Cooking in the Heat of the Summer

Goodness me, cooking used to be something I loved but have fallen somewhat off the band wagon.  I think it’s much more enjoyable when you can make a recipe together or at least share it with other people.  Since most nights I’m cooking for one, it doesn’t always have the same effect (always, key word).  Most days I’m perfectly content with my grilled vegetables, sweet potato and eggs affair.  Well, I’m trying to get back in my groove and of course starting to cooking the heat of the summer.
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^^ don’t those colors just scream summer?
  • Yes, good plan – to start cooking again when we should be suffering through the hottest temperatures all year?  Well, why now?  Because summer produce, that’s why.  Maybe global warming has hit the east coast or we haven’t been graced with the August humidity just yet, or it just hasn’t been that bad of a summer so far.  What I think is more accurate is that I spend my time inside an air-conditioned office building, so my view of nature has been distorted.  But, between committing to and from work, my November Project workouts, and weekend jaunts, it’s been pretty nice.
But really, back to summer produce.
~ basil, blueberries, broccoli, CHERRIES, corn, cucumbers, EGGPLANT, green beans, PEACHES, plums, raspberries, summer squash (squash all day every day please), tomatoes, and watermelon ~
  • Doesn’t that all sound divine?  If you are really into summer produce, you could sign up for a CSA program in the city where you sign up for 6 or so months and receive a weekly shipment of fruits and vegetables.  You have no clue what may be in those boxes, but it’s neat to know that you essentially have access to the best quality and freshest produce from local farmers.  Most of these farmers also set up shop at our local farmer’s markets, my favorite being around Union Square.  I honestly could wander those all morning, thinking of new and exciting recipes to make.
  • So what recipes have I been obsessed with lately?  It’s all about the heat.  No really, because I don’t get enough of it outside, I’ve been supplementing by adding flavor into my weekly dishes.  From peppers to wasabi, I along with many fellow humans have a bit of a strange relationship with such hot and spicy products.
  • I think the Wall Street Journal summed it up perfectly in why we are attracted to spicy foods.  We go day to day with the same schedule, sometimes dreaming about the days we can set off and explore the world, but for now are plugging along in our corporate (or tech startup) worlds.  Eating spicy things, especially hot chili peppers enables to test out danger without too much risk and activate that adrenaline rush, while receiving those feelings of pleasure and pain.
  • Take me and wasabi for example. I like to dab it on my sushi rolls and more often than not, dab a bit too much on.  Once I shove one slice in my mouth and it’s like a fire alarm went off.  This usually results in me swallowing as quickly as possibly, holding back tears, and throwing back the nearest beverage.  But, instead of learning my lesson, I repeat the process.  It’s like a strange addiction, the heat satisfying some craving, clearing my senses, a rapid heat flowing throughout my body creating a fight or flight moment.
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^^ another example of heat with the momofuku chilled spicy noodles – sichuan sausage, spinach, cashews
  • Are you sold yet?  How about the countless health benefits spices offer or the fact that eating hot and spicy foods can help spur your metabolism or weight loss/maintenance?   From cayenne to black pepper, turmeric, dried red chili pepper flakes, and even cinnamon for those with a sweet tooth.
– antioxidants
– anti-inflammatory
– weight loss
– appetite management
Knowing all of this, what are some of the best pepper recipes for the summer (or really year round)?
Viva la Pepper! 
IMG_6288^^ hundred acre’s brunch take with poached eggscannellini bean & fall squash succotash,braised mustard greens, topped with pepper
 Hopefully I’ve inspired some to jump back into the kitchen, despite rising temps this month 🙂
A good spicy challenge strikes a balance between flavour and fear.” – Adam Richman
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Life of Late ~ 7.3.15

For once it looks like I will be starting this Friday post off with a whole lot of ramblings and links to share rather than bombarding you with photos.  Will have to see which format I like better and which is more/less overwhelming.  In all honesty, I just didn’t take too many interesting pictures this week, so posting for quality rather than quantity 🙂

Lately I have been in the mood to switch up my workouts mostly because I am a proud  member of Equinox (thank you mega-corporate rate) and I want to get my money’s worth.  Believe me, if I had to pay the normal fee, that would so not be happening.  But, thanks to my company and the fact that there is one in the basement of my building, things are working in my favor.  Plus, they have chilled/scented towels, fresh towels to use while working out and for showers, excellent hair dryers, and premium Kiehl’s body wash/hair products.  My daily showers are almost worth the membership fee on it’s own!

