white russian martini

IMG_5469Is it me or does summer seem like a flurry of activity? Justin and I have had something nearly every weekend so far—birthdays, baby showers, wedding showers, weddings, family reunions. At least it’s fun activities! The summer is flying by.

I usually have a back log of recipes to post, but the unusually large amount of flops I’ve made lately have caused my queue to get rather low. You never know what you’re getting into when you try a new recipe. Some of my recent flops include foods I thought would be surefire hits like jalapeno mac and cheese with bacon (sounds like it’d be awesome, right?), a quick coffee cake (I mean, it’s cake. How do you mess up cake?), and odd-tasting manicotti (mentioned in a previous post). It’s not that these recipes were horrible; it’s just that they weren’t good. Going through all the work to try a new recipe that doesn’t turn out or that is just mediocre is so disappointing, but it is also a valuable part of the learning experience. I usually follow recipes exactly on the first try, and if I like how it turns out well enough, I’ll tweak the recipe for next time. I am always thinking of what I might have done differently to get a better turn out.

For this week’s post I perused my liquor cabinet, and there was the Kahlua smiling back at me. Yes, I am unabashedly posting a recipe for the three-ingredient classic martini: the White Russian. This was my drink of choice in college. My college boyfriend even bought me a shirt that said, “I like White Russians,” honoring my affinity for the drink, as well as Sasha Kaun, the large white Russian player we had on the KU basketball team then. You can use any kind of milk for this martini except for skim as skim milks tends to be less creamy and more watery. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

2 ounces vodka

1 ounce Kahlua

1-2 ounces Half and half, heavy cream, or milk

Torani dark chocolate sauce (optional), for garnishing

Directions:

Mix together and stir.

lemon-thyme shortbread cookies

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This was my first attempt at making shortbread cookies, and they turned out great! It was a little unusual working with a chalky dough that is more fragile than the traditional flexible dough, but the end results are well worth the extra effort. I love all shortbread, but the thyme and lemon zest in this recipe really makes it stand out.

This recipe called for some special utensils that I didn’t have, like a pastry blender and a pastry wheel, but I substituted things I had. Instead of a pastry blender, I used a fork to mix in the butter with the dry mixture. I confess it is an arm workout, but it can be done. Using a pastry blender will make your life easier.

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And I didn’t have a pastry wheel so I just used cookie cutters. It was a little difficult trying to remove the cookie cutter without breaking the dough, causing the shapes to be not as well defined as I would have liked, but they still turned out pretty well. And I would recommend cutting the cookies closer together than I did. I left a lot of space between them so I didn’t yield as many cookies as I should have. But all these notes are about presentation. No matter what utensils you use to make these, they will taste delicious!

I took these cookies to work for a mini tea party I threw on Friday afternoon. I love bringing people together, especially over tea and cookies. I even brought some of my great-grandmother’s china to work for the mini party.  Is it just me, or do things just taste better when they’re served on china? Paper plates and utensils just don’t cut it. Happy baking!

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fiery fish tacos with crunchy corn salsa

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My parents came to visit this weekend. On Saturday, we woke up feeling ambitious, so we decided to clean out Justin and I’s junk room that is supposed to be our third bedroom. So, we all rolled up our sleeves, donned our HAZMAT suits, fired up the backhoe, put the finishing touches on our last will and testament, and bravely stepped into the disaster zone. It took the four of us three hours to clear it out, and we emptied two carloads-worth of furniture at a furniture consignment store. But I am proud to announce we now have a functioning third bedroom (anybody have a spare few mattresses?!). You can even walk in there. Whoa!

On the cooking front, I made the worst manicotti of my life Sunday night. Luckily, mom and dad had already headed home and weren’t subjected to it. First off, I forgot to buy mozzarella. And, I mean, if you’re not going to include mozzarella in your Italian dish, why bother? I substituted what I had which was cheddar cheese. It wasn’t quite right.

And then the sauce was a catastrophe. I bought traditional pasta sauce of a certain brand, and I always assumed that all pasta sauces were flavored with Italian seasoning. To me, this traditional sauce tasted like tomato sauce with salt or watered down tomato paste.  Justin said whenever he has used that version of sauce, he usually has to add his own spices. After tasting it, we marched straight to the seasoning rack and loaded it up on basil, oregano, and several other Italian spices. But even then, the dish was just mediocre. What can I say?  When we fail, we fail in spectacular fashion. Good thing I doubled the recipe! Ugh. We’ll be eating manicotti for weeks! Needless to say, the manicotti didn’t make the cut for the blog, but this fish taco recipe definitely did.

I made these fish tacos for my parents this weekend, and they loved them. I have been making these fish tacos for years, and I still get excited when I make them. I love the blackened tilapia and the fresh corn salsa. Jicama is a unique ingredient in this recipe. Jicama is a Mexican potato, but has a light and crispy texture when biting into it that is more reminiscent of biting into an apple than that of a potato. It’s wonderful in this. I also love this recipe because it is “street taco-esque” with the corn tortillas and salsa with fresh ingredients.

