Tag Archives: cooking

Projects: Cooking, drinks, and writing

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I’ve been asked a lot lately what I’ve been doing since I graduated while I wait to leave for Belize. My usual answer: “Just sitting around.” In all honesty though, that’s not true (it’s just way easier than an actual explanation). I’m always doing something, whether it’s learning a new recipe, researching Belize, writing my story, or any number of the projects I cook up in my brain. There’s hardly a day when I’m not trying to get something done. And really, isn’t that the way it should be?

So lately I’ve been working on my April Camp NaNoWri Mo writing project. It’s going REALLY REALLY slowly. But I haven’t forced myself to sit down and write as often as I should, so it’s really my fault. I’ve gotten close to 9k words so far. Hopefully I’ll be able to catch up 11000 words in the next ten days, but I doubt it.

On the other hand, another project I’ve been working on IS successful. Since I’ll be gone and my boyfriend will have to teach himself to cook, he asked me to write up a recipe book for him that can help give him ideas and pointers. So, after only about 4 total days of working on it, it’s over 9k words (longer than the NaNo project I’ve been working on for 20 days…) and around 70 pages of recipes. I’m excited to give it to him!

Finally, since I’ve been making a cookbook, I have been finding a bunch of new recipes that I want to try. So today I made Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars. They’re in the freezer solidifying right now, but the warm melty bite I got was delicious! Take a look:

PB&J Bars. After freezing them I’m still not super happy with the jelly texture– too liquidy. Need something a bit more substantial to hold bars together. Also needed to grease foil a lot more, took a lot of work to get them out.

And after dinner, I decided to make a big-kid drink (because… I can). This is my ‘Cup o’ Candy’; 1 1/2 cups cranberry juice, 1/8 cup lemon juice, and 2 jiggers of white rum blended with ice in a shaker, poured over 1/2 jigger of rum in a glass rimmed with chia seeds and brown sugar, drizzled with grenadine syrup and topped with 1/2 jigger of rum. You know those delicious dark red gummy lifesavers? It tastes exactly like that. This drink is dangerous!

Tasted amazing, especially chia seeds 🙂

By the way, be looking out for more baby shower crafts– a friend is having her baby shower next month! I’ll also be thinking up graduation crafts (presents and party ideas) for my boyfriend’s graduation in a few weeks!

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Photos of projects

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I promised some photo updates of the projects I’ve been up to, so here they are:

Jello Shots in Clementine Peels

Made with peach flavored jello and 1/2 cup of silver rum.

  • Jello mix made according to package instructions (replace 1/2 cup of cold water with 1/2 cup of rum or vodka)
  • 6 clementines, halved and insides removed
  • Place clementine halves in a muffin tray cups, then fill with jello mixture
  • Refrigerate until solid, then slice in half

 

Jalapeno Poppers

Jalapeno Poppers

  • Followed recipe from culinaryconfessional.
  • Substituted cream cheese for herb goat cheese and didn’t use bacon.

Inside of the jalapeno poppers.

Pizza

The “House Party” Pizza

  • Easy to make– get Publix (or any grocery store that does it) pre-made pizza dough from the deli/bakery section, your choice of meat/veggie toppings, your choice of meltable cheese, and pasta/tomato sauce.
  • Refrigerate dough, follow instructions on preparation.
  • Prepare toppings- I chopped up onions, bell peppers, spinach, tomatoes, and pre-cooked Canadian bacon.
  • Stretch the dough and form to a well greased pan. Preset oven to temp specified on dough instructions.
  • Put a LIGHT layer of sauce on the dough, then put in the oven to pre-bake for 10 minutes.
  • Get pre-baked crust out of the oven, spread toppings. Cover with a light layer of shredded cheese, then bake until cheese is melted and crust turns golden brown.
  • Let sit for 5 minutes before cutting.

