Saturday, April 7, 2012

Cinnamon Swirl Coffee Cake, Something Clever, and Something Clever

Last night I was so exhausted that I went into the bedroom to change clothes and landed face-down, fully-dressed, in four-inch heels, on the bed and passed out.  At 7 pm.  Oh, how the mighty have fallen.    It's probably a good thing given that I got up at 4 am to start prepping for tonight's fundraiser and tomorrow's brunch.

Speaking of brunch, this would be excellent for an Easter Morning treat:

I resisted the urge to add a campy pun up there.  You're welcome.

What you need:

1 cup sour cream
3/4 cup butter, softened to room temp
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup chopped walnuts ((optional))
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 eggs
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup white sugar

What to do:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Lightly grease and flour a 10-inch bundt pan.  Don't have a bundt pan?  You're screwed.  Sorry.  I would guess that you could use an angel-food cake pan, but seriously, get yourself a bundt pan.  I know someone who can hook you up with a good one if need be.

In your mixer, cream 1 1/2 cups white sugar together with the eggs until well blended.  Then add the sour cream and softened butter ((or margarine)) and beat well.  Add flour, baking soda, and baking powder and mix well. Stir in vanilla and the chopped nuts if you are using them.  ((Want to know my favorite way to chop nuts?  Put them in a baggie and jump on them.  Yep.  Classy, all the way.))

In a separate bowl, mix the remaining 1/4 cup of white sugar with the cinnamon.

Pour half of the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mixture all over it. Cover with the remaining cake batter.

Bake at 400 degrees for 8 minutes. Lower heat to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 40 minutes.  Because I have been asked this before, no, you don't take it out of the oven until the heat reduces.  And no, you don't leave the door open to help it cool down.  It's part of the process.  Go with it.

Let it cool for about 10 minutes in the pan and then flip it over and let it finish cooling on a rack.

I'll try to grab a photo of the inside tomorrow when I slice it.  I might forget.  Picture swirls of cinnamon sugar going through the middle.  Yum.
This recipe has been in my email folder for a few years.  I have no idea where I may have originally gotten it.  Bad Jules.


Okay, I gotta run.  It's almost 2:30 and I have yet to have lunch.  Yikes.  I'll be back tomorrow with one of my favorite brunch items...  Sun-dried tomato, Italian sausage, and spinach egg bake.  ((It's called 'egg bake' where I'm from.  I'm not sure what y'all call it in other parts of the country.  I should figure that out.))

Friday, April 6, 2012

Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette, Fundraising, and CheeseFest

I really thought that this week I would find out what my "new normal" was.  I'm beginning to think that there is no such thing and that this is the new normal.  A lack of normality is the new norm.  I can handle that.

I'm running about a thousand and twelve errands for the fundraiser tomorrow and the brunch I'm catering on Sunday, but managed to sneak away last night long enough to meet one of my dearest friends at Petite Maison.  It was too dark too photograph, but oh dear Lord, I may never be the same.  Escargot, roasted duck, and Grand Marnier Souffle.  Kill. Me. Now.  I highly, highly, highly ((very)) recommend.  I uttered words I am quite sure that have never been said after taking a bite of the souffle.  It was not appropriate.  It was not polite.  I meant it.

In between battling the Easter crowd at Walmart ((ugh, seriously)) and looking like a candidate for the Betty Ford Clinic while stocking up on beer and wine for these various events at Costco, I made a quick lunch:  Shrimp and Avocado Salad with a Citrus Lime Vinaigrette.

I really don't understand why people buy salad dressings.  Certainly, I have done it, and will do it again, but it is soooo much better when you do it yourself.  It costs about a thousandth of what you spend, it keeps for up to two weeks in the refrigerator, and it actually tastes like something other than oil and/or sugar.

What you need:

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice (key limes are good)
1 small jalapeno pepper, ribs and seeds removed, coarsely chopped (leave in some seeds if heat is desired)
1 clove garlic, halved
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon sugar OR 1/8 teaspoon honey  ((I like it better with honey))
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 pinch cumin
1 pinch salt, to taste
1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro

Put everything but the cilantro in the blender and puree.  Add the cilantro and pulse.  Stick your finger in ((after it stops, please)), give it a sample, and adjust anything that you think needs adjusting.