I always drizzle Thousand Island dressing over these tacos. Honestly, I’m not even a big Thousand Island fan, but the zesty dressing complements the spicy tacos and fresh salsa to a T.  And per my usual, I doubled the recipe. Happy eating!

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homemade brownie bowls and butterscotch for ice cream

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On Saturday, I threw a baby sprinkle for my good friend, Kristine, for her second baby. She chose an ice cream social theme. So cute!

For the occasion, I made brownie bowls. I also bought waffle bowls as a backup in case the brownie bowls didn’t turn out. (It was a new recipe. You never know!) When my guests saw the waffle and brownie bowls, they asked, “Can we have both?” I thought, “Genius! Why hadn’t I thought of that?” This is why we’re friends. They take a good idea and make it great. So we added the brownie bowl inside the waffle bowl, and we had no regrets.

For ice cream, we served vanilla and chocolate flavors. The toppings included mini M&Ms, sprinkles, chopped mixed nuts, maraschino cherries, crumbled Oreos, Reece’s Pieces, strawberries, bananas, Torani’s dark chocolate sauce, whipped cream, and last but not least, the homemade butterscotch. The butterscotch was rich, and you could taste the butter and brown sugar in it. It was SO good!

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I mean, ice cream by itself is good, but then you add the homemade butterscotch, all the toppings, and voila, it’s ambrosia-of-the-Gods good. The butterscotch is really easy to make; it only contains 4 ingredients, and it lasts up to two weeks in the fridge. Also, it’s great to put over bananas for breakfast. Yum!

For the brownie bowls, you can use any brownie recipe (including brownie mixes). Follow the directions to make the brownies, and then, while they are still warm, take a tablespoon, carefully press down the middle, and allow them to cool. That’s basically it, though I do recommend spraying the bottoms of the muffin pan with oil but not the sides because you want the batter to stick to the sides to help create the bowl shape. Happy baking!

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For the punch, I combined Hawaiian punch, Sprite, and a splash of orange juice. Then added lemon slices and rubber duckies on top.

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pf chang’s-inspired chicken lettuce wraps

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We recently got back from our vacation to Asheville and Charlotte, North Carolina (Post coming soon—yours truly is still navigating the 3,000 plus photos she took!). After gorging ourselves on our week of vacation, we are now on a self-imposed diet. We are attempting to hold each other accountable.

I don’t know whether it’s good or bad that we both have a lot of the same tendencies and cravings. We both crave SUGAR nearly all the time. We both ALWAYS want ice cream, no matter the time of day or circumstances. It’s gotten to the point where we don’t keep ice cream in the house, because well, we’re not great at regulating ourselves. We don’t want some of the ice cream; we want all of the ice cream! It’s our Achilles heal (along with a laundry list of other sugary-things), and it nearly takes a Greek god’s willpower to stay away from it. Anyway, this recipe is one of our attempts at eating healthy.

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open-faced arugula breakfast bagel

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June 17th was our 1st wedding anniversary. I cannot believe we’ve been married for one year. It feels like 20! Just kidding. But seriously, I remember the wedding like it was yesterday. And I remember the harrowing months of wedding planning that led up to it (I’m not sure I’ve fully recovered yet). But here we are a year and several home repairs later, still having fun like the overgrown kids we are.

We celebrated the milestone by having breakfast on the couch (as opposed to breakfast in bed) because it is in front of the TV. And someone (who shall remain nameless) was engrossed in a certain World Cup soccer match between Germany and Mexico. Later, we went to a Korean spa to relax. Continue reading “open-faced arugula breakfast bagel”

croissant french toast with fresh strawberry syrup

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This croissant french toast is a little bit of heaven. Sure, this recipe is sugar upon sugar piled upon more sugar with sugar sprinkled on top, but, hey, I don’t hear anyone complaining. The strawberry syrup does have a hint of orange which takes the taste to a whole new level. Its even great on ice cream and atop angel food cake.

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key lime pie

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I prefer making things from scratch, but sometimes you just run out of time.  For the key lime pie, I bought a 10-ounce ready-made graham cracker crust instead of making my own. I feel a little guilty because I remember how delicious the homemade version is.  This key lime pie is one of my dad’s all-time favorite desserts. My mom has made this recipe on several occasions, and she agrees the crust is just as good as the filling, so even though I didn’t make my own crust, I included the graham cracker crust recipe. You won’t regret making it!

The key lime filling is super easy, and only takes about ten minutes to assemble. When baked, the filling has the consistency of a custard and has a nice balance of tartness and sweetness. And contrary to popular belief, key lime pie is actually yellow, not green. I should note that you don’t necessarily have to use key limes for this recipe; I used large conventional limes from the grocery store, and it turned out great! Enjoy!

