friends or family over for brunch, and impress them with this recipe that is ready in under 15 minutes!

Challah French Toast
Adapted from The Best Recipe Cookbook
Makes 4-5 slices

1 large egg
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus extra for frying
3/4 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
Dash of ground cinnamon
4-5 slices of day old challah, 3/4 inch thick

Heat 10- to 12-inch skillet over medium heat for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, beat egg lightly in shallow pan or pie plate.  Whisk in butter, then milk and vanilla, and finally sugar, flour, salt, and cinnamon.  Whisk until smooth.

Soak bread in the egg mixture (but try not to oversaturate!) for about 40 seconds on each side.  Swirl 1 tablespoon butter into the hot pan.

Pick up bread from the egg mixture, and allow extra mixture to drip off.  

Place the prepared bread in the skilled, and cook until golden brown (about 1 minute and 45 seconds on the first side, and about 1 minute on the other side).  Serve immediately!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Home for the Holidays

I flew home to San Diego late last night, and I am so excited for a week full of the four F's: friends, family, football (GO CARDINAL!), and of course, food.

My sister has recently become obsessed with eggs.  I am actually quite happy with this, because she spent years refusing to eat any sort of eggs.  Today, she had a hankering for deviled eggs, so she and I whipped up a quick batch of them.  These are a perfect appetizer or snack--so easy to make, especially if you have hard-boiled eggs lying around in your refrigerator.  The recipe below is for traditional deviled eggs, but feel free to add in whatever herbs you like!  The possibilities are endless--curry, anchovies, capers, tarragon, etc.  

I have also included a recipe for hard-boiled eggs.  Hard-boiled eggs should never ever have gray yolks.  

Deviled Eggs

From Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything"
Serves 6

6 hard-boiled eggs
Salt to taste
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Paprika, as a garnish

  1. Cool, then peel the eggs.  Cut them in half the long way.  Carefully place the yolks in a medium sized bowl. 
  2. Mash the yolks with the salt, mayonnaise, mustard, and cayenne.  Taste, and adjust the seasoning to your preference.  Spoon the filling back into the whites. 
  3. Garnish with paprika and serve, or cover and chill, well wrapped, for up to a day before serving.

Hard-Boiled Eggs

Makes 6 eggs

Six eggs
Place six eggs in a medium saucepan, and fill up the pan until the water rises one inch above the eggs. 

Bring the eggs to a boil over high heat.  Remove pan from heat, cover, and let sit for 10 minutes.  

Meanwhile, fill a medium bowl with one quart of water, and one tray of ice cubes. 

Transfer the eggs to the ice water with a slotted spoon.  Let the eggs sit in the ice water for five minutes.
Peel the eggs and used as desired.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Grilled Sandwiches

Like a lot of people, I have a 40+ hour a week job, which means I often come home late or do not have the time to make an elaborate dinner every night.  Not being one to sacrifice taste for convenience, I really dislike frozen meals or ready-made soups that often leave me feeling a little bit disheartened after eating them.  My latest go-to quick meal has been a grilled sandwich and side salad.

Below is my one of my favorite grilled sandwich combinations--turkey, Gruyere cheese, apple slices, sautéed onions, and Dijon mustard.  Feel free to use whatever cheese and toppings you like though! Another favorite is pesto + Parmesan + turkey.

Grilled Turkey Sandwich
Makes 1 sandwich

2 tablespoons of butter
1/2 onion, chopped
2 slices of bread of choice (I like whole wheat, but choose whatever you like)
Dijon mustard
2 slices of deli turkey
Thinly cut slices of Gruyere cheese
1 Fuji, Honeycrisp, or Gala apple, cut into slices no more than 1/2 inch thick (As you can tell from the pictures, I cut my apple slices a little too thick!)
Sometimes, you got to be a little bit creative. 
  1. Heat a medium-sized fry pan over medium heat on the stove.  Add 1 tablespoon of butter.  When butter melts, add in chopped onions.
  2. Stir onions every once in a while until they turn brown (about 10-15 minutes). Remove onions from the pan.
  3. Swipe one side of each slice of bread with mustard.  Then build your sandwich,  adding the turkey, caramelized onions, apples, and then cheese to your sandwich.  
  4. Place fry pan on the stove, and begin heating the pan on medium heat.
  5. Coat one of the outer sides of bread with butter.  Place the sandwich buttered-side down on the pan.
  6. Now, you need to apply pressure to the sandwich in order to get a golden brown and crispy exterior.  I often place a plate on top of my sandwich to add pressure, as seen in the picture.
  7. When the bottom of the sandwich is brown and crispy (about 5 minutes), add butter to the top piece of bread, then flip the sandwich.
  8. Continue cooking until the other side of the sandwich is golden and crispy (about 5 minutes).

