Category Archives: Life Stuff

I am moving!

As I have mentioned before, I am quite annoyed with the spacing problems on this blog. Knowing that the appearance of my posts is going to wrong hardly encourages creativity. Also, while I love cooking, and I really really do, it’s not my entire life (I am not a professional cook after all). I have other projects, interest, passions and hobbies. As a rather chatty individual, I want to be able to share these experiences with you, not just the ones that occur in the kitchen. I decided to take care of two birds with one stone and I’ve been working for a few months now on my new blog. I hope you will continue to follow my adventures there!

youngscholarslife.blogspot.com.

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Easter Weekend

Christmas is my favorite time of year, without a doubt. I love my Christmas cookies and everything else that goes along with it. But homemade goodies aside, is there really a better holiday or time of year for sweets than Easter? I am going to raise my hand for the class and offer an answer: no!

Honestly, look at these yummies. So delicious!

These cakes were my contribution to our big Easter celebration. Mr. and Mrs. Bunny took quite a bit of fussing. My aunt started by making two round carrot cakes. Once they cooled, I cut them in half. I then frosted together the two halves so that they stood up on the flat sides. Next, I cut out a small triangle a little below the 1/3 mark on the cake. I then used half of that triangle and put it in the back as the tail. I know these descriptions are confusing and I’m sorry I didn’t get more pictures of the steps. I really intended to document my process, but these were the circumstances I was battling: my grandmother has a beautiful and charming home, but the kitchen is tiny! Also, there were ridiculous numbers of people around me, coming in and out, including my cousin’s new baby! Needless to say, I got a bit distracted.

Anyway, after putting the cake together, I then frosted the entire thing. This was no easy task. The cakes really should have been refrigerated, but they weren’t. So they were really crumbly. I had to use a ton of frosting and a combination of a knife and my fingers to cover the cake. Then, I cupped coconut shavings in my hands and gently pressed them against the cake, starting at the top. Next, I pushed two black jelly beans into the cake for eyes and a larger pink jelly bean for the nose. My aunt also helped me by cutting out the ears, which I stuck into the top of the head piece. For extra decoration, I sprinkled coconut and green sprinkles around the bunnies for grass and then some extra jelly beans.

One final amazing moment of my weekend came on Sunday night. A family friend had been visiting Tanzania and brought back huge backs of spices. Aren’t they gorgeous? They also smell glorious.

What did you do for Easter? What were your favorite things?

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Filed under Dessert, Life Stuff

This week

I was doing really really well on my New Year’s resolution to be a more consistent blog host. I clearly have failed this week. Let’s just say it’s been a perfect storm of work calamities and gigantic installations, personal developments and crises and not enough sleep.

With any luck, I am planning to make delicious garlic-thyme infused burgers tonight and it will set me on an excellent path for consistent posting. I look forward to writing again tonight and to sharing with you my latest creations.

Until then, thank you for your patience and your continued visitations, I love you for it!

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Kitchen space and organization

Some of you may remember that the number one item on my wish list is a bigger kitchen. Well, that really can’t be crossed off until I move and that’s not going to happen until this summer…but until then, I’ve found and acquired a few things that have made a world of diffference.

I’m short. Very short. Especially without shoes. So the cabinet above the fridge was wasted space for me. I can’t put anything I use regularly up there or I have to live with a stepping stool in front of the fridge permanently. And what good is a fridge if it’s blocked by a stool? So for the past few months, bf has used it as his bar- stashing glassware and alcohol up there that only he uses and can reach.

 

 

Just before Christmas, however, one of my family friends gave me this little…chest? cabinet? armoire? I don’t know what you’d call it, but I’m thrilled to have it! Hand-me down furniture is awesome. I literally jumped/hopped/wiggled with excitement.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Right now it stores some drink-related odds and ends in the drawer, and then, as you can see, glassware on top and bottles on the bottom.

