Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Wilde in a Hurricane

Hello everyone!  I hope that you are all safe and sound after this crazy storm that ripped through the east coast.  If you are far away from the path of Sandy, I hope you enjoyed your Halloween last night!  Can you believe that Halloween has been rescheduled here in the state of New Jersey?

Kids in NJ have had a rough few years with trick-or-treating.  Last year there was a freak snowstorm just before Halloween.  It brought down so many trees and power lines, they cancelled trick-or-treating due to safety reasons.  This year it's the same problem.  Hurricane Sandy blew down so many huge trees and brought down a ton of tree limbs.  They fell on homes, cars and power lines, which is the reason behind postponing Halloween again this year. 

Boyfriend and I fared the storm with very little to talk about.  Montclair (our town) is located only ten miles from the city and shore, but we sit high on a hill overlooking the city.  We knew we would have no issues with flooding.  All day Monday, as Sandy blew and blew, our lights flickered until they finally went out around 6:00pm.  What do you do when the power goes out?  We stared out the window at the rest of Montclair, which still had power somehow.

Luckily we had just finished cooking dinner, so we enjoyed dinner by candlelight.  So romantic with all the wind and rain howling outside.  It isn't that cold out right now and our water continued to run, so we just hunkered down for the next few hours. 

Tuesday morning we woke without power.  My office had a delayed opening, but with all the bridges, tunnels and trains shut down, there was no way I could get to work.  BF and I had cereal for breakfast and spent the major portion of the day doing a puzzle.  Around 5:00pm the power came back on.  With a high five, we celebrated the return of electricity.  We are lucky, we were powerless for only 24 hours.  Our apartment happens to be on the same grid as a fire station and hospital.  Many millions of people are still without power.

My thanks go out to the hardworking people of the public transit, power companies and the first responders that are helping everyone in the tri-state area through this disaster.  Stay safe out there everyone.  I for one will be here at my apartment, because there is no public transportation for me to get to work!  Working from home this week, as much as a lab chemist can work from home!

Before the power went out on the Wilde household, I made this delicious fall cake.  Sure, you can make a pumpkin cake, but I thought I would change it up and make a butternut squash cake!  I made this last week and brought it to the office.  While placing it in the lunchroom, I put a label on it reading "Pumpkin cake!" because I'm pretty sure people would be suspicious of a squash cake.  Give this a try if you find yourself with an abundance of butternut squash this fall!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Cheesy Polenta with Sausage

I can't believe that it has been over ten months since I had my braces put on!  And it's been far too long since I've updated all of you on the progress/process.  For those of you who are less interested in my orthodontia experience and more here for the food, don't worry, I made you a delicious dinner.  (That is also braces friendly!)

For those of you just tuning in, as a thirty-year old woman, I decided it was about time I got braces.  Well, my dentist "strongly suggested" me having a consultation with an orthodontist.  I was mad at my new dentist (seriously, it was the first time I had an appointment there!), but I was also mad at my old dentist (the one I had since I first got teeth.  The guy who told me I didn't need braces.).  Eventually I decided that it was a great time in my life to get my bite adjusted.

Invisalign was not an option, the corrections required real braces and *gasp* rubber bands!  I was okay with the braces, but he wanted me to wear rubber bands?  Like the ones that looped from top brace to the bottom?  I didn't know if I was okay with that.  I just kept thinking, *It's only 18-21 months, I can handle it.*

In February of this year, I had these fancy ceramic braces affixed to my teeth.  Until the metal archwire was attached, the brackets themselves were almost invisible.  Even with the wire in place, it's the only thing you can see when I smile.  It took some people at my office months to realize I had the braces put on.  My mom and brother had to be reminded that I had them, as they didn't notice them either.  My close coworkers made fun of me for about a week, but I just made fun of them for a wide variety of reasons and we all got used to my braces.  Recently, my orthodontist got new bands (the little rubber bands that attach the wire to the bracket) that are completely clear.  I'm in love with them.

