Sunday, February 28, 2010

Stinson Weekend

To celebrate my completion of the bar exam - and my return to earth - John and I went to Stinson Beach for the weekend.  We rented the same house we did last time and enjoyed it just as much this time around. 

This same dog was here last time too.  He's a bit of a barker.  I enjoyed the position he forced himself into.  Kind of reminded me of a person in shackles.  Or whatever the name of that thing is where criminals had to stick their head through a hole and their hands through separate holes.  Anyone?  Anyone?

The waves were really rough, so they spit out a lot of that sea foam stuff onto the beach.  We had a kick out of watching Maddie occasionally chase it, catch it, and then become bewildered when it disappeared.  I told John that in the Hans Christian Anderson version of The Little Mermaid, Ariel turns into sea foam in the end and it's actually quite traumatic for a child.  I think it can also be traumatic for a husband.

We went out for a long walk on the beach when we first arrived at the house.  Our dinner plans weren't until 8 and it had been raining most of the day, so the sunshine seemed miraculous. 

The rough seas deposited all kinds of rocks and shells on the beach.  This picture was taken with the macro functionality on my lens that I recently discovered.  Good thing I discovered this before purchasing a macro lens.

I enjoyed watching John and Maddie play chase because John, like most dogs that face Maddie, is no match for her speed.  

We met quite a few cute pups on the beach.  What a sweet face.

Well, in my opinion this is a sweeter one. 

We had a really great weekend relaxing before I head back to work tomorrow.  It was the perfect way to unwind and I'll be sharing more updates with you later in the week.

Yes, there was a tsunami warning on Saturday afternoon (which we found out about thanks to the lovely Stinson Beach Fire Department), but luckily it turned out to be nothing. 

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Butter Chicken

Now I know the title of this recipe intrigued you, because when the word "butter" is in the title, everyone's ears perk up.  Or eyes if you're reading this, I guess.  And butter chicken is actually and Indian dish.  I hope I didn't lose you there.  Hence the mound of basmati rice underneath.  It's really simple to make, accompanied by a heaping portion of rich and delicious.  John and I both loved the dish, but I would definitely recommend cutting the cream a bit and increasing the spices (as I do in the recipe below).  Both of which surprise me immensely - using less cream and making something spicier?  What?  But trust me, I know how I like my Indian-ish food! 

First you need to marinate the chicken for at least 2 hours.  You will need kosher salt, lime, cardamom, corriander, cayenne pepper, cumin, garlic, and black pepper.

Take a couple of chicken breasts and place them in a bowl.

Add 5 cloves minced garlic, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, ½ teaspoon black pepper, 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, ¼ teaspoons ground coriander, ¼ teaspoon cumin, ¼ teaspoon cardamom, and 1 whole lime, juiced. 

Toss the chicken well with the spices and lime juice.  Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or up until overnight.  

Dice up half an onion.

Here's the butter part of butter chicken.  Melt two tablespoons of butter in a large skillet. 

Add in your diced onion and cook for 3-5 minutes.  

Here they are nice and translucent. 

Now add in your marinated chicken breasts, ideally moving the onions so the chicken breasts can directly touch the skillet.  

Cook for 10 minutes total, flipping the chicken about halfway through.

Now add a small 8 oz. can of tomato sauce and about 7 oz. of diced tomatoes (I had to use half a 14.5 oz. can) to your pan.

Mix it up well so the chicken is somewhat covered.  This is a good time to add in some extra spices.  You will want to add at least 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper, but do some taste tests and see how spicy you want it.  Then I also suggest adding in a dash of cumin, corriander, and cardamom.  Now place a lid on your pan and simmer for 30 minutes.  

After your 30 minutes are up, add 1/2 cup cream.  Stir well and do one last taste test for spices. 

Serve over a heaping mound of basmati rice.  This sauce is rich, but not as filling as the sauces I typically find at Indian restaurants.  The chicken is extra moist - much more so than your average chicken breast.  This is probably a good recipe to play with to see how much cream and spices you want to add to make it taste the way you prefer.  I know I'll be repeating this recipe soon to get my own specific ratios down.  I also think I might try crushed tomatoes (instead of diced) next time to avoid the chunky texture.  But that's just me. 