 

 

Can't you tell he's thinking "what mom? the doors are open- I'm supposed to explore"

 

 

It’s absolutely the perfect size for our bar-related stuff, and Winston loves it too.

 

 

 

 

He's right about to attack the camera in this picture....but I had to show you the mouse!

 

 

In fact, he favorite part is the bottom. He loves, to no end, to stash his little mouse underneath it and then watch us use a spatula to get it out (my arm doesn’t fit). Quite the spectacle, I must say.

 

 

 

But I have big plans for this baby (the cabinet). I want to find (which has been no easy process since the measurements are tricky) or make a shelf that goes across only the right side of the bar. Then I can have glassware on top and below the shelf and bottles to the left. Eventually, I’d also like to find a little wall-mounted wine rack that could go above the, let’s stick with cabinet, so only liquor is inside. Oh and for the record, I know I’m crazy about my Winston, but I’m actually crazy about all animals, not just cats. I’ve been known to share my Thanksgiving dinner with a stray cat I then rescued, talk to squirrels, and bury birds who have died by flying into windows. I know this doesn’t make me sound normal, but to me a crazy animal person sounds better than a crazy cat lady, right?

You may be wondering what sort of style my apartment is from this piece of furniture. I’m not usually one to favor flowers painted on the front of wooden pieces. However, due to a recent blog finding that I’m absolutely obsessed with (younghouselove.com), I’m on a bit of a do-it-yourself kick. For years I’ve planned to sand down and stain my light pine dinning set. I’d love to do the same to this piece as well. So once the weather gets a bit warmer and staining outside won’t result in my fingers being permanently stained blue, keep an eye out for a before and after picture!

Anyway, back to the kitchen aspect of this post- after all this blog does concern food or food related items. With the glassware and bottles gone, I can now store items up in the cabinet that I only use once in a blue moon (my knife sharpener, blender, some extra jars that I’ve saved from pasta sauce, an immersion blender, etc.). As a result, what we like to call the “gadget cabinet” is now so much pretty, accesible and results in much less blender falling on my toes- induced swearing.

Second project: Our pan, pot, lid, skillet cabinet. It is a mess. Partly because we have too many pans (bf- if you are reading, I will deny this statement and there is no such thing as too many pans). Perhaps I should clarify. I think each pan has it’s purpose and all are used regularly. However, they really shouldn’t all be stashed in one tiny cabinet with a 1/3 shelf that doesn’t really serve much purpose. So we found a shelf from the Container Store that fits great.

Ok, I admit, still slightly chaotic, but sooooo much better than it was.

 

 

As you can see we’ve put our lids and a few small sauce pans on the top shelf, all sorts of skillets on the new shelf, and then the large pots, a huge new skillet (Christmas present, yay!) and my pancake pan on the bottom. Does it look great or what?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Third, and final, project: The pantry. I know everything that is in there, except for some of the extras in the very back of the top shelf. But as I already mentioned, my height limitations make it very difficult to ever see the back of the shelf. Blame my mom. She gave me the height, or lack there of. But anyway, for anyone else that plans to venture into the center section of the pantry, I would fully expect them to close the doors quickly in fear that an assortment of grains, pastas and cans would be able to cascade onto the floor. Part of the problem is that there are about 1,001 bags of different kinds of rice, couscous, barley, quinoa (did you know there are such things as black and red quinoa?), and risotto. I like having options, so I have a lot of grains in stock.

 

For some of the smaller bags, I was able to use some recycled pasta jars. With the help of some sticky labels, these crazy bags quickly began to shape up.

 

 

 

Aren't they wonderful! Is it weird I'm so excited about jars?

 

But for some of the larger bags, a small jar wasn’t cutting it. What to do? I didn’t like the idea of buying a bunch of new storage containers, cause let’s be honest, I’m on a budget and new storage containers can really be a slippery slope. Well, yesterday I dropped some stuff of at Goodwill and decided to take a peak inside, just for kicks. I found these two awesome antique-looking mason jars for $1.96 a pop. That’s right, one dollar and ninety six cents. I couldn’t beat that if I tried. If they had had more than two, they would have been mine too. A quick soak and wash once I got home, and they are now the proud holders of risotto and quinoa!

