Archive | March, 2014

KITCHEN COVET LIST: CITRUS ART PRINTS

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It’s the end of March. It’s a beautiful day. The sun is shining and makes it seem really warm but you know what? It’s a stupid liar, that sun. It’s back to being cold. What?! WHY?!? I’m getting a little antsy for spring to stick around, just like the rest of you. I was doing fine all winter. Normally I get fed up at the end of January but no, not this year! This year I was holding out just fiiiine. All the snow, all the gray, it wasn’t bothering me one bit. Somehow, I was the only one. It was wonderful. But now that we’ve had little bites of spring—spring-flavored appetizers, if you will—I want the full course. I want warmer days with drinks on a patio, dammit, but I’d be happy to start with a consistent 55° temperature. So in the meantime, I’ll just keep my puffer vest handy while waiting for Al Roker to tell me it’s finally warm outside.

We’re going to try something a little different today. We’re going to talk about something else I really like. Home stuff. Decor. Pretty things.

Who doesn’t like pretty things?

These pretty things just happen to be food related. I really love the idea of sprucing up the kitchen with colorful, quirky prints to bring some personality and warmth into the space. Who said kitchen decor has to be relegated to subway tiles, cutting boards, and fruit bowls?? (Truth: I do love a good subway tile.) The colors of these prints are bright, optimistic, and make me crave a snappy, crisp drink like a gin gimlet or a limey mojito! While I don’t have room in my current kitchen, they might make their way into the dining room at some point. And if they do, I will update you lovely folks with a picture. Will they make their way into your home, too? Scroll to the bottom for the sources.

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1. CITRUS PRINT SET | Watersounds Etsy Shop by Sarah Abbott: Don’t you love these graphic fruits? The simple details combined with the flowy curved branches feels elegant and modern while still being fun. The prints in the set are small, but they’re also available as individual, larger pieces, like the lemon print here.

2. WINE ANATOMY PRINT – CHARDONNAY | Anek Etsy Shop: For the winos out there. While chardonnay isn’t necessarily citrus, it can share a flavor palette! Plus, the overlapping shapes and textures are as delicious as the drink.

3. CITRUS PRINT | Rifle Paper Co: Rifle Paper Co. has become quite the little darling in the paper world within the past few years and it’s easy to see why. Their watercolor illustrations are, well, just that—darling. My favorite part of this print is the inclusion of the pink. I’m a sucker for that pretty grapefruit hue!

ZUCCHINI KALE POTATO PANCAKES

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Y’all, I have been posting nothing but JUNK for the past few weeks. Junk, junk, junk. Don’t get me wrong. That junk is DELICIOUS, but it’s junk food, I’m not going to lie. I don’t eat junk all the time. I promise. So even though it’s not exactly health food, I’m going with something a little better this time. At least it’ll be real food and not just baked goods (which are still my favorite topic. It runs through my veins, I can’t help it).

You know what I love? Potatoes. Who doesn’t, amiright? Mash ‘em, fry ‘em, bake ‘em, scallop ‘em—I love them all, except for those au gratin ones (ML + cheese = yuck. Sorry.). My father instilled a love of potato pancakes in me when I was young. I don’t quite know why. It’s not a family tradition or anything, but we are Polish so I’m just going to assume the connection stems from there. Though we didn’t make them that often (probably only once or twice, really), I remember grating a bunch of potatoes with our metal box grater and it was a total labor-intensive mess. But you know what? These days I have a food processor and that food processor has a disk that grates things. Hallelujah!

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This potato/zucchini mash-up version has been circulating in my brain for awhile, but I just never made them a reality. (I mean, as much as I love potato pancakes, how often do I really need to eat them?) It also seemed like the perfect opportunity to throw some kale in there. I’ll admit, we’re still pretty unexperienced with it comes to kale. I’m intrigued by kale. I want to like kale. And it’s not that I don’t like it, but I just don’t know what to do with it. When you buy it you just get SO MUCH and we’re always like “Sooo…what do we do with the rest of this kale?” It only goes so far in salads. Hiding it in other foods seems perfect. I went easy on the amount since this was my first trial, but I’ll cover that more in the notes. Secondly, there’s beer in the “batter.” I actually got the idea from Martha Stewart. I couldn’t remember if potato pancakes required a lot or a little flour, so I wanted to scout out some other recipes for research. Martha Stewart adds a little beer, which helps to make a mixture like this a little lighter. So you know what I said? “Why the heck not?!”

