Monday, January 30, 2012

Best Balsamic Vinaigrette

i try and have a salad everyday at lunchtime. i am not always successful and most days my lunch falls around 3pm, but i find if i have lots of lettuce and already mixed up dressing, i am more successful in my attempt to eat veggies for lunch. if you are earning a nutrition degree through an accredited online college, you would know how important it is to get in your daily servings of vegetables.

i'm not talking about store bought, pre-made, cannot pronounce the majority of the ingredient dressing. i am talking super-easy, homemade, real-deal ingredients dressing. more often than not, my favorite is balsamic vinaigrette so i make up a big batch and try to always have it sitting in the fridge. when i open the fridge it taunts me. "i dare you to chop up a big salad and drizzle me on it. i double-dog dare you."

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ok, i'm not crazy and this vinaigrette won't talk to you but it will help you enjoy your salads. it's good. it's really good.

Best Balsamic Vinaigrette

1 cup balsamic vinegar
1 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 tbs dijon mustard
3 tbs pure maple syrup
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1 1/2 tsp crazy janes mixed-up salt
1 tbs minced garlic
30 grinds of pepper

mix all ingredients together in a large container with a tight fitting lid (i use a big mason jar) and shae vigorously. store in fridge. will keep for quite a while in the fridge (about a month).

note: this dressing gets thick when refrigerated. to avoid this, simply pull it out and let it come to room temperature 30 minutes before you want to use it (although it tastes find cold and thick).

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Thought for Sunday

Friday, January 27, 2012

Winter Wants

i think i need the following to fill out my winter wardrobe and carry me through until spring . . . therefore, i am now accepting donations to my wardrobe fund - inquire within

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Chinese Orange Chicken

can you believe i still have oranges and grapefruits left from christmas? the great thing about citrus fruits is they stay good for quite a while if you keep them in a cool dark place (for us, it's the pantry).

i had a bunch of baby bok choy that needed to be used as well as some bean sprouts. i figured i could make some kind of orange sauce with the florida oranges and create a meal using things that needed to be used. sometimes meals just come together like that and turn out so well i have to share them with you. Students in online cooking schools know that sometimes great meals can just come together like this meal did.

the stars don't always align though. trust me, for every meal that is great, there are probably two that are just so-so. E and i are cutting out unnecessary carbs so we just did chicken and veggies but this would be great over brown rice too.

Chinese Orange Chicken
Serves 2

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 tbs soy sauce
1/2 tbs oil
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
2 heads of baby bok choy, roughly chopped
1 cup bean sprouts
1 tbs ginger, minced
1 tsp garlic, minced
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 orange, zested and juiced
2 tbs dry sherry
1 tbs tamari
1 tsp corn starch
1/2 tsp dark sesame oil

thinly slice chicken breasts, toss with soy sauce and set aside. in a small bowl, whisk together orange juice, zest, sherry, tamari, corn starch, and sesame oil.

heat wok over medium-high heat and add oil. add onions and mushrooms and saute until tender (2-3 minutes). remove from wok and add chicken. cook 1 minute on each side and add onions and mushrooms back into wok. add ginger, garlic, and red pepper flakes and stir well to combine. add chopped bok choy and bean sprouts and stir. pour orange mixture over everything and cook until sauce has thickened.

remove from heat and serve over rice, if desired.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

12 Resolutions Project - Marshmallows

so first up in my 12 resolutions for 2012 is homemade marshmallows. i have been wanting to make these for a while now. after some research, i decided to follow alton brown's recipe for the first time (okay so i kind of followed his recipe and some suggestions from reviewers) and then play around with the recipe a bit.

they seem relatively easy but honestly, i didn't have a candy thermometer. i figured this was a great excuse to buy one. turns out, after one over-cooked batch of sugar that resulted in a completely ruined batch,

i realize the candy themometer isn't working correctly. luckily, a meat thermometer works in a pinch and i was back in business for the second batch.

the pros of homemade marshmallows - they are super easy to make and come without crazy ingredients i can't pronounce!

the cons of homemade marshmallows - powdered sugar everywhere!

homemade marshmallows are super sticky so you will need lots of powdered sugar to dust the pan they set in, the cutting board and the knife used to cut them. the good news is it's totally worth it. they were super easy to make and you can flavor them any way you want.

i went the purist route the first time and just used vanilla extract, but i can't wait to make marshmallows flavored with baileys, almond, and maybe even cake batter.

i hosted a dessert and drinks party for my mom's milestone birthday (happy bday momma!) and i decided to take the homemade marshmallows one step further and use them to make dipped smores. i simply sandwiched marshmallows between two graham crackers and dipped them into melted chocolate. they flew off the platter!

