I suck. But this dip is really good.

9 Mar

Guys. I have been M.I.A. for way too long now. It has become a problem. All I can say is…I’ve been in a funk. A winter-slash-job-search-induced funk. Meanwhile, the incompetent bf has gone and landed himself a role in a high school play and is never home for dinner because he’s constantly rehearsing (hey, seducing 16-year-olds on stage is hard work), so combine that with the aforementioned funk, and there has been a lot of non-cooking going on in my apartment. I have instead been buying things of baked ziti from the Italian place down the street and forcing them to last for 4 dinners, microwaving frozen peas and carrots and putting parmesan cheese on them to convince myself that I’m eating a plate of pasta, and eating a whole lot of cereal. Oh, and chocolate. NOT PRETTY.

The one highlight has been my new rice cooker that my dad got me and discovering how amazingly delicious steel-cut oats are — but I think I might devote a whole post to that later (anyway, thanks dad!).

For now, I’ll leave you with a recipe I adapted for this other food blog I’ll be writing for (a real one where I have to try to talk like a real person and write in a formal, more upbeat way; it’s surprisingly difficult) — a healthier version of seven-layer dip. I tested it out on Sunday night, and the bf ate about 3/4 of it in 5 minutes, and kept moaning with happiness, so I’m thinking it’s pretty good. It’s also not as bad for you as regular seven-layer dip, so, holla! You can eat it with tortilla chips, or do what I did and put some in a couple tortillas and it’s like a sort of burrito situation.

“Holla”? “Like a sort of burrito situation”? Wow. Can you tell that I haven’t been writing and my brain is turning to mush?

Anyway, the shiz is good. Try it for your next party.

 

this is fairly close to what mine looked like, but with chopped avocado instead of guacamole. Trust me, the guac makes a difference.

 

 

Seven-Layer Dip

Ingredients:

Bean layer:

1 15 oz can refried black beans

¼ cup water

1 tsp chili powder

1/2 tsp cumin

dash of hot sauce (optional)

Guacamole:

2 medium ripe avocados, pitted and sliced into chunks

3 cloves garlic, minced

juice of one lime

pinch of salt

Pico de gallo:

3 medium tomatoes, diced

½ medium red onion, finely chopped

3 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped

juice of one lime

pinch of salt

Toppings:

1 cup shredded cheddar or Monterey jack cheese

1/2 small can black olives, sliced

1 jalapeño pepper, sliced

½ cup light sour cream

 

Method:

Guacamole: Mash avocados and combine with other ingredients.

Pico de gallo: Combine all ingredients

Beans:

Heat refried beans in a medium-sized skillet over medium-low heat. Stir in enough water to thin out the consistency of the beans and make them easier to spread and dip, up to ¼ cup. Stir in chili powder, cumin, and hot sauce if desired.

When beans are hot, spread in an even layer along the bottom of a large glass dish. Immediately sprinkle with cheese, so that cheese melts on the warm beans. Follow with a layer of guacamole and a layer of pico de gallo; top with sour cream, olives, and jalapeños for garnish.

Serve warm with tortilla chips, or make it a meal with warm tortillas.

Note: Your seven-layer dip can be eight layers, or six – have fun with it, and add other ingredients you love. Red peppers add crunch, while corn adds color (when I made it, I used this amazing frozen roasted corn from Trader Joe’s — so good); if you’re a big cilantro fan, add some more to the top layer (which I obviously did). Point is, play around with the ingredients. Heck, add some ground beef or turkey and make it a real meal (no offense vegetarians).

 

another picture for which I deserve no credit. It's nice though, no? Man I need to find that camera cord.

 

 

 

 

Things I Covet: Marchesa’s Fall 2011 Collection

17 Feb

Welcome to the new segment of my blog: Things I Covet. These things do not necessarily have anything to do with food — I just have to want them desperately.

NYC Fashion Week is ending, and while I didn’t get to go to any events, I’ve been following the coverage of the different shows. By far my favorite is Marchesa — some of the collection is, admittedly, a bit cracked out, but I mean, it’s Marchesa. So, duh. And some of it is also so floaty and romantic and lovely and I WANT IT ALL. Even the cracked-out pieces.