    Friday, December 20, 2013

    Back to Basics: Marinara Sauce

    Happy Friday!  Hope you all are having a fabulous start to the holiday weekend!  I had a crazy week at work with two client meetings, but I managed to get out of the office a little bit early today.  I got so many errands done between 3pm and 5pm--mailing holiday gifts, getting renters' insurance, shopping for more holiday gifts, and then working out.  I felt accomplished--especially after a week of staying late at the office.

    I wanted a cozy night in after finishing all my errands, especially because I have holiday parties and other events throughout the weekend.  Pasta, particularly pasta with marinara sauce, is an ultimate comfort food for me.

    Every person should know how to make a marinara sauce.  It is so easy to do, yet it throughly impresses people when you can whip ups some homemade marinara instead of relying on Prego, Trader Joe's or some other store bought brand. This recipe is my favorite because: it is ready in under 45 minutes, requires opening up a bottle of red wine (which means you just must have a glass or two with dinner), is vegetarian, and freezes nicely.

    I added roasted garlic chicken sausage from Trader Joe's to the sauce when I added in the canned tomatoes, parsley, salt, and black pepper.  It's a great way to add some protein in!

    Marinara Sauce
    from Ina Garten (makes 6 servings)

    1 tablespoon olive oil
    1 cup chopped yellow onion
    1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
    1/2 cup good red wine, like Chianti
    1 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
    1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
    1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
    1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

    1. Heat the olive oil in a large (at least 12-inch) skillet.  Add the onion and sautė over medium heat until translucent (basically, move the onions around in the pan every once in a while).  This should take 5-10 minutes.
    2. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more.
    3. Add the wine and cook on high heat, scraping up all the brown bits in the pan, until almost all the liquid evaporates, about 3 minutes. 
    4. Stir in the tomatoes, parsley, salt, and pepper.  Cover, and simmer on the lowest heat for 15 minutes.

    Friday, December 13, 2013

    The Good Wife & La Bonne Femme

    I rarely watch TV.  I watch Modern Family and Downton Abbey, but that's it.  And then my sister mentioned over Thanksgiving break that I should check out The Good Wife.  

    I have now watched fourteen episodes in one week, and I love it.  The plot is loosely based off of the Eliot Spitzer scandal a few years back, but focuses on a cheating politician's life after the scandal.  If you haven't watched it yet, I highly suggest doing so. 

    I also highly suggest you make the chicken recipe below.  I found this recipe for chicken with white wine sauce from a cookbook my dad recently bought me called The Bonne Femme Cookbook.  The cookbook focuses on simple, elegant French fare that many women in France excel at.  Bonne femme  literally means the good wife, but the French use it to describe a manner of cooking that is very popular with French women today--seasonal, fresh, straightforward, and elegant.  The recipe below is easy enough to make for a weeknight dinner, but fancy enough to serve your parents, a date, or anyone else you are trying to impress.

    Any Day Chicken Sauté
    From The Bonne Femme Cookbook

    4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
    Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
    3 tablespoons unsalted butter
    2 tablespoons snipped fresh parsley, chives, or chevril (I actually used thyme here instead, and it was delicious as well!)
    1 large shallot, finely chopped
    3/4 cup low sodium chicken broth
    3/4 cup dry white wine
    1 tablespoon heavy cream (totally optional--I didn't use it!)

    1. Place the chicken breasts, one at a time, between two sheets of plastic wrap and pound to 1/4 inch thickness.  
    2. In a large skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium-high heat.  Add the chicken and cook, turning once, until no longer pink inside, 6 to 8 minutes.  Transfer the chicken to a platter, sprinkle with herbs, and cover with foil to keep warm.
    3. Add the shallot to the pan and sauté briefly, until translucent.  Add the chicken broth and white wine to the pan.  Stir with a whisk to loosen any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.  Bring to a boil and boil until the liquid is reduced to about 1/2 cup.  Whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons butter, 1 tablespoon at a time.  If you like, add the cream.  Cook the sauce to the desire consistency, and season with salt and pepper.  Spoon the sauce over the chicken and serve! 