I've had some questions from people along the lines of "I want to get braces, but I'm afraid they will hurt!"  I'm not going to lie, they were uncomfortable the first two weeks.  I was aware of every last tooth in my mouth.  After the initial adjustment period (and loss of a few pounds), it really hasn't been that bad.  After my monthly adjustment, one tooth or another might hurt for a few days, but it quickly goes away.  Also, as your teeth start to line up properly it becomes much easier to speak normally.  I've finally learned to say M words properly, I'm sure I'll have to get used to speaking again once the braces are removed.

So yes, I'm about halfway through my term in braces.  I just have three things to say...

1. I think my old dentist was in cahoots with my dad.  He totally saved him a bundle of cash by not pushing braces on either my brother or I.  And Wilde brother would do well to get himself some grills.  Dudes got crazy teeth!

2. I would totally get them again.  I'm really looking forward to having all my pearly whites lined up and biting down in the proper fashion!  I can see the progress they've made already and I can't wait to see the final result!

3. If you are thinking about getting braces, don't worry about the pain, your ability to eat, what other people will think.  The pain isn't crippling, you'll just decide which foods are too much work to eat and you're doing this for yourself, ignore those haters!

Get braces and make this dinner - very braces friendly!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Key Lime Whoopie Pies

There are four things that made this weekend just perfect.

1. Dogs in costumes.

This weekend was the 22nd annual Tompkins Square Halloween Dog Parade!  (procrastinate for a few more minutes and check out more pictures of the event!)  BF and I spent a good hour watching adorable golden retrievers in alien costumes, yorkies dressed up as bees, French bulldogs waddling about as hot dogs, hamburgers and lobsters.  It was hilarious to watch and there was not a gloomy person in the park.  How could you be anything but happy? 

2. Movies about food!

This past weekend was the Food Film Festival in New York City (it's coming to Chicago in November!) and BF and I got tickets to the Saturday afternon "Edible Adventure."  Short films about food and foodies paired with the very foods seen in the films!  I had a delicious apple dessert from Sidesaddle Kitchen and some of the smoothest maple syrup I've ever had from The Sugar Shack in Quebec.  Oh yeah, I had a few Bark dogs as well.  Maybe a few too many hot dogs, which made it difficult to eat...
3. S'Mac for dinner!

Saritas Mac and Cheese on 12th street is my favorite place to eat in the entire city.  It's not fancy pants food, with aged meats and hoity toity sauces.  It's good old comfort food.  Mac and cheese at its grandest.  You want four cheese?  Done.  How about cheeseburger?  Easy.  My favorite?  What else but Buffalo mac and cheese.

This place is always busy, from when the doors open until the shoo the last person out the door.  If you're lucky enough to see a table open, grab it!  Since there are only about seven tables in the little place, it is most likely that you won't find a place to sit.  Luckily, they have a take-out place right next door.  BF and I usually get it to go during the summer and eat it in the park down the street!

4. Key Lime Whoopie Pies.

Mmmm, super easy and my favorite flavor for desserts.  So, if you missed the doggy parade and aren't anywhere near 12th and 1st, you can still have a great day!  Just whip up a batch of these!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Why Bother? 2012 - Almond Milk

I can't believe that we're winding down the year of Why Bother challenges!  I feel like it was just a few weeks ago that I was making blueberry-oatmeal bagels.  That it wasn't that long ago that I was kneading my own fondant.  Weren't we just talking about making Greek yogurt?

The year really has gone fast and I've really liked knowing what I was blogging about until the end of the year!  We only have five more WB posts after today and I'm looking forward to all of them.  After weeks of difficult challenges (that's right coconut milk, I'm looking at you!) and busy days at work, I was happy to get to a simple and straightforward challenge. 

Almond milk, so much easier than you would think.  Listen up, there are three steps.

Step 1 - Soak almonds in water overnight in the fridge.

Step 2 - Working in batches, puree almonds with the water.

Step 3 - Strain the puree.

This was such an easy challenge, I set the almonds to soak before I left for work in the morning.  Once I got off the train last night I removed the soaked almonds from the fridge and pureed the almonds in the water.  Straining even took no time at all.  I had 8 cups of almond milk with so little effort!

