Thursday, September 27, 2012

Green Curry Fritters

When one person works in New Jersey and the other works on Long Island, it means that someone is going to have to make a long trek to work each day.  Since it's easier to get to my office via public transport than boyfriends office, I spend a lot of time commuting each week.  People at my office all give me sad looks when I tell them about my daily travels, but it really isn't that bad.  Let me list all the great things that happen while I ride the train.  Most of which they couldn't do while driving to work in their cars.

1. I can take a nap!  Try that in your car!  No wait, don't.  It usually happens about twenty minutes into my Long Island train ride.  My eyelids start to feel heavy and I begin to nod off during the middle of a paragraph.  It's okay to give into sleep because I have an alarm set to wake me up just before I get to my stop.  Do I have to worry about getting to my stop before the alarm goes off?  No.  The LIRR is never early.

2. I prepare powerpoint slides for my weekly meetings, because there are always meetings and there are always slides to be made.  I apparently should have taken a course in powerpoint slide preparation in grad school.  I thought it would be all chemistry and making compounds.  Nope, it's half that, half talking about doing chemistry and making compounds in meetings.

3. I watch movies.  In fact I watched one yesterday.  Thank you Netflix and 4G.

4. I read a lot of books.  My kindle has an ever rotating group of books from the Amazon store, my friends kindle loans and the NJ digital library.  I've spent time this year learning about the inticacies of cancer in The Emperor of All Maladies.  I stood by Nick as he was accused of killing his wife in Gone Girl.  I helped solve a World War II mystery with the War Brides.  And recently I've been hearing Anthony Bourdain in my head while reading his 2011 book, Medium Raw.

I'm about halfway through Medium Raw and it's funny, witty and sounds entirely like Bourdain.  As I read through the chapters, I can hear his voice in my head, narrating the book like he does throughout "No Reservations."  Bourdain has an opinion on everything food, I'm sure he has plenty to say about food bloggers.  All I know, it's a lot of fun to read and makes my train ride seem much shorter.

5. Finally, I plan my weekly meal plans.  I have five different cooking magazines on my iPad and I have clipped so many recipes to make!  (Want to know how to 'clip' a recipe on your iPad?  Just take a screen capture and it will send a copy of the recipe to your photo library.  To screen capture, hold the top power button and tap the home button.  You'll hear a camera noise and you know you've got it!)


I clipped this recipe for green curry fritters a few weeks ago and have been thinking of making them since.  Boyfriend and I both enjoyed this meal, though we both decided that these fritters would be even better if made into sliders.  Next time!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Ramen Vegetable Soup

I knew it was going to happen, Fall has come and the sun has started to set early.  I came home last night as the sun was going down.  By the time my train made it to my stop the sun had completely gone and I was walking home under the streetlamps.  This means two things.  1. I'm going to have to break out my light box again soon to take after dark pictures of dinner.  2. It's time for more soup!


 I prepped this soup on Sunday and it was ready in no time for dinner.  I chopped all of the vegetables and stored them in a single container, this meant all I had to do last night was heat up the pot and toss the ingredients in.  Dinner was hot and ready in just 30 minutes. 


I hope Fall is treating you well.  Are the leaves changing in your town yet?  Have you broken out an extra layer to wear on your commute in the morning?  Maybe you've been indulging in buying sweaters?  Whatever you've been doing to ring in the season, be sure to stay warm and have some soup!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Why Bother? 2012 - Homemade Sodas Part 2

Today is the first full day of Fall!  I'm so ready for it.  I just bought some fabulous, black ankle boots.  Boyfriend hates them.  I've starting to search the stores for sweaters and picked up a few pairs of tights.  We have even been sleeping with the windows open.  And I've dyed my hair brown.


How are you preparing for Fall?  Bringing those sweaters out of storage?  Heading to Starbucks for a pumpkin spice latte?  Baking apples and cinnamon into everything?


Whatever you are doing on this, this first day of fall, I'm here to bring you the second installment of homemade sodas!  This particular flavor would have been more suited for spring and fresh strawberries.  Strawberry cream soda!


To make yourself a strawberry cream soda, you don't need any fancy equipment.  No soda siphon or CO2 cartridges necessary for this recipe.  All you need is a pint of strawberries, vanilla extract, milk and your liquid sweetener of choice.


