Wednesday, February 29, 2012

What's For Dinner: Sesame Broccoli Tofu Stir Fry

Oh, this week is killing me! I have just now come to a stopping point for the day, and it's already 10p. Blergh. And given that I have plenty of deadlines still looming, the end is not quite yet in sight. Soon, though, soon. (One can always hope, anyway.) The other night I was looking for a quick and easy dinner to make, and given that we had broccoli and tofu on hand, I had my heart set on some sort of stir fry. A quick search on Google came up with this recipe. The resulting ginger- and garlic-flavored stir fry was delicious. I only made a couple of substitutions in the recipe -- I used black sesame seeds in place of white ones, and I also replaced the chicken stock with veggie stock. If you're looking for an easy weeknight dinner, I highly recommend giving it a try.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Made From Scratch: Meyer Lemon Curd

On Saturday morning, I made a quick batch of Meyer lemon curd from the bag of Meyer lemons I had on hand. It really couldn't be much easier -- just make a simple syrup with the lemon juice and sugar, carefully whisk in two eggs, then cook the mixture until it begins to thicken. You can add in butter to make it even more smooth and creamy, or you can omit it. It's all up to you! Here's the recipe I used to make my curd. Now I just need to figure out what to do with it! Perhaps a batch of vanilla scones is in order? 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Weekend Shenanigans: The Farmers' Cabinet

The highlight of this past weekend was a trip to The Farmers' Cabinet for evening cocktails on Saturday night. Well, cocktails for me and a couple of beers for D, but you get the gist. Though we opted to just sit at the bar and have drinks, The Farmers' Cabinet also offers a full food menu, which features many locally and/or sustainably farmed ingredients.

The ambience is great -- the space is lit with flickering candles and oil lamps, the walls are covered in wood paneling, and it all has a sort-of Victorian-era hunting lodge feel what with a number of animals (or animal bits) mounted on the walls, including a pheasant, bison head, and caribou antlers, along with a bear skin rug strewn atop a piano.

The drink menu is quite a tome. This is not the place to go for a Red Bull and vodka, though if you do order such a thing, the white shirt and black-suspender clad barman will come up with a substitute made from a variety of syrups, juices, and tinctures.

I started my night out with a rum collins. Along with rum, this drink featured lemon, sugar, orange bitters, soda, and an orange twist.

My second drink of the night was my favorite. Called "The Arms of York," this cocktail featured vodka, orange curacao, Meyer lemon curd, narcissus bitters, vanilla tincture, lemon, and sugar. It was so, so good. And now I know exactly what I need to do with my Meyer lemons!

The dessert menu had several tasty-sounding items, and the one that caught both our eyes was the offering of donuts and coffee. So, once we got home, I whipped up a quick batch of baked cinnamon-sugar donuts, and we shared the plateful alongside a mug each of French press coffee. The perfect ending to a fun night out!

The Details:
1113 Walnut Street, Philadelphia
Hours: M-F 3p - 2a; Sa-Su 11:30a - 2a


Friday, February 24, 2012

What I'm Searching For: Meyer Lemon Inspiration

Jealous of my West coast friends' abundance of Meyer lemons, I decided to pick up a small bag of my own at Whole Foods the other day. Now I just need to make something with them! Here are a few recipes that have caught my eye. After D and I ate a whole cake in just five days, do I even dare make the cupcakes? I fear they wouldn't last they long in our household -- but they look so good!


Thursday, February 23, 2012

What's For Dinner: Homemade Mac-n-Cheese

Alongside our pulled pork sandwiches, we had a healthy portion of homemade mac-n-cheese. I went with a Martha Stewart recipe on this, though I made some changes with the cheeses as I got sick of grating so much of it and used some already-grated Pecorino Romano I had on hand as well. I also halved the recipe as we really don't need 12 servings of macaroni and cheese in the house! Though clearly not the same as the kind that comes in the blue box (you know the one with the neon orange cheese!), this homemade version was a delicious, and dare I say more sophisticated, version.