This will keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks in a bottle with an air-tight stopper.  Just shake it well before using it.

This recipe was originally printed ((to my knowledge)) in Fitness Magazine.

I threw some on top of a salad of romaine, heirloom tomato, cold shrimp, shredded Mexican cheese, and black bean salsa.  A dollop of sour cream would have been nice...

All right, time to get back at it.  Tomorrow begins the preparation of what I am deeming CheeseFest 2012 as well as some baking for the girls' brunch on Sunday.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Crockpot Chicken with Carrots and Cauliflower, Chalkboards, and Chores

Busy, busy day.  Most of it self-inflicted.  I knew given the pace I was keeping at 11 am that dinner was going to end up being microwave popcorn if I didn't act early.  I elected to fire up ye olde slow cooker to be sure that didn't happen.

Chicken, Carrots, Cauliflower, and C(P)otatoes.  I wanted them all to start with C. 

This is incredibly simple, but so, so good.

What you need:
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 potatoes, sliced
4 carrots, sliced
1/2 head of cauliflower, tree-ed ((you know what I mean))
1 red pepper, chopped
Steak seasoning

What you do:

Spray your slow cooker/crock pot with cooking spray.  Throw in the chicken first ((it can be frozen even)) and then add all the chopped veggies.  Sprinkle the top with steak seasoning.  Set it to high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours.  IT IS THAT EASY.  You don't even need to stir it.  When it is done, sprinkle a little Parmesan on top.

But what you get is incredibly healthy and flavorful with no butter, no sauce, no oil, and incredibly good.  This is forkable chicken, no knife required.  It also reheats really well.

Makes four servings.  Nutritional info:  Sainthood!  Approximately 320 calories, 2 grams of fat (not including the cheese on top.)


So what was I so busy doing?  Work-work, 5 different errands, planning a vegan/vegetarian menu for a bachelorette brunch which was a bit of a challenge, but a fun one, finalizing stuff for the fundraiser on Saturday, making shopping lists, a bunch of chores, an hour of yoga, dealing with a bunch of crap mail and email, scoring/ordering another hundred dollars in free kitchen stuff for a grand total now of $900 in FREE stuff, and going off on a creative tangent.

I had the idea to make menu boards for these various events, but I wanted to use a chalkboard so I could reuse them, blah blah blah, uninteresting reasons, blah.  So I took off for the craft store with nothing more than a vague idea and put myself in the capable hands of someone who clearly doesn't read past a 4th grade level.  AWESOME.  Anyway, I left with things that I thought would fulfill my own amorphous ((I hope I'm using that right)) ideas, came back, did some spray painting, managed not to spray paint myself or the dogs, and they are done!  Apparently you have to wait 24 hours for them to "cure" which is of course, killing me.  I am not good at delayed gratification.  I'll post a picture tomorrow.  If this works, I'm a damn genius.  If not, it is the 4th grade reading ability girl's fault.


There has been a lot of new traffic around here.  ((Waves vigorously at the new people!!))  Feel free to say hi...  Off to do some studying.     

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Tuna Salad-Salad, Photo Failure, and OHMYGODIWANTTHATNOW

Last night I went out to make dinner for my mother and a couple of her friends.  I specifically decided upon making Chicken Parmesan so that I could a) test it out and b) take photos for this little corner of the internet.  Guess what I forgot to do?  Ugh, I suck at this.  It might have been that the three of them had been sitting at the table, perhaps pounding their forks in anticipation, for quite some time.  ((Just kidding.  Well, about the fork-pounding part.))  Or it could just be that I'm an airhead.  ANYWAY, it really did turn out well and I was so presumptuous about it being forkably-tender that I didn't put out any knives.  Total service fail.  I really need to pull it together.

