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Friday, August 26, 2011

Crafting up Cinnamon Chicken

Planning wedding is a real nuisance.  While my ceremony will be incredibly small, and I’ve finally found an amazing wedding planner (after working with one for several months only to have her stop contacting me completely), I keep finding myself hung up on all the little details.  Today’s detail is what to wear in my hair for my big day.  I think I’ve got a hairstyle nailed down, now it’s just a matter of containing my patience by letting it grow.  What’s more obnoxious though is how much it costs to find a pretty fabric flower hair piece that’s affordable.  All I can think is “I can totally make one of these on my own”.  This is both a perk and a pitfall in my life.  I would say that if there is any one thing I’m naturally really good at, it’s crafts.  I have a peculiar knack for creating things that I would never use for any reason.  My decorative tastes are less “cutesy” than most women but I really enjoy doing crafts, despite having no desire for them in my own life.  Today I’m going to try my hand at fabric flowers so I can make a lovely and affordable hairpiece for myself that I’ll only wear once.

I can’t help but wonder how many crafts out there I should be making and selling.  Ryan may have to tolerate a hoard of fabric, ribbons, pearls, stamps, scrapbook paper and so on for awhile so I can avoid getting a second job and make extra wedding cash off something that I’m naturally skilled at.  I wonder where this talent came from.  It’s probably the Mormon in me.

Moving on...
I took a big risk yesterday in my kitchen.
As I’ve mentioned before, Ryan and I have been bestowing ingredients on one another to create a meal with.  His latest assignment for me: cinnamon.  I can only suspect this was a ploy to get me to bake.  He failed in that regard but it did spawn some creative culinary thinking on my part that had potential to go really, really bad.  Had I known that it would actually turn out quite lovely, I wouldn’t have spent so much time apologizing to him beforehand about how terrible it was liable to be.  I basically made chicken breast marinated in a cinnamon mixture.

1/4 Cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 Cup fresh lemon juice
A bunch of ground cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. salt
Skin-on chicken (legs, thighs, breast, whatever)

All the ingredients are pretty much a marinade for the chicken.  Mix it all together and toss it in a Ziplock bag for a couple hours.  I decided to roast mine at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes on both sides.  I boiled the leftover marinade with a bunch of sugar and spooned about a tablespoon on each piece of chicken just before serving.  
The skin gets a nice, dark crispiness to it and the chicken should be juicy and delicious.

In the end, the risk paid off and this easy, easy, easy recipe will be added to the regular rotation.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Finally Destined for Mac & Cheese

I’ve decided that the creators/producers of Final Destination 5 lack understanding of what the word “final” actually means. As if the plot of the first Final Destination wasn’t awful enough, they made four more just to get the point across, I guess. Maybe when they make the last one, they’ll call it Final Destination: Finally.
I’m over it with most movies these days. It feels a bit like Hollywood is lacking creativity in that they’re always remaking books, remaking older movies, or creating prequels and sequels to movies that were bad to begin with. As soon as they latch onto an idea, it’s immediately played out. Case in point: superhero movies. Batman, Spiderman, Superman, The Hulk, Dare Devil, Hellboy, Electra, X-Men, Captain America, Punisher, The Green Lantern, etc., etc., etc. In the past decade or so, I can think of nearly 20 superhero movies that have come out...and that’s just off the top of my head. I’m not even INTO these things.

As far as sequels are concerned, I’m glad they finally put an end to the Saw series and as for Final Destination 5, spoiler alert: at the end of the movie, they refund my money.

So, I made some macaroni and cheese last week. Well, it wasn’t macaroni exactly, it was really orecchietti and cheese. Pasta and cheese get it. It’s easy, it’s fast, it’s customizable and it’s delicious (despite being cram-packed with carbohydrates and fats).

Easiest Mac & Cheese EVER.

2 ½ cups elbow noodles
¼ stick of butter
1 ½ cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
2 green onions, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
¾ C milk
¾ can of vegetable broth
¼ C bread crumbs

1. cook noodles in boiled, salted water until tender but still firm to the bite. Drain & set aside.
2. Put bread crumbs in a small bowl and set aside
3. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter. Add ½ Tbsp. of the butter to the bread crumbs and combine with your fingers, set aside
4. Add flour to the butter and whisk together. Once texture is even, add milk and vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, whisking constantly.
5. Add green onions to milk mixture and remove from heat. Immediately add cheese and stir until it’s completely melted. Add noodles and stir until noodles are evenly covered.
6. Pour mixture into a baking dish and sprinkle bread crumbs on top. Broil dish for about 2 minutes, or until bread crumbs are browned.

