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Monthly Archives: June 2012

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today in things earthy crunchy people eat: GRANOLA. that’s right folks, i made granola! and it wasn’t even hard, not a little bit, not at all. here’s how it went down. the other day, as i was pouring my kashi cereal (7 whole grains, on a mission to keep me full ’till lunch!) into my yogurt, i had two thoughts. the first was, “i don’t even really like kashi. it kind of tastes like cardboard. i wish this was granola.” the second was, “granola is so expensive.” then i had a third thought: why don’t i make my own damn granola? i mean, i am a woman. in the words of miss carrie bradshaw, a WO-MAN! and a WO-MAN should not have to pay $7.99 for a tiny container of stale granola at an overpriced new york grocery store, especially when she has oats and honey and raisins at home. Image

so i did a bit of googling, and then a bit of altering, and voila! i had homemade granola. want to make it for yourself? you should, it’s really quite yummy, and it tastes great with some vanilla chobani.

The Recipe

4 cups rolled oats

1 cup wheat germ

1 cup slivered almonds

1/3 cup sesame seeds

1/4 cup brown sugar

4 teaspoons cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup canola oil

1/3 cup agave nectar

1/3 cup water

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup raisins or other dried fruit

to make, heat the oven to 300 and line two rimmed baking sheets with aluminum foil. spritz with nonstick spray. in a large mixing bowl, combine the oats, wheat germ, sesame seeds, nuts, brown sugar, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, and salt. make a little well in the middle of the dry ingredients, and add the wet ones: oil, agave, water and vanilla. toss until all the ingredients are evenly combined, then spread the mixture evenly on your cookie sheets.

bake the granola in increments of ten minutes – about 20-25 in total – tossing every ten to ensure even cooking. let cool completely, and then stir in your raisins or fruit (or chocolate chips if that strikes your fancy), as well as the remaining two teaspoons of cinnamon.

now, eat with yogurt, and get down with yo bad healthy self.

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it is my belief that birthday cupcakes should be two things: 1) delicious and 2) colorful. these babies cover both those requirements, what with being extremely delicious and ahem, HOT PINK. of course, such cupcakes should also be covered in sparkles whenever appropriate (aka, always). i made these to celebrate my friend maddie’s 24th year of life, and the hot pink color couldn’t have been more appropriate, nor could the sparkles. maddie is the epitome of one of those people who literally lights up a room when she walks in. she’s a ray of sunshine, with a huge smile and a warm, friendly aura towards which people naturally gravitate. as such, she deserved the best of birthday cupcakes, and so hot pink it was.

Hot Pink Birthday Cupcakes Vanilla Buttercreamas it happened, i had a big thing of buttermilk in my fridge. and since buttercream frosting is, well, butter and “cream” (milk) and sugar, i figured why not use buttermilk instead of regular milk and make the frosting just a bit more rich? i mean, if you’ve just hit a ball to the outfield, why not head for a home run, right? these babies were already so calorie-laden, i figured it couldn’t hurt to go ALL.THE.WAY. so i did, swapping milk for buttermilk, and mama mia, am i glad i did. this frosting was light, creamy, and SOO GOOD. melt in your mouth good. perfectly sugary and vanilla-y and oh so amazing.

for the cupcakes themselves, i used smitten kitchen’s “best birthday cake” recipe. everyone needs a go-to yellow cake recipe, and sk’s is mine. the woman knows her cakes, what can i say? speaking of smitten, i’ve long been positively smitten with her blog. if you haven’t read it yet, you are MISSING OUT. she’s got a cookbook coming out in october that i can’t wait to snag, and her recipes are BANGIN. plus her pictures are pretty, with a beautiful contrast thanks to a dark background and bright, colorful dishes. in short, she’s a food genius, a blogarific idol, and seems pretty all around wonderful if you ask me. maybe she even likes cats(!!) – that would just put me over the edge. Vanilla Yellow Birthday Cupcakes

so, here’s the dealio. you’ll want to whip up a batch of smitten kitchen’s cake, and then add some hot pink food coloring. i get mine at NY Cake, which, if you live in NYC, is a baker’s paradise (for those who don’t live in NYC, you can order online). seriously, if you’ve never been, GO NOW. it’s on 22nd between 5th and 6th, and is a floor to ceiling supply shop stocked with everything you never knew you needed. for instance, before i went there for the first time, i did not know that i needed fuschia-colored gel food coloring. but then i saw it on the shelf, and it was like we were meant to be. instant lust. i also didn’t know i needed ten different tips of cupcake liners, but you know what? i do. i also needed edible gold and silver stars in place of traditional sprinkles, and dusting sugar in every color under the sun. like i said, this place is paradise. get yo’ ass over there, stat.

