This week’s experiment…

2012-02-01   Leave a Comment  

My husband loves Chinese food.  If I were to want to make his year, I would simply have to tell him that I wanted to go to a Chinese Buffet for lunch or dinner.  To make his week, I’d just have to suggest we order Chinese takeout.  He’s such an uncomplicated fellow.

For my wedding shower I received this GORGEOUS Chinese cookbook.  As anyone who has experienced a wedding shower followed by two moves will understand, I just found the cookbook.  And I fell in love again.  This time I fell in love so much I decided Sunday would be Chinese day.  My mom and I made dim sum.  My husband and I made Lo Mein.  It was delicious and fabulous.  Thanks to leftover ingredients I was able to stretch Chinese Sunday to today.

 

If you think this fried rice looks delicious, it’s because it was.  Lately I have not become emphatic over many things, but this rice made my day.  I hope it turns my husband into a lover of Chinese food at home – it’ll be safe for all of our digestive systems.

Emily’s Chicken Fried Rice:

2 medium sized chicken breast, sliced into thin strips

Slice the chicken breasts.  Season with salt and pepper.  Fry in a hot wok with a few tablespoons of oil.  The chicken should be done in a matter of minutes.  Remove the wok from the heat.

1 cup of uncooked rice

Prepare the rice according to the package directions.  I typically purchase plain white rice.  Boil 1.5 cups of water.  Add the cup of rice.  Lower the heat between low and medium low and cover.  The rice will take about 20 minutes, giving you plenty of time to prepare the vegetables.

1 Tablespoon Garlic, minced
1 Cup Snap Peas
2 Scallions, sliced
4 Carrots, peeled and sliced
1/2 Head of Nappa Cabbage, thinly sliced
1/2 Cup of Bean Sprouts

Add all of the vegetables to the wok with the chicken.  Heat the wok, stirring regularly.  Add the rice.

1 Tablespoon Hoisin Sauce
1 Tablespoon Rice Vinegar

Add the sauce and vinegar to the wok.  Cook for a few more minutes, stirring by gently tossing ingredients.

Serve the dish with soy sauce for a little added flavor, and try not to fall in love with Chinese food at home too much.   

 

Kudos

2012-01-23   Leave a Comment  

I would like to start a weekly kudos section to this blog.  While there is a lot I see in the world of food that demands reproof, I seem to be coming across a lot of good that is happening.  I know it all sounds kind of hokey, but isn’t there enough bad news out there?

I would like to give my first kudos to Bottom Dollar Food for providing a variety of great looking fruits and vegetables at lower-than-low prices.

Green Peppers – $.50 a piece
Lemons – $.19 a piece
Red Seedless Grapes – $.93 a pound

I could continue, but I think you get it.  Before walking into Bottom Dollar, I had the depressing feeling that cheap foods were high-sodium, full of trans-fats, or loaded with sugar; and, unfortunately, visiting most grocery stores affirmed that viewpoint.  But Bottom Dollar changed the game.  Yes they offer soda and snacks and frozen meals, but they also offer a beautiful head of celery for under a dollar.

Now I do understand that the low prices Bottom Dollar offers do not mean everyone in my neighborhood is going to eat more veggies.  I’m just glad they are a reasonable option.  And my husband almost peed his pants, when he heard I picked up grapes for $.93 a pound.  He loves grapes.

Perfect chicken nuggets

2012-01-10   Leave a Comment  

When life hands you lemons, make chicken nuggets.  I’m serious.  You will not be able to go back to the McDonalds after you try this easy mac and cheese companion.

For my husband and I, I typically use 3 large chicken breasts that I cut into bite-sized pieces; but it’s so easy to make a lot of chicken nuggets or a few chicken nuggets plus they are rather tasty reheated.  After you cut up the chicken, mince 2 cloves of garlic and cut a lemon in half.  Squeeze the lemon over the chicken and mix in the minced garlic.  I typically like to let the chicken marinate for an hour, but if I’m in a pinch I’ll just let it marinate as long as I have.

I bread the nuggets with egg and bread crumbs, fry them and eat.  Lemonade’s got nothing on this meal.

A Case of the Januarys

2012-01-04   Leave a Comment  

Yesterday I was hurdled into an early case of the Januarys.  I was born in January, so typically I thrive in its frigid, unpredictable nonsense.  Last year the death of my Grandfather was just a little bit too much January for me to handle and this year January seems to be stepping it up once again.

Thanks to a little extra time at my disposal, I am going to fight the Januarys with food.  Just this morning I learned my darling husband can cook a perfect over medium fried egg.  He’s an expert at scrambled eggs, but I must say I was rather surprised when I received two completely unbroken yolks.