Towel Robe

Towel Robe

  • Reverse-engineered the robe my mom made me a few years ago (not nearly as well).
  • Used 4 oversized towels (from Walmart).
  • Towel 1: back. Cut a slant at the top for shoulders and half-circles on each side for half the arm circles.
  • Towel 2: Cut in half (long way). Cut one arm hole half-circle in each half, as well as one shoulder slant. Match with the back, each half should be the front sides.
  • Sew the front pieces (towel 2) on to the back piece (towel 1) leaving the arm holes open.
  • Towel 3: Cut one 3 in strip on the long side. This will be the belt once folded in half and sewed. Cut the remaining towel bit in half (long way). These are the arms.
  • Cut arms to length desired, then sew the sides of each arm piece together to create the sleeve. How sew the cuff of the arm, then attach to the armholes of the robe.
  • Towel 4: Pockets and collar. *This is the part I had trouble with*. Matching the right length between chest level on the front of the robe on one side, around the back of the neck and to the same point on the other side, cut from the 4th towel the collar. it should be curved on one side and flat on another, thicker around the back of the neck and thinner at the chest. Attach this carefully to the correct places on the robe.
  • *Optional*: Cut 2 pockets (about 3in square). Attach to robe.

Playing House

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It’s been a while since I’ve done a serious “Life Lessons” post frankly because I couldn’t think of anything to add. Sure, I’ve been keeping myself busy with little projects here and there, but I don’t want every post on this blog to be about a new cooking adventure, my writing, or the craft projects I’ve been doing. This started out as a blog to talk about advice and my own learning about how to “be an adult”, and I want to make sure it stays true to that topic.

To tie up some loose ends:

  1. No I did not meet my March writing goal. I didn’t even get halfway there. I’m having some existential issues with books two and three and also rethinking my editing of book 1, so I got sidetracked from the writing part. I signed up for Camp Nano this month, so we’ll see if I can meet my 30k word goal.
  2. I have been busy with projects. Cooking is the main one; I recently prided myself on making jello shots in clementine skins, jalapeno poppers, cheese sticks, and a veggie pizza that actually holds together. In the crafts department, I made a towel robe out of oversized towels for my boyfriend, but after sizing it to him I need to go back and cut it WAY down (apparently when I don’t see him I think he’s a giant…). ** I’ll post some photos in another blog**
  3. I am currently house/pet sitting for my parents while they are out-of-town. Which is the inspiration for this blog.

The Grown-Up Test aka House-sitting.

So my parents are off in Europe for two weeks to do the second part of the Camino de Santiago. They walked the first part last year and will do the last part next year. So, while they are gone, I essentially am the caretaker of the house; care for the cats, make sure the house doesn’t get destroyed by the cats, do all the cooking, cleaning, and maintenance, and in general keep things going like normal. Here are some things I’ve been learning in the past week or so:

