Fall Food Fiesta Episode 3

I think this will be the last in this fall food series…sigh. Although I haven’t completely resigned myself to starting to cook winter type foods just yet. It feels more like I’m simply refusing to give up apples than anything else lol. Oh well. YOLO. (ugh…I’m THAT girl…)

Basically I’m just obsessed with apples…

In this post I’m sharing two gems with you that I’ve recently discovered…a dinner AND a desert. Boom.

The first I’m going to share with you is somewhat similar to this recipe that I made last year, which I really didn’t care for. So I tried again. Its another attempt at Mac & Cheese with Caramelized Onions, Apple, and Bacon. So many things that I love…apples, cheese, caramelized onions, bacon…This time its all arranged in a way thats more delicious.

I won’t take too much time explaining how to make this recipe because I’ve done it a few times before. So I’ll just explain how to make it different from plain caramelized onion mac and cheese.

Cheesy bacony appley goodness.

Cheesy bacony appley goodness.

To make this you basically just add the bacon and apples to the recipe I linked to above. It’s not difficult. It tasted good. My one note on it was that I used Maple Bacon…which in hind sight was a little off…I think that regular bacon would work best…or maybe smoked.

I also tried my first ever crockpot desert…Crockpot Apple Crisp. Because seriously…how can you not, right? It’s actually really easy to put together. Here’s the biz you’ll need:

  • ~5 granny  apples, peeled and sliced
  • 2 Tbs lemon juice
  • 1/2 c flour
  • 1/4 c old fashioned oats
  • 3/4 c dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 c butter
Apples on apples...

Apples on apples…Put your peeled and sliced apples in your crockpot and coat with lemon juice.

steps 2 and 3

In a bowl combine all the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, spices, oatmeal). Then cut in the butter using a pastry cutter or some forks. Then top the apples with your crumb mixture.

Crock on high for 1.5 to 2 hours until apples are tender.

Crock on high for 1.5 to 2 hours until apples are tender.

After it cools down a little serve that biz with ice cream and EAT UP.

After it cools down a little serve that biz with ice cream and EAT UP.

This recipe will make your house smell AMAZING. A substitution I made was to use about half the oatmeal and use cereal for the other half (Special K Vanilla Almond to be specific, but anything corn flake-like will do). I mixed the crumbs into the apples rather than let it just sit on top so it did make the consistency a little different (not much of a crunchy top) but it still tasted good. You can also add pecans like the original recipe calls for.

When I make this recipe again I will consider using one of those crockpot liners because this was a little bit of a pain to clean up…worth it…but still work.

FUN ACTIVITY ALERT: My lady pals and I had a fun adventure a couple weekends ago so I figured I’d share it. We went to our first ever Blacklight 5K. It was SO FUN. It’s basically the Color Run except its a night and the colors glow under blacklight. It was most definitely NOT 5K…I’d guess it was maybe like 1.5 miles and in terms of logistics it was a bit of a shit show but it was still super fun to walk (running for fun is not my jam) and there was a big dance party at the end and they were throwing tons of color into the crowd.

The Before and After shot

The Before and After shot

I think I may have gotten some color on me....

I think I may have gotten some color on me….

 

What fall foods will you miss most?

 

The Labors of My Labor Day

I’m gonna be honest…I did ALMOST nothing this holiday weekend. I had plans…plans involving sitting poolside working on my tan.

Expectation

But the weather simply did not cooperate. So rather than chill out poolside it changed to me on the couch. Sorry I’m not sorry.

Reality

It was a good time though. I did do a few things so I figured I may as well share them with all of you.

I recently acquired a Wii (shout out to my sis for moving to Abu Dhabi…aka the Dhabs). Which means this gal now can watch Netflix on the TV!! BOOM. Game Changer. So this long weekend of crappy weather gave me the perfect opportunity to break it in. So maybe I watched more movies than I care to publicly announce on Saturday, but I did manage to get one of my best gals C over for a Sunday Funday movie marathon.
In between movies we got a case of the hungries so we decided to make some food. We settled on pasta with a white wine sauce. A quick convo with Google later we headed to the shops to pick up the few things we needed to make our masterpiece a reality.
Pasta with White Wine Sauce:
Penne with White Wine Sauce
  • Pasta (we used tri-colored penne)
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 shallot, rough chopped (we used onion bc that’s what I had…and I chopped it finely)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 1 tbsp. fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped

