Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving

Hope everyone one is having a wonderful Thanksgiving with family and friends! 

Take time to appreciate friends, families, colleagues, and really...anyone who has made s difference in your life!

It could be incredible with just the simplest effort!

No ideas? Feel free to use any or all of my coupon designs. Print, write something and give to someone else! 

And be amazed at what might happen!! 

"Sometimes it's the smallest decisions that can change your life forever." 
-Keri Russell-

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Cornflakes Not Just For Breakfast

It's kinda cool when you get out of your comfort zone and life smacks you with surprise. You wonder just how you've been missing out all this time, right? Well, let's just say, this blog post is kinda one of those moments! Simple. Clever. Surprise.

From a box of cornflakes!

Cornflakes. I mean...who has these for breakfast anymore? Truly a staple in the American household, I love them. Fresh, crunchy, ice cold milk. Nothing is better!

Recently, cornflakes have been re-surfacing and making a comeback in an "outside-the-box" kind of way!  I stumbled upon two perfect college level recipes from London, UK and Iceland...all without skimping on quality and flavor, or blowing your remaining college grocery budget.

Perfect recipes for the Season of Giving! Take about 15 minutes to throw these bites of awesome-ness towards anyone crossing your path--friends, roommates, professors, family, guests, acquaintances--and pursue WOW in everything you do, especially GIVING!

(Adapted recipes from Ina Garten's Make Ahead Cookbook and Saveur Magazine)

English Chocolate Crisps

I like my chocolate a little less sweet than milk chocolate so I adjusted the ratio somewhat, but this recipe is guaranteed to turn out as long as you use high-quality chocolate and fresh cereal.

Mixing Bowls, large and medium
Wooden Spoon
Parchment Paper

7 1/4 oz of bittersweet chocolate, i.e. Lindt
5 1/2 oz milk chocolate, i.e. Lindt
3 cups cornflakes
1/3 cup cranberries or cherries

1. Wash your hands.
2. Chop the two chocolates roughly. Remove 25% to a separate cup.
3. Place 75% of chocolate into a microwave-proof mixing bowl
4. Microwave on HIGH x 30 seconds. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon.

5. Repeat this interval until chocolate almost melted, then reduce to 15 second intervals.
6. Add remaining chocolate, stirring vigorously until all chocolate melted and smooth.

7. Pour the chocolate over the cornflakes and fold in chocolate with a rubber spatula to coat cereal.

8. Add cranberries.

9. Prepare a surface, i.e. counter or cookie sheet, with parchment paper.
10. Use 2 soup spoons to dollop chocolate mixture onto parchment paper. Allow to cool completely.

Icelandic Chocolate-Cornflake Meringues

These are light fluffy, melt in your mouth after a chewy, crunchy middle.  Prepare to have a lot of friends. You may need to borrow a hand mixer or buy one to make these awesome little bites. The eggwhites are whipped into stiff peaks that become like marshmallow fluff.

Mixing bowls
Cookie sheet 
Parchment paper

4 egg whites
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups cornflakes
4- 5 oz semi-sweet chocolate, roughly chopped

1. Wash your hands.
2. Preheat oven to 300F degrees. Cover your cookie sheets with parchment paper.
3. Use a handmixer to beat egg whites into soft peaks while slowly adding the sugar.

4. Add the vanilla.
5. Fold coarsely chopped chocolate and cornflakes into the egg whites or pour the egg white mixture over the chocolate and cereal.

6. Carefully fold everything to coat the ingredients.

7. Use a spoon to drop tablespoon size mounds onto parchment paper cookie sheet.

8. Bake for 12-15 minutes until crisp and slightly browned.

9. Allow to cool completely. 

10. Wrap these up and create smiles.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Never Eat Alone: Beef Goulash

I'm always hesitant to post recipes for which most people would say "What college student is going to make that?" But, part of this blog's intention is not only to provide my college son with the recipes he's craving from home, but also, to highlight the benefits of cooking other than the food itself, i.e. community, conversation, sharing a meal as well as saving money, learning independence, and improving the shear satisfaction of eating good food. But really good food sometimes requires effort, and when it does...don't hoard it, savor it with friends!

