Sunday, October 30, 2011


My beer blog

Go read it. Try some new beers. Tell me about your favorite beers.
Mmm, beer.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Smoked Tri Tip

The husband and I were debating what birthday present I should get for my big 30th birthday last month, and we kept going back and forth between a new lens--L glass, drool-- for my camera, or the Weber smoker I'd been wanting for quite awhile. We'd go to BBQs Galore and stare and the smoker, then come home and I'd log into Amazon and oogle the lens. Decisions, decisions.

Well, I'm sure you can figure out what direction I ultimately went, based on the title of this post. The free prime shipping and the allure of smoked meats won beat out the new glass. (Though I still hope to get the lens for Christmas!) The smoker arrived a few days before my birthday, but with all my prior commitments it was a few weeks until we were able to finally smoke some meat. Finally, a Saturday arrived where I was only semi-busy with coaching swim practice, followed by presenting at a literacy conference, and since tri tip takes less than 3 hours to smoke, I had the husband pull out the tri tip on my way home and I lit the charcoal moments after stepping in the door. With the smoker holding steady around 240 degrees, the small cut of meat was ready in just about two hours.

We anxiously waited for the meat to rest once we pulled it off the smoker, and when it was finally time to cut into it, the husband and I kept eating small chunks of meat while I cut it into slices. Each piece was infused with a rich smokey flavor that enhanced it without overpowering the beefy flavor of the meat. We opted to just pour a little bit of BBQ sauce on the side, rather than directly on the tri tip, to allow the meat's natural flavor to take center stage.

Smoked Tri Tip
Source:, The Smoker, and

1 tri tip
garlic salt
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/8 cup olive oil

Fill in chimney starter with crumpled newspaper and charcoal. Light the newspaper and let sit, about 20-30 minutes, until the top layer of charcoal starts to turn grey and ashy. I have a Weber Smokey Mountain-- I take the body off the smoker and set the
chimney on the charcoal grate for this step.

Sprinkle the tri tip liberally with the garlic salt and pepper, rubbing the seasonings into the meat.

Once the coals are ready, pour them onto your charcoal grate and re-assemble the body, if necessary. I added about 10 unlit coals at this point, to keep the fire hot throughout the cooking process. Once the smoker reaches 225 degress, add about 3-4 chunks of wood (I used apple) to the top of the coals, and then place the tri tip, fat side up, on the grill. Put the lid on and leave the smoker alone for the next 45 minutes. Be sure to monitor the temperature of the smoker, keeping it in the 225-250 degree range. If it gets too hot, close the bottom vents.

While the meat is smoking, mix the apple cider vinegar and oil in a small spray bottle. Shake it up well and spray it on the meat after about 45 minutes. Spray the meat again every 30 minutes; be sure to do this quickly to prevent too much heat from escaping. You do not need to flip the meat over; the fat will render into the meat, giving it a rich, moist flavor.

Test the meat's temperature after about an hour and 15 minutes; take the meat off the smoker at 130-135 degrees (this will be pink throughout).

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Slogging Through

It's the last Sunday in September and I'm sitting here on the couch, trying to finish my thesis. This thing has become the biggest monkey on my back. I am so close to being done, but it feels like the finish line is still miles away. The quarter has already started, which means I need to be completely done-all 5 chapters written, earlier revisions completed, ready for editing done- in the next 2-3 weeks. Chapters 1 and 2 are done, with the exception of revisions. I'm up the my eyeballs in Chapter 3, writing out instruction of specific strategies. Only about 7-8 more strategies to go--that's probably another 5-10 pages. Chapter 4 is 75% done; I need to explain the instruction of specific strategies based on text type (cause and effect, etc). I haven't even begun Chapter 5. That's suppossed to be the "easy" chapter, but we'll see.
I have a full-time job, with hours of work beyond the workday, and I'm coaching swimming in the evenings. I keep telling myself I'll work on writing in the hours between teaching and swimming, but with grading, contacting parents, and helping kids after school, I haven't held true on that promise yet.
And now, Mustache Bash 2011 (aka my 30th birthday party) is fast approaching, followed by 4 days in Sacramento for a state writing test committee (awesome resume builder!), then a weekend coaching at a swim meet in Seal Beach, speaking at a reading conference in Pasadena...when will I find the time? I really want to take one more quarter, but the husband doesn't support that idea. ::sigh:: He's right though. It's another quarter we have to pay for and I probably could finish if I buckled down harder. But, isn't my sanity worth it?
I'm sure anyone reading this is wondering what the heck I'm doing blogging and not working on my thesis. You're right. But, I've been working for the past 2 hours, I'm stuck on finding information on teaching comprehension of main idea in text, and my brain needs a break.
It'll all be worth it when I receive my master's degree, something I never thought I'd do. They pay increase will be nice, too.
Someone please remind me of this when I start thinking about phd school...

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Cauliflower Mashed "Potatoes" with Goat Cheese and Parmesan

So last fall I went hard core no carbs, South Beach Diet phase 1, for a few months and dropped over 20 pounds. It was really hard to not eat carbs since I love sweets and bread products, but losing the weight made me feel better about myself, and it was something I just needed to do for my health.

