Monday, December 17, 2012

I'll Take You to the Candy Shop

Earlier this week, my friend Neema and I got together to bake goodies for our co-workers for the holidays.  Somehow, we got a little crazy with it and ended up making five different desserts from scratch!  I blame pinterest.  Though I guess I should thank pinterest at the same time.  We made...

Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Sugar Cookies

Oreo Truffles
(Adapted from this recipe.)
(dipped in melted milk and semi-sweet chocolate and drizzled with white chocolate)

Chocolate Walnut Fudge

Gotta have brownies!

And pumpkin cheesecake mini muffins!
(Adapted from this recipe.)
After two days of baking (yes, TWO DAYS), I packaged the goodies up...
Added labels...
And delivered them at work!  I sure did feel like Santa, and I sure am bummed I didn't bake enough so I could have some too.
OOPS.  Novice baker faux pass.


Friday, December 14, 2012

Bday Boy

Wednesday was my dad's birthday.  He turned 63 and doesn't believe he is doesn''t look a day over 25.  We had a good old time celebrating at my apartment.  I baked him an eggless french vanilla double layer cake with espresso cream frosting and chocolate chips. 
Unfortunately, it looks and sounds better than it tastes.  I tried applesauce and greek yogurt as egg substitutes, and although the cake was very moist, it had a tangy after taste, not something you'd want in an espresso cake.  Ah well, you can't win em all!  I will say the frosting was delicious, and you can't get to the aftertaste if you've never stopped eating.

We skyped my brother in on the singing and while my dad opened his presents.  We got him a Ralph Lauren Sports Coat and Aqua di Gio cologne.  Then, I took them out to Mellow Mushroom for dinner.  It was a great night! 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Big Girl Watch

After starting my new job at my law firm, I wanted to treat myself to something nice.  I've been eyeing those big chunky watches for some time now, but I just couldn't justify spending that chunk of change on a watch.  I looked and looked for sales and found out that these watches go on sale at Macy's twice a year: during their friends and family event.  This is the one I was eyeing.  Well, the friends and family sale finally came early this December, and I saved 25% plus an extra 20% for opening a Macy's card.  I NEVER open retail credit cards, but this card made this watch a steal.  I saved $100!

The thing I love most about this watch is with the black and rose gold combination, it matches almost everything!  The rose gold lets you wear brown clothes and even gold jewelry, while the black really brings out silver jewelry.  It was just what I was looking for.
What do you think about chunky, big faced watches?  Do you like the trend?  Would you buy one?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Rosemary Mushroom Comfort Soup

S. was sick this weekend, so I made him some of his favorite mushroom comfort soup.  It's basically this recipe, with a few substitutions because I never have thyme or parsley at home, and I like onions. 

Excuse the photography!  This was just a quick snap at the end, but if you garnish it with some parsley or thyme, it really will be a beauty!
2 tbs butter
2 tbs olive oil
3/4 small red onion chopped
3 tbs chopped garlic (3 large cloves)
The larger size container of fresh mushrooms (can use any, I used white button)
2-3 bay leaves
1 tsp fresh or dried rosemary
2 tsp Worchestershire sauce
1 cup vegetable broth
1 tbs flour dissolved in 1 tbs water
1/2 tsp cinnamon
salt to taste
black pepper to taste
1/2 cup 2% milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1. Heat oil, butter, garlic, and onion in large pot.
2. Add mushrooms, Worchestershire sauce, bay leaves, and rosemary.  Cook until moisture from mushrooms is gone (about 5 minutes, stirring frequently).
3. Add vegetable broth and stir till mixture boils.  Then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
4. Add diluted flour and stir until mixture thickens.  Add salt and pepper to taste, plus cinnamon.
5. Add milk and heavy cream.  Stir and simmer for a few minutes.  Turn heat off.
6. Serve hot with my favorite, toasted rosemary olive oil bread.
Enjoy and hope you feel better!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Plantains are Yummy

Do you like bananas?  Do you like sweet potatoes or butternut squash?  Then you're going to LOVE plantains!  I love all of the above, so I am truly in love with plantains, as they give me the consistency and texture of a banana with the starchy sweetness of a sweet potato or a butternut squash.  The thing is, they are often deep fried, and that does not make for a healthy snack.  I find that sauteing them in a bit of olive oil until both sides are nice and browned is the best method.  It really brings out the sweetness and gives the outsides a nice crispy texture. 

You can drizzle honey over them after they are cooked for a nice, light, dessert, or, if you're in the mood for something more salty, use salt, garlic powder, and a dash of paprika.  These store well too, so you can take them to lunch the next day.  What a great side to dress up that boring old sandwich!
Do you have any plantain recipes to share?

Monday, December 10, 2012

Festival of Lights (Xmas not Diwali this time)

Good Monday morning!  I had a great time with family and friends this weekend.  What about you?  Friday night, we went to the festival lights in downtown Greensboro (yes, Greensboro actually has a downtown) with a few friends, S., and my parents.  It really was fun to see so many Greensborians (?) gathered together to celebrate in the holiday spirit. 