You start by sautéing the finely chopped onion with the olive oil. Then we poured in the wine and let it boil. NOW: the recipe said to let it reduce…but we were hungry and tipsy so we didn’t…we just let it boil. Then add the butter until it melts. Take the sauce off the heat and add the lemon juice and parsley (which we took from my herb garden). Then we poured the sauce over our cooked pasta and grated some fresh cheese over it…NOM NOM.

tri-colored is so fun to look at

tri-colored is so fun to look at

 

White Wine Sauce

White Wine Sauce

NOTE: while cooking we were drinking….and we were pretty buzzed. So we didn’t super follow the recipe as written…in that we 1. did not let the white wine reduce at all, 2. did not strain the onion from the sauce, 3. we added garlic and pepper, and 4. we thought that maybe it wouldn’t make enough sauce so we pretty much doubled everything…”lets just add more wine…yeah…and more butter!”…It was really good though. The lemon juice gives it a nice fresh taste.

Since we were at the grocery store anyways, C had the brilliant idea of making some beverages…specifically White Russians. It was a truly excellent idea. So if you’re like me, and have no idea how to make them and don’t feel like asking Google I thought I’d share that as well.

Cocktail Corner: White Russians

-Ice
-Kahlua
-Skim Milk
-Vodka

Put Ice in your glass. Add a shot of vodka and a shot of Kahlua. Top with milk. Stir.

DRINK UP!

Gettin' our drink onnnn....and our cook on

Gettin’ our drink onnnn….and our cook on

All in all I’d say it was a perfect Sunday Funday.

Monday it was more of the same….Les Miserables was on HBO so OBVIOUSLY I had to watch it. But I did take a break from being epically lazy to grab a frozen treat with KT (check her out!!) and stop by Target. I found some cheap curtains ($5!!) for my living room and immediately needed to hang them….and I did. LIKE A BOSS. This girl doesn’t even have a drill….just my raw physical power. BOOM.

Put these guys up with my own 2 hands!

Put these guys up with my own 2 hands!

Happy Labor Day everyone!

Its gettin’ hot in herrrrrrree…

Except seriously.

It is disgustingly hot out this week. It’s 6:45 pm as I write this and it is currently 90F. Annnnnnd this girl has no AC. So basically its the worst lol.

But it has inspired me to share a recipe with you that won’t turn your entire house into an oven. Hooray! and then we can catch up on what’s been new in our lives and reminisce about America’s birthday (happy belated bday Ammurica).

This horrible weather is the PERFECT weather for bustin’ out your crockpot. FACT. Because that biz doesn’t heat your house up AT ALL. I recently busted out mine and made some tasty Crockpot Chicken Fajitas. They are super easy and cheap to make which, in this heat, is a major plus. Also they taste great.

Here’s how you can whip some up for yourself-

Biz you’ll need:

  • boneless skinless chicken breasts (I used 4..but it depends on how much you want to make)
  • peppers
  • onion
  • garlic
  • fajita seasoning (or taco seasoning if that’s your jam)
  • optional add ons: black beans, corn, chilis, tomatoes, other veggies/beans
  • other stuff for eating: sour cream, cheese, rice, tortillas

Ok so you start by chopping up your veggies and putting them in the bottom of your crockpot.

I like to cut the veggie into big slices so they are more prominent in the fajitas

I like to cut the veggie into big slices so they are more prominent in the fajitas

Then add your corn/beans/tomatoes if you’re using them. Next place your chicken on the veggies and top with the seasonings.

Chicken and spices on top

Chicken and spices on top

Cook on low for 4 or 6 hours, or high for 8 or 10 (depending on your time frame).  Once done, shred the chicken with a fork. I like mine in bigger chunks so I didn’t shred much…but the chicken is so tender you can shred to your personal preference.

mmm...Fajitas!

mmm…Fajitas!

This ended up being a really great last minute meal planning adventure. I hadn’t decided what to make before going to the grocery store so I just figured I’d just throw something together. Notes on this recipe: its really customizable. I went really minimal with my ingredients because I didn’t plan on making them, so get crazy! Also, I had a lot of liquid at the end, so I did use the cover and sort of strain/dump the extra liquid.