Butter Chicken
From Tasty Kitchen by way of Pioneer Woman

2 chicken breasts
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
1-2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon ground coriander
¼ teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon cardamom
1 whole lime, juiced
1/2 onion, diced
2 tablespoons butter
7-8 oz. canned tomato sauce
7-8 oz. canned diced or crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup heavy cream

Place chicken breasts in a medium-sized bowl.  Add garlic, salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, coriander, cumin, cardamom, and the juice of one lime.  Toss to coat, cover, and refrigerate for 2 hours or for as long as overnight.  

Heat a pan over medium heat.  Melt two tablespoons of butter and add 1/2 diced onion.  Cook until translucent and add marinated chicken breasts.  Cook chicken for about 5 minutes per side and then add in 8 oz. tomato sauce and 8 oz. diced or crushed tomatoes.  Add additional cayenne pepper (at least 1 teaspoon) and an additional dash of cumin, coriander, and cardamom to taste.  Cover pan and simmer for 30 minutes.  Stir in 1/2 cup cream and serve over basmati rice. 

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Buffalo Wings

Hello, internet.  It's nice to be back.  The bar exam is finally over and I'm back in the world of the living.  It's a good thing California is so beautiful, or else no one would sit through a three-day bar exam.  The exam seemed to go well, though I'll let you know for sure on May 14th.  We don't find out until 6PM on the 14th, so I have to sit through the whole day at work freaking out.  I much preferred finding out at 9AM in New York so you just came into work a few minutes late and knew that you could play hookey if you found out bad news.  Thanks to everyone for all the well wishes and for those of you who had to put up with me for the past couple of months! 

Back to the blogging.  I promised you buffalo wings and I'm bringing you buffalo wings.  Now, I'm not a wing person, because I don't eat spicy food, and that's generally the main purpose of wings (right?).  John loves them, which explains why they made it onto our Valentine's Day table.  This recipe is great because it's really easy and actually a bit healthier because you don't fry the wings.  Notice I said healthier and not healthy.  Steaming, chilling, and then roasting results in super crispy wings.  You won't even miss the frying! 

I started with 12 whole chicken wings, which came to about 2 pounds.  First you cut the wings in half at the joint, separating the "drumette" from the "other thingie."  Then chop off the tip of the wings; you can discard the tips or save them for making stock.  Now steam the wings for 10 minutes in a large pot fitted with a steamer basket and filled with about 1 inch of water.  Be sure to cover the pot...just in case you aren't quite sure what steaming is.

After 10 minutes of steaming, place the wings on a cooling rack over a paper-towel lined baking sheet.  Pat them dry.

Cool in the fridge for about 1 hour to help dry them out.  Then tell your husband he isn't allowed to go into the fridge to get his diet cokes because otherwise he will ruin the dinner surprise. 

Remove the wings from the fridge and replace the paper towel with parchment paper.  Roast in a 425 degree oven for 20 minutes and then flip the wings and roast for another 30 minutes.  Make sure to wait until the skin is golden and crispy.

Did you know that the reason wings are so unhealthy are because the wing sauce is made of butter?  This was news to me, but every recipe I looked at called for butter.  The recipe called for 6 tablespoons of butter with 1/4 cup hot sauce.  This made more sauce than we actually needed, so I'd probably use 4 tablespoons of butter next time. 

Hot sauce v. BBQ sauce.  You can guess which bowl is mine.

Melt your butter in the microwave and contemplate how you now realize why wings are so popular.

Combine the melted butter with 1/4 cup hot sauce, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 2 cloves of pressed garlic in a large bowl.

Throw in your crispy wings and toss thoroughly with a pair of tongs. 

I feel like I work at Buffalo Wild Wings or something.

Come on, you know those look like professional wings, people.  Granted, I didn't serve them in a plastic basket, but I did put a roll of paper towels on the table.  John loved 'em, and that's all that matters.  I enjoyed my BBQ wings too, and yes the two of us were able to go through 12 wings no problem.  In case you were wondering.

