Sunday, September 7, 2014

Nail Spam

Well, since I've been completely neglecting this blog, here are a bunch of pictures of manicures I've had in the last few months.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Nutella Dessert Wontons

After making steamed veggie dumplings the other day I was totally feeling on a roll as far as filling wonton wrappers goes.  Sitting around with my roommates, I realized that we could all use some dessert.  I managed to pull these together in under 10 minutes (and even closer to 5). They were a nice small sweet treat to end the day.

Nutella Wontons
  • 12t Nutella 
  • 6 wonton wrappers
  • 1 egg + 1/2 cup water, beaten together (or use leftover from dinner wonton-making)
  • 1/4 c neutral oil for frying
  • 1T cocoa powder (I used the Hershey's Special Dark)
  • 1 T powdered sugar
Place 2t Nutella in the center of each wonton wrapper. Moisten the edges of the wrappers with egg wash. Fold one corner diagollay to meet its opposit corner. Press layers together to seal, being careful to avoid air bubbles. At this point, you can press lightly on the filling to flatten it out a little. Heat frying oil over medium heat until it shimmers. Add wontons and fry until golden brown on both sides, flipping mid way through (< 2 minutes per side). Drain on a paper towel before setting on plates in pairs. Combine cocoa powder and powdered sugar in a fine mesh sieve. Dust lightly over wontons and serve.

Steamed Veggie Dumplings

Two days ago, I got the genius idea that I was going to make my own wontons to add to some leftover take-out egg drop soup I had in the fridge. The only problem was that I didn't have wonton wrappers in the house. Since I also did not have any defrosted meat at home, I researched a few recipes for veggie wontons on the bus on the way home. (There may be a theme here that I need to work on planning further ahead.)  Last time I looked for wonton wrappers, it took forever to find them. This time, I knew I should just go to Whole Foods first.

You know how everyone says you shouldn't go to the grocery store hungry? Well, there's a good reason for that. I managed to get out of the grocery section mostly unscathed, with only a few items that weren't wonton wrappers, but all things that have been on my grocery list for a while. The problem came when I walked past the prepared foods section.  The mac and cheese looked so good, I figured that a small container to take home and add to my dinner wouldn't be terrible.  But then there was also barbecued pulled pork right next to the mac and cheese. I added a little pulled pork to my container of mac and cheese and headed to the checkout line.  I'm honestly not sure exactly what happened between deciding to supplement my dinner a little and getting to the cafe seating at the exit of the store. Somehow, my body/brain decided that there was  no possible way to make it the 3/4 of a mile home without eating something right this very second.

At which point, I sat down, housed the mac and cheese and pulled pork, and walked home in the rain to do my taxes in a shadow of food shame. So much for my healthy veggie wontons.

Yesterday, I came home with a mission in my mind. I was going to succeed at veggie wontons. Since I didn't need anything else from the grocery store, I figured that as long as I started as soon as I got home, I could knock out these wontons.  I tackled the filling in two parts, hoping not to overcook anything and end up with a filling without texture. I pan fried 2 at first, just to test them, then broke out the steamer.  I also had enough filling leftover to take as a side dish for lunch later this week.  Happy to add another fairly technically complicated dish to my list of "can-dos!"

Veggie filling doesn't look the prettiest, but it's pretty yummy.

Rolling the dumplings takes a little practice, but it's pretty easy.

Be careful that your dumplings aren't touching when you cook them or they'll stick together.

Two different shapes with dipping sauce: finished!

Veggie Dumplings

  • 1.5-2 cups frozen chopped spinach (thawed)
  • 1/2 block soft silken tofu
  • ~10 brussels sprouts
  • 3 green onions, sliced finely on the diagonal
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2t ginger, grated
  • 1T red miso paste
  • 2T toasted sesame seeds
  • wonton wrappers
  • 1T ponzu sauce
  • 1T rice wine vinegar
  • 1/2t red pepper flakes
  • 2T olive oil, divided
  • 2t sesame oil, divided
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4c water
  • optional: oil for frying
Peel the dark outer leaves off the brussels sprouts. Remove the stems, cut them in half, and shave them into small ribbons.  Over a medium-high flame, heat 1T olive oil with 1t sesame oil in a saute pan. Add the onion and garlic and stir until the onion softens.  Then, add the brussels sprouts, the ponzu sauce, and the rice wine vinegar. Saute until the brussels sprouts are slightly softened and bright green.  Remove from heat and set aside in a medium-sized bow.

