Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Mayo-Free Chicken Salad

Well, hello! I am back from my hiatus. Maybe. Kind of. I'll get back to you on this. My last post was in June, which is absolutely horrifying. I'm sorry, I suck. My goal is to try to update as much as I can but, you know, life happens-- some bad but mostly a lot of good stuff within the past few months.

So, you should know that I slipped off Paleo (a lot) lately. I went to NYC for a week and a half in July and it was pretty much downhill from there. BUT, I'm definitely back on my grind and ready to share some new creations. I'm attempting a Whole60-- 2 months of super strict Paleo. My first Whole30 was a breeze, but I also had a lot more time then. Being a full-time student with 2 jobs, I know that this will be undoubtedly more challenging. Good thing I'm up for it and ready to kick butt.

Even though it's super late and I have an early day tomorrow, I need to get this recipe posted-- or else it's very likely it may never get done. And right about now, I'm thankful for that spontaneous 4-hour face-plant into my pillow earlier this evening.

Mayo-Free Chicken Salad
Yields 2-3 servings

1 1/2 cups chicken breast, roughly diced (do yourself a favor and buy a big, fat, whole rotisserie chicken and dissect the hell out of it)
2 1/2 Tbsp red onion, finely chopped
1 avocado, diced (at least 1/2 cup)
2 tsp fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
2 tsp lime juice, freshly squeezed (about 1/2 a lime)
1/4 tsp salt*
1/4 tsp ground black pepper*

*The rotisserie chicken I bought was already gushing with seasoned juices. The s+p I added was mostly to balance the avocado, lime, and onion. If the chicken you use is bland, you can add more seasonings accordingly based on your taste preference.

1. Dump all ingredients into a medium mixing bowl. 
2. Gently toss everything together until all ingredients are incorporated well. I use a fork to toss so I can also mash a few of the avocado pieces. I prefer to keep most chicken and avocado pieces pretty chunky. I feel like it's better when you can still identify what you're eating.
3. Eat right away or store in an airtight container. 

I already prepared some of the chicken salad on top of a bed of broccoli slaw in a container for my lunch tomorrow. I may have also squeezed a little more lime juice on top of the whole shabang with a sprinkling of more cilantro. The extra lime juice will hopefully prevent the avocados from browning too much. And the cilantro just looked pretty. I eat with my eyes, obviously.

I can't wait for this chicken salad..salad. The more greens, the better. I've dolloped this chicken salad on spinach, romaine, arugula, kale.. that whole family (and extended family) of leafy greens. Though, I also enjoy the roughage of the broccoli slaw (very similar to cabbage). It adds a crunchier texture component and it also holds up well when you're putting it together the night before. FYI, not a fan of soggy greens.

I'll probably still be baking up some fat, fat, very fat treats (which I will of course try to share, as well). Let's face it, I can't stop. However, if you've ever considered eating Paleo, I encourage you to join me! You will be eating great, looking great, and feeling great. And isn't that what we all want?! Sleep on it.. as I will be resuming face-plant into pillow.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

chocolate popcorn

Today was Game 3 of the NBA Finals. I was sitting back, relaxing, and watching the Spurs come back from a disappointing Game 2. Halfway through the 2nd quarter, I realized I was missing something kind of important. Snacks. Not having anything to munch on at tip-off is seriously unacceptable in my book. But, during halftime, I was able to conjure up a quick batch of chocolate popcorn. Sweet sweet victory-- the outcome of the game and my amazing skills in pulling this off.

Popcorn is the perfect gametime snack, but the choco coating really makes this a treat. This chocolate popcorn is crunchy, not overly sweet, and so insanely addicting. Yes, I ate this whole bowl below in less than 3 minutes.. And then proceeded to go back for seconds. This was my dinner, by the way. But it's totally fine because I made sure to floss afterwards. Best Tuesday ever.

Chocolate Popcorn
Yields 8 Cups

8 cups popped popcorn (1/3 cup unpopped kernels)