Vanilla Marshmallows
slightly adapted from alton brown @

3 packages unflavored gelatin
1 cup ice cold water, divided
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tbs vanilla extract
powdered sugar
Nonstick spray

pour the gelatin into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment along with 1/2 cup of the water. 

prepare a 9x13" pan by spraying it with non-stick cooking spray and them cover it completely with powdered sugar.

in a medium saucepan combine the remaining 1/2 cup water, sugar, corn syrup and salt over medium high heat. cover and allow to cook for 3 to 4 minutes. uncover and continue to cook until the mixture reaches 240 degrees F.  once the mixture reaches 240 degrees F, immediately remove from the heat.

turn the mixer on low speed and, while running, slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the gelatin mixture. once you have added all of the syrup, increase the speed to high. continue to whip until the mixture becomes very thick and is lukewarm, approximately 12 to 15 minutes. add the vanilla during the last minute of whipping.

immediately pour mixture into powdered sugar covered pan and spread evenly with a greased spatula. let sit overnight. when set, dump onto powdered sugar dusted cutting board and cut into desired size (i cut mine into the size of 1/4 of a graham cracker sheet) with a serrated knife. store in an airtight container.

Dipped Smores

vanilla marshmallows
graham crackers
melting chocolate
dark chocolate chips

combine 1 part melting chocolate with 1 part dark chocolate chips and melt in the microwave in a microwave safe container. stir well to combine. i like to use a deep glass for ease of dipping.

break each graham cracker sheet into four pieces. sandwich marshmallow in between 2 graham cracker pieces and dip into melted chocolate halfway. set onto parchment lined baking sheets and let chocolate harden. serve immediately (graham crackers will get a little soggy once dipped in chocolate if left out too long.

Monday, January 23, 2012

12 Resolutions in 2012 Project

whenever i hear advice about how to be happy in your career, it inevitably includes something along the lines of "find something you love to do and make it your career."

i may be among the "lucky" ones who has indeed found something i like to do and i have managed to find a way to make money doing it. for those that don't know, it's cooking. my day job is being a personal chef.

however, i would argue that when you make something you love to do your job, it somehow becomes a little less fun to do. it begins to feel like work. 99% of the time i love my job but 1% of the time i think i can't possibly put different food groups together and form a meal. i lack creativity and am certain i couldn't come up with a new recipe if someone had a gun to my head (thankfully, that's not how this profession works). i will say there are other times when ideas are plentiful and i have to write things down to makes sure i don't forget.

the problem with my line of work is when i come home from a day of cooking, my husband and i still need to eat. therefore, i get to cook/work some more. perhaps this is why i truly love vacations because when i go away, i cannot cook (even if i wanted to). i truly get time off.

i hope this isn't coming off as complaining, there are many, many jobs out there much harder than mine and i can only imagine some occupations are truly never-ending (hello parenthood) but i feel as though i am going through a drought in the ideas department. it seems this happens to me after the holidays. during november and december i have reason after reason to be cooking, baking, experimenting, and menu planning (some obvious examples include thanksgiving, holiday parties, and christmas cookies). but now winter sets in both literally and figuratively.

so, finally, i get around to my point. (i know, it's taken me a while, right? i may have even lost some people to far more interesting things like Facebook, watching tv, or cleaning the bathroom.) i have devised a plan to give me a little incentive or kick-in-the-rear for the new year. instead of a new years resolution, i have decided to pick something every month that i have always wanted to make and never have - for whatever reason. some things may be because they are too labor intensive (a big turn off in the kitchen for me), too time-consuming, too scary (macaroons come to mind for this one, i must add it to my list), or too expensive to make.

so this is my plan for 2012 - call it a resolution if you will - cook/bake/create one thing every month that is outside of my comfort level. january's challenge is coming up this week. but, just so you know, i'll take requests too. let me know what you have wanted to make but never have - i'd love to hear from you!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Blue Confetti Meringues

i spotted pink confetti cookies on pinterest the other day.

while at my brother and sister-in-laws, i knew i had to make them for their 2 1/2 and almost 4 year old girls. i used blue jello as one of the girls is adversely affected by red dye #40 making pink cookies out of the question.

not only were they excited to eat the "blue cookies", but we were able to bribe them into being good almost all day with the threat of no blue cookies. ahh, gotta love bribery.