  1. Going to the grocery store is actually fun. I can honestly say that I usually HATE grocery shopping. It’s always crowded, the prices are always more than I want to pay, I always forget to buy something, and I always feel slightly judged by the cashier for buying beer (plus the inevitable “you can’t be old enough for this, can you?” before I pull out my ID, and then the awkward “well, you’ll always look young for your age” comment). It’s just an ordeal. But after you’ve been stuck alone in the house for a few days with only your cats to talk to (I do realize how lame that sounds), going ANYWHERE with people is fun. And to get the ingredients for the recipe you’ve been wanting to try for days? Amazing.
  2. Just because you’re at home with nothing to do doesn’t mean you do nothing. So I kind of blew off my own advice for a few days. I had just gotten back from a vacation with my boyfriend when my parents left, and all I felt like doing was sleeping and watching TV. But after a couple of days watching TV and not changing out of my PJs, I realized how lazy I was being. And it wasn’t just my conscience scolding me for being a bum, I felt terrible. I was always tired, but I didn’t sleep well at night. I felt like I was gaining weight. My brain felt fuzzy, and no matter how bored I felt I couldn’t get myself to do something productive like read a book or write. No matter how cool it may seem of be able to sit around watching TV all day in your PJs, eating junk food, etc…. it’s not. I stopped that pretty fast and set a loose schedule for my days.
  3. Time flies when you’re doing things. So before, when I was just watching TV and doing nothing productive, it seemed like the day took forever to go by. It was one crappy daytime TV show after another, and it was boring. But once I started to actually do things with my day, the time went by faster. Morning breakfast, exercise and shower took until almost eleven. After lunch I either read, work on a puzzle, or work on some craft/cooking project. Before I knew it, it was dark. Then it’s dinner and then  I can allow myself to veg out by the TV for a few hours before bed.
  4. Animals are a HUGE responsibility. This is really something I already knew, but wanted to emphasize it even more. Our pets are like family, and we make sure they’re taken care of. But it’s constant hard work. I know a lot of people who adopted pets before realizing how much of a responsibility they were, and the pets don’t get the proper care because of it. Honestly, I’d recommend waiting until at least after you graduate college and have a job to consider a pet. They need food, water, toys, and care products that take a lot of money. They need constant attention (even cats) and love. If you’re not ready to dedicate your time, money and attention to them, don’t adopt them. I love my cats, but my mom is really the one that cares for them usually. And when my parents left, I was shocked at how much attention the cats needed– the first few days they kept me up at night because I didn’t play with them enough to tire them out (that and they were worried about why my parents had left them). I love the cats, but they are a lot of work. (Also, it makes me sympathetic for mothers everywhere. I find myself constantly yelling “Don’t scratch that!”, “Don’t eat that!”, “Stop fighting with your sister!”)
  5. Being safe doesn’t mean being crazy. Being alone in a big house at night is never very fun. Besides the cats being noisy and annoying when I tried to sleep, I was constantly worried about the house. My parents moved into the house last summer, so it’s still pretty new to me and I’m learning all the normal bumps and creaks of the house at night. I’d get myself worked up over some little noise that was probably a cat, and go downstairs with all the lights on to recheck the door locks and the alarm. Yes it’s important to check the locks before going to bed and make sure the alarm is on. But every little noise is not someone breaking in, just relax and go to sleep.
  6. Screening your calls makes life a lot easier. So I do this already on my cell phone. If I’m not expecting a call and I don’t know the number, I don’t answer. If it’s important, they will leave a message. I have been doing this at the house while I’ve been here alone, and out of the 2-3 calls a day we’ve gotten, only 1 (total) has bothered to leave a message. Obviously the others were telemarketers and not worth my time on the phone.

Now obviously this experience hasn’t given me insight into everything that I’ll have to do and worry about as an adult. There are bills and taxes and those pesky jobs… but I have learned that if I decide one day to become a stay-at-home wife/mom, I can not only manage it, but have fun doing it. I love cooking for my boyfriend (he stayed over the weekend so I cooked him pizza and jalapeno poppers) and I can manage my days to be productive. It’s all about self-discipline, structure, and the drive to have an adventure everyday whether with a new craft, a new recipe, or just continuing a project.

Update on the Pizza

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My pizza turned out really good! The dough didn’t turn out as crunchy as I like, but I think pre-baking and using a pizza stone would be the only way to fix that. The crust was supposed to make two pizzas, so I cut it in half and made bread sticks with one half and the pizza with the other. I should have taken pictures after I baked them, but I took pictures of the leftovers today! They were very yummy!

Projects: Pizza dough?

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The past few days I’ve had a huge craving for pizza. But being the frugal person I am, I’m not about to order out or go to a restaurant for pizza. I also don’t feel like going to the grocery store: I have pasta sauce, I have veggies, I have cheese. The only thing I need is pizza dough. I’ve been teaching myself how to bake, and I can make a mean bread dough if I do say so myself… So I decided to try making my own.

So right now, I’m waiting for the yeast to set with the water, I’m writing up this blog.

I found a very simple recipe from Pioneer Woman for pizza dough you can find here. But of course, I’ve got my own adjustments that I’ll talk about here.

Ingredients: 1 tsp Active Dry Yeast, 4 cups flour, 1 tsp salt, 1/3 cup EVOO.

So of course, I had to spice the recipe up a bit. Instead of normal salt, I used 1 tsp smoked Sriracha salt. It’s a specialty salt I got for Christmas (because I LOVE sriracha), and I’ve been using it as a general replacement for salt in all my recipes. It’s not really spicy, but it does have a bit of a smokey, chili kick that I like.

Then, I added 1 tbsp of flax seeds. I love the flavor they give to bread, and the health benefits are great. Consider getting a bag like this and adding flax seeds to a TON of different recipes whether they’re baked, raw, stove-cooked, or smoothies. You can also buy flax-seed meal, which I’ve used to make really great bread and bagels. For more on flax seeds and their health benefits, see the entry on WebMD.