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup white granulated sugar
1/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder, sifted
1/4 cup light corn syrup
2 tsp vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees F and line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Place popped popcorn into a large bowl.
3. In a saucepan on medium high, heat butter, sugar, cocoa powder, and light corn syrup. Stir with a wooden spoon and combine ingredients well.
4. Continue heating and stirring gently until mixture boils. Allow to boil for about 2 minutes, and then remove from heat.
5. Off the heat, stir in vanilla extract.
6. Pour mixture over popped popcorn. Carefully use wooden spoon to help coat all the popcorn with the chocolate mixture. 
7. Dump coated popcorn onto the parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes, stirring at each 10-minute interval.
8. Allow to cool on the baking sheet for at least 5 minutes. While the popcorn is still somewhat warm, break apart into pieces or clusters.
9. Serve or store in an airtight container.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

egg-in-a-hole with sausage and broccoli hash

Lately, I've been obsessed with featuring a runny yolk on my breakfast plate. This morning, I made egg-in-a-hole. If you don't know about egg-in-a-hole, then you have clearly been living on another planet. But let me break it down for you, anyway. It's a slice of bread with a hole cut out of the center and replaced with a fried egg. The bread gets toasted and the egg gets fried simultaneously. Amazing and easy. I wonder how people don't know about this.

I'm never quite satisfied with just an egg and toast, because I know I'll probably end up skipping lunch. So, I like to make my egg-in-a-hole extra hearty with some kind of meat and veggie hash. I absolutely love cutting into the yolk and having the bright yellow yumminess just gush all over the hash. So freakin good.

Egg-In-A-Hole with Sasusage and Broccoli Hash
Yields one egg-in-a-hole breakfast

1-2 Tbsp butter (use 1 Tbsp for a smaller slice of bread/smaller skillet and 2 Tbsp for a larger slice of bread/larger skillet)
1 slice of bread (I used a big slice of sourdough)
1 egg
1 uncooked hot sausage link, uncased (use whatever kind you like. I use one of the Johnsonville hot Italian sausages)
1/4 cup chopped broccoli, uncooked
2 Tbsp diced onion
salt and pepper

1. Cut a hole into slice of bread. I used a biscuit cutter but you can also use a glass, cookie cutter, etc etc. 
2. Heat a small skillet on medium high heat. Drizzle about 1 tsp into the skillet and saute onion and broccoli, stirring occasionally until tender but not overcooked (unless you like your veggies like that). Then transfer veggies to a bowl.
3. In the same small skillet, on medium high heat, crumble the hot sausage (uncased!). Do not touch the sausage pieces once they hit the pan. Allow them to brown up on that side, which will take a couple minutes. Then flip the over and allow the other side to brown, about another minute. Once the sausage is cooked, add veggies back into the skillet and stir it all together. Turn off the heat, the hash is done.
4. I tend to multitask, so I begin the egg-in-a-hole while the sausage is cooking. But if you are more comfortable, make the hash first. If you ever make fried eggs, you know that letting a fried egg sit around too long is no bueno. In another skillet (that will fit your slice of bread and it's complementary removed center piece) on medium high heat, add the butter. 
5. When the butter starts to bubble a bit (but don't let it burn!), place your bread and center piece both into the skillet.
6. Carefully, crack the egg directly into the hole in your bread-- you don't want your yolk to break!
7. Allow the bread to get toasted and the egg to cook. I usually check the center piece of toast on the side. When it's all nice and toasty a golden brown, I flip everything over. I have a habit of flipping my fried egg, which disguises the yolk. It's not as visually pretty when serving but breaking the yolk open and see all that yellow is so much more fun.
8. At this time, you can add a little more butter to your pan if you want to make you toast more gold on the other side. Cook for about 1 more minute. Then it's ready to eat. Don't let your egg-in-a-hole overcook and sit in the pan or else you will lose your runny yolk.
9. Add sausage and broccoli hash to your plate and top with your egg-in-a-hole. Sprinkle a pinch of salt and pepper on top.
10. Devour the whole damn thing.

crispy baked sweet potato chips

If you've ever attempted to make potato chips, you know that some recipes lie when they say "crispy", especially if they are oven-baked.

I've made potato chips every way possible. Frying requires so much oil. I'm usually so revolted as I'm watching the chips absorb the cups and cups of oil that my appetite immediately dissipates. Although frying them does seem to work well, I've been searching for the best way to bake my chips to crispytown.

White potatoes contain a lot of starch, requiring some kind of soaking technique. Eff that. Too much work. Sweet potatoes contain significantly less starch so, to me, the soaking thing isn't really necessary. This is why I like making sweet potato chips. And, they are also more nutritionally healthy, which is an added bonus (a.k.a. feel less guilty for eating a whole bowl).

There are just some things you shouldn't don't need a recipe to make. Sweet potato chips falls under this category (and these, too). But I'll tell you everything you need to know to make this crunchtastic snack.

First of all.. Yes, these are homemade. Secondly, they are also baked. And lastly (and most importantly), they are really crispy!