Anyways, from total body conditioning to barre burn to cardio kickboxing, I am more sore than I have been in a long time.  I also have realized I have muscles that have not been properly exercised in ages!  Meaning it hurts to walk or squat.  Please don’t make me do more squats or lunges.  Also, my kickboxing form is embarrassing. I can’t get my leg higher than one or two feet off the ground.

I have also been craving fresh fruits and vegetables and all the fun recipes on Pinterest but not wanting to spend any money on groceries or spend any time cooking.  Thus, I end up with some healthy fast food for lunch or Trader Joe’s green juices and a whole lot of grilled vegetables/kale medleys.

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^^ new food obsession. the chipotle for Mediterranean food. 

On another note, I found out that we get about 5 extra days off!  Our department distributed a schedule where they assigned each person a certain set of Fridays off this summer.  I am SO STOKED!  I would much rather have an entire day off than just a half day.  Knowing me, I will still be going to November Project bright and early and then probably take a trip to the beach or try to set up another trip.  Shoutout to Sarah and maybe the Baltimore tribe???

~ Links I Love ~

Listening to Anderson Cooper with Howard Stern

Jet Set Times ~ “10 Reasons Why Running is the Best Form of Tourism

The Cooper Review ~ “Difference Between Living in SF and NY” (some of these are spot on…I still love my current city though)

The M Dash ~ “Do’s & Don’ts of Finding a Mentor

IMG_0690^^ sample sale in soho? yes please.  

The Washington Post ~ “Of course you don’t love your job.  You’re not supposed to”  (“We need our jobs to survive, but we need our hobbies to make a life“)

Looking for gifts?? Check out these fun shopping ideas: Packed Party ~ Adorable boxes for party favors, cheering up your friend after a break-up or just for the hell of it! ~

Eat Clean ~ “5 of the Worst Things You Can Do To Your Coffee

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^^ Meet the Black-and-white Cookie Ice Cream Sandwich or as Grub Street calls it, a Truly New York Concoction.   Um, thank you to Ample Hills Creamery and Baked bakery for the Black & Walt, after Ample Hills’ bovine masc

yes please.  Let’s just eat one of these after another juice cleanse or long run.  #runtoeat

^^ #1 great song  #2 this is amazing and makes me want to go watch these movies and go dance.  Seriously, any opportunity to rock the dance floor or make the bar my own dance floor and I’m game.  My roommates love me for it (or so I remind them) 😉  #noshame

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One of my new favorite brands to follow on Instagram – Faherty Brand.  If only the clothing wasn’t so expensive.  Knowing me, I’d either spill something on it or rip it while trying to jump a sidewalk or dance in the bar.  Yes, I may have ripped my jeans while doing such a thing (they were already ripped though…)

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^^ Finding some of the best tile artwork in the NYC Subways.  What strikes me as funny is that I have gotten so used to relying on public transport that I haven’t really used a car (besides a few taxis) in over a year!

Oh and apparently it’s national BLUEBERRY MONTH!  Struggling to figure out how to celebrate?  Well besides scrolling through Pinterest for days on end, spend some time in these wild articles here.  If you are like me, you will be drooling and dying to try every single recipe on the page.  Blueberry muffins (the Betty Crocker kind) are a childhood favorite but these days I opt for blueberries in the form of smoothies, overnight oats, and stuffed into my pancakes 🙂  So, in honor of the blueberry month, enjoy this video:

Lastly, have a fantastic weekend and 4th of July!  I spent last year down at the Jersey Shore, but this year I was able to fly home and am already soaking up the hot hot California sunshine in Mammoth Lakes 🙂  (note: I may have jinxed myself by pre-scheduling this post and we may be encountering some freak rain showers in the mountains.  thank you east coast for following me back west. not)  Looking forward to some good ‘ol altitude running, hiking, coffee, Mammoth Freedom Mile, and hopefully fireworks.

What are your plans for the 4th of July weekend?  

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Who Wants S’more?