Homemade Mac-n-Cheese (printer-friendly version)
makes 6 large servings

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for buttering your casserole dish
3 slices white bread, crusts removed, cut into 1/4" cubes
2  3/4 cups skim milk
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for water
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 1/4 cups grated sharp white cheddar cheese
1/2 cup (about 8 ounces) grated Gruyère
1/4 cup Pecorino Romano
1/2 lb elbow macaroni

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 1.5-quart casserole dish. Set aside.
2. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a small saucepot. Place the bread cubes into a medium bowl. Pour the melted butter over the bread cubes and toss to coat. Set aside.
3. Warm the milk over medium heat in a medium-sized saucepot. At the same time, melt the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter in a high-walled skillet. When the butter starts to sizzle and bubble, add the flour and whisk to combine.
4. Add the warmed milk to the butter-flour mixture. Continue whisking briskly to combine the ingredients into a smooth liquid. Continue cooking (and whisking) for 8-10 minutes, or until the mixture begins to thicken. Once the mixture begins to thicken, remove the skillet from the heat.
5. Stir in the salt, nutmeg, black pepper, cayenne pepper, 1.5 cups of grated sharp cheddar, and 1/4 cup of grated Gruyère. Once combined, set aside.
6. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season liberally with salt. Add in the half-pound of elbow macaroni and cook for 1-2 minutes less than the instructions indicate.
7. Once cooked, drain the macaroni and rinse it under cold water.
8. Add the cooked macaroni to the cheese sauce and stir to combine.
9. Spoon the macaroni and cheese into the prepared casserole dish. Sprinkle the top with the remaining 3/4 cup of cheddar cheese, 1/4 cup of Gruyère, and 1/4 cup of Pecorino Romano. Add the buttered bread cubes evenly over the top of the cheese.
10. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and the bread cubes are lightly toasted. Cool for five minutes on a wire rack before serving.

(adapted from this Martha Stewart recipe)


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

What's For Dinner: Dr. Snap Pulled Pork Sandwiches

As I mentioned the other day, I (kind of randomly) decided to make pulled pork sandwiches for dinner on Sunday night. Inspired by a Pioneer Woman recipe that used Dr. Pepper, I picked up a can of Whole Foods' version of the drink (Dr. Snap, though I think it would be funnier if it were named 'Snap, PhD') to make up a batch of pulled pork. Though I had a bottle of BBQ sauce in the cupboard, I decided to make up a batch of my own anyway -- the stuff that's made from scratch just tastes so much better. I picked up a variety of rolls for our sandwiches; pictured above is a yummy pretzel roll.

Dr. Snap Pulled Pork (printer-friendly version)
makes enough for 8+ sandwiches

2 lbs pork shoulder (our pork shoulder came from Simply Grazin', a farm located in NJ, and had a Whole Foods animal welfare rating of 4 (pasture centered)
freshly ground black pepper
fine sea salt
1 12-oz can of Dr. Snap

1. Place the pork shoulder in a slow cooker. Season both sides liberally with salt and pepper.
2. Pour a can of Dr. Snap over the pork. Set the slow cooker to low and cook for 6-7 hours.
3. Before you shred the meat, use a spoon to ladle off some of the fat. You can also remove any residual fat on the meat as well.
4. Use a knife and fork to shred the pork. Drain off the liquid.
5. Stir in about 1 cup of your favorite barbecue sauce.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

What's Baking: Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Baking a cake makes me nervous. So many layers, so many steps, so much frosting, so much that could go wrong. I still don't understand how people are able to get their frosting to look so smooth on their cakes. I always end up going for a 'rustic' look. Perhaps I need to invest in an offset spatula? 