 

I think this is my favorite dress (it's so hard to choose!) -- probably because it is sparkly.

 

 

Actually, I can tie this to food — apparently, a bunch of the models had to sit down or almost fell over because they were so weak and tired of just standing there in 6-inch heels, and had to be fed water and peanut M&M’s. Food ahoy! And also: I will never be able to wear these dresses, because I am neither famous nor rich, and, more importantly, because all I ever do is eat and think about eating, and thus would probably not look so hot in these slinky numbers, anyway. So I’m afraid I must settle for coveting at a distance. Please take a look and covet with me.

 

To see the whole collection:

http://nymag.com/fashion/fashionshows/2011/fall/main/newyork/womenrunway/marchesa/#slide1&ss1

I am so depressed that I will never own one of these dresses that I’m going to go get a donut. Or possibly some ice cream.

 

Cocktail of the Week

15 Feb

Recently, the incompetent boyfriend and I went on a trip with my family. In the airport on the way home, he decided to take advantage of one of the duty-free liquor shops. He purchased two bottles: Big Black Dick rum (I know) and Absolut Peppar. I’m not terribly interested in exploring cocktail-making with the former (it would be impossible for me not to make dirty puns the whole time, so I’ll spare you that), but the Absolut Peppar intrigues me. My boyfriend bought it for Bloody Marys — however, we never do brunch, because on weekends I am usually tutoring, and while a drink or two could probably help me better explain the intricacies of the SAT, I also have to drive to my students’ homes. Plus, tipsy tutoring would be kind of unprofessional, I guess.

So I wondered: surely there must be other ways in which I can partake of this pepper-flavored vodka in the form of more suitably nocturnal drinks? I did some research, and it turns out there are a whole bunch of drinks that use this ingredient. I’m posting the ones that look the most delicious to me. I haven’t tried them yet (guys, it’s 11:39 am on a Tuesday — I’m not that dedicated to my blog. Wait, maybe I should be. It’s all for the sake of research, right?) so let me know what you think.

PINEAPPLE PEPPER MARTINI (www.make-martinis-at-home.com)

Sweet at first, with a kick at the end. Yum.

1 1/2oz pepper vodka
1/2oz simple syrup*
1/2oz fresh lime juice
2oz pineapple juice

Shake ingredients cold and serve in a martini glass.

PEPPAR HOT & DIRTY MARTINI (absolutads.com)

If you like salty drinks (cough, incompetent bf), this one’s for you.

2 parts pepper vodka

Dash of extra dry vermouth

Dash of olive juice

Pour vodka over ice. Add vermouth and olive juice. Shake or stir well. Strain and serve in a chilled cocktail glass.

PEPPAR DAIQUIRI (absolutads.com)

Again with the sweet and spicy together, which I love. You might want to wait till the weather’s warmer, though, since it’s frozen. But then again, I still eat ice cream in winter, so do you.

1 part pepper vodka

2 dashes lime juice

Dash simple syrup*

Fresh strawberries  (I’d use frozen ones — they’re cheaper, and you can get them year-round)

Mix with ice in a blender and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a strawberry. Press a slice of lime over the drink.

You can, of course, use other brands of pepper vodka. Or, if you’re feeling fancy, you can make your own! The always reliable Emeril provides a recipe here:

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/emeril-lagasse/pepper-vodka-recipe/index.html

BAM!

* To make simple syrup (sugar dissolved in water), which is great to have around to sweeten cold things, just combine equal parts sugar and water in a bottle and shake till sugar is dissolved.

 

Random Food-Related Video of the Week

14 Feb

Guys. I totally would have liked Oedipus better when I read it in high school if we had watched this movie. I suspect it also would have aided the many of my classmates who did not, in fact, read it.

The incompetent bf just sent this to me — it’s the Oedipus story acted out by fruits and vegetables. Oedipus is a potato; his dad (whose appearance, alas, is but brief) is a head of broccoli, and his mom is a tomato. And yes, there is a potato-tomato sex scene. This just brings the whole “play with your food” concept to a place I don’t think it’s ever been before — namely, veggie porn.

