Thursday, March 29, 2012

Lemon and Honey Chicken

It's been just over a month with my shiny new braces and I thought I would update you on how it's going!  Here are some answers to the most popular questions that I have been getting...

Shiny braces?  First, I should say that they aren't shiny at all.  My braces are clear.  They aren't the invisalign, retainer-style braces.  The brackets are actually made of a dense, clear ceramic.  It takes people a few minutes to realize that I actually have a full set of braces on my teeth.  From a few feet away they are completely unnoticeable, it isn't until you are talking face-to-face that you finally see them.  The only bit of metal that you see is the arch wire that connects the brackets together.  I'm very happy with the look of them, I actually kind of like them! 


How does it feel?  Like I told you before, the first few days that the braces were on I was acutely aware of each and every one of my teeth.  It was a strange feeling, but that eventually subsided.  I was really concerned about the pain that the braces would inflict, mostly because of all of the stories my coworkers were telling me.  It seems that 80% of the people that I work with had orthodontia work in the past.  From their tales of pain and woe I was bracing myself (ha!) for the pain and stocking up on Tylenol  It really hasn't been that bad.

The first few days, my mouth was tender and I ate a lot of soup and sipped many smoothies (and lost a few pounds).  Now I feel a whole lot better and even ate those tasty chicken wings last week.  I generally steer away from foods that I consider "hard to eat" (such as sandwiches) or "hard to clean-up" (like anything with seeds!).  Occasionally I'll have one tooth or another that is sore, but I know that means something is working and it's worth it.

What about the dreaded monthly tightening?  I was really concerned about the tightening.  I was picturing the orthodontist with pliers, wrenches and other medieval torture devices, tightening the wires and brackets in my mouth.  Let me tell you that I was nothing like that.  In fact I was in and out of the office in five minutes.  After a quick check of my progress, the orthodontist removed the old bands (the ones that hold the arch wire to the bracket) and replaced them with new ones.  Done, braces tightened.  I was pleasantly surprised.


Have I noticed a difference yet?  Yes!  I have been told that as an adult with braces, I'll be much more aware of the changes happening in my mouth.  This must be because I am used to my teeth and bite, any change will be obvious to me.  It's so true!  Each day my bite feels a little different or I can notice that a tooth isn't in the same place it was before.  Even my crazy tooth (some call it a snaggle tooth!) has begun to line up with the rest of my teeth.  I can see my new smile taking shape, only 17 more months to go!

If you are an adult considering getting braces, you should totally do it!  Join me in my adventure, it will be worth it!  Just buy yourself a good blender first.  Not only because you'll want the occasional easy to eat breakfast, but because smoothies are delicious!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Fish (or Chicken) and Mango Salsa & Honey-roasted Parsnips

This past weekend was a sweet one.  In preparation for April 2012 (the month I have declared "Candy Month!) I spent a lot of time in the kitchen.  Some successes, some failures, a whole lot of sugar, chocolate and spices.

Since I spent the majority of my time working with sugar, I wanted something quick to eat for dinner.  It was then that I remembered that I had not yet taste tested my Mrs. Paul's Parchment Bakes!  I was very excited about being selected as a tastemaker for the particular product because I am terrible when it comes to making fish.  Go ahead and have a look in my recipe archive, you will find zero recipes that include fish.


I always have the same problems when it comes to cooking fish.  First, the house always smells like fish for days!  No matter how fresh the fish is, it always leaves its scent behind.  Second, I generally overcook it.  I haven't quite gotten the skills to determine when a fish fillet is done.  Finally, I never know what to pair it with.  Since I don't cook fish a lot, I never know what kind of sauce to pair with it.  I've made some bad decisions in the past!

I was pleasantly surprised to find that Mrs. Pauls took care of all of my complaints!  I went with the classic grilled tilapia since I wanted to add a mango salsa to the fish.  It went in the oven (in its own little parchment bag) and came out perfectly done.  The fish was flakey and moist.  The sauce was mild and paired well with the salsa.  The final bit of wonderful?  While the fish was flavorful and tasty, the house didn't smell like fish at all.  Mrs. Paul's, you've got yourself a winner here.