Though it took forever to grate the pound of carrots (I read somewhere that it was better to grate the carrots by hand, rather than with a food processor, though I can't quite remember why), the cake itself came together pretty quickly. I had originally planned to make a small cake, but I ended up going all out and made an 8" double-layer round cake. I made the cake the night before D's birthday, and then made the frosting and frosted the cake the next evening. (I covered the cake layers in plastic wrap and refrigerated them overnight.) The end result was delicious, and we may or may not have managed to eat half the cake between the two of us over a span of just two days. No judgement, right?

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting (printer-friendly version)
10-12 servings

1 cup raisins
1 cup walnuts, chopped
2 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour, divided
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/ teaspoon allspice
2 teaspoons aluminum-free baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/3 cups canola oil
3 eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pound carrots, grated
1/2 cup fresh pineapple, diced

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Butter two 8" round cake pans. Cut out a circle of parchment paper to fit into the bottom of each pan. Butter (again) and flour the pans. Set aside.
3. Toss together the raisins and chopped walnuts with the tablespoon of flour. Set aside.
4. Sift together the remaining flour, cinnamon, ground nutmeg, allspice, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. (Catching a pattern here?)
5. Use a mixer to thoroughly stir together the sugar and oil. (It will be light yellow in color.)
6. Add in the three eggs and stir to combine. Add in the vanilla.
7. Slowly add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Mix between additions.
8. Remove the mixing bowl from the mixer and stir in the walnuts and raisins by hand.
9. Fold in the carrots and pineapple.
10. Divide the batter evenly into the two prepped cake pans.
11. Bake in the oven for 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cakes comes out clean. After 30 minutes in the oven, switch the positions of the cake pans to ensure even baking.
12. Place the pans on a wire rack and let the cakes cool completely before frosting.
13. While the cakes are cooling, make the cream cheese frosting (see below).
14. Place the bottom layer of the cake flat-side up onto a flat plate or cake pedestal. Add a large dollop of frosting onto the cake and spread evenly over top the cake.
15. Place the second layer on top of the first layer, round-side up.
16. Use the remainder of the frosting to cover the top and sides of the cake. (Or just use as much as you desire; I ended up with about an extra cup of frosting.)
17. Serve the cake as-is, or decorate the sides or top of the cake with crushed walnuts.

Cream Cheese Frosting

0.55 oz unsalted butter, softened (I used a package of Smjör Icelandic butter)
16 oz cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
16 oz powdered sugar

1. Cream together the butter and cream cheese until just combined.
2. Add the vanilla and stir to combine.
3. Stir in the powdered sugar and mix on high speed until smooth.

(adapted from this Ina Garten recipe)


Monday, February 20, 2012

Weekend Shenanigans: D Turns the Big 3-0

This past weekend was all about D and his 30th birthday. On Saturday, after a breakfast of egg sandwiches, bacon, and hashbrowns, we packed up the car, and headed north to the Poconos. Our destination? The Mountain Creek Riding Stable in Cresco, Pennsylvania. D had set us up to go on an hour-long group trail ride.

{the stables}

{along the trail}

 {the view from Paco, my pony-sized horse}

The ride was fun, if only to be out in the woods on a horse. I think next time we might opt for the private ride instead, given the rote feeling of a group ride. Following our trail ride, we headed on a scenic drive through the area. We ended up at a diner in Ellendale for lunch, where we each washed down our lunches with a bottle of Miller Lite. (We're nothing if not classy!) Our trip to the Poconos was complete once we found a park to let Leroy run around in and let off some steam. He enjoyed playing in the tiny bit of snow that was on the ground. D and I were both bummed to discover that our favorite whippy dip was still closed for the season. (Of course, we both knew there was little chance of it being open, but one can always dream!)

Once back home, we ordered a pizza for dinner, and I finished making the carrot cake I had baked from scratch the night before. Sifting a pound of powdered sugar is a lot of work! 

