More of my favorites...

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Moose & Sadie's oatmeal buttermilk pancake

This morning Emily and I decided to go to breakfast as we did yesterday as well.  I have mentioned before that my girlfriends' and my 'thing' is to go out for a great breakfast, and we are always looking for something new.

Yesterday was Patisserie 46, which you already know is my favorite.  Have you tried it yet?!  What did you get?!

Today we ventured to the North Loop neighborhood in the warehouse district downtown.  Now that  is truly a hidden gem.  You would never expect so many great restaurants and cafes to be nestled in amongst all of the warehouses.

The cafe is Moose & Sadie's.  The breakfast item:  an oatmeal buttermilk pancake, drizzled with yogurt and topped with a pile of juicy blackberries.

This was the best pancake I have ever had in my entire life.

The cafe is adorable, and it looks like a cafe you'd find in New York City.  Actually, for a moment I felt like I was in NYC.  Very soho-esque.  And I almost forgot to mention an added bonus.  They brew Peace coffee, which is my favorite, and even better because it is local and fair trade!

Wish I had a picture, but here is a link to the website



Monday, January 24, 2011

What's in my lunch box? Week one.

I should be reading for class, but I'd rather be blogging.

Let's talk packed lunches.  I cannot even BEGIN to tell you how sick I am of turkey wraps and apples for lunch.  There is really nothing more blah, and therefore, highly unsatisfying.  I have made it my goal (I guess it could even be a new years resolution) to spice up my lunch menu.  In fact, I will commit to this now:  For the rest of the year, each week I will post "What's is in my lunch box?" with satisfying, nutritionally valuable lunch options.

Pressure is on!

Week one:  Spicy kung pao stir fry (and probably and orange)

This past weekend, I invited a few friends over last minute to have stir fry before we headed to an art showing.  This, however, was no ordinary stir fry;  it was Big Bowl's recipe for spicy kung pao chicken stir fry.  I only ever order one item on Big Bowl's, and that is the stir fry bar with spicy kung pao sauce.  So I searched for the recipe online and found it!  Now you don't need to go to Big Bowl for the best stir fry ever.  You can make it yourself in the comfort of your own home!

This is the only picture I have of the night.  Lame.

Back on track, though.  the stir fry was so delicious on Saturday night that I made it again tonight for dinner, and I will be bringing it in my lunch tomorrow.

A few more great things about this recipe: it is super quick and easy, you can add any of your favorite veggies, and you can make a lot at once to have for leftovers.  Perfect to pack in your lunch box!

So make it for dinner and pack it for lunch.

Spicy kung pao chicken stir fry, modified from Big Bowl's recipe

8 oz chicken breasts, thawed and sliced to desired sized
1 t starch
1 t sesame oil
1/2 C peanut oil
6 dried chilies

For the sauce

2 T garlic black bean sauce
1 T chili paste
1 1/2 T hoisin sauce
1 T vinegar
1 T soy sauce
1 T sugar
1/4 C green onions
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 C roasted peanuts

Veggies I used for my stir fry

Snow peas
Water Chestnuts
...feel free to add your favorites!

Marinate sliced chicken in starch, sesame oil, and peanut oil for at least 30 minutes. 

While you are waiting, combine bean sauce, chili paste, hoisin sauce, vinegar, soy sauce, sugar and garlic.  Mix well.

Heat a large frying pan with a bit of peanut oil, and transfer chicken and marinade on to your hot skillet.  Cook thoroughly.  Remove all but 1/4 C of oil from the frying pan.  Add dried chilies to the skillet, then add the green onions.  I then added my snow peas, broccoli, mushrooms, and water chestnuts to the skillet; let them cook for a second; then poured my sauce over the veggies.

Stir your stir fry, then cover it so that the veggies can cook, removing the lid to stir occasionally.  Once the veggies are cooked, reduce the heat and add your pineapple, peanuts, and cilantro and stir.

Serve with sticky rice or brown rice.

Tonight I did not make chicken, Just veggies.  fried the veggies on a hot skillet with a generous pour of peanut oil.  Cook the veggies for a minute or two, then pour the sauce over the veggies.  I also added a bit of sesame oil to the sauce, only because it is so delicious.

So there you have it.  Stir fry is in my lunch box this week.

Write me comments!  What do you pack in your lunch box?!



Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Maple pecan scones - from the Pioneer Woman Cooks

Let me just say, these may be the best scones I have ever had, and my mom said that yes, they are the best scones she has ever had.  They taste like a shortbread cookie and are covered with a fantastic maple glaze.

I would never expect anything less of the Pioneer Woman.