I finished Keith Ferrazzi's book Never Eat Alone several months ago which focuses on building better networking skills, more meaningful relationships, and deeper connections to the people you interact with at any given time...not only to benefit you, but primarily for you to give and provide value to their lives as well. There is a lot to the title alone that is worth pondering, and I would argue that taking the time to make a one-pot, comfort food dish in the middle of November is the perfect excuse to invite your roommates to the table, and do just that.

My son loves great food, family gatherings, and people getting together; thus, a post on a less-than-trendy college recipe.  I agree, not your typical college fare, but get outside your comfort zone and make a bigger splash the next time you have dinner.  Forewarning--he is also requesting Butternut Risotto and my Swedish Meatballs, so prepare to question my blog's usefulness on a regular basis these upcoming months! That said,  I would challenge you to see why these meals are so important!

This is the perfect recipe to create community, friendship and conversation over a fantastic meal. 
This recipe does not require any special skills. Just prep work, a dutch oven, effort, and time--sound familiar--the same qualities you need for meaningful relationships...including the dutch oven! 

Beef Goulash

Large skillet
Dutch Oven with ovenproof lid
5-qt Saucepan
Large ziplock bag or brown paper bag

2-3 lbs chuck roast, 1" cubes
4 Tbls paprika
1 Tbls  salt
1 Tbls  pepper
9 Tbls flour
3 Tbls vegetable oil

4 large onions, chopped or sliced
2 Tbls tomato paste
3 cups of beef broth
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbls red wine vinegar
1 (15 oz) can Diced Tomatoes
1 bay leaf

Egg Noodles

1. Wash your hands.
2. Preheat oven to 325F degrees.
3. Prep all of the ingredients:
    --combine flour, paprika, salt, pepper in ziplock bag
    --cut your chuck roast into 1" cubes
    --chop your onions
    --mince your garlic

4. Shake cubes of roast in flour mixture ziplock bag.

5. In a large skillet, heat your vegetable oil over MEDIUM-HIGH heat. I browned some of the meat in the dutch oven itself and some in a large skillet.

6. Brown the meat on all sides. If you only have one skillet, you may have to do multiple batches.  When one batch is done, transfer browned meat to your large dutch oven.

7. Add the onions and cook x 5 minutes.

8. Add the tomato paste, beef broth, garlic, vinegar, tomatoes, and bay leaf.

9. Cook over MEDIUM heat x 5-10 minutes until combined.
10. Cover and bake in the oven at 325F degrees for 2 hours.  Meat should be tender. Sauce will be creamy and rich.

11. Salt & pepper to taste.
12. Prep your egg noodles and invite your roommates.

Guarantee: You'll Never Eat Alone with this meal.
A step-up in challenge, no doubt, but totally worth the friendships you'll make.

Monday, November 10, 2014

No Waste Left Behind: Roasted Tomatoes

Don't you hate coming home from a weekend off-campus to find half of your fridge close to rotting or rancid? Money is precious when living as an independent college student, so having to chuck your fruits or veggies or crusty-turned-concrete bread away...well, not so fun!

Recently, I have been away from work enjoying a small vacation to Charleston, SC with friends; but, arriving home early this morning, my fridge had a variety of things needing a date with the sink and garbage disposal. Fortunately, only one of my twenty plus little tomatoes was going rotten,. Nonetheless, I needed to act fast to salvage any of them.

Tomatoes (and root vegetables like potatoes, carrots) can be on the verge of bad, and yet, still redeemable with some simple measures, i.e. roasting. Roasting coaxes out all the flavor while preserving the food so that your college budget isn't thrown out the window when you over-buy groceries or don't get around to using a perishable item.

