Monday, June 27, 2011

Birthday Cake Poll

In addition to my sister, I have 4  very dear friends celebrating birthdays this weekend as well as another friend celebrating the birth of her little girl today (Congrats C&P!). I spent the last weekend pre-birthdaying with one good friend and this weekend of course goes to my sister, but to make things a bit more festive and fun I've decided to do a birthday cake poll, with me making the winning cake this Friday as a Happy Birthday to all the friends who have made my life wonderful and complete. So choose your favorite and at some point over the weekend I'll post the results and the recipe- and yes, a quick run down of the runners up for those curious about the others.

Birthday Cake Poll

Cherry Summer Spice Cake

This post goes out to my sister who is celebrating her birthday this weekend. For those who don't know her, she is such a wonderful, kind, and talented person, as well as a gracious hostess during my numerous sojourns to Alexandria. In the past few years that she has been my Northeast partner in crime we have celebrated everything from new jobs, apartments, appliances, good riddance to bad exes and opening our hearts to better boys. And this weekend we celebrate once again, with some good ol' American 4th of July pastimes of baseball and beer, but also some Texas favorites thrown in, like margaritas and guacamole. It will be sunny skies and smiling faces and perhaps a proper homemade birthday cake too.
Along those lines, in what I like to think of as a totally endearing quality, I have this way of completely hijacking peoples kitchens when I come into town. For me it's a way to say thank you, by cooking a dish, participating in preparation for a meal where we sit and talk and laugh and enjoy. So when I came to visit my sister a few weekends ago (and honestly, where is the summer going?!?) I had my heart set on making us all a summer cake, which is basically a summery spiced version of the strawberry buttermilk cake I had previously made, but dotted with beautiful ripe cherries and fragrant with ginger, allspice and cardamom.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Puree by Any Other Name?

I love multi-purpose anything, but these recipes were quite the happy accident. Hitting up both the store on Friday, knowing that I'd be out Saturday and Sunday, but also not wanting to repeat the trip on Monday, I carefully considered my shopping list. Saturday morning I made it to the Farmers Market in search of fresh flowers and came away with fresh shelled peas, which is just typical when looking for something specific. I've been on this health kick lately consisting mainly of poached chicken, broiled fish, and tuna salad, but wanted to branch out, to add some spice, some color, and also some veg to my predictably boring meals.

Enter the  vegetables. I've been wanting to do an asparagus pesto of sorts, but didn't want the usual amounts of oil to weigh it down, the garlic and cheese to overpower. Rather I wanted to keep it as simple as possible to compliment the delicate flavor, and also keep it on the healthy side. And during my trip to the Farmer's Market last weekend while desperately seeking peonies I ran into some lovely fresh shelled peas I couldn't resist purchasing, as what is more light and refreshing and just so summer than beautiful round sweet peas?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

An Open Love Letter to Quinoa

Oh Quinoa. How can I begin to tell you how you've changed my life? When I first tasted those light, airy grains, I must admit I wasn't that easily swayed. But little did I know that like a charming first date, I wouldn't be able to get you off my mind. For months now we've been nearly inseparable, though at first I was spending most of my evenings trying to will myself back to couscous or basmati rice, even whole wheat pasta. But alas, I always turn to you.
Perhaps not quite that dramatic, but quinoa is the new black for me as far as carbs and grains go (although it is actually a seed, from the spinach family). And yes, that includes rice. And I can't even begin to stress how good it is for you. As close to one of the most complete foods in nature containing all 9 essential amino acids, quinoa also contains 24 grams of protein per cup (daily recommended intake is 60g), is naturally gluten free, and high in iron and calcium (perfect for milk snobs like me). It also contains magnesium, fiber, manganese, and copper, and the latter 2 work together as an antioxidant to help the body fight off disease. It is a great food to consume while on a diet or while pregnant as it contains much needed nutrients, vitamins and minerals and also helps you stay full.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

On a Wednesday in June

Oh lovely, happy day. So many good things have come into my life lately and this is just the latest. I'm so happy these days, but of course never forgetting how thankful I am for everything I've been blessed with thus far.

