Posted by: B

I’m currently in Europe going through a month-long training program. Before I left for my first job in the “real world,” I felt incredibly free and balanced. My life was settled down (or so I had believed), the bf and I live together – and I had a great schedule with my then job & my life. Now everything has been turned upside down. I’m in an industry that demands incredibly long hours, and has a steep learning curve. The more I earn, the less I seem to care about money. It’s just so upsetting to think that I’ve earned the pinnacle of everything we were taught to want, and now I find myself wishing to give it all away. A “great” job with a big paycheck and even bigger growth opportunities cannot hug you at night, or spoon you during movies, or ride bikes with you late into the night. It’s pretty pathetic to think that so many of my peers are lining up their resumes for a job like mine, when all I want to do is tell them to save themselves before they get caught in this mess. 

When did it become acceptable to sign away your life in the face of a prestigious career? All of us here chose this job for the money and the endless opportunities here to make more money. In our parents eyes, we have “done right.” We left good schools and got good jobs to help set up our life. But I can’t help thinking about the sacrifices we all intend to make for this “great opportunity.” As I pass each stage in my life, I can’t help but think how little I’ve chosen for myself. These good schools & good jobs are supposed to help you, but all I can think about is how it has hurt my ability to find myself and experience life outside of the demands of the office or classroom. For me, money no longer has the same sway as a fresh off-the-vine tomato, or a kiss stolen between lovers. Instead, money now represents freedom – the ability to have a life without a pressure-cooker environment. More importantly, it represents the freedom for me to have a life where I am in the driver’s seat. Until then, I am here – reminding myself that it has an end. I just have to save and sacrifice for it now. This is what keeps me going until then.

Posted by: Y

In the past week I’ve baked two batches of cookies. I decided to take a break from posting about cookies and cupcakes so that you guys don’t mistake me for the Cookie Monster. I just love cookies!

I have the day off from work so I woke up late and decided to whip up some lunch. I remembered a REALLY SIMPLE macaroni and cheese recipe I read in a cookbook at the bookstore, so I decided to give it a try. The book is called “Macaroni and Cheese” by Marlena Spieler and I was very pleasantly surprised when I found that Google Books offers a limited preview of the book that includes the recipe for Midnight Macaroni that I’ve been drooling over. The recipe has very few ingredients, and very little effort required. Inexpensive AND easy! I adapted the original recipe alot – I used Monterey Jack cheese (recipe calls for Stilton cheese), because that is what I have at home. I also shrank the proportions to make a meal for one:

Ingredients:
1.5 cups dry pasta, rotini
1.5 oz shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 Large clove garlic, minced finely
2 tbsp butter, cut into small pieces
Salt and black pepper, to taste

Directions:
1. Cook the pasta until al dente according to package instructions, reserving some of the cooking water.
2. Put garlic and butter pieces in a bowl.
3. Pour hot drained pasta into the bowl with the garlic and butter; toss in grated cheese and mix together thoroughly. If necessary, add in some of the reserved cooking water.
4. Dig in and enjoy!

The garlic adds a nice kick to the macaroni and cheese. This simple macaroni and cheese is tastier and just as easy to make as boxed mac and cheese- how can you beat that? You can also play with the recipe and make more for guests, or try it with different cheeses and pastas. The original recipe also called for tricolor fusilli, but the closest thing that I had at home was rotini. I would definitely make it with the tricolor next time if I was cooking for other people to make the dish look nicer. But when I am at home by myself on a Friday afternoon (cue in angels singing) I have noone to impress but myself, and I’m easy to please.

Confetti Cupcakes!

July 11, 2008

Posted by: Y

These past couple weeks have been pretty crazy for me. I moved into a new apartment with two new roomies, and had alot of unpacking and shopping to do! I’m afraid I’ve had to eat out every night for the past few weeks but I am getting back on track- I made dinner (kimchi fried rice) for me and my roommate A tonight.