Well, I got lazy, started chowing down on all my favorite carbby foods again, with no restraint, and I re-gained a few of those pounds. The husband's pants have been fitting a bit tighter lately as well, so we decided to give South Beach another try, but this time focus more on less carbs, rather than NO cabrs, because let's face it, carbs taste good! And no carbs gives me headaches and makes me crabby- I'm no ray of sunshine on a normal day, so doing something that puts me in a bad mood is no way to live life.

In our quest to cut the carbs, I pulled out this recipe for cauliflower mashed "potatoes", which obvs contain no potatoes. Let me tell you, I am not a fan of many vegetables, and cauliflower is definitely on that list. But, once they were pureed, then combined with goat cheese and parmesean cheese, I could.not.stop eating them! The consistency was spot on- smooth, creamy, velvety. Yummm. The two different cheeses added extra creaminess, as well as amazing flavor.

The husband, who is a veggie hater and steak lover, commented that this dish was the star of the meal and better than the steaks we had for dinner. If that's not a ringing endorsement, I don't know what is!

Cauliflower Mashed "Potatoes" with Goat Cheese and Parmesan Cheese
Source: Kayln's Kitchen
Printable Recipe

1 head cauliflower
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 - 1 Tablespoon half and half or cream
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2-3 ounces goat cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Chop up cauliflower into small chunks, discarding the stem and leaves.

Put cauliflower and minced garlic in a saucepan (or microwave safe bowl if you want to microwave it) with enough water to cover the cauliflower. Cook for 20 minutes, until cauliflower is soft.

Drain the water and let cauliflower sit in a colander for about 5 minutes to allow extra water to drain off.

Puree cauliflower in a blender or food processor (I used my immersion blender for this, with the cauliflower in a saucepan. It worked great!). Put pureed cauliflower in a saucepan over medium-low heat, and mix in the goat cheese, parmesan cheese, and salt and pepper. Stir to melt the cheese, then remove from heat. Sprinkle chopped chives over the top and serve warm.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Beer Delay...

Sorry for the delay with the second half of my beer round up. I typed out the entire thing, but like a bonehead, forgot to save it before closing the window. :{ Since my thesis is sorely neglected right now, and we're going on vacation soon so I really must get more done, Part Two will not be up on the blog until later in the week. Go re-read Part one instead! :)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

"What's Not on Tap" Part One

So I've got something a little different here tonight. Instead of the usual recipe blog post, we'll be discussing beer. Specifically a beer tasting class I attended at Total Wine. Do you have a Total Wine near you? They're like BevMo, but bigger, and according to The Husband, better.

Total Wine does beer and wine tasting classes every month, and I've been wanting to attend one for quite awhile now, but either grad classes conflicted with the date/time, or I would just plain forget about the class until the day after is happened. Yeah, seriously, it sucks to remember you wanted to do something pretty much right when it ends. Lame. This month the stars aligned and I actually remembered before the class passed. (Well actually, we were at the store on Sunday, buying some new gin for an at-home gin taste taste, when I saw the sign and immediately signed up.)

The beer class was $15 a person and I went alone because the husband is a party pooper and didn't want to join. Well that and he has nearly zero listening comprehension skills, because no matter how many times I described the class to him, mentioning it was a beer TASTING, he thought it was a class on homebrewing. What??? I mean it makes a teeny tiny bit of sense because I have been talking about a desire to homebrew recently, but that never came up in the conversations we had about taking a beer tasting class. :/ I called the afternoon of the class, once he finally realized it was a tasting not a brewing class (which by the way, I think would be an awesome class to take!) and said he wanted to go too, but they were sold out. Ha! Maybe next time he'll learn to listen to me...who am I kidding, no he won't.

Anyway, if you've made it through that long intro, I applaud you; I'm sure you are thinking to yourself "when is she going to stop yapping about nonsense and get to the goods?!" Well, here we go.

As the title of the post suggests, this was not a tasting of Bud Light or Coors. (People of the world, put down your shitty beers!) Actually, I stole the title from the class, which was called "What's Not on Tap: Uncommon, Extraodinary Beers You Must Try". I was really hyped to try beers that would require CIA-like intelligence to find, but being as this was in Total Wine, a store that sells beer, it's not that hard to find them. Just walk down their aisle of beer, and there you go! However, you're not going to pony up to your local dive and find these on tap, so I guess there is some truth to the title.

Upon arriving and checking in, I found a seat at a long table, and then headed to the back for some fancy cheese (ok, it was really just regular ol' cheese from Fresh and Easy. but still good.). We were all given a packet of tasting sheets to record the beers we tried, along with our thoughts on their appearance, aroma, taste, and mouth feel, as well as 2 glasses, a bottle of water, and a cup to spit into (I choose to actually drink all my beer. Why would you waste perfectly good beer?!). We were also given a copy of the evening's PowerPoint which contained information on each style of beer, foods and cheeses to pair with the beers, beer trivia, and a few websites for more beerformation. Don't get wigged out by the PP aspect! It was not boring in the least, and was a good way to know what the heck was going on. Plus, having a copy meant I didn't have to write down all that info, but could instead focus on drinking-I mean tasting- the beers, and recording my thoughts on each. I was thankful for this because I felt the pourings moved at a bit of a quick pace and I wasn't always sure how to describe the beers, so referring to the PowerPoint, which listed characteristics, helped me out a bit.