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I went light on the amount of kale. I used 1 1/2 cups (torn into small pieces) in my recipe because I didn't know how it would affect the taste. It barely affects the potato-y-ness (yes, that is a technical term). You could easily bump it to 2 cups. Healthy stuff! Ka-pow!
This recipe is not gluten-free, but I believe it easily could be. Instead of using AP flour, replace it with another gluten-free flour of your choice (buckwheat, chick pea, you tell me). Instead of beer, use club soda. All the recipe really needs is a little bubbly carbonation.
Remember my garlic-infused olive oil and butter mixture? From the Pizza Baklava? That's what I used to lightly fry these little gems. Seems like a good use, no? If you want to make it, then knock yourself out. If not, then using vegetable oil is a-ok, too.
I made my pancakes in the 3-4" range. You could definitely make them smaller for a cute party appetizer with applesauce and sour cream as dips. The quantities of ingredients in this recipe are very easy to manipulate (i.e.: double, cut in half, etc). Making smaller pancakes would also be super fun for kids!

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: : : ZUCCHINI KALE POTATO PANCAKES : : :
Yields: 15 – 3″ pancakes

• 1/2 zucchini, peeled
• 1 russet potato, peeled
• 1 1/2 – 2 cups small pieces Tuscan kale (use lesser if you’re nervous, more if you seriously <3 the kale)
• 1/2 medium yellow onion, peeled
• 1 egg, beaten
• 2 TBSP flour
• 1 tsp kosher salt
• 1/2 tsp black pepper
• 1 oz beer (Yes, seriously just 1 oz. But that just means you get to drink more!)
• garlic-infused olive oil/butter mixture or vegetable oil for cooking
• sour cream and/or applesauce – optional – for serving

1. Tend to the kale. Remove the leaves from the thick ribs. Set aside.

2. When the zucchini, potato, and onion are all peeled, divide into two piles: the grate pile and whiz pile. You will grate the zucchini and potato in the food processor. As for the onion and kale, you’ll just whiz those into little pieces, also in the food processor. This is why the food processor is your best friend for this recipe.

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3. Grate the zucchini and potato. Place in large bowl. If you end up with large chunks of zucchini or potato that didn’t get grated due to the physics of your food processor, no problem! Add them to the “whiz” bunch. Whiz the onion and kale in the food processor, then place them in the same bowl. Mix content together (honestly, I found my hands the most efficient way to do this).

4. Add the other ingredients: the beaten egg, flour, salt, pepper, and the beer. Mix thoroughly.

5. Heat a very large non-stick page over medium-high heat. Place 1 TBSP of oil/butter mixture OR 2 TBSP vegetable oil. When pan and oil are hot, carefully place pancake mixture in pan. A heaping tablespoon will give you a pretty solid 3.5″ pancake. Spread it out so it’s not too thick. I used my 12.5″ ScanPan for the job and fit about 5 in the pan at a time.

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6. Fry each side for 3-4 minutes, or until toasty, delicious, crispy brown.

7. Remove from pan onto cookie sheet lined with paper towels to sop up the extra oil.

8. Serve immediately. If not serving immediately, then heat in the oven to bring back their crispy qualities.

After I was finished cranking them out, I gave the first bite to George. He took a second to analyze them but then cheerfully said “This is nice!” Not sure whether or not he was trying to be polite to his wife or if they’re actually legit, I took the next bite. They make the potato pancake lover in me VERY happy. And knowing that theres a lot of zucchini and some kale in here, I feel much better about eating them! We stored some in the freezer for guests next weekend (side note: I hope this freezing this works! #nervousface). I can’t wait to break them out for breakfast and serve them with a poached or sunny-side up egg. Can you imagine this with a runny egg yolk??? Oh, sweet baby Jesus that sounds divine!

