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Posts Tagged ‘About the Jersey Girl’

**So I’ve been very busy the past few months and realized I haven’t updated in a loooong time.  This is evidence of that.  I found a draft I never finished.  Instead of posting the recipes (since they’re not at all healthy) I’m just going to post it as a brag about how awesome B is.  If you’re interested in any of the specific recipes let me know and I’ll post them.**

B has always been very lucky in terms of Valentine’s Day obligations: he only has to say “Happy Valentine’s Day.”  This is because my birthday is only two days prior so we usually have a nice dinner out, etc. that day.  This is also because the first year we were dating, we decided to celebrate this holiday with a dinner out at a nice Italian restaurant in Chambersburg (a neighborhood in Trenton, NJ).  Reservations for 2 at 7:30pm, check.  We arrived and the place was wall to wall people.  It was like being in a hot bar at midnight (I am not an anchovy in a can!).  We also didn’t get seated until 8:30pm.  This was the beginning of the end of our Valentine’s Day celebrations.  Six years later, B decides that he wants to make me a feast for Valentine’s Day.  Let me tell you, he puts me to shame.  What follows are  the meals and pictures associated with said feast.   This is definitely not a diet friendly meal but worked for me since I’m in maintenance now.  Adjustments could be made for the sake of making the dish healthier (reduce butter, replace with something else) but I would be you would really lose something in terms of taste.  As the main reviewer of this meal, I can say that it made me think B needs a new career as a stay at home husband/personal chef.

Course 1: Arugula Salad with Broiled Goat Cheese and Crostini

Course 2: Seared Sea Scallops and Brown Butter Lobster Risotto

Course 3: Chocolate Souffle with Strawberry Sauce and Whipped Mascarpone Cream

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I recently got started on Pintrest.  Honestly, I really enjoy it because it saves me from having an overcrowded bookmark folder since I have always done “..aaaand bookmark” when I found something I liked/was interested in.  During my Pintrest endeavors I have learned a few things (all somewhat related to food, so it counts for this blog!):

(1) I am the only person on the planet that does not know how to take professional looking pictures

I mean seriously.  Do people not take bad pictures of food/DIY items/household items/their hair/their clothes?  It seems like almost every picture people find has the perfect shutter speed (that’s a thing, right?), lighting, and overall “wow” factor.  I’m lucky if the flash works properly so you get an actual picture and not a big white blob.  For once, I’d like someone to take one of those oh-so-unappealing pictures and say “this looks delicious.”  I bet it wouldn’t even get 1 re-pin.  I guess there’s something about having the perfect picture; people are only able to think “this looks delicious” when they see the image of it.   This also leads me to a new plan.  Any disgusting recipe I accidentally make I’m going to take a pro-level picture of it and make it look great.  That’ll show people who know how to take pictures!  I’ll start a new trend to make my style of photography (which focuses on making sure a picture is actually taken) starts to be the norm.  Because seriously people! I can’t afford one of those fancy-shmancy cameras.

(2) I’m not nearly creative enough

Sometimes I think I’m being so creative.  Look at me!  I can combine different recipes and things to make something edible!   I thought one of the most inventive things I ever came up with were these won-ton tacos.  Lo and behold, a recently pinned item are these tac0 cups.  So much for being inventive. Some of the stuff that people come up with just blows my mind.  I found red wine lollipops that I pinned.  I was AMAZED someone was smart enough to come up with it (and I patted myself on the back for finding it).   Apparently, a lot of people agreed with me since a lot of people re-pinned it. And don’t even get me started on the sewing crafts.  Man, just makes me feel more and more inferior. Last week I tried to sew on a button onto my wool jacket.  My mother took one look at it, laughed at me with her eyes, and went on to do it herself.  Thank you Pintrest, for increasing my own feelings of inadequacy.

(3) People sure know how to make it look easy.

Oh you want to do a fishtail braid?! Here you go, here’s a tutorial that only an idiot wouldn’t able to replicate.  Well I’m that idiot.  Seriously, how do you people get hair to do that?!  I think this goes for all these recipes you see on Pintrest too.  Oh look! Here’s a recipe for a baked Alaska and Beef Wellington!  Perfect Valentine’s recipe combination!  What these pins fail to tell you is that you will fail if you don’t know what you’re doing.  And you will fail spectacularly.  From my experiences, learning how to cook was a multi-stage process.  First, you find a recipe you want to make.  You fail spectacularly your first time.  You try same recipe again.  You fail less.  Cooking is about learning how to fail less often and less spectacularly.  As a side note, I believe my “fail” recipe was spaghetti.  I had no idea I was making it wrong until B, who grew up with real Italian food, pointed it out to me.  Apparently, it’s a sin to eat sauce out of a jar (who knew?) and pasta isn’t supposed to be slightly crunchy. *cue music*  The more you know.