Today, I am playing catch-up on about a million different projects and opted for a quick lunch.  It's Tuesday, which means we are still pretty much behaving on our diets, so this is a good option:  Tuna Salad-Salad.


One package of tuna ((I buy the Albacore Starkist kind which is packed in water.  It costs a little more than the other stuff, but it is much better and doesn't look like cat food.  The stuff that is packed in oil is just gross and you should stop doing that.))
1 tablespoon fat-free mayo
1 tablespoon pickle relish
1/2 tablespoon dried minced onion
1/4 teaspoon celery seed
Black pepper
1/3 of a tomato
1 tablespoon of balsamic dressing ((I like Paul Newman's because I like Paul Newman.))
1 tablespoon or so of Parmesan cheese

What to do:

In a small bowl, mix together the tuna, mayo, relish, onion, and celery seed.  Crack a little black pepper on top and squeeze the lemon over it.  ((If I had regular celery, I would have chopped some up and put it in there but alas, no.  Life is hard sometimes.  If you were my mother, you would also add those shoestring potato fries.  I'm not against it, I just don't dare buy them or I will end up with my face stuck in the bottom of the can.))  Set the bowl aside for the moment.

Chop up the romaine and tomato, throw it on a plate, and then add the dressing.  Scoop your tuna salad on top, sprinkle on some Parmesan, and there you have it... Tuna Salad-Salad.

Yes, that was incredibly simple and probably totally useless knowledge.  However, I have committed to posting here every day and goddammit when I commit to something, I do it overzealously and with an unreasonable level of attachment.


I am back to a million other things, but yesterday as I was running around working on the details of the dinner with less than an hour to spare, I posted on FB, "If I'm making chicken parm on spaghetti with garlic bread, what's for dessert?!"  Here is the best answer which we MUST try:

Those. Look. Amazing.  And I don't even really like desserts.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Not Paradise, Shrimp-Kale-Basmati Palooza, and Happy Everything

Dear Paradise Bakery Cashier, I want my $9.77 back because I had to listen to you shriek in a voice that sounded eerily like Pee-Wee Herman, "WOULD YOU LIKE SOMETHING TO DRINK? THAT WILL BE WHATEVER DOLLARS" at every customer.  Yes, it was in Surprise or Sun City or Miracle Ear, Arizona, but Jesus H. Christ, I should not be able to hear every word you squawk through a 2,500 square foot restaurant.  I intentionally was speaking to you as softly and as lowly as I could in hopes you would mirror.  Um, no.  So then I sat as far away from you as possible.  75% of those people could hear you just fine.  Modulate.  Thank you,  Jules

Sorry, I had to get that off my chest.  So fricking annoying.


It's Monday.  You know what that means.  Time to renew our "Not Eat Like a Garbage Can" plan for another couple of days before we all say to hell with it and start over again next week.   ((Just kidding.  I totally don't do that.  Never have, never will.  I don't think anyone is believing me.))

Let's do something that will make your trainer proud that I am struggling to come up with a name for so let's just call it Shrimp-Kale-Basmati Rice-a-polooza.  ((Seriously, I've got nothing better.))  This is another one of those concoctions that is good for "using stuff up" before you have to throw it out.  Easy, breezy.

What you need for two:

12 or so small/medium *cooked* shrimp ((I still have a bag of frozen cooked shrimp that I think is regenerating itself because it never seems to end))
Red pepper flakes
A couple of tablespoons of soy sauce
1 clove of minced garlic
2-4 green onions
A bunch of kale
1 cup of mushrooms
A handful or two of green beans
1/2 cup of uncooked basmati rice
1 tablespoon EVOO

Blast Off:

Start by preparing the basmati according to the package directions.  I prefer to add the rice, EVOO ((that's olive oil if you aren't paying attention)), and water all at once, bring it to a boil, and then let it simmer, covered, for 12-15 minutes.  Stir it occasionally to make sure it isn't sticking to the bottom.  It's done when the water is absorbed and it looks nice and fluffy.

Marinate the shrimp for a few minutes.  I just throw it in a bowl with a little bit of soy sauce while I'm chopping stuff up.