Yay for organization! Do you guys have any good kitchen storage ideas? Please share!

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Filed under Gadgets and Things, Life Stuff, Weekly Winston

Repeats

Aside from my gingerbread cookies that I posted on Friday, I didn’t make anything this week that I hadn’t previously written about. Maybe that makes me boring, I don’t know. I made some favorites (lighten up mac and cheese, fettucine with peas, asparagus and bacon), but mostly I made things I knew I wouldn’t mess up.

I made the quinoa dish tonight with chicken and veggies. I included a few small changes. I used 5 ounces of feta cheese instead of 4 because it was what I could find at the grocery store. I ran out of garlic (I honestly don’t know how that’s possible) and my measly grocery store doesn’t carry garlic scapes, so I used garlic powder. It was still just as delicious. I know I said this the first time, but it is so filling! It never fails to surprise me that I am absolutely stuffed after only a half of a bowl!

I love old recipes. I like that I know what to expect: how long it will take, what are some good tricks to make it successful, what it will taste like when I’m done. I love not having to worry about whether we will have to resort to my emergency pasta and red sauce stash. Another wonderful thing about tried-and-true recipes? I get to make some changes. I hate changing things in new recipes, because who am I to judge if it’s been written correctly? But with older dishes, I can add a little something here or put in less of something there.

 

I keep a running list of dinners on the fridge that my bf and I deem a success. When I’m stumped on what to make that week for dinner, I always consult my list. My bf, who is incredibly brilliant, can be quite forgetful with the smaller details in life, uses my blog the same way.

Say, for example, I ask “baby, do you want me to make the quinoa dish for dinner this week?” and bf responds “what one was that?”. I answer “the one with the chicken and tomatoes and zucchini and feta cheese? you really liked it”. To which he says “I have no idea what you are talking about”. Rather than me giving more details and getting annoyed, he can just go look at the pictures and try and refresh his memory. In this case, he still didn’t remember and thus was pleasantly surprised tonight when he tried the quinoa dish tonight.

Anyway, I tell you this story as a very long-winded way of saying- I suggest everyone keep a dinner list! If you were going to make a list, what recipes would you include? Please let me know! As much as I love my old treasures, I am always trying to find new dishes as well!

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Thanksgiving Week

This past week was weird. My bf was gone a lot and cooking for one is exciting for only so long. Then I was visiting family, which inhibits my cooking zeal. I tend to feel like I can’t make mistakes and I’m constantly being tested. Nonetheless, I did cook, with mixed results. I made my holiday cookies which were yummy, and pumpkin pie with my grandmother’s homemade crust. There was also a delicious pumpkin cheesecake and my grandmother’s apple crumb pie (below). Noticing a trend? Desserts are my safety zone.

However, this is where my success ended. I made my usual pancakes, and I don’t know whether it was the different skillet, an electric stove instead of gas, or the crisco my grandmother used instead of pam- but they were not good. The outside was crunchy and they were thin in dense. Usually, my pancakes are thick and fluffy, with firm but soft outsides. I was dreadfully disappointed.

Then (since I’m one of the younger cooks in the family) I was given the side veggie assignment for Thanksgiving dinner. I wanted to try something different, so I found a brussel sprout recipe with bacon and bread crumbs. Sounds good, right? Wrong.

Maybe I didn’t cook it right, or maybe I should have used fresh bread crumbs instead of the kind in the container, or maybe I should have added more white wine. Either way, it was not good. I didn’t even take a picture of the end product because I just want to forget about the experience- not that my family will let me.