Buffalo Wings

12 whole chicken wings, 2-3 pounds
4-6 tablespoons butter, melted
1/4 cup hot sauce (Frank's)
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
Paper towels, for the mess

Fill a large stock pot with one inch of water and place a steamer basket inside the pot.  Cover and bring to a boil over high heat.  Meanwhile, remove the tips from the wings and separate the drumette from the other half at the joint using kitchen shears or a large knife.  Discard the tips.  Steam the wings for 10 minutes and pat dry.  Place on a cooling rack resting on a paper-towel lined cookie sheet.  Cool the wings in the fridge for an hour to dry them out.  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Remove the wings from the fridge and replace the paper towel with parchment paper.  Roast the wings for 20 minutes and then flip and roast for another 30 minutes until crispy and browned.  Meanwhile, melt 6 tablespoons butter in the microwave and combine with 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 cup Frank's hot sauce, and 2 cloves pressed garlic in a large bowl.  When the wings are done remove from the oven and place in the large bowl with the sauce.  Toss well with tons and serve with plenty of paper towels handy.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Fruit Gal

I got a delivery from "The Fruit Guys" earlier this week with a package of fruit and goodies from my firm to wish my luck on the bar exam.  Maddie was apparently very interested in the package.  Actually she was mostly just interested when a strange man rang the doorbell - dogs will be dogs.

Perfect timing too because I probably need to balance out all the Hershey's Kisses I'm eating with maybe an apple occasionally.  I'm running on chocolate now, but maybe in the next few days I'll try to eat like a normal person (or perhaps the chocolate thing is normal) so I can manage for this last push.  It's a bizarre feeling when there is no "free time" in your life anymore because you feel like you should constantly be studying.  At least when you get home from work you're done.  But a studier's life is never done and there is always more to learn.  I'm not freaking out, but I'll just say I'm not slowing down either. 

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Art of the Slow Cooker

I've been slow cooking up a storm lately - well maybe just slow cooking up a drizzle, since it's isn't exactly a frenetic activity.  My recent slow cooking is mostly due to this great book I picked up at the library a few weeks back, Art of the Slow Cooker by Andrew Schloss .  Both my Chocolate Chicken Chili recipe and Hearty Minestrone recipes came from this book, and it's practically unheard of that I would get a chance to cook more than one recipe from a cookbook before I return it to the library.  The book isn't too long, but it has lots of inviting and appetizing pictures to tempt you into breaking out the crock pot.  I definitely recommend it if you're looking for a slow cooker cookbook. 

My slow cooker cost something like $19 on the day after Thanksgiving sale at Target.  I figured that was too good a deal to pass up, and I'm glad I didn't pass it up because slow cooking can make amazing soups.  I haven't ventured into the meat-cooking territory yet, but mostly because the recipes aren't as appealing to me.  I'm sure I'll be blogging about slow-cooked pork shoulder soon though!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


For Valentine's Day I decided to cook John a romantic dinner, and by romantic I mean buffalo wings and fries.  I knew nothing would make him happier.  We lit a candle for the table, broke out lots of paper towels, and dug in.  I also changed out of my pajama pants for the first time in weeks and commemorated the holiday with an actual dress. 
They aren't really fries though, because they are baked in the oven and not even remotely fried.  

You need about one potato per person.  I used russets, though I'm not sure if you could use yukons (which I normally prefer).  

Wash and scrub the potatoes thoroughly and attempt to dry them a bit before you bake them so the fries are crispy.  

Cut the potatoes into 1/3-inch slices and then cut each slice into several long thin strands.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  On a large baking sheet place 1 teaspoon of olive (or grapeseed) oil and rub it around with a paper towel or the back of a spoon.

Place the potato strips on the pan and add 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil.
Toss well and spread evenly in the pan.  Bake at 400 degrees, tossing every 10 minutes.  The recipe called for 25-35 minutes, but mine took about 50 minutes to get them crispy enough.  I definitely recommend leaving them in for long enough so they can crisp up.  
Make sure they are browned and delicious, or life isn't worth living.  

Top with kosher salt and Herbes de Provence.  I didn't think the herbs would necessary, but it really does bring the fries to the next level.  I've never had oven-baked fries that taste this great.  They taste like steak fries, because they clearly have a real potato flavor as opposed to McDonald's fries which taste like something...else. 

"Fries" with Herbes de Provence

2 russet potatoes
1 teaspoon olive oil for pan, 1-2 tablespoons olive oil for potatoes
Kosher salt
Herbes de Provence

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Place 1 teaspoon of olive oil on the baking sheet and spread around with the bottom of a spoon or paper towel.  Slice potatoes in 1/3-inch slices and cut into smaller strips.  Toss potatoes with 1-2 tablespoons olive oil.  Spread potatoes evenly in pan and bake at 400 degrees for 35-50 minutes, tossing the fries every 10 minutes.  Don't remove until the fries are browned and crispy.  Top with kosher salt and Herbes de Provence. 
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