Clean the veggies while the water/rice is coming to a boil.  Take the middle stems out of the kale, slice up the mushrooms, and de-string the green beans if needed.  All that means is to snap off the ends where there are string-y things.  You will have no clue what the hell I'm talking about if you just use stuff from a can which I highly discourage you from doing because those are disgusting.  This is why most people think they hate vegetables.  

Start by either spraying your sautee pan with cooking spray or throwing in a little bit of olive oil.  Use a medium to medium-high heat.  Add the chopped green onions ((the lower white parts)) and the garlic.  Let that sizzle around for about 3 minutes.  Add a splash of chicken broth or water and add the green beans.  Cover and let them steam for about 3 minutes.  Add in the kale and the mushrooms, give it a stir, and maybe another splash of broth if it seems like it is all gone and recover and let steam for another 2 minutes or so.  Finally, add in the shrimp and a dash of red pepper flakes.  Stir it all around until the shrimp are hot.  ((These are pre-cooked so they just have to be warmed up.))

Serve the shrimp-kale-mushrooms-beans over the basmati.  I actually ((as pictured)) separated out the beans and mixed everything else together.  I then topped it with some of the upper parts of the green onion.


So there you have it.  Happy Monday, Happy April, and Happy Whatever Else.  Do something interesting this week, would ya?

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Lemon-Butter Crusted Chicken, Real Titles, and Correspondence School

Real Title:  THE BEST F*CKING CHICKEN EVER.  ((Waves vigorously to the relatives who are just oh-so-proud right now.  Sorry.  Not really.))

I'm sorry that I'm not sorry.  Sort of.

I know I toot my own horn a lot, I do have at least a degree from a correspondence school in shameless self-promotion, but seriously, this is the best thing ever.  I did not make all of it up, but if I did, I would walk around with a tattoo on my chest that reads, "I invented the best f*cking chicken ever."  I would then buy new boobs with the money I made from my chicken empire so more people would see that tattoo and then do something about world hunger, obviously.  ((No, I'm not a little manic, why do you ask?!))  Anyway, run, do not walk, to make this so you can chime in and I can sound less like a jackhole.

The pictures don't do this justice.

Disclaimer:  This is going to look and sound hard.  It is not.  My "student" ((that makes me laugh)) who I don't think had ever even made chicken that wasn't served in a bucket by the Colonel did this and so can you.  We are going to go slow, but it only takes about ten minutes to prep.  I swear.

What you need:

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup of flour
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoons EVOO
3 tablespoon butter
2 eggs
1 lemon
1/3 cup fresh grated Parmesan
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 slices of Proscuitto
1/2 can of artichoke hearts
2 tablespoons of capers

What you do:

Preheat the oven to 350.

Place the flour and a few cracks of both sea salt and pepper into a gallon sized baggie and set it aside for a second.  In a pie pan, beat two eggs and then add the Parmesan.  Stir it around a little so the Parmesan is mixed in with the eggs.

Put the olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter in a large, FLAT skillet or frying pan.  Let it melt and get sizzle-y but for God's sake, watch it.  You do NOT want the butter to brown so pay attention.  

While that is getting sizzle-y, take your chicken breasts and throw them in the baggie with the flour.  Shake them around until they are coated.  Pull them out of the bag, one by one, and dip them in the egg mixture.  Throw them in the sizzle-y pan and let them go for only about 90 seconds to 2 minutes per side.  DO NOT F*CK WITH THEM.  Just let them be and don't move them around.  We are NOT trying to cook them, so don't worry.  After two minutes, they will flip over easily and there will be a nice, golden crust on them.   Do the other side and then remove them to a plate.

In that same pan, melt the two remaining tablespoons of butter.  Add the minced garlic and the juice from a lemon.  Let it simmer for about 2 minutes, scraping up the brown stuff from the bottom of the pan.

While that is simmering, take 2 pieces of foil that are like 8 inches long and arrange them in a baking dish, side by side.  Spray them very, very lightly with cooking spray and then place a chicken breast in each one.  Fold up the edges of the foil a little bit to start making a packet.  Pour the sauce you just made into the packets.  