Store in a screw top container and it will keep in the fridge for a week
 There is only one problem.  I really don't like the taste of almonds!  I don't plan on letting this healthy drink go to waste, don't worry.  This almond milk is destined for slow cooker oatmeal.  It's even better than storebought because you don't have any added sugars, perservatives or salts. 

Since I'm planning on adding my almond milk to oatmeal, I didn't strain it through a fine sieve.  If you want to make almond milk for drinking, I would suggest straining it through medium cheesecloth.  I did pour myself a glass of almond milk to test it out and found it to be a bit gritty.

 Give almond milk a try, it's so much easier than coconut milk.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Caramel Buttercream and Cookie Dough Dip

Every once and I while, you get lucky.  Recently, I was lucky enough to be chosen to test out some of Ghirardellis newest "Intense Dark" chocolate creations.  You should have seen me when I picked up my package of chocolate from my apartment office.  First, I thought how heavy it was (heavy with deliciousness).  Next, I wondered what exactly they sent me!  I'll tell you...

The Intense Dark line of Ghirardelli chocolates are as follows.  Sea Salt Caramel, Cabernet Matinee, Toffee Interlude, Hazelnut Heaven, Evening Dream, Twilight Delight and Midnight Reverie.  As a taste tester, I was asked to pair these chocolates with different foods and beverages, rather than use the chocolate in a baked good.  Boyfriend and I decided this would be the perfect thing for a dessert buffet.

I chose three of the chocolates and paired them with different dips, trying to play off of the flavors in each chocolate.  Midnight Reverie (86% Cacao Dark Chocolate), a rich and classy bar, was paired up with a homemade blackberry marshmallow fluff.  The sweet and tart blackberries really went well with the deep, dark chocolate.

Evening Dream (60% Cacao Dark Chocolate) went exquisitely with cookie dough dip.  The reason behind this pairing?  Chocolate chip cookie dough usually used a semi-sweet chocolate chip and the 60% Dark bar was like having a cookie with the best possible chocolate chips.

Hazelnut Heaven (Dark Chocolate with Hazelnuts), a semi-sweet and crunchy bar, went perfectly with a sweet, homemade caramel buttercream.  Caramel and hazelnut was the perfect pairing and this plate of chocolate was devoured first.

The remaining flavors were tested with less auspicious pairings.  I allowed a square of Cabernet Matinee (Dark Chocolate with Blackberry and Cabernet) to melt slowly over a warm piece of French bread.  Sea Salt Soiree (Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt and Almonds) was a surprising treat with leftover bacon from breakfast.  And Toffee Interlude (Dark Chocolate with Toffee)?  I just had that one with a bottle of sparkling water.

So next time you have a dinner party, don't worry about a tricky dessert.  Set out plates of chocolate and a few different dips and let everyone choose their favorite!

This post is brought to you by Ghirardelli Intense Dark™ Chocolate.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Apple Pie Ice Cream Topping

Is there anything that reminds us of home more than food?  Whether it be your moms special dinner, your dads secret sauce, the local diners Wednesday night special or the family owned soda shops hand-churned ice cream, there is something about having a meal in your hometown. 

Western New Yorkers have a list of things that are near and dear to their hearts.  We have Teds Hot Dogs (and now the renegade spin-off, Theodores) with their traditional coal-fired grills.  Those in search of a greasy and delicious sub sandwich know to head to Viola's in Niagara Falls.  Looking for good wings?  Head to the Anchor bar when in the city, or Duffs when in the suburbs.  Want amazing chocolate?  I always head to Watsons.

There are also a whole bunch of local goods that ex-pat Buffalonians stock up on when visiting home.  We leave room in our suitcases for Chiavettas bbq sauce, Webers mustard and your favorite wing sauce.  I consider packing fewer clothes than I actually might need so that I can bring home the biggest box of sponge candy that I can find.

There has been one thing that I haven't been able to take home.  Something that I grew up with and spent many an evening enjoying with my dad.  Perry's ice cream.  If you are a Western New Yorker or currently live near a Wegmans grocery store, you know about Perry's.  It's the ice cream of choice for all local ice cream places.  There is a huge ice cream cone right new Niagara Falls that will gladly serve you your favorite flavor of Perry's.  It's called - The Twist of the Mist!