Before all the moving craziness began, I made cupcakes for G’s birthday dinner. I thought about making a cake, but I thought cupcakes would be easier to transport/share at a restaurant. This was my first time making cupcakes from scratch, and it turned out fantastic! I got the recipe for the cupcakes from Baking Bites and got the recipe for the frosting from rachaelraymag.com: 

Confetti Cupcakes


1/2 cup milk

3 large egg whites

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp almond extract

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour

1 cup sugar

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp baking powder

6 tbsp butter, soft

2 tbsp rainbow sprinkles

Preheat oven to 350F.
Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.
In a measuring cup, whisk together milk, egg whites and extracts. Set aside
In the bowl of an electric mixer (or a large bowl if you prefer to work by hand), combine flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. Stir to combine. Cut in butter with the paddle attachment at low speed (or cut in by hand), until mixture is coarse and sandy. Add milk mixture and beat at medium speed for 1 1/2 minutes. Scrape sides of bowl and continue beating for 20-30 seconds. Stir in sprinkles.
Divide batter evenly into prepared tin. Bake for for 15 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.
Remove from pan and cool completely on a wire cooling rack before frosting. 
Makes 12.

Marshmallow Frosting

2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (optional)
One 7.5-ounce tub marshmallow cream (such as Marshmallow Fluff brand)

1. In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter until creamy.

2. Beat in one-fourth of the sugar until fluffy, then repeat with the remaining sugar.

3. Beat in the vanilla, then stir in the marshmallow cream until well blended. 

These cupcakes were sooooooooo good. The sprinkles in the cupcakes make them so festive and fun to eat! I didn’t use Baking Bites’ recipe for marshmallow icing because I was feeling lazy and it was more complicated than this simple recipe from Rachael Ray (I bet that icing is delicious though)!  I actually halved the icing recipe from Rachael Ray to create the recipe above (because the original recipe was for 24 cupcakes, and I only baked 12). Even then I had alot of it left – so I think I would make the same amount of icing even if I were making 24 cupcakes. All in all, a great first experience in baking cupcakes- unlike the experience G’s brother W had after he tried to recreate the cupcakes for a July 4 dinner without me around to guide. Let’s just say there was burnt batter on the bottom of the oven afterwards and he got to the party late with store-bought cake and wine…

Posted by: B

Here is a classic salad that is made extremely often in our household. It’s adapted from a recipe featured on Everyday Italian. I’ve simplified her version of the recipe with less herbs and a more classic dressing. I just love the simplicity of this salad – the steak is perfectly grilled to a medium rare (thanks to E’s amazing talent on the grill), the penne is left al dente, and lastly the fresh arugula just barely wilts in the hot pasta (with a little help from the additional pasta water saved). This salad can be served warm or cold. In fact, it only gets better left in the fridge all night, after the dressing has melted into the penne some more. And it packs well for a great lunch. More importantly, it’s perfect for those hot summer nights, when you want something light but you still need a bite to your food. This is no fussy delicate salad, au contrare- instead, you’ll find that it’s as filling as it is healthful. 

Steak Salad w/ Arugula

Ingredients: 

1lb steak (preferably with no bones – flank steak or a boneless sirloin is best)

1 box of penne pasta (I use whole wheat or smart pasta if you prefer the taste of white pasta)

1 bunch of fresh arugula

olive oil

salt

pepper

2 cloves of garlic minced

herbs de provence

dijon mustard

balsamic vinegar

1 ladle full of reserved pasta water 

Directions:

Preheat the grill. Season steak with the minced garlic, salt, pepper, and herbs de provence. Be sure to pat this seasoning into the steak, as the garlic will fall off otherwise. Cook steak to med-rare (or as you prefer). Allow steak to rest at least 5 minutes. 

Bring a pot of water to boil. Season boiling water w/ a salt, and a little bit of olive oil. Cook penne to al dente. 

Tear arugula leaves from stems. Rinse, and tear leaves to bite size. (generally tearing one leaf in half) Put arugula into a large bowl. 

Drain pasta, but do not rinse. Pour the hot pasta directly over your arugula, letting the arugula wilt slightly. 

Slice the steak into thin, diagonal pieces. If you are like me, who has failed to grasp how to slice meat on a diagonal, you let E do it. 

Throw the steak into the pasta bowl. 