So remember when I posted a little while back on all the things I wanted to accomplish this summer, and then I hinted again that one of those things was officially in the works? Well, without any further ado I would like to introduce you to my new little blog partner, my Nikon D70.
Will you miss my pretty iPhone instagram pictures?

Meditation Baking aka Mint Chocolate Cupcakes

Last night I had a weird feeling of being at a crossroads, an annoying, gnawing little feeling that that I just couldn't quash. I felt it the previous night too, but it was gone when I awoke, nonexistent as I went through my day only to return again last night leaving me once again agitated with a lot of nothing on my mind. I think I know what it is but it's something I don't really want to say aloud, not just yet. So I take my mind off it and bake.

Baking is not my favorite form of cooking by any means but its something I've forced myself to do. I can't even remember the first time I set aside bisquick to make homemade biscuits but I can only imagine it was when I had a lot on my mind. Baking is stressful, but in itself, in it's precise and exact rules, it becomes a stress reliever, a setting aside of individual thought and following method alone. Worrying about a cake rising to be light and fluffy or concentrating over the correct crumb of flour to fat in a pie dough, the constant spooning and measuring, the leveling off that just washes away my worrying about the job, stressing over finances, crying over boys who don't deserve it. Baking fixes all that, at least temporarily. But I'm also left with something tangible, and delicious, for all my effort.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

How to: Make Buttermilk

Love cooking with buttermilk but always wondering what to do with that giant quart after you've used your measly 1/2 cup for a recipe? Sure there's pancakes, biscuits, sorbets, ice creams, cakes, pies, icings that can be made but if you don't have the time (or frankly don't want to make all those fatty foods), just use your regular milk and make you own. It's so simple you'll want to laugh out loud.
All the ingredients you need

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Ugly Duckling that is Tuna Salad

There's no way to make tuna salad look good. Not lighting, not editing, not even fancy filters. No way whatsoever. But we should all be pretty clear on what it looks like anyways so I'll skip the food porn shot and instead include a few pretties below from my wonderful, relaxing concert weekend in addition to my absolute favorite tuna salad recipe that I just kind of threw together last night when I got home from my latest travels. This salad was so delicious I had to make it again for lunch today. It's that good. And super easy. And healthy.
Instagram is great for making other things look good though.
Like making the random Merriweather Fountain look like something right out of an English garden
The Best Tuna Salad
1- 5 oz can of tuna packed in olive oil- drained
1 tsp light mayo
1 1/2 tsp honey mustard
1/2 tsp horseradish
Light splash of basalmic vinegar
2 tsp currants

1. Drain tuna well, then add to a bowl. In another bowl mix together the dressing ingredients and add a spoonful at a time to the tuna until it has reached your desired meat to dressing ratio. Serve over toast or mixed greens.

Note- I don't care for too much dressing, so if you do you may want to add more mayo and mustard. Since the tuna was already packed in olive oil I like to keep the mayo (i.e. fat) on the light side anyways.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Cali Diet: Part 3 The Recipe to End All Diet Recipes

Oh I know, I got back from Cali a few days ago. But I'm still rocking out in skimpy little outfits this weekend at numerous outdoor concerts, next weekend at the shore (this would be the fist pumping with pearls shore, just to be clear), a few weekends later in Alexandria for the 4th, along with numerous other scantily clad summer days, including a late summer lake house retreat. Diet (my way) remains in effect.
The calm before the literal storm at Merriweather for Mumford and Sons
I saw this poached-sous vide chicken recipe on Simply Recipes and it seems so much more like a technique than just a simple one off dinner, rather an opening into a plethora of ideas. And not just for chicken too. Why not another fowl, fish or pork, even lamb or steak? Why not marinate in miso or Marsala, stuff with roasted garlic or roll up with some arugula in the middle? Clearly I could go on and on. So once you get the technique down, use your imagination. And while I haven't yet done this with anything other than chicken (which is probably the most if-y) I would strongly suggest you do your due diligence in researching proper temperatures and cooking times for other meats to make sure you have the best, and safest meal possible.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Some Summer Blog Love