How to make Crispy Baked Sweet Potato Chips:

1. Slice sweet potatoes with a mandoline fitted with a thin slice blade. If you don't have a mandoline, get one. I firmly don't believe it's humanly possible to slice potatoes as evenly and thinly by hand. A mandoline will be your best friend-- as long as you remember to use the hand guard so you don't slice your fingers off. Seriously, this guy is helpful but can be harmful. It's better to waste the little bit of potato at the end of the guard than to have blood gushing everywhere.
2. Once your sweet potatoes are all sliced, put them into a large bowl. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. You want them coated but not drenched. There is a difference. It helps to start off modest and add more if necessary. Make sure the potatoes look coated but not too glossy. There shouldn't be excess oil at the bottom of the bowl. This is the time to season, as well. You can do the traditional salt and pepper. I like to do Kosher salt and cinnamon. So good. Again toss everything together well. You can also add more seasoning after they are baked, if necessary.
3. On a parchment-lined baking sheet, spread sweet potato slices out into an even single layer.
4. Bake in a preheated 200 degree F oven for 45 minutes. Flip sweet potatoes over. Then bake for an additional 45 minutes to 1 hour until sweet potatoes look super toasted.
5. Allow to cool on the baking sheet before serving. They will crisp as they cool.
6. Serve, eat, and enjoy this healthy chip alternative!

so much love for my Lover

Back in April, I shamelessly showed off my lover sweatshirt. Now that we're officially in the hot weather season, my manifesto is reserved for those occasionally chilly nights.

However, recently (kind of sort, of, not so much anymore that it's taken so long to get back to my blog), that selfie of me wearing my Lover made an appearance on a couple of my favorite blogs-- BaubleBar's The Post and Meg Biram! SO awesome despite my poor judgement taking a selfie with my naked bed in the background. My bed may never forgive me for this kind of public humiliation. Oh well. It's obviously more important that I happened to capture how happy this sweatshirt makes me. P.S. you can get your manifesto here.

 snapshot c/o BaubleBar's The Post

snapshot c/o Meg Biram's Blog

Saturday, June 1, 2013

gluten-free peanut butter campfire cookies

Happy June! I've been so preoccupied with the million new things in my life that I have been seriously slacking. I know. I'm sorry. I'll try to make it up to you. Not sure how, but I'll start with this.

For my gluten-free amigos, I have something sweet for you. Unfortunately, it is not Paleo. There's peanut butter (and we all know peanuts are a legume, not a nut!). And sugar. Duh. My best baking partner-in-crime. There's something about not using sugar that is somewhat disturbing when it comes to making baked goods. I know that's not really what some of you may want to hear from me, but you're going to have to get over it for now. Baby steps, people. Baby steps. That's all I can say.

Why don't we all just revel in the fact that these pb cookies are flourless? And have chocolate. And marshmallows. The only thing missing is a kumbayah sesh by the campfire. I'll bring the cookies.

Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Campfire Cookies
Adapted from The Girl Who Ate Everything
Yields about 21 cookies

1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup mini marshmallows
1/2 cup chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Mix together all ingredients except marshmallows and chocolate chips. When dough is well blended, fold in marshmallows and chocolate chips.
3. Form 1 1/2-inch dough balls. You can do this with your hands, but I like to use a small cookie scoop because it's easier and there's also more uniformity.
4. Place dough balls on a parchment-lined cookie sheet.
5. Pat down each portion slightly with the palm of your hand.
6. Bake in your preheated oven for 4 minutes, rotate your cookie sheet, and continue baking for an additional 5 minutes or until the tops begin to brown.
7. Allow to cool almost completely on the cookie sheet. I find it is best to not rush to get them off the sheet or they will likely crumble apart. Peanut butter cookies, in general, tend to be more delicate, especially when they are flourless. As they cool, they will be more of a cookie and less of a mess.
8. Carefully transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling. Eat while they are still warm or store in an airtight container for later consumption.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

7-layer spring-to-summer salad

Summer is quickly approaching. I know this because I'm already living in maxi skirts and sandals. The beauty of living in California, I tell ya.

Salads are delicious. I find they are even more enjoyable with a fun [quasi] alliteration. So, today I present to you my 7-layer spring-to-summer salad. Say that 5 times fast. Or just eat it.. that works, too.

I love cabbage, because it will stay crisp after tossed with this light lemony vinaigrette. It's fresh, perfect for the season, and just oh so good. Excuse me while I shovel this into my mouth now.