In the first twenty-one years of my life, I must have eaten gallons of Perrys.  I was so confused when I went grocery shopping for the first time in Wisconsin to find no Perrys.  And sadly, ice cream doesn't travel well.

I spent the next eight years enjoying my favorite ice cream only at home.  My dad is a bigger fan of the brand than I am.  I know there will always be at least four or five containers of ice cream in the freezer.  This all changed a few months ago.

I was feeling nostalgic for home during the hot summer months and tweeted Perrys.  It was something along the line of  "I miss you Perrys, come to New Jersey!"  The response I got?  "We are in New Jersey!  Head to the Woodbridge Wegmans!"  I nearly fell off my chair.  Boyfriend picked me up a container of black raspberry next time work took him to central New Jersey.

Life got even better this summer when I was contacted by Perrys and asked to join their "Inside Scoopers" team.  As an Inside Scooper, I get early access to new flavors and most exciting, a trip to the Perrys factory!  My dad is super jealous.

Why yes mom, my fingernails are green.
For my first task as an Inside Scooper, I had to test out the new All Natural flavors.  I know, tough job.  These flavors are made the old fashioned way, the way ice cream was made before science got involved.  No artifical flavors or colors.  The way you probably make ice cream at home!  Four simple flavors - chocolate, chocolate chip, maple walnut and vanilla bean - that just beg to be eaten.
Hello, my name is delicious.
Now I know most of you don't have access to Perry's, but if you're in the WNY area, be sure to stop and get yourself a scoop.  Until then, you can make (or buy!) your favorite vanilla ice cream and top it with heaps of this...  Apple pie topping.  Chunks of sweet apples in a caramely sauce, spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg and clove.  It's like an apple pie, without the crust.  It tastes like fall and is just the thing to use up some of those freshly picked apples.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Spinach & Sun-dried Tomato Quiche

Don't worry, boyfriend and I are all good.  My new love?  It's Rock Climbing!

This new love goes back a few months now.  It all started in Alaska.  Boyfriend and I were docked in Skagway and it was his birthday.  To celebrate his big day, I got us a rock climbing/zip lining/rappelling excursion.  Nothing like making someone leap off of a high platform for their birthday. 

The rock climbing portion of the excursion was to take place on a vertical stone wall.  This was not one of those rock gym walls, with all the big and colorful grips.  We were going to be going straight up this 100-foot wall.  Nothing like jumping in head first when it comes to rock climbing.  Luckily we were being belayed by some pretty muscly college dudes.  (Here I am below!)

Climbing those cliffs was fun and exhilarating.  Both boyfriend and I wanted to stay there all day and climb the wall.

Shortly after Alaska we decided to go rock climbing in New Jersey.  We signed up for a belay class to become a certified belayer for each other.  Pressure was on to not drop each other on the ground.  We learned how to tie knots, properly clip in and catch a climber in a fall.  Then, we got to climb.

We've been back four times since our first class, passed our belay tests and started strengthening our climbing muscles.  Did you know you really use those little muscles in your wrists and forearms while climbing?  Also, don't do your nails just before deciding to go climbing.

Now we just have to buy our own shoes and harnesses and we'll look totally professional while climbing at the rock gym.  We'll look professional while on the ground at least, once we start climbing all bets are off.  We're still learning the actual art of rock climbing.  It's not a graceful effort right now!  At least it's a great workout!  And I haven't dropped boyfriend once yet.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Simple Sunday

I don't know about you, but it's a cold and rainy fall day here in New Jersey! That means boyfriend and I aren't leaving the house this Mormon or breakfast.

The result - buttermilk pancakes and oven-baked bacon. Simple and delicious Sunday morning breakfast.

Have yourself a fabulous Sunday as well!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Why Bother? 2012 - Pasta

I've made pasta at home a few times before.  I feel like it is a Fall/Winter activity.  This is because it usually takes a while to make and I don't want to spend my summer hours rolling out pasta dough.  I don't mind cozying up in the kitchen with my helper when the sun goes down before I even get home from work. 