As I was baking these my stepsister Brittany came in to the kitchen and said, "It smells like a bakery in here."  Oh how I wish it were a real bakery! 

Maple Pecan Scones, from The Pioneer Woman Cooks

3 C all-purpose flour
1/3 C sugar
5 t baking powder
1 t salt
1/4 t salt
2 sticks butter, cold
1/4 C pecans, finely chopped
1 egg
3/4 C heavy cream

For the glaze

1 lb powdered sugar
1/4 C milk
4 T melted butter
Splash of strongly brewed coffee
2 t maple extract

Preheat oven to 350, and prepare a cookie sheet by spraying it with non-stick spray.  In a large bowl, mix your dry ingredients well.  Cut the cold butter into small pieces, place in to dry ingredients and cut the butter in to your flour mixture. 

Some of you may have a  special tool to cut butter in to flour.  I do not, so I used a potato masher.  Otherwise I would suggest softening the butter a tad and using an electric mixture.  Continue cutting/mixing until mixture resembles sand.

Add chopped pecans to your mixture.

Whisk egg and heavy whipping cream and add to mixture.

Stir until liquid and dry mixtures are just combined.

Transfer the dough on to a cutting board.  Using your fingers, form a large ball with the dough, but do not knead too much!  Now, using a rolling pin, roll the dough in to a 10-inch round.

Cut the round in to 8 equal pieces.

Place each scone on to your greased cookie sheet.

Bake for 22-26 minutes.  Do not let the edges get too brown!  Allow scones to cool on a cooling rack.  In the meantime, work on your maple glaze!  Combine all ingredients in a bowl, and mix until creamy.  Once the scones are cooled, drizzle your glaze over each scone.

Your glaze may be a bit lighter in color than mine.  That's okay!  I am sure it will be even more delicious!

I made these for a gathering with my family and my mom's sister Julie's family one morning.  The scones are quite large, so we were all breaking off pieces to eat.  When there was one scone left, Julie said that she probably ended up eating two.  Though I was breaking off small pieces as well, I am certain that I had at least two!  They were really that good.



Sunday, January 16, 2011

Oatmeal chocolate cherry cookies - My new "one of my favorite cookies ever"

The other night I was very much in the mood for baking, as I oftentimes am when I go home.  You see, my mom and Mark are always well equipped with baking ingredients and supplies - far more than I am at my apartment.

I wasn't in the mood for anything super sweet.  I have had a super-sweet overload in recent days (and probably weeks).  So I poked around my current go-to blog, Smitten Kitchen.  Though oatmeal raisin cookies are never my first choice,  I didn't need much convincing after seeing the adjectives "thick and chewy" before "oatmeal raisin cookies."

Raisins are boring, though!  I went in to the pantry and found a bag of dried cherries and chocolate chips.  Perfect! 

Oatmeal chocolate cherry cookies, modified from Smitten Kitchen

1 stick butter, softened
2/3 C packed light brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 t vanilla extract
3/4 C all-purpose flour
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t ground cinnamon
1/4 t salt
1 1/4 C old-fashioned oats
3/4 C dried cherries
Semi-sweet chocolate chips (as you like - I used just over a half bag which was the perfect amount for me)

Preheat oven to 350.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Cream butter, brown sugar, egg, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl until smooth and fluffy.

In a separate bowl, combine your dry ingredients.  Mix well.  Add your dry mixture to your sugar mixture and stir until thoroughly combined.

Stir in your oats, cherries, and chocolate chips.

Refrigerate the dough for a short time, perhaps 20 minutes.  This will prevent your cookies from flattening when you bake them so that they are extra thick and chewy!

Use an ice cream scoop to scoop the dough, placing each ball about 2 inches apart on the parchment paper-lined cookie sheet.

Bake for 8-10 minutes until golden brown.  When I removed mine from the oven, I immediately transferred the entire piece of parchment paper on to the counter so that the cookies would not bake further on the hot cookie sheet.  I really have no idea if this makes any difference at all, but it makes sense to me!

These really are so thick and chewy, the best two adjectives a cookie could possibly possess.  Super excellent.

You can substitute many different ingredients in to this recipe for the chocolate and the cherries.  Anyone have any great ideas?!



Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Rich and decadent chocolate cupcakes

This is for all of you extreme chocolate lovers.  You must make these chocolate cupcakes and load them with chocolate buttercream frosting.  The only thing that could possibly make them better is using a jumbo pan as opposed to a standard pan.  And you know that I always  prefer the jumbo pan; it just didn't seem necessary/appropriate for a two-year-old's birthday party.