once your batter is made, divy it up into cake pans, or split it into cupcakes, like i did. this recipe should make 2 cake layers (for one cake), or about 24 cupcakes (i had enough for 24 cupcakes AND about 6 minis, and i ate a bunch of the batter).

OKAY LET’S DO THIS.

The Recipe: Best Birthday Cupcakes (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

4 cups plus 2 tablespoons cake flour (for new bakers, cake flour is the shiznat. it makes a huge difference…TRUST. i buy swan’s down at my local grocery store)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon table salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups buttermilk, well-shaken

to make, preheat your oven to 350 and line your cupcake pans. i spritz my liners with a little bit of pam just in case. if you’re making cake, just spritz two 9″ cake pans with some pam instead. Hot Pink Birthday Cupcakes

start by mixing the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a medium sized bowl. set aside. in a large mixing bowl (a stand mixer is preferable here – i have and love my kitchenaid), cream together the butter and sugar. room temperature butter works best here; softening in the microwave means you run the risk of over-melting. i like to take my butter out of the fridge about 30 minutes before i’m ready to bake. by the time i’m ready to use it, it’s soft enough to beat, but not so melted that it’s watery and overheated. stir at medium speed with an electric mixer until the butter and sugar are soft and fluffy, then add in your vanilla.

now, add the eggs in one at a time. make sure you’re scraping down the sides of your bowl to evenly incorporate all the ingredients as you go. once your eggs are added, turn the mixer down to low and add your buttermilk. if the mixture looks curdled, don’t be alarmed. this is normal. mix in your flour in a few batches, and beat until just combined.

now comes the fun part. grab your food coloring (remember, i used fuschia), and squirt about a quarter sized amount into your batter (note: if you’re using regular food coloring, you’ll need a LOT of it to get such a saturated color. this is why gel food coloring is best – you use less and get more color). mix until evenly incorporated. if the batter isn’t bright enough, add a few more squirts of the gel. i’d estimate i used about 2 or 3 teaspoons worth of food coloring total. Hot Pink Birthday Cupcakes

now you should have hot pink batter that tastes exactly like that duncan hines yellow cake mix you used to eat as a kid. go on, dip your finger (or two) in and have a lick. DELICIOUS, right? hats off to miss smitten kitchen.

spoon your batter into your prepared muffin tins – fill about 3/4 of the way. bake in the oven for about 25 minutes, checking for doneness with a toothpick. when it comes out clean, the cupcakes are done.

cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then remove and stick the cupcakes on a drying rack to cool completely. i made my cupcakes the night before, then my frosting the afternoon of the party – this enabled me to frost the cupcakes when they were completely cooled and hence, i was able to avoid any melted frosting issues.

now, let’s frost these babies.

Buttermilk Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

2 sticks of butter, softened

6 cups confectioner’s sugar

3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1/4 – 1/2 cup buttermilk

buttercream frosting is just about the easiest thing to make on the planet – mostly because you can customize it to your taste. i like the measurements above, but if you wanted it thicker, you’d add more sugar, thinner, less. if you wanted more vanilla taste, add more extract. maybe you want some more creaminess in there – add more buttermilk. essentially, all you need to do is whip your softened butter until smooth, then add the buttermilk, extract, and about 2 cups of the sugar. beat until all are combined. now, add a cup at a time of sugar until the frosting has reached your desired consistency. for me, that consistency is pretty thick. i like the kind of frosting you can simply swirl on with a spatula.