SNEAK PEEK

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Oh hey, what’s that? I’m working on my next post, and I wanted to give you guys a sneak peek. I was hoping to have it up a lot sooner, but I officially came down with The Sick. It seems that everyone at work is sick, and not just “Oh, I have a cold” sick. Like, out for three days, voices are totally not right, eyes are glassy and not good sick. I’ve been having some sinusitis and allergy issues myself for the past week and a half, but I was feeling just fine other than the debilitating headaches. I went to the doctor and he gave me some antibiotics for the sinusitis that was slowly festering. I was hoping those antibiotics would keep me in a safety bubble. Well, then George came down with The Sick. He’s traveling tomorrow so I made him to go the doctor, and he’s thankfully getting better. And I have been living in my happy safety bubble the whole time. That is, up until this morning. I woke up and my right nostril was unusually stuffy. Not good. And then it seems that at 7:00ish it hit even more. Nooooooo, please God please let this be a quick passing thing! So anyway, I digress. While I’m sitting here blowing my nose every 6 1/2 minutes, I will hopefully have a post up about these soon. Spoiler alert: if you follow me on Instagram (because you should. I’m @mlpenner519), you totally know what this is by now. Recipe coming soon. Promise.

MILKSHAKE MONDAY: BARELY BOOZY HOMEMADE SHAMROCK SHAKE

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Does anyone else have fond memories of Shamrocks Shakes or is it just me? You know, the McDonald’s pastel green, mint-flavored shakes that pop up in March in honor of St. Patrick’s Day? I can hear you now, “Ohhhh yeeeaahhhh…those things…” For some reason I loved them when I growing up. It’s not like I’m an especially huge fan of mint-flavored sweets but the idea of them just makes me all smiley.

The story behind the Shamrock Shake is actually pretty awesome! The shake was created as a promotional item to raise money for charity. Philadelphia Eagles tight end Fred Hill had a daughter suffering from leukemia, and after seeing all of the families who travelled to visit their young, sick loved ones but had no place to stay, Hill and other team members decided that something had to be done to raise money to fix this. Thus, the seasonal shake was added to the menu and the first Ronald McDonald House was built from the profits. Cool, huh? Talk about “pimpin’ joy! You can read all the details here on Irish Central. (Also, if you’re confused about this “pimpin’ joy thing, it all started with the Bobby Bones Show out of Nashville. You can read more about the awesome movement here. #pimpinjoy)

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Image via Irishcentral.com // Image by McDonald’s. I’m lovin’ it.

The last time I got a Shamrock Shake it wasn’t quite as magical as I remember, unfortunately. They’re in the new (i.e. not circa 1989) McDonald’s clear cups and it was marbled in color because the green minty flavoring wasn’t mixed in that well and it was just such a bummer! And is it just me, but does its green color look a little weirder than it used to? It was my first Shamrock Shake in YEARS and here it was, all its magical glory stripped away. Le sigh. It’s all about the presentation, people!

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This year, this girl’s doin’ it for herself.

Ice cream. Milk. Creme de menthe. Bada bing, bada boom! I chose to use creme de menthe as my mint flavor because I have it in my cabinet. Yes, it’s that cut and dry. Also, I didn’t think straight up peppermint extract would do the trick because the shamrock shake is NOT just straight, clean, peppermint flavor. And it’s not really straight spearmint either. So what do you do? Other references online mention using mint syrup, like a coffee-flavoring. If you want to go that route, go ahead. But we’re more likely to use booze (hello, creme de menthe in hot cocoa is kind of awesome) so c’est la vie. It’s also what supplied the green coloring, as our creme de menthe is the bright green stuff, as opposed to the colorless kind. If you want to pump up the color, add a few delicate drops of green food coloring.