I sure hope you have had a s’more at some point in your life.  Whether it’s camping with scouts, your family, over the grill or even in the microwave – it’s a classic.   Well, I was brainstorming what treat to make for my coworkers one week and I considered doing a re-mix of the classic Rice Krispies treat.  All I would have to do is throw any type of cereal in a pot with some marshmallows and butter and then viola a tasty treat creation.

I started to think of popular flavors and who doesn’t love chocolate and marshmallow?  I mean, everyone seems to be creating a product surrounding the graham cracker + marshmallow + chocolate combination.

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So, onto Pinterest I went and debated the amount of effort I wanted to put into the process.  Gaging by the fact that I was starting this around 9:50pm, I was ready for a quick and simple recipe.  Not so much in the mood or mindset to create fudge or roast marshmallows under the broiler (which wouldn’t have taken much time anyways).  The end result was quite a success and I have my coworkers to thank for their honest feedback.  They loved it.  It was such a hit that I’ve gotten multiple requests to make them again.

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Simple S’Mores Treats
Serves ~16-32

Ingredients
1/2 box of Graham Crackers (about 1.5 packages within the box)
1 bag chocolate chips
1 bag marshmallows
1 stick of butter (1/2 cup)

Directions
1. Place butter in a pot on the stove (around medium-high).  As the butter begins to melt, add in the marshmallows.

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2. Once the marshmallows have practically melted, add in crushed graham crackers.  You can crush before hand or crush in the package.

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3. Stir completely into marshmallow mixture.

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4. Remove pot from the flame and turn off stove.  Dump entire bag of chocolate chips into pot and give a couple quick stirs.

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5. Pour mixture into a lightly greased pan (coconut oil spray is my friend in these scenarios) and spread evenly.

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6. Place in the fridge for about 1 hour or overnight.  When ready to serve, take out and slice into small squares.

IMG_5213Since it’s filled with an entire bag of chocolate chips, they can be quite rich, so small squares should suffice.  Although, if you are a chocoholic like myself and my coworkers, go ahead and divide as you please.

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Funny enough when I was drafting this post, I received an email from Pure Wow about S’mores bars.  Same idea but they took their own creative spin with the classic by making them in the broiler.

Go ahead.  Take a stab at it and who knows, maybe you’ll be so obsessed you will be craving s’more. 😉

Why Not Celebrate with Pie

Like a nerd, I want to celebrate today as it’s 3.14 or Pi Day 🙂 Pi is the mathematical constant or the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter.

Sure, I spent my fair share of time with pi in high school but those days are gone and it’s now time for the pie we are more familiar with. Apple pie, pumpkin pie, pecan pie, banana cream pie, and ice cream pie.

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Pie doesn’t have to be for only those with a sweet tooth.  There’s also plenty of options for the oh-so-savory.  From chicken pot pie to quiche, tamale pie to Shepherds pie.  Oh and what about the pizza pie?

fe95774b9ba125f0195bff6cf973601192da6cb490b1cb7f532465400d629d6b4f12c291b63e104bb7aa45f6ca427502I tend to find most of my recipes online these days.  As you know from many of my other posts, Pinterest is an all-time favorite, but I’ve started expanding to online magazines and even heard about this new blog or site called Inkling, which features hundreds of recipes with even more photographs and video tutorials.  They  have a blog post today about pies and it’s oh so thematic and fun. 🙂

This is perfect, especially for myself as back in high school I had trouble making pasta for the kids I was babysitting without tutorial over the phone from my mother.  Yep, that was a confession if there ever was one.  Needless to say I’ve progressed and may even make my own pie crust tonight to celebrate the end of the week.

Anyways, Modernist Cuisine is going to have its own little special on pies and pie crusts today, so check it out!

Everything in moderation, including moderation” – Julia Child

Re-creating a Classic: The Samoa

I’ve finally gotten my act together and taken a full day of pictures of my food so I can participate in the weekly Peas & Crayons festivities.  No, I’m not asking for a gold star or round of applause, but I now understand how it can be a struggle when you are constantly on the go.  However, the real gem comes later on in this post when I re-create one of people’s favorite Girl Scout cookies, the Samoa.

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While my daily schedule is pretty routine – wake up around 7, make myself look presentable, head to the subway around 7:30/7:40, enter work between 8:15/8:30, lunch around 12:30, gym at 6:15, etc. – my eats are not at all routine.  This comes from last Thursday, yet another day of stormy weather for the east coast.

