Sausage Shakshuka

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I think the fact that I haven’t posted a blog post since last Summer is an effective indicator of how chaotic and busy my life has been. Within this last half a year, I’ve been promoted at work, subsequently told at work that I was not going to be given my own project and should find another job, studied for and took the GMAT, and found a new job. My stress levels were catastrophic, to say the least, and that chaos did not allow me to keep up with my blog the way I should have, amongst many other important things.

But now I’m back and ready to start the new year fresh! I start a new job as a retail inventory planner at Williams Sonoma in Gourmet Foods on Monday, and I am ready to rock it. I look back on the absolute torment that was the emotional roller coaster of these last few months and can’t help but smile contentedly that I made it through that, and that I can look forward to better things to come. I’ve learned so much from my time at my last job- more than just healthcare consulting- and I vow know that I will never again let me doubt myself, emotionally terrorize myself, or let others put me down. I am much more than my old job knew, and now I’m going to prove it.

Enough for now about life’s woes. On to some cooking!!

I passed a small shop in my neighborhood the other day, The Spanish Table, and decided to stop in. Within the tiny walls were the widest assortment of spices, oils, tools, cheeses, books, and cookware from Spain, all beckoning me to try them. I ended up purchasing a splendid ceramic dish which works both on gas burners as well as in the oven- the very type of tool I’ve been looking for! I immediately went home and decided to try my own version of a dish I’ve been meaning to make for forever – Shakshuka.

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Shakshuka, a Middle Eastern dish that I saw all of the time when I was in Israel, is tomato based, and generally involves lots of delicious spices and accompaniments. It’s generally meant for breakfast, but I won’t stop you from eating it any time of day you desire. The mix of onions and garlic with tomato is incredible, and very tantalizing to the nose (and tastebuds!). Despite how heavy the ingredients were, the egg really helped to lighten the dish, and made it a veritable treat on a Thursday afternoon.

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I, of course, being lazy and wanting to use some of the leftovers in my refrigerator, decided to do my own version of Shakshuka. Although this one has the original tomato base, garlic, and onions, I’ve decided to add in some sausage to help beef it up a bit.

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Ingredients

  • oven safe skillet or dishware
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 pieces of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 can tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce (can use pizza or marinara)
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 2 eggs

Instructions

  1. Sauté your garlic and onions in the oil on medium high. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 375°F.
  2. Once the onions and garlic are soft (approximately 2-3 minutes), add in your sausage and the half of a can of tomato paste. The paste will be hard to work with at first, but don’t give up. Add more oil if you need to.
  3. Once the paste is mixed in with the onions, garlic, and sausage, add the tomato sauce and stir gently for about 2 minutes.
  4. Turn off the heat and make two small indents in the tomato mixture for the eggs. Crack the eggs in, then place the dish in the oven. Bake for 10-12 minutes, depending on how firm you want your eggs.
  5. Enjoy!

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Apricot Cherry Compote

I’ve been thinking lately (which my parents refer to as “dangerous”) about what it means to relax. I’ve had many conversations with friends, family, coworkers about how relaxing is not the same for everyone. My roommate relaxes by playing video games whereas I relax by cooking or crafting. Making things, to me, is the ultimate recharge of the mind as it requires mental skill with physical finesse in a more contained, limited capacity. Being able to relax in my own unique way is essential to my happiness and wellbeing; not finding a way to relax, however, causes me incredible distress. More importantly, and sadly, I’ve realized that when I am most stressed and stretched thin by life, the first things to go usually tend to be the ones that most bring me back to Earth.

Which is why this Spring and Summer Season is bringing me back to one of the things I enjoy doing most – cooking. As we come out of Winter and hibernation back into sunlight and warmth, I plan to cook accordingly. In my cooking, I hope to bring in as many fresh ingredients as possible, to cook simply and healthfully, and to have fun.

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I find that every Summer is an opportunity for adventure. The days grow longer, the weather improves (hopefully), and the air is alive with electric energy. Almost perfectly in conjunction with this increase in spontaneity and exuberance comes a revival of the best fruit seasons of the year – Spring and Summer. Juicy Apricots, luscious cherries, tart grapes, and crunchy watermelon pop up in every grocery store in the city. Every few steps there is another delicious looking stand of produce, sitting there and begging to be made into something phenomenal.