7-Layer Spring-to-Summer Salad

1/2 head of cabbage, shredded (about 8-10 cups)
3 cups shredded carrot
1 medium red onion, pickled (see recipe below)
1 Fuji apple, sliced
3 Roma tomatoes, diced 
5 slices of crispy bacon, chopped
2 avocados, diced
lemon vinaigrette (see recipe below)

1. Reserve 1 avocado and 2 slices of bacon. 
2. Layer all ingredients. I pretty much follow the order listed in the ingredients section.
3. Toss everything together well but gently. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes. 
4. When read to serve, add reserved avocado and bacon on top.

Pickled Red Onion

1 medium red onion, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp Kosher salt

*NOTE: eliminate sugar to make this completely Paleo

1. Placed thinly sliced red onion into a bowl. Cover with red wine vinegar and warm water.
2. Add sugar and salt to bowl and stir to combine well. 
3. Make sure all the onion is submerged in the liquid. Cover with plastic wrap and let it sit for 30 minutes.
4. Drain onions. Use immediately or refrigerate until ready to use.

Lemon Vinaigrette

1/2 cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp whole grain Dijon mustard
4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tsp honey
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp Kosher salt

1. Whisk together all ingredients.
2. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes prior to use.
3. Store in an airtight container or jar for later use if necessary.

Friday, May 17, 2013

banana pudding

You know what they say.. When life gives you ripe bananas, make banana pudding. Okay, maybe that's just a personal motto. It's a good one though, right? Duh, don't answer that.

On my first trip to NYC, my sister brought me to Magnolia Bakery and made me try the banana pudding. OH MY GOODNESS. It was like heaven in a cup. Every bite seemed like it was even better than the one before it. It's so filling and deliciously decadent that a small cup is all I need. I never knew a small cup could seem so large. And even then, as stuffed as I am, I just can't seem to stop eating it if it's in front of me. It is seriously that good. I'm pretty sure I got drunk off that pudding once. Like food drunk that makes you deliriously happy. Good times.

The recipe for Magnolia Bakery's Banana Pudding is all over the web (like here). The first time I made banana pudding at home, I obviously used their recipe so I could relive that life-changing banana pudding experience. Over time, I've unintentionally created my own banana pudding recipe. When I'm missing an ingredient, I tend to find a way to do without it while still fulfilling my craving. That's what probably happened here. Sweetened condensed milk isn't exactly on my weekly grocery list, if you know what I mean. But honestly, I'm not going to tell you not to make it the Magnolia way. There's no denying that pudding is yum.

My banana pudding is a little lighter and more airy compared to Magnolia's recipe, but the flavor is still there. I can't detect too much of a difference-- but I'm also not a picky pudding eater. I just need the Nilla wafers. Hell yes. Those are magical in pudding.

With my recipe, you also don't really have to do much measuring if you buy the ingredients in the indicated volumes. I like to be lazy and not bring out a bazillion things I'll have clean up afterwards.

Once you see how easy banana pudding is to whip up, your ripe (perhaps, on the cusp of over-ripened) bananas will never see the trash. No cooking, no baking. 5 ingredients that will blow your mind and, hopefully, make you smile.

Banana Pudding
Yields 1 large bowl of pudding, serves however many people you think that feeds. 

4 ripe bananas, sliced (Use at least good, medium-sized bananas. I got about 3 cups sliced.)
3.4oz box vanilla instant pudding mix
2 cups (1 pint) cold fat free milk
2 cups (1 pint) whipping cream (I used the regular whipping cream but you can use heavy whipping cream also)
11-12oz box vanilla wafers

1. Reserve 1 cup of the vanilla wafers. This will be used to top the whole shabang.
2. As indicted by the box of instant pudding, whisk milk and instant pudding mix together in a medium bowl until it is soft set-- about 5 minutes. Then refrigerate while you prepare all your other ingredients. The longer you allow the pudding to set, the better.
3. Slice bananas if you haven't done already. Also, in the bowl of a stand mixer with a whisk attachment or a large bowl with a hand mixer, whip together the whipping cream until stiff peaks. Note: Start your hand/stand mixer on low and then increase to medium speed. Do not shoot straight to medium or there will be problems.. messy problems.
4. When your pudding looks more like a medium set, you are ready to use it. At least 5-10 minutes in the refrigerator. 
5. With a spatula, fold in about 1/3 of the whipped cream into the pudding mixture until there are no pudding streaks. Then add the vanilla pudding mixture directly into the bowl of the remaining 2/3 whipped cream. Continue folding the mixture until, again, no streaks and it all looks cohesive.
6. In a large bowl, layer the vanilla wafers, banana, and pudding mixture. I like to go in that order, and I usually get at least 3-4 layers. The number of layers will depend on what size bowl or dish you use. Just make sure you end with a layer of pudding on top.
7. With your hands, crush the reserved 1 cup of vanilla wafers over the very top of the layered pudding to finish it off. 
8. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 5 hours. Overnight is even better.
9. After the pudding has been sufficiently refrigerated, you are ready to serve it up. Or grab and spoon and dive right in. Do not let pudding sit out. Continue to refrigerate leftovers.

