Monday, February 16, 2015

Homemade Granola

homemade granola

I am trying to make 2015 the year of learning basic recipes that will enrich my life forever (please note how I softened the resolve with "trying" rather than just saying this is THE year, people). Now, my idea of "stuff I should know how to make" will probably differ from yours; it's not like I want to cook my way through a famous cookbook. I don't even have a long list. Off the top of my head, it seems to be just "roast a whole chicken without batting an eye" and make-your-own granola. So, as you can see from the photo above, I'm off to a good start and the only thing I need to learn for the rest of the year is roasting a chicken. 50% of my list is complete! What an accomplishment!

As I knew it would be, making granola is super easy. It is somewhere above PB&J, but definitely below chocolate chip cookies on the difficulty scale (I feel like whenever an egg is involved, things instantly become more precarious and the outcome is a little less certain. Just me?). I used this straightforward and helpful recipe (it has a photo stills, you see). My granola turned out pretty good (I used lots of cranberries and raisins), but next time, I would throw in some slivered almonds and more honey. I was short on the honey, so I used only about 1/4 cup. Really, I wasn't expecting miracles from homemade granola; most of the satisfaction comes from knowing I made it and I can do it again. For me, learning something new, however small, makes that particular day special and gives it the tiniest bit of meaning.

Okay, so if I get serious about this list, a few sauces and some baked goods would probably end up on there. Oh, AND PANCAKES. For a fairly simple pleasure, there is so much mystery around making a good pancake. Let's see how I progress this year. Mastering the pancake might be more of a lifelong goal.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Clams with Garlic & Lemon

clams with garlic and lemon
I love clams. But, it's all about timing. They get too chewy if overcooked, losing their "je ne sais quoi" and resulting in abject disappointment for the eater. One way to avoid such a scenario is to make them yourself! At home! Once your clams are clean, the cooking phase is very quick. BTW, there are many different takes on how to get your clams grit-free. Choose whichever one suits your schedule; I soaked mine in cold water in the fridge for about 20 minutes. Now, on to the cooking steps:

Saute some chopped garlic, throw the clams in and pour white wine on top of them (add a little salt if you want, but they probably don't need it). Add lemon juice now and/or later when serving. Place a lid on the pot, wait for everything to bubble and the clams to open. Take one out to see if it's cooked enough and then turn the heat off. The only thing left to do is eat and cherish the moment.

One ingredient that was missing from my preparation: butter, which will be included next time because the broth needed some depth and richness. Can't wait to eat clams again! (Parting note: most people insist on bread to mop up the broth and they are totally right. I didn't buy any this time, so chose to drink it straight from the bowl.)

Sunday, October 12, 2014


I grew up eating persimmons, but thought it was an Asian thing. So, I am pretty pumped that they seem to be more mainstream now with recipes popping up everywhere; just look at Food 52's Your Best Persimmons contest! These little guys are Fuyu persimmons and I love them. Just so cute and cheery! Although, persimmons are a little more serious than other cute and cheery fruit (like Rainier cherries) because they herald the beginning of autumn, which I think of as the season of gravitas.

Winter is like a whole other thing because it has the emotions of the holidays and, depending on where you are, an enduring wait for spring/light at the end of the tunnel feel to it. I don't hear as much "when is it going to be over?!?!" exclamations about autumn. But, to give winter its due, it's the more "complicated" season (maybe that's a backhanded compliment).

Anyway, if you see persimmons and have never tried them, I encourage you to give them a whirl. It's difficult to explain what they taste like, it'll be easier if you just go for it. Unless you dislike most fruit, in which case, I don't know what to tell you.

And lastly, here's some delightful stuff I've seen online lately:

-Jolly Ranger Vodka from A Beautiful Mess! Sounds like a partayyy.

-3 Everyday Eyeliner Shapes from Cupcakes and Cashmere. I've been wanting to try a cat eye and these tips look very helpful.

-An articles club from A Cup of Jo. Love this idea, mostly because I am that person who is always telling you about this article or that op-ed someone wrote. I'd imagine it's more fun and a longer conversation (ha) if you discuss with friends who have also read it.

Happy Sunday!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Huevos a la Mexicana

huevos a la mexicana

Sometimes, I choose a recipe because it looks easy and the ingredients list is fairly short (okay, on most occasions, this approach is how I decide what to cook). When I was looking for something new to make for breakfast, this Huevos a la Mexicana recipe from Simply Recipes spoke to me (like, eggs? I know how to crack eggs. Tomatoes? We have great tomatoes here! And so on and so forth). I made a couple ingredient changes: instead of green onions and jalapeno, I used half a yellow onion and canned green chiles.

Well, I was floored by how good these turned out! I am so happy I made this dish!!! Don't think I've been this excited about eggs in a long time, not exaggerating. This thing was so good. I highly recommend it for a weekday breakfast when a packaged granola bar just won't cut it or a friend brunch gathering that needs some pizzazz; it will be a surefire hit. I'm definitely adding this one to my repertoire.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Pears & Cheese

pears and cheese

I usually take forever to pick cheese at the store. For sandwiches, it is not a labored process. Easy peasy. But, when I am looking for snack cheese, the beguiling wedges of domestic and imported alike can throw me into a loop of indecision. Sometimes, I even abandon the quest. But, this time, I persevered and emerged with something called Uniekaas Robusto, which is firm and nutty. Try it with pears or really, anything you like. This cheese is legit.

Other stuff I've been doing aside from looking intently at cheese:

-reading The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta. Real good.

-watched my first TED talk by Mac Barnett! I get it now, guys.

-resisting the urge to follow too many pet Instagram accounts. I don't know why, everyone needs some cute in their lives (perhaps my daily quota is higher than others). I will probably get over it. Here's one of my favorite dogs.

Happy weekend!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Pan-Fried Shrimp with Cherry Tomato Corn Salad

shrimp with tomato corn salad
Note to Summer: please stay. I am not ready to face the last months of the year. Let me luxuriate in the long days, pink sunsets and artisan ice cream a bit longer. I realize my tune has changed as I used to dread your high temps, seeking out air-conditioning like it was a life force. But this year, it feels different. I am different. So, please stay.

Based on what I've learned over time, this request will go unheard. So, I will take solace in the fact that a lot of nectarines, plums and peaches were consumed this summer. And I got to make this festive dish of pan-fried shrimp and a cherry tomato, corn and red onion salad. I am always amazed at how much flavor comes out of letting veggies or salads sit around in some lemon juice and olive oil. When in doubt, reach for the lemon and olive oil. You will get super results about 98%-100% of the time. You cannot say that for most things in life.

Happy long weekend!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Strawberry & Blue Cheese Spinach Salad

strawberry blue cheese & spinach salad

This spinach salad is an excellent example of something I like to make at home mainly because I can control the size of the blue cheese crumbles. Also, this salad needs strawberries of high caliber and I knew the strawberries I had on hand would fit the bill nicely. In a restaurant, I usually just hope for the best with fruit quality. Most of the time, it's passable, but not anything that could be classified as good.

The only component that requires some attention is the balsamic vinaigrette; my version is a bit of Dijon mustard, honey, balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper whisked together furiously with a fork until emulsified (meaning everything has combined and the olive oil isn't a separate layer on top). A whisk probably works better, but I just use a fork.

If you want to get cute, you could throw in blueberries instead and call it a "blue" spinach salad. Just a thought!