Lunch!

Lunch!

I even brought some leftovers to work for lunch. It’s definitely something I’ll make again.

In other news…America just had another birthday…Yahoo! This time, rather than celebrate in Beantown with the gang like last year, I was in California with some fab ladies for our friend J’s WEDDING!!! I had been looking forward to this trip for months because the 5 of us haven’t all been in the same place since 2008….ew…I’m old. We go way back these ladies and I, we met when we became roomies during our semester abroad in Italy five years ago. Since then, life has spread us all over the place…Cali, Arizona, Boston and London. We rented a house for the wedding long weekend and had the best time. And given the nature of this blog I’ll share some of the food adventures as well as the reunion/wedding magic.

On the 4th we had a bitchin’ BBQ (shout out to grill master F) with carne asada, super spicy corn (that I was too chicken to try), homemade guac, roasted veggies, and tasty stuffed portobello mushrooms. After eating we headed to the fireworks!

Happy Birthday America!!

Happy Birthday America!!

The next day was J and D’s wedding! AHHH. It was so much fun! The bride was beautiful! and obvi I cried like sap lol. I was thrilled to be a part of the magic day and share in the start of the happy couple’s new adventure 🙂 Also, the week I spent with these lovely ladies was a BLAST! It was awesome to get to see them again and catch up face to face on all the amazing things going on in their lives…and meet their special someones (who were such amazing sports during all the reunion craziness! love you guys!).

The Florence Girls <3 #viadelmoro4life

The Florence Girls ❤ and Mr and Mrs B 🙂
#viadelmoro4life

I can’t wait to see everyone again!

I hope you all had an amazing holiday and behaved like true patriots (A’mmmuricaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!!)

And good luck with this heat!

Sunday Funday

So turns out that I wrote the majority of all my blog posts while I was wasting away of boredom at my old job. Now that I have a new job I have way way less free time lol. But I have a moment now so I figured I’d slap something up.

I had a fairly whirlwind weekend this past weekend…which was a nice change of pace. On Saturday afternoon my bestie and I went to this cool terrarium making party at a local glass shop where she blows glass (I hang with a talented crew lol). We got to make wet and dry terrariums. NOTE: every single time I think or say terrarium I confuse it with a house for spiders…I think they sound the same). Anyhow–I was pumped because a wet terrarium is essentially creating a Jurassic Park type scene in a jar! Spoilers mine has a pterodactyl in it! Boom.

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It was our other friend K’s birthday this weekend so we had some extra fun activities planned. We spent a fun hour kayaking on the Charles River. It was a murky chilly type day but it was really fun.

20130520-143024.jpg

We couldn’t really continue the party because we all soaking wet, but a bunch of us met up later that night to eat tacos and watch Game of Thrones. My contribution was cupcakes. But not just any old cupcakes…these were the stuff 90s kids dreams are made of. They were vanilla cupcakes with purple frosting and pop rocks on top! You can hear them snap crackle and pop on you plate…and then comes that creepy-but-awesome blitzkrieg of pop that happens the second they hit your mouth lol. They were really fun!

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Overall, it was a solid weekend with my lady pals 🙂

There’s Always Time for Chicken

Sorry for such a long break between posts. Things have been a bit hectic lately. I just started a brand new job and have been super busy catching myself up to speed on everything. Overall it’s been great so far and I’m much happier. Hooray for positive life changes!

My final two weeks at my old job corresponded with the Boston Marathon bombings and ensuing search and capture of the suspects. So needless to say it was a stressful period. And then I immediately started my new job…so I got a little overwhelmed and my time in the kitchen dropped significantly. I did make one interesting thing during that period that I wanted to share with you all. Better late than never I guess.

I was feeling broke and lazy so I was particularly interested in finding a crockpot creation. When in doubt I always turn to chicken…its pretty hard to screw up chicken. I did a quick search and settled on a recipe. Garlic and Brown Sugar Chicken.

As a note: I didn’t turn to my trusty pals over at Google this time…I went directly to a great crockpot site called Get Crocked. I discovered this site a while back and it has HUNDREDS of amazing crockpot recipes.

