Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Seafood & Sausage Paella

We are going to Seattle soon, and I thought I should practice making paella before going so I can make some there - SO MUCH FRESH SEAFOOD!!! So I looked up a bunch of different recipes, kind of mixed them all together, and voila - easy paella! It took me about 45 minutes, and now we seriously have food for DAYS!!

Ingredients


1-2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2-4 garlic cloves, minced or crushed
2 links Spanish chorizo (not the same as Mexican chorizo!) or andouille sausage cut in slices
Shrimp (I used probably 1-2 cups of frozen shrimp)
Mussels (I used a bag of frozen mussels and it turned out pretty great!)
Saffron threads (this was sold like a nudie magazine - inside a blank bottle, with the contents wrapped in black plastic! I can't tell you how many I used, but I just used "some" and hope it was the right amount!!)
1 Tbsp paprika
2 tsp oregano (or Italian seasoning, since that's all I have!)
Red pepper flakes
1 bay leaf
1 15-oz can of crushed tomatoes
2 C long grain rice
4 C chicken stock
2 C dry white wine
Zest of 1 lemon
Salt & pepper to taste

Optional:


I put in some chopped okra and frozen peas - it adds color and some much needed veggies!

How To:


Heat a large skillet or wok over medium heat. Cook the sausage for a few minutes or until slightly browned on either side. Remove the sausage from the pan, and add the olive oil. Saute the onion until fairly translucent, and add the garlic. Stir fry the okra too, if you are adding those!



Stir in the tomatoes, saffron, paprika, oregano, and red pepper flakes and let heat up for a minute or two. Add the rice and stir, then add the chicken stock, wine, lemon zest, and bay leaf. Cook for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, cook your mussels to taste - I used water, more tomatoes, and saffron and it was just ok. In the future, I think I'll use more flavor like garlic, some butter, and chicken stock! When most of the liquid is soaked up by the rice, turn off the heat, add the cooked (but still cold) shrimp, mussels, and sausage to the pan, and put a lid on it. Let it sit for about 5 minutes.

Serve warm with some sliced lemon - enjoy!!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Rum and Brownie Ice Cream!

I got a new job where we have random things like bottles of rum lying around, so I took it upon myself to make birthday ice cream for me and another girl born on the same lucky date!! We used Selva Ray cacao rum, so it's kind of chocolatey and super sweet - it turned out SO TASTY!! I still can't quite figure out how you'd mix this as a beverage, but as a dessert, it was amazing.

I used a modified version of this recipe since I love alcoholic ice cream so much!!

Ingredients

1 cup whole milk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp sugar
6 large egg yolks
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
3 1/2 Tbsp rum
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 little brownie bites, torn into tiny pieces

How To

Mix milk, cream, and 1/2 cup sugar in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat until mixture comes to a rolling boil.
Meanwhile, whisk yolks, 2 Tbsp sugar, and salt in a medium bowl until mixture is pale yellow and sugar dissolves.
Whisking yolk mixture constantly, gradually add a few tablespoons at a time of hot cream mixture (to prevent the eggs in the yolk mixture from scrambling). Return to pan. Stir custard over low heat until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 2 minutes. Immediately strain custard through a fine mesh sieve into another bowl. Let custard cool completely, stirring often.
Stir 1 Tbsp. rum and vanilla into custard. Add more rum to taste by tablespoons, if desired.

Cover and chill for at least 4 hours, up to overnight.
Process custard in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions. Add the brownie bites during the last 2 minutes, transfer ice cream to an airtight container, cover, and freeze.

Enjoy with coworkers and tiny party hats!! Happy birthday, Alana!! (And me!)
  



Friday, July 22, 2016

Alice in Wonderland Baby Shower!


My little lady goes to the best in-home daycare ever, and one of her best friends is getting a new little sister!! Patti (our amazing nanny and dear friend) and I decided to throw a sprinkle (little shower!) for this fellow mama-to-be, and Patti came up with the super cute idea to make it Alice in Wonderland themed! To the Pinterest-machine we went!!!