IMG_2854_Fotor_CollageSubway snack – Coco Cafe – a new favorite that somehow hydrates and dehydrates you at the same time

Breakfast – Banana bread, orange, coffee, and yogurt

Lunch – Since it was a stormy day, our bosses treated us to Lenny’s (apparently a popular sandwich spot out here?) I went for the tuna/lettuce/roasted pepper/grain bread and saved the other half for Friday

IMG_2867Oh you know, just a casual view of Central Park

Snack #1 – few pieces of chocolate from my boss’s office because I was having what my mom calls a “low” moment and wanted to avoid all the client emails I had just received.  Wasn’t the best candy, but live and learn.

Another positive to the afternoon was the fact that we were able to leave the office a bit early so we could navigate our way home before the next wave of snow hit.  I debated going to the gym but decided a baking project and dinner/Olympics viewing with my friend, Laura, and was more of the mental-happiness I needed.

IMG_2854_Fotor_CollageSnack #2 – Almond butter + celery

Dinner – Thai take out

Dessert – What I’m sure most people are interested in…GIRL SCOUT COOKIES!

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Oh memories of being a Girl Scout.  The meetings in our elementary school cafeteria, singing songs, attending summer camps, and competing to sell cookies so we could get worthless prizes.  I actually managed to make it all the way from kindergarten through senior year of high school and I even earned my Gold Award.  But I’m sure most people associate Girl Scouts with the delectable boxes of sugary goodness that come around each winter.

There are the classics such as Tagalogs, Thin Mints, and Samoas.  Growing up I was not a fan of Samoas and it must have been the coconut that threw me off, grainy and foreign looking.  Also how can you begin to compete with Tagalongs and the ultimate pairing of peanut butter + chocolate?  But, when I finally tested one out, there was no turning back.  

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Many of you might know this cookie as a “caramel deLites” as Girl Scouts feel the need to re-brand their products based on geography, new marketing strategies, or just because they can. Who knows but they truly are delightful combinations of coconut, caramel, chocolate, and shortbread.

I’m surprised that I haven’t been prey to Girl Scouts selling the goods at the local grocery stores, but indeed they have been missing in action.  So, when I found this recipe online one day, I knew I had to make it a reality.  Maybe it’s just me, but there are so many recipes I want to try, yet I rarely ever make it happen.  All excuses aside, I’m trying to be more experimental in the kitchen this year.

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Almost Like Samoas

Cookies
2 sticks (1 cup) butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar (*I used coconut sugar)
2 cups flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 Tbsp milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Coconut Caramel Topping
3 cups shredded sweetened coconut
18 oz caramels
1/4 cup milk
1/2 tsp salt

Chocolate Dip
2- 2 1/2 cups chocolate chips
1 Tbsp coconut oil

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Cookie Instructions

1. Cream together the butter and sugar. In a separate bowl, mix together the dry ingredients; flour, baking powder and salt.
2. Slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture. Make sure to mix completely in between each addition.
3. Add the milk and vanilla extra, blending until the dough begins to come together.
4. Separate the dough into 2 parts and press it together to make 2 round disks. Wrap each with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 1 hour.
5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
6. Roll each disk out onto a lightly floured surface until about 1/8 inch thick.
7. Use two sized cookie cutters to cut up the dough.  *I used the top of a jar lid and a water bottle cap.

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8. Re-roll and repeat process until the dough is finished.
9. Place on a baking sheet with parchment paper and bake ~10 minutes until cookies are lightly browned.
10. Allow cookies to cool completely.

Coconut Caramel Topping

1. COCONUT – Take 2 cups of coconut and spread evenly across a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Place in the oven ~10 minutes (shifting after 5 minutes so it doesn’t burn)
3. Remove and place into a bowl with remaining cup of coconut.
4. CARAMEL – Melt the caramels, milk, and salt (*double boiler recommended yet I don’t own one so I just had to make sure it didn’t burn or stick to the pot)
5. Once fully melted, remove from the heat and pour about 2/3 of the caramel into the coconut bowl.

Putting the Cookie Together

1. Take a cooled cookie and spread caramel over the top and sides.
2. Press some of the caramel mixture onto the cookie and return to the parchment paper.  Allow to cool completely.