My parents and I at the lighting of the Christmas tree.  Don't hate on my awesome antlers.

Greensboro went all out.  Soap snow in 50 degree weather!

My best friend, Neema, joins in the fun.  Ooh!  That's my office building in the background.

My mom NEVER looks at the camera.
After Friday, S. and I went to my office holiday party Saturday night, and then I got to hang out with another best friend, Deepti, on Sunday evening.  We always have a good old giggly time when we get together, and it reminded me of how much fun we had last year in NYC celebrating my 26th birthday.

Deepti, me, and Neema in NYC on my 26th.
Hope you had just as good a weekend as me!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Chili Cook-off - 2nd Place

The law firm I work for has been fundraising for the United Way, and, one of the events was a Chili Cook-off!  I got asked to participate because of course one time I told the person who happened to be organizing the event that I like to cook, as she had smelled my lunch that I was warming in the microwave.  Of course, I did not tell her that food had been made by my mom.  HA!  KARMA sucks.  So I'd never made chili before, and here I was participating in a chili contest.  Thankfully, over the weekend, S. had made his yummy chili, and I was able to watch and take tips from him.

S.'s Veggie Chili
I used the same basic method as S., but I forgot to buy some ingredients and therefore had to play it by ear.  Uh oh.  It was also my first time using a crock pot.  Double uh oh.  Thankfully, with some help from my mom and advice from S., the chili turned out great!  In fact, I managed to nab second place in the cook-off!  

My "Just Because It's Vegetarian, Doesn't Mean It's Not Good" Chili
And, an actual testimonial from a partner at my firm:
"I voted for yours.  In a million years, I never would have guessed that I would vote for veggie chili.  I’m going to need the recipe for that."
The thing is, I know what I put in it, I just never measured how much of what I put in it. I'll have to get back to him (and you) on that when I can sit down and figure it out. For the time being, I'll tell you the two "secret" ingredients were BBQ sauce and Thai Peanut sauce (thanks to S.). Also, the Boca Veggie Crumbles were a hit, and people actually thought I had lied by calling my chili vegetarian!  Go figure. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Croissants, Pot Pie, and Soup! Pizza too.

This weekend, S. and I realized we had definitely fallen off when it comes to cooking.  Therefore, we spent our Saturday night proving it to ourselves that we still had it.  Of course, we didn't really think about the fact that we would eat it ALL, resulting in us falling off another wagon (trying to lose a little weight).  OOPS.  But honestly, it was totally worth it and not all that unhealthy - minus the first item on the menu...

Nutella Croissants. 
Whoever said dessert had to be last didn't make good enough dessert.  Just buy a can of crescent rolls, dollop nutella on each triangle, roll it up, and bake!  So easy, so good.
Might as well keep going backwards in the meal.  Here was our main dish:
Veggie Pot Pie 
S. added some curry powder that makes me think even my mom will eat this!  We used Gardein's chicken strips, though, and I have to say I prefer the Morningstar ones.  Gardein's are bland and didn't seem to soak up flavor as well as the Morningstar chicken strips.
And on to the appetizer...
Mushroom Soup!  I followed this recipe from pinterest, but I substituted rosemary for thyme (didn't have any thyme; who ever has the thyme to do anything?! - so corny, I know) and skipped the parsley.  I used all white button mushrooms, since those are the cheapest, but I can imagine this being delicious with a medley of mushrooms.  I forgot to garnish with some sliced mushrooms, but it was still awesome.  This was definitely S.'s favorite.
And here's a gem from another night: Portabella, Red Pepper, and Goat Cheese Pizza
I was most excited about the pizza dough.  I got the idea from pinterest (where else?).  Buy a bag of frozen dinner rolls (I bought a pack of 36 for $4.50).  Twelve rolls, thawed, and rolled together make a pizza plenty large enough to feed two hungry people, with a slice or two leftover.  That's $1.50 per crust, which is a lot cheaper than your pre-made crusts and a lot tastier!  Also - the red peppers roast nicely while the pizza is baking, and the goat cheese adds a savory touch that is out of this world.  Give it a go!
Tip:  if you have trouble getting the dough to stay spread apart as your roll it into a pizza shape, put plastic wrap (I used a plastic bag because that's all I had - don't judge) over the dough and wait 15 minutes.  Something about bonds and chemicals and science and stuff - but that definitely solves the problem!

What have you been cooking lately?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Joy to the Wine Rack

My wine rack from Amazon came in, and I assembled it the other day.  I couldn't be more excited about it, and S. was nice enough to bring me a few bottles of wine in celebration! 

I talked about this rack in a previous post, comparing it to one from Pottery Barn that was more than 6 times the price of this one!

Soooo, what do you think??

