Archive for January, 2009

Celebrating the Super Bowl in Style

January 31, 2009

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I’m missing the Super Bowl this Sunday because I will be on a flight heading home from a warm mini-vacation in West Palm Beach, Florida.  Trips there are a perk to having an older sibling who plays/works/lives golf.  Unfortunately, the Baltimore Ravens and the NY Giants (my beau’s team) aren’t playing, so I don’t care too much about missing the game. 

If I were to be at a Super Bowl Party tomorrow, I would probably bring Buffalo Chicken Dip.  It’s easy, it’s simple, and always gets eaten.  If you have a sensitive mouth like me, substitute BBQ sauce for the hot sauce and trust me, you’ll enjoy it.  My beau also uses blue cheese instead of ranch dressing when he makes it.

For my dieting friends, a serving has 284 calories, 22.6 grams of fat, and 0.9 grams of fiber.  That adds up to about 7 Weight Watchers points per serving.  It can be made a little more diet friendly if you use lowfat and nonfat sour cream, ranch dressing, and cheese, but who really worries about their diet on Super Bowl Sunday?

Buffalo Chicken Dip

Ingredients:
2 (10 ounce) cans chunk chicken, drained
2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese,
softened
1 cup Ranch dressing
3/4 cup pepper sauce, such as Franks®
Red Hot®
1 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
 
1 bunch celery, cleaned and cut into 4 inch
pieces
1 (8 ounce) box chicken-flavored crackers
Directions:
1. Heat chicken and hot sauce in a skillet over medium heat, until heated through. Stir in cream cheese and ranch dressing. Cook, stirring until well blended and warm. Mix in half of the shredded cheese, and transfer the mixture to a slow cooker. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top, cover, and cook on Low setting until hot and bubbly. Serve with celery sticks and crackers.

* I have cooked this recipe differently in the past.  I have boiled the chicken until cooked and then break it down into edible pieces.  I have then thrown all ingredients into a pyrex pan and just stuck it into the oven until everything melts together and the cheese starts to bubble.

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Paper Sweets!

January 30, 2009

My friends and I got really into origami this winter.  We folded 1,000 origami cranes to give to our best friend’s mother as a source of inspiration as she battles throat cancer.  It started off as a huge project, but as we continued folding, we all really enjoyed the art of origami.  I want to learn how to fold new pieces – so far I am stuck at a crane and a heart – but can’t quite find a class where I can learn how to be a great origami folder.  My most recent attempts to fold a rose ended up with me cursing at Youtube and storming away while whining to my beau that I just can’t do it.  He told me to get a grip and try again.  I will when I’m emotionally ready for it . . . .

While doing my origami class research (seriously, how could my former college offer an origami folding class for credit and I can’t find a class anywhere just for fun!), I stumbled upon a very fun book called Girligami.  What does origami folding have to do with food?  Plenty if you fold out of this book!

The author has paper and folds for chocolate covered strawberries, candy hearts, ice cream, and cupcakes.  You better believe that I’m combining my skill for folding origami hearts and the pieces from Girligami to make valentines for all of my loved ones this Valentine’s Day!

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Adventures in Top Chef’s Kitchen

January 29, 2009

One thing I love about watching cooking shows is seeing chefs who work in my area compete.  I typically look up where their restaurant is located and mark it down as a place to check out.  It was much easier to follow the path of some of these chefs when I lived in New York — two favorites were Perilla, who boasts Top Chef Season 1 winner, Harold Dietrle as head chef, and Surf Bar, whose chef once appeared on Throwdown with Bobby Flay on the Food Network.

So, I got very excited this season of Top Chef when I saw that there was one chef from Baltimore, MD and one from Washington, DC.  The chef from Baltimore, Jill, got kicked to the curb early in the show, but Carla from DC is hanging in there!

Unfortunately, Carla runs a catering service so I can’t sample some of her goodies, but I can easily visit the restaurant where Jill works, Red Maple, on Charles Street in Downtown Baltimore.  Charles Street is one of my favorite areas in Baltimore to go out, and I actually visited Red Maple about 3 or 4 years ago for a co-worker’s goodbye party.  I don’t know if Jill worked there at the time, and I have to admit, I didn’t eat anything there, I just drank, but I found it to be a pretty cool place with a great vibe.  I wasn’t planning on ever going again, but I might check it out just for the novelty of visting the restaurant of a Top Chef competitor.