Return the empty pan the stove. Again over a medium-high flame, heat 1T olive oil with 1t sesame oil. Add the spinach, tofu, and miso paste. "Scramble" these ingredients together, as you would eggs, until everything is combined, and the tofu begins to brown lightly. You should have visible chunks of tofu, the consistency of scrambled eggs. Remove from heat and add to the bowl with the brussels sprouts mixture. Stir in toasted sesame seeds and red pepper flakes. This is your filling

Combine the egg and water in a small dish. Working on a few at a time, lay out the wonton wrappers on a clean dry surface. Spoon a small amount of filling (~1/2 T) into the middle of each wrapper. Moisten the edges of the wrapper with the egg wash. Fold over one corner of the wrapper, pinch it together with the diagonally opposite corner, and the seal edges, taking care to avoid air bubbles.  Optionally, you can take the two "long" corners" and fold them onto each other, sealing with egg wash. Otherwise, leaving them as triangles works just fine.

Using a steamer basket over a shallow depth of water, steam in a single layer until wrappers become translucent (~5 minutes, I think). Serve with Dumpling Dipping Sauce (recipe follows).

Notes: I finally found wonton wrappers in the refrigerated section at Whole Foods, in the same case as the fake meats (like SmartDogs, etc.).  The guys at Giant claimed they had them, but they did not. I don't know if they usually have them and didn't that day, or if they used to carry them and that's no longer the case.  In addition to steaming, the wrappers work well for frying.  These dumplings could be deep fried until golden brown, or pan fried in a shallow layer of oil for about 2 minutes per side.  You could also go a slightly more traditional route and pan fry on one side, then add water and a lid to the pan to steam the other side.  Be careful not to let too many air bubbles form in you dumplings with the filling. If the dumplings are well sealed, they'll puff up and pop when heated.

Dumpling Dipping Sauce
  • 4T soy sauce
  • 2T seasoned rice wine vinegar (or plain rice wine vinegar + a small pinch of sugar)
  • 1T water
  • 2t sesame oil
  • Optional: finely diced chives or green onion for garnish
Combine all ingredients in a bowl, adjusting for personal taste. Dip dumplings!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Jawbreaker Nails!

One of my major weaknesses is nail polish.  I've loved to polish my nails since I had my first Tinkerbell make-up set with peel-able nail polish (don't even get me started on how bad of a habit that's become over the years).  With the help of a some nail polish thinner, my collection still has some bottles I got before going to summer camp approximately 20 years ago.  I will go into it in more detail in later posts, but for reference I currently own somewhere in the neighborhood of 175 bottles of nail polish.   For the most part, that number tends to surprise people, but I've also met people who own over 900 bottles (and more often, followed them on the internet).

For Christmas, nail polish is a pretty safe bet as a stocking-stuffer for me, especially if you can find a fun unique shade.  I got a few polishes for Christmas, including a set of Minnie Mouse OPI minis and Revlon - Whimsical, which on first sight looks kind of like green funfetti.

I don't have anything else like this, so I was excited to try it.  The base on this polish is surprisingly sheer for how milky it looks in the bottle. When applied to naked nails, the biggest effect is from the large pink and blue hex glitter as well as the smaller pink/blue/silver glitters. There's a super-slight milky green tinge on your nails, but not enough that most people would notice without examining it closely for a while.  Not quite what I was hoping for when I saw the bottle.

In hopes of getting my nails to look a little more like the polish in the bottle, I layered the Whimsical over a coat of Sally Hanson Extreme in White On.  It still took three coats to be able to see the green quite as well as in the bottle, but the white undercoat was definitely key to the final look.

After a coat of Seche Vite, they look just like mini jawbreakers! I wore this manicure for almost a week. I t was a nice way to brighten up early January.