I don’t know about you, but I am totally counting this towards my daily vegetable intake requirements.

What I Made Last Night: Pizza

8 Feb

If you don’t like pizza, there is something wrong with you, and I would prefer that you stop reading my blog. Just kidding! Then I would have one less reader, which would bring me down to 2 or so. Don’t leave me! But do get your taste buds checked.

Anyway, it’s really easy to make at home if you buy the crust (I mean, obviously I wasn’t going to sit around all day waiting for homemade dough to rise. I have a life. Ok, fine, I don’t, but I still wasn’t going to make dough from scratch when I can buy better dough at Trader Joe’s for $1.99). And you can put on all sorts of delicious toppings for waaaay less than it would cost to order them all at a pizza place. Because I like my pizza with lots of stuff on it, this means that making my own pizza is generally far more cost effective than buying it, thus uniting my two main goals in life of 1. eating delicious food and 2. saving money.

Like I said, TJ’s has some great dough — I used the herby one, but they also have whole wheat. Your average supermarket should also have dough, probably in the refrigerated Italian section, near the ravioli and stuff. I don’t mess with those pre-made Boboli crusts — I have standards, guys. But whatever, use the crust of your choice, and complete with lots and lots of toppings! It’s a great way to impress your friends with your gourmet skillz and save some dinero.

 

yum!

 

 

Last night, I used vodka sauce instead of regular tomato sauce, then added some minced garlic (makes a big difference), and covered it with baby spinach, fresh mozzarella, a cheddar-gruyere mix, caramelized onions, and sliced grape tomatoes, and of course topped it off with my faves, grated parmesan cheese and crushed red pepper. It was delicious.

Other pizzas to try:

Greek:

feta, tomato, spinach, broccoli, mozzarella, onion

Hawaiian with a twist:

chicken sausage (try one of the sweet kinds, like apple), pineapple and mozzarella

Margherita:

olive oil, garlic, tomato, basil, fresh mozz

Blue cheese:

olive oil, blue cheese crumbles, honey, pear (this is actually delicious — try it!)

 

 

 

What I Made Last Night: Grown-Up Mac and Cheese

2 Feb

Fact of the day about me: macaroni and cheese is pretty much my favorite thing ever. It is my go-to food for when I am either a) sick or b) in a bad mood (both of which I seem to be fairly often, unfortunately), and I am convinced it possesses miraculous and magical healing powers of all sorts. My favorite mac and cheese from a box is Annie’s (this is the one thing the incompetent bf knows how to make — he had to learn for my sick and grumpy days, out of self-preservation, and actually is better at making it than I am), but really any sort of noodle combined with any sort of cheese is good enough for me (example: my best friend greeted me at the airport last week with a veritable vat of pasta with butter and melted cheese and it was quite possibly the most delicious thing I have ever eaten ever).

I didn't make this. I felt this post needed a picture -- you know, just in case you didn't know what mac and cheese looks like. God, this is giving me a major yen for some Velveeta. I think I may have a problem.

Anyway, despite my love affair with mac and cheese, I also feel guilty for eating it sometimes, because it’s unfortunately not the most nutritious thing in the world, so I feel the need to legitimize it by occasionally adding some frozen broccoli or something (as any pseudo-nutrition-conscious post-grad gourmand would do).  Last night, I took this to a new level — asparagus and spinach! — and also made it fancier by using blue cheese, which, as it turns out, was delicious. It was tangy and creamy, and the blue cheese was smooth, and far less overpowering than you’d imagine.

Sorry I have no pictures….we ate it too fast.