Let's get into the beers, shall we? Just a quick note before you leap into judgement--all of these photos were taken with my iPhone. I didn't want to bring my DSLR and feel obnoxious or deal with trying to figure out the right settings while trying to enjoy the beer. Also, I forgot to take pics of a couple of the beers because I was too busy having fun drinking.

Beer #1

Name: Reissdorf Kolsh
Style: Kolsh
Country of Origin: Cologne, Germany (many of the beers I tasted were from Germany)
ABV: 4.5-5.5%
Recommended serving temperature: cold, 39-45 degrees
Food pairings: grilled food, spicy food, German food, chicken, fish, shellfish
Cheese pairings: Brie, Camembert, Montery Jack, Edam (WTF is that??)

Okkkkkkkk, I have like zero notes on this beer. LOL. It was a pale gold color, clear, with a diminishing, fizzy head. Since I have no notes, I can only deduce that it wasn't a favorite. I think I remember it was kind of bland and boring. Not for me. Maybe good if you're not a big beer fan? Though really, I think shitty beer is what keeps people from liking beer. Not that this is a shitty beer.

Some other beers in this style are one by Flying Dog, Tire Bite Golden Age, and Alaskan Brewing's Summer Style. Who cares. This beer was not in my top anything.

Ok, let's move on.

Beer #2

Name: Lost Coast something or other (helpful, right? Don't worry, I actually improve as we go on)
Style: Herbed/Spiced Beer
Country of Origin: no effing idea, but it is over 1,000 years old
ABV: varies, but low (what the eff type of information is this? Sorry, this is copied from the PowerPoint. Stick with me past this beer and I promise improvement here people. Besides, it's not like YOU paid $15; this information is free...Ok, sorry for the hostility there. Let's keep going, shall we?)
Recommended serving temperature: cool, 46-54 degrees
Food pairings: salads, desserts
Cheese pairings: none given...effin' Total Wine screwing up my blogging...

Alright, well with that intro this must be a promising beer. So an herbed/spiced beer means that the brewer added in plants and herbs beyond the normal hops to give the beer a sweeter taste. Informative, yes? So this technique, called gruit, is actually really old; they were doing this back in the Middle Ages before hops. Do you think serfs were drinking it up, or was it just a royalty thing? I'm sure Google could tell us, but let's move on to my assessment of the beer.

This beer was not as forgettable as the first one; it had a light, summery, slightly perfumey or herbal taste to it, with the hazy, pale straw color of an unfiltered beer. But again, not a favorite of mine. Too boring. Maybe I should mention at this point, I tend to go for dark, bold, flavorful beers. And sometimes Bud Light Lime. What, a girl's allowed to slum it sometimes.

Beer #3 No Picture.
Name: Pike Kilt Lifter
Style: Scotch Ale/Wee Heavy (what a cute name, wee heavy!)
Country of Origin: Scotland (say it with a Scottish accent for more fun!)
ABV: 6.5-10%
Recommended serving temperature: cellar, 55-57 degrees
Food pairings: roast/grilled lamb, game, pork, grilled smoked salmon, deli sandwiches
Cheese pairings: aged and smoked cheeses, asiago, gruyere (we had a smoked Gouda in class and it was really delish with this beer)

I enjoyed this beer much more than the first two, though I didn't take many notes beyond circling attributes on my tasting sheet. The beer has a honey/caramel color, with some cloudiness and a lasting head on the pour. It smelled caremely, but tasted more nutty, toasty, and slightly smokey, with a smooth moutfeel. This beer has a bit of warmth to it, but I wouldn't shy away from drinking it during a summer BBQ (cook out for those of you not in The Golden State) either. This was a nice, drinkable beer that I'd recommend for someone who is ready to move past the yellow fizz that is Bud and Coors and into a real beer. (Yep, I am a beer snob.)

Beer #4 No picture
This is about the time people started loosening up and the room got noiser and a bit rowdier. People were talking beer and having a great time. I was pretty quiet since I was there alone and the woman next to me disliked pretty much every beershe tried. As did the woman with her. WTF? Why come? Even two of the guys in their group weren't enjoying the beers. These were clearly MBC people (MBC is Miller, Bud, Coors for those of you not in the know.)
Name: Old Suffolk English Ale
Style: Old Ale
Country of Origin: England
ABV: 6-12%
Recommended serving temperature: 55-57%
Food pairings: baked ham, roasted/grilled game, lamb, beef (so, perfect for Easter dinner! Now when you need to bring sometime to a spring dinner, you can bring this beer.)
Cheese pairings: Asiago, Gloucester (an English cheese I haven't seen in the states. I was a big fan of this cheese during my stint in London.), Gorgonzola, Gruyere, Roquefort, Stilton (another English cheese I haven't seen stateside. Let me know if you know where to buy it!)

Ok, I actually took some notes about this beer. It is a brown ale with a diminishing head, and a sweet, chocolately, toasty, smokey, slightly spicy aroma. It had a sweet, chocolatey taste, with some dark fruity flavors, almost like a wine. I thought this was an enjoyable beer that I would drink again. It was very smooth with a balanced body and a long finish (you're still tasting it awhile after that last swallow).