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: : : BARELY BOOZY HOMEMADE SHAMROCK SHAKE : : :
• 2 1/2 cups vanilla ice cream
• 1 1/2 TBSP creme de methe
• 1/2 cup milk
• 1/4 TSP mint extract (whatever you have—peppermint, spearmint, etc. It’s just a light dosage to pump up the flavor)

: : : For Sprinkle Rim & Garnish : : :
• 2-3 TBSP chocolate syrup
• 3 TBSP sprinkles
• whipped cream
• cherry or raspberry (I had raspberries so there you go)
• cute straws are a bonus!

1. Place all ingredients in pitcher of blender.

2. Whiz blender for a few seconds, just enough to get everything well-mixed but not overly runny.

3. If garnishing, skip to next steps. If not, pour into glasses and enjoy!

If garnishing…
1. Place chocolate syrup on shallow dish, like a saucer for a teacup. Place sprinkles on second shallow dish.

2. Dip glasses in chocolate syrup, then dip in sprinkles. Carefully turn glasses over so sprinkles stay in place.

3. Carefully pour milkshake mix into each glass. You did it without making a mess? Yay! Good job!

4. Top with whipped cream and cherry or raspberry. Grab a few straws. Cheers!

The painful part of talking about McDonald’s milkshakes is that it makes me want the fries. That is something I haven’t indulged in in…well…a really long time. Dang. Distract yourself, ML. Think about puppies. Rainbows. Salads taste just like french fries (yeah, right).

On another note, how do you guys feel about a semi-regular milkshake feature? Because doesn’t Milkshake Monday feel like a good way to brighten up a case of the Mondays?? What do you think? Are you into it? Or not at all?

CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE PIE

Hello.

This is a chocolate chip cookie pie.

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Do you ever have one of those days that’s not really a bad day, it’s a just-fine-day, but it’s just so darn busy/all-over-the-place that you’re like “I NEED A DRINK,”?? Yeah, today was one of those days. After so many hours of being here-there-and-everywhere, you just need to rush home, sip on some whiskey and let your brain chill out. That, however, is not the reason I made this cookie pie. It just happens to be a fabulous leftover that makes my whiskey-sippin’, brain-chillin’, How I Met Your Mother-watching evening that much better.

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It all started when I was cleaning out our bookcase this weekend. Do you have an Ikea Expedit bookcase? Of course you do, because apparently the entire world does. Our Expedit tends to be a major workhorse with each and every cubby chock full of stuff (mostly cookbooks, lots of magazines, random design books, and blog props) but those things tend to look better when they’re clean and organized! Time to reevaluate what we have—what we want to keep vs sell vs donate. As I was cruising through our random assortment of cookbooks we just happened to acquire, I flipped through the pages of one book and passed this recipe—Chocolate Chunk Cookie Pie. Nothing else in the book enticed me at the time so I tore that page out and tossed the book aside to give away (I know, I know, that’s probably terrible but whatever). That pie, however, was quickly escalating to MUST EAT NOW status. That was on Sunday.

I made the pie Monday night. George’s parents were coming into town for a conference and they’d be over for dinner Tuesday night. Do I hear an opportunity for dessert knocking? This seemed like an easy and delicious recipe, so…why not?

Smart decision. It’s fabulous. George gave it a very emphatic “Oh my God.” It’s as delicious as a chocolate chip cookie, but ooey-gooier and who wouldn’t want that?? And yes, it’s totally easy.  I’ll give you some quick notes on what I did, why I did it, and get to this recipe before I ramble on any longer.

