Sunday, June 26, 2011

For the Chobani Lovers...

Have you seen this!?! It's the cutest little thing and I am totally in love with it: it's called Chobani Champions for little kiddies. My mom got these little things at Costco. The package had two flavors: "Verry Berry" and "Honey Nana." They are a little frothy on the top so you need to stir them up a little and they get super creamy. The perfect snack on the go or to end the meal with a little sweet.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

My Happy Place - inside the Peanut Butter jar

Just wanted to share a couple photos...

Is there any better experience than opening a new jar of JIF peanut butter? First, peeling off the seal and hearing the pop. Then licking the little bit that's stuck on the underside. Then skimming your spoon over the top of the untouched creamy goodness... mmmmm... pure happiness

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


Sorry for the fuzzy pictures - I took them with a phone because I forgot my camera...

Never heard of a Thumbit? You're not alone.

Thumbits are basically sliced steak which you put on a slice of bread (only one, so this is an open-faced sammie), and dip the whole thing into a delicious sauce. As the story goes, thumbits are a Miller family invention and tradition. When my Aunt Mondi met my Uncle Mac, his family invited her family over for an evening by the lake. Well, my aunt's family is Persian - you know, rice and lemon type people - so it was kind of hilarious (as they tell me), watching them roll up their sleeves and dive into these messy little sandwiches. I kind of love the image of my mom and her skinny-mini sisters eating these things :)

My Uncle Mac first told me the story of thumbits last summer and, after a year of waiting, I was super duper happy to find that we'd get to sample them.

The evening started off with ice cold margaritas. I am including the recipe because my Uncle makes the best margaritas I've ever had:

First, salt the rims of your glasses
Then, in a blender mix 1 can of frozen lemonade, 1/2 the lemonade can full of Tequila, and 1/2 the can full of triple sec
Add 2/3 blender full of ice and blend until the ice is chopped up nicely
Pour into glasses

Okay, now onto the Thumbits:

What you need are 2-3 nice steaks. He used once that were about 1 1/4 inches thick.
(I should probably insert here a little tribute to my Uncle's excellent BBQ skills. I've never had a steak or burger grilled like he does it. It's an art I am going to try and learn his secrets this summer.)

Okay, so after you've seasoned your meat on both sides with salt, pepper, seasoned salt, and Worcestershire sauce, grill it to a nice medium or medium rare.

To make the thumbit sauce (this makes the meal, so don't skip it!), heat about 1 1/2 cups Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce, salt, pepper, and 1 stick of butter over the stove. I know, I know, 1 stick! Honestly, I am going to cut this down to a half stick next time. You need the flavor and viscosity the butter adds, but there was that unseemly layer of colored fat over the sauce when we poured it out, so for my own sake, I'll use less butter.

Take a baguette, split it horizontally, and butter both sides with softened butter.
Right before serving, warm the bread in the oven so the butter melts and the bread is heated through.

Slice the meat into 1/3 inch slices. Remember to let the meat rest a bit before slicing, so the juices don't run all over the place.

Pour the thumbit sauce into ramekins - 1 per 2 people.

We serve this with onion slices marinated in olive oil, salt, and lemon juice. Let them marinate for about 2 hours and its cuts the usual bite that lingers on your tongue.

Get to dunkin'!!!! YUM YUM YUM

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Cocktail (Food) Party

As a lover of food, it's always fun for me to gather others lovers and share my recipes, tricks, and tips. The other night I invited a few friends over for a Grown-up Girls Night In. On the menu: a lovely antipasto platter, shrimp scampi, brownie fingers with chocolate ganache, and almond cakes with almond whipped cream. And of course, a nice white wine.

I bought Marcona almonds from Trader Joe's - roasted and flavored with rosemary. They were a perfect nibbly treat to start off the meal. Marcona almonds are kind of pricey, but it's good to splurge on a few ingredients. I also found some great marinated olives at Whole Foods.

For the antipasto plate, I tried to mix color and flavor. I chose to showcase only one cheese: goat cheese, which I knew all my friends loved. I left it plain, but I noticed there are many types available now in the cheese market: honey spiked, blueberry, savory... you could even roll the cheese in fresh chopped herbs or cracked black pepper if you wanted. With my log, I chose to serve it alongside a lemon balm and sour cherry compote. I left the sauce separate so guests could choose to spoon it over if they wanted. For the fruits I got some nice strawberries and green grapes and also served some pepperoni slices.

Shrimp scampi is the easiest dish to make at a party - and something that can be done in front of your guests if you want, because it should be made-to-eat. I was sure to get the water boiling before my guests got here and also defrosted the scrimp in warm water. These are the two longest steps in the dish, can you believe it? To make the shrimp, heat olive oil in a pan until it's hot. Add the shrimp and "sear" on both sides (i.e. wait till they turn light pink). Squeeze in a half lemon, sprinkle in some salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Test your flakes to see how hot they are because mine were pretty spicy. Then add the drained pasta, a hefty spoonful of pesto, and a splash of cream. Serve immediately with a wedge of lemon.