The pudding mixture might seem somewhat too loose when layering. Don't worry about that. If you whipped your cream into stiff peaks and gently folded in the pudding (completely but not overdone), you are good. Just be nice to the pudding and it will be nice to you.. in about 5 hours. 

And, after refrigerating overnight..

As you can see, the pudding continues to set as it refrigerates for all those hours. It fluffs up and all that whipped cream creates a really light texture. My favorite part is getting a bite of a vanilla wafer. The wafers soften into this cake-like deliciousness that is so so amazing. Nom.

I made this last night, had it for breakfast this morning, and probably could have devoured at least half the bowl in one sitting. I resisted. Self-control is a bitch.

If you don't want to make banana pudding right now, there is something wrong with you and we probably shouldn't be friends. Just kidding.. kind of.

Goodnight, lovelies.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

nameplate reinvented

When I got my nameplate from BaubleBar (as seen here) sometime last year, I was so impressed. It is personalized perfection. Not only does it remind people that my name has 2 'N's, but it's just so freakin cute. Win.

I'll admit, I'm a social media slut and have been drooling over a twitter-plate necklace ever since it first popped up on the BB site. Because all avenues of social media use handles now (i.e. Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, etc etc), this necklace is really so much more than just a Twitter-plate. Needless to say, I finally gave in. But it also symbolizes my presence (as little as it may be) in the cyberworld. Since I don't plan on changing my handle ever, I consider it a good investment.

I received my Twitter-plate a few weeks ago, but I wore it out for the first time today. So, if you happen to forget where you can find me, just check my neckwear for answers.

shirt: old-- forget where I got this || jacket: Old Navy

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

the home. t

It's important to be proud of where you come from. And if you're from one of the 50 states, you can snag this uber cute t-shirt to rep your home. I wear a lot of blouses and way too many sweaters. Sometimes, it's nice to just throw on a cute tee that means something. And, of course, piling on tons of baubles is also part of my usual dress code.

Another thing-- this shirt is unisex. Don't you love it when ladies and gents can be twinsies? I do. So, boys, don't be shy--  you can show off your home and support the cause, too. But maybe leave the bauble-wearing to the ladies. Or not. I don't judge.

If I haven't yet convinced you that you should purchase one of these tees, then maybe you should also know that there's a cause involved. Buying this shirt means you're contributing to multiple sclerosis (MS) research.

Rock this tee, support the cause, and feel good (literally-- this tee is SO soft!).

 shirt: The Home. T || jeans: Rag & Bone
necklaces: BaubleBar Onyx Chain Strand (top) & BaubleBar Lilac Tab Strand (bottom)
bracelets (left to right): Gorjana Cross Over Cuff Bracelet, BaubleBar Onyx Garbo Bracelet (ivory & sky available), & BaubleBar Pave Links Bracelet

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

strawberry balsamic salad with chicken

It's getting warmer, which means I certainly feel like eating lighter. Spring/summertime is my favorite because there's plenty of fresh produce available, and I seriously can't get enough. I decided to sweeten up my salad with strawberries, and then added leftover barbequed chicken thighs to balance it all out. The smokey, grilled flavor from the chicken was a bonus. Have I inspired you to have dinner outside? Fire up the grill and toss this simple spring salad together.

Strawberry Balsamic Salad with Chicken
Serves 2

3 cup chopped romaine lettuce
3 Tbsp strawberry balsamic dressing (see recipe below)
1 cup cooked chicken pieces, chopped (I had leftover BBQ'ed chicken thighs.)
3/4 cup sliced fresh strawberries

1. Toss romaine with strawberry balsamic dressing. Add 3/4 cup of the chicken pieces and 1/2 cup of the strawberry slices and toss again.
2. Top with the remaining chicken and strawberries.
3. To brighten it up, you can also finish your salad off with fresh lemon zest.