    Monday, December 9, 2013

    Almond Toffee

    I decided that this year, I was going to send cute holiday cards to my friends.  It made sense at the time-I wanted to make sure my friends and family had my new address here in Washington, DC.  And of course, because I am some sort of overachieving masochist, I decided it would be cute to include little bags of homemade toffee.

    Waiting patiently for the toffee to cool down

    I have made close to five batches of toffee, and I still have 20 people on my holiday mailing list.  I really should have just sent cards, without the toffee.  My annoyance has nothing to do with the toffee recipe, rather just the sheer number of people I thought I could manage to send cards and candy to.  

    This recipe is simple, delicious, and leaves my house smelling like melted butter and sugar.  I love adding this toffee to my ice cream, cookies, and other treats.  

    My only advice: don't make enough for 30 people.  Just send cards--and save the toffee for yourself!
    And a beautiful close up...

    Almond Toffee from Bi-Rite Creamery
    Makes about 4 cups chopped toffee

    Nonstick cooking spray
    1 cup (8 ounces) unsalted butter
    3/4 cup sugar
    1/4 cup tapioca or corn syrup
    3 tablespoons water
    1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
    1 cup toasted slivered almonds

    1. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper, and spray with the nonstick cooking spray.
    2. Combine butter, sugar, tapioca syrup, water, and salt in a medium saucepan and attach a candy thermometer.  Put the pan over medium heat and cook, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon.  When the mixture reaches 300 degrees Fahrenheit, remove from heat.  The toffee should be dark amber in color.
    3. Stir in the toasted almonds. 
    4. Pour the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet, and use a heatproof spatula to spread it out to 1/4 inch thickness.  Be very careful--the toffee is hot!
    5. Let the toffee cool for about an hour. If the toffee looks too greasy after cooling, blot the toffee with a paper towel.  Break or chop the toffee into chunks.
    The toffee can be stored in an airtight container for a couple weeks.  

    Toasted Almonds
    To toast almonds, spear out the nuts on a rimmed baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until golden and aromatic.  Whole nuts can take up to 15 minutes, while chopped nuts often take 5-10 minutes.  When the nuts are done, immediately pour them into a Pyrex bowl, and let them cool until you are ready to use them.  

    Thursday, November 28, 2013

    Thanksgiving with Ginger Candied Carrots

    I hope you all had a wonderful day filled with family, laughter, and of course, delicious food!  There is so much to be thankful for that a one-day celebration does not seem to be enough.  Today, I am most thankful for being able to celebrate this holiday with a lot of food on the table and the people I love next to me.  

    I spent most of the day cooking and cleaning before our guests arrived at 4pm.  While my dad was in charge of the turkey, I led the charge on side dishes.  We had a vegetarian dining with us this year, so we really tried to amp up our side dish offerings so she had plenty to eat.  

    My sister specifically requested this Ginger Candied Carrots recipe.  The festive orange carrots and gingery sauce lend itself to a unique side dish that eaters of all ages will love.  My dad made these for us when we were kids, and they are still our favorite today!

    Ginger Candied Carrots
    From The Silver Palate Cookbook
    Serves 6 

    12 medium-size carrots, peeled, and cut into 1-inch lengths
    4 tablespoons butter
    1/4 cup brown sugar
    1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
    1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds

    1. Place carrot pieces in a saucepan and add cold water to cover.  Cook carrots until tender, 25-30 minutes.  
    2. Melt butter in a small saucepan.  Add brown sugar, ginger, and caraway seeds. Mix and set aside. 
    3. When carrots are done, drain and return to the pot.  Pour butter mixture over them and cook over low heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
    4. Transfer to a serving dish and serve immediately. 

    Friday, November 22, 2013

    Back to Basics: Chocolate Chip Cookies

    I was bored after work yesterday, so I baked cookies.  That's a totally normal thing to do, right?  I had a long list of things I need to do--answer emails, paint my badly chipped nails, order Chanukkah presents for my family, watch Modern Family--but last night I decided that baking chocolate chip cookies was much more important.  

