Sunday, April 29, 2012

Cucumber Mint Julep Jello Shots

I've been getting some emails requesting jello shot ideas for the upcoming Kentucky Derby.  Last year I made these pink lemonade jello shots for the Virginia Gold Cup steeplechase race and bloody marys (check out my huge big pink hat too!) 

This year we are sticking with a twist on the classic mint julep in a cucumber cup.



These are so easy to make I don't know why I didn't try them earlier. You can use regular English cucumbers but I thought that would be too big of a bite so I went with mini cucumbers.

They are cool and sweet and although they are strong, the cucumber balances the alcohol well.


1. Slice your mini cucumber into one inch segments (the larger of the mini cucs are the best). Hollow each piece out with a melon baller or paring knife, be careful not to hollow out too much or your jello will seep through (a lot like the strawberry margarita jello shots).


2. Boil 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar and turn off the heat. Add about 1/2 cup smashed mint leaves to the boiling sugar water.


3. Pour 1 cup of Bourbon into a separate bowl, sprinkle 1 packet Knox gelatin on top. Do not stir, let it sit for 1-2 minutes.

4. Pour the bourbon and gelatin mixture into the sugar water. Stir. Pour carefully (I use a spouted measuring cup) into the cucumber cups.

Save your left over jello mixture in case you need to top off some of the cucumber cups while they harden. Also, if you are bringing these out in the heat, be sure to keep them in a cooler or the jello will melt easily.

Shopping List (makes about 36 - 48 mini shots)
1 cup Bourbon
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 cup mint
1 packet Knox gelation
10 mini cucumbers

NOTE: I also tried a Southern Comfort and cucumber jello shot.  Just replace the bourbon with Southern Comfort and the mint with cilantro. Really, really good.


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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Meringue Swirls

Have you seen these on the cover of this months Martha Stewart Living?

If you don't recognize them it's because mine are a little flatter (much flatter) than Martha's, but I still think they are pretty.


They started out perfect (note the spoons still on the corner of my parchment), but fell flat because I didn't have cream of tartar at home and tried to use lemon juice as a substitute. Don't forget the cream of tartar.



They kind of look like little seashells.  Brightly colored, delicious sea shells.


I used a touch of orange extract in mine to bump up the orange creamcicle flavor. They are crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside and the orange flavoring was a perfect compliment.

When I read the directions I thought mastering the swirl would be difficult but it wasn't at all. I will try these again, but with cream of tartar so they stay fluffy.

Martha also has a really helpful recipe video here.


Meringue Swirls (From Martha Stewart, makes two dozen)
3 large egg whites, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
Large pinch of salt
Large pinch of cream of tartar
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh orange zest
Gel-paste food coloring, in any color
1 teaspoon orange extract (optional )

1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Combine egg whites and sugar in a heatproof bowl. Add vanilla bean seeds. Set bowl over a pot of simmering water, and stir until sugar dissolves and mixture is warm, about 3 minutes. Add salt and cream of tartar.

2.
Beat with a mixer on medium-high speed until stiff, glossy peaks form and meringue is mostly cooled, about 7 minutes. Beat in zest.

3.
Using a small paintbrush, paint 3 vertical stripes of food coloring inside a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch round tip (Ateco #805). Fill bag with meringue, and pipe 1 3/4-inch circular shapes (they don't need to be perfect rounds) 2 inches apart on 2 parchment-lined baking sheets. As you finish piping each shape, apply less pressure to pastry bag, and swirl the tip off in a circular motion.

4. Bake meringues until crisp on the outside but still soft inside, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack.
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Monday, April 23, 2012

Asparagus Wrapped in Pancetta with Citronette and My New 50 mm Lens

How was everyones weekend? It rained here. Well at least it did on Sunday, which is my day in the kitchen.

The terrible grey light from the weather really made it difficult to photograph the deliciousness of this recipe from Martha Stewart and Mario Batali, but I tried my best.