Beer #5 Not pictured
Name: Weihenstephaner
Style: Weizenbock (meaning "strong-wheat")
Country of Origin: Germany
ABV: 6.9-9.3%
Recommended serving temperature: cool, 46-54 degrees
Food pairings: roast pork, roast beef, smoked ham, desserts
Cheese pairings: Gouda (including smoked....again MMMM!), Manchego (a hard, Spanish cheese)

Let me get this out there right away. I love wheat beers. Hefeweizens are a big favorite of mine. And actually, I thought all German wheat beers were Hefs, so it was pretty cool to learn that is not the case. According to my handy PP handout, Weizenbocks are stronger in alcohol and flavor character than Hefeweizen or Dunkleweizens, and are characterized by clove spiciness and fruity-banana flavors. Typically, I do not like wheat beers with banana notes, but this Weizenbock showed me that some beers can get it right.

The Weihenstephaner looks like your standard unfiltered wheat beers: golden color, cloudy appearance, a fizzy head. It has a clean, yet spicy aroma, which mimics the taste. (Look, I'm actually giving you some real information now! Aren't you excited? I'm excited.) It is slightly sweet, with a fruity, spicy/clove taste, and a small hint of bananas. Which, as I said before, normally I am not a fan of--nor do I like wheat beers that have a bubble gum taste (what the eff is up with that?! Why would you want a beer to taste like gum? Go drink a Jones soda if that's what you're looking for and leave the beer to those of us who don't want to junk it up!). But this beer pulls off the banana-clove taste very well.

If you're not a big beer drinker, but you're looking for a brew you can actually enjoy, I'd suggest giving a weizenbock a try. But don't get the one at Gordon Biersch; it has that weird banana-bubble gum taste. yuck.

What number are we on now?

Beer #6

Name: Spaten Monchen Dunkel
Style: Munich Dunkel Lager
Country of Origin: Germany
ABV: 4.5-5.6%
Recommended serving temperature: cool, 46-54 degrees
Food pairings: roasted meats, BBQ, sausages
Cheese pairings: Gruyere, Munster

So the first note I have at the top of my tasting sheet for this beer is *buy. Guess I liked it. LOL. So the Spaten Brewery has been around since 1397, which I guess means they know what they're doing. Here's another fun fact for you: Lager in German means "cellar" and lager beers are aged, or rested, to mellow out the flavor. What does that mean to you, a beer layman? Basically it means that this is a smooth, balanced, drinkable beer. It's an amber color, with a diminishing, fizzy head. It has a sweet, caramely, chocolately aroma, with a chocolately, toasty, and bisquity flavor. It has a very mild bitterness to it, which plays nicely against the chocolatey, bisquity, or bready, flavors.

I'd definitely recommend giving this beer a try, especially if you're looking for an easy to drink, yet flavorful beer. This is another one I'd like to see at summer BBQs and get togethers. Again, if more people were trying quality beers, less people would say they "don't like beer." Though then again, if those people keep thinking that way, it means there's more good beer for me.

Ok, since there were 13 beers sampled in the beer class, I'm going to break this up into two parts. Read about the rest of the beers on Monday! And it would be awesome if you commented and told me how much you're enjoying my beer roundup...or how lame you think this all is. I just like comments.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Grilled Summer Vegetables

The husband and I can be a bit of picky eaters when it comes to veggies, which leads to us eating far fewer vegetables than we should. But one of our favorite ways to incorporate more vegetables into our diets is by grilling them. The grill brings out the sweetness in the veg, similar to oven-roasting, while the burning charcoal imparts a nice smokey flavor into the food.

Usually, I just slice up the vegetables and sprinkle them with some salt and pepper, and maybe a drizzle of olive oil, before grilling em up. This time, I decided to make up something of a simple marinade to add some pizzaz. The lemon and lime juice adds a bright note to the veggies, without overpowering them.

The best part of this dish is that it works with whatever veggies you have on hand. The husband loves broccoli, so I threw some florets in for him, but you can easily leave them out. Onion slices would be delish, as would carrots or asparagus. Make it your own, but make it soon!

Grilled Summer Veggies
Source: A Cooking in Cucamonga Original
Printable Recipe


about 1 pound of summer squash (I used 1 yellow crookneck, 1 patti pan, and 1 round squash I don't know the name of)
1 medium head broccoli, stems trimmed and discarded
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1/2 a lemon
juice of 1/2 a lime
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
heavy shake salt and pepper

Prepare a charcoal grill for direct heat.
Slice the squash into planks or into bite-sized chunks.

Combine the squash and broccoli florets in a large bowl or Ziplock bag. Pour the remaining ingredients over the vegetables and stir or shake to combine.

Once the charcoal is medium hot (I usually cook my meat first, then the veggies, so the charcoal is at the appropriate temp) and the coals are glowing, but there aren't any flames, place a grill pan over the center of the grill. Pour the veggies into the grill pan and cook until the veggies are soft and slightly charred, about 5 minutes. Shake the grill pan and stir the veggies as they cook to ensure all the vegetables cook evenly.

Remove from heat and serve.

Monday, June 27, 2011

7 Layer Bars

I recently brought dinner to a friend of mine who had a baby. The night before I planned to visit, I realized I didn't make any kind of dessert-you can't bring someone dinner and leave out the sweets! I didn't have a lot on hand (no milk really limits you in baking!), but I figured I could throw something together. A quick Google search lead me to these 7-Layer Bars, and luckily I had nearly all of the ingredients in my pantry; I did have to sub milk chocolate chips for the white chocolate, but really, who's going to complain about more chocolate?!