i covered my cupcakes with some rainbow colored dusting sugar for a bit of extra pizzazz – but you could leave them be. they’d be pretty spectacular either way, thanks to the fuschia food coloring.Image

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make lemonade. or, as i like to put it, when life hands you a 98 degree day with a “real feel” of 105, head to your nearest supermarket and pick up the biggest bag o’ lemons you can find. then go home and juice ’em and make slightly sweetened, oh so tangy lemonade with a hint of mint. and drink a big glass. and then another one. 

i’ll be the first to admit i’m not good with heat. 65, or even 60, is my ideal temperature. i like layers and crisp autumn air and the sort of slight chill that makes you wrap your leather jacket around you just a little bit tighter, the kind that makes you cross your arms over your chest. i love a white blanket of snow in winter and a big fluffy scarf wrapped ten times around your neck. what i don’t like? anything over 85 degrees, the slightest bit of humidity, the sort of weather where you can only wear a dress (preferably a strapless one) and you’ll probably still sweat your toxins out. Image

the past few days have been seriously H-O-T HOT here in new york – the kind of hot where nelly commands you to take off all your clothes (no, really, i saw a lot of shirtless people walking around the past few days) – and i’ve been seriously sweaty. i’m not the kind of girl who can breeze through the summer months in a sundress, with perfectly tousled hair and makeup that doesn’t budge. instead, i’m the girl holding her ice cold water bottle against her neck, praying for a cool breeze and wishing that the world was drenched in air conditioning and that her dress wasn’t sticking to her back. let’s be real – so long as you’re not in a hot yoga studio, sweat just isn’t cute. it’s not that i smell, it’s just that i tend to look a little shimmery (and that’s putting it lightly). so suffice it to say, summer’s not really my favorite season. i despise feeling sticky, and anytime the humidity goes over 50% and the temperature rises above 75, i’m pretty much sticky, all day, every day. NOT FUN.

what is fun, however, is making things like freshly squeezed lemonade. and going to the beach. i did one of these things yesterday, i’ll let you guess which one. Image

The Recipe 

7-8 large lemons, juiced

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup agave nectar or honey

1 cup water 

4 cups cold water

6 sprigs fresh mint

the key to making really yummy lemonade is simple syrup – otherwise known as sugar and water. many lemonade recipes call for an initial simple syrup made of 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water. but that seems like a whole lotta sugar to me, so i cut the white sugar down to 1/2 cup and added 1/4 cup of agave, which i like to think is healthier than sugar. next time i make this, i’m going to try all agave, or maybe some orange blossom honey if i can find it. 

to start, halve and juice all your lemons. i juice all mine in a large bowl, then strain the liquid to get rid of seeds and pulp. doing it this way saves you from having to curse and pick out individual seeds each time they drop into the bowl. Image

set lemon juice aside and make your simple syrup. combine the sugar, agave and 1 cup of water in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. cook for a few minutes, stirring often, until sugar and agave are dissolved in the water. 

remove sugar water from heat and combine with lemon juice in the the pitcher of your choice. i chose this pretty glass pitcher, which i picked up recently at ikea. now add your four cups of cold water and throw in your mint leaves. 

refrigerate for 30-40 minutes until cold; conversely, put some ice in a glass and drink immediately. serve with a few slices of fresh lemon and a fresh mint leaf or two. 

note: you can also use this lemonade to make lemon popsicles. YUM. or, you could add vodka and make yourself a dandy little cocktail. 

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next month, my little sister moves into her first apartment, all on her own – to say my heart is swelling with pride would be an understatement. she and my parents are fixing up an old house in an adorable little town next to my hometown, and while some of the features are so dated i can’t even look at them without squinting my eyes to blur the ugly, the place actually has great bones. think wide panel oak floors and crown molding and crystal doorknobs and pillars between the living and dining areas. we’re on a pretty tight budget in terms of decorating, but that doesn’t mean a gal can’t have fun on her pinterest, now does it? i’ve been enlisted to help pick paint colors and do what little interior design can be done on our dime, and i am having SO MUCH FUN. anyone who knows me knows i love a good DIY project, and i spend a good chunk of my free time perusing design blogs and bookmarking ideas for my “someday home.” Image