    I take chocolate chip cookies very seriously.  If I am going to spend the time baking cookies (and the calories eating them), the cookies better be delicious.  There are a lot of different recipes out there, including ones that make you wait a whole 24 hours before you can even bake them.  I have tried dozens of recipes over the years, but this Cook's Illustrated recipe below is my all-time favorite.  They produce a perfect cookie with crispy edges, and a soft chewy center.  These are totally worth the calories, and they are so easy to make on a weeknight.  

    This recipe calls for browned butter, which adds a much deeper toffee flavor.  I suggest using a lighter colored pan to cook the butter in--I always have difficulty judging the color of browned butter in a dark non-stick pan!

    Cook's Illustrated Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies
    Makes 16 cookies

    1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    14 tablespoons butter
    1/2 cup granulated sugar
    3/4 cup brown sugar (try to use unopened brown sugar if possible)
    1 teaspoon table salt
    2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    1 large egg
    1 egg yolk
    1 1/4 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips or chunks (Guittard is my favorite brand)

    1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.
    2. Heat 10 tablespoons butter in 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking, swirling pan constantly until butter is dark golden brown and has nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and, using heatproof spatula, transfer browned butter to large heatproof bowl. Stir remaining 4 tablespoons butter into hot butter until completely melted.
    3. Add both sugars, salt and vanilla to bowl with butter and whisk until fully incorporated. Add egg and yolk and whisk until mixture is smooth with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds. Let mixture stand for 3 minutes, then whisk for 30 seconds. Repeat process of resting and whisking 2 more times until mixture is thick, smooth and shiny. Using rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture until just combined, about 1 minute. Stir in chocolate chips, giving dough final stir to ensure no flour pockets remain.
    4. Divide dough into 16 portions, each about 3 tablespoons (or use a #24 cookie scoop). Arrange 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets, 8 dough balls per sheet.
    5. Bake cookies 1 tray at a time until cookies are golden brown and still puffy, and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft, 10-14 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack; cool cookies completely before serving.  

    Monday, November 18, 2013

    Back to Basics: Perfect Scrambled Eggs for One

    My boyfriend and I are trying the whole long-distance thing.  He lives out in the Bay Area, and I am now a Washington DC resident.  Most days, it's manageable;  I go out with my girlfriends, stay late at work when I need to, and spend a weekend every month with my boyfriend.  

    And then there are days like this past Saturday, where all I wanted to do was eat breakfast in bed with my boyfriend.  Instead, I was sitting at the breakfast table by myself, eating scrambled eggs for one.  

    Scrambled eggs seem so simple, yet there are so many ways to mess it up.  Too rubbery, too firm, burnt, undercooked--the list of scrambled egg sins is pretty long.  I wanted a perfect scrambled egg that would leave me with big, fluffy curds to pile on top of my buttered toast.  This Cook's Illustrated recipe does just that, and it's easy to follow.

    Scrambled Eggs
    One Serving

    2 eggs, plus one yolk
    1 tbsp half and half
    Salt to taste
    Pepper to taste
    1/4 tbsp butter

    1. Whisk eggs, half-and-half, salt, and pepper, in a bowl until they are combined and a pale yellow.  Don't over whisk!
    2. Melt butter in a small pan over medium-high heat, until the butter is no longer foaming.
    3. Add egg mixture to the pan, and constantly scrape the bottom of the pan using a rubber spatula. Once the eggs begin to clump, and the spatula leaves a trail (30-60 seconds), turn down the heat to low.
    4. Gently continue scraping the pan for 30-60 seconds longer.  Eggs will be done when they are clumped, but still wet.  Eat immediately!

    Saturday, November 16, 2013

    Pumpkin Spice & Everything Nice

    I am not a pumpkin pie fan.  I don't drink pumpkin spice lattes.  My family would make a pumpkin pie each Thanksgiving, but it was typically an afterthought. Compared to the apple pie my family spent laboring over, the pumpkin pie never stood a chance.  

    This pumpkin spice cake recipe turned me into a pumpkin fan.  In fact, it turned my whole family into pumpkin fans. Be warned though--you'll want to make two of these because the recipe is easy! 

