Food, fun and photos.

•September 30, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Last night was the photo extravaganza in my apartment. Shashank and Lauren had to take photos of food for a project, and I was the chosen one.

I, at first, decided to make only two different dishes for them. Earlier in the week, it was StressFest ’10, and I didn’t think I’d have the time or the energy to do anymore than that. BUT, I worked things out, got it done and ended up making them three separate meals and one side of brussel sprouts… just for them to taste.

First up: Asian Chicken with Broccolini and Basmati Rice.

On Monday, I had a bit of a breakdown after talking with my Public Speaking professor. I was to the point of not being able to eat… this just doesn’t happen. I choked down some yogurt and proceeded to marinate the chicken I had laying out for dinner. Well, the next night, I didn’t have time to eat dinner, so this chicken had been marinating since Monday evening.

The marinade consisted of sesame oil, soy sauce, a little salt, pepper, and McCormick Salt-Free Savory All-Purpose Seasoning. I seared it on each side in a hot pan with olive oil and let it rest. Simple, yet delicious.

For the basmati rice, I placed a chicken bouillon cube, handful of diced onion and a splash of olive oil in the water. Boil. In goes the rice. Lower heat. Cook. It’s as simple as following the directions. Rice is such a home-y element to me, and this picture captures that:

Sometimes, I feel like college students overthink the process of cooking. If you learn some basic techniques and tricks, you can create a myriad of dishes.

Anyway, back to the meal.

For the broccolini… so easy. I cut off the tough ends, sliced the thicker stalks down the middle and threw them in the pan with some olive oil, salt and pepper. For the last minute of cooking, in went some garlic.

Top everything with sesame seeds. Done.

Second dish: Curry Chicken with Mushroom, Onion and Zucchini Pearl Couscous.

This chicken didn’t marinate quite as long as the asian chicken, but it was still tasty. I did marinate for as long as I could, though.

The marinade: olive oil, salt, pepper, smoked paprika, curry powder, cayenne pepper, thyme and McCormick Salt-Free Savory All-Purpose Seasoning.

Now for the COUSCOUS! This was a favorite of the night… and for good reason. It was delicious, if I do say so myself. I just bought plain Pearl Couscous and cooked it according to the directions. Boil water with oil or butter. Couscous in. Heat down. Cook. Just like rice, man. Piece o’ cake.

I cooked it first, just to make sure it came out right, then went on to the veg.

I diced onions, baby portobello mushrooms and zucchini into roughly the same size chunks – fairly small. Olive and butter in the pan (since mushrroms are like little sponges, you’ll want to use a little more than usual). In went the onions; they went for about a minute until I threw in the shrooms. Cook until brown and soft. After that, put it in the pot with the couscous and stir.

Zucchini time. Olive oil in a hot pan. Zucchini chunks. Salt and pepper. Brown. In they go with the couscous.

Top it all off with a twisty lime. Do it to it.

After we all started eating, the most hilarious part of the evening was when I realized I had more couscous in the pot. Everyone’s face completely lit up at the pile of it on the plate and just dove right in. It was great.

Third dish of the night: Barbeque Chicken, Feta, Cucumber, Onion and Pear Sandwich on Focaccia.

This was the most controversial dish.
Jessilyn didn’t like raw onions.
Lauren didn’t eat mayonnaise (or chicken, for that matter).
I’m not sure Shashank even cared… he just wanted food.

But did they adore this sandwich? Sure thing.

I started making this sandwich for my lunch pretty much daily. Lunch is my least favorite meal, so I just needed something enjoyable. I pulled out random ingredients from the fridge, and this is what happened. Success.

The focaccia I buy (from Bi-Lo) comes in a circular tin. Cut it into quarters and you get four sandwiches from one loaf. It’s two bucks and well worth it.

1. Take a quarter, cut it into the top half and bottom half. Warm it in the toaster oven.
2. I buy barbeque rotisserie chicken from Bi-Lo as well. Take some of the meat pulled from the bone and heat it up for 30 seconds.
3. Take the bread out and spread some mayo on both halves.
4. Add crumbled garlic & herb feta to the top half and press into the mayo.

5. Thinly slice some english cucumber, onion and pear. Make sure the pear is firm though, not soft. Spread the onion, pear and cucumber over the bottom half of the bread in layers.