I always thought the phrase “when life hands you lemons make lemonade” a bit cliche, but for once I just may take a cliche and try to live it.  So if you’re interested, you can follow me along on the journey.  There might be a lot of lemonade, lemon bars, lemon curd, and even lemon chicken.  Please bare with me and I’ll try to mix in a bit of  oranges when I get the chance.

Time to start looking back

2011-03-11   Leave a Comment  

So in a short – countable – amount of time I will become a married woman.  The last few days of single life have gotten me thinking about this incredible journey that has led me here, back to Pennsylvania ready to settle down and become a wife.  I have five years of kitchen experience – if you count my fry cook/ hamburger slinging days in high school.  I have 2 diplomas, both with a Summa Cum Laude typed into them.  I have friends who have been with me every step of the way and some who I just knew for a short time.  Every one of them has impacted my life in some way.  And of course through it all I have had – for the last 3 years at least – a supportive man by my side, my biggest fan.

So for him – because some of these stories even he hasn’t heard – I want to begin to share my countdown to married life.  My opus of sorts.  The tears, lessons, and laughs that have brought me here.

Oregon, 2008 – Oregon was my first taste at being an adult.  In my Sophomore year at Johnson & Wales University, I took a baking and pastry internship at Sunriver Resort in Sunriver, Oregon. My time in Oregon taught me so much more than how to work in a commercial bakery.  Oregon taught me how deranged cocaine can make a person, before the Charlie Sheen incident.  It taught me that making muffins is truly an art.  Either that or I was just talented enough to be one of only two people who could manage not to mess them up in the bakery.  But most importantly Oregon taght me how to ride a bicycle.

My dad always said my middle name should have been grace, because then I would have at least had some grace in my life.  I gave up learning how to ride a bicycle at the ripe old age of 6.  My six-year-old reasoning had decided that such experience would not be a necessary contribution to my life experiences.  And then I picked an internship in Sunriver, Oregon where I was given a bike and told that the bike would be my primary method to get to work.

My first serious bike accident was because my groceries were uneven on my handlebars.  The bike tipped, my arm went into the rocks, my knee followed.  I took pictures.  Before my internship was over, I had ruined 3 bikes.  I fell over the side of the bike.  I flipped over the handlebars.  I slid out on an inch of snow coming down a hill.  And somehow I managed to bump my knee repeatedly on the side of the bike while going uphill until it was sore and bleeding.  I fit what should have been a minimum of 6 years of childhood experience-related injuries into 6 months of trial and error.

Throughout it all, I learned that I am horrendously stubborn and that my dad should have fought harder to add grace to my name.  Or maybe I should have known saying at 6 that you will never need a skill is certainly a dooming commentary on a skill you will be forced to learn.

Here begins the countdown.  I know as Matt’s wife I will need to learn some things.  I will probably fall a few times, but cuts and scrape heal.  I’ve definitely gotten enough of them to know that!

Happy Eating!!!

Emily

Monkey Business

2011-02-23   1 Comment  

monkey monkey monkey

I dream in food.  It just comes naturally.  So when I was working on a project for work and it involved monkeys, I dreamed about monkey bread.  You know that goopy cinnamony doughy bread that pulls apart into perfect bite-sized pieces.

The first time I ate monkey bread I was probably 11 or 12.  I was over at my cousins house and their other grandparents were there.  Probably means it was one of their birthdays.  Anyway her grandma brought monkey bread.  I ate one piece and I didn’t leave my place by the side of the table, hoping no one would notice that I was eating more of the monkey bread than anyone else.  I was so sad when it was all gone, and monkey bread had a special place in my heart from that day on.  Who would not LOVE bite-sized sticky buns!

When I started dreaming about monkey bread, I really knew I needed to relive this childhood favorite.  Matt and I went to the grocery store, bought a four pack of Pillsbury biscuits – I know real dough would work just as well, but I wanted something quick.  I cut each of the biscuits in half and mixed 1/2 cup of sugar with 1 teaspoon of cinnamon.  Matt tossed each biscuit piece in the cinnamon/sugar and plopped them in a greased 9 inch square pan.  I melted 1/2 cup of butter and added 1 cup of brown sugar.  I poured the butter sugar mixture over the biscuit pieces, popped it into the oven at 350 F.  It was about 40 minutes before it was completely done.  I flipped it out onto a plate and patiently – I burned my hand because I was being impatient, so I quickly decided to become patient – waited for it to cool.

Sometimes it’s nice to know that despite the monkey business and craziness you might experience, warm sugary doughy treats will always be just as delicious as that very first time.  And I do love that now that I’m a grown-up I can eat as much as I want without worrying about anyone catching on.

Happy Eating!!!