Strawberry Balsamic Dressing

1/2 cup mashed fresh strawberries
1/8 cup balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp honey
pinch of salt and pepper to taste

1. Add mashed strawberries balsamic vinegar and honey to saucepan and heat on medium high until it starts rapidly bubbling. Stir well to incorporate everything and also frequently to keep from sticking to the sides. 
2. Once it starts rapidly bubbling, allow to cook for about 2 minutes while stirring. Then, turn the heat way down to low/medium-low heat. Stir the mixture around occasionally as it continues to cook. It's ready when the balsamic vinegar has reduced-- the mixture has thickened and the volume looks like it has halved.
3. Add salt and pepper to taste. Allow mixture to cool for a few minutes before using. This can be used a spread, because it is somewhat jam-like. Or you can also use this as a dressing. Take your pick.

Thursday, May 9, 2013


Broccoli, meet guacamole. You don't know it yet, but you will be great friends. So great that you two deserve your own fun moniker. Shall we call you broccamoli? Oh, we shall.


2 ripened avocados, diced
1/2 cup tomatoes, diced
1/4 cup onion, diced
1 cup cooked broccoli, chopped
1 tsp fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
juice of 1/2 a lime, freshly squeezed
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

1. Add all ingredients to a bowl and mix well to combine.
2. Serve with whatever you usually eat with guac.

And there you go. Broccamoli-- your not-so-traditional dip.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

faded neon sweater + layered sparkle

I don't care what the season, I will always wear sweaters. What can I say? I'm addicted to baggy, casual comfort. And, since it's spring, a little neon doesn't hurt either. This sweater from Madewell looks heavy for the season, but it actually has just the right amount of weight for a partly cloudy day. Yellow, violet, pink, skinny jeans, and sparkle.. Yep, I think I covered all the bases.

 sweater: Madewell || jeans: Rag & Bone || necklaces: BaubleBar || ring: BaubleBar
 necklaces: Ice Akasha Strand (top) ||  Violet Triad Collar (bottom)

Monday, May 6, 2013

cheddar and chive buttermilk scones

Okay. Storytime. So, when people don't know what the hell to buy me for my birthday, Christmas, etc etc.. I almost always receive a cookbook. And since I spend all my free time in the kitchen, I can see why I'm just so easy to please. But out of all the cookbooks I've accumulated over the years, my sister seems to find me the best ones. She actually puts in a lot of time researching and reading reviews beforehand. It's thoughtful and--I'm almost positive-- a giant hint she wants me to make all that stuff for her.

One of the most recent cookbooks from my sister, Tartine, is a must-have.. at least for me. The recipes from this San Francisco based bakery are not only diverse but doable. And for those less interested in the actual recipes themselves, this gorgeous hardbound book would look sensational on a coffee table.

I've been dying to make scones, because I'm always interested in making something new. When I was strolling through Trader Joe's the other day, I intentionally picked up buttermilk, a block of sharp cheddar, and chives knowing I had to be on this mission.

Note: When attempting to make something for the first time, always have a good standby guide on hand. In this case, mine was the Tartine cookbook. Although their dessert buttermilk scone recipe wasn't quite what I had in mind, it's all about adapting... And I happen to adapt well.

Cheddar and Chive Buttermilk Scones
Adapted from Tartine // Elizabeth M. Prueitt & Chad Robertson
Yields 12 scones

4 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 cup + 1 Tbsp unsalted butter, very cold
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar + more for sprinkling
1/4 cup chopped chives

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. In a large mixing bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Then add sugar and salt and stir with wooden spoon.
3. Cut cold butter into 1/2-in cubes and scatter over dry ingredients. Use a pastry blender to cut butter into dry ingredients until it's a coarse mixture with visible pea-sized lumps of butter.
4. Add buttermilk, cheddar and chives all at once to the mixture. Stir gently with the wooden spoon. Continue mixing until dough comes together-- add small amount of buttermilk at a time if the dough is too dry. 
5. Turn dough onto work surface lightly dusted with flour. Shape into a rectangle about 18 inches long, 5 inches wide, and 1 1/2 inches thick. 
6. With a sharp knife, cut into 12 triangles and place onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. 
7. Brush the tops of the triangles with melted butter (you will need about 2 Tbsp). Sprinkle extra shredded cheddar on top (optional).
8. Bake in preheated oven for 25-35 minutes until the tops are lightly browned. Remove from oven and serve right away.

Crisp on the outside and SO fluffy, flaky, and tender on the inside. It really is everything a savory scone should be. The end.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

homemade tagalongs

As if I haven't been using chocolate and peanut butter together enough already (see here and here), I've got another recipe to add to the recipe box.

