Saturday, September 25, 2010


I'm so excited. Until now I've been using my mom's old Viking machine. Don't get me wrong, it's a solid machine but it's never been serviced and it kept jamming on me. And it was time I got my own anyway.

SO I got a Janome Sewist 500 (see here: It's got a 1-step automatic buttonhole feature(!!!). It's manual, not electronic, which I did on purpose because electronic things tend to be finicky and if one thing goes wrong the whole thing is messed up. I just don't trust it.

My understanding is that Janome is a pretty solid brand, so I hope I chose well. Now, I just need to find a table to sew on...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Chicken Chilaquiles

Simple, tasty, and great for lunch. I'm always looking for something I can easily pack away to take with me for lunch at work. It's especially great if one batch will make several meals so that I can freeze them and eat them when I'm in a rush. Enter: chicken chilaquiles.

Before anyone says anything, I realize this is not even close to authentic. I don't care. It's tasty and that's all that matters to me.

Here it is, all ready to go in a container for my lunch.

Chicken Chilaquiles
1 2 lb rotisserie chicken, meat removed and shredded
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large can whole tomatoes in puree, pureed in food processor
1/2 small can green chiles
4 gloves (about 2 tsp) minced garlic
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 cup chicken stock
1 tsp cumin
dash of chipotle chile powder
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
salt and pepper

1. In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about 1 to 2 minutes.
2. Add the processed tomatoes and green chiles. Bring to a boil.
3. Add chicken stock, cumin, chile powder, salt, and pepper. Simmer for about 10 minutes. Add chicken and cook until the chicken is hot, about 1 minute. Add cilantro and stir.

Now, traditionally you serve this over a bowl with tortilla chips. I don't like soggy tortilla chips so I just scoop it out with a tortilla chip, using the chip as my utensil. It's delicious. You can also top it with sour cream and/or cheese.

Also, like most soups and stews, this is better the next day because the flavors get a better chance to meld. So if you can, make it in advance and eat it later.

Monday, September 20, 2010

I need some advice

I want to get my own sewing machine, but I don't really know what a good sewing machine is. I know Vikings are really good, but super expensive.

I'm looking for 3 things in my sewing machine:
1. It will last for many many years
2. It has an automatic 1-step buttonholer (I hate button holes)
3. It doesn't cost more than, say, $350.

Does anyone have any suggestions? I've found some that match this, but I'm nervous just plunging in without knowing more.

Joy of Joys

Let's get the meeting started. My name is Jennifer, and I am a coconut addict. I know that I have no control over my addiction. I know that I cannot have only on Almond Joy. Or only one piece of Almond Joy cake.

Which reminds me. Almond Joy cake is probably my favorite cake ever. Take a moment and put aside your feelings toward coconut if they are not favorable, because this cake has changed people's minds.

It's sweet and kind of gooey and delicious and satisfying and anything you could want from your cake. Even if you don't like coconut. (By the way, we can't be friends if you don't. I just don't see it working out.)

Almond Joy Cake
1 box chocolate cake mix (or devils food or what have you)
1 can condensed milk
1/2 can coconut cream (found in the drink mix isle)
1 regular container whipped cream
1/2 bag coconut
1/8 cup sliced almonds
1/2 tsp almond extract
Chocolate bar for chocolate shavings, if desired.

1. Bake cake in 13 by 9 inch pan as directed on the box. Allow cake to cool.
2. When cake is cool, take a straw and poles lots of holes in the cake. Suck cake out from straw (that's the  best part. And yes, you have to do that part. It's part of the recipe). Mix the 1/2 can of coconut cream (stir it real good because it separates) and can of condensed milk. Pour over the cake evenly.
3. Add almond extract to whipped cream and stir until combined. Spread over the top of the cake. Sprinkle with the coconut, almonds, and chocolate shavings. Store in the refrigerator.

I really do have an unhealthy love for this cake. I mean, it's beautiful. My mom used to make it when I was a kid, but I hadn't had it for probably 10 years when in college it popped into my mind and I had to make it. I don't know anyone who doesn't like this.