For the dressing: Combine two parts olive oil to one part balsamic vinegar. Add a spoonful of dijon mustard. Add salt and pepper to taste. Whisk thoroughly, until the dressing takes on a thick consistency. 

Add dressing to the salad with one ladle of pasta water and toss well. 

Enjoy! 

This showcases E’s amazing grilling & knife skills: 

Finally, here is a good picture of how you want the dressing to emulisify: 

 

Banana Milk

June 27, 2008

Posted by: Y

In Korea, they sell a popular beverage called “Banana Oo-Yoo” (Banana Milk). It is delicious, light and a great way to drink milk and intake calcium. Alot of Koreans don’t like drinking plain milk because they don’t enjoy the taste (also most Asians are lactose intolerant to some degree). So Koreans love banana milk even if it makes them a little sick. That is the definition of good stuff. Unfortunately, they do not sell Banana Oo-Yoo in the US (at least not that I know of). I have been craving it so I found a way to make it here at home: 

Banana Milk Recipe

Ingredients

1 banana, ripe 

1-2 tbsp sugar, depending on your taste 

1 cup milk (fat free works here, but the taste is richer with whole milk) 

Directions

Liquefy all ingredients in a blender. Makes 1 tall cup or 2 smaller servings. 

This banana milk is thicker than the Korean variety, but it is really tasty and serves as a great alternative for Banana Oo-Yoo. Great as a snack, or an accompaniment to breakfast! I have the day off from work, so I just made myself a glass after lunch (soy sauce whole wheat couscous w/egg). Yum! 

 

Posted by: Y

By request, I’ve created a template for my food budget, and since I expanded my budget sheet over the weekend (adding weekly menu/shopping schedule to the bottom of the worksheet) I’ve included that as well:

Food Budget Template

Hopefully my instructions within the file are clear!

Go here to download the excel file: 

http://www.mediafire.com/?wkjnkdw1jrv

Let me know if you have any issues, and I’ll try to respond as soon as possible!

Tabbouleh Salad

June 22, 2008

Posted by: B

As I mentioned before, I’m fairly health-conscious in my cooking and used to shop at speciality stores such as Wegmans or Whole Foods quite often. Unfortunately, budget restraints and my conscious efforts to reduce our grocery bill have left me shopping at our local big chain supermarket. But as the economy suffers and food prices are steadily rising, I find myself in good company. Nowadays, less and less people can pay for the gourmet products, and also find themselves turning to their local supermarkets for answers. In the past few months, I’ve found that many big supermarket chains (once known for their supersize bags of Lays Potato Chips) are also now stocking their shelves with whole wheat pastry flour or increasing their line of organic products. Thus, it was no huge surprise to me when I was able to find Bulgar wheat in the international section of our local Foodtown. The amazing thing about bulgar wheat is that it has nearly twice the nutritional value of brown rice! When I heard of this amazing grain, I couldn’t wait to try it! Traditionally, bulgar wheat is of Middle Eastern origins, and served with lemon, tomatoes, mint, and parsley. Here is my own spin on the traditional Tabbouleh Salad. 

Ingredients: 

1 cup bulgar wheat

salt/pepper

1 1/2 cups boiling water

juice of one lemon

1/2 cup of olive oil

handful of cilantro (finely chopped -> can substitute w/ parsley)

1/2 cup of halved grapes

handful of toasted walnuts

3oz of feta cheese (crumbled)

handful of craisins 

1 whole english cucumber (chopped)

1 cup of cooked chicken (cubed)

1 cup of halved cherry tomatoes (any small tomato will do)

handful of mint (finely chopped)

 

Directions:

In a medium bowl, combine the bulgar wheat with a pinch of salt, and the boiling water. Cover with saran wrap, and let stand for 30 minutes. If desired, can substitute boiling water with boiling chicken stock (I may do this for more flavor next time). 

In a separate large bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, salt & pepper. Add cilantro, grapes, walnuts, feta cheese, cucumber, tomatoes, mint, chicken, and crasins. Stir in the bulgar wheat. Can serve immediately or after refrigeration. 

 

Here’s a picture of my Tabbouleh Salad. I think this would be a delicious lunch! 

 

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