For the whole month of February and most of March, I tried to track down those darn Girl Scouts. I must say, when I was a Girl Scout, I worked hard pushing cookies. This cookie pusher was always on a mission: selling in front of grocery stores, walking door-to-door to every house in the neighborhood, calling all my relatives and anyone I knew. I actually kind of hated cookie season because of this. But I genuinely looked forward to the day the tables would be turned. What the hell.. I'm still waiting. I swear, times have changed. I'm not only disappointed but sadly cookieless, as well. Worst feeling ever.

Anyway, screw it. I made my own Girl Scout cookies-- Homemade Tagalongs. I stumbled upon a blog that successfully replicated these treasures. Though With Sprinkles on Top got the recipe elsewhere, I love her pictures. They are so gorgeous I didn't even feel compelled to photoblog my cookie-making journey for you.

These take some time but, for me, not nearly as much as trying to track down one freakin box to buy. Seriously, Girl Scouts? Look what you made me do. Please also note, I purposely picked the fattiest cookie on the menu to replicate, because no scouts (and cookies) in sight made me slightly depressed.

Homemade Tagalongs
Recipe by We Are Not Martha
Yields: a lot of scrumptious cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temp
1 cup white granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate (or whatever chocolate you want)

1. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter and white granulated sugar together until fluffy and even. Scrape down the bowl and beat again to make sure butter and sugar are incorporated well. Beat in egg and vanilla.
2. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour and salt. Then add this dry mixture to wet mixture on the lowest speed.
3. On a large piece of parchment paper, shape dough into a cylinder (diameter of 2-3 inches). Wrap in the parchment paper and freeze for at least 25 minutes.
4. Slice the chilled dough into 1/8 inch disks. Place as many as you can fit on parchment-lined baking sheet, because they won't spread. You can cut as little or as much as you like, but the filling and chocolate proportions in the recipe are for about 30 cookies. Must make more peanut butter filling and melt more chocolate to accommodate the whole cylinder of dough. Wrap any dough not used in plastic wrap and freeze for later use.
5. Bake cookies in preheated 350 degree F oven for 8-10 minutes. Do not overbake. You are not looking for any sign of browning. Definitely should not be over 10 minutes. The cookies might look somewhat soft but will firm up further as they cool.
6. While the cookies are cooling on a wire rack, mix together peanut butter and powdered sugar.
7. Place disks of the peanut butter mixture on top of the cooled cookies. You don't need to press peanut butter filling to the very edge of the cookies. It's best to leave a bit of room.
8. Melt chocolate chips over a double broiler-- or microwave (heating in 30 second intervals and stirring well until all the chocolate is smooth and even.
9. Dip cookies in chocolate and coat well. Place back onto parchment lined baking sheet to set. Pop in the fridge/freezer for a few minutes to speed up chocolate re-hardening.
10. Store leftovers in an airtight container.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

nutella cookies with sea salt

Hello, May! I thought I'd start off this month with an extremely easy, chocolate cookie with a salty surprise. This recipe by Ambitious Kitchen came to me via Pinterest. Only 1 bowl and 5 ingredients-- all I happened to have in my kitchen. Really, can't get much easier than that. As you bite into the chewy (and slightly crisp exterior), you literally want to close your eyes and savor the fudgy center. That is exactly what I did.

Nutella Cookies with Sea Salt
Recipe by Ambitious Kitchen
12-14 cookies

1 cup Nutella
2 Tbsp packed light brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup + 1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
coarse sea salt for sprinkling

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. With a electric hand mixer or stand mixer with paddle attachment, mix together all ingredients except for sea salt.
3. Portion dough into about 1-inch balls onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Freeze for 10 minutes.
4. Bake in preheated oven for 8-10 minutes. Look for the edges crisping up. I ended up baking for a total of 14 minutes, because it had a very round center still after 10. This could have been because a) I froze the dough a bit longer and/or b) my oven lies to me and usually needs extra time to warm up to the set temperature. My advice is to start with 8-10 and add extra minutes if necessary.
5. Remove cookies from the oven, and generously sprinkle with sea salt. Allow to cool directly on the baking sheet for a few minutes. Then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling. Cookies will seems very soft, but that's why they are so fudgy once they cool completely!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

spring casual

shirt: Madewell || pants: Joe's Jeans || shoes: Stuart Weitzman || necklace: BaubleBar

Bauble of the day: BaubleBar's Tropical Gem Bib. This necklace is my current spring obsession. The combination of tropical and shiny gems are so good. I can't get over it. 