*End Pintrest rant*

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So like I had mentioned in my previous blog, I’ve been under the weather for the past few weeks.  One of the things that has been plaguing me was a persistent case of hives.  By this week it had spread to dangerous levels and I ended up in the hospital for a few days.  So to continue with my “bad blogger” phenomenon I haven’t cooked a new or interesting meal in a long time (side note, B did make fake bacon wrapped scallops the night before I was admitted and they were flippin’ fantastic).

Since I usually work from home and B works 8-10 hours in the lab, our dog Margot was very kindly looked after by our neighbors.  As a thank you we wanted to make them something that fit our dog and theirs (Nola) since they had non-stop playtime for almost 48 hrs (with the exception of the few hours B was not with me and was at home).  In honor of the two dogs and to thank our neighbors, we decided to make Margot-rita and Nola Chocolate Cherry Cola Cupcakes.  The decorative aspect of these..is.uh..well…lacking.  I do not attest to being anywhere close to a decorator and this proves it.  I didn’t calculate the points values since they were a gift but I’m sure they’re not Weight Watchers friendly.

(Pardon our filthy stove in this picture, there was a lot of baking done)

Margot-rita Cupcakes (adapted from Recipe Girl and Annie’s Eats)
(makes about 10 cupcakes)

Cupcakes
3 oz liquid Margarita mix
1 oz tequila
1/4 oz Triple Sec
1/2 box white cake mix (I used Pillsbury Extra Moist)
1 1/2 large egg whites
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp lime zest

Icing
1 sticks unsalted butter (1/2 cup), at room temperature
2 to 3 cups powdered sugar
1 tbsp fresh lime juice
2-4 tsp tequila (this is approximate because we did this to taste)
1/8 tsp coarse sea salt
1 tsp grated lime zest
green food coloring, if desired
small lime slices for garnish, if desired

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a cupcake tin with liners.

Whisk together margarita mix, tequila and Triple Sec in a small bowl. The combination should measure a bit more than 1/2 cup.  In a large bowl, blend cake mix, egg whites, vegetable oil, lime zest and the margarita mix. Blend on low for about 30 seconds and then increase speed to medium and blend for two additional minutes. Batter will be slightly lumpy.  Spoon the batter into cupcake liners (about ¾ full). Bake for 20-25 min, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cupcakes cool for about 10 minutes in the pans, then remove them to a rack to cool completely.

Once cupcakes are completely cooled, prepare the icing. Place butter in a large bowl and beat with electric mixer until butter is fluffy. Add powdered sugar, salt, lime juce, tequila, and lime zest. Mix until thick and creamy. Add more powdered sugar until the frosting is of a good spreading (or piping) consistency. (You can mix in a tiny amount of green food coloring or gel paste if you’d like the frosting to have a green tint but I was looking for a buttery color). Ice cupcakes in whatever manner you prefer either by spreading or piping the frosting. Use small lime slices and a sprinkle of coarse sea salt as garnish.

For the specific decoration of these cupcakes, I piped on the frosting and then tried to build up a snout.  Unfortunately the buttercream ended up getting a little warm in my hands and melted a bit so the snout doesn’t look as good as the cola ones (see below how I did that one).  The night before I made up some dark brown and pink royal icing and piped that into eyes, noses, and tongues.  To get the texture on the tongue and noses I let the royal icing dry to a certain extent then used a toothpick.  For the tongue I just drew a simple line.  When I was applying, I cut the tongues to the appropriate length.  For the noses, I used a toothpick and just made little holes and played with it a little to give it some texture.  For the eyes and noses, the piping attachment I used made them look a little like chocolate morsels since I had to pull up.  I also used the toothpicks to even that out so they looked flatter.  The royal icing recipe I used came from Annie’s Eats.

The ears for Margot were made out of tuile cookies.  I did not make them right so we kind of winged it.  She has ridiculous ears so we were ok with it.  Maybe one day I’ll figure out how to roll a cookie and in the future I can make a cupcake that has terrier like dog ears.