I've never prepared aparagus this way. Turns out it's almost as good as asparagus with parm and a poached egg (and that's saying a lot) The saltiness of the pancetta with the tang of the orange and mustard dressing is mouthwatering. TRY IT!

I took about 200 photos of this recipe, I was really excited to use my new anniversary present (thank you baby!). Surprisingly, my new 50 mm lens was a little harder to use than expected.


Of the 200 photos, only about 5 (no joke) weren't blurry. I think it was a combination of the low light and my inexperience with the lens, but I'm going to work on it.

I've been meaning to order this lens for a really long time, it's supposed to be "the best" for food photography. When my man picked me up from the metro station after work on Friday he told me to open the glove box . . . and there it was! So sweet.

We met two years ago tomorrow and he's the best thing that ever happened to me.



I will try not to bore you with the lovey-dovey stuff because if you read my blog you already know I'm head over heels. . . but . . .  God was certainly looking out after me when he helped me find him.

I could have woken up that morning and decided to sleep in. (shudder)

Asparagus Wrapped in Pancetta with Citronette  (original recipe here, I took out some of the herbs)
2 pounds medium asparagus
1/2 pound very thinly sliced pancetta
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 orange
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil


1. Snap the tough bottom stalks off the asparagus. Unroll the slices of pancetta and lay them out on a work surface. Lay an asparagus spear on a slight diagonal across the bottom of one slice and roll it up, covering as much of the stalk as possible but leaving the tip visible

2. Preheat a gas grill or prepare a fire in a charcoal grill, or a grill pan (I used a grill pan)

3. In a small bowl, whisk together the orange zest, juice, and mustard. Continuing to whisk, slowly drizzle in the olive oil until emulsified and smooth.

4. Place the asparagus on the grill and cook, turning occasionally, until it is just tender and the pancetta is crisped, about 4 to 6 minutes. If the pancetta browns too much before the asparagus is cooked, move the spears to a cooler part of the grill.

5. Whisk the citronette again, and pour half of it onto a serving platter.  Drizzle asparagus with remaining citronette and sprinkle with some more orange or lemon zest.

Best served right away. 

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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Bad Things, Very Bad Things

Dear Carbs,

I know I told you I need some space and  I've even contemplated cutting off our relationship all together but I wanted to send you a note to make sure you know how much I will always love you no matter what happens between us or how bad you are for me.

I think about you non stop. Things just don't feel complete with out you. Attached are some of my favorite memories for old times sake.  Miss you always.

Yours Truly,

Michelle

P.S. Speaking of bad things (shhhhh, is anyone reading 50 Shades of Grey?)

1. Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese, from the lovely Brown Eyed Baker

2. Basil Butter Garlic Bread from Two Peas and Their Pod


3. Mini cake Donuts with Chocolate Ganache from Kirbies Cravings

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Delicious Failure (French Macarons Take Two)

So, my second attempt at French macarons is even less aesthetically pleasing than my first.  Bummer.  My strawberry filling is too runny, they are once again hollow (frustrating) and I just barely got my macaron "feet."

But can I just say ... oh my gosh  they are still delicious!



Here was my photo taking process:  "Oh no,  this one is too runny,  I'll just eat it (chomp) this one too (chomp),"  and before I knew it I had eaten like five.  Major diet buster.

The baking process started out well, I had perfect little mini circles and I made way less of a mess in the kitchen than the first time.  I even got a digital scale  (see how seriously I am taking this!)



And then . . . damn you Martha Stewart Wrap Foil and Parchment in 1!  I literally screamed.

I fixed my next batch with heavy metal spoons on the ends of the parchment, but it looks like I will not be using this stuff again.  What's the point of parchment if you can't make cookies with it Martha?



Some came out perfectly but several cracked. I resolved the situation by eating them before anyone could see.



My fiance asked me how many times I was going to keep trying to perfect these. I suppose I'm just obsessed enough at this point to keep trying until I get it right.

BTW these were raspberry cookies with strawberry filling. I had planned to call them Very Berry French Macarons, until they were renamed Delicious Failure.