I will eventually experiment with wearing this polish layered over other colored bases, and who knows, maybe I will wear it alone at some point.  I can say I'm a little less curious about the sister polish, Popular, now that I've actually worn Whimsical.

P.S. According to the internet nail world, Whimsical is a pretty darn close duplicate of Deborah Lippmann's Glitter in the Air.

Slow Cooker Cheesy Polenta

After watching Michael Chiarello make enough polenta to cover a table on The Food Network's The Best Thing I Ever Made, I was inspired to try making my own.  Once I realized that probably half of my little fridge shelf was occupied by cheese, I went hunting for a recipe that incorporated both and wouldn't be too hard.  Luckily for me, this is a common enough thought process that Cabot has a recipe on their website for Slow Cooker Cheesy Polenta.

The first night, I ate hot in a bowl with a little bit of salt and pepper. It truly needed nothing else.  Afterward, I spread the leftovers on a cookie sheet (sprayed with non-stick cooking spray worked best, but bare was okay too), covered them, and let them cool over night in the fridge before slicing into triangles/squares for storage.

I will definitely be making this again. Also, I'm working on another post that talks about how to top/pair this decadent cheesy polenta (especially leftovers!).

Slow Cooker Cheesy Polenta
  • 7 cups hot water 
  • 2 cups polenta (not "quick-cooking") or coarse-ground yellow cornmeal 
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 2 teaspoons salt 
  • 12 ounces cheddar cheese, grated (about 3 cups)  - Note: many other cheeses could be substituted, but the sharpness of a cheddar works really well.
Combine the water, polenta, olive oil and salt in slow cooker; whisk until well blended. I've seen some recipes that say you should sift your cornmeal first, but it didn't seems to really have a huge bearing on the texture, so unless you have an awesome sifter (I don't), you probably don't need to bother.  Add cheese and whisk again.  Cover to slow cooker and cook on high setting for 2 hours, or until liquid is mostly absorbed. Stir together well. (The original recipe said that the polenta should have this consistency of "thick cooked cereal" - which I don't think I've ever eaten, so I just went for "thickish creamy goodness.")

If you don't plan on serving the polenta right away, or don't think you're going to eat all of it (it makes quite a bit!), pour it onto oiled baking sheet(s) with sides, spreading it into an even layer. Cover the baking sheets with with plastic wrap and let cool. When you're ready to serve the polenta, cut it into rectangles--or triangles or hearts, have fun with it!--and sauté in nonstick skillet with olive oil until golden on both sides.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Pineapple Habanero Jelly

At the end of this summer, I was gifted a large number of habanero peppers out of my boyfriend's garden. He makes a fantastic habanero marinade for grilled pork loin, but unfortunately I have a mental block on preparing my own pork loin. I had a bad experience a few years ago with a cheap pork loin that I will never be sure I cooked right. I don't know whether it was my preparation or the quality of the meat that made me sick, but I haven't been able to bring myself to cook pork loin again since then.  That meant replicating the marinade was out of the question for me.

Still, I love hot peppers and really wanted to find a way to use it the 6 beautiful habaneros I had in my fridge.  The best way to manage the heat and make the peppers go the farthest seemed to be in a sauce of some kind.  I had had pure habanero jelly before in small quantities (best combined with cream cheese to calm the fire) and knew that it probably wasn't a realistic condiment in our house. After a little bit of internet research, I came across a promising recipe for Pineapple Habanero Jelly.  The sweetness of the pineapple melds nicely with the habanero to make the jelly palatable in slightly larger portions than a pure habanero jelly.

I was a little nervous since I had never used pectin before.  I'd made strawberry and cherry jelly with my grandmother in Michigan, but we had never needed pectin to get a gel.  I didn't know what else to do with the peppers, so I decided to give it a go. Six habaneros meant doubling the recipe. I also realized that despite having done water-bath canning in the past, I don't actually own my own canning set.  A collapsible steamer basket in the bottom of one of our biggest pots worked just right as a substitute. I also really love it on a toasted bagel with peanut butter. The nuts and the peppers combine for an almost Southeast Asian flavor. Yum! Definitely a success.