PS: This is the book: Favorite Brand Name Baking. And you will be happy to know that I have decided to keep it…a least a little while longer. 🙂

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The original recipe calls for a refrigerated pie crust. I didn't love that idea; for some reason it didn't seem to mesh well in my head. Instead, I went the route of an Oreo pie crust. Mine is homemade because I had Oreo pieces I should use (a bag of these from GFS). If you want to use store-bought, knock yourself out.
The recipe needs salt. The original doesn't have any, and I added 1/4 teaspoon, being careful not to add too much since this was my first time making it. Guess what. It needs more. Anywhere from 1/2 tsp to maybe even a whole 1 tsp would be acceptable, depending on your salty chocolate chip cookie preference.
I used a springform pan because I like how it releases the pie cleanly, and I don't have to dig into a pie pan. There's no necessity for this, other than preference.
I don't use springform pans all that often, so I conveniently forget how they can drip and ooze things like butter. Do yourself a favor and prevent a smoky oven by putting a cookie sheet under your pan if you do indeed use a springform (or even tart) structure.
Sprinkles. I can't resist the urge to use sprinkles. They're cute and fun, and that's really the only explanation I have. Because obviously.

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: : : PIE CRUST : : :
Note, I used a 9.5″ springform pan
• 3 cups ground-up, crushed-to-a-pulp Oreos. Since I already had the pieces, I don’t know how many whole Oreos this requires.
• 1/3 cup melted butter

1. In a large bowl, combine crushed Oreos and melted butter thoroughly.

2. In pie pan/springform pan/tart pan, press mixture tightly to the bottom and sides of pan. If using a taller pan (like a springform), don’t worry about making it all the way up the sides. A partial side crust is totally fine.

3. No need to pre-bake. Nice, right?

 

: : : CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE PIE FILLING : : :
Adapted from Favorite Brand Name Baking
• 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
• 1/2 cup granulated sugar
• 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
• 2 eggs
• 1 tsp vanilla
• 1/2 cup flour
• 1/2 tsp salt, at least
• 1/2-1 cup bittersweet chocolate, chopped (amount depends on your preference)
• 1/4 cup rainbow sprinkles (optional)
• 1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (totally optional)

1. Heat oven to 325°. Mix flour and salt in a small bowl, and whisk to sift.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl with a hand-held electric mixer, beat the butter and sugars until fluffy (about 4 minutes).  Add vanilla and eggs; beat well.

3. Slowly add the flour and salt mixture, beating until incorporated. Gently stir in chopped chocolate and rainbow sprinkles/nuts if using.

4. Pour mixture into pie crust and pop into the oven. If using a springform or tart pan, make sure to place a cookie sheet underneath it.

5. Bake for 45-60 minutes, but please be vigilant in checking on the pie. The original recipe said to bake for 65-70 minutes, but my pie took about 45-50 minutes to bake. Not all ovens are created equal, and not all ovens are accurate in their temperatures. The pie is finished when a toothpick or cake tester is inserted in the center and comes out clean. Be careful not to over-bake, as that will prevent the pie from being ooey gooey!

6. Remove from oven. Cool on a wire rack. Dig the heck in.

I will also mention that this pie tastes waaaay better warm. I’m a huge proponent of warm baked goods. If you’re eating leftover pieces, then pop them in the microwave for a few seconds. Trust me. It’s worth it.

CHILI ORANGE KETTLE CORN & TEQUILA NEW FASHIONEDS

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It’s the end of February/beginning of March. You know what that means? Besides the fact that the weather will be a complete guessing game for the next 30 days? THE OSCARS ARE THIS SUNDAY!!! It’s like the Super Bowl of Awards Season! As usual, I have not seen a single movie. Nope, not even Frozen (though it’s on the list, just like the rest of them). Can I be honest with you? I can’t stay awake during movies. Especially if we’re watching at home. Sure, we could go to the theatre but a) that’s really expensive anymore and b) I feel like the show times never work out well with our schedule. That means watching at home, which is totally fine, but turning the lights out means my eyes close and I’m knocked out on one end of the couch, trying to convince George “No, I’m awake, I’m watching. Yuh-huh. I am.” I’d like to blame my father for this. He’s excellent at falling asleep while watching TV and movies. I inherited this skill from him. So eventually, hopefully, we’ll watch some of these fine films. In the meantime, I’ll still mark up my Oscar ballot (thank you, Kate Spade for this adorable version) and savor every moment of red carpet goodness I can get until next year.