6. Add the chicken pieces over the feta. Smash it down a bit.

7. Take the bottom half (with the veg) and place it over the chicken half. Smash everything down together and turn the entire sandwich over.

I love this sandwich so much because everything just works so beautifully together. The hot raw onion is balanced by the sweetness of the pear (how Jessilyn could eat the raw onion). The cucumber adds a freshness that I adore. The chicken is buttery, and the barbeque flavor adds a little flavor punch that you aren’t quite expecting. The mayonnaise is creamy, and the feta is sharp and tart. It’s like every good flavor is coming together for this sandwich.
It’s a party in your mouth.
One thing to mention on how Lauren could handle the mayo.
On the bottom, the juice from the onion and cucumber melds with the mayo and it becomes runnier and kind of like a dressing.
At the top, the feta mixes with it and it’s almost bleu cheese-y.
In both instances, it isn’t simple mayonnaise anymore. Ergo, she could eat it.
Pure brilliance.

All in all, this night was perfect. I loved every minute of it, and I’m pretty sure I could be content in life just cooking for people all the time.

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“Guess who’s coming to dinner?”

•September 29, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Just like on Julie & Julia, I get to play my own game of “guess who’s coming to dinner.” So exciting!

While they aren’t famous… they made me feel great about my cooking. Jessilyn Justice, Shashank Shrestha and Lauren Carroll. They’re legit. Shashank and Lauren had to take photos of food for a project, and from this blog, they thought I would be a good candidate. Jessilyn was just along for the ride. :)

I made three different full dishes and a side of brussel sprouts, just to let them taste how I make them. Pictures and recipes are to come as soon as I get the photos from Shashank!

Their reactions made my life better. At first, I just thought they were saying everything because they thought they should… but I was assured that they were most certainly being genuine.

I absolutely love cooking for people; nothing makes me happier… except when those people are speechless about what they’ve just eaten. This was the case tonight, and I was in utter bliss.
I didn’t even mind the clean-up.

So now, the kitchen is spotless (for the most part), we all have full stomachs, I’m content with my cooking style and am reassured that I actually know what I’m doing.

This week has been super busy and emotional… but this night made everything worth it again.

Shrooms and scallops.

•September 24, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I recently read a short article on bonappetit.com (Bon Appetit magazine’s site) about mushrooms and how they’re the “new superfood.” Something in them helps in the prevention of breast cancer if you eat enough of them.

“Mushrooms are one of the very few non-meat sources of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which has been shown to block aromatase, a protein necessary for producing estrogen in women. Since about 70 percent of breast cancers are hormone-dependent, the ability to block aromatase is a powerful tool in controlling or even stopping cancer. CLA is also found in dairy products, beef, and lamb.”

Cool, right? Mushrooms are delicious and they have some legit benefits. But how many do you have to eat to reap said benefits? Let’s see.

“Early results indicate that you may need to eat about half a pound a day to get the most effective levels of CLA, but researchers won’t know for sure until the trials are complete at the end of this year.”

Wow.
“What are you having for dinner?”
“Three bowls of mushrooms.”

That’s a lot of mushrooms. I mean, I love them and they add a great meaty quality to dishes, but I’d get sick of them. It’s overkill.

That being said, I won’t be eating straight mushrooms for dinner, but it won’t hurt to add more of them to my diet. I submit that all of you should try adding more as well.

I did use mushrooms in my dinner tonight, though. Aside from the linguine that I had cooking, here are the main contents:

Bay scallops, scallions, yellow onion, baby portobellos, shitakes, broccolini and fresh thyme. Mmm.

Bay scallops. They’re like little jewels of the sea. They’re sweet, and the texture is one that I particularly enjoy. Soft, slightly chewy and so, so delicious. They have a lot of water in them, so before you cook them, dry them thoroughly with some paper towels. You’ll be good to go.

Alrighty, before you start everything else. Boil some water. Cook some linguine. Let it go until it’s al dente (still has a little bite in the middle).

I started with some olive oil and butter in the pan. Once it heated, in went the shrooms. Brown ’em. Salt and pepper. Add the onions and broccolini and cook until the onions are translucent. Push the contents of the pan to the sides, creating a well in the middle for the lovely little scallops. Add them, let cook a bit, then stir everything together. In go the scallions and thyme.

Now here we go. I dissolved chicken bouillon cube in a little water to create a makeshift chicken broth type thing. Get out the sour cream as well.