Which is where Apricot Cherry Jam comes in. From overzealous buying of fruits comes the inevitable lament of realizing that you bought too much darn fruit. Which is why we figure out how to make use of the over-ripening offenders, such as making delicious compotes and jams for storage and future enjoyment.

Ingredients

  • Apricots, pitted (approx 20)
  • Cherries, pitted (approx 1 lb)
  • 2 tbspn honey
  • 1 Lemon
  • 1.5 tbspn Corn Starch

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Start by preparing your fruit. This means washing, pitting, and cutting it down to smaller pieces. Although the fruit will eventually reduce down as it cooks and its juices meld with the other fruits, I recommend smaller pieces where possible to help the process along.

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Place all of the cut pieces of fruit in a medium sauce pan and put on medium heat. Squeeze half of the lemon over the fruit, add the 2 tablespoons of honey, and stir gently to mix. Please know that I did not want to over-sweeten this, instead wanting the natural sugars in the fruit to take care of all of the sweetness, so I only added 2 tablespoons of honey. However, if you generally like your compote sweeter, consider adding more! Cover the fruit and let simmer down for about 5 minutes. Watch the pot to make sure that nothing burns!

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After the 5 minute mark, you should see that the fruits have stewed and created a delicious looking “soup” mixture in your pot. Go ahead and continue cooking for another 5-10 minutes, or until the fruits are broken down and have lost their structure. Stir occasionally to allow the fruit to move around the heat of the pot and mix together.

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Once your fruit is broken down and has mixed well, remove from heat and stir. Add in your corn starch, stir, and let cool.

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After letting the compote cool, spoon carefully into your container of choice (I choose mason jars because I live in San Francisco and that’s practically the official beverage vehicle of the city). Seal tightly, admire, and store as you choose! Or just open back up and spoon on your waffles/oatmeal/ice cream/cake/chicken/pork/straight into your mouth. Whatever/whenever/wherever this recipe finds you, I hope it brings you relaxation and renewal for this Spring Season.

 

Bom Apetite

 

Brussels Sprouts and Bacon in a Balsamic Maple Glaze

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This dish is one of my own creation. For our small Friendsgiving, I was asked to bring a side dish to compliment my friend Alex’s oven roasted chicken. There were a variety of things I could have chosen to make, and yet, I found myself drawn to the idea of Brussels sprouts. For years, I fought the thought of eating Brussels sprouts – everyone knows they’re gross. But it wasn’t until college that I realized that I had been misled – we had all been misled- about Brussels sprouts! They are not gross at all, and done properly, can be quite delightful.

And so I came to decide that Brussels sprouts, with their unique earthy vegetable flavor, were the way to go for a Friendsgiving dish. Just remember that, although they were perfect for Friendsgiving, they don’t have to only come once a year.

And since I just can’t help myself, here are some fun facts about Brussels Sprouts:

  • they’re mini cabbages!
  • They originated in Europe (thought to be Brussels, Belgium) and were brought to America in the 1800’s
  • Most of the produce in the US is grown in the central valley of California and in Baja Mexico

 

Ingredients

  • Brussels sprouts, halved or quartered
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 3-4 garlic, minced
  • 4 slices of thick bacon
  • salt and pepper, to taste

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Once you’ve washed and cut your Brussels sprouts, place them in a bowl and set aside.

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Next, we add our sauces, which will serve as a marinade for now, but as a glaze later on! Although only adding a half cup may seem inadequate to providing enough flavor, please remember that the marinade is only meant to give them the beginnings of that delicious balsamic-maple sensation, as the glaze is really what will give the zing at the end. We will want to stir this all gently together, then let it sit in the fridge overnight (if possible).

Once they have thoroughly marinated, go ahead and take them out, putting them on a baking sheet lined with foil. Add in the garlic and spread them throughout the sprouts. Bake the sprouts at 375° F for about 20-25 minutes, depending on the ferocity of your oven as well as whether you halved or quartered them. Do not discard the marinade.

While the Brussels sprouts are cooking, start on your bacon. I apologize that I do not have a picture to go with this – I seem to have misplaced it. That being said, you’ll want to cook the bacon thoroughly (as with all pork products) and then let it cool on a paper towel or separate plate. Once cooled, cut the bacon into small, bite-size pieces to disperse throughout the sprouts at the end.