We did our best to make it cute, personalized, low-key, and tasty, and I think we succeeded on all fronts!! Keep in mind, with day jobs, kiddos, and general life getting in the way, we were extra careful to PLAN ahead! Most of the DIY projects were done the week prior to the shower, so that way, all we had to really do is show up!

One week out....

I went to Joann Fabrics and found some super cute craft paper on sale for 40% off, woohoo! I used that pack for exterior signs (cute little sayings like "Wonderland", "Tea Party", "Right Way", "Wrong Way", "This Way", "That Way", "Up Here", and "Down Here")! I just wrote fun words out with a Sharpie, and the best thing about a Sharpie, is if you mess up, you just make the letters fatter, and DONE.
Finished product!
I also purchased some cute pink playing cards (that benefit breast cancer research!) and used an Exacto knife to cut out "Lil Lady Daley" since they're having a girl and that's their last name! I strung them together on pink ribbon the day before the shower, because I TRIED to do this a week earlier and managed to get it tangled in such a horrible mess, it was just a disaster.
Finished product!

Patti did some super fancy thrift store shopping and got us a bunch of tea cups and saucers, and also cute hanging decorations! She spray painted the less attractive of the bunch, and left a few untouched so we could stack them in fun ways! She got a picture frame (and spray painted that) for photo-fun! She ALSO got some awesome charms and decorations to make not one but TWO diaper cakes - one for the baby-to-be, and one for the big brother!! So sweet!

5 days out....

This little project took 2 evenings to complete, using just paper and hot glue!  I used the same paper to cut out little teacup cupcake holders using a template. I ended up not using most of the saucers, and I skipped putting bottoms on them (no one is going to notice!), so I may have cut out a little too much, but that's ok! Better safe than sorry... except, being the old lady that I am, I managed to cause some nerve damage (!!) because my middle finger can't really feel all that well even a week later. Oops! Scissors are dangerous, folks, not even just the pointy ends!!

2 days out....

Go to happy hour, it's fun!! (Also, borrow a Polaroid camera from a friend!)

The day before....

I cleaned the house (this really should be done on a regular basis, but moving on!!) and then got to work on baking!! These recipes use A LOT of butter - quite possibly too much butter. (How can one use TOO much butter, though, really??) I started out making the cupcakes - chamomile lemon with honey buttercream!!!! The recipe calls for loose chamomile leaves, but I used tea bags... not sure if that was correct, but they were tasty!
SO MUCH BUTTER
Finished product!

While they were baking, I moved onto the shortbread cookies! The only alterations I made with these cookies were that I (a) refrigerated them rolled up in parchment paper and then sliced them with a knife, and (b) once cutting out the desired shapes, I refrigerated them again for about 30 minutes so they'd really hold their shape, and they did! I cut out the teabag shape with a knife, and the hole for ribbon with a plastic straw - it was surprisingly easy!

While THOSE were baking, I went ahead and made the cucumber spread - I cheated and bought chicken salad pre-made - that's just TOO MUCH work!! But the cucumber spread was super easy, and frankly really tasty!! Instead of laying out individually sliced cucumber pieces on each sandwich, I decided to chop up a cucumber and mix it in with the spread - you still get the crunchiness and all of the flavor, and it's just plain easier!

I also strung the little "eat me" labels through the shortbread cookies while watching Harry Potter, that was a pretty good time!

I made the frosting following the recipe, but it was TOO buttery, so protip: add more powdered sugar, and some lemon juice - it'll cut the richness of the honey and butter, but still let the flavor come through!

Last, but most definitely not least, Patti came over with her hubby and we all got to work (the hubbies drinking beer, and Patti and I making things pretty). She picked up flowers in the morning, and we arranged them in the tea cups (stealing ideas from this page, but we skipped the glue!), put up the banners and fun hanging decorations, and then went out to eat!

The day of....

I cleaned a little more (shhh!) and then got to work making cutesie little sandwiches!!!! This was my most favorite part, I think, because I'd never done them before!! I bought some teeny tiny cookie cutters and 2 types of bread - I chose pumpernickel and a whole grain wheat so they'd be sturdy for use with the cookie cutters. This took some time (maybe an hour) but really wasn't too tedious. If I hadn't been standing in front of a hot dishwasher, that would've been ideal ;) My super smart hubby is the genius who told me I only needed to use the cookie cutter on one side of the sandwich since the other side is face-down - he's so smart, and I'm so appreciative!! That would've taken another hour!!