But here goes:

boil water and cook 1 lb pasta (I recommend whole wheat penne — better for catching the sauce than a thin noodle like spaghetti)

mince 6 cloves garlic

cook 1 bag frozen asparagus — I cooked it on the George Foreman to give a grilled flavor. You can also broil it, cook it in the toaster oven, whatever. If you want to get fancy and use fresh asparagus, go for it. When cooked, cut into smaller pieces.

drain pasta; add 1 bag baby spinach (rinsed) immediately (spinach will wilt pretty fast just from the heat of the pasta, so you don’t have to cook it)

add asparagus, 2 tbsp butter, 2 tbsp olive oil, 1/2 cup white wine, garlic, 4 0z crumbled blue cheese, and the juice of half a lemon, and salt and pepper to taste

stir everything around until blue cheese and butter are melted and distributed evenly over everything; they should form a sort of creamy sauce

serve with grated cheese (yes, more cheese. don’t judge me) and crushed red pepper (have you noticed yet that I put this on everything? Because I do).

This could also be good prepared beforehand, then baked for a while in a casserole dish with some bread crumbs on top, because, as we all know, the only way to improve upon pasta, cheese and butter is to somehow enter bread into the equation.

Cocktail of the Week

1 Feb

When I was in college, I totally thought that once people graduated, their alcohol consumption would decrease. WRONG. My friends consume the same amount, they just altered the drinking lexicon to sound more adult: frat parties and ’80s-themes dances became wine-and-cheese soirees and dinner parties, and pregames became happy hours. I recently walked by a bar in midtown Manhattan that offers a happy hour from 11-7 every day. 11 AM drink discounts. That’s how serious grownups are about their booze. However, if you are like me, you can’t really afford to meet your friends at bars after work, especially in NYC, where a drink is like $12. It’s so much better to make your own, no?

You may also be wondering why I am posting the cocktail of the week on a Tuesday. This, my friends, is because, in my thinking, when are you actually going to be in need of a drink more? Friday after work, when you still have the whole weekend ahead of you? Or Tuesday, which, in my opinion, is the worst day of the week, when it looks like the work week cannot possibly be close to ending? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

So anyway, my go-to drink to make and have with friends is sangria. By sangria, I pretty much mean any kind of wine combined with whatever fruit you have lying around your house, with possibly some juice or seltzer mixed in. Traditional sangria also has hard liquor, like rum or brandy, in it — ideally, you soak the sliced fruit in a bit of the liquor, then mix it with the wine and juice. Because you probably don’t have time to do that, you can skip that step. Here’s a recipe that I used with a friend of mine this past weekend, and turned out to be the most delicious sangria we’d ever made:

 

We made it in the jug -- sadly, this made getting the bits of fruit out rather difficult, which I found depressing, since the fruit is my favorite part.

White Sangria (it’s actually technically pink, but whatever)

We used a half-empty jug of white wine she had in her fridge. For the sake of clarity, let’s just say use one bottle, and then you can increase it yourself according to how serious you want your night to be.

so:

1 bottle white wine

1 apple, chopped into teeny tiny little pieces

1/2 bag frozen mixed berries (slice the strawberries)

1/2 bag assorted frozen fruit (pineapple, peaches, melon, grapes — whatever you can find)

note about the frozen fruit: buying it frozen not only saves you money, which should obviously be your main goal in life, but also the time it would take to cut various fruits into pieces. It’s a win all around.

another note about the fruit: this recipe calls for a lot of it, because I love me some alcohol-soaked fruit. Lots of it. You don’t have to use this much. However, if you do, you can almost pretend this is healthy, which is what I like to do.

2 oz. liquor — we used Bacardi Torched Cherry, which gave some extra flavor. I’d recommend any rum, flavored or not, with the white wine. If you’re more of a red wine fan, brandy works well.

a splash of juice or liqueur — there was some X-Rated Fusion fruit liqueur lying around my friend’s apartment, so we added a bit of that for even more flavor.

combine ingredients in a pitcher (you might need more than one. You can also use vases if you don’t have pitchers — they work just as well and they’re pretty)

put into fridge; let flavors seep for at least 30 mins before drinking

serve with seltzer water (any flavor you like), about 2 parts sangria, 1 part seltzer, to give it some sparkle

Enjoy! Not too much, though, because it is, after all, only Tuesday, and we’re not in college anymore, guys. Oh wait! You’re hosting a happy hour? Never mind, that totally legitimizes it. Have at it.