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

This year, we went to Atlanta to spend the holiday with my dad's brother and his family. Thanksgiving is always a tough time for me. Just thinking about all the turkeys that are killed every year for Thanksgiving makes me so sad. I wish I had the power to "turkey pardon" all of them.

  On a brighter note, for our Thanksgiving meal, we had a traditional Indian meal of daal baati (baked whole wheat balls, covered in ghee, served with Indian lentil soup).  It was so delicious I'm salivating right now just thinking about it. 
Parents walking around Atlantic Station.  Pretty lights!  My cousins have a nice condo right in the center of Atlantic Station.  Love it.

My cousins, Vijay and Vinita, are twins and were born on November 25th, so we always celebrate their bday during the Thanksgiving holiday.  This is us at Aja, an Asian restaurant in Buckhead.  Vinita is in the middle, and their little sister, Nisha, is on the far right.

This is me with the birthday boy, Vijay. 
And this is how we LOVE ending every night: with a four to five hour game of poker!  And I came in second, so I enjoyed it even more.
Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Happy Diwali!

Happy Diwali everyone!  Known as the "Festival of Lights," Diwali is a celebration incorporating many faiths across India.  Straight from Wikipedia:
"The name "Diwali" or "Divali" is a contraction of "Deepavali" (Sanskrit: दीपावली Dīpāvalī), which translates into "row of lamps". Diwali involves the lighting of small clay lamps (dīpa in Sanskrit: दीप) filled with oil to signify the triumph of good over evil.  These lamps are kept on during the night and one's house is cleaned, both done in order to make the goddess Lakshmi feel welcome.  Firecrackers are burst because it is believed that it drives away evil spirits. During Diwali, all the celebrants wear new clothes and share sweets and snacks with family members and friends."
In Hinduism, there are a variety of reasons to celebrate, based on where you live in India.
  • In North India they celebrate the story of King Rama's return to Ayodhya after he defeated Ravana by lighting rows of clay lamps.
  • South India celebrates it as the day that Lord Krishna defeated the demon Narakasura.
  • In western India the festival marks the day that Lord Vishnu, the Preserver (one of the main gods of the Hindu trinity) sent the demon King Bali to rule the nether world.

    In Jainism, Diwali marks the celebration of Mahavir Bhagwan's attainment of nirvana in 527 B.C.E.  
    In Sikhism, the celebration of Diwali is celebrated because it rejoices the time when the sixth Sikh guru, Guru Hargobind singh was released from his imprisonment.
     For whatever reason you celebrate, the end goal is to celebrate the triumph of good over evil.  Oh, and to light a lot of candles, set off fireworks, eat tons of dessert, and spend some much needed QT with your family. 

    Saturday, November 10, 2012

    Monet and New Friends

    This week, I met up with a friend, Megan, and we went to one of those BYOB art classes that have taken off like wildfire in the last few years.  We went to this studio and had a great time. 
    We tried to do a version of Monet's lillies.  Key word: tried. 
    Megan, Alix, Me, and Abby.  I think they turned out pretty good!  Have you ever been to a wine and canvas class?  Where?  Would you go again?

    Friday, November 9, 2012

    Wine Rack Steal

    I have been looking and looking and looking and looking for an awesome wine rack since I got my new place.  Ever since I saw this awesome wine rack at my friend Jill's place that she got for her wedding, I've been dying to get it.  But as it costs $170 (for both pieces) at Pottery Barn, and I just couldn't justify such a cost for something to hold my $3 bottles of Trader Joe's wine. 

    Alternate View

    Well, imagine my unparalleled bliss (no, I am not dramatic), when I found this baby on for only $28.50 plus $7.22 for shipping:

    There was no stopping me then.  I did a happy wine dance and clicked my way to purchasing a beautiful new addition to my apartment.  Granted, it's missing an area to pour your wine, but that's a project for another day.  Will post pics once I get it and set it up!

    Thursday, November 8, 2012

    Happy Halloween!

    Whoops. Sorry for the delay on posting about Halloween.  I guess I just got a little too carried away eating my candy to be able to come down from my sugar high to write an entry. In any case, how was your Halloween? Ours was great. S. and I went to a friend's Halloween party at their house and then to the Contemporary Art Museum in Raleigh to continue to celebration. The pregame was awesome, complete with apple cinnamon bourbon punch and a yummy spread of Mediterranean food. There were also awesome and scary decorations all over the house.

    Lieutenant Dangle doing his job.
    It wasn't me!  It was the one armed man!
    No words.  I couldn't even bring myself to post a full body pic of his short shorts. 

    But, really, we really had an awesome time celebrating Halloween, and I can't wait to grow up (no that has not happened yet) and go all out for all holidays.  Speaking of growing up but remaining fun, my parents went as Jawaharlal Nehru, influential Indian politician during the independence movement known for his hat, and Sonia Gandhi, Italian Indian politician and leader of the Indian Congress.

    Happy Belated Halloween!