Once everything in the pan is cooked through, add three or four tablespoons of the bouillon water. Stir a bit, then add a heaping tablespoon of sour cream.

When the pasta is done, drain it and put it back into the pot with a little olive oil. Twist it together to make a little nest, then transfer to the plate. This just makes it look prettier and keeps it together so it isn’t flopping everywhere.

The mixture will thicken a little from the sour cream. When that happens, remove it from the heat and put it over the pasta. Enjoy!

This kind of reminded me of a stroganoff because of the sour cream, and I wasn’t sure if I liked it at first. With each bite I took, it got better and better, though. It was like a gourmet twist on an old, traditional dish. Yum!

For when your heart hurts.

•September 23, 2010 • Leave a Comment

“Come all ye weary and ye broken,
come to the table of the Lord,
come sing the song of the forgiven,
come lay your burden on the word.

Come and find peace,
everyone needs a little rest,
everyone needs a little joy,
and a song to sing in the darkest night.

And life even when it gets you down,
hope will turn it all around,
but love is the greatest of these,
everyone needs a little.”

-Kari Jobe

This post has nothing to do with food, cooking, innovations or social media, but blogging is a good release for me. Here goes.

Happiness can be so elusive sometimes. Amidst all the stress, homework, studying and just life in general, you can so easily lose sight of the things that really matter. Friends – caring about them and supporting them. Family – keeping in touch and calling mom when you need someone who’ll listen. Yourself – making sure your heart’s light doesn’t flicker out and die. And finally and most importantly, God – just talking to him. That’s what He wants from us.

I’ve been making my way through Captivating, and it’s one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do. I cry all the way through it because everything’s so true. It’s quite ridiculous sometimes.

Aside from that, I’ve picked up my Bible after too long. I had a particularly rough day, and it just seemed logical. I didn’t even know where to start… but eventually got to Psalm. Just the word – Psalm – it just sounds so peaceful and full of hope. My Bible has these headings for all the psalms, so it made it easier to find just what I needed. It helped. Really helped. It was so strange that the things we’re going through right now happened so far back in time as well. The same feelings were experienced. Everything.

Crazy.

On another note, my roommate recently made me put Kari Jobe’s CD on my iTunes. I have to say, she’s pretty inspiring (and I don’t listen to a lot of Christian music). Especially “Everyone Needs A Little.” Something about it makes my heart feel a little better, and, on particularly rough days, causes tears to sting my eyes. But that’s ok. Crying’s a good thing. If I didn’t cry, I’d be ridiculously wound up all the time from suppressed emotions. I’d go insane!

So tonight, my heart hurts a little. I started out listening to other music, but migrated to Kari Jobe and decided to open my Bible. Here’s what I found:

“God, save me,
because the water has risen to my neck.
I’m sinking down into the mud,
and there is nothing to stand on.
I am in deep water,
and the flood covers me.
I am tired from calling for help;
my throat is sore.
My eyes are tired from waiting
for God to help me.”

-Psalm 69:1-3

This section is titled “A Cry For Help.” We all experience this. We all cry for help. We all struggle. We just have to learn that God hears our prayers and sees our struggles. We just have to keep a little faith.

“Be encouraged, you who worship God.
The Lord listens to those in need
and does not look down on captives.”

-Psalm 69:32-33

“Food” and “stuff.”

•September 22, 2010 • Leave a Comment

My thinking time wasn’t too long, thankfully. Deciding on a title is not exactly something I want to spend a large amount of time on, so I went on thesaurus.com and went at it.

The decision? Cuisine, Cookery and Various Foodstuffs.

I have to say that I just really like these words. A lot.

Cuisine sounds so much better than simply saying “food.” It’s just a fact. Let’s face it.
Cookery makes me think of Julie & Julia for some reason, which in turn makes me think of delicious food and butter, and that’s a very pleasant thought.
Foodstuffs is the probably my favorite word to describe what we eat. I love that “food” and “stuff” came together to make this fantastic word. It sounds fake… like it isn’t real, BUT I love it.

These words don’t have any specific rhyme or reason other than their relation to food and that they don’t make a cheesy title.

So there. I have a new title. This blog is now a food blog. Success.

A refocusing of sorts.

•September 21, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I realized today that I created this blog for a class… but I’ve been using it predominantly as a food blog.