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beef sliders with pepper jack, bacon, guacamole, and the hottest d*@# poblano peppers i’ve ever had

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I learn something new nearly every time I cook, and this week, I learned that poblano peppers can be extremely hot. And that when you handle hot poblano peppers and touch your eye, your eye will begin to burn. And when you get in the shower to rinse your eye, the water can transfer the burn to the lower part of your face. It was an eventful evening. There I was with one hand holding an ice pack to my eye and the other snapping photos of food on the grill. Am I a dedicated blogger or what? See, I go through all the trials and tribulations and fall into all the cooking pitfalls so you don’t have to. You’re welcome. 🙂

I wonder if other bloggers undergo these trials…

The pain in my eye subsided after a couple hours, but the burning in my hand burned well into the night. At midnight, I finally plunged my hand into a bowl of cold milk, which helped immensely. I had never had hot poblano peppers in my life—these were jalapeno-level spicy.  I love spicy food, but there’s spicy food and then there’s just pain. And when your mouth is in pain, the pain definitely overwhelms any taste there might be in my humble opinion.

Other than the near-ER visit, everything else went smoothly, and the beef sliders were tasty though very messy. If there’s a trick to eating a burger without all the toppings falling off, I have yet to learn it. This slider has all my favorite foods: creamy tangy guacamole, crispy BACON, a sliver of crunchy poblano pepper (I’m still bitter!), and pepper jack cheese atop a ground beef burger with spicy and creamy chipotle mayo. We utilized our grill for the bacon, peppers, and beef patties, which gave them a delectably smoky flavor. This is a slider recipe to keep! Enjoy! Oh, and if anyone wants to take these poblano peppers off my hands, you’re welcome to them! Just be sure you have some milk in the house.

So, we made the sliders with grilled corn with butter, chili powder, and salt (recipe), pasta salad with marinated tomatoes (recipe), and iced peach tea with mint (recipe). The pasta salad and iced tea recipes you can make ahead of time. Since the corn is also cooked on the grill and takes a little longer to cook than the beef patties, I would start with the corn and then move to the slider recipe. This gets you nice hot burgers.

Happy grilling!

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peach iced tea with mint

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Are there certain foods (or drinks) you can’t stay away from? I can’t stay away from ice cream, white chocolate, Nutella, anything cookies & cream-flavored, anything coffee-flavored… well, anything with SUGAR! (I mean, if we’re being honest…) pasta, pizza, potatoes, CHEESE!, bread (Hmm…this list is more extensive than I realized), and this peach iced tea. It’s real good. Like I forget how many glasses I’ve had. I am guzzling it like there’s no tomorrow. Good thing I didn’t add liquor to it! I’d probably be under the table right now inarticulately crooning Les Miserables songs or adding obscure movies I will never watch to my Netflix queue (Did you know there’s a documentary on Feng Shui on there? Who knew?)

The best thing about this recipe, other than the peachy flavor, is how easy it is. You’re basically making the tea and then adding homemade peach simple syrup to it. The longer the peach and mint flavors have time to coalesce in the refrigerator, the more flavorful they’ll be. Drink up!

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pasta salad with marinated tomatoes

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I was recently told that it would be beneficial to my readers if I posted my July 4th recipes before the actual holiday so they could actually make them on the holiday. Sorry, first-time blogger here making first-time blogger mistakes. So for the week and a half we have left before the 4th, I will be posting more recipes than normal so I can get them all posted in time. I have been cooking up a storm much to Justin’s delight. Justin is my taste tester, a role he prizes (or at least pretends to [this is Justin, I love it, continue on]). He is also my editor, content consultant, dishwasher, and oftentimes, even my Amazon echo when I have a cooking question but have my hands covered in flour or oil or what have you. I shout all kinds of questions from the kitchen, which he graciously Googles for me.

“How many ounces are in a quart?” (32 ounces by the way)

“How can you tell when scallops are done?” (they should be white and non-transparent)

“Is this chicken supposed to be purple?!” (we were making coq au vin)

“How do you thicken whipped cream?” (put in refrigerator over night) Continue reading “pasta salad with marinated tomatoes”

steak and chicken dinner with the neighbors

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In the year and a half that Justin and I have lived in our  house, we have only gotten to know two of our neighbors. I think this is partly due to the garages being in the back of the houses instead of the front.  The only time we really see our neighbors is when they are getting their mail or mowing their yard. The couple across the street are fun and enjoy good food and drink so we invited them over for dinner. Continue reading “steak and chicken dinner with the neighbors”

prosciutto-wrapped asparagus

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This is an awesome appetizer! Make this now! It’s a little tricky cutting and wrapping the fragile layer of prosciutto around the asparagus. Do not add any salt to this recipe as it is already salty from the prosciutto. These can be made ahead and stored at room temperature up to 4 hours before baking.

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farmer’s pizza

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I almost always want meat in my meals. If I don’t, I tend to think I’m coming down with a cold. But occasionally a recipe is so good that I don’t miss the meat. This is one of those recipes. I wasn’t sure how all the ingredients would play out, but I found the creamy mascarpone, spicy tomato sauce, and peppery arugula make this pizza just awesome. ‘Nuff said. Continue reading “farmer’s pizza”