Additionally, while the bacon and the sprouts are cooking, place the remaining balsamic vinegar-maple marinade in a small bowl and place on medium heat. Soon, it will begin boiling, at which point you’ll want to stir it periodically to keep it from burning. By reducing the water content in the balsamic vinegar and maple concoction, we are creating a delicious syrupy glaze that will help to not only coat our sprouts and give them that seductive caramel color, but to also enhance them with a burst of sweet and tart flavor. You’ll reduce for about 7-10 minutes, or until the syrup has decreased in volume by about 1/2. Please use your best judgement on the timing of the reduction as no one wants burnt balsamic-maple syrup. 

Once all of the ingredients have been prepared and the Brussels sprouts are cooked, combine them all in a bowl or dish, add your salt and pepper, and serve! There is not much to the dish, but it definitely comes packing a punch of deliciousness. I hope that if you make this dish, you enjoy it surrounded by loved ones.

Bom Apetite!

Broccoli, Pea, and Cilantro Soup – The Easiest Soup You’ll Ever Make

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Hello All,

I currently write this post not from the comfort of my apartment in San Francisco, but rather from the stark and impersonal confines of a hotel room in Los Angeles. Having recently been transferred to a project that requires that I travel to Los Angeles for 3 weeks of each month has been somewhat of a disruption to my normal routines and daily life (to put it mildly). Please, don’t misunderstand me, for I am very grateful for the opportunities to spend time back in Southern California where there is a never-ending supply of sunshine, blue skies, and friends. However, cooking regularly is rather difficult when you see your kitchen for perhaps a weekend at a time. Those of you who know me well know that I am particularly fond of cooking (again, putting it mildly) and often find myself wishing that I could just cook and bake all day long. Now, that is a mere pipe dream as I face the reality that is a full-travel project.

Perhaps harder yet than cooking regularly is eating wholesome, healthy food regularly. Being in LA for part of the week means that my team and I end up eating out for every meal. Literally. Yet, that doesn’t mean I have to eat poorly (and subsequently suffer the consequences of such impulsive decisions). Sometimes, something as simple as preparing your delicious soup, with only delicious, healthy ingredients, is what you need to maintain your gastrointestinal sanity and recover from those crazy weeks of binge eating.

And best of all, it takes almost no effort to make.

Ingredients

  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, diced
  • 2 tbspns coconut oil
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cube chicken (or vegetable) bullion
  • 3 cups broccoli
  • 2 cups peas
  • 1/4 cup cilantro
  • salt and pepper

DSC_0774Start by chopping your onions and dicing your garlic. As many of you know, onions and garlic are my two favorite ingredients for any savory dish. Perhaps this is a remnant of my childhood days watching my grandmothers each cook with copious amounts of both ingredients, or perhaps it’s just my subconscious recognizing the undeniable truth that is the delicious, fragrant wonder of garlic and onions. Either way, I know that they are always the first ingredients I reach for.

DSC_0775My advice to you is not to fret about the size or uniformity of your chops when it comes to garlic and onions for this soup. Since it will all be blended together later into delicious liquid form, you really should only focus on making these first few steps as easy as possible for yourself. Chop them coarsely and set aside.

DSC_0782Once your onions and garlic are prepared, heat your coconut oil in a soup pot on medium-high heat. Add in the garlic and onions, stirring frequently to let them saute and gain a beautiful pearly translucence. Before they are completely sauteed to mushy nothingness, add in your 4 cups of water and the chicken bullion cube.

DSC_0785Bring the soup base back to a boil. As soon as the pot is simmering, let it gently boil for an additional 2-3 minutes.

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After letting the onions, garlic, and soup boil, it’s time to add the main attraction of the soup – the peas and broccoli. Out of necessity (and convenience), I used frozen broccoli and peas. I have nothing against it, and encourage it if you do not have fresh ingredients on hand. Once added, go ahead and bring the soup back to a gentle boil, leaving it to simmer for an additional 15 minutes.

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After the vegetables have thoroughly cooked and warmed, soaking in the flavors of onion and garlic, transfer all of the ingredients in the soup pot to your trusty blender. If it doesn’t all fit in one turn, blend half the ingredients at first, and then repeat with the second half of the ingredients.