As you can probably guess, I came back to DC feeling disheartened. When you are a new cook and from a family of established cooks, this is bound to happen. I lost my cooking spark. So, my task this week is to get it back. I’m returning to a bunch of my tried and true favorites in an attempt to get a little confidence back. This, of course, means I will have less posts for my wonderful readers. I will have a special cookie recipe coming later in the week and I’ll post a few pictures along the way to show you my repeats.

Anyway, for next week I will find some new dishes and will hopefully feel courageous enough to try them. Until next week, you will have to be patient with me……love to you all!

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Thoughts on food

Tonight, with any luck, I will have a real recipe post (yes about time, I know). Although it’s no excuse, life has been hectic lately. But until then, I had a few musings about food I wanted to share.

The motivation for this post is a book I just started reading. It’s called “A Homemade Life” by Molly Wizenberg. My mom raved about this book for months and finally she decided she had waited long enough for me to take the hint, and brought it to me. Well, my GRE exams are over (successfully, I might add) and my graduate school applications are almost done, so I decided I deserved a little bit of pleasure reading.

I was immediately hooked. Very few people feel the same way about food and the kitchen as I do. It’s hard to explain. It’s not just eating (although I do really like that), and it’s not just about the process of making (though that’s a favorite too). It’s so much more. It’s that every great experience in my life somehow has a food component. It’s that my favorite places usually center around a warm, comfortable kitchen. Family is incredibly important to me and food and cooking are so intertwined with family holidays and celebrations, that they simply can’t be separated.

Well, compared to this book, I completely butchered my attempt at trying to describe this feeling I have. She brilliantly weaves memories and recipes and stories about her family without sounding like a crazy person recanting things from her childhood (yes I’ve been known to be that crazy person). Anyway, clearly I am a fan. I think part of my instant attachment came from many shared experiences.

Molly’s Dad was the cook in her family, my mom ran the kitchen in mine. She did all the meals, snacks and everything in between. My dad always contributed by grilling meats and such, but really it’s my mom’s area of expertise. As a child, we would visit a fancy restaurant here and there for a special occasion, but eating out was never a regular activity. As someone trying to cook dinners for my little family now, I am amazed by how often my mom made a healthy, interesting meal. Not only did she have a protein, but inevitably there were veggies, starches and usually fruit. The thought of that on most week nights for me is simply exhausting. Sure we had favorites, but I don’t think we had ruts, or I was too young to notice. That’s no small feat! I am always struggling to find new recipes, I still don’t know where she got hers from.

So many of these recipes, I now make on my own and have absolutely no idea where or when they came from, but I love them all the same. I think my own cooking style reflects my experiences. There is no other way to describe it, I am a tidy cook. I don’t like mess. I don’t like extra things on the counter, whether they be ingredients that have already been used or a little bit of spilled flour. Chlorox wipes are my best friend in the kitchen. I’m also a little bit of a control freak. Ok, that’s a lie. In the kitchen, at least my kitchen, I am a huge control freak. For those of you who know me personally, I am sure you are shocked. I measure my ingredients meticulously, especially for baking, love to follow recipes, and always ALWAYS lay out my ingredients before I start.

My mom is the messiest cook I’ve ever seen. There are splatters here and spills there. She has stuff all over her hands and dirty dishes threatened to topple out of the very large sink. She doesn’t wash off measuring spoons before using them again and doesn’t seem to care if olive oil gets on the counter (which literally makes me cringe thinking about it). Almost always, the first thing I do when I go home is clean the counter- which ironically she really appreciates.

But, she is also an amazing cook. I know pretty much everything I do, at least about food, because of her. I still call her to ask questions about how long I should cook something or what spice to use. Much like Molly, I get frustrated because she doesn’t write more things down. I’ll ask her how she made something and get a “oh a bit of this and a handful of that”.

Anyway, for anyone who likes food, even a little, read this book. It not only is fascinating, but explains my purpose for this blog better than I will ever be able to do. Basically, if I can share 1/10 of my love of all things culinary with you, I will consider my efforts a success.

Love to you all…

 

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