Emily

The Cake: Take Experimental Phase

2011-02-09   Leave a Comment  

the winning cake, as of today

A wedding involves a million decisions. I am notoriously awful at making decisions. Enter stress, tears, and unnecessary snapping at everyone around. It is not Bridezilla – I detest that name – it is more or less that I was not cut out to plan a wedding. I was not one of those girls who planned their wedding since they were 5. I think it was my personality telling me this whole thing just wasn’t my thing. So Matt and I can either elope, or I can suck it up and make my mantra “it will be ok and everything will get done.”

The jury is out on what will happen, but I can control the one thing that I know how to control, the cake. I have been told that I am crazy for thinking I can make my own wedding cake. I have also been told how cool it is that I was to make my own wedding cake. I think the “cool” people are secretly turning around and thinking CRAZY, but I’m ok imagining some people accept my choices.

I started the cake saga this last weekend. Matt and I were having a bad day, so I decided it was time to pull my cake card – who doesn’t want to eat cake! I made this recipe from Country Living (link) and this recipe from Joy of Baking (link).  I broke the Joy of Baking recipe into thirds and the Country Living recipe in half.  This way I only had one 8 inch cake for us to devour.  Matt’s on a diet.  I was being nice.

I pulled the cakes out of the oven and instantly knew the winner.  The Joy of Baking cake rose beautifully and had a nice crust, which meant I would have an easier time with the icing.  The other cake looked very moist i.e. a pain!  We tasted the cakes and Matt liked the moist cake – he tends to enjoy being difficult.  I heard his complaints about the denser cake not tasting pumpkin spicey enough.  I whipped up a pumpkin cream cheese icing – 4 oz. cream cheese, 1 tbsp pumpkin filling, a pinch of cloves, and a dash of nutmeg – and he was sold.

I know the tasting and eating part of the cake is the easiest part, but it’s one less decision I have to make.  And sugar does put me in a better mood.  I think Matt’s going to vote for cake testing every weekend.

Happy Eating!!!

Emily

It was a privilege to know him

2011-01-18   Leave a Comment  

Sunday after Christmas my family skipped church to visit my Pappy in the hospital.  He knew he was on borrowed time and we were talking about life after death.

“I’ll save a space at the feast for all of you,” Pappy said, his eyes brightening.

My mom told him to save a block of mansions for us in heaven, and he smiled.  But I think he was really looking forward to the feast.

I grew up eating feasts with my pappy.  Every other Saturday night my mom, and sometimes my dad when he was not working, would pack all of us kids up and we’d go to family night.  Meatball sandwiches, sloppy joes, hamburgers, hotdogs, Uncle Brian always hated casserole night so he brought pizza, the food was filling and there was always plenty.  It was never a classy affair.  But it was our family.  Pappy would be busy telling a story.  Everyone else would have switched conversations at least 5 times before he even thought of finishing the story.  And all of the grandchildren would be told to be quiet at least 15 times before the end of the night.

The adults were always louder.  Us, kids knew that.  We just let them think that we were the ones being too loud.  It made them feel like they were in charge.

Pappy was the biggest culprit of the “shooshing” police.  He loved to tell us all to be quiet.  He was not a doting grandfather.  He loved us and told us how proud he was of us every time we gave him a hug goodbye.  But he wanted to train us to be responsible, well behaved, and most importantly to know when to be quiet.  So he made us practice a lot.

I missed his incessant shooshing on Saturday.  All of my mom’s family was piled into a little room in the Hospice Hospital.  Most of us had been there since 6 that morning, and the sounds would range from sobbing to silence.  Then we’d all move out to the waiting room, and things would get noisy.  Someone would undoubtedly quiet the crowd.  But it just didn’t have the same potency Pappy’s quieting had.

We all ate a meal on Saturday.  It was nothing like those family nights, but it did involve a lot of food and everyone laughing and talking, and for a little while forgetting about the man in the room gasping for air, for a little while.

As I sat by my Pappy’s bed on Saturday night, before I said my final “see you later,” I kept praying that somehow he could stop suffering.  Each labored breath I made a silent plea for God to just bring him home a little early, that somehow he could cut the process short.  And with every breath, Pappy reminded me that I had no say in this.  Just as I needed to be quiet when Pappy said so, I could not pray Pappy home any sooner.

It was 3 am Sunday morning when he finally passed.  I was at home in bed.  Some of my cousins and my aunt were with him.  I am sure God has explained to him that there is no shooshing in heaven already.  And I bet he’s enjoying that feast as I type this.

I know my pappy was in pain. Mesothelioma is a terrible thing to die from. He told my sister and I at least 2 times in the last month to stay away from asbestos. We told him we would. We have done a lot of research on www.fightmesothelioma.com since then.   I am happy Pappy is no longer in pain.  But there was just one more feast I wanted him to enjoy with me, my wedding feast.