DSC_0798Add in your cilantro to the ingredients in the blender.  Cilantro, which is a hit or miss ingredient for many people, I find adds a lot of character to a soup like this one. It’s got a somewhat strong flavor, and is very earthy and herbed. Yet, when added in as a flavor note in a soup like this, it really only helps to blend all of the ingredients together (see what I did there?).

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Give the blender a few pulses to make it all blend evenly, and you’re done! It’s really and truly that simple to create a delicious dish that is both hearty, tasty, and healthy.

I’ve known many people who, in the face of the adversity of maintaining a healthy lifestyle while traveling every week and eating out constantly, feel overwhelmed and simply give up on being healthy. Frankly, it’s far easier to just say “Forget it, I’m going to do what I want”. Been there, done that.

Yet, for whatever reason, I’ve recently come to the realization that your health is not something you can bargain with. You can put off mowing the lawn or doing laundry, but you can’t put off taking care of your body. You can’t do irreparable damage to it now, and then hope that some day down the road, you’ll be fine. Yes, I still enjoy eating burgers with my friends, going to Bi-Rite in the Mission for ice cream, and drinking wine while reading my book in my apartment. I don’t think anyone should just give up foods they love. But I DO believe in eating them in moderation, and doing your absolute best to eat healthy the majority of the time.

May this soup find you healthy, happy, and wholesome.

Bom Apetite!

Potluck Problems Pacified – Caramelized Green Onion Sweet Potatoes or Chicken Curry Salad

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Many apologies for the long lapse since my last post! As life is wont to do, it got busy. Part of my business comes from becoming more involved at work, and spending more time with my coworkers, whom I’m growing more and more fond of! The best part of a big team is team bonding activities like…potlucks!!!

Recently, I made two separate dishes that are great for potlucks. And each with less than 5 ingredients, they are incredibly easy to make!

 

Chicken Curry Salad 

  • 2 chicken breasts, cooked and cooled
  • 1/2 cup nonfat plain greek yogurt
  • 2 tsp curry powder
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • salt and pepper

 

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I have to admit, making this Chicken Curry Salad may have been one of the easier recipes I’ve undertaken. Aside from cooking the chicken, it’s literally all about mixing. Unless you have rather spastic muscles, which in turn prevents you from holding a spoon long enough to stir these few ingredients together, you will definitely be able to master this recipe.

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Start with your chicken. Cutting the chicken into bite sized pieces, place them in a separate bowl. I used thigh meat, as it’s my favorite, but breast works equally well (if not better) for a salad.

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Next, add in your greek yogurt. I absolutely love the tartness that the greek yogurt added to my salad. It wasn’t overpowering, but made it all feel light and healthy instead of bogged down by sugar or other flavors. I apologize in advance, my pictures indicates that there is a high ratio of yogurt to chicken. I over-calculated when I first added the yogurt, and ended up adding more chicken after the fact.

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Add to your chicken and yogurt the 2 teaspoons of curry powder. A common misconception regarding curry powder is that it makes your food spicy. In reality, it is simply a flavoring spice, and adds very little kick (albeit some). I have only recently realized just how zesty curry really is, appreciating the warm, spiced, earthy taste it adds to my chicken, soup, and rice.

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After the curry powder, simply add all the fun stuff! Raisins and almonds give such a tender sweetness to the dish. I always find myself overdoing it (the more raisins, the better, usually). However, for the purposes of keeping this mildly healthy, I restrained myself. Gently mix all of this together, add salt and pepper to taste, and voila! Chicken Curry Salad!

Many variations I’ve seen include golden raisins instead, adding grapes, adding green onions, adding shredded carrots, and whatever other spices your heart desires. I simply chose the simplest version, and want you to add your own creative twist!

Caramelized Green Onion Sweet Potatoes

  • 4-5 large sweet potatoes, peeled
  • 3-4 stalks green onions, diced
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, diced
  • 2 tblspns brown sugar
  • 3-4 tbslpns coconut oil
  • salt and pepper

 

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 Sweet Potatoes are one of my favorite vegetables/starches. Slightly sweeter than the regular potato, they are very flavorful and have a great texture when mashed. And although it’s not considerably more than the regular old boring potato, they have more nutrients!

To prepare your sweet potatoes, first peel them and wash them. Sadly, we must discard the nutrient rich skins for this recipe. Then, cut them up into smaller chunks and place in a pot of water to boil. Boil all of your sweet potatoes for 10-15 minutes, or until they are easy to pierce with a fork. Remember, you want them to be a consistency that is easy to mash up.