These bars are thick, a bit chewy, and wonderfully sweet. They're easy to whip up and a complete crowd pleaser. What more could you ask for in a dessert?

PS If you're looking for an easy, yet impressive dessert for the 4th of July, these cookies definitely fit the bill.

Seven-Layer Bars
Source: Brown-Eyed Baker
Printable Recipe


1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
9 graham crackers (5 ounces), crushed
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
½ cup white chocolate chips (I used milk chocolate)
½ cup butterscotch chips
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk


Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and preheat to 350°F. Spray a 9×13-inch baking pan with non-stick spray. Line the pan with two overlapping pieces of foil or parchment paper, leaving overhang to act as handles for lifting the bars out of the pan. Spray with non-stick spray.

Spread the coconut on a baking sheet and bake until the outer flakes just begin to brown, about 4 minutes. (Keep a close eye on it – coconut can go from slightly browned to burnt in a matter of seconds.) Set aside.

Melt the butter and combine with graham cracker crumbs in a small bowl. Toss together until the butter is evenly distributed. Press the crumbs evenly onto the bottom of the prepared pan.

In order, sprinkle the walnuts, chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, and coconut over the graham crumbs. Pour the condensed milk evenly over the entire dish.

Bake until the top is golden brown, about 25 minutes. Cool in the pan on a wire rack to room temperature, about 2 hours.

Remove the bars from the pan using the foil or parchment handles and transfer to a cutting board. Using a sharp knife or bench cutter, cut into 2" by 3" bars.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Strawberry Nectarine Vodka Collins Popsicles

Wow, that's a mouthful of a title, isn't it? What about strawberry nectarine boozesicles? Better? Summer vodkasicles? Ok, ok, I'm getting a bit ridiculous here, I know. Whatever you want to call them, go for it, but the important thing is that you make these. Soon.

These are extremely customizable too what you have on hand; the original recipe calls for peaches, but I had nectarines. I bet mangoes would be wonderful as well. I also used half white sugar, half brown sugar because I didn't have enough white. And now I'm thinking I want to try switching the vodka for Malibu rum next time for a tropical twist.

If you're making these for non-drinkers or kids, you could switch out the alcohol with juice. I bet Kern's Nectar peach would be fabulous.

I picked up my popsicle mold at Target for about $4, though I've heard they have them in their $1 spot right now (I checked 2 Targets and couldn't find any). If you don't want to buy a popsicle mold, you could also use Dixie cups or cordial glasses.

Note: The Husband and I agreed the vodka taste was a bit strong in these, but I am not sure if that's because I put 3 Tablespoons of strawberry puree in each, rather than the 3 teaspoons the recipe calls for, or that they really are just strong. My best guess is, with the right amount of strawberry puree, the vodka won't be an overpowering taste. I do want to try making these with gin soon!

Strawberry Nectarine Vodka Collins Popsicles
Source: Endless Simmer
Printable Recipe


10 strawberries, pureed
nectarine syrup (recipe at the end)
12 ounces tonic water
2 ounces plus 3 ounces vodka (divided usage)

Stir 2 ounces vodka into the strawberry puree.

Pour 3 teaspoons strawberry vodka mixture into the bottom of popsicle molds. Set aside.

Pour the tonic water into the nectarine syrup and stir to combine. Add the remaining 3 ounces vodka and stir.

Spoon the nectarine mixture into the popsicle molds over the strawberry puree. Stir to combine.

Place in the freezer for 8 hours.

Nectarine Syrup Ingredients
1 nectarine, peeled, pitted, and sliced
1 cup water
1 cup sugar (I used half white, half brown sugar)


Puree the nectarine slices in a blender or food processor.

Combine the nectarine puree, water, and sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Pantry Organization

I am a hot mess when it comes to organization and tend to just throw things on the floor or counters, rather than putting them away. My desk at work it often piled with papers that are in the process of being graded, have already been graded and need to be passed back, or need to be graded. My student assistant cleans up my desk for me at least twice a month!

Even worse than my desk is my pantry. I buy a lot of items in bulk, and then just toss them in the cabinent, still in the plastic bag from the grocery store. Or I transfer it (flour, sugar, dried coconut, etc) to Ziplock bags, which I label, but then again, just throw them in the cupboard, with no real rhyme or reason.

Look at what I am talking about! A huge mess, right?!

Beyond the fact that my pantry looks extremely disheveled, the mess also leads me to forget what items I have in stock, so I tend to buy the same things over and over, despite having a plentiful stock on hand.

Last Sunday, while the husband napped on the couch, and after finishing my 3 store grocery shopping trip, I finally decided to tackle the mess. I headed out to Wal-Mart, bought tons of glass storage jars and a package of labels, then headed home to empty and organize.

This is that same cabinet from the last picture, but all cleaned up. Amazing, right?!

Here's the shelf above it, which was just as messy to begin with.

I have what seems like a million types of flours (AP white, AP whole wheat, whole wheat bread, whole wheat pastry), brown sugar, white sugar, cinnamon sticks, sesame seeds, slivered almonds, whole almonds, milk chocolate chips and semi-sweet chocolate chips (we kept pulling our bag after bag of these delicious morsels; I'd even bought more during my grocery trip that morning, thinking I was running low!), and a ton of other pantry staples. Now, rather than digging through bags and bags of bulk items, I can just grab the canister it resides in and go.