After blending all of the ingredients together, I wanted to just sit and drink the strawberry puree.  Look how pretty it looks!  So creamy and fragrant. 


Once mixed with seltzer water, this was a mild and sweet beverage.  I would suggest adding a scoop of vanilla ice cream and curling up in your fuzzy slippers.  Happy Fall Everyone!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Why Bother? 2012 - Homemade Sodas

Sometimes serendipity strikes in your favor. Last weekend was one of those weeks.

Boyfriend loves to go to the flea market. Mostly he goes looking for toys. Old toys, new toys. Toys that remind him of his childhood. Toys that his dad sent to Goodwill before he was done playing with them. G.I. Joes, Batman figures, robotic toys from the 1980's, video game systems that are long past their prime. It's all on his radar. It's rare that I find something that I want while perusing the aisles of junk, until last Saturday.

We headed to the Meadowlands flea market bright and early Saturday morning. (You have to go early, otherwise all the good junk is gone.). Wandering through the sea of pre-owned merchandise, I spotted something that looked familiar. Stainless steel with a black cap, I first thought it was a whipped cream canister, until I got closer.


Wouldn't you know, it was a brand new soda siphon. The very one that I held back from buying because of its $70 price tag. When I asked how much the vendor wanted, he said "$10!" Color me happy, sold! What was so great about this find? Homemade sodas was on the list for the Why Bother challenge this week! Serendipity.


After a quick trip to the store to locate some CO2 cartridges, I was ready to carbonate everything! My friends told me to stop short of carbonating my milk. I was apt to agree.


I switched to drinking seltzer a few months ago and have never been much of a cola drinker, so I wanted to make something not too sweet and special for my homemade sodas. I settled on two flavorful options - a Raspberry-lime rickey and a strawberry cream soda.


I decided to carbonate the Rickey with the soda siphon and make the cream soda with seltzer water. You can make your own sodas without use of a siphon, just go out and buy some seltzer water and you'll be making your own homemade drinks in no time too!


The best thing about making your own sodas is that you control the sugar. Store bought sodas contain a ridiculous amount of sugar per serving (a 12-ounce can of soda typically has 10 and a 1/2 teaspoons of sugar). If you want a fun and fancy flavor, you're going to be paying at least $2.00 per beverage. Making your own at home, you save calories and money. Happy waistline and wallet!


Stop by here on Saturday (sorry, Sunday!  Saturday got away from me!) for the Strawberry cream soda!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Southwest Chicken Burger

When I was a first year graduate student, living alone for the very first time, the Better Homes & Garden cookbook fed me all year long.  How I managed with just one cookbook and a minimal knowledge of online recipe websites, I'll never know. 


I grew up, making very few dinners myself. My mom worked evenings for most of my childhood so we were often left with two options for dinner. 1. A casserole that was prepared by mom and waiting in the fridge for us to heat up in the oven. 2. Dad was cooking.


Now, my dad is great. He's a smart guy, a chemical engineer in fact, but cooking just isn't his forte. Even to this day, he likes meals that require no more than four ingredients. His specialty is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. And many a times I've seen him eat Perry's ice cream for dinner. If dad was 'cooking,' that usually meant we were having a frozen dinner or some soup. He heats and eats, no prep required.

The only thing I ever did in the kitchen was bake and the recipe was generally from the back of the chocolate chip bag.


The last Christmas before I moved to Madison was used to prepare me for my eventual move out of the house. I got pots and pans, towels, a laundry basket and the BHG cookbook. All a single girl needs!


These days I have cookbooks for anything I'm looking to prepare, but I still enjoy looking back at my first cookbook, leafing through its wrinkled, sauce-coated pages, my own handwritten notes adorning the margins. I think of the time I spent in my closet-like kitchen, cooking on my 1950's stove and turning out my first meals on my own.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Chai Cupcakes with Chai Cream Cheese Frosting

When you collect your race packet and written in large red letters is the following "There is a real possibility that YOU MAY DIE or be catastrophically injured," you may be wondering what you got yourself into.  I was staring at these exact words this Saturday when boyfriend and I got ready to run our very first Spartan Race. 