That's right, I said I had a helper!  Making pasta at home tends to be a two person job.  To keep me from making a mess of the ravioli, Boyfriend made a special appearance in the kitchen this weekend to lend a hand.  He only whined about it for a second, then he floured up and dove right in. 

Boyfriends main job was to catch the pasta dough as it made its way through the pasta maker.  If you can rope someone into helping you make pasta, it will make your recipe much easier to prepare.

I'm a big fan of storebought pastas.  These days you can get plain, whole wheat, gluten free, tricolor, herb-infused, the choices are endless.  It also helps that pasta goes on sale for a dollar a box.  When a recipe calls for penne, angel hair or rotini, I'm reaching for the pantry, not the flour bin. 

Where I think the storebought pastas are lacking is in their filled pasta selection.  Sure, you can get cheese tortellini or four cheese ravioli, but unless you want to shell out big bucks for fancy pasta you should think about making your own at home.

For todays recipe I decided to go with a sun-dried tomato ravioli, infusing both the pasta and filling with tomato flavor.  Pasta dough is really easy to make.  All you have to do is pile your flour up, make a well in the center and add your wet ingredients.  Mix your wet ingredients with a fork and slowly start to incorporate the flour.  Once the dough starts to come together, you just knead it with your hands and form it into a disk.  Just like pie dough, you let it sit for a little while and let the flour hydrate.

Once your pasta dough is rested, you get out your flattening tool of choice.  You can use a rolling pin, which was my method of choice for the first few times I made pasta.  You need to have patience and keep rolling and rolling.  The pasta will spring back each time you roll it out, gradually getting flatter. 

After making pasta a few times, I decided to get a pasta maker.  It's heavy duty and clamps onto the countertop.  The pasta maker makes it much easier to roll out the pasta to an even thickness.  I find that the pasta dough springs back less when using a pasta maker.  My machine also came with a spaghetti and linguine cutter.  There are attachments that make thicker or thinner pasta, even a ravioli making attachment.

Boyfriend and I made the ravioli by hand after rolling out the pasta.  When it comes to ravioli, I've found that it's best to roll out the pasta to the thinnest option on the machine.  You'll be putting two pieces of pasta on top of each other and the last thing you want is to bite into a thick piece of pasta.

The best thing about homemade pasta is that it takes so little time to cook!  Once the pasta was done, dinner was ready in fifteen minutes.  The sauce took a while to cook down.

One Year Ago: Parmesan Chicken with Thyme Ghocchi
Two Years Ago: Roasted Red Pepper, Leek and Potato Soup

Sun-dried Tomato Ravioli with Basil Cream Sauce
A Wilde Original

Be sure to prepare your pasta dough on a wooden surface or plastic cutting board.  Don't prepare the dough on a granite countertop because it will chill the dough too much and decrease the elasticity of the dough.

1 3/4 cups plus 2 tbsp flour
2 eggs
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp olive oil
pinch salt & pepper

8 ounces ricotta cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
3 tbsp chopped sun-dried tomatoes
2 egg yolks (set 2 egg whites aside)

Basil cream sauce
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup white wine
2 cloves garlic
1 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper

Pour flour into a mound on your chosen surface.  Make a well in the center of the dough.  Add eggs, tomato paste, salt and pepper to the well.  Using a fork, begin to whisk the eggs with the tomato paste.  Begin to incorporate the flour into the eggs.  As the dough begins to form a shaggy mass, switch to using your hands.  Begin to knead the remaining flour into the dough, pressing with the heel of your hands.  Once all of the flour is incorporated into the dough, form it into a ball and wrap in plastic.  Set dough aside for 1 hour.

Prepare filling by mixing ingredients together in a small bowl.  Set egg whites in another small bowl.

Divide the past dough in half.  Using your desired method, roll out pasta until it is almost paper thin, mine was about 1/8-inch thick.