There are a few items that are still in ziplock bags; most of those items are things I don't purchase often, so I didn't feel the need to spend the money on jars for them, when a ziplock bag will work fine.

Next up cleaning and organizing my spices, liquids, and other cooking supplies (bread crumbs, panko, cornmeal, etc).

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Cashew Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Can I tell you how much I love Pinterest? I spend waaaaay too much time on there each week, scrolling through everyone's pins, repinning them to my own boards, looking for images to pin from other websites. I have been known to even have dreams about pinning. It's an addiction I tell you. But one I'm not looking to break anytime soon.

Most of my pins are food-related (of course!), which is how I came across this recipe for cashew chicken. A few days after I repinned it to my board, I cooked it up in my kitchen. Both the husband and I loved it, and wished I'd made more, practically licking our plates clean. The original recipe calls for butter leaf lettuce, but I couldn't find any, so I used iceberg since I already had some in the crisper. I think I added a bit too much cayenne though, as this dish was a tad spicy for the two of us, however, it didn't take away any of the yum. :)

Cashew Chicken Lettuce Wraps
Source: She Wears Many Hats
Printable Recipe

Ingredients for Chicken Cashew
2 chicken breasts (about 3/4 lb. total), diced
8 leaves of greenleaf or iceburg lettuce
3 tablespoons canola oil (or oil of choice)
1 cup onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/4 cup cashews, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
basil, for garnish

Ingredients for stir fry sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon sesame oil

For the stir fry sauce mix all ingredients together, making sure to dissolve the brown sugar. Set aside.

Heat canola oil in pan over medium to medium high heat. Add diced chicken and brown (about 4-5 minutes). Remove chicken from oil.

Add onions, garlic and 1 teaspoon soy sauce to pan; brown.

When onions and garlic are brown and tender, add the stir fry sauce, browned chicken and cashews. Saute mixture for a few minutes and remove from heat.

Spoon chicken mixture into individual lettuce leaves. Add your favorite hot sauce, more cashews or basil.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Janet Collins...My Spin on a Tom Collins

Have you ever watched Mad Men? The husband and I are big fans of the show, though we're a few seasons behind because we just started watching it on DVD a few months ago. I love the suave business environment with men in hats and liquid lunches. Well, let's be honest, it's not just liquid lunches, but drinks pretty much every moment of the day.

After watching 2 seasons of the show, and reading part of Boozehound, I decided it was time I venture beyond my standard vodka tonic and try something that would make Don Draper proud. As a classy bar in Vegas, all dark wood and bronze-vested barmen, I ordered a Mad Men classic, an oldfashioned. Wow. Just wow. It's basically just burbon, sugar, and muddled oranges and marishino cherries. Definitely a stiff drink. A little too stiff for me. I moved onto the Tom Collins, which I found to be much more up my alley. I was ready to join the Sterling and Cooper crew....I guess I'd have to be Peggy or Joan, since I'm not a guy.

I brought a bottle of gin down to my parents' house for a recent visit, promising to make a round of Tom Collins' for everyone, however, I failed to look up the recipe in advance, and wound up not having most of the needed ingredients. I summoned by inner Draper and improvised.

Janet Collins
Source: A Cooking in Cucamonga Original
Printable Recipe


2 shots gin (use the god stuff)
2 shots tonic water
3 shots 7-Up or Sprite
1 1/2 shots Rose's lime juice
juice of 1/4 lime
crushed ice

Pour all ingredients, except the ice, in a tall glass and stir to combine. Add additional 7-Up to taste, if desired.

Add crushed ice to two rocks glasses, and pour the liquid over the top. Garnish with a lime wedge and enjoy.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Photo Class: 2 Peas Week 1

Despite having my DSLR for over a year now, I don't feel like my photography skills have progressed much in that time span. I began shooting completely in manual right away, but I usually have no idea what settings to use or why. I've joined some photo forums, but I spend more time on the social aspect than the learning portion, so I needed to try something else.

My blogging buddy, MJ of The Rookie Chef, recently bought a DSLR herself and we decided to tackle the 2 Peas photography course together, in hopes of actually learning how to take decent pictures. Once a week, we'll be posting our course work on our blogs, food pictures or not, to track our progress...and frankly, because I need some accountability! :)

This week's focus was aperature. I shoot wide open a lot of the time, so this week's lesson was great for me...I think I like shooting a bit more closed up! The tutorial instructed to shot in AV (aperture priority) mode this week, ignoring shutter speed; I also set my ISO and white balance to auto, so I could just focus on aperture.

I'd definitely love to hear any constructive criticism from anyone out there. :)




Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Grilled Artichokes

I have kind of a long commute home from work every day, and I often spend the time stuck in the car thinking about what I want to eat and what I am going to make for dinner, which is exactly how I came up with this recipe. I knew I was going to grill up some rib eye steaks that we didn't get around to cooking on Memorial Day, and as I was thinking about sides, I remembered I bought two ginormous artichokes recently, but hadn't eaten them yet. Since I already planned to have the grill fired up, I thought grilling the artichokes sounded good too. A quick Google search (not while I was driving!) turned up an abundance of blog posts and recipes, so after a quick glance through several different sites, I decided to just keep things simple and boil, then grill the chokes.