Dessert time! I just made some brownies, cut them into strips, and smothered the tops with a mixture of 3 Tbs room temperature butter and 4 oz of heated, cooled chocolate. For the almond cakes, shown at the top, I used a pound cake recipe and added 1 1/2 tsp almond extract. I baked the cake in a 9x13 Pyrex dish at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes (note this is much LESS time than the recipe would call for). Then I let it cool and cut out rounds using a cookie cutter. I topped these with fresh whipped cream and a strawberry.

Here is the recipe I used:

Mix 1 ½ c flour, 1 cup sugar, 1 tsp baking powder, ½ tsp salt, ½ tsp baking soda

Add 3 eggs, 1 tsp vanilla, and ½ cup melted butter, cooled

½ cup yogurt or sour cream and a little over ¼ cup cream

Finally, add 1 1/2 tsp almond extract

What was really great about this party was that the guests pitched in for the ingredients - this way the burden of high gas prices (and therefore, high grocery costs), wasn't placed on one person (a great strategy for grad students who are penny pinching). I made sure everyone went home with a little goodie bag, too - always a nice give your guests something to extend the night's festivities.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Yet Another Cookie Recipe - Starring the M&M

I realize that if you type "cookie" into the Search Bar of my blog, more than a few recipes might come up. But truth be told, you can never have too many recipes. I mean, if you have the hankering for oatmeal, or chocolate chip, don't want to sift through a bunch of posts or try recreating from a standard dough. Just type in the word and BAM - cookie recipe!

This week I made candy cookies with the cute Easter pastel M&Ms Weston bought me. I normally don't like M&M cookies because when you mix the pieces into the dough, the crunch of the coating bothers me. I feel like they've made it thicker over the years and I do not appreciate that.

I used my standby chocolate chip cookies dough recipe, but used about half as many chocolate chips. Then, I added about 4 Tbs Heath bar pieces. After letting the dough chill for about 10 minutes, I rolled it into balls and pressed them down a little with the palm of my hand. I took about 4-5 M&Ms and pushed them on the top. This way you see them - I noticed that when recipes ask you to mix them into the batter, the cookies don't look as "happy!" Bake the recommended amount of time, but note that they will set up once you take them out of the oven, too.

See?!? These cookies just make me smile :)

Monday, June 13, 2011

Summer-y Sangira

I call this sangria - I am sure it's not "original" sangria. But it's tasty and refreshing - perfect at brunch or to sip on the patio with friends or a good book.

This makes a lot, so cut down on the wine if you aren't serving a large crowd:

3 bottles Zinfandel - or any light and fruity wine that you like to drink
2 oranges
1 green apple
3 Tbs sugar

Slice the oranges and slightly squeeze the juice into a giant Tupperware, then add the orange slices. Chop the apple and add that as well. Pour in the wine and add the sugar. Keep in the fridge till ready to serve.

I made this about 1 day in advance and the orange and apple really came through in the wine. I topped it off with bubbly water and/or Sprite according to the tastes of the person drinking it.

It's a cute gift, too - just ladle into a canning jar and garnish with the sliced oranges. The apples taste like pure alcohol so don't eat those...

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Pasta for Mom

My mom and I have a running joke: she's an amazing cook, but the one thing she just has problems with is properly cooking pasta. So whenever I come home, she asks me to make her a pasta dish. Last time I made shrimp scampi and she was in heaven. She asked me to recreate the dish a couple nights ago using chicken instead. What I made was, in fact, nothing like the original because we had different ingredients on hand, but I'll definitely try to match the shrimp dish again later this summer.

As much as I love my kitchen in Richmond, it's not as snazzy as the one back home, so here are some pictures as much for your viewing pleasure as for mine...

This kitchen is a dream to cook in - my mom designed the whole thing, even the stove was custom made for her because she wanted extra burners.

Here is the chicken pasta recipe which is divine - very creamy and flavorful. I highly recommend you try it :)

1 pound chicken tenders, chopped into small pieces
1/2 onion, chopped small
2 Tbs pesto
salt, fresh cracked pepper, garlic powder, red pepper flakes
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
3 Tbs Greek yogurt
3 cups spinach

Heat oil in a pan and fry the onion until it is golden. Add the chicken and cook about halfway - then season with black pepper, salt, and garlic powder. In a bowl, combine the pesto, sour cream, and yogurt, then add this to the chicken. Sprinkle in the Parm and the red pepper flakes. Add more pesto if you think it needs some. Add the spinach and stir so the sauce coats it, then put a lid over the pan to wilt the spinach down some.