Even if you don't like coconut (seriously, we can't be friends) you should try this. It could change your mind (and you really should change your mind about it because I would like to be friends).

By the way, I apologize for not having prettier pictures. I just have a hard time justifying dirtying a plate just so you don't have to see the cake in the pan. And my camera is never around when it's on a plate. And, let's be honest, it doesn't stay on the plate very long.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Gnocchi Mac n Cheese

Oh. My. God.

I know what heaven is.

Seriously. I don't think it gets better than this. Gnocchi mac n cheese. Are you serious? First of all, that's not even comfort food, that's last meal kind of food. Second of all, how did I not think of this myself??

I can't take credit for this recipe. Actually, my old roommate sent me this recipe because she knows how much I love love love macaroni and cheese. Honestly, my last meal would involve macaroni and cheese in some significant way.

Anyway. As I mentioned I made dinner Sunday night. I got this recipe Sunday morning, and it looked so amazing I made it Sunday night. Here it is. I got it from Noble Pig.

Gnocchi Mac n' Cheese
From Cuisine at Home

1 pound purchased or homemade gnocchi
2 Tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons garlic, finely chopped
1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
3/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup shredded Gruyere cheese
1/4 cup shredded fontina cheese
Salt and white pepper to taste
1/3 cup shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano
Basil leaves for garnish, optional

1. Preheat oven to 375o F. Prepare gnocchi according to package directions.  Drain and place gnocchi in a single-layer in a 1-1/2 quart shallow baking dish that has been sprayed with nonstick spray.

2. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Whisk in flour until it thickens and bubbles, then whisk in milk and Dijon.  Continue to whisk mixture and cook until slightly thickened, about 3-5 minutes.

3. Combine Gruyere and fontina, then add by the handful to milk mixture, stirring until melted before adding the next handful.  Once all cheese is melted, season sauce with salt and pepper.

4. Pour sauce over gnocchi and sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano over top.  Bake gnocchi until they puff and cheese is golden and bubbly, about 25 minutes. Let gnocchi rest for 5 minutes before serving.

 I'll be honest: I doubled the amount of cheese in every instance. And it turned out MAGNIFICENT. I will say, though, that these cheeses aren't readily available in my area so I had to get the imported (read: expensive) cheeses which ended up costing me about $22. So just be aware of that.

Do you see it bubbling? That's a sign of brilliance.

The finished product. I got to use up about half of the rest of the gnocchi I made and froze. We ate it with grilled chicken and simple steamed green beans.
And even though the chicken was marinated with olive oil, garlic, and lots of fresh rosemary and cooked to juicy perfection, it still paled in comparison to the gnocchi.

I seriously can't get over it. Save up some money and give it a try because it will change your life.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Oh Boy.

Whew. The last few days have been...busy.

Let's start with Friday. Mom stayed home sick on Friday. After work I was with Garrick and we had dinner, dessert, and a movie since it was date night. After the movie, around 9 pm I text my mom to see how she's feeling. Then I get a call from dad saying they're in the minor emergency. Turns out mom stayed home because she had been having pains in her side all night and couldn't sleep. But the pain was just getting worse. After 4 vials of blood, a urine sample, and a CT scan, it was determined she had appendicitis and would have to have her appendix out that night. This wasn't determined until around 12:30 am, she was transported to the main hospital around 1 am. At 2 am I went home to get some sleep (I had been up since 5:30 am that morning). Got home around 2:30. Showered, got to bed around 3. At 6 am dad calls to say that mom is going into surgery. At 8:45 he calls and says she is in recovery and when can I come with her requested breakfast drink. So after being up half the night, and not sleeping well I got up, got ready, and went to the hospital where I stayed until about 1 when I had to take Garrick back to his car so he could go to work.