You want to boil them first to soften up the tough leaves; the grilling imparts a smokey flavor into the vegetable, which was perfect with a simple lemon butter. Since the whole point of grilling the artichokes is to get that smokey flavor, I once again highly recommend a charcoal grill over gas. You won't get the same flavor from gas.

Grilled Artichokes
Source: various websites


1 artichoke
1-2 Tablespoons butter
lemon juice to taste

Bring a pot of water, deep enough to cover your artichoke, to a boil. Boil the artichoke for 15-20 minutes, until tender. Meanwhile, stack your charcoal in a pyramid, creating areas of indirect heat, and light the fire.

Cut the artichoke in half, lengthwise. Pull out the purply inner leaves and the furry portion, leaving the heart intact.

Once your coals are white and hot, place the artichokes cut side down over indirect heat. Cover the grill and cook for 5-10 minutes, or until the artichokes are slightly charred.

Melt the butter and squeeze in your desired amount of lemon juice. I like to also squeeze straight lemon juice onto the artichoke itself. Dip the leaves in the lemon butter and enjoy.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Garlic-Chipotle Beef Kebabs

Do you ever wish you could go back in time and experience something from your own life all over again? Is that weird? Well, I feel like that sometimes and if I could pick one experience to revisit I'd go back to age 20 when I spent 3 months in London. Amazing doesn't even begin to describe my time across the pond. However, I never got around to trying kebabs while I was there (London has a huge Indian population, which means they have tons of Indian eateries as well), mistakenly thinking they were the same as the shish-kabobs I'd eaten at home so many times before.

Now, more than nine years later I've come to find out they are totally not the same thing at all. The husband, who as you may remember is Pakistani, mentioned wanting some kebabs the other day, but explained he didn't want what we usually have, he wanted Indian kebabs. He totally laughed when I told him that I thought they were the same thing. A few days later my newest issue of Everyday Food arrived, with a special section on kebabs, including one Indian-style recipe. I was super excited to show the husband and try making them.

The best part of this meal was that the husband decided to join me in the kitchen and help mix up all the ingredients--a rare occurrence for sure. He said these kebabs were very similar to those his mom made when he was growing up and we should definitely make these again. We doubled the recipe to make 12 kebabs since we weren't having any side dishes. I also made a yogurt dip to serve; simply stir about 2 cloves minced garlic, 1/4 cucumber peeled and thinly sliced, and 1/4-1/2 teaspoon garlic salt into a small container of Greek yogurt. Let the flavors meld for about 30 minutes, then dip your kebabs.

Garlic-Chipotle Beef Kebabs
Source: Everyday Food
Printable Recipe

1 pound ground beef
1/2 small yellow onion, finely grated (I just threw mine in the food processor)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tablespoons chipotle chilies in adobo, minced
1/2 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon coarse salt
big pinch black pepper

Heat a grill to medium heat. (As always, I highly suggest using a charcoal grill rather than gas. Charcoal lends a much better, smokey flavor, which I just feel you cannot achieve with a gas grill.) Clean and lightly oil the grates once they are hot.

If using a charcoal grill, I found it best to build a pyramid of charcoal in the center, so you can set your kebabs in a circle over the direct heat.

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix together with your hands until well combined.

Dived the mixture into 6 equal portions. Using your hands, shape each portion of meat into a long oblong, about 1" across. Make sure they are each an even thickness so they cook evenly. Insert a long skewer lengthwise through each oblong .

Grill the kebabs, turning occasionally, for about 6-9 minutes, until they are cooked through. I found it best to let them cook, with the BBQ lid on, without turning for about 4 minutes, then I turned them about once per 45-60 seconds after that. This keeps the meat from falling apart on the grill.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Samoa Girl Scout Cookie Ice Cream

My favorite Girl Scout cookies are Tag-a-logs and Samoas; so much so that when I bought a box on my way into the grocery store during this year's Girl Scout Cookie season, it was half-eaten as I walked back out of the store. hehehe My friend's daughter is a Daisy this year, so I bought several boxes of cookies from her, and as I was eating a handful of Samoas one day, I thought about the Thin Mint ice cream I've seen in stores in the past.

"These cookies would make some amazing ice cream!" I thought to myself, pulling The Perfect Scoop off the counter. I thumbed through the tome, looking for inspiration for the base, already planning to mix in hot fudge, caramel and cookie pieces. David Lebovitz's Toasted Coconut ice cream jumped out as the perfect foundation for the ice cream, providing a creamy, coconuty flavor, that is key to the Samoa taste.

As the ice cream churned, I flipped to Dave's recipe for caramel sauce, which was super easy to make and didn't involve any corn syrup, which I saw in other recipes online. I used my own hot fudge technique and chopped up some cookies; as soon as the ice cream was done churning, I added my mix-ins and anxiously awaited the completion of the hard freeze. Oh the finished product! SO good and a perfect recreation of my favorite Girl Scout cookie. :)

David Lebovtiz's ice cream calls for a vanilla bean, which I can never seem to find in any stores around here, so I used additional vanilla extract in its place. I'm sure the actual bean produces a much richer flavor if you can find one, but don't stress if they are as elusive for you as they are for me.