    Pumpkin Spice Cake:
    From Cake Mix Doctor's Cookbook

    1 box spice cake mix
    1 3.4 oz box of vanilla pudding mix
    1 cup  canned pumpkin
    1/2 cup vegetable oil
    1/2 cup water
    3 large eggs
    1 tsp ground cinnamon
    1/2 tsp ground ginger

    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
    2. Lightly mist a 9X13'' baking dish with vegetable oil spray.
    3. Place all ingredients in a large mixing bowl.  Using an electric handheld mixer, mix on low for 1 minute.  
    4. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.  Increase spread on mixer to medium, and mix batter for two minutes.
    5. When the batter looks thick and well-blended, pour  the batter into the prepared pan.  Smooth the batter with a rubber spatula as necessary.
    6. Bake for 32-26 minutes, or until a toothpick entered into the center of the cake comes out clean. 
    7. Let the cake cool for at least 20 minutes on a wire rack.  When it is completely cool, frost with the buttercream frosting recipe below!

    Buttercream Frosting

    1 stick butter at room temperature
    3 cups confections' sugar
    1/2 tsp vanilla
    1-2 tbsps of milk

    1.  Place butter in a bowl.  Using a hand held mixer, mix on medium until butter is light and fluffy.  
    2. Sift the 3 cups of confectioners sugar, and then add it to the butter.
    3. Add vanilla and one tablespoon of milk to the bowl.  
    4. Mix on medium until combined.  If the frosting is too thick, add more milk.  If the frosting is too runny, add more sugar.

    Sunday, October 27, 2013

    Late Dinner & Lemon Zest 101

    My boyfriend Zachary came out to visit this weekend, and we spent Saturday exploring Alexandria, VA.  There was perfect fall weather-crisp and sunny.  We spent the day drinking coffee, exploring boutiques in Old Town, and walking along the harbor.  Zach and I stopped by Virtue Feed & Grain for some nachos, which were delicious, but left me wanting  a lighter, healthier dinner to recover from the delicious queso covered nachos from earlier in the day.

    I was drawn to this recipe form Bon Appetit's November issue for a few reasons.  First, the bright flavors of the lemon and parsley sounded delicious when contrasted against a more hearty vegetable like cauliflower.  Secondly, I love any roasted vegetable recipe--they are always straightforward and delicious.

    This recipe calls for lemon zest.  Lemon zest is the grated rind of a lemon--the oils in the rind smell and taste delicious, and the zest can add even more lemon flavor than fresh lemon juice can.  I provided some tips on grating a lemon below!

    Roasted Cauliflower with Lemon Parsley Dressing
    from November 2013 Bon Appetit

    2 lb. cauliflower florets
    6 tablespoons olive oil
    Kosher salt 
    Fresh ground black pepper
    1 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
    2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
    1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

    1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
    2. Place cauliflower on a pan.  Toss with 4 tablespoons of olive oil, salt, and pepper.  
    3. Cook in oven for 25-30 minutes, tossing occasionally. Cauliflower should be tender.
    4. When the cauliflower is baking,  pulse parsley, lemon juice, and two tablespoons of olive oil until smooth in a small food processor.  
    5. Season dressing with salt and pepper.
    6. Toss cauliflower with dressing, and then top with lemon zest. 

    Lemon zest tips:  Clean your lemon thoroughly--you don't want wax in your lemon zest!  Using a micro plane or zester, grate the outside of the lemon.  Zest should only include the very top layer of the lemon rind, not the white pith.  Rotate the lemon once you see the pith.  

    Monday, October 21, 2013

    Parisian Hot Chocolate

    There is no excuse for hot cocoa from a mix.  Absolutely none. Hot chocolate is one of the easiest things to make, and homemade hot chocolate tastes so much better than anything from a box.  

    This recipe is for a Parisian hot chocolate.  Using top-notch chocolate is essential to get the thick & rich consistency.  Hot chocolate is also easy to personalize.  Want an even thicker cocoa?  Use whole milk instead of 1%.  My favorite way to personalize this drink is to add a sprinkling of fleur de sel, or salt from Brittany, and whipped cream on top of my hot cocoa.  