I covered the sandwiches and put them in the fridge. Then used some meltable chocolate and dipped the shortbread cookies, and put those in the fridge too (but only for 30 minutes because I didn't want them to get soggy!).

I put out cute little mismatched straws for the beverages, and made 2 drinks: sweet tea vodka and lemonade, and because it's for a pregnant woman who can obviously not drink hard liquor, sweet tea on its own!

We got everything laid out and it was just too darn cute!! Baby mama was happy, and everyone loved the super fun, festive, wonderfully girly tea party!
 




Thursday, June 2, 2016

Cilantro Lime Summer Salad

I am trying SO HARD to be healthy and it is really difficult if you're not that into salads, so I treated forced myself to go to Ikea on a shopping trip for some salad dressing containers! (Any excuse, really!!) I came across this easy and yummy cilantro lime vinaigrette recipe and it's really making me enjoy my summer salads!!

Ingredients


Dressing:

1 cup loosely packed cilantro
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup lime juice (~2 limes)
1/2 jalapeno, coarsely chopped (optional)
1 small clove garlic
salt and pepper to taste


Salad:

Baby kale (or other greens of choice)
Mango
Avocado
Jicama
Chicken breast
Cayenne pepper
Cumin
Cinnamon
salt and pepper to taste

How To


For the dressing, just put all of your items in a food processor and blend until smooth! Done!!! For the salad, I really prefer "restaurant-style" salads that are all chopped and dressed, so I chopped up the greens nice and bite-sized, peeled and sliced the jicama, mango, and avocado, and then tossed those in the salad dressing together. I sauteed the chicken with some cayenne, cumin, and a dash of cinnamon to give it some oomph, and then sliced it and served the salad with the chicken on top.

SO EASY and so yummy and summery. I've had it twice already this week!


Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Brienne of Tarth's Beer and Tart!!

For our weekly Game of Thrones watch party, we had 2 of our friends' birthdays to celebrate!! We decided to make cherry pie, and it was surprisingly easy (aside from pitting the cherries!), and definitely delicious. I'm glad we sent them home with leftovers, because I might be rolling around all cherry-shaped myself by now!

I googled "how to pit cherries" and came across some interesting tips, the best being, "if you're going to pit enough cherries for a pie, for Pete's sake, buy a cherry-pitter." I did NOT take that advice, and it wasn't the worst decision I've made, although it probably would've been worth the $10 to get one! The other tips were solidly ok - 1) Use a chopstick and push out the cherry pit. I tried this one time, and decided it was too dangerous and not for me!! 2) Use an icing tip, big end on a hard surface and pointed end up, and push the cherry on the tip to squeeze the pit out - that worked pretty well!! I hurt myself just a teeny bit (those icing tips are sharp!) but it worked for the most part. Some of the cherries were split in half and I just pulled the pit out that way, just do your best and it'll all taste the same in the end!!


Another note - don't dye your hair a reddish color and then mess about with cherry juice, your fingers will give away the hair dye, even if they're unrelated!!

Ingredients

Pie crust - double batch!! Use one for the base of the pie, and the other for a lattice top!
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 cups whole pitted sour cherries or dark sweet cherries (about 2 pounds whole unpitted cherries - I used ~2.5 pounds, or one bag, and it was perfect)
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice if using sour cherries, or 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice if using dark sweet cherries (about 1.5 lemons for 3 Tbsp)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 tablespoon (about) milk
Vanilla ice cream, if you like! (I like!!!)