I realized that I already had most of the ingredients so I figured it would be a smart try. Here’s what you need:

Garlic Brown Sugar Chicken

  • ~5-6 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 c brown sugar (packed)
  • 2/3 c vinegar
  • 1/4 c Sprite (or other similar soda would work too)
  • 2 -3 Tbs garlic
  • 2 Tbs soy sauce
  • 1 tsp pepper

Add the chicken to the bottom of the crockpot. Add everything else together, and pour over chicken. Now, I didn’t really pay attention to the directions (whoopsies) and I added everything separate…I don’t think it makes much difference but it may help to mix it first. Cook for 6-8 hours on high.

I cut my chicken breasts in half...I fit 5.

I cut my chicken breasts in half…I fit 5.

IMG_2296 IMG_2297

After 8 hours I had a lot of sauce…Corn starch thickened it a little.

So I have some mixed feelings about this recipe to be honest. A few things concerned me…such as the fact that mine looked very different from the recipe photo (take a peek here). The photo shows a piece of chicken with a sort of sauce coating. Mine was VERY liquid. I read through the comments (which is SOOO helpful sometimes) and realized that others had this problem too. I added some cornstarch to the sauce at the end to thicken it up. (add a few tbs of cornstarch mixed in water FIRST, then add it to the sauce).

It tasted okay. Its not a recipe I will likely rush to make again, but it wasn’t bad either. Next time I will definitely decrease the liquid ingredients. I served it over rice.

If at first you don’t succeed, keep tryin’ until you make that biz your b****

So I have some mild-to-severe perfectionist tendencies. Nothing like crippling or anything….but enough that I find things massively frustrating if they don’t come out right. It can be SUPER annoying because for the most part other people’s reactions tend to be things like “it still tastes good” “shake it off” “don’t worry about it.” My brain does not work that way.

I have gotten better at hiding my crazy in most aspects of my life though. But I’ve found it harder to master that crucial brain control in the kitchen and in craft-type settings because, unlike most areas of life, they are soooo controllable. So when small setbacks happen I have to fight my instincts…you know…the urge to throw a 4-year level tantrum or just chuck the whole lot into the trash can because the cake is uneven (or it tipped over) or the onions burned. (CONFESSION: I did chuck out an entire meal in front of my BF not too long ago because I thought it was a disaster…but that hardly ever happens anymore lol).

I’m telling you this as sort of a background into my motives for this post. I’ve mentioned it before, but one of my signature dishes is homemade mac and cheese. I’ve been making it since I was like 10 and its one of those recipes that is burned into your brain so you never even have to look it at. For some mystery reason, lately I kept screwing it up (like this time). It was making me CRAZY…just ask my mom who received all my “AHHHHHHH WHAT THE HECK?!?!?” phone calls.

Normal people can shake this stuff off. But it’s been nagging at me for WEEKS. So finally I decided to just beast this thing out. And prove to myself that I’m not a total idiot who has forgotten how to cook (see how my brain makes me treat me?)

I recently discovered how AMAZING caramelized onions are. Shortly after that I discovered that I am not great at making them WOMP WOMP. I kept burning them. I’m telling you this because I had had the genius idea to add caramelized onion to my mac and cheese….so the fact that I messed BOTH of them up at the same time was driving me insane.

But I figured it out (for the most part) and BOOM I made that biz my b****.

FINALLY got it right!

FINALLY got it right!

Here’s what you’ll need to make your very own Swiss/NY Sharp Cheddar Caramelized Onion Mac and Cheese:

-box of noodles (elbow, penne, or the spirals work best)
-1 block swiss cheese
-1 block NY Sharp Cheddar (or Vermont, or regular Sharp Cheddar)
-2 cups milk (1% at the LOWEST, cream tastes best but is fattier)
-2 Tbsp butter (or butter like spread)
-2 Tbsp flour
-spices (salt and pepper etc)
-breadcrumbs (optional but nice…especially Italian spiced)

Add your spices after the cheese is melted.

Add your spices after the cheese is melted.