I also recently heard that Spike from Season 4 has opened a burger joint in Washington, DC called Good Stuff Eatery.  I love burgers, Spike was easily one of my favorite contestants from Season 4, and I think I can lure my beau to make a visit to Good Stuff as a pre-Caps game meal.

Florida Bound!

January 29, 2009

I am on a plane headed to warm and beautiful West Palm Beach, Florida  right now!  If I had it my way, we’d immediately head to the Sandbar at the Juniper Beach Resort for one of their Key Lime Coladas. 

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Imagine this in liquid form
Photo courtesy of
Flickr

Searching for Lemon Meringue

January 27, 2009

My mom only has one request for her birthday every year, and that is to have Lemon Meringue Pie.  She typically runs out and just gets a frozen Lemon Meringue Pie, but this year my dad had other ideas.  For her birthday present he was going to get her a freshly baked pie.

This decision of his ended up being a little more demanding then he thought, as he found himself calling five bakeries in our area before finding one who had the curd all prepared to bake his covented pie.  He ended up getting a delicious Lemon Meringue Pie from Touche Touchet Bakery in Columbia, MD.

My personal least favorite part of Lemon Meringue Pie is all the meringue.  It’s too foamy, too bland, and I just want to get through it to get to the lemon curd!  Touche Touchet’s Lemon Meringue Pie had a thin layer – and in my mind a perfect layer – of meringue that equaled the amount of lemon curd.

Our only real complaint was a thin layer of sugar that was sprinkled over the meringue, which made the texture a bit gritty.  But, we’re simple people who love Lemon Meringue, so that wasn’t going to stop us from enjoying one of the best Pies we’ve had in a while.

Touche Touchet’s website also boasted that they were voted best bakery in Howard County Magazine in 2007 and 2008.  While maybe not the biggest title to boast about in the world of dining, it’s enough to sell me on the place!

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Couldn’t find a Lemon Meringue Pie on their website, so figured a Key Lime Pie would do!

Eat Like a Fancy Pants on a Budget in Baltimore

January 27, 2009

How can you do that?  Because it’s Baltimore Restaurant Week!

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Tons of restaurants in the area participate in Baltimore Restaurant Week, offering 3 course for only $30!  My beau and I took advantage of the deal during this past summer by eating at the Lebanese Taverna, and we hope to participate again this year.

My friend who helps to organize this event recommended Louisiana Restaurant in Fells Point and Black Olive on Bond Street (and Lebanese Taverna, although I told her she’s a season late on this girl!).  At the top of my list is Jack’s Bistro — a chef friend of mine told me that in his opinion, the most inventive chef in Baltimore works here — and Elkridge Furnace Inn.

I have eaten at a few of the restaurants listed and would definitely recommend (menus can be found on the Baltimore Restaurant Week website):
Indigma – delicious indian-fusion restaurant.  My beau and I like to go here for lunch occassionally.
Pazo Restaurant – I went here for my good-bye MD/Hello NY party, and recently revisited for my and my beau’s 2 year anniversary.
Roy’s of Baltimore – delicious hawaiian fusion.  Make sure you get the chocolate souffle and then head over to James Joyce Pub for a beer afterwards.
Sascha’s 527 – I’ve been here twice and loved it the first time and felt ok about it the second time.  But, I would still recommend it.

Macy’s Keeps America Cooking

January 26, 2009

I think I am going to enter into this!  The winner will get a trip for 2 to San Francisco and a $2,500 shopping spree at Macy’s.  Now I’ve just got a cook up a good way to sell myself to Tyler Florence!

For more information, click here.

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The Greatest Gift Ever Given

January 26, 2009

My beau is a great gift giver.  He’s gotten me my favorite books, helped me to accomplish my goal of owning a piece of Tiffany’s jewelry, and makes sure I can always access How I Met Your Mother and Arrested Development by getting me their DVD boxsets (all I need now is Freaks and Geeks and I will be a happy girl!).

But, one of the greatest gifts he has ever given me is a teapot with a mesh wire basket infuser!  I drink at least 2 cups of tea every day and get very very very excited about trying new tea flavors.  When we go shopping at Wegman’s together, if I disappear, the first place my beau checks is the tea section.  My girlfriends and I try to schedule special tea parties once a season.  It’s really almost an addiction, but I just love it!