When we all created these blogs, I don’t think anyone really knew what their focus would actually be, myself included. Once I got started, though, this whole side of posting what I’m cooking and what I’m passionate about made itself known. With that said, I’m devoting the majority of this blog to what I’m cooking and eating.

This blog is still for the class, but I need to refocus certain aspects of it. Well, maybe just one aspect: the title.

In my first post, I explained the reasoning behind my title choice, but now it doesn’t make a lick of sense. It has nothing to do with food or cooking, and I simply cannot find a way to relate it in the smallest way.

This leaves me with a dilemma. Dang.
I’ve got to change the name… but what to change it to? It needs to have (obviously) something to do with food, but so many food blogs have such ridiculously clichĂ© titles. I mean, I’m all for some puns, but they can go too far. Come one, “A Spoonful of Sugar?” Really? It helps the medicine go down… but all it makes me think of is Mary Poppins. I need something original. Something witty and dynamic. Something not like every other food blog out there.

This is going to take a bit of thinking… pondering… brainstorming. When I come up with something fantastic, that will mean another post. For now, though, I’m going to leave it at that. I’m going to be thinking of this new title. It’s going to be phenomenal. Just wait.

I’ll get back to you on this.

All I need is a little more thyme.

•September 19, 2010 • Leave a Comment

There are few things more beautiful to me than a bunch of thyme sprigs to be used at my disposal. Thyme’s my number one favorite herb – it’s fresh, bright, lemony, soft, earthy, I could go on. Simply delish.

It’s fantastic on root vegetables, chicken, fish, pork, broccoli, asparagus, zuccchini, squash, ANYTHING! I love its versatility. On vegetables or fish, it’s light, delicate flavor is enhanced, while on pork or root vegetables (such as potatoes), it takes on a rustic, hearty quality.

I woke up at 11:00 today, and for a lot of people, that’s late. But I just really love sleep, so any extra time I can get is lovely. 11:00 was a bit late for breakfast, though, so I went straight to lunch.

Friday was grocery shopping day as I mentioned in my previous post, and I purchased a rotisserie chicken (as well as fresh thyme). I took it apart yesterday, and I have to say that there’s something slightly satisfying about completely obliterating a chicken. Not sure what it is, but I certainly enjoyed that process.

When it came down to deciding what to eat, I just pulled out some ingredients and looked at them until I formed an idea: broccolini, chicken, shitake mushrooms, kalamata olives, and *drum roll* thyme! It’s times like these where I don’t get too fancy and just make a mixture of things, all cooked in the same pan. This one turned out pretty well, if I do say so myself.

Extra-virgin olive oil in the pan, get it heating, move on (just don’t let it start smoking). Take the stems off the shitakes, and wipe the caps off with a damp paper towel. Slice ’em up, and into the oil they go. Stir them a bit, then spread them out. (I watched Julie & Julia last night. “Don’t crowd the mushrooms or they won’t brown.”)

Broccolini time (thyme?). Tear off the dark green leaves on the stalks and cut off a bit of the end. It just tends to be tougher and not pleasant to eat. Cut into chunks and make sure the tops are fairly uniform in size with the rest. When the mushrooms have browned a bit, salt and pepper them. Throw in the veg and stir.

THYME! I like to use quite a bit, so don’t judge. I get several good-sized sprigs. Hold at the top end with one hand, and with the other pull down from the opposite direction of growth so you peel them right off. Pile it up and run your knife through it, just a rough chop is fine. Into the pan.

Take as many of the rotisserie chicken pieces as you want and cut into chunks. Into the pan as well.

Let it go until the chicken is warmed through, then we do the olives. Take about 6 olives and chope them fairly roughly. It doesn’t have to be perfect, guys. Mix into everything else and warm through (maybe a miunute).

I love a lot of things about this dish. For one thing, everything is interchangeable; you can use whatever you like and it will still be delicious. With this mixture, though, I love how the rich earthiness of the mushrooms, the buttery chicken, the crunch of the broccolini and the salty tang of the olives, and the fresh, lemony flavor of the thyme work together and even everything out.

There’s a lot of flavor going on here, and it’s all about learning what goes together. Once you start cooking, you can learn to taste things in your head before you even think about actually tasting it. With a little more THYME (hehe) and experience, it’ll happen.