What I Made Last Night

26 Jan

Rigatoni with sausage and broccoli in a spicy tomato white wine sauce

 

This is my attempt at taking a picture using the built-in camera on my computer. Not awesome. I also clearly need to work on my food styling/general photography skills. But you get the picture (ha! get it?).

I love Italian food. Recently, however, I have realized that the Americanized versions of Italian food tend to have unnecessarily substantial amounts of cheese involved.  Don’t get me wrong: I love cheese, especially in giant glob form, as much as the next girl — actually, probably way more than the next girl, if I’m being honest. But somehow, for me, it’s easier to order something like that in a restaurant than to put all that cheese in myself.

This is a long way of saying that last night I decided to not make one of the cheesier Italian-ish things I usually make (chicken parm, cheese-stuffed meatballs, etc.) and try something new. I just made this up, and it ended up tasting pretty good, but it’s a work in progress, so feel free to alter it as you see fit.

So, here goes:

mince 5 cloves garlic

chop 1 head of broccoli (next time, I’ll actually probably use a little more than this)

heat 3 tbsp (uh, or something around there) olive oil in a skillet; when hot, add 2 cloves garlic and broccoli and cook until garlic is browned and broccoli turns dark green (cook longer for softer broccoli)

boil water and cook 1 lb whole wheat rigatoni or penne (I love whole wheat pasta — it’s more substantial and has a great nuttiness to it that I really like.  You should try it; it’s a great way to get more fiber and pretend you’re a grownup and stuff)

cook around 3 sausage links, depending on size. You can use Italian sausage, chicken sausage, Brazilian chorizo para la parrilla (only thing I could get here), whatever you like — I used 3 pretty big links, and had plenty, but use as much as you want. I’m not here to judge you for how much sausage you like.

I sliced mine in half lengthwise and cooked it on a George Foreman to get that nice grilled taste, then chopped it after — if you’re using chicken, you can slice it, then cook it in the skillet with the broccoli and garlic, to get each piece crispy.

drain pasta; add broccoli/garlic mixture and sausage.

Sauce:

combine in a saucepan:

1 cup tomato sauce (use whatever kind you like — I used an 8 oz Goya can, because it only cost 50 cents. Sometimes I really love my neighborhood)

1 cup white wine

a little water

the rest of the garlic

1/2 tsp oregano

crushed red pepper to taste (I put in about 2 tsp, which made my sauce pretty spicy)

simmer on low heat for about 10 minutes; pour onto pasta mixture; serve immediately with grated cheese

buon apetito!

I had never had white wine in this context before — I had always thought that white wine was reserved for white sauces and seafood — but it was a really good combination. The sauce was light, tangy, and spicy, and didn’t overwhelm the other ingredients. Next time I might add some diced tomatoes, and maybe also some onions, since the incompetent boyfriend is obsessed with them. Any other suggestions for improvements?

The Joy of Plátanos

25 Jan

Or, What I Made Last Night: Part 2

if only my grocery store had displays this organized

I love plantains. I love them so much that it pains me to eat rice and beans without them. I prefer sweet fried plantains (called maduros or amarillos), while my boyfriend like tostones, which are fried green plantains that aren’t sweet and are kind of chip-like. Because he is incompetent (as I have mentioned previously and plan to do frequently) and I have to do the cooking and thus get to decide what we eat, we usually have maduros, but I guess last night I was feeling particularly nice, because I made him tostones (you’re welcome).

Both are really quite easy to make (maduros are easier), so I’ll explain both and you can pick which one you like!

First, maduros:

For these, you have to buy plantains that are already ripe. For those of you who are accustomed to buying bananas, this is one thing that might freak you out, because when I say “ripe,” I don’t mean yellow — I mean black. Yes, black. Basically, the blacker the plantain on the outside, the sweeter it is on the inside. You don’t have to get totally black ones — the best ones (at least in my opinion) are the ones that are sort of mottled, part yellow and part black, which are still sweet but tend to be a little firmer. But anyway, the point is, they need to be really ripe. How to make them:

Peel plantains and slice into 1″ pieces — do it on a diagonal so they can lay flat.