Nola Chocolate Cherry Cola Cupcakes (Adapted from Annie’s Eats, Food Network, and Cooks.com )

Cupcakes

1½ cups all-purpose flour
3 tbsp. cocoa powder
½ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
¾ cup sugar
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 large egg
½ cup buttermilk
approx 2 cups Coca-Cola
¼ tsp. maraschino cherry juice
2 tsp. vanilla extract
Maraschino cherries, stemless

Glaze

3-5 tsp cherry cola (I used about 5 tsp and it ended up being too gooey.  I’d stick with around 3 1/2 tsp.)
3/4 cup powdered sugar

Icing
1/3 cup powdered sugar
2 1/2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla

For cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Line  a muffin pan with foil or paper liners.  In a small pot, add about 1 1/2 cups of coca-cola (or another comparable cola).  Turn up heat and allow the cola to reduce down to more of a syrup (This was done to intensify the coke flavor in the cupcakes).  Once this is reduced down measure into a liquid measuring cup and add coke, as needed, to get 3/4 cup of coke (I ended up with about 1/2 cup of reduced coke syrup from the 1 1/2 I started with and then topped it off with more coke).  Set aside to cool.In a medium bowl combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt.  Stir together and set aside.  In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the sugar and butter.  Mix on medium-high speed until light and fluffy.   Mix in the egg until incorporated.   In a bowl or large measuring cup, combine the buttermilk, Coke, maraschino cherry juice, and vanilla extract; stir to combine.  (This mixture may look disgusting and/or curdled – it’s okay!) Mix the dry ingredients into the butter-sugar mixture on low speed, alternately with the liquid ingredients, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and mixing just until incorporated.  Divide the batter evenly between the cupcake liners.  Drop a stemless maraschino cherries into each cupcake well and push them down into the batter.  Bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool in the pan 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

For glaze: Add the cherry cola, 1 teaspoon at a time, to the powdered sugar until it has a good consistency to drizzle on cupcakes. Once cupcakes are cool drizzle the glaze onto them (make sure there is a baking sheet or something under them! It got messy for me).
For icing:Combine confectioners’ sugar and cocoa in small bowl. Add cream and vanilla; beat until stiff.Using a piping bag and one of the fancier attachments (I have no idea how to describe these) I piped the the whipped cream icing on in little dollops.  When the cupcake was completely covered, I cut maraschino cherries in half and placed on in the lower  center of each cupcake.  Using the remainder of the icing, I covered the cherry to create a snout.

For Nola’s ears, I melted some chocolate in the microwave and laid it out on a wax paper lined cookie sheet. Using a toothpick, I created a swirly pattern in the chocolate since she is a curly dog.  We allowed the chocolate to cool in the fridge and then cut out ears using an exacto-knife. (See above for description of eyes, nose, and tongue for the dog face)

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Welcome to my attempt at a blog!  This is my first attempt at a blog and I thought what better avenue that talking about food (since I expect my inner monologue is less than intriguing to most).  Its really of my way of atoning for the sins of the past; a redemption in a way.  Cooking is quite an important to me not only because its something that my husband and I love to do together but it’s also something that has not always been a strong suit.  …. Now fade to montage of previous cooking experiences.

My failures: In high school I tried to make cookies with Crisco.  This was a bag of cookie mix where all you add is eggs, butter, and milk.  I also burnt an egg.  While trying to hard boil it.

My ability to cook began to develop when I was studying abroad in England.  Since I had never really cooked for myself before since I had lived either at home with my parents or on campus this was the first time I really needed to make something edible.  Most of the time it was fairly simple stuff.  What made it more problematic was that at the time I was completely vegetarian so I couldn’t just make chicken and be over with it.  I have since started eating fish and shellfish which has increased the amount of food I can cook and the flexibility.  Meeting and dating my husband also broadened my cooking horizons.  In the first year of dating I ate mostly salmon, potatoes, and spinach or something else that featured salmon or spaghetti and meatballs (since you can get meatless meatballs).  Around our first year anniversary he said “it’s about time you move on from canned sauce” since he grew up in an Italian family that made its own sauce.  Since that moment I have never voluntarily eaten sauce that has not been made in my own kitchen.  When we moved in together we started making more complicated meals.  I have been able to move on from a burnt hard-boiled egg to a wide array of foods from fresh pumpkin ravioli (like cut from an actual pumpkin) with sage butter cream sauce and banana chocolate cake.  This blog is my attempt to capture my culinary adventures as I further develop my skills and move from hopeless wannabe to actual cook.  I only eat fish and my husband eats everything so this will also hopefully provide some useful recipes for people in our situation.  Since I will never move from my “what should I order?” roots, its also important to appreciate those awesome meals that others make for me.

Hope you enjoy!

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