Flour your work surface and place one sheet of pasta dough on the counter.  Add teaspoons of filling about 1-2 inches apart.  Using a pastry brush, paint around the ricotta filling with the egg whites.  Lay the second sheet of dough on top of the first.  Press the top layer of pasta onto the lower layer, trying to remove any air bubbles from the ravioli.  Cut the ravioli apart using a knife, pizza cutter or pasta cutter.  Let finished pasta rest on a baking sheet dusted with flour for about 1 hour.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil.  As the water comes to a boil, prepare the cream sauce.  Combine basil, white wine and garlic in a blender and blend until smooth.  Pour contents of the blender into a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat.  Add heavy cream and stir with a whisk.  The sauce will take about 15 minutes to reduce.  Don't be tempted to raise the heat to high, let it reduce slowly.  Once the sauce is close to your desired thickness, give it a taste.  Season with salt and pepper.

As the sauce is reducing, add ravioli to the boiling water.  Don't walk away, it won't take that long to cook the ravioli through.  Once the pasta floats to the top, it is done, this will take about 3-5 minutes.  Fish out pasta with a slotted spoon and set to drain in a colander.  Allow pasta to drain for 1 minute before serving.  Serve ravioli with basil cream sauce.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Pork Tenderloin with Sauteed Plums and Spinach & cranberry Quinoa

WARNING!!! If you are a Doctor Who lover and haven't watched Saturdays episode, read no further!!! Go watch it!

Okay, I'm going to nerd out on you a little.  The Fall season finale of Doctor Who was so sad!  I know, some people (namely my labmate) weren't fans of the Ponds, but I thought they were so much fun!  I don't feel too bad saying that I'll miss them without calling "spoilers" ahead of time, since they have been advertising the Ponds departure for weeks now.

If you have no idea what I'm talking about, you're missing out.  You need to take a week off of work and get aquanted with The Doctor.  Doctor Who is a show on BBC America that follows the shenanigans of an immortal alien and his companions through time and space.  It's been on TV, on and off, for over sixty years.  It's fun, silly, frightening, dramatic, heart-warming and sad.  Those Brits know what they're doing here.  Not into sci-fi?  Don't worry, it's so much better than American sci-fi. 

If you only have one hour, watch the episode "Blink."  It's a stand alone episode that will pull you in.  Fellow Whovians, what was your first episode?  Are you a long-time viewer and remember hiding behind the couch watching Peter Davies?  Or are you a newbie like me and were introduced to the ninth doctor in 2005?

For now, we all need to wait until Christmas for more new Doctor Who.  I'm a little sad.

One Year Ago: Pumpkin Pie Mallomars
Two Years Ago: Chocolate Crisps

Pork Tenderloin with Sauteed Plums
Adapted from Everyday Food

I was able to get boyfriend to eat pork by making this meal with pork tenderloin.  He refused to eat the plums and told me fruit is lame.  Actually he said something a little more colorful than that, but this is a family friendly blog!

1 pound pork tenderloin
4 plums
1/2 yellow onion
1 tbsp butter
Olive oil
1/4 cup pomegranate red wine vinegar
Salt & pepper

Trim pork tenderloin and slice into 1-inch pieces.  Pound pork medallions thin.  Cut plums in half and remove the pits.  Cut each plum into 12 pieces.  Slice onion thinly.

Heat butter and olive oil over medium-high heat.  Cook pork tenderloin, approximately for 3-4 minutes per side.  Do not crowd the pan with pork, cook in two portions if necessary.  Once pork is cooked, remove to a plate and set aside.

Add 1 tbsp olive oil to the pan and add plums and onions.  Stir to coat in oil.  Saute for 5 minutes, or until the plums are slightly softened.  Add vinegar to the pan and let cook down for 1 minute.  Return pork to the pan and toss together.

Spinach & cranberry Quinoa
Inspired by Everyday Food

1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup quinoa
1 1/4 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup dried cranberries
3 cups baby spinach
Zest from 1 lemon

In a medium pot, heat butter and olive oil over medium heat.  Add onion and garlic and cook until softened, about 4 minutes.  Add quinoa and stir to coat in oil, cook for 1 minute.  Add chicken stock and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and cover with a lid.  Let simmer for 15 minutes, add cranberries.  Let simmer for 5 minutes more.  Add spinach and lemon zest and stir.  Cover with a lid for 5 minutes to wilt spinach.  Taste and season with salt and pepper.

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