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Finally, I love having herbs in my bread. I had some leftover garlic-infused olive oil in the fridge, so I used that instead of the EVOO, and then I added in basil paste. I can’t tell you how amazing this smells right now!

Thanks to Sybaritica for the photo!

I combined everything except the water/ yeast in my stand mixer.

Then added in the water and yeast.

The recipe had me use the paddle instead of the dough hook attachment. I thought that was strange, but followed what it said. I think next time I’ll try to use the dough hook; the times I’ve made bread, it seems like it is easier to remove the finished dough from the hook than the paddle. This is the finished dough.

Anyway, the dough is now covered in a bowl in the fridge, and will use it for fajita chicken pizza for dinner! (Pizza recipe here. BTW- raw chicken is disgusting. It was an ordeal to marinate it, or more so to CLEAN after working with the raw stuff.) Later tonight I’ll put together the pizza and post some photos of the final product!

Projects: Cooking Adventures

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I haven’t made dinner in a while, my parents and I were out-of-town last weekend and we had a LOT of leftovers before that, so not much cooking has been happening around here. But last night I decided it was about time to cook– the choices of leftovers was very limited, and since I’ll be home alone for a while with my parents out-of-town, I figured it time to make more food not only so that I’ll have a good stockpile of leftovers for the week, but also so that my parents could have some good home-cooked food before they leave and have nothing but restaurant food.

I had a craving for kimchi (Korean, fermented vegetables, usually cabbage), and remembered we had an old, unopened jar in the refrigerator. I didn’t want to just eat it straight, especially since it was kind of old, so I looked up recipes that use kimchi. What I found was awesome: a website dedicated to all things Korean food related, “Beyond Kimchee”. While I found what I wanted, a recipe for kimchi fried rice, the recipe wasn’t exactly what I had hoped (kimchi bacon fried rice doesn’t really fly with a vegetarian family) and I didn’t have all the ingredients anyway. (Here is the Kimchi Bacon Fried Rice recipe if you’re interested)

However, a quick Google search found me another great site with an article titled “Trader Joe’s Has Kimchi! Here Are 6 Ways to Use It“. Among those recipes was another fried rice recipe:

From Weeknight Recipe: Kimchi Fried Rice with Extra Greens. Doesn’t that look delicious?

I didn’t have any greens, so I decided to use chopped vegetables that we keep around the kitchen as substitute. Everything else, minus the gochujang and the sesame oil, we had stocked. I threw out the sesame oil and subbed sweet chili paste and sriracha for the gochujang, and got cooking.

First off, I made WAY too much rice. When the recipe says 2 cups COOKED rice, don’t cook two cups of uncooked rice or you get about 3x as much as you need! However, I can always use leftover rice , so I took out two cups once it was cooked and put the rest in a container to store for later. The recipe, linked in the image but which can also be found here, is pretty straightforward and simple. I only altered the aforementioned ingredients, and kept the procedure the same. I used mushrooms, green bell peppers, and broccoli as the vegetable, and they were delicious!

For a simple, quick recipe with authentic taste and adventurous ingredients, I definitely suggest this recipe. Here’s how mine turned out:

In addition to the kimchi, I decided to make a Big Girl Drink. My parents were out at yoga, it was just me, the cats and TV. Here’s what I did:


Ingredients: 1.5 cups cold water, 1 crystal light Mojito mix single serve package, 1 jigger silver rum (or coconut/fruit flavored rum), 1 glug (not really the official term…) of Blue Curacao, ice.

Tools: You’ll need a cup (duh), a shaker (or a slightly smaller cup to make a shaker-like system), a jigger (or a shot glass works), and a long-stemmed spoon. I have everything I need in a cocktail-making kit my boyfriend got me, but you can substitute most things.