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It’s also an excellent reason to get festive, and we all know how I feel about that! Do you know where I found the recipe for this popcorn? The official Oscars website. Wild, I know. Imagine that, popcorn for a show about movies! How did I ever find it there (#sarcasm, fyi)? I was actually trying to find out if there’s an Oscars cocktail (there is, sorta). Lo and behold, I found a whole slew of party recipes on the Academy’s website. Like this popcorn. Like this delicious popcorn that’s just slightly weird, and makes people cock their heads to the side in consideration of the components, and then delights with its perfect blend of flavors. It’s just unique enough to be different, but totally approachable and tame enough for all kinds of taste buds. Isn’t that what you want in a party food? A crowd-pleaser? Ding ding ding, we have a winner! We’ve actually tweaked it just a little bit to make the flavors even better. You’re welcome.

And of course, we have a drink to accompany this popcorn. This, however, is not an Oscar-sanctioned bev. No, this is straight from our kitchen to yours. Inspired by the chile-orange combo, I thought “Hey, how about doing a classic orange cocktail, but with a twist? Like an Old Fashioned, but with tequila instead of whiskey?” It’s just crazy enough to work. Plus, thanks to the orange zest, I had a naked orange sitting around the kitchen. I mean, I could eat it… or I could make a drink with it. Alcohol wins. It always wins. We’re calling it a “new fashioned” because of the newfangled tequila twist.

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 : : : CHILE ORANGE KETTLE CORN : : :
Adapted from Oscars.org
Serves 2-10, depending on the likelihood of people stuffing their faces

• ¾ cup popcorn kernels
• ¼ cup canola oil
• 4 tablespoons sugar
• 1 tablespoon chili powder
• 2 teaspoons kosher salt
• 3 tablespoons butter, melted
• zest of 1 orange

1. In a large pot or stockpot with lid over medium-high heat, combine the popcorn, oil, sugar, chili powder, and salt. Shake constantly. (Note: The original recipe called for medium heat but I had to use high heat due to my pan’s size and structure. I didn’t feel like standing over my stove for 20 minutes to make popcorn. Use whatever heat level works for you and pay attention to your pot!)

2. When the popcorn begins to pop, lower the heat to the next level down. Continue to shake until the popping begins to slow.

3. Transfer popcorn to a large bowl—you’ll need to toss the popcorn around. Drizzle with the melted butter and orange zest and toss to coat.

4. Grab a handful and stuff your face. 🙂

TeqNewFash_022614_Details: : : FRESH CITRUS TEQUILA NEW FASHIONED : : :
Serves 2

• 4 oz good tequila
• 2 slices of an orange (I used a cara cara orange for this)
• 2 oz fresh orange juice (use the same orange above, just juice the rest)
• 1 oz (2 TBSP) simple syrup
• 4 dashes Angostura bitters
• 2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters or other fancy bitters like Fee Brothers Orange or Grapefruit
• Club soda (about 4 oz)

1. In two cocktail glasses, muddle in each: 1 slice of orange and 1 TBSP simple syrup.

2. In cocktail shaker filled with ice, pour in contents from one cocktail glass. Add 2 oz tequila and 1 oz orange juice; shake shake shake! Shake the cocktail until cold, about 20 good shakes. Strain into cocktail glass filled with ce. Repeat with the other glass and remainder of ingredients. You could also combine everything into one shaker and just divide it among the two glasses in the end. It’s up to you.

3. After cocktails have been shaken and strained back into the glasses, add dashes of bitters and top with club soda. Give it a quick stir, and sip away!

So who will be tuning into the Oscars tomorrow? Who will be watching the red carpet? Lupita Nyong’o has been seriously CRUSHING the fashion scene lately so I can’t wait to see what she wears to the ball. And of course, Jennifer Lawrence. J.Law, what Dior dress will you wear and what crazy thing will you say that makes us fall in love with you all over again? Only one short day until we find out!