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Sunday, April 15, 2012

Sunday Fun-day

 I bought a wedding dress today.  This will be my third,  sigh.   I've returned one and I'm in the process of returning the other two.  It's been stressful for me to find something that I'm supposed to love, love, love so much. 

I settled on a really simple sweetheart neck line chiffon gown from BCBG that will float in the breeze on the beach.  Once I lose 10 lbs I will really, really like it.   But truthfully, I think I'm just not one of those "Say yes to the dress" chicks.   Which is weird because I love clothes and have since I was 4 years old.

Anyway . . . after my stressful shopping trip I tried to make them  again (French Macrons).  I could stare at fluffy, pink  meringue all day.  I have a weird obsession with these little French cookies.


Here is me checking the the kitchen timer (a gazillion times) because I was afraid of over whipping the egg whites again, which would result in this.

You will have to come back tomorrow to see if they made it out of the oven alive this time. 


Honey napped ALL DAY.  She was tired from doggie daycare and happy.  Check her out on the pillow and everything. She didn't even look up when I took her photo.


 . . . 5 more days until the weekend.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Crock Pot Blackbeans, Salsa and Chicken

Tender, flavorful, fork shredded chicken with black beans and homemade salsa, slow cooked in the crock pot. Don't forget the squeeze of lime . . .  Mmmmm.

I've seen this crock pot chicken recipe on Pinterest several times and I finally decided to try it.   So glad I did.


I even topped it with some Greek yogurt (0%) instead of sour cream and a touch of hot sauce.

Has anyone done Jillian Michael's "30 Day Shred" work out? I just started the other day and man am I sore. I've got about 80 days to get to my goal though and if I can just keep it up I'll be in good shape. (Literally)

I was thinking of giving myself an reward if I do the work out video every day at least 6 days a week. If I  make it to the end of each week without cheating, maybe I go buy a new shirt? And maybe if I make it all month I go buy some new shoes? Wooo hooo!

My diet has become budget busting :)

Crock Pot Black beans, Salsa and Chicken (Recipe from Skinny Ms. awesome diet blog) 4 chicken breasts, skinless, boneless
1 can low sodium black beans, rinsed
1-2 cups salsa of your choice (See my homemade salsa recipe here)
8 tortillas, whole wheat or low carb
1 Lime

1. Place all ingredients in slow cooker on low for 4-6 hours. Shred it with a fork. Serve in a low carb tortilla, by itself or over a salad with a squeeze of lime.

(Serves 4-6 or makes dinner and lunch for days!)
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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Tzatziki Chicken Salad

Have I mentioned my love for Tzatziki sauce? I'm pretty sure I have. Tzatziki makes everything better.

I got this recipe from this months Cooking Light.  Remember my chicken salad extravaganza? This was part of that and also my Fiance's favorite of all the chicken salads I made.



So I am trying my best to open up to you guys a little bit more lately.  It's been very easy to hide behind photos of pretty food.

I plan to post some more photos of myself soon,  but today,  along with sharing a tasty greek chicken salad, I thought I could tell you five things about me that don't have to do chips and dip.


1. I'm a natural red head, but I've been highlighting my hair blonde since highschool. I don't really tan but I get a golden peach color. Red hair runs in my family and I'm crossing my fingers we don't have a redheaded boy (But of course I will love him no matter what. Life can just be harder for redheaded boys, sorry but it's true).

2. I wear leggings constantly. Leggings to the store, to the gym, in the house, even out at night if I can get away with it (with boots they can work!)

3. We change the lyrics of songs to incorporate the name of our dog (Honey) and or things she might say if she could talk and sing all the time. Most recently it's Adele's "Set Fire to the Rain" -- we have changed it to "Set Fire to the Crate." So silly.

4. I hate birds, they scare me. I was attacked by mocking birds when I was 14, (okay, okay attack is a strong word). They built a nest outside our front door and if you go near their babies they are extremely protective and will swoop down and hit you with their wings.