As part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program, I received a sample of Mrs. Pauls Parchment Bakes.  All comments and opinions are my own.  If you want to give this product a try, here is a coupon for buy one, get one!  (Good through March 30)
 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Why Bother? 2012 - Buffalo Sauce

Why Bother?  Because I'm from Buffalo, that's why we bother!  Sure, I haven't lived there in almost ten years, but it's in my blood (we undergo a transfusion of wing sauce as children, it's how we stay so warm in the winter).  Not only am I going to share with you my favorite Buffalo wing sauce recipe, I am going to lay down the rules when it comes to chicken wings.  This is very serious business.  Get a pad of paper and a pen, you'll want to take notes.


Rule #1 - Do not EVER bread your chicken wings!  Buffalo chicken wings are naked, never breaded.  Ever.  While in Madison, WI I ordered some Buffalo wings from my favorite pizza place (Hello Glass Nickel!).  They arrived with a thick, crunchy, bread coating.  I was appauled.  Stick with making your delicious pizza, you're doing it wrong with your wings.

If you bread your chicken wings, I do not know what you are doing.  Perhaps you're making yourself a little fried chicken drumstick?  Maybe you're thinking the sauce needs something to stick to?  Don't be crazy and put down the breadcrumbs.


Rule #2 - If it isn't spicy, it isn't Buffalo sauce.  I have had a series of butter-rich, lack-luster "Buffalo wings" in the past.  There is a place right around the corner from our current apartment that sells Buffalo wings, touted as "Nuclear!"  Either I have fried all my taste buds, or someone forgot to add the hot sauce.  You need the heat!  I'm not telling you that habanero peppers need to be involved, but you've got to sweat a little!  They should be just spicy enough that you think twice about rubbing your eye after eating a wing.


Rule #3 - Serve 'em with a side of blue cheese.  I do not want to hear of anyone eating their buffalo sauce with ranch dressing.  It is so very, very wrong.  This is a mistake that I have seen many a midwesterner make.  It most often happens when someone offers you a Buffalo chicken sub sandwich.  To get it clear, a Buffalo-style chicken sub should be as follows (and no different) - crispy chicken tenders slathered in wing sauce, lettuce, blue cheese dressing and provolone cheese.  Make this sandwich now, it will change your life.

That's it.  Those are my simple rules about chicken wings.  If you don't want to follow the wing rules, you must call your food "chicken wings" sans the Buffalo. 

If you want to take your wings to the next level, you make your own sauce.  This is the wing sauce that my family has been making all my life.  It's spicy, sweet and tangy.  If you are lacking one or two of these ingredients, I'm okay with the tried and true "melt a stick of butter, add a bottle of hot sauce" method.  You might even be able to find the original Buffalo sauce on the shelf at your supermarket.  If you come across "Anchor Bar" Buffalo sauce, that's the one, the original.  Buy the hottest variety that they sell and whip up a batch!  Just don't bread your chicken.

Are you originally from the Buffalo area too?  What are some of your Buffalo wing rules?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Spring Frittata, Spring Arugula Salad & Basil Panna Cotta with Strawberry gelee

Is there a time of the year that is any better than spring?  Personally, it is my favorite season and there are so many reasons why.

First, spring means that I can break out my cute dresses and strap on some adorable sandels.  I'm saying "see you later" to my winter coat and donning my favorite black satin spring jacket (seriously, it's so adorable, I'm sad I can only wear it in the in between weather times!).  Now that I'm a non-grad student type person and have all this weekend free time, I live in dresses as soon as the weather agrees with it!


Next, tulips.  Tulips are the most awesome flower, ever.  I will carry tulips down the aisle whenever I get around the getting married.  I have a vase of pink and yellow tulips sitting on the table next to me at this very moment.  Tulips are so much more amazing that roses because they have a little personality.  I think it looks like they are sighing.  When I see my first few tulips of spring, I'm a happy banana.


Finally, the farmers market.  I fell in love with the idea of a weekend market during my time in Madison, WI.  The market on the capitol square rivals all other markets I've been to, including all the ones I've stopped by in NYC.  I miss the Dane Country farmers market, you could do all of your grocery shopping there.  While our local one isn't quite so large, the produce is fresh and local.  It's also a ten minutes walk away.  While the pickings are scarce right now, soon natures bounty will start to overflow the farm stands.