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While the potatoes are boiling, let’s caramelize our green onions! Chop your onions  into small diced bits, and put aside.

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Melt your coconut oil in a skillet on medium heat. Once the oil is properly heated, add in your green onions! Let them crisp and cook in the oil for about 2-3 minutes, then add your garlic. Let that cook an additional 2 minutes. Be sure to stir often enough to keep anything from sticking or burning. If the garlic seems like it’s burning, go ahead and lower the heat. You want the sweetness of the garlic to come out, and certainly don’t want any charred crispy black bits in your mashed sweet potatoes.

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Once the onions and garlic are cooked to softness, turn down the heat to low and add your brown sugar. Once you add the brown sugar, you’re going to want to stir this constantly so as to keep anything from clumping or turning into a sticky, chewy mess.

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( you can see how I didn’t turn down the heat enough because the sugar did not mix thoroughly enough with the oil. Whoops!)

As soon as you’ve mixed the brown sugar into the coconut oil-green onion-garlic mixture, turn off the heat and set aside. Then, in a separate bowl, start mashing your sweet potatoes. They should be rather easy to mash if you’ve cooked them long enough. Once they’re mashed, add in your coconut oil mixture, salt, and pepper. Mix more thoroughly, helping the coconut oil to smooth it all into a more velvety consistency. Once you’ve mixed it to the point where you can’t take another second of waiting to eat, go ahead and chow down!

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These potluck inspired dishes couldn’t come at a more significant time for me emotionally. As we all change in our own personalities, views, and personas, we find it harder to reconcile who we are as an individual with who we are as part of a group. I myself have had difficulties “fitting in” my loud, gregarious, awkward personality with some of my quieter, more sensitive coworkers. Additionally, the transition to work life has, as most large life changes can be, been rather hard to undertake as I find myself constantly stressed, tired, or worn out. Spending all day at a computer, working and focusing, does not encourage staying out even later afterwards to partake in extracurricular activity. More than anything, the transition leaves me frequently yearning for the days of college when I was constantly surrounded by friends, constantly busy with things to do, and far less overwhelmed by the responsibilities of adulthood.

These potluck dishes for me were simple and flavorful, as well as fun and personal, allowing me to bridge the gap between who I am individually and who I am in the group setting. They, to me, are a symbol of finally making that transition to a point in my new life here in San Francisco where I am starting to feel truly at home. As we shared our dishes, I enjoyed sharing foods that I find comforting and tasty with those who are part of my team, and also enjoyed trying theirs in turn. I felt included, and inclusive. I felt that I had people I knew on both a professional and personal level, and that I was finally making the connections I have felt void of when I first began my job. As many of my friends and family know, food to me is more than just nourishment, but a symbol of communion and sharing that I think delves deeper into our connection with each other as humans than most other things can. I love potlucks simply for the way that they allow us to share something of ourselves with others, and to receive likewise in turn. I hope that you will find the same joy in making (and sharing) these dishes as I did.

 

Bom Apetite!

 

 

 

A Special Treat: Super Smash Bros Cake!

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Every young person dreams of finding a job where she can have fun with her coworkers and really enjoy her time with them, both during and after work. Which is why I consider myself a very, very lucky lady. Tomorrow, after work, my team will be partaking in a self-organized Super Smash Brothers melee (there are nearly 20 of us, so it’s actually feasible) with potlucking and partaking of the wine. I thought it would be fun to surprise my team with a butter vanilla cake decorated like a Mario Mushroom!

The recipe for the cake was converted from a Sable Breton butter cake tart recipe found hereThe recipe itself is incredible easy. I’ll rehash it out here since I had to convert it from metric. 

Ingredients:

  • Cake:
    • 4 egg yolks
    • 2/3 cup butter
    • 1 cup flour
    • 1.5 tsp baking powder
    • 2/3 cup sugar
    • splash of vanilla
  • Frosting
    • 2 cups powdered sugar
    • 1/2 cup butter
    • 2 tspn vanilla

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Start by preheating your oven to 325° F, and buttering a small pan to grease it. The original recipe called for four small round tins, but wanting to make a larger cake, I just placed all of the batter in one dish. I’d like to preface the actual preparation instructions by saying that I had a difficult time following the instructions, so some things were done out of order…

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Cream the butter (without melting) with your beaters or a wooden spoon. Once it is creamy and smooth, add in your sugar and mix thoroughly. I like to use electric mixers because a) it’s easier, b) it’s faster, and c) it ends up much smoother and creamier that way.