Confetti Meringues
very loosely adapted from

3 large egg white, at room temperature
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
3 tbs jello (i used blue raspberry jello but use any color/flavor you would like)
scant 3/4 cup sugar
sprinkles (optional)

preheat oven to 200 degrees F. adjust racks so they are in middle of oven. line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

in the very clean, dry bowl of an electric mixer whisk egg whites on medium-low speed until frothy. add cream of tartar add whisk on medium speed until soft peaks form. add the jello and sugar very slowly and increase speed to medium-high. beat until shiny and it reaches stiff peaks.

transfer mixture to a piping bag or large ziploc bag with corner cut out and pipe 2-3" rounds onto parchment lined baking sheets. sprinkle with any color sprinkles, if desired.

bake for 1 1/2 hours rotating baking sheets and switching baking sheets from top to bottom and bottom to top halfway through baking. after 1 1/2 hours, turn oven off and crack oven door. let meringues sit in oven until completely cooled (at least 3-4 hours or overnight).

store in airtight container.

First 2012 Snow

“The first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event. You go to bed in one kind of a world and wake up in another quite different, and if this is not enchantment then where is it to be found?”
~J.B. Priestley

your perfect antidote once had a weekly theory about snow.

I Have a Theory...

...that your excitement for snow is inversely proportional to your "young at heart" age.

if this is true, my "young at heart" age is squarely in the single digits.

my theory is as follows:
if it is cold, there should be snow on the ground.

of course, the closer we get to spring and the more snow we've had, my excitement dwindles a bit but this morning i was downright giddy when i woke up to this view from my snuggly, warm, heavenly bed (excuse the poor photo quality - i had just opened my eyes and used my iphone to capture the wonderland):

Friday, January 20, 2012


happy purple friday all!

i chose to celebrate with a little bit of purple (courtesy of ruthie at the fine line in cockeysville).

good luck on sunday ravens!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Coconut Black Eyed Pea Soup

black eyed peas are often associated with new years day. they are said to bring good luck and therefore are eaten the first day of the year to bring luck and prosperity to the coming year. black eyed peas have also been recorded as been consumed for good luck on rosh hashana, the jewish new year.

there must be something to this thing so we did one better. we had black eyed pea soup on new years eve. that's right, we ate a bowl full of good luck at least 12 hours before most people do. since then it's been raining four leaf clovers, i find heads-up pennies all over the ground, and seven horseshoes appeared over our door. 

truth be told, i didn't really think i liked black eyed peas. i only remember having them once and they were plain and mealy. this soup blew my low expectations out of the water. our friends made the soup and after my first bowl (i had two), i begged for the recipe. it's surprisingly easy and packed with protein and flavor! i like adding a couple dashes of hot sauce to the top of my bowl to give it a little extra spice but it tastes delicious without it too. the curry just gives it a hint of flavor and doesn't overpower the soup at all.

try whipping up a pot of good luck. 19 days into the new year is fine. it's never too late.

p.s. this soup is gluten-free, vegetarian (if you use vegetable stock), and dairy-free!

Coconut Black Eyed Pea Soup
serves 4-6

1 tbs olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 - 15oz cans black eyed peas, drained and rinsed
2 - 15 oz cans coconut milk (i used lite but regular works too)
1 - 15 oz can chicken stock (or vegetable stock to keep it vegetarian)
1 tsp curry
hot sauce (optional)

in a large pot, heat oil to medium high heat. add chopped onion and saute until tender, 2-3 minutes. add reamining ingredients (minus hot sauce) and bring to a boil. lower heat to low and let simmer for 4-5 hours. add salt to taste and serve warm.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Best Dressed

file this under completely random . . .

a style blog i am not (although i wish i had one to tell me what to wear everyday). however, i couldn't resist posting my vote for best dressed at the golden globes.

i confess i had to google who shailene woodley was but i think her dress is amazing. the light lavendar/grey color was divine and the detail was just stunning.

not only did she have the prettiest dress of the evening, but she starred in the descendants with george clooney (although i'm pretty sure she played his daughter). not bad for just 20 years old.

awards season is like prom season for grown-ups. now, how do i score an invite for next year so i can justify a tragically amazing dress for myself??

Dessert Party

i have been wanting to have a drinks and dessert party for a while now. it seems like whenever i host or attend a dinner party, the dinner is always so good that the dessert is usually forced (joyfully) into an already full belly. a dessert party would put the focus where it should be - on dessert!

i like the idea of pairing different desserts with wines or just having a bunch of different one-bite desserts to try and a variety of different red wines, white wines, and of course, prosecco.

i guess this idea really is on the forefront of my mind recently because here are a few of my recent pins. wanna come over?

still haven't checked out pinterest? what are you waiting for? click here to see my entire "food i must make stat" board.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Saturday, January 14, 2012

My Week in Pictures

we have been visiting family all week in new mexico, spending time with nieces, celebrating my momma's milestone birthday, exchanging christmas gifts, watching football, sledding, and indulging in good food, good drinks, and good company.

here's a sneak peak into this past week. a picture is worth a thousand words . . .

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