So, don't throw them out!
Especially tomatoes!

Once roasted, add them... pasta. a salad. fresh cheeses or slices of toast or other crusty bread. a sandwich.

Roasting does take some time with tomatoes, i.e. nice and slow, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Perfect so you can take care of other things like studying, getting laundry done, etc.

I made a quick little snack with some leftover mozzarella cheese, drizzled everything with balsamic glaze, a few herbs and my roasted tomatoes. Only thing that could have made it just a tad better...some crusty fresh baguette.

(Adapted from Ina Garten's Back To Basics cookbook. Omitted the sugar and used the tomatoes I had instead of Roma tomatoes.)

Roasted Tomatoes with Mozzarella & Basil

Large baking sheet with rim
Cutting board
Sharp knife

20 plus medium cherry or sweet salad tomatoes
1/4 c. Olive oil
1-2 Tbls Balsamic vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt & pepper
Fresh Mozzarella
Fresh basil and/or thyme or a sprinkle of dried
Balsamic glaze (this is thicker and sweeter)

1. Wash your hands.
2. Preheat oven to 275F degrees.
3. Halve and remove seeds from your tomatoes.

4. Arrange tomato halves in single layer on baking sheet.
5. Drizzle with olive oil, balsamic vinegar (or syrup), garlic, salt and pepper.

6. Roast your tomatoes for 1 1/2 to 2 hours at 275F degrees. Remove from oven and cool.

7. Prep a platter of mozzarella or fresh crusty bread and layer with roasted tomatoes, balsamic glaze, fresh basil and olive oil.

8. Or, boil some pasta to toss with the roasted tomatoes--simple and delicious.

See what you think. If you like what you are eating, leave me a comment. Would really appreciate some feedback.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Throwback Patty Melts

Some nights you are just not going to feel like cooking--maybe even most nights--but you gotta eat! So, make it worth even the littlest effort you are willing to put forth...might as well be good, right?

Let's take a look at the quick-fix-TV-dinner-era for some inspiration, ie the '70's, but let's make it better. Specifically, let's talk about the infamous patty melt!! 

Essentially this is just a hot, open-faced sandwich with melted cheese--thats really all there is to it--the limiting factor here is only your creativity!

Ready? Here are a few classic, obvious and novel options:

1. Pizza Patty Melt
2. Cheeseburger Patty Melt
3. Classic 70's Tuna Melt

Pepperoni Pizza Patty Melt

Toaster oven or regular oven
Cookie sheet or metal tray

Turkey Pepperoni
Low-Fat Organic Mozzarella Cheese
Marinara or Pizza Sauce
Dried oregano, thyme, basil
Red Pepper Flakes
English Muffins, halved
Olive oil
Salt & Pepper

1. Wash your hands. 
2. Toast muffin halves with a splash olive oil, salt & pepper.

3. Add 1 Tbls marinara.
4. Add dried herbs.

5. Add layer of cheese.

6. Add pepperoni.

7. Repeat cheese and meat. 
8. Finish with splash of cheese, herbs and red pepper  flakes.

9. Heat in 350F degree oven x 5-10 min.
10. Broil x 30 sec or until golden brown.

Cheeseburger Patty Melt

1 lb ground hamburger, seared and browned
Sharp cheddar cheese, grated

1. Wash your hands.
2. Brown your meat.
3. Toast your muffins.
4. Add ketchup, mustard, mayo.
5. Add ground meat.
6. Add pickles (optional)
7. Add cheese

70's Classic Tuna Melt

1 can of tuna
1/2 cup mayo
1 medium onion, finely diced
Salt & Pepper to taste
Sharp cheddar cheese
Hard-boiled eggs, chopped or whole slices (optional)
Pickles / Relish

1. As above--get your muffins toasted.
2. Combine all of the ingredients into a bowl.
3. Add a scoop on top of your toasted muffins.
4. Add some grated cheddar on top.