Mission Statement

Culinary Adventures in a College Kitchen

Friday, September 7, 2012

Tip Top Shape Is Moving!

The time has come, friends.  I've been a faithful Blogger user for years, but lately I've felt a bit boxed in with the Blogger format - and I know some readers felt boxed out with comment issues - so it's time.  I finally bit the bullet and switched the blog over to Wordpress.

Recipes and the like will now be posted at The New Tip Top Shape.

I really like the new design and I hope all of you will, as well.  I'll see you guys there :D

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Double Fudge Oreo Crunch Cookies

It's been cookie central here lately.  I tend to bake when I'm stressed and getting acclimated to law school has not come without its ups and downs.  I've made three cookies within the past two weeks, which is wwwayy more than I ever managed in undergrad.

Any-hoozle, these cookies are pretty magical.  I'm pretty sure they can turn moods around.  Cure cramps.  Solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

I kid you not.  Well...maybe a little.  Okay, a lot.  The bottom line is that these are fantastic and need to be in your ovens, and subsequently your bellies, as soon as possible.

Make them this Labor Day, as a labor of love.  Because really, what could be better than chocolate cookies stuffed with even more chocolate?  I can't think of anything.

Double Fudge Oreo Crunch Cookies


1 cup butter, at room temp

1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup crushed Oreo cookies


In a bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, salt and cocoa powder.  Set aside.  Cream together the butter and sugar.  Mix in the eggs and then the vanilla.  Fold in the flour mixture, until just combined.  Stir in the chocolate chips and crushed oreos.

Cover the dough and refrigerate 2-4 hours.  

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Drop about 1 tbsp of dough onto a prepared baking sheet.  Bake 10-12 minutes.  Cookies will appear slightly underdone, but take them out anyway.  You do not want to over bake these.  Let cool completely before moving.

Source:  How Sweet Eats

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Lemon-Pepper Kale

When I started law school, I thought it would be a bit like undergrad.  Sure, everyone told me how different it would be from all of my other school experiences, but I just sort of humored them with a, "Yeah.  Sure.  Of course it will be" and went on my merry way.  Well, four days in and I can honestly say it is nothing like undergrad.  I think I've spent more hours in the library this week than my entire four years of college combined.  Just this week I've read around 100 pages of cases and legal analysis.  Luckily I like it, otherwise I'd be looking for a bridge to jump off of.

Needless to say, with my new studying habits (complete with bonus stiff neck and sore eyes -- what a bargain!) I don't have