Actually I suppose I should have - Carter really only eats cookies and pizza; he didn't even have any cake (could he really be my brother)!  Such a shame, too, because I love watching toddlers stuff their faces with cake.

Anyway, as you may have gathered, I made these cupcakes for my little bro's b-day party.  This is my second favorite chocolate cake recipe - Chocolate Supreme Cake.  And my, oh my is it supreme.

Chocolate Supreme Cake

2 C sugar
2 C flour
1 t soda
1/2 t salt
1/2 - 1 t cinnamon
1 C buttermilk (if you don't have buttermilk, add 1 T lemon juice to 1 C regular milk, stir, and let sit 5 minutes)
2 eggs, beaten
4 T cocoa
1 C butter
1 C water

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Mix the first seven ingredients in a large mixing bowl.

Bring cocoa, butter, and water to a boil over medium heat.

Add this hot mixture to the other ingredients, and mix until well combined.

Pour in to cupcake pan lined with muffin cups.  I would start by baking them for 15 minutes, then watch them closely after that.  If you opt to make a 9 x 13 inch cake, bake for 25 minutes.

This is our good family friend Don.  He was over at our house for men's poker night, and he wanted to be featured in my blog!  This is great, Donny! 

And of course we mustn't forget the chocolate buttercream frosting!

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting, from Nestle Toll House

3 C powdered sugar
2/3 C cocoa
1 stick butter
6 T milk
1 t vanilla

Beat 1 C powedered sugar, cocoa, butter, 2 T milk, and vanilla. Gradually beat in remaining milk and sugar until creamy.

Yummy, yummy, yummy I've got love in my tummy.



It's a doll party!

Every Saturday morning this month at Color Me Mine (my place of employment), we will be hosting a "paint with your doll" party, in which little girls can come in to paint with their favorite dolls.  Quite adorable, really.

I was fortunate enough to have been hired to plan a theme for each party and provide complementary treats - that of course match the theme!

Everything PINK was last weekend's theme.  And thank goodness they are girl parties.  Being a girlie girl myself, girlie parties are always more fun (and easier) to plan.

Recently I discovered the baking aisle in Michael's.  How perfect!  You can find so many creative accessories to fulfill all of your baking needs!  I have a feeling that this aisle could potentially become very dangerous for me...

So I ventured to Michael's in search of anything and everything pink.  I immediately saw a bag of hot pink gumballs...then pink glitter...then pink sprinkles...and then to throw in a bit of glitz and glamour, I went crazy and bought silver sprinkles!

Now what was I possibly going to do with all of this fabulous pink edible decor?

Here you have it.  Fabulous (and delicious) cupcakes and white chocolate-dipped pretzels, both decorated to the nines, of course.

Now I will let you in on a little secret, one that I am a bit ashamed to admit.  The yellow cupcakes were made FROM A BOX.  Yes, yes, I can hear the sighs of disappointment.  But, seriously.  No one can deny the deliciousness of a box-yellow cake.  And any little girl wasn't going to notice or care.  The important part is that they looked adorable. AND girlie.

White chocolate-dipped pretzels?  So easy, and a perfect balance of salty and sweet.  Totally killer.  But there is one secret to making these, and I will share it with you.  When melting the white chocolate, it is so important to melt it slowly so as not to burn the chocolate.  Microwave a bag of white chocolate chips at 70% power at 30 second increments, stirring in between.  Dip the pretzels, give them a good shake, set them on a piece of wax paper, and sprinkle immediately so the white chocolate doesn't harden.

AND, the most exciting part for me was that I made my first batch of business cards!  Not totally sure if anyone took one, but I am keeping my fingers crossed!



Sunday, January 2, 2011

Apple pancakes - breakfast for dinner

Every group of girlfriends has their "thing" that they always do together.  My group of girlfriends' "thing" is going out to breakfast.  It is always totally great and very Sex and the City.  I am not exactly sure quite how the tradition started, but I can tell you this:  I love breakfast food.  I could eat breakfast for every meal for the rest of my life.

New Year's Eve Sarah and I decided to save money by not going out for dinner.  I guess we did go out, but only to my parents house, and made dinner there.  We looked through a few cookbooks but were getting nowhere, so I suggested breakfast for dinner.  We had potatoes that we fried up in olive oil, topped with a little salt and fresh cracked rainbow peppercorns.  We also had great ingredients for omelets - ham, green peppers, onion, cheese, mushrooms - so we made omelets, too.

Breakfast, however, is most certainly incomplete without pancakes, waffles, or french toast - anything served with maple syrup.  I pulled up my go-to blogs - Smitten Kitchen and A Cozy Kitchen - and found a recipe for apple pancakes on Smitten Kitchen.