{action shot}

Sunday was a bit more low-key. We brought Leroy to the dog park in the morning, and I ran some errands at Whole Foods while Leroy got in some play time. In the afternoon, we made our bi-monthly trip to Target for all the fun essentials -- laundry detergent, home organization stuff, and the like. Later in the afternoon, D headed off to the gym and work for a few hours while I put the finishing touches on dinner. Earlier in the day, I had put a pork shoulder in the slow cooker to make pulled pork sandwiches for dinner that evening. While that was cooking away I made a batch of barbecue sauce from scratch and also baked up some homemade mac-n-cheese as well. (All recipes to come later this week!)

{pulled pork sandwich with a side of mac-n-cheese}

The day ended with the viewing of the season finale of Downton Abbey (actually the Christmas special, technically-speaking). I can't wait for the next season to start -- it's such a good show. I do love a good BBC costume drama! Today is theoretically a holiday at work, but given we have about 1,000 deadlines over the next couple of days (a slight exaggeration), I've actually been editing away nearly all day. So much for just putting in an hour! I hope you're enjoying your day, whether at work, or (hopefully) not.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Afternoon Break: Cuppa Tea

After boiling water on the stovetop in a pot for the longest time, I finally upgraded and purchased a tea kettle from Amazon the other day. As much as I love the colorful ones, I opted to go the cheap route and bought a simple glass kettle. In addition to buying the new kettle, I also stocked up on a new kind of tea -- Stash Fusion Green and White Tea. I had a cup this afternoon and I liked it; it's a nice change from the straight-up green tea that I've been drinking. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

What's For Dinner: A Valentine's Meal

Yeah, Valentine's was two days ago. But on the 14th, a random electrical problem in our apartment meant several of the outlets in our kitchen, including the one providing power to our oven, weren't working. Sure, we could have lit the burners old-school style, but it seemed a lot less dangerous to just order in some food from our favorite Indian restaurant down the street instead. Though our electrical problem was fixed yesterday morning, in the evening I was busy working late to meet a deadline for work, so D whipped up an egg "mcmuffin" for me to eat while I edited away. Finally, tonight the stars aligned and D set to work cooking dinner for the two of us.

Our meal started with an appetizer of fresh mozzarella, basil, black pepper, and olive oil.

For the main course, D cooked up a fantastic meal of scallops with white wine sauce served over angel hair pasta. His inspiration for the dish came from this recipe. The pasta was delicious, as were the wild-caught scallops. Yum!

And of course, you can't forget dessert! I kind of cheated a little by picking up two individual cheesecakes from Whole Foods rather than making something from scratch. I also opted to be frugal over romantic, and saved $2 by choosing the round cheesecakes rather than the heart-shaped ones. Regardless of shape, they were quite tasty -- and a pretty great deal at just $1.98 for two.


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

What I'm Searching For: Broccoli-Cheddar Soup Inspiration

In addition to a carrot cake, D has also asked for broccoli and cheddar soup as part of his birthday celebration on Saturday. He also said he'd like it served in a bread bowl, Panera-style, but I may cheat on that part and buy some already-baked sourdough boules to scoop my soup into. This evening I've spent some time scouring the web for broccoli cheddar soup recipes. Do you have a favorite I should try?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

What I'm Searching For: Carrot Cake Inspiration


D has requested a carrot cake for his birthday on Saturday and so far this recipe from Dessert For Two is topping my list. Do you have a favorite carrot cake recipe? Which one should I make?

Monday, February 13, 2012

What's For Breakfast: Blueberry-Cornmeal Pancakes

Truth be told, these pancakes were actually what was for dinner tonight. However, I have some leftover batter (as I also made a batch of buttermilk pancakes), so there's quite a good chance they will be what's for breakfast in the morning, after all. These pancakes are perfectly flavored with just a hint of cinnamon and bright blueberry flavor.