Ok so if you’ve never made a cream-type sauce before I’m going to explain it. Read this BEFORE you start so you’ll know what to do because you have to move a little fast in the beginning. On MEDIUM HEAT Melt the butter in a sauce pan and add the flour. Start whisking it immediately with a fork or whisk…slowly add some milk (room temp if possible) and KEEP STIRRING. It’ll be sort of paste like with some clumps…you want to get’em all. Add the rest of the milk and stir. DON’T LET THE MILK BOIL. It will ruin your sauce by causing the cheese to separate. When the clumps are gone and the sauce starts to thicken a little add the cheese and spices. Once the cheese is melted you should have a nice thickish cheese sauce.  Add caramelized onions (which I’ll tell you how to make in a minute).

Look at those tasty golden onions in that yummy cheese....

Look at those tasty golden onions in that yummy cheese….

Cook the pasta regular. Add cheese sauce. Top with breadcrumbs and bake at 350 until top is browned.  EAT UP.

Caramelized Onions:
-1 large onion
-2 Tbsp-ish better
-1 Tbsp oil
-dash of salt

Cut onions. Melt butter in a skillet…add the oil. Add the onions and coat in the butter/oil and turn burner down to low heat. Stir occasionally, if you stir too much they won’t brown. Add salt after like 5 mins. Honestly I got that from a website…I’m not 100% certain what it does but I guess it helps. The onions will reduce down and eventually turn a lovely golden/brown color.  Mine cooked for like EVER…like over and hour… but again, I’m new to this and haven’t gotten it perfect yet. I’m certain it doesn’t have to actually take that long.

Cut even slices of the onion

Cut even slices of the onion

 

Coat onions in the butter/oil

Coat onions in the butter/oil

 

Nice golden color... cooked mine a little longer after this to deepen the color a bit

Nice golden color… cooked mine a little longer after this to deepen the color a bit

In the end I had a lovely meal to last the week. Also it made me feel soooo much better to have figured out what I was doing wrong with my mac and cheese so that I will never screw it up again!

Birthday Cake the Classy Way

So it was recently my college roommates birthday (Happy Birthday Girl!!). My friend C and I decided to make dinner for her, so I offered to make a cake…because as you know, I love birthdays. (Evidence here, here, and here).

I decided to make something from scratch so I searched the interwebs for a recipe I thought was worthy. It didn’t take long to find a good one.

Dry Ingredients

 

Melt the butter, cocoa, and water

Melt the butter, cocoa, and water

How you make buttercream

How you make buttercream

Batter

So the batter is a little more liquid than boxed cake, but I think its because its a fudge cake.

I only have one cake pan….and I thought the batter would all fit. Turns out there’s more than I thought….so rather than double the bake time by using the same pan (no thanks) I had an epiphany. I noticed that a bunt pan is the same circumference! I decided to use my one cake pan and the bunt pan…which would make for a fun layer cake.

Funfetti Frosting Layer...Layer of Champions

Funfetti Frosting Layer…Layer of Champions

Frosted with Vanilla Frosting

Frosted with Vanilla Frosting

30 Minute Chocolate Fudge Cake

2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
2 sticks butter
1 cup water
3 Tbs cocoa powder
2 eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk***
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla

Mix flour and sugar in a bowl. In a sauce pan mix cocoa, butter, and water and bring to a boil over medium heat. Mix into the dry ingredients. Mix well, once cooled slightly add eggs, buttermilk, baking soda, and vanilla. Pour into greased pan and bake at 350 for about 20 mins.

***I made buttermilk by taking just under 1/2 cup milk and adding 1/2 Tbs of lemon juice. Let sit for a couple minutes…and BOOM buttermilk.

Photo by Jenn Sheehan :)

Photo by Jenn Sheehan 🙂

See….it’s a cool effect. If there had been a little more time I would have filled the whole with something…a cupcake, fruit…something. But for this time I left it open.

I did make a fun decorative banner to top the cake though. Here’s how you do it.

What You’ll Need:

fun paper (I used scrapbook paper
skewers
dental floss

Cut out some triangles

Cut out some triangles

I started by folding the edge of the paper over, and cut small triangles.

Then I cut a length of dental floss and tried it to the skewers.

To attach the triangles, I put a dab of glue and placed them over the floss (the glue makes it so they stay). Let it dry and BOOM classy cake decor.