for the living room/dining area (which she’ll be using as a combination reading nook and study space, as she doesn’t entertain and hence, doesn’t need a formal dining area), we went with the lovely sidewalk gray by ben moore on the walls, complemented by a crisp clean white on the molding, wainscoting and doors (THERE IS WAINSCOTING. interior design happiness). she’s taking my old ikea couch, which, while not gorgeous, is comfy as can be and is easily spruced up with a few fun pillows (i’m eying etsy for a few ikat and suzani printed ones), and we’ve installed the ikea maskros as her chandelier in the middle of the space. we’re sprucing things up with a few fun table lamps and maybe a tripod-style standing lamp to add extra light, but what i really can’t wait to do is make her some framed prints.

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remember how i said i love DIY? one of my favorite things to do isn’t even really a DIY. it’s more of a print and frame. my own living room “art” is a marilyn minter photo that i blew up via wizard prints and framed in a white ikea ribba frame – the whole project cost me under $50; a true minter piece would have run in the thousands. thank you, high res google images.

for my sister, i’d like to frame a series of prints in both her little reading nook and her living room. both spaces will be done in shades of blue gray and white with some pops of turquoise and yellow for brightness (and maybe even some coral and red if i can convince her). my favorite print – the one that i think the room can’t live without (in the study area, that is), is this one by julia kostreva. because everyone needs a little encouragement sometimes, and you know what? it’s true. you’re gonna be a big success. i just know it.

if interior design strikes your fancy, you can see a few other living room pieces over on my pinterest page. 

wouldn’t you like to be here right now? it’s steadily climbing to 100 degrees and humid here in new york, and while i’m happily cocooned in an air conditioned office whose decor is straight out of the eighties, i’d much rather be here, sitting on this little hot pink folding chair, eating a plate of grape leaves with a tall glass of white wine, oversized sunnies perched atop my nose. 

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greece is on my list of places to visit – something about water that blue calls my name – but in this weather, i’d take any beach over the stifling concrete jungle.

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you know what starts with the letter P? pasta. and pancetta. and you know what else? pretty little liars, which is my favorite guilty pleasure show on TV (and it’s not even really a guilty pleasure because it’s just that good). last week, my PLL partner in crime and i threw together this amazing pasta dish, which i found via jamie oliver before we turned on the TV, and let me tell you, this ish is GOOD. melt in your mouth creamy, accented with the slightly tangy taste of fresh mint leaves, and oh so salty thanks to the pancetta. of course, there’s a big dose of carbs in there, and let’s be real – everyone loves carbs (except those people on the atkins diet, and i’m not really worried about them). 

my friend alissa whipped up this recipe like a champ (and girl thinks she’s not good in the kitchen! proof that anyone can follow a recipe and make something DELISH), and then we plopped down on her overstuffed couch and stuffed our faces while watching pretty teenage girls say things like, “BITCH CAN SEE!” it came together in under 20 minutes, and did i mention it’s creamy and delicious and i ate two huge helpings? (what? i was carbo-loading for my walk back down the stairs). Image

make it. i made it again the next night, and we’re making it again tomorrow. it’s not that we lack creativity – but that it’s yummy and easy and makes you look like a legitimate chef. 


The Recipe (adapted from Jamie Oliver’s recipe for carbonara)

Makes enough for four servings, or two super hungry folks.

1 pound pasta of your choice (i like penne)

1 egg

3.5 fl oz (about 1/2 cup heavy cream)

sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

about 12 slices of pancetta, thinly sliced (generally, one grocery store sized package will do)

3 handfuls fresh or frozen peas 

4 sprigs of fresh mint, chopped, a few more for decorative purposes

1 cup freshly grated parmesan, for topping

to make, bring a pot of salted water to a boil, then add pasta and cook according to instructions (i find around 7-8 minutes to be the sweet spot for most boxed pastas, and barilla is my go-to brand). 

whisk the egg in a bowl and mix in the heavy cream and salt and pepper. in a large skillet, cook your pancetta until crispy and golden. your kitchen will smell orgasmic by now. 

when your pasta has nearly cooked (let’s say around the 6 minute mark), add the peas for the last minute or so. this will cook them ever so slightly, but won’t overdo it. when the timer dings, drain your pasta and peas and reserve a bit of the pasta water.