Pineapple Habanero Jelly:
  • 6 habanero peppers
  • 2 - 20 oz cans of pineapple in juice, drained
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, seeds and ribs removed
  • 5 cups sugar
  • 1 cup vinegar
  • 4 Tbsp. fruit pectin
  • 8 - 1/2 pint jars
Sterilize the jars, lids, and rims using boiling water. Wearing gloves, cut the habaneros in half and remove the seeds and pulp. Place in a food processor. Add the drained pineapple and bell pepper and process until smooth. Combine sugar, vinegar and pepper blend in a large pot. Stir on medium-high heat until it starts boiling. Turn down the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the fruit pectin and return to a boil and cook for 1 minute. Pour the jelly into the prepared jars, place the lids and rims on tightly and process in boiling water for 10 minutes.  Let cool on the counter. If lids do not "pop" down and seal, store the jars in the refrigerator.

Recipe adapted from Southern Kissed. Be very careful when handling habaneros. Do not touch your eyes, mucous membranes, your pets, or your children.  It is best to wear gloves when handling them and wash your hands well after handling. I tried using both crushed and ringed pineapple there didn't seem to be much difference aside from the rings being easier to drain. Next time I would probably use chunks for ease of draining, but maximum quantity of fruit in the can.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Easy as Pie

So today, I'm writing about two firsts: my very first blog post, and my very first solo pie.

I spend a lot of time finding fun stuff on the internet (and more specifically, Pinterest). Sometimes, I actually get around to trying it myself. The more projects I've tackled, the more I've wanted somewhere else to document what I try -- somewhere I can include more detail, more pictures, and have more interaction. When I finally decided to give blogging a shot, I consulted a group of trusted friends to help my come up with a name.  As always, they came through beautifully. So here it is: My Life Unpinned.

For the pie, I trusted a different kind of friend: my 1964 edition of The Joy of Cooking that I got as a hand-me-down from my mother when I got my first apartment in college.  Often, I will consult a number of recipes from various sources (my sizable cookbook collection, the internet, my mom or grandma) before I settle on a recipe for a dish I've never made before.  However, in this case, I decided to go straight for my copy of Joy of Cooking.  It is well worn, has bookmarks all over it, and contains many of my family's favorite go-to recipes.  I knew that I could find a pie recipe that would not be over-complicated, but that would still result in a consistently delicious pie.

I did cheat a bit and use frozen pie crust from Giant.  Everyone talks so much about finicky pie crust is.  It seems like it would be very easy to understand all of the theory (minimal handling, keep it cold, etc.) but to still screw it up.  Focusing on the filling allowed me to get comfortable with that process, so that next time I can attempt my own crust.  Plus... my former pastry chef coworker admitted to me that she sometimes enjoys frozen pie crust too. That is, right before she offered to send me her crust recipe.  A quick note about the apples -- they were a mix of Granny Smith and Fuji apples, which were picked on a trip to Homestead Farm with some of the very same ladies who would end up helping me title this blog.

I successfully made it through the pie, and now I've made it through the post. Both can only get easier with more practice and more experience.

Apple Pie:
  • 2 frozen pie shells, thawed for ~15 minutes
  • 5-6 cups apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced (6.5 medium/small apples)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 T cornstarch
  • 1/4 t cinnamon (or apple pie spice)
  • 1/8 t freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1 T vanilla
  • 1 T lemon juice
  • 1/8 t salt

Place apples in a large bowl and sprinkle with sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, lemon juice, and salt.  Sir the apples gently until they are well coated. Allow to stand 10 minutes to macerate (this is a good time to clean up the mess you've inevitably made while prepping the apples). Place them in layers in the pie shell. Optionally, dot with 1.5 T of butter. I did not use butter and my pie still turned out beautifully.

Follow the directions on the pie crust for joining the upper and lower crusts.

Preheat oven to 450. Cover the pie with an upper crust and poke some holes to allow steam to escape while baking. Bake in a 450 oven for 10 min. Reduce the heat to 350. Bake until done, 35 to 45 minutes or until golden brown. Enjoy!