So here I am in a weird travel limbo. Got back late on Monday from LA, Tuesday I chose to spend my time outside of work wisely with the boy, which leaves tonight as my only real night home until I head out for my Maryland-DC-Virginia concert adventure, with the weekend after that to be spent in Avalon. Goodness. And here I was thinking that my life was settling down a bit when in fact it's just revving up.
Beautiful Cali. The view from the balcony in my room at the Four Seasons
With just one night home, shopping for food presents it's own little challenge. I don't want to make a mess, I don't want to have leftovers, but I also want to get enough so that I'm not repeating this entire process next week when I get back. So only non-perishables or items that can be frozen back. Which requires thought. And when I don't have the time to sit and plan I cheat a little and head to my favs. It's almost as though they knew I was coming.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Cali Diet: Part 2 Spicy Shrimp with Coconut Rice

Am I the only girl that just about hates shopping when I'm looking for something under a deadline? It's almost a given that I will never find it. And then I stress and make silly purchases, like fake eyelashes, because I couldn't find something equally stupid like sexy shorts. I walked blocks tonight after work because I was dead set on finding this one perfect pair of shoes. No others would do. It's insanity. And it's not even like I get the satisfaction of doing this to look good on the arm of someone else... although someone is getting a mini fashion show tomorrow night... but just because I was completely taken aback when the itinerary said everything was "LA casual." What does that even mean? I'm completely thrown but at the very least I've remained committed to purchasing only things I'll use again, and yes, perhaps even the fake eyelashes.Oh but you came here for the food. Sorry! I just had to get that shopping rant off my chest.

I am very aware that when dieting you want to avoid coconut milk at all costs. But it's tasty and delicious, so this creates something of a dilemma, especially when you've had a craving for quite a while. You can use the "lite" coconut milk which is pretty readily available in stores or you can simply buy a can of the good (read full of fat) stuff and then just water it down. And voila, that's all the lite coconut water is anyways and you're saving a bit of money by adding in that free water (aren't marketing ploys just evil like that?). And if you reduce it back it'll still be pretty nice and thick and saucy. So that's what I've always done. If you're so inclined you could use chicken or seafood stock or coconut water for more depth of flavor instead of water.
The ingredients getting all cozy in the skillet.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Rice Love

So looks like all my June posts are starting out with an overarching "love" theme. Don't read too much into it. Simple observation only. But while we're at it let's talk about my absolute love of rice for a quick sec in this post. Because I just made myself some of the best damn, completely and shamelessly licking the bowl, coconut rice tonight. And goodness... it was so delicious, delectable, intoxicating. As I was eating it straight from the rice cooker, I couldn't help thinking how buried it would be under a sauce and how perfect it would be with just some simple steamed veggies and chicken or shrimp. Or a simple salmon. Anything that wouldn't overpower this rice love affair of mine.
Don't get me wrong. The shrimp was delicious but the rice stole the show.
Because it's the only way I know how to make rice, I'm giving you the rice cooker way. But follow the instructions and adjust anything as necessary for stovetop cooking. Coconut to water should be a 1:2 ratio. I made my rice a tad healthier by adding some frozen shelled edamame and parsley for green. Also, worth trying if you want to be even healthier- just use coconut water. I usually keep a few bottles of it in my fridge, as it's really good on so many wonderful levels, so next time I make this rice, I'll try out just coconut water.

The Cali Diet: Part 1 My Love Hate Relationship with Tuna

Well some things can change in an instant. From good to bad, bad to good or sometimes from just a whatever Tuesday to all of a sudden counting down the days... mere days!... until I fly out to LA for the MTV Movie Awards as I was invited last minute through the network. For being mostly just a regular old job, albeit one I love, it can also be totally and completely cool in random and unexpected ways. What this also means is that I am on an immediate beach diet, starting yesterday.

The good thing is that with a few outdoor concerts down in Maryland and Virginia next weekend and heading down to a beach house in Avalon a week or 2 after that, I was already on bikini wear watch, now it's just amped up. Like a ton. But if you have any idea of who I am, either personally or through reading this blog, one thing I hope you can tell is that I'm not a dieter. Rather a good eater and exerciser who just kind of becomes even better at that when I have to.
If this is dieting then I'm on board


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