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Add in your yolks to the sugar/butter mixture. Separating yolks from egg whites is not extremely difficult, although it can take a little bit of practice. I ended up saving my discarded egg yolks and making myself breakfast for the next day (no sense in wasting!). Using your mixer, beat it all together thoroughly. This will give it a delicious buttery yellow look. Hopefully, you don’t have any lumps in the mix!

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Next, add together your baking powder, salt, and flour in a separate bowl. Mix loosely with a fork (helps aerate and mix it thoroughly) to get it to mix together. Although I did not take a picture of it, I ended up getting out my sifter (so much fun!) and sifting it all into the bowl of yolk mixture. However, if you don’t have a sifter, this is the time to make sure it all mixes evenly, and there are no lumps!

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Once the batter is well mixed and smooth, spread it evenly in the greased pan. Place the pan in the oven and set a timer for 15 minutes. I like to set the timer for less than the recipe says as my oven tends to be overactive and burn my baked goods. I ended up baking for a total of 20 minutes, or until a toothpick came out clean from the center of the pan. Thankfully, while baking it smoothed out and lost those ridges above (probably due to the copious amounts of butter), thus making it easier for future frosting!

Once the cake has baked appropriately, set aside to cool! This will take quite a while, so if on a time budget, consider making the cake ahead of time. You can also try putting the cake in the fridge to help it cool, although I feel like that is not the best solution for a delicious, buttery, warm cake like this. :p

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While the cake bakes (and cools), you can prepare the frosting by melting the butter in a microwave safe bowl, and then combining all of the frosting ingredients with an electric beater on high speed. I ended up setting aside white frosting for the circles and the eyes, and then just coloring the rest with red food dye.

Spread a nice even portion on the top half of the cake, rounding upward in the middle to create the round shape of the mushroom. Do your best, trust me, it doesn’t have to be perfect.

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Then using a black frosting ( I had to cave and buy a tube of black at Target since I didn’t have black colored dye), shade in the outsides to create the slimness of the bottom portion of the mushroom. Mine ended up looking a little like he had some serious side burns, but I still loved it. Additionally, use the black to create the underpart of the eyes by placing two nice little strips side by side with a small dot of the leftover white at the top.

With that, you have a finished, beautiful Super Smash Bro’s themed Mushroom cake! Bom Apetite!

 

 

Blue Cheese Baked Chicken with Thyme Sprinkled Mushrooms and Potatoes

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For anyone who knows me, they’ll be able to tell you in an instant that one of my favorite things to do is to cook. And from that passion for cooking comes a passion for watching cooking shows. Watching master chefs spin culinary delights while breaking all barriers about what we know and don’t know about cooking is fascinating to me. It’s somewhat like when you happen across an idea or concept that you’d never even considered before, and suddenly completely shifts the paradigm in which you had lived before, opening new and exciting ways in which to view and think!

Although that may seem a drastic or hyperbolic way to describe something as seemingly simple as watching a cooking show, it seems the perfect way to describe what cooking shows are to me. As such, I finally decided to not just take in that amazing creative process, but to try and do it myself! Hence, one of my first creations without a recipe to guide me, Blue Cheese Baked Chicken with Thyme Sprinkled Mushrooms and Potatoes.

Ingredients:

  • Chicken
    • 2 chicken breasts or thighs
    • bread crumbs (enough to shallowly cover the bottom of a plate)
    • 2 eggs
  • Mushrooms and Potatoes
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 3-4 tablespoons thyme, chopped
    • 2-3 cups mushrooms, diced
    • 2 medium sized potatoes, diced
    • 1/2 white onion, diced
    • 4 cloves garlic, minced
    • salt and pepper

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When I first envisioned this meal, I imagined something warm, hearty, and savory. It was a cold night, with lots of rain and wind howling through the narrow streets of my neighborhood, and I couldn’t help but want something that would warm me up and linger on the tongue with all kinds of savory flavors. I was pretty happy with the results.

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To start, prepare your potatoes, thyme, garlic, and mushrooms. I chose to chop my potatoes in smaller sized pieces so a to help them cook faster, and to get them a little crispier. The mushrooms were chopped rather large since I knew that they would shrink as they cooked.