How To

Make the pie crust according to the instructions on the link above
Position rack in lower third of oven and preheat to 425°F. 
Mix 1 cup sugar, cornstarch, and salt in small bowl to blend. I pitted the cherries inside a bowl so no juice would be lost, so stir the mix into the cherry bowl with lemon juice and extracts.
Roll out 1 dough disk on floured surface to 12-inch round. Transfer to 9-inch glass pie dish. Trim dough overhang to 1/2 inch. Roll out second dough disk on floured surface to 12-inch round. Using large knife or pastry wheel with fluted edge, cut ten 3/4-inch-wide strips from dough round. Transfer filling to dough-lined dish, mounding slightly in center. Arrange dough strips atop filling, forming lattice; trim dough strip overhang to 1/2 inch. Fold bottom crust up over ends of strips and crimp edges to seal. Brush lattice crust (not edges) with milk. Sprinkle lattice with remaining 1 tablespoon sugar.
Place pie on rimmed baking sheet and bake 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375°F. Bake pie until filling is bubbling and crust is golden brown, covering edges with foil collar if browning too quickly, about 1 hour longer. Transfer pie to rack and cool completely. 
Cut into wedges and serve with vanilla ice cream. Enjoy!!!


Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Shrimp Pozole

I am so excited about the soup I made last night - I was in the grocery store and walked by the cilantro section and it smelled SO YUMMY, I decided to make pozole, which I've never done! One of the main ingredients is hominy (it's what grits are made of, and a relative of corn, so OF COURSE I love it!). I did a quick google search of recipes, but really didn't want to go through a big rigamarole, and ended up cobbling together a super delicious, fast, and healthy version! What's even cuter is that one of our neighbors was having a backyard fiesta complete with a mariachi band (!!), so it was definitely the right night to make this!

Ingredients (Serves 4)


1 Tbsp bacon fat
Chicken broth (3 cups or so)
One can of hominy
Shrimp (however much you'd like to eat)
Bunch of cilantro, chopped
Red pepper flakes, to taste
1-2 tsp Chili powder
1-2 tsp cumin
1-2 tsp Oregano (or Italian seasoning, since that's all we had!)
Juice of one lime
Onion (I used half of a red and half of a yellow onion, but whatever you have on hand works!), chopped
Garlic (I used a lot of the little cloves at the end of a garlic head, so maybe 2 "real-sized" cloves), minced
Radishes for garnish, sliced
Avocado for garnish, sliced
Salt & pepper to taste

How To


Heat the bacon grease in a medium saucepan on medium heat - I used this to give it the traditional pork-flavor without the pork, but if you feel like using a different type of oil, that is perfectly fine! Saute the onion and garlic until semi-translucent. Add in most of the chopped cilantro (save a little for garnish), and the seasonings.  I wrote one-to-two teaspoons since it's all to taste, just throw in whatever you feel like! Add a few other things too, if you like, it's so easy to smell what you're making and figure out how it's going to turn out. Add in the lime juice and stir, then add the hominy and chicken broth to cover all of the goodies in the pot, plus a little more liquid - that added up to about 3 cups in my case. Bring it to a boil, then turn it down to simmer. Once you're about ready to serve, add in the shrimp and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes (until either fully-cooked if you're using raw shrimp, or heated through if already cooked shrimp). Dish out into bowls, and top with sliced avocado, sliced radishes, and a little bit of cilantro!


To join in the festive mood of our neighborhood, I served ours with spicy mango margaritas!  Just mix a little simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water, boiled until clear, and then cooled-off, of course!) with this mango smoothie, a little lime juice, and tequila! YUM!


And here was our super fun, early Cinco de Mayo celebratory dinner ;) Pozole, ole!! 

Game of Thrones Cocktail - "Bubbles of Dragons"!

We are excitedly in charge of Game of Thrones viewing parties this season, and have begun making themed cocktails each week! Last week we made one, and I completely forgot to post it - it was a Pina Crow-lada ;) Coconut milk, black rum (for the Night's Watch, of course!), and ice in a blender. Delish, and easy! Much like this week's - dragon fruit with rose bubbly!

Dragon fruit is a little intimidating-looking, but actually is super easy to use! It kind of tastes like a cross between a kiwi and a melon, with maybe some berry in there? Very interesting, but also not very strong (at least the one we bought - how does one know when a dragon fruit is ripe??). 

Whole dragon fruit

All you need is a sharp knife - just cut straight through from top to bottom. It's even cute on the inside! I used a melon baller to make them more like "dragon eggs", but they could really be just chopped into little squares like I've seen in other pictures. Just don't eat the skin!

Put a handful in the bottom of the glass, and voila! A fun, easy, interesting cocktail!