This teapot brews a little more than 1 cup of tea , and the infusers allows me to try out loose tea leaves in addition to my regular English Breakfast Twinings Tea.  I truly love this teapot and all of it’s green glory!  It also conveniently matches one of my favorite tea/coffee cups, which was given to me by a Korean friend of mine in high school!huesnbrewsteapot1HuesNBrews Infuser 17 oz Stem Green Teapot

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My adorable mug!

Would you Like Some Cheese to go Along with that Wine?

January 26, 2009

marthawine11Martha also had a pretty decent article in her newest Martha Stewart Living issue that focuses on navigating your way through a wine store.  I know that figuring out what kind of wine you want can be made overwhelming when you first need to find out how the wine is organized.  In the article, Martha explains how wine stores are generally set-up and recommends a few inexpensive wines.

How do I choose the wine I drink?  First we try to avoid going to the liquor store by ordering wine through a restaurant located in Columbia, MD called the Iron Bridge Wine Company.  Each month the Iron Bridge Wine Company offers wine bargains – 12 wines for $12.00 or less with a 20% discount for every case (mixed or just one kind of wine) that you want.  My parents and I chip in together and get a mixed case of wine about every other month or so, we drink what we want and save the rest for later.  We have found that the Iron Bridge Wine Company’s recommendations are solid and they have excellent customer service.

I have also found a few of my affordable wine staples from the Wine Company’s monthly bargains.  A favorite red wine of mine is Smoking Loon Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.  I’m a bit of a sucker for packaging — usually if I don’t know what I want, I pick up whatever has a label that I think looks fun — and the bright red and yellow label for Smoking Loon certainly does it for me.  Smoking Loon also has an easy and smooth flavor.  Not overpowering and doesn’t have the sickingly sweet taste that can sometimes accompany cheap wine. 

Where it’s not the best Cabernet I’ve ever had, I think it’s solid for a night where you want to curl up on the couch with that someone you love, eat some chinese food, and watch a movie (can you tell that that’s what I usually do with my Smoking Loon?)!

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Flipping Through Confectionary Goodness

January 26, 2009

I am one of those people who bought right into the cupcake craze.  I have always loved cupcakes, preferring them far over any other dessert.  I can be especially won over with vanilla cake with chocolate icing cupcakes, nothing fancy, just sweet sweet goodness!  I love cupcakes so much that when I lived in New York, my roommate and I went on a cupcakery tour for my birthday.  The tour involved 4 cupcakeries and 2 cupcakes per cakerie (more on that later).  We were stuffed and on a serious sugar craze, but happy nonetheless!

So, when I saw the newest Martha Stewart Living, I had to pick it up for the sake of “research.”  I am not much of a baker, but that doesn’t stop me from flipping through the magazine and picking what cupcake I would bake, should the mood strike. 

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Martha actually had a Boston Cream cupcake, which was the flavor cupcake I picked up most often when I would visit the dearly loved Crumbs cupcake shop near Wall Street, which was right by my work.   I swear they put Crumbs in that location just to taunt me.  I also feel as though Martha is taunting me by featuring it in her magazine.

Recipe is below.  Bake, enjoy, and let me know how they are.  Or, if you’re anything like me, read about all of it’s mouth watering goodness and plan a trip to NYC so you can make a visit to Crumbs!

Boston Cream Pie Cupcake
Makes 18

INGREDIENTS:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for tins
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup whole milk
3 ounces (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for tins
3 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Vanilla Cream
Chocolate-Ganache Glaze

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour standard muffin tins. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl. Warm milk and butter in a saucepan over low heat.
  2. Beat eggs and sugar with a mixer on high speed until thick and pale, about 5 minutes. Beat in dry ingredients.
  3. Bring milk and butter to a boil. With mixer on low speed, add milk mixture to batter, and beat until smooth. Add vanilla. Divide batter among muffin cups, filling each halfway. Bake cupcakes until light gold, about 15 minutes. Let cool in tins for 10 minutes, then transfer to wire racks. Let cool.
  4. Using a serrated knife, cut each in half horizontally. Spread 1 tablespoon vanilla cream on each cupcake bottom. Sandwich with top. Spoon glaze over each, and serve immediately.