To make it, mix the water, crystal light, and rum in your cup and stir. DO NOT put the Blue Curacao in until later or it won’t settle right and give you that great color separation. Put your ice in the shaker and then dump in your drink mixture, making sure to taste it and make sure the liquid to crystal light powder ratio is right. Close the shaker and shake to chill. Carefully pour the chilled mixture back into your glass. Once it’s settled, pour in your glug of Blue Curacao so it fills the cup about halfway. DO NOT STIR, DO NOT SHAKE. Stick a straw in it, slice up some limes if you like decorations in your drinks, and have at it!

Also, if you’re interested in exploring Korean food made professionally, the various Tofu House restaurants are great; I especially recommend So Kong Dong. Here is a list of Tofu Houses on Buford Highway in Atlanta. If you like authentic Asian food, this is the place to go! There is also a great Farmers Market and H Mart where you can get authentic ingredients as well as fully cooked food. And in London, I haven’t been but would love to try Kimchee.

Projects: New recipes

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Today’s blog isn’t well planned or thought out, but I wanted to share the new recipe I made for dinner. Since I’m in the middle of the “Snowjam ’14” in Atlanta, I wanted some comfort food. Luckily my mom and I didn’t get caught out yesterday afternoon when traffic got hellish and the roads turned to ice… but my dad wasn’t so lucky. He decided to stay at work, thankfully, so he didn’t get caught in the awful traffic/ absolutely blocked and impassable roads, but he did have to spend the night at his office. When he was finally able to come home this afternoon, I wanted to make sure we had some good, warm food ready for him.

The recipe for today was: Creamy Rotel Dip Mac & Cheese

I started with a recipe I found via Pinterest (because who can do better than Pinterest for recipes, right?) The recipe can be found here. However, I modified it quite a bit, so I’ll go through it.

Ingredients:

  • 2 Cups cooked pasta (I used a cup of tri-color rotini and a cup of penne)
  • 3 Cups milk (the recipe calls for whole milk, but I used 1%)
  • 5 tbsp butter
  • 5 tbsp flour
  • Sriracha salt to taste (just because I have it around. plain salt is just fine)
  • 1 2/3 Cup Velveeta cheese cut in chunks
  • Red pepper flakes (the recipe calls for black pepper, but I prefer the heat of red pepper)
  • 1/2 bag (about 1 1/2 Cups) of frozen seasoning blend vegetables (onion, bell peppers, celery)
  • 1 Can Rotel Diced Tomatoes & Green Chilies
  • 1/2 Cup shredded cheese to top

Steps:

  • Cook the pasta to al dente and drain
  • Pre-heat your oven. The recipe says 350, but since my mom already had veggies going at 425 I just used that and decreased the time I kept the pasta in for.
  • Make the roux: While pasta is cooking, melt butter in a large pot over medium-low heat. Stir in the flour one tbsp at a time and then stir until smooth. Let the flour/ butter mixture cook; stir it while it simmers, if you need to turn up the heat some.  Add the salt and pepper to taste. Turn the heat to medium and start adding the mile one cup at a time. After you add each cup, stir and allow the mixture to thicken. Don’t worry if it’s a bit lumpy, just stir to keep it from scorching. Once all the milk is in, allow to heat up while you stir until it becomes smooth and thick.
  • Stir in the chunks of Velveeta and the frozen vegetables. Stir as the cheese melts. Once everything is melted, stir in the can of Rotel. If you don’t like spicy, use the Original Rotel Tomatoes.
  • Once everything is incorporated and the vegetables are warmed through, put your pasta in a casserole dish (mine was about 9×9, the recipe calls for 9×13). Pour or ladle your cheese mixture over the pasta, using a spoon to move the pasta around so all the cheese can sink around the noodles. You may not need all the cheese mixture. I had about 1 Cup left over, so I’m saving it for regular cheese dip for another time!
  • Put the mac&cheese in the oven for 18-20 minutes. Then top with shredded cheese, and let cook another 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and let sit until cook enough to eat.

My mom made a side of baked Zucchini and Sweet Potatoes, and we had a great dinner! My dad even went back for thirds 🙂

Also Job Search Update: Due to the awful weather and sketchy road conditions, my interview for tomorrow morning got rescheduled to next Wednesday morning. I also have a phone ‘interview’, more of an informational update, tomorrow afternoon for my applications with the Peace Corps. I’m in the final stages of placement with the Peace Corps, something I’m considering as an alternative to employment.