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3. Melt the chocolate chips + coconut oil.
4. Dip the bottoms of the cookies in chocolate and place on waxed/parchment paper.
5. Drizzle chocolate in a artful (spastic 😉 ) manner over the tops of the cookies.
6. Allow to cool completely.  *Recommend placing in the fridge/freezer for 15 minutes or even over night.

*Adapted from Like Mother Like Daughter

IMG_4530Were you a Girl Scout?  Do you have a favorite Girl Scout cookie?

Chocolate Funfetti Explosion

Confession: I love to bake.  Confession: I love to eat what I bake.  The only problem I face is having an entire batch of cookies sit in my apartment, waiting to be consumed and if they don’t make it out in time…they will be consumed.  I’ve figured out the solution to my baking addiction.  Create whatever concoction I see fit, then share with my roommates and bring the remaining batch to work.  Yes, I’m that lovely person tempting you away from your holiday diet.

The saying goes that you can bake your way into a person’s heart.  Actually, this concept may be a deal-breaker if my future boyfriend/fiancé/husband does not like sweets or like to share.  Then again, maybe I wouldn’t eat as many.  But who really knows.

Sure you may not be able to make your best friends by handing out See’s candies in your college dorm (guilty as charged…my mom said it would work) but bringing in the baked goods every now and then never hurts, especially if it’s a celebratory occasion.

Every day I probably bookmark at least 5-10 recipes (let’s say 6 because that’s a grand number) that I want to make.  The reality is that I probably make 1 out of every 20 recipes and this statistic gets worse and worse as time goes on.  What can I say, I’m a creature of habit and the Junk in ‘da Trunk cookies are always a hit.

So, in order to break the mold of my usual Junk in Da Trunk cookies or classic chocolate chip cookie bar, I purchased a pack of Funfetti Oreos.  Whoa, purchasing cookies is your solution?  Hear me out.  Oreos are one of those items that immediately bring me back to my childhood.  I had seen a recipe on Pinterest for the classic sandwich – Oreo Truffles – and thought it would be a hit in the office.  As I treated myself to a few Oreos throughout the week, I realized I needed to make a recipe soon and I probably wasn’t going to get around to that truffle idea.  I had also used up most of the cream cheese for my weekly bagels, so plan foiled.

Then came Santacon, a weekend of Santas, celebrations, and holiday festivities.  I considered making peppermint bark – a family classic – but then realized I’d have to buy even more ingredients; not cool for someone who likes to use her food money on Kate Spade and gym memberships.  That’s when it hit me – why not create an OREO BARK?? It’s simple, everyone loves chocolate, everyone in their right mind loves Oreos, and it will get the sugary stuff out of my apartment!

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Oreo Celebratory Bark
Enough for 1 Hungry Party

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 bag dark chocolate
  • 1.5 bag white chocolate
  • ½ box of Oreos (your choice) ~2 rows
  • Optional toppings/mix-ins: nuts, marshmallows, candies i.e. M&M’s, peppermint, pretzels, etc. (These can be substituted/added for the Oreos)

Directions:

  • Take a baking sheet/casserole dish and line it with parchment paper
  • Pour the dark chocolate into a saucepan/double boiler and begin to melt.  If you are planning to add some mix-ins (nuts, etc.) make sure to crumble into chocolate mixture.

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  • When melted, spread dark chocolate over the parchment paper and smooth over with a spatula.  Feel free to tilt the tray/pan to even out. Place in the fridge for about 10-20 minutes.

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    • *If you would like to create a marbled effect, do not cool in the fridge.  Simply pour the white chocolate mixture on top and stir lightly with a knife.
  • Repeat melting process with white chocolate.

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  • Crumble Oreos (any topping) over the white chocolate as it cools.
  • Place the tray in the fridge until solidified ~1hour+
  • When ready to serve, take out of the fridge and break with a knife, your hand, or hammer – whatever suits your fancy 🙂

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The verdict?  Certainly a crowd-pleaser and I’m already brainstorming different combinations, probably based on previous magazine creations.  They also happened to be a pretty big hit on Instagram.  Let’s be real, we all base our lives on how many “likes” we get via Facebook or Instagram 😉 Just kidding.  Maybe.

How do you feel about Peppermint Bark?  Did you eat Oreos as a kid?