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dump your pasta and peas mixture into your pancetta skillet and stir. now, stir in most of your sliced mint (save a little bit for topping purposes). if you like things minty, add even more. i did, because i do. there’s really nothing like fresh mint, especially when peas are involved. note: if your pan is too small, you can do all your mixing in a large bowl – but the pan is better, because the pasta will cook a tiny bit more in a warmed environment. Image

now, add the egg and cream mixture to the pasta. you need to make sure and add it while the pasta is still hot, but while the heat isn’t actually on the pan anymore. if you’re careful, the residual heat of the pasta will cook the eggs (since no one likes raw eggs); if things are too hot up in here, you’ll get a curdled, scrambled egg like sauce. GUH-ROSS. do it right (leave the pasta be for a minute or two to cool slightly, remove from heat) and you’ll get a silky smooth sauce. toss everything together and add your reserved pasta water to loosen things up a bit if need be (i needed to). 

divy up into four bowls, season again with a bit of salt and pepper and sprinkle with your remaining mint and however much parm you like (i love cheese). serve asap; this one doesn’t reheat all that well. 

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guys, i think i’m really on an asian kick. like, i might need to take a trip to asia sometime soon (except that i hear things are cramped and crowded and hot and potentially smelly and just the thought of a place like that makes my OCD-ness kick into high gear…oh wait, i just described most of new york city).

i came across this recipe for general tsp’s tofu on pinterest last week, and figured i might as well try it while i was on my whole “mix sesame oil and soy sauce and ginger and good things will happen” kick. what do you know? this stuff is GOOOD. and would be even better on some deep fried chicken pieces. no offense, tofu, you know i really like you a lot, but i think it’s better that we just be friends. chicken and i are in a serious relationship, and it ain’t complicated.

if you’re a vegetarian, you’re gonna looove this dish. if you’re not, you’ll love it too – just make it with shrimp or chicken. the sauce is made separately, so you can throw it onto whatever you want.

note: the original recipe calls for a good amount of sriracha, and i can’t handle spice – so i cut it down substantially, and just threw in a little squirt to my sauce. if you’re into spice, go for it, but buyer beware! that ish is on FIRE.

The Recipe

tofu:

12 oz extra firm tofu, cut into cubes (i buy mine at trader joe’s)

1 tbsp corn starch2 tsp vegetable oil (i use canola)

sauce:

3 cloves of garlic, minced

2 tsp grated ginger

2 tsp vegetable oil

1/4 cup water

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp hoisin sauce (warning: this stuff is like crack)

1 tbsp rice vinegar

1 tbsp brown sugar

1 tbsp sriracha (i used just a squirt, remember)

additionally:

1 tbsp corn starch + 2 tbsp water

veggies of your choice

1 cup white or brown rice

to make the tofu, preheat your oven to 400 and toss tofu cubes with 1 tbsp of corn starch in a bowl. make sure they’re evenly coated on all sides. cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spritz with a layer of nonstick spray. spread your tofu cubes out on the baking sheet and bake 20-25 minutes, until golden brown and slightly crispy to the touch.  

meanwhile, cook your rice. white rice is generally a 2:1 ratio (two cups water to one cup rice). brown rice is too, but it takes longer to cook (usually around 40 minutes), so i prefer white in a pinch.

while you’re baking the tofu, make your sauce. cook your diced ginger and garlic in a medium saucepan for a few minutes, then add the other ingredients listed under “sauce” above and cook for another few minutes. mix the remaining water and corn starch in a tiny bowl, and pour it into the sauce mixture slowly. stir until it’s evenly integrated and your sauce is thick and slightly chunky. i know that’s gross, but that’s what it should look like. see picture. 

take out your tofu from the oven and toss it with your sauce. serve it over rice and top with a bunch of sauteed veggies. i chose zucchini and purple cabbage (i just sauteed them in a few teaspoons of soy sauce and sesame oil). throw some  sesame seeds on top and dig in.