I wanted Pappy to marry Matt and me.  I wanted him to give me all of the advice 49 years of marriage deserves to give.  And I wanted to walk over to his table, hug that wonderful old man, and feel his bristly mustache on my cheek as he said to me,”I’m so proud of you.  I love you.”

That was one feast I never thought he’d miss.  But I know he’ll be there.  He’ll be sitting at the feast, watching all of us, and trying to contain himself, because I’m absolutely sure we’ll be a little too loud and he’ll wish he could come down from heaven and tell us all to be a little quieter.

He was so persnickety about noise.  And like my younger cousin said, it was a privilege to know him.

Happy Eating!!!

Emily

 


A new beginning

2011-01-09   Leave a Comment  

I am a firm believer in a Saturday morning pot of tea curing any problems experienced during the week - I get this habit from my mother.

Oregon was on my mind a lot this week.  I could feel my knee scraping the bicycle as I rode up the winding hills to the intern house.  I could smell the muffin batter, baking into perfect muffins – I was one of maybe two interns that managed to not screw up the muffins on a daily basis, so I became the  main muffin maker.  And then as the week marched on, I remembered the long rides home from work and the month where I worked 20-some days straight.  I felt the accidents, one after another.  I would have given up that bicycle were it not for the 2 mile trip into work, at 3 in the morning.  I knew the cycle of the moon then.  It was a new moon the night I flipped over the handlebars and into a rock.

I started noticing the moon again this week.  Tuesday night was hardly a sliver.  This week was supposed to be the start of new exciting things.  I started my first big-person job at The Liquid Fence Company as public relations/ social media/ staff writer (my official title is Public Relations Assistant Coordinator).  I have a lot to learn, but I’m sure I’ll find my proverbial muffins (that thing that I can manage to never mess up) and be confident in my job in no time.

But this whole new start came with a price.  It meant the end of my days in a commercial kitchen.  It meant an hour commute – in a car!  And it meant me feeling like I did on that bicycle the first day in Oregon all over again, completely unsure and exhausted from the effort.

Oregon was a true epiphany in my life.  I met my soon-to-be-sister-in-law, made friends with some pretty wonderful people, and I learned how to ride a bike at the age of 19.  But more importantly it was the place where I realized my body could not handle working in a kitchen forever, and I decided to take a new path into the world of writing.  This week showed me that the epiphany of Oregon really was for the better.

I love the world of food and hope to never leave it’s tasty sphere, but now I get to explore other worlds and other talents.  While I will hold main-muffin-maker high in my list of life accomplishments, I will not miss the back pains and searing carpel tunnel from working in a kitchen.  And the best part – I get to cook all I want for fun!

I know these last few weeks have been sparse in terms of postings, but I have promised myself to work harder on posting more frequently.  As my weeks become more routine, I’m sure it will be easier to find the time and recipes you all come here for.  In the mean time I hope your new year is off to a great start.  And if it is not burn the New Year’s diet and go eat some of those Christmas cookies before they are completely inedible.

Happy Eating!!!

Emily

Goodbye 2010

2011-01-01   Leave a Comment  

some last minute 2010, before it leaves us for good.

This year has been rather eventful.  I finished school. I got engaged.  I bought a wedding dress.  I bought a car – hello monthly payments!  I moved, 3 times.  I worked my last summer in the kitchen.  And I brought you all along for the ride.

So tonight, as everyone is busy ringing out the new year, I did what I love to do.  I created a last minute dessert out of ingredients lying around the house.  It is the pastry chef lingering, what can I say.

We are leaving for our neighbors in a little over an hour and my mom said we needed a dessert.  I pulled out a pizza crust and some cream cheese – maybe 2 tablespoons.  I warmed up the cream cheese and added 3 tablespoons of peach butter.  It wasn’t terrible sweet, so I added about a teaspoon of sugar.  Another jelly or jam might be sweeter, and you may not need the extra sugar.  I then thawed 1.5 cups of blueberries.  I added 2 teaspoons of corn starch and a tablespoon of sugar to the blueberries.  The pizza dough was bought frozen from the grocery store.  I stretched it out onto a rectangular pan, curled up the crust and spread the cream cheese mixture over the bottom.  I dropped the blueberries on, sprinkled some nutmeg on top and baked it at 400 F for 20 minutes.

If I were to do it again, I may have used more cream cheese or made the dough a cinnamon dough and put crumb topping over the blueberries.  But I used what I had and it is delicious.  One last wonderful thing to work out for 2010.

I hope your end of 2010 is safe and happy and your new year is full of delicious food and friends and family to share it with!

Happy Eating!!!

Emily