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Additionally, thyme, which is one of the most underrated herbs, is deliciously fragrant and beautifully colored. To get it off of the sprig easily, pinch your fingers around the base of the sprig and gently pull along to easily remove the leaves from the base. Once you’ve got a nice bunch of thyme set on your cutting board, give it a few quick chops with your knife and set aside.

Garlic, which is the most amazing of all vegetables in my humble opinion, is crucial to this recipe. Which is why I use maybe twice as much as any normal recipe would recommend. Since the garlic will carmelize and cook down as you make your potatoes, I didn’t mince, but thoroughly chopped.

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Now that your potato ingredients are ready, heat up a skillet with the oil in it on medium-high heat, and put only your potatoes in. They will need a lot longer to cook (maybe 10 minutes) than everything else. As they cook, cover with a lid and check regularly to make sure nothing is burning. You want them to crisp on the outsides and gain a nice golden brown coloring.

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While your potatoes fry, start preparing your chicken! Turn your oven on to 350º F and prepare a baking sheet with foil. For this part, you will need one shallow plate for egg dip, and one shallow plate for the bread crumbs.

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Taking your washed chicken, pat it dry with a paper towel to remove any extra moisture. This will help the egg and bread crumbs to cling better to your chicken. Your eggs should be swirled together with a fork to mix together yolk and whites. One you’ve patted your chicken dry (an odd phrase), place delicately in the eggs, dip in the chicken, and lay out on your baking sheet.

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Once you’ve added only the spices to your chicken, place in the oven and set a timer for 20 minutes. You will not add the blue cheese until the timer goes off as the cheese would  only melt, bubble, and burn if left in the oven that long. Don’t worry, I would never forget about the blue cheese.

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Now, let’s also not forget about the potatoes. As you’ve been watching them and occasionally stirring them, you should now be ready to add the rest of the ingredients. Gently fold in the thyme, onions, mushrooms, and garlic, and stir. The fragrance of the thyme and onions and garlic should waft up to you and make your stomach grumble with anticipation. It certainly made mine while I was cooking. Go ahead and cover again so as to keep the mushroom juices from evaporating while cooking, and set a timer for about 5 minutes. Gently stir once or twice throughout those five minutes to keep anything from burning or sticking.

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Go ahead and prepare your blue cheese by crumbling it into a nice large pile. Once the 20 minute timer goes off, take your chicken out and spread the blue cheese evenly on top. I recommend pressing it gently into the chicken so as to get it to stick to the chicken and to coat evenly with the crumbs. Your chicken should only need another few minutes in the oven to melt the cheese and ensure the chicken is cooked through.

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After the 5 minute potato timer goes off, uncover your mushrooms and potatoes. Check to see if the potatoes are cooked by poking a larger piece with a fork. The fork should slide gently into potato. One your potatoes are cooked, turn off the skillet and set aside.

When all is ready, set on a plate, admire for a hot second, and then devour. 🙂

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Now that I am becoming an adult (whatever that means) and directing my own life and making my own decisions, I find that I come across a lot of decisions and choices that I don’t quite know how to make. I’ve never had to pay taxes, or decorate an apartment, or decide how to invest savings. I don’t know how to balance my work life and non-work life yet, and I don’t know what I want to do with my career. I don’t even know how to date or meet people (still in the learning process!). Being creative and confident seems alien and unfamiliar, and often leaves me befuddled. More than anything else, I find that the hardest thing of all is making decisions and choices that help me to define who I am and what I want to be.

To combat this unfamiliarity, I look to small, creative projects like this. Whether it’s coming up with a new recipe, or learning how to sew something, or writing a book (another small project I’m starting on), everything slowly comes down to trying to define yourself how you want to define yourself. This recipe is a metaphorical representation, in my opinion, of myself: nothing too fancy, a little quirky, fun, and satisfying. It represents trying to do something new, and taking a risk in doing so. While cooking is nothing incredibly dangerous or risky (depending mostly on how you do it O.o), taking leaps in life is. We don’t know who we will meet or what situations will be thrown at us. All we can do is try to be creative, have fun, and learn more about ourselves in the process.

 

Here’s to hoping that this recipe finds you happy, healthy, and a little bit wiser. Bom Apetite!