To celebrate spring, Frigidaire was kind enough to sponsor a series of spring posts via Foodbuzz. In keeping with the fresh and local theme, I headed to the farmers market and picked up everything that I could from the stands (the rest was filled in by our local Whole Foods). Farm fresh eggs with crisp spring asparagus and herbs. Sweet raspberries and peppery arugula. Local cream, flavored with bright green basil and finished off with sweet-tart strawberries. This meal gets me ready for spring and looking forward to the bounty of the farmers market.


This post was sponsored by Frigidaire. When you check out Suzanne Goin's springtime recipes at www.maketimeforchange.com, Frigidaire will donate $1 to Save the Children's U.S. programs. Plus, you'll be entered for a chance to win the new Frigidaire Range with SymmetryTM Double Ovens – featuring two large ovens (that can each fit up to a 28 pound turkey!), providing the flexibility to cook multiple dishes at the same time at different temperatures, so you can get more on the table at the same time.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Sponge Candy Cupcakes

Boyfriend and I got to have a little fun in the city this Tuesday.

First, I got to buy this new cookbook...


Then, I got to see this lady give a nice powerpoint presentation...


And I got to have a little talk with her!  Ree said boyfriend was a good sport for coming along.

On a side note... can you see my new braces???
Finally, boyfriend and I went and got noodles and pork buns for dinner.  It was an excellent day.

It was only made even better because these little beauties were waiting for me at home.


These cupcakes were actually an idea that came from my mom!  There is a small bakery back home (Hello Cupcake Orchard!) that makes a sponge candy cupcake on a limited basis.  The only thing that would have made mine just as delicious as theirs?  Original Watson's sponge candy crumbled on top.


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Asparagus Lasagna

It's time for spring, which means it's time to go outside.  With the air turning warmer and the days getting longer, I find myself wanting to be out of the house more and more.  It's time to throw open the windows, air the winter dankness out of the house and cook up some really fresh foods.  This is also the time of year that I get a little sad, sad that I live in an apartment.


I find myself wishing that I had a backyard and a lawn and a garden.  I imagine myself getting to work in my own little garden.  Turning the soil, fertilizing the dirt, planting the seeds.  I'd love nothing more than to have fresh herbs pop up from beneath the soil, knowing that I was the one that put them there.

This all sounds like a nice idea, doens't it?  But if you're my mom, you know better.  I do not dig in the dirt.  It's a problem, because I love it when spring bulbs begin to poke their shoots through the fresh spring dirt.  I want the harvest fresh produce from my backyard.  I would love nothing more than to clip fresh herbs from just outside my window.  Maybe I'll find my green thumb when I have a house of my own?


For now, I have plans of a potted herb garden in my mind.  A little windowsill farm, providing me with bright green parsley, pungent basil and soft sage.  I know this means that I'll have to get my hands a little dirty, but I think it will be worth it.  Hey Ma!  Look at me!  I'm going to plant a garden!  Just in time for spring!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Why Bother? 2012 - Yogurt

The dairy section of my local grocery store contains at least a hundred different varieties of yogurt.  I'm thinking that this is not unique to my corner of the world.  I'll bet that your local store has a similarly large selection of yogurts.  From fat free to full fat, organic and chemical-rich, flavors varying from strawberry to chocolate to key lime.  With this endless sampling of yogurts it was a big question to answer this week, why make your own yogurt?  I can give you not one, but three reasons.

1. It's so cheap!  That's right, making your own yogurt with save you money.  This is especially true if you want organic yogurt.  Let's do the breakdown.  (All prices are taken from my local Peapod site, prices will vary by region)

1/2 gallon of organic milk - $3.69
1 single serve plain organic yogurt - $0.99
1 single serve plain organic Greek yogurt - $1.99

From my experience, a half gallon of milk will yield approximately six servings of Greek yogurt and 8 servings of regular yogurt.  If you decide to make the entire half gallon of milk into Greek yogurt, you save $8.25! 

If you decide to go the non-organic route...