Boil 1 1/2 pounds of thin spaghetti and add it to the sauce (reserve some pasta water when draining). Let them cook together for a while and add a couple ladles of pasta water to loosen the sauce so it coats everything nicely.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Wedding Weekend in Baltimore

This weekend Weston and I attended a beautiful wedding in Wilmington, Delaware.

But first we traveled down to Baltimore to see his brother and his brother's fiancee. They took us to an amazing local deli/market called Atwaters.

I got, um, a lot of food - totally by accident because I didn't know the portions would be so big. Luckily Weston was open to sharing.

We started with a nice and refreshing bowl of gazpacho - it wasn't too heavy on the olive oil and the flavor was excellent. Not like a Bloody Mary in a bowl and they clearly made it fresh for the day because the veggies were super crisp.

For my main entree I ordered a golden beet salad with butter lettuce, asparagus, a boiled egg, and extra goat cheese. The dressing was a dill vinaigrette which complimented the rest of the ingredients perfectly. And the top was sprinkled with roasted pistachios - yummy! I have to say, they were VERY liberal with the goal cheese - something I greatly appreciate since I love it so much. And the butter lettuce was fresh and delicious. Hmm, what else did I have? Oh! The chicken salad!

They put in golden raisins and grapes and it wasn't full of mayo like a lot of recipes. The flavors were spot on and they hadn't mashed the chicken into a pulp either.

Weston had a sandwich: grilled chicken, chimichurri sauce, red cabbage slaw, homemade olive tapenade, and a couple slices of cheddar cheese on a cheddar scone.

Nothing was too heavy or overpowering - the perfect evening meal.

We also took some time to revisit the Loch Raven Reservoir in Towson - so pretty :)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Birthday Brunch: One Post, Many Recipes

My first post back in Michigan is a goodie: 4 recipes in one!

We decided to celebrate my sister's 18th birthday a bit late (she wanted to wait for me to be back here) and so I suggested a yummy Birthday Brunch. I love brunch - guests feel like they are being spoiled when they hear they are going to "brunch." The idea conjures up images of sausage, eggs, bacon, waffles, also makes me think of being stuffed passed the point of comfort. This is why I enjoy planning the menu: one carb, one protein, one sweet, one healthy - but each has a twist to make them unique. Planning a brunch party does NOT mean bogging yourself down with a ton of complicated recipes. It's sometimes better to have a few amazing options for your guests, so they don't end up picking a little off of everything and feeling stuffed but unsatisfied.

Here was our menu:

1) Blueberry Sour Cream Coffee Cake : this recipe is great, no kidding. Very light and fluffy. I made the following alterations - I nixed the streusal topping; in my opinion it just adds fat without a good flavor trade off. So instead, I added blueberries. My trick so they don't fall to the bottom is to put a little batter on the bottom of the bundt and then press about 3/4 cup blueberries into it, then add the rest of the batter on top.

I also made a killer sauce to up the berry flavor: I just simmered down a small bag of frozen blueberries with a small bag of frozen raspberries and about 3 Tbs sugar. I let that cook over medium high heat until it thickened, adding about 1 tsp cornstarch towards the end. I serve the sauce over the cake, but let people do it themselves so the cake didn't get soggy.

2) Fruit Salad: My mom made the dressing for this - it's a little different every time but the general gist is that you mix about 3/4 cup sour cream with 1/4 cup of sugar and 1 tsp of almond extract. Mix this into a blend of bananas, apples, oranges, strawberries, and peaches. Then mix in 1 cup of mini marshmallows and top with toasted coconut and almonds.

3) Crust-less Quiche: This recipe was altered to make a 9x13 Pyrex. Mix 8-9 eggs with some salt and pepper. Add 1 1/2 cups of Bisquick and set aside. Layer 1 chopped, fried onion, 1 head of cauliflower chopped finely, and about 3 cups of some kind of meat into the Pyrex. I used spicy beef snacking sticks from Whole Foods, turkey bacon, and regular breakfast sausage. Over this pour the egg mixture and cover with 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (a spicy cheese would be good, too). Bake in a 350 degree oven for 40-45 minutes, then let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

4) Pasta Salad: Chop one head of broccoli, 4 carrots, 1/2 a block of feta cheese, and 1/2 pint of cherry tomatoes. Add 1 pound of cooked and drained fusilli pasta. Next, spoon in 1/3 cup olive tapenade, 1/4 cup Dijon mustard, 1/4 cup olive oil, and 2 Tbs balsamic vinegar. Season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Combine thoroughly to be sure every bit is coated. Serve cold or at room temperature.

And there you have it: a simple menu with outstanding flavor. Happy Birthday to my sissy! You are going to make a great Wolverine!!!!