Registering for the Spartan Race was not my idea.  Four months ago, Boyfriend found the race through a Living Social deal and signed us both up.  I went to the website and was presented with a video of fit looking people crawling under barbed wire, scaling ten foot walls, leaping over fire and jumping into giant pits of mud.  On top of all of this, the runners were confronted with armed gladiators in the last 100 feet.  What did I get myself into?

Saturday morning we drove through rainstorms and wound up at the Mountain Creek Ski Resort, in beautiful and sundrenched Northwestern New Jersey.  We donned our race numbers and lined up at the starting gate.  I jumped up and down, arooing at boyfriend.  He stood there and told me I was acting crazy and to stop it.

The siren blared and we were off and running!  For the first 500 feet.  Then we were faced with a very daunting, very steep, very tall hill.  A black diamond ski slope to be exact.  The 250 racers in our heat quickly turned from a group of excited, cheering athletes, to a mass of red-faced, short-of-breath ninnies.  What am I saying, I was right there with them.  This hill just kept on going up, it took me 2/3 of the way up to control my breathing and get into a good place.

After the first two miles, boyfriend and I found our pace.  He pushed me to keep going up those hills and I kept him running through the woods.  We swam through a lake, climbed over wall, flipped huge tractor tires but at mile 7, I was on my own.  Boyfriend was struck down by a serious migraine and I had to finish the last four miles on my own.

Luckily there was lots of fun to be had in the last four miles, including a 200-foot rock scramble to the top of the last hill, 9 & 10-foot walls to climb, monkey bars, mud slides, A-frames and...  a torrential thunderstorm.  With only two miles to go, the heavens opened up and the racers and I were sprinting to the finish line through sheets of rain, it was way dramatic.  Good thing I didn't know about the tornado warning.

I crossed the finish line, accepted my fancy medal and located my sad boyfriend.  Now I'm nursing my wounds and walking very slowly down the stairs.  And I'm eating cupcakes.  Because I ran eleven miles on Saturday and totally deserve them.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Why Bother? 2012 - Coconut Milk & Thai Chili Sauce

I have been having pretty good luck with the challenges so far this year.  Most of the items on my list, I would probably make again.  Some of them I already have duplicated.  This time I can say with absolute certainty, I will never make coconut milk again.  I'm going to stock up on cans of coconut milk and coconut cream and never look back.  Why am I so certain?  Let me walk you through the process I went through to get 2 cups of coconut milk.




Since boyfriend and I were going out of town last weekend, I decided to make my coconut milk before we left.  We tried Whole Foods and only were able to locate young coconuts.  The flesh of a young coconut isn't what I needed to make coconut milk.  We stopped at Pathmark and surprisingly came home with two, whole coconuts!




I brought my coconuts home and drained the coconut water out.  It looked a little cloudy, but I've never done this before, so who knows what to expect!  I took out my favorite hammer and pounded on the coconut until it cracked open to reveal...  rotten, moldy coconut flesh.  It was gross.  Luckily I had gotten two coconuts at the grocery store!  I drained the second one, cracked it in two and discovered... a second rotten coconut!  Pathmark must have gotten a bad batch.



This sad turn of events meant that I was going to be making coconut water in Buffalo.  Thankfully, Buffalo is home to Wegmans and Wegmans stocks coconuts.  As a lifelong fan of Wegmans, I knew that they would not disappoint and sell me rotten coconuts.  My parents were a bit confused as to why I was making coconut milk when they sell it in every grocery store.  After three hours, I would be asking myself the same question.


Draining and opening the coconuts was the easy part.  Although my dad wondered what all the noise was about and I scared the dogs out of the kitchen.  When it came to prying the flesh out of the shell, I got a little frustrated.  Videos on youtube suggested keeping the shell whole of prying out the flesh with a knife, while others told me to break the shell into smaller pieces, then remove the flesh.  All I can tell you is, it took me over an hour to remove all of the coconut meat from the shell.


After the meat was freed, I spent the next hour and a half peeling the brown skin from the while flesh.  After spending all this time trying to get clean coconut meat, there was no way I was going to hand grate it.  The food processor was put into action and I finally was able to make my coconut milk.  Once the coconut is freed and grated, it's easy to make the milk.  Just a little boiling water and ten minutes time and it was done.  Took long enough!
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