Oh and one last note; if you don't have any leftover Samoas (I don't blame you, we ate 3 boxes in about two weeks here!) Keebler's Coconut Dream cookies are almost a dead-on replica. The only difference between the two is the cookie base; the Girl Scout cookie base is more crisp than it's doppelganger.

Samoa Ice Cream
inspired by Girl Scout cookies, ice cream base and caramel sauce from The Perfect Scoup, hot fudge- no source.
Printable Recipe


4 Samoas or Coconut Dream cookies
caramel sauce (see below)
hot fudge sauce (see below)

Ice Cream Ingredients

1 cup dried, shredded, unsweetened coconut
1 cup whole milk (I used reduced fat as that's what I had on hand)
2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup sugar
big pinch salt
1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise
5 large egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Ice Cream Directions

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the dried coconut on a baking sheet and back for 5 to 8 minutes, stirring frequently so it toasts evenly. Remove from the oven when it is golden brown and fragrant.

In a medium saucepan, warm the milk, 1 cup of the heavy cream, sugar, salt, and the toasted coconut. Use a paring knife and scrape all of the vanilla seeds into the warm milk, adding the pod as well. (I just poured in about 3/4 of teaspoon vanilla extract at this point.)

Cover the pan, remove from the heat, and let steep at room temperature for one hour.

Rewarm the coconut-infused milk mixture. Set a mesh strainer over a medium bowl and strain the coconut-infused mixture into the bowl. Press down on the coconut firmly with a spatula to extract as much liquid and flavor as possible. Remove the vanilla bean pieces and discard the coconut. Pour the strained liquid back into the saucepan and set aside. Save the medium bowl.

Pour the remaining one cup heavy cream into a large bowl and set the mesh strainer on top.

In the medium bowl (used when straining the liquid from the coconut), whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm coconut-infused mixture into the yolks, whisking constantly. Scrape the mixture back into the saucepan.

Stir the mixture over medium heat with a spatula, constantly scraping the bottom as your stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Pour this mixture through the mesh strainer, into the heavy cream. Mix in the 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract and stir until cool over and ice bath.

Cover the bowl and chill in the refrigerator over night. Churn in your ice cream maker, according to manufacturer directions.

Once ice cream has finished churning, transfer half of the soft ice cream to a freezer-safe container. Stir in half of the chopped cookies, and fold in 1/4 of the caramel sauce and half of the hot fudge. Layer the remaining ice cream on top and repeat.

Caramel Sauce Ingredients

1 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Caramel Sauce Directions

In a deep, large, heavy-duty saucepan, spread the sugar in an even letter. Cook the sugar over low to medium heat, watching it carefully. When it begins to liquefy, use a heatproof spatula to very gently stir it to encourage even melting.

Gently stir until all of the sugar is melted and the caramel turns a deep amber color. (Note: According to The Perfect Scoop, it will smoke at this point. This did not happen to me, but don't be alarm if it does for you!)

Immediately remove from the heat and whisk in half of the cream, which will steam and bubble furiously. Carefully stir until the sugar is dissolved, then gradually whisk in the remaining cream, as well as the vanilla and salt.

Whisk until smooth.

Any sauce that you don't use for the Samoa ice cream can be refrigerated for two weeks. Simply rewarm for a few seconds in the microwave and stir before using.

Hot Fudge Sauce Ingredients

chocolate chips

Hot Fudge Sauce Directions

Pour the milk and chocolate chips into a microwave-safe bowl. The more milk you use, the thinner the sauce will be. I like to use about a 1/2 milk to 1 part chocolate chip ratio.

Heat in the microwave in 20 second increments, stirring after each 20 seconds, until the chocolate is completely melted.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Tangerine Curd

Yeah, it's been about 2 months since I've blogged anything. Grad school kicks my butt, work is stressful, and managing pre-diabetes has kept me out of the kitchen for much of 2011. But I've finally returned and with a great offering. Tangerine curd.

I love the pretty yellow color of this sweet-tart spread; it brings a lot of cheeriness into this cold winter weather we're experiencing. I heard it even snowed in LA today!! Citrus is like that though--just when I'm missing the plethora of fruits available during the spring and summer, stacks of citrus fill the grocery store produce section, beckoning with their bright flavors.

This recipe turns out a silky smooth, buttery, sweetly tart spread, that is just as good eaten by the spoonful as it is spread on some toast or a muffin. I planned to spoon it over ice cream, in ode to my grandma, but wound up eating the entire jar-full with a teaspoon.

Tangerine Curd
Source: Joy the Baker
Printable Recipe

2 large egg yolks
1 large egg
5 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon tangerine zest
1/4 cup tangerine juice
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
pinch of salt

Combine sugar and tangerine zest on a clean cutting board. With the back of a spoon, rub the zest into the sugar until the sugar is very fragrant and slightly orange in color.

In a medium saucepan over medium low heat, whisk together the egg yolks, egg, tangerine sugar, tangerine and lemon juices, butter and salt. Whisk over the heat until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. This takes about 5 minutes.

Remove from the heat and pour through a fine mesh strainer into a medium bowl. Transfer to a small jar or airtight container and refrigerate until cool and thicker in texture. Curd will last, refrigerated, for about a week.


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