Apple pancakes + REAL maple syrup = Mmmmm....

Apple pancakes, from Smitten Kitchen

2 eggs
1 1/2 C milk
2 C all-purpose flour
1 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1/4 C sugar
3 medium apples, peeled and coarsely grated
I also added  a hint of cinnamon to the batter.

First, peel apples and grate with a coarse grater.

Whisk eggs and milk.  Add dry ingredients and sugar.  Whisk.

Mix apples in to mixture. 

Melt butter on to a hot skillet or frying pan over the stove to prevent the batter from sticking to the pan.  Place spoonfuls of batter on to skillet, being mindful to leave plenty of space between each cake.  Flatten the center of each cake in order that they cook all the way through.

Allow to cook several minutes, then flip.

So easy and so yummy!  My mom tried them and said they will be a definite "cabin staple."  Really, these pancakes are just as easy as using a mix, and they taste so much better!

Good for breakfast, lunch, AND dinner.



At last I am cooking - Smoked salmon quiche

I have now lived in my apartment for four months and have only cooked a handful of times - enchiladas on most occasions.  After the longest day of errands on Thursday (which were quite enjoyable because I went to all of my favorite stores - Surdyk's, Trader Joe's, Target), I made dinner for Sarah and her boyfriend Dillon (and myself obviously). 

I had just received the I [Heart] Trader Joe's Party Cookbook for Christmas, so I found two great recipes - smoked salmon quiche and savory cheese crisps.  Might I just say that despite how crowded Trader Joe's is all of the time, what a pleasurable shopping experience!  Not too overwhelming, and they have such delicious treats!

As I am so accustomed to baking in my kitchen, when it came to cooking a meal and trying to coordinate several different tasks, I was a bit frazzled.  But I was very satisfied with the end result.

The savory cheese crisps tasted just like Cheese Nips and would be a great snack for kids to grab on the go.  The quiche was very good as well, with a very strong mix of flavors - salmon, goat cheese, and lemon. Mmmm...

I started by preparing the cheese crisps.

Savory Cheese Crisps

1 stick butter, at room temperature
2 C grated cheese (I used shredded co-jack)
1 C flour
Pinch of salt

Beat butter and cheese.  Add flour and salt and continue mixing until just combined. 

You will now need to form the dough in to a log and place it on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  In order to do so, knead the dough very well so that it will stick together.  When I first started trying to form a log I thought, Now how the heck am I going to get this to stick together?!  Keep working with it, though, and eventually it will turn out like this.

Refridgerate for at least 30 minutes.

In the meantime, prepare your quiche.  Preheat the oven to 375.

Smoked Salmon Quiche, from the I [Heart] Trader Joe's Party Cookbook

1 Trader Joe's Gourmet Pie Crust
1 T butter
1 shallot, chopped
3 eggs
1 1/2 C half n' half
Zest of 1 lemon
4 oz smoked salmon, chopped
4 oz goat cheese, crumbled
Salt and pepper

Defrost one of the pie crusts (you can put the other back in the freezer), and fit it in to a 8 or 9 inch pie pan. 

Crumple a piece of parchment paper.  Unfold and place atop your crust.  Pour 1-2 C rice over the parchment paper to act as a weight.  Bake 10-12 minutes.  Remove rice and parchment paper, and bake for another 5 minutes or so, until crust is flaky and golden.  Set aside.  Reduce oven temperature to 350.

Saute your chopped shallot in a small frying pan with 1 T butter for about 4 minutes, or until shallot is tender.  Set aside.

Beat your eggs and cream in a mixing bowl.

Add lemon zest and chopped salmon to your egg mixture.

Add sauteed shallot and goat cheese.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  I highly recommend using Trader Joe's fresh ground rainbow peppercorns.

Pour mixture in to pie pan over your golden crust.  Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes until eggs are just set.

Now, back to your cheese crisps.  Remove your cheese log from the refridgerator.  Cut log into slices about 1/4 inch thick to make circular chips and place chips back on to parchment paper lined cookie sheet, as shown here.

Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes until chips are crisp and golden.

Voila,  a perfect (or nearly perfect) smoke salmon quiche.

Served with cheese crisps and steamed broccoli with olive oil, salt, and pepper.


How romantic!  Just kidding, not at all since I was there.  But it was very nice.

And of course I have to mention dessert (me and my sweet tooth!).  Gourmet espresso chocolate caramels from Surdyk's - delicious.  And, Dillon is quite the beer conoisseur.  He makes delicious home-brewed beer, but for our dinner he bought a yummy dessert beer from Trader Joe's.