I took a nap, then started cleaning. Usually mom cleans the upstairs and I clean the downstairs, but obviously mom wasn't going to be able to do any cleaning which means it is up to me. I don't mind, it's just that the house is some 4,000 square feet, which takes a long, long time to clean. That's pretty much all I did until about 8 when my friend and her boyfriend came over. Mom got to come home that night and she made it back around 9 pm.

Sunday I got up and made breakfast (pancakes, bacon, poached eggs). Then more cleaning. Then errands. Then cook dinner. Then more cleaning.

So anyway. Interesting and busy weekend. Which means my posts for the week aren't done, and to be honest I didn't put much thought into them.

So for today I'll give you my go-to recipe for pancakes. No Bisquick allowed.

1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour (for a healthier alternative, use 3/4 cup white and 3/4 cup whole wheat flour)
1 1/4 cup milk
3 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 Tbsp sugar
3 Tbsp melted butter
1 tsp salt or less

Combine all ingredients. Pour out 1/4 cup per pancake and cook on a griddle or skillet. I like to use utensils to cook them in the shape of a heart or cloud. Sorry to say I don't have pictures (like I said, I wasn't all that focused on my blog this past weekend). This makes about 10 pancakes.

Honestly, though, pancakes were one of the first things I learned to make and I have tried so many different recipes, and this is the one I like best. It has an almost sugar cookie taste, but has hardly any sugar. It's just darn tasty. Oh, and super easy. I don't even see the point in using Bisquick because pancakes from scratch are just about as easy. That said, if you really like the flavor of Bisquick, add about 1/3 cup of malted milk powder to the batter.

Oh, and if you've never made a poached egg, you must. The texture of them is superior to any other way you could cook an egg. What you want to do is get a large pan mostly full of water to a very low simmer (anything more than tiny bubbles and you risk break your yolks). Add about 1 to 2 Tbsp white vinegar - this changes the pH of the water and helps keep the whites together. Crack 3 eggs into a mug (use several mugs if you want more than 3). When the water is barely simmering, pour your eggs from your mug(s) into the water, cover the pan, remove from the heat, and let it sit for 5-7 minutes until the whites are set but the yolk is still soft. This is a really easy technique that works really well.

There you go. Longest post every about breakfast. And you witnessed it.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Dark Chocolate Brownies

I know you're already starting to drool at the title.

And for those of you who say "I don't like dark chocolate" trust me, these will make you a believer. I personally love dark chocolate. And when I say dark chocolate I mean like the Hershey's version that's just slightly darker than milk chocolate. I tried some 84% cocoa chocolate the other day, and that was just too bitter for me.

Back to the task at hand. This is our contribution to dinner with Megan and Caleb. Speaking of which, we've been sucking lately. We've had to bail on them twice because of scheduling conflict. Now our Thursday dinners have become Wednesday dinners but it looks like Garrick might have to start working on Wednesdays (KWCH: you ruin my life). So maybe it will have to become Saturday lunch or something.

ANYWAY. Let's just get to the recipe.

Dark Chocolate Brownies
1 cup + 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
7 oz 70% cocoa chocolate
3/4 cup cocoa powder, sifted
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 3/4 cup sugar
4 large eggs

1. Melt butter and chocolate and mix until smooth (Ideally do this in a bowl over simmering water; I'm impatient and do it in the microwave but just know you have a greater risk of burning the chocolate or making it separate)
2. Combine dry ingredients. Add to butter/chocolate mixture
3. Beat the eggs and mix with the rest of the batter. Rather than stirring it until it becomes smooth like usual, just let it rest for 5-10 minutes - that will allow things to break down. Give it a final stir to make sure everything is smooth.
4. Bake for 25 minutes. The brownies should be set at the edges but still gooey in the middle.

Please note: these are NOT like box brownie mix. They will be less "done" than those brownies usually are. That's a good thing - it makes them so much more fudgey and delicious.

Having just finished making them, I can just say that I always forget just how amazing these are. Seriously, I almost couldn't make myself stop testing the batter for quality control.


Anyway. I really do recommend that you try this recipe. I like "box brownies" as much as the next person, but nothing can beat these, except maybe continuing to wear your skinny jeans because they won't fit after this.