Now add a slice of proscuitto to each packet.  Throw some lightly chopped artichoke hearts on top of that and a tablespoon of capers.  They are going to be rolling around and falling off, that's okay.  Throw a little bit more of the grated Parmesan on top and then add a very, very, very thin slice of lemon to the top.  Wad up the top of the foil to make it a packet.  It doesn't not need to be super tight.  In fact, I think the one that didn't quite close up entirely might have been the best.  ((This is the part I did make up.))

Bake them for 35 minutes.  At 35 minutes, pull them out and open up the packets.  Put them back in the oven for another 5 minutes.  Pull them out and prepare to die happy.

The chicken literally falls apart and doesn't require a knife.  So, so good.  Serve with some roasted asparagus and some plain long-grained rice.  The rice will pick up the extra juices from the chicken and you will look like you are some kind of a superstar.  You will also be pissed at all the money you have wasted on dried out chicken at restaurants.

You're welcome.  

Baked Brie Bites, Smushers, and a Publisher's Nightmare

Last night, I gave my first real cooking lesson--  A friend had approached me a couple of weeks ago and said, "Can I pay you to teach me how to make something?  Like anything?  I can usually boil water without a problem, but that's about it.  Do you do that?"  After about a millisecond, I was like, "OF COURSE!!  I totally do that as of right this second!"  I came up with a menu, sent her the shopping list, then had to send pictures of anything that didn't come in a can, and we got after it.  We made baked brie bites, lemon-butter chicken with proscuitto and artichoke hearts, rice, roasted asparagus, and apple oatmeal crisp.  It was really entertaining for both of us AND at the end she said she felt totally confident she could repeat the meal on her own.  Success!

The Baked Brie Bites came from an idea I saw on Pinterest and then completely changed up because I couldn't figure where I initially saw it and had to rely on my memory.  Argh.  I think what I saw called for phyllo dough, but I'm apparently not very reliable on this and in fact, maybe I dreamt it.  Oops.  Never mind, let's just do it my way.  To hell with Pinterest anyway.    

Fancy, fancy, fancy
 You need:

A package of wonton wrappers ((my new favorite thing which can be found in the produce area of the supermarket, usually by the organics for reasons I don't understand))
EVOO ((extra virgin olive oil))
A wedge of brie
1/2 cup of brown sugar
*Some* honey
Pears for garnish

What you do:

Preheat the oven to 350.

Take the wonton wrappers and very lightly brush them with olive oil on one side.  Put them into a mini muffin tin which you have lightly sprayed with cooking spray and smush them down in to make little cups.  I actually have a smusher-type gadget that I didn't realize was a smusher.  I thought it was a pestle.  Oopsiedoodle.  You don't need a smusher.  You can smush them with your fingers.  Smusher.  ((<---Making up words is fun.))

Add about a tablespoon of brie to each of the cups.  ((We under-filled ours...  You will want to fill it basically to the top.))  Sprinkle a little bit of brown sugar over each one.  Finish it with a drizzle of honey.

Bake for about 8 minutes until the edges are golden brown and remove to a cooling rack for a couple of minutes, then serve immediately.

((As we were doing this and I'm sort of meandering through my pantry halfway talking to myself, she says, "Do you know what you're doing?"  Um, no?  "So you are making this up right now?"  Yeah, basically!))

We garnished it with little slivers of pear to be extra fancy and gourmet-y.


From the "I'm apparently not a total idiot file," I *just now* discovered that I can upload pictures without going through the huge rigamarole that I have been.  It's like one button.  Holy shit, maybe I'm getting smarter.  It's about time.  Nah, doubtful.  I actually did it by accident and then somehow figured out how to repeat it.

I'll be back in a few to recap what has now been deemed THE BEST F*CKING CHICKEN EVER!  No, really.  That's its official name.  If I'm serious about actually publishing a cookbook, some editor is going to have one helluva time with me.  I'm still pissed, but totally not really, that the title 101 Desserts to Get You Laid is taken.  Sigh.