    Parisian Hot Chocolate

    1/2 cup 1% milk
    1.25 ounces chopped dark chocolate (I used 70%, but choose whatever type you like)

    1. Heat milk in a small saucepan. 
    2. When the milk is warm, whisk in chopped chocolate.  Whisk every so often until chocolate is dissolved.
    3. Cook on low heat until hot cocoa begins to thicken and is hot.  

    Sunday, October 20, 2013

    A Promise

    Last week, I made Mac & cheese for a friend, with the intention of sharing the recipe with you and telling you about how delicious it was. When I pulled the Mac and cheese out of the oven and took my first bite, I realized that I couldn't share the recipe with you. The recipe, though delicious, wasn't a right fit for this blog.

    I started this blog because I love cooking, and I wanted a way to share my love of cooking with chefs of all skill sets. As much as I love reading food blogs, most blog writers target cooks who have a lot of expertise and a lot of time. I wanted to start a food blog for my friends who just graduated college, started a new job, and have never really cooked.

    Unfortunately, my Mac and cheese from a few nights ago did not live up to those standards. To be featured on this blog, a recipe needs to be relatively straightforward and delicious. My Mac and cheese recipe had too many complicated steps and the result was lack luster. I'd rather post no recipe at all than post a recipe that is too difficult and disappointing.

    And for those of you hoping for a Mac & cheese recipe, don't worry...I'm on the hunt for an easy and tasty recipe!

    Tuesday, October 15, 2013

    Crispy Balsamic Brussels Sprouts

    I have a love/hate relationship with leftovers. Part of me loves the fact that I can cook a delicious meal once, and then eat it the next day and maybe even the day after that. However, I also want to eat fresh food, particularly fresh produce, with my meals. This means I typically end up putting together some easy side dishes when I am reheating my leftovers. In my opinion, there are few vegetable dishes easier than Steamfresh, but these balsamic Brussels sprouts are. I dump all the ingredients on a pan, use my hands to toss, and put them in the oven for 40 minutes. Even though they take a while to cook, they are so easy, and so delicious, that I don't mind the wait. I love the taste of the syrupy balsamic vinegar on the Brussels sprouts, but feel free to just roast the Brussels sprouts plain.

    Crispy Balsamic Brussels Sprouts (makes approximately 2 servings)

    1.5 cups Brussels sprouts
    2 tablespoons olive oil
    3/4 teaspoon salt
    1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
    1.5 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

    Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

    Cut off the brown ends of the Brussels sprouts. Pull off any yellow leaves.  Cut the Brussels sprouts in half.  Place the sprouts on a baking sheets.

    Pour the olive oil, salt, and pepper over the sprouts.  Toss with your hands to evenly coat.

    Place Brussels sprouts in the oven for 30 minutes.  Periodically toss to ensure even cooking. 

    After 30 minutes, pour balsamic vinegar over the Brussels sprouts.  Toss with a spatula.

    Continue cooking for 10 more minutes or until Brussels sprouts are crispy.  Enjoy!

    Sunday, October 13, 2013

    Brown Sugar Cookies

    I love chocolate chip cookies because of their rich toffee taste and chocolate chunks.  This cookie takes that toffee flavor and makes it the sole focus.  When I saw the recipe in Cook's Illustrated, I knew it would be a winner.

    What I love even more about this cookie though is that you are always likely to have the ingredients on hand.  This recipe calls for ordinary ingredients, but the cookies are anything but ordinary.  This is the cookie I'm going to reach for when it is late at night, and I just need a warm cookie and a glass of milk.  

    Brown Sugar Cookies
    Adapted from Cook's Illustrated

    14 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 3/4 sticks)
    1/4 cup granulated sugar
    2 cups packed brown sugar (the fresher, the better)
    2 cups and 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    1/4 teaspoon baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1 large egg
    1 large egg yolk
    1 tablespoon vanilla extract