P.S. I'd like to know: if you've tried any of the recipes I've posted, leave a comment and let me know how you liked it. Also, I'd like to know what readers want: more recipes? More posts? More sewing? More crafts? More tutorials? More personal thoughts? I get a lot more hits than I do comments so I'm interested to know what readers think and want from this little site.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Banana Muffins

Usually I post on Mondays, but Monday was Labor Day and you're not allowed to work on Labor Day. So I didn't.

But I'll post today.

Don't you hate seeing food go to waste? And doesn't it seem like bananas get a little too ripe before you can possibly eat them all? This is where a good banana muffin recipe comes in handy. Not only are they tasty and freeze really well, but they're really easy to make. Now you don't have an excuse to throw out those dark bananas.

Banana Muffins
makes 10-12 muffins

3-4 ripe bananas, mashed
1/3 cup melted butter or margarine
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/8 tsp salt
Pinch of cinnamon

1. Mash the bananas with a fork and mix with the melted butter. Add egg and sugar.
2. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Add to banana/butter/sugar/egg mixture.
3. Put about 1/4 cup of batter in each muffin cup. Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes.
4. Now here's the trick to make the muffins stay extra moist: rather than have the muffins cool on a cooling rack, stick them in a gallon-size resealable bag, but don't close it. Leave them there until they cool, then seal the bag. You'll notice quite a bit of condensation - this is what keeps the muffins moist.

The whole thing with the resealable bag was something I found out on accident. I was running short on time and didn't want to throw out my bananas, so as soon as they came out of the oven I put them in a bag and left. What resulted were muffins with this almost gooey center, but were fully cooked. So delicious. The next time I made them I let them cool on the counter, and those muffins were much more dry. The next time I put them in a bag again and they were super moist and delicious.

These freeze very well. Just leave them in the resealable bag and throw them in the freezer. When you want on, just throw it in the microwave for about 30 seconds and you'll never know it was ever frozen.

By the way, this is the new house I keep talking about:
Well, the part that doesn't show the address anyway. I love having followers but I don't need anyone following that closely.

Also, the sky looked really neat a few minutes ago:

That's all for today. Check back on Thursday for the best brownie recipe ever.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Delicious Side Dish

As promised, here is the recipe for the side dish we had with our steak tacos with sweet and spicy pickled onions which were oh so good.

It's called: Grilled Corn with Chili-Lime Cream and Cheese and Garrick didn't want it. He thought it sounded gross. I didn't see how this was possible. Luckily, I was able to prove him wrong.

Grilled Corn with Chili-Lime Cream and Cheese
as seen in Cooking Club Magazine August/September 2010 Issue

8 eat corn
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream (or Crema Mexicana Agria)
1 Tbsp lime juice
1 tsp grated lime peel
2 cups grated cotija or Parmesan cheese
2 tsp anchi chili powder
1/2 tsp chipotle chili powder

1/ Peel corn husks to base of each cob, leaving husks attached. Remove silk. Remove 1 long piece of corn husk from each cob to use as tie. Pull husks away from corn; tie with piece of husk or string to provide a handle.
2. Soak corn in large pot or sink filled with water 20 minutes. Drain (corn should be wet but not dripping when placed on grill).
3. Meanwhile, combine mayonnaise, sour cream, lime juice, and lime peel in a small bowl; spoon into tall glass. Combine cheese and chile powders; spread on a plate.
4. Heat grill. Grill corn, covered, over medium heat or coals 8 to 10 minutes or until tender and beginning to char, turning every 2 minutes. (If you place a piece of double-thickness foil under the husks you'll protect them from charring too much) Cool 2 minutes.
5. Holding corn by husks, dip into mayonnaise mixture (I would scrape off some of the excess); roll in cheese mixture (I would sprinkle it on - it gets to be too much if you roll it).

And there you have it. And it was delicious. Seriously. The only thing is that corn season is pretty much over so you'd better try it while we still have a small supply of corn on the cob at stores!