Heat vegetable oil (lots of it — you want enough to cover each piece of plantain about halfway) in a skillet over medium heat until you can drop water in it and it sizzles.

Fry the pieces in the oil, about 2 minutes per side

Lower heat and continue cooking until plantains are brown

They should look like this when finished:

sorry about the watermark -- still no camera.

They’re best when they’re still hot, so this should be the last step in whatever meal you’re having. They can also be a dessert — sprinkle some sugar on them and serve with creme fraiche (or just sour cream). Trust me, they will change your life.

If you prefer savory things, then tostones are for you. They’re a little harder to make, but still pretty easy. For these, you need green plantains. Pro: unripe plantains are usually cheaper. Con: They’re a lot harder to peel. I actually recommend just cutting off the skin with a knife, since it’s so tough.The first few steps are exactly like the maduro-making process:

Peel plantains; slice on a diagonal into 1″ pieces.

Heat vegetable oil (again, lots of it) in a skillet over medium heat until you can drop water in it and it sizzles.

Cook pieces about two minutes on each side.

Here’s where you switch it up a bit:

Remove plantains from heat, and place pieces on a hard, flat surface on top of a paper towel (to absorb some of that oil) and smash them — the best method I’ve found is using the bottom of a glass. The plantain will spread out (you might have to push down hard) and make a thinner, wider piece.

Put them back into the skillet, and fry until golden brown.

They should look like this:

They won't look this perfect when you make them. Maybe next time.

Remove from heat and place onto paper towels; sprinkle with salt.

Serve with a dipping sauce like mayo-ketchup (yes, this is a real thing, and yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like — basically, Russian dressing) or with garlic and olive oil (al ajillo).

told you so.

 

Congratulations! You are now one step closer to fitting in in my neighborhood.

What I Made Last Night

25 Jan

Unless you live under a rock (which you might — hey, no judgment; the rent is too damn high these days), you have probably eaten rice and beans in some form during your life. I first had this perfect combination in Costa Rica, and have since eaten it pretty regularly (although I have also been chasing the rice and beans dragon ever since — I’ve never had any as good as those were).

I didn't take this picture, but this is what black beans and rice look like, in case you were wondering.

This dish is eaten throughout Latin America by just about everyone and with great frequency. It’s nutritious enough to be a meal pretty much by itself (together, beans and rice make a complete protein, which contains all the amino acids you need in a day. I’m not 100% sure what that means, but it sounds pretty good for you). It’s also really easy to make. Thus, it is a perfect meal for the busy and/or lazy post-grad.

I prefer black beans, so I usually make black beans and rice. Because just dumping a can of beans on rice is boring, this is what I usually do, and did last night:

heat 4 tbsp olive oil in a skillet over medium heat

add 4 big cloves garlic, minced

and 1 medium white or yellow onion, finely chopped

(you can also consider adding some chopped green pepper here — I didn’t have any last night, so I didn’t)

sauté until garlic and onion are golden brown

pour a jumbo can (or 2 15-oz cans) of black beans into a pot (don’t drain them), add onion/garlic/pepper mixture

add 1.5 cups water and 1 tsp oregano and salt and pepper to taste (note: a lot of canned beans have salt already in them — before adding salt, check the can). If you want some kick to your beans, you can add some crushed red pepper.

optional: add bits of chopped ham, chorizo, other sausage, bacon, or any kind of delicious salty meat to the beans. I used bacon bits, which gave the beans a smoky flavor; if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t think a meal is complete without some sort of meat, you should probably do this.

let ingredients simmer on low heat for at least 10 minutes

serve over rice* and garnish with cilantro if you want to get fancy.

*If you don’t know how to make rice, I can’t help you (also: really? you can’t make rice?). I’m really, really bad at it, and always seem to get the proportions wrong. Just follow the directions on the box — but do add 1 tsp oil and a pinch of salt to give the rice a little flavor.