Blueberry-Cornmeal Pancakes (printer-friendly version)
makes two servings (about eight 4" pancakes)

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons white cornmeal
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 egg, beaten
1 cup buttermilk or sour milk (1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice + enough skim milk to make a cup, let sit for five minutes before using)
1 cup fresh blueberries

1. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.
2. In a separate bowl, mix together the buttermilk and egg.
3. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour in the egg mixture.
4. Stir until the wet and dry ingredients are just combined. Carefully fold in the blueberries.
5. Spread about 1/4-cup of the batter onto a hot, lightly buttered griddle. (I set our electric skillet to around 350 degrees.) Bake until bubbles form in the batter, about two minutes. Flip and cook for an additional two minutes.
6. Serve immediately with maple syrup.

Note: If cooking up a large batch, place the cooked pancakes into a warm oven (set to about 250 degrees) until ready to serve.

(adapted from a recipe in the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook)

Friday, February 10, 2012

Cocktail Hour: Amaretto Sour

It has been a long week, and I am most definitely in need of a cocktail. So, I've made my favorite bar standard -- the amaretto sour. Totally girly, and totally delicious.

Amaretto Sour (printer-friendly version)
makes one cocktail

1 1/2 oz amaretto
3 oz sour mix
cherry to garnish (I love Tillen Farms Bada Bing Cherries; they also have Merry Maraschinos)
ice cubes

1. Add the ice cubes to a cocktail shaker. Pour in the amaretto and sour mix. Shake to mix.
2. Strain into a rocks glass (filled with rocks!).
3. Garnish with a cherry (or two).

Thursday, February 9, 2012

What's For Dinner: Cheese Ravioli with Basil Pesto

Basil pesto reminds me of summer, since we typically have a bunch of basil plants growing outside in our backyard during the warmer months. (Though, truthfully, here in the city, "yard" may be a bit of an overstatement.) This morning I put cheese ravioli with tomato and basil sauce on the dinner menu, but at the grocery store I spied a pack of fresh basil, and knowing that I already had Parmesan, garlic, pine nuts, and olive oil at home, I decided basil pesto it would be. I used this Food Network recipe to make the pesto, though I opted to use just one garlic clove since it was fairly large. I served our pasta dish alongside some Parmesan toasts -- an easy meal, perfect after a long day of editing endless pages at work.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Snacktime: Baked Buffalo Hot Wings

D requested buffalo wings for Sunday's game and I acquiesced. On Saturday, I picked up a 2-lb package of buffalo-style chicken wings at Whole Foods. (Animal Welfare rating of 2, not the best, but better than the standard supermarket option.) This amount of wings could easily have served at least four people, I think! I opted to use this recipe to make the wings, given its high rating. I followed the recipe as-written except for a few alterations -- first, I added in a half-teaspoon of onion powder to the flour mixture. Second, I let the wings chill in the fridge for about four hours before baking them in the oven. D really liked the wings (I'm not a fan of eating things off the bone, so I opted not to try any myself.) But, if D liked them, then that counts as a success in my book!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Snacktime: Pretzel Dogs

When I saw a post about mini pretzel dogs on Joy the Baker last week, I knew they would have to make an appearance at our Super Bowl party (for two) this past Sunday. This recipe is based on Alton Brown's instructions for making homemade soft pretzels. There's no need for me to reinvent the wheel, so check out Alton's recipe by clicking here. To make the pretzel dogs, follow Alton's instructions for forming the pretzel dough. Then, instead of forming the dough into the traditional pretzel shape, roll each separated dough portion into about a 12" rope, and carefully twist the dough around each hot dog to completely cover it. If you want to make mini pretzel dogs, first cut the hot dogs in half before wrapping them with the pretzel dough. (I used tofu dogs to keep this recipe vegetarian.) Finish the pretzel dogs by following Alton's instructions for boiling and baking the pretzels. Serve up your pretzel dogs with dipping sauces such as a variety of mustards, ketchup, or other hot-dog friendly condiments. 