    1. In a skillet, heat 10 tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat until melted.  Then, continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the butter is golden brown and has a nutty aroma (about 2-3 minutes).  I recommend using a lighter colored pan so that you can easily see the butter.
    2. Remove skillet from heat and pour the browned butter into a heat-proof bowl.  Stir in remaining four tablespoons of butter until completely melted. Let stand for 15 minutes.
    3. Adjust oven rack to middle position, and heat over to 350 degrees.
    4. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper, Silpat, or coat them with butter.  
    5. In a shallow bowl, combine 1/4 cup of packed brown sugar and the granulated sugar.  Toss with your hands until well combined.  
    6. In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and baking powder.  
    7. Add remaining brown sugar (1 3/4 of a cup) and salt to the melted butter.  Mix using an electronic mixer (either hand-held or standing) on low speed until no clumps remain.
    8. Scrape down the bowl with a spatula and add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla. Mix on low.
    9. Add flour mixture, and then mix on medium-low speed until the flour is combined into the dough.  To make sure there is no excess flour, use a spatula to stir the dough one last time.
    10. Spoon the dough into balls roughly 1 1/2 inches in diameter (about two tablespoons), and use your hands to shape them into a ball.  
    11. Roll the dough in the sugar mixture.  
    12. You should have roughly 24 cookies, with 12 cookies on each cookie sheet.  
    13. Bake the sheets one at a time for 12-14 minutes.  Rotate the sheet at the 6 minute mark.  
    14. The edges of the cookies should have set, but the centers should still be puffy.  Let the cookies cool on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to completely cool. 

    Tuesday, September 17, 2013

    Back to Basics: Quinoa

    Just a few years ago, no one could pronounce 'quinoa' correctly.  Now, it is a increasing staple in people's diets. For me, it's a perfect basic--quick and easy to make, but lots of great uses. I serve it as a side at dinner, I add it into my salad, I even turn it into a hot cereal.

    Below is my basic recipe for quinoa, but there are lots of ways you can dress it up:

    • Quickly sauté shallots, garlic, etc before adding in quinoa. 
    • Add fresh herbs, toasted nuts, or dried fruit to your finished quinoa.
    • Toss your quinoa in a light dressing of olive oil and lemon juice.
    I'm eating my quinoa tomorrow in a salad with arugula, peaches, goat cheese, and balsamic vinegar. 

    Quinoa Recipe:

    1 cup dry quinoa
    1 cup water
    1 cup chicken broth

    1.  Rinse quinoa off under cold water with a fine mesh strainer.
    2. Add quinoa, water, and chicken broth in a saucepan.
    3.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to medium.
    4.  Simmer for 15 minutes.
    5.  Drain quinoa (you can reuse your fine mesh strainer).
    6.  Return quinoa to the hot pan, cover, and let it rest for 15 minutes.  

    Perfect fluffy quinoa.  

    Sunday, September 15, 2013

    The New Normal

    I moved across the country. I started a new job. I lived out of two suitcases for five weeks. I moved into a new house.  I spent seven hours putting together furniture from Ikea. I made countless Target trips. I unpacked eight boxes (thanks Dad!). And finally, after six weeks, I feel settled.

    I now have groceries, cookware, and plenty of time to cook dinner. And, at 3pm this afternoon, I had a craving for peanut sauce and noodles.  

    By 7:30 pm, I was sitting in my kitchen with a big bowl of steaming noodles, gingery peanut sauce, grilled chicken, and matchstick vegetables.  

    Please note: you will want to make extra of this recipe so that you can have delicious left overs later in the week for lunch. 

    Whole Wheat Pasta with Peanut Sauce and Chicken

    2 chicken breasts
    1 tablespoon olive oil
    Black pepper
    8 oz. whole wheat spaghetti

    Peanut Sauce
    3 tablespoons creamy, all-natural peanut butter
    3 tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce
    2 tablespoons minced ginger
    2 tablespoons minced garlic
    Juice from 1 lime
    1 tablespoon rice vinegar
    1/2 cup of reduced sodium chicken broth

    Matchstick vegetables (I prefer bell peppers, carrots, and cucumbers)

    1.  Season chicken breasts with black pepper on both sides of the chicken breasts.  
    2.  Heat pan on medium, and add olive oil.
    3.  Once pan is hot, place chicken breasts in pan.  
    4.  Cook chicken on one side until bottom is well-browned, and more than half of the chicken is white and firm.  Also, fill a pot with water and place on high heat for the pasta.  
    5.  Flip chicken, and continue to cook until done (there should be no more pink in the chicken).
    6.  Move chicken to a cutting board and lightly cover with foil. 
    7.  When the pot of water is at a rolling boil, add the pasta.
    8.  In the pan from the chicken, add all ingredients for the peanut sauce and cook on medium.
    9.  Stir peanut sauce occasionally.  
    10.  When the noodles are done, add then to the pan with the peanut sauce.  
    11.  Slice the chicken breasts and add them to the pasta.  
    12.  Stir until well-mixed.
    13.  Serve the pasta in bowls.  Add matchstick vegetables of your choice.  Add a little Sriracha.  Enjoy.