1 gallon 2% milk - $3.69
1 serving plain yogurt - $0.50 (on sale this week!)
1 serving plain Greek yogurt - $1.25

Servings from 1 gallon of milk - 16 regular yogurts & 12 Greek yogurts
Savings - $4.31 (regular), $11.31 (Greek)

Put that money in your piggy bank!


2. It's so easy!  If you have a food thermometer, this is a breeze to do.  If you are without thermometer, do not worry.  You can still do this.  The hands on time for preparing this yogurt was so minimal, I was able to do several other things at the same time.  If you can put milk in a pot, the transfer it to a jar, you can make yogurt. 

If you own any of the following - an oven, a towel & a pot, a yogurt maker or a heating pad - you can make yogurt.

If you have a container of yogurt in your fridge, you can start making yogurt right now.


3. It's so delicious!  I was a little skeptical at first, thinking that my yogurt would come out all funky and I would be wasting my time.  However, once I popped open the jar of my freshly made yogurt, I was a skeptic no more.  I dipped my spoon in and tasted the fresh yogurt and active cultures and was pleased at the yogurty flavor.  More intense than most store-bought varieties, you can't get fresher than this.

The flavors options are only as limited as your imagination.  Keep it simple and drizzle on honey, sprinkle with walnuts and cinnamon.  Make it fresh and puree seasonal fruit for a topping.  Take it over the top and blend it with a little sugar and cream cheese. 

There we are, three wonderful reasons to start making your own yogurt!  I have been enjoying fresh Greek yogurt all week with my breakfast and I couldn't be happier.  Would I do it again?  I already have. 


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Chicken Francais & Honey-Roasted Root Vegetables

I just finished our shutterfly scrapbook from our trip to Thailand.  That means only one thing, it's time for another vacation!  This is how it usually works out, although not all the time.  We went to Saint Kitts in 2009 and I still haven't finished putting the photos in the album.  I blame myself.  I should have done one of those fancy shutterfly bound books, but I got prints.  I was somehow thinking I had lots of time on my hands and I could scrapbook.  Those photos are still sitting, unbound, inside of the book I plan on putting them into.


Generally, boyfriend and I are pretty terrible at pre-planning our vacations.  We booked out flight to Thailand, exactly one month before we left.  Last year, we planned out cross-Europe adventure a mere ten days before heading to England.  I've been on several "surprise" vacations that I had the evening to pack for.  Our trip to Costa Rica was so close, I did one of the worst jobs packing in my entire life. 


This time is different, I took charge and booked our spring vacation two whole months ahead of time.  In the weeks since, I've bought a new bathing suit, stocked up on sunscreen and looked at excursions.  At the end of April, we're heading to Puerto Rico and setting sail on a week long cruise!  The only problem now, it's so far away!  I have to wait six more weeks before going on vacation?  There is something to be said about last minute planning!


Friday, March 2, 2012

My Macaron Method!

Wednesday I left you with the question of whether I could reproduce my workshop macarons at home.  Today we have the answer.  Yes, I can! 


Sure, it was a little more difficult to do this on my own.  I was wishing that I hadn't gotten rid of my hand mixer while I was whisking the meringue.  All on my lonesome, my arm got pretty tired!  I had to keep switching between left and right arms.  I also learned that I am not ambidextrous when it comes to whisking things.  My left arm is terribly uncoordinated and not at all good at whipping egg whites.  I'll have to give it a bit more practice.

Boyfriend helped to style this particular photograph

The batter was flowing like lava, I think.  I'm still a fan of the disappearing line method for testing the batter consistency.  The batter piped well, forming nice round shells.  The shells dried up in thirty minutes and when I put them in the oven I was hoping for the best.  With my fingers crossed, I set the timer for seven minutes and walked away. 


When I came back to turn the pans I was thrilled to see round tops and pretty, frilled feet!  I can do this at home!  While this isn't simplest recipe, requiring you to heat the meringue over a water bath, I choose to go with a consistent recipe rather than an easy, unreliable one.



Haven't found a favorite macaron recipe yet?  Give this one a try!  I know that this is my go to recipe from now on.  Thank you DessertTruck!

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