I did my broiling in my toaster oven as I’m not a fan of waiting for my oven to preheat so I can put something in it for literally two minutes. This is one of the many, many reasons I prefer owning a toaster oven instead of a microwave.

Because this recipe is so easy, you can vamp it up as much as you want with proteins and veggies. I added a fair amount of cayenne pepper to my bread crumbs for that muy caliente appeal that I’m so fond of.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Babies in my Shepherds Pie

Most girls have the same life goals: date a boy, get voted Homecoming Queen (popular & electoral votes), get married, take a picture of a Chupacabra, renew your vows, get divorced, renew your divorce-vows, eat a pie behind a middle school, get remarried, and have a baby. Call me crazy but no baby for me please! I want my life to be fun and easy, not, as Shakespeare might say, “done and queasy” (SOURCE: Oxford English Rhyming Dictionary).

Pregnancy is just a mess. It’s like you’re a Turducken: a woman stuffed with a fetus stuffed with the Turducken that you eat every day for breakfast. Your clothes stop fitting, and you have to start buying pants/Quinceanera dresses/Quinceanera tiaras with elastic wastes. You have to start eating and mainlining for two. Sometimes you can’t help but sample the cocoa butter that you’re putting on your stretch marks. And I want to keep my figure! (For those of you on the Internet who haven’t met me, I’m 5’10”, 120 lbs. 34DDD and my name is Heidi Klum, and I’m the model Heidi Klum.)

Have you ever SEEN a baby? Or, if you’re blind, have you ever touched a baby’s face and smelled a baby’s face and used echolocation to tell what color it is? They are crazy nasty-looking. Also, they’re passive-aggressive and love to give the silent treatment.

Pushing a baby out of your body is like pushing a watermelon through your yoo-hoo, and, trust me, that was NOT a fun Cancun Spring Break 2004 drinking game. The only thing I want coming out of my body is a contented sigh, when I’ve eaten an extra-tasty Toblerone in my baby-free bachelor/bachelorette pad filled with non-baby-proofed coffee table corners and sharp Toblerone vending machines.

How about the money issues? I can’t afford a child, let alone a kid. Diapers alone cost thousands of dollars each, if you prescribe to the Old Wives’ Tale that you should only use Gutenberg bible pages as diapers. I need all the money I can get for adult things like cars and taxes-themed Mad Libs. People with babies don’t get to be adults anymore. I would have to give up my right to my height-restricted dinner parties. Call me crazy and Heidi Klum, but I just don’t think it’s worth it.

Sure, sometimes I get bored and lonely without a baby. There are only so many times you can stage an intervention for your blow-up sex doll gal pal, even though she really needs to know that she doesn’t have to sleep with guys just to feel pretty. And there are only so many times you can buy three blow-up sex dolls and pretend to be “Sex and the City”. But, even though my biological clock might be saying “have a baby”, my biological cell phone voicemail message is saying “enjoy your 20’s and DON’T have a baby”, and my biological fridge is saying “eat that cottage cheese, it’s still good”.

Ugh – I’m supposed to give you a recipe now, huh?!
Ryan doesn’t know this so hopefully he doesn’t waste his time reading this blog but this week, I’m making a Shepherd’s Pie with Lamb.

1 tsp. Canola or Vegetable Oil
3 med. Yellow onions, peeled and diced
3 lbs. American lamb leg, ground or diced into ½” cubes
6 Tbsp. All-purpose flour
3 med. Carrots, peeled and diced
1 Cup fresh or frozen peas
1 Cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
3 Tbsp. Tomato paste
2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
3 Cups lamb stock
½ Cup Chopped Parsley
4 lbs. Yukon Gold potatoes, washed
½ Cup Heavy cream
½ lb. Salted butter
8 oz. English Derby and/or Cheddar Cheese, shredded

Heat oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Add onions and cook until softened. Add lamb and cook until browned; dust with flour and mix thoroughly. Cook an addition 1 min. Add carrots, peas and corn; mix well. Add tomato paste and Worcestershire.
Gradually add stock; bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Simmer on log about 10 min. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Remove from heat; stir in parsley. Set aside to cool.
In another pot, cover potatoes with cold water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are fork tender. Drain and steam dry.
In a large bowl, combine heavy cream and butter. Grate potatoes, skin on; gently mix into cream and butter until semi-smooth with small chunks.
Spoon the cooked lamb mixture into a large casserole pan. Spread a layer of the mashed potatoes over the lamb mixture; stop with shredded cheese.
Bake at 375 degrees until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.

This is a huge yield (will probably make 10-12 servings) so vary quantities as needed.