Also, this spring, I'm rocking a new, more relaxed hairstyle. I know it's not obvious at all, but I did get a haircut a few weeks ago. Since my hair got trimmed and my layers are finally all cleaned up, I decided to ditch the tighter curls and went for waves instead. The loose waves take less time, but they are also more fussy (aka: always in the way) throughout the day. My hair really has a mind of its own. I can't control it. Trying to find the right technique and the best products to tame the beast have definitely been an adjustment. Some days my hair looks amazing.. Other days, not so much. Then again, with the 90 degree weather right now, my hair is pretty much doomed. Maybe you'll have better luck than me. 

Great loose wave hair tutorials here and here. P.S. I always use curling irons with adjustable heat levels, which will help you avoid a situation like this.

Friday, April 26, 2013

soft pretzel bites with dipping sauce trio

I woke up this morning to learn that my dear Russell Westbrook has to undergo knee surgery. This was is very upsetting. I thought to myself: how am I going to bounce back from this? Hours and hours later, I'm still not sure. But to keep my mind off the fact that my favorite NBA player will not be continuing for the remainder of the playoffs, I went straight to the kitchen.

In my attempt to turn my Friday into a happy one, I decided that it was only appropriate to celebrate National Pretzel Day today. I was passing through one of my favorite blogs, and came across a soft pretzel bite recipe I just had to try. So, I did.. And also made a trio of dips to go with them. If you don't already have Two Peas & Their Pod on your Google Reader, Feedly, whatever.. get it on there immediately!

Soft Pretzel Bites
Recipe by Two Peas & Their Pod
Yields: Too many to count, about 5-6 dozen

1 1/2 cups warm water
2 Tbsp light brown sugar
2 1/4 tsp (1 package) active dry yeast
6 Tbsp (3oz) unsalted butter, melted
2 1/2 tsp kosher salt
4 1/2 to 5 cups all-purpose flour (4 1/2 cups was perfect for me)
vegetable oil (I used canola)
3 quarts water
3/4 cup baking soda
1 whole egg, beaten with 1 Tbsp cold water
coarse sea salt

1. Combine warm water, light brown sugar, yeast, and butter into bowl of a stand mixer. Mix with dough hook, then allow to sit for about 5 minutes until yeast has bloomed.
2. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour and salt. Pour dry mixture to wet mixture and incorporate on low speed. Increase speed to medium for 3-4 minutes until dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl. If the dough appears wet, add 1 Tbsp of flour at a time. Remove dough from bowl and place on unfloured surface. Knead the dough into a ball with your hands.
3. Lightly grease a bowl with vegetable/canola oil. Place dough ball into greased bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and allow to proof for about 1 hour in a warm spot. Dough should double in size before using.
4. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
5. Remove dough from bowl and place onto a flat surface. Divide the dough ball into 8 relatively equal pieces. The best way to do this is to cut it like a pie-- in half, then in quarters, then in eighths. Roll each piece into a long rope and cut into about 1-in pieces. It isn't important to be exact.
6. Boil the 3 quarts of water in a large pot. Once boiling, add baking soda. Please make sure you are using a large enough pot because water will vigorously boil and foam up once baking soda is added.
7. Add cut dough pieces to boiling water solution. Boil for about 30 seconds, and then remove with a large slotted spoon. Place all boiled pretzel bites onto a parchment lined baking sheet. You will have a lot of pretzel bites, so I needed to bake them all in 2 batches. 
8. On another parchment-lined baking sheet, place as many pretzel bites as you can without them touching. Brush the tops with the egg wash and sprinkle with sea salt. Bake in the oven for 15-18 minutes until golden brown. Repeat this process with the remaining pretzel bites that could not fit on the 1st tray.
9. Allow baked pretzel bites to cool on a baking rack (or directly on the baking sheet is fine).
10. Serve with your favorite dips.

With all these pretzel bites, it's great to have dip choices..

Here's a trio that will hopefully satisfy your sweet, savory, or spicy cravings. Enjoy!

Ginger Honey Mustard Dip

1/4 cup whole grain dijon mustard
1/4 cup honey
1/2 tsp ground ginger

1. Mix all ingredients together and serve! Duh.

Sriracha Ketchup Dip

2 Tbsp ketchup
1/2 tsp siracha

1. Combine ingredients. If you prefer more spice, add more sriracha. But this was a good balance for me.

Nutella and Peanut Butter Dip

Peanut Butter

1. This is the easiest dip of all. Just scoop out some Nutella. Then, drizzle some peanut butter directly on top. I use natural peanut butter (where peanuts are the only ingredient), which tends to be a little more liquid-like, so it works well for this.