5. If I could live anywhere, I would move to New Orleans and live in the French Quarter. I've only been there once but it's one of my favorite places. (Not during Marti Gras though, it's not about the party scene for me, but the architecture, the food and the overall enviornment)

Tzatziki Chicken Salad (Recipe from Cooking Light)
2/3 cup plain 2% reduced-fat Greek yogurt
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons chopped fresh dill
3/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cucumber, seeded and shredded
1 garlic clove, minced
2 cups shredded skinless, boneless rotisserie chicken breast
3 ounces multigrain pita chips or tortilla chips

1. Combine first 8 ingredients in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add chicken; toss to coat. Serve with pita chips or in a wrap.


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Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter in Connecticut

I went home this weekend to see my Mom in Connecticut for Easter. We went for a nice walk with the dog at the marina near her house and I took some photos of the ocean.


I miss New England, it really is beautiful and I really  miss the ocean. I could have snapped photos all day.


I was only home for a short time, so it was nice not to have any particular plans and just relax with my mom. We even went to a French bakery down the road so I could sample more macaroons for my next attempt!



Here is my mom and her best little buddy.  Quincy is 13 years old and  he never leaves her side.



We ate Chinese food for dinner, colored eggs and talked about the wedding.


It's been forever since we actually colored Easter eggs together. We really got creative.  Here are some of my favorites.


Watermelon egg.


Traditional Easter egg. (My mom has gorgeous handwriting. Too bad that was not a trait that was passed down to me!)


Our "Save the Date" egg :)


And our Tiffany egg.  Hope you had a good Easter too!

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Friday, April 6, 2012

My First French Macarons

If you follow me on Facebook or Pinterest or if you are a close friend or family member, you already know that I planned to make French macarons for the first time today.  (I  can't stop saying  "Macaron"  in a French accent) 

Well . . . here they are, raspberry and lemon butter cream.


So . . . do you see that little crack in the bottom?   Well, that's because my  macaron   is basically hollow. 

They are also too flat, too large, and of the 36 I had planned to make only 6 didn't break.

Le Sigh.

Looks like I won't be bringing these to our Easter Sunday celebration after all.  Back to kitchen I go.  French macarons take two, coming soon.

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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Strawberry Shortcake Jello Shots

What could be better than strawberry shortcake? How about strawberry shortcake infused with cake flavored vodka in jello shot form!

Yes . . .  we really did this.

Once again I can't take credit for this jello shot idea, my better half has been channeling his boozy creativity and I'm grateful for his crazy, beautiful mind.


"Baby, the jello will sink right through the cake though, " I said.

"Well why don't you cover it up with some strawberry flavored cream cheese as a barrier,"  he replied matter of factly.


So smart!



Just like the drunken donuts I think these would be fun for a boozy brunch or bridal shower.

I, on the other hand, ate them on Sunday just for the heck of it (really though, we couldn't let them go to waste after we tested the recipe out).



I was thinking maybe there wouldn't be a sufficient amount of jello in the center of the cake, but I was pleasantly surprised.



Great idea my love. What else do you have up there?


P.S. I'm just about 99% sure that I will be attempting French Macaroons for the first time this week.  Wish me luck.   Do you think we can make a French Macaroon shaped jello shot? 

(For a kid friendly non-alcoholic version just use 1 cup cold water instead of vodka)

Strawberry Shortcake Jello Shots (Makes about 20 shots, broken cakes accounted for)
2 packages premade shortcake "bowls"
Strawberry Cream cheese
1 small box strawberry Jello
1 cup Pinnacle cake flavored vodka
1 cup water

1. Boil one cup water. When boiling add straberry jello packet right away. Stir until dissolved. Remove from heat.

2. Add 1 cup cold vodka, set mixture asside until it is room temperature.

3. Coat the inside of each shortcake bowl with cream cheese so it acts as a barrier and the jello won't absorb through the cakes.

4. Gently pour the jello into the cake bowls on top of cream cheese. Refridgerate until jello harders (2-5 hours) Check on cakes, topping them off with more jello as it harders so you have full shots. 



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