Monday, February 6, 2012

What's For Dinner: Sweet Potato Chili

My intention for our Super Bowl dinner/snackathon was that I would eat a bowl of veggie chili while D chowed down on some homemade buffalo hot wings. Unfortunately, I filled up on too many pretzel dogs (look for a post on those later this week) and nachos. Long story short, this chili will be the feature of tonight's dinner hour instead.

Sweet Potato Chili (printer-friendly version)
makes 6+ servings

1/2 white onion, chopped
1/2 yellow pepper, chopped
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 15-oz can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 15 oz-can pinto beans or black beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup chopped tomatoes
1/2 no-salt added cup tomato sauce
1 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
1 small can low-sodium vegetable juice
1/2 cup frozen whole-kernel yellow corn
1 package (10 oz) frozen sweet potatoes (or 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed)
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 tablespoon cocoa powder

1. Add the chopped onion, pepper, and garlic into a 1.5 or 2-quart slow cooker.
2. Stir in the rinsed beans.
3. Pour in the chopped tomatoes, tomato sauce, and vegetable broth, and vegetable juice.
4. Add in the frozen corn and sweet potatoes.
5. Season with cumin, oregano, cayenne pepper, chili powder, and cocoa powder.
6. Place the cover onto the bowl and cook on high for 4.5 to 5 hours.
7. Serve with toppings such as oyster crackers, shredded cheese, or plain Greek yogurt.

Friday, February 3, 2012

What I'm Searching For: Super Bowl Snacks

Watching the Super Bowl wouldn't be any fun without a big spread of food, right? Though we'll likely just have a party for two (or three, if you count the dog), I think I may still need to cook up a few items to munch on while we watch the game. Here are a few savory (and sweet!) things I've found both around the interwebs and in my archives to serve as inspiration for treats to eat this Super Bowl Sunday.

1. Mini Pretzel Dogs / 2. Fiesta Bean Cups / 3. Super-Simple Nachos / 4. Super Bowl Chili / 5. Spinach-Artichoke Dip / 6. Curried Tofu and Avocado Dip / 7. Baked Pita Chips / 8. Baked Brie / 9. Brown Sugar Fruit Dip / 10. Nutella Brownies / 11. Red Velvet Whoopie Pies / 12. Salted Caramel Brownies

Thursday, February 2, 2012

What I'm Wearing: Running Edition

Somehow I've managed to sign myself up for several races over the next few months -- a five-miler in March, a ten-miler in April, and a half-marathon in May. (And I've also got my eye on the Broad Street Run in May, another 10-miler, the registration for which opens on the 15th.) Guess that means I need to start amping up my running routine! Though the weather has been remarkably mild this winter, it can still be quite chilly in the mornings. Here are my picks for running wear, beginning with cold-weather gear and continuing on to hot-weather wear. My default running outfit is a dri-fit t-shirt and running capris; when it's super hot outside I opt for running shorts and a tank top. And of course, you gotta support the girls! My favorite sports bra is the "Wow" bra, which I faithfully buy from Title Nine. This sports bra is particularly indispensable in cold weather, if you catch my drift. 

1. Nike Pro Thermal Half-Zip Top 2. Nike Pro Hyperwarm Running Tights 3. Nike Miler Running Shirt  4. Nike Element Shield Running Jacket  5. C9 by Champion Running Capris Pants 6. Nike Pro Core Fitted Shirt 7. Nike Tempo Track Shorts 8. Old Navy Perfect Rib-Knit Tank 9. Title Nine Wow Sports Bra

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

What's For Lunch: Tex-Mex Salad with Salmon

Today's lunch is a mix of leftovers made into salad form. On the bottom is a mix of spinach leaves and torn romaine lettuce leaves, plus a small bunch of fresh cilantro leaves. On top of that I added pinto beans, black beans, a generous helping of homemade salsa, a small handful of shredded mozzarella cheese, and some flaked salmon leftover from last night's dinner. Because I couldn't resist, I also added a few crumbled tortilla chips as a garnish. A random mix of ingredients, but tasty nonetheless.
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