    Hope you all had a relaxing weekend!

    Friday, July 12, 2013

    Summer Beers

    Summer Beers

    With summer in full swing, I have been reaching for a beer at dinner to help beat the heat.  Allagash White is a light, Belgian-style wheat ale that I particularly enjoy in the late afternoon before dinner.  Anderson Valley's Summer Solstice is my favorite summer beer, and I recently converted my father and brother over as well.  It has strong caramel notes, and as one friend says, "it tastes like a chocolate chip cookie."  Lastly, Widmer Brothers Marionberry Hibiscus Gose is pink, with fruity and citrusy overtones that are nicely balanced with tartness and wheat flavors.


    Wednesday, July 10, 2013

    Homesickness Cures

    I arrived last week in San Diego, my home from the age of three until college.  Despite the fact that I am living in my childhood house, I could not feel farther away from home. I love my family.  I love my periwinkle room. But San Diego and the sleepy suburb of Rancho Boring Bernardo, no longer feel like home.  San Francisco, with its restaurants, beautiful views of the Bay, and eclectic neighborhoods, now is the place I call home.
    On Saturday, I was feeling particularly homesick, so I pulled out a cookbook from one of my favorite SF ice cream stores, Bi-Rite Creamery.  My boyfriend and I would often end our evenings in the city with a stop at Bi-Rite to get a hot fudge sundae.  I thought making some of their scrumptious ice creams might make me feel a little less homesick.  I mean, Brown Butter Pecan ice cream solves everything, right?

    Brown Butter Pecan Ice Cream
    (from Bi-Rite Creamery's Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones)

    5 large egg yolks
    3/4 cup sugar (I recommend splitting the sugar into two bowls, with six tablespoons in each)
    1 3/4  cups heavy cream
    1/4 (1/2 stick) unsalted butter 
    3/4 cup 1% or 2% milk
    1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
    1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    3/4 cup chopped toasted pecans

    1.  In a medium heatproof bowl, whisk the yolks just to break them up, then whisk in half of the sugar (6 tablespoons). Set aside. Set the cream by the stove. 

    2.  Put the butter in a heavy nonreactive saucepan and put the pan over medium heat. The butter will melt and bubble, and after a few minutes it will start to turn brown. Continue to cook until it has a rich, nutty smell and the butter solids (the little specks floating around in the liquid) have turned a dark brown, 6 to 8 minutes total. 
         Add the cream to the pan and stir until blended. (It's important to mix in the cream before adding the milk to prevent the mixture from breaking.) Add the milk, salt, and the remaining sugar (6 tablespoons) and increase the heat to medium-high. When the mixture approaches a bare simmer (meaning bubbles are just starting to break around the edge of the pan), reduce the heat to medium.

    3.  Carefully scoop out about 1/2 cup of the hot cream mixture and, whisking the eggs constantly, add the cream to the bowl with the yolks. Repeat, adding another 1/2 cup of the hot cream to the bowl with the yolks. Using a heatproof rubber spatula, stir the cream in the saucepan as you slowly pour the egg-and-cream mixture from the bowl into the pan. 

    4  Cook the mixture carefully over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it is thickened, coats the back of a spatula, and holds a clear path when you run your finger across the spatula, 1 to 2 minutes longer.  

    5.  Strain the vase through a fine-mesh strainer into a clean container. Set the container into an ice-water bath, wash your spatula, and use it to stir the base occasionally until it is cool. Remove the container from the ice-water bath, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight. 

    6.  Add the vanilla to the chilled base and stir until blended. 

    7.  Freeze in your ice cream maker's machine according to the manufacturer's instructions. While the ice cream is churning, put the container you'll use to store the ice cream into the freezer. Add the pecans in the last minute or so of churning, or fold them in by hand after transferring the ice cream to the chilled container. Enjoy right away, or for a firmer ice cream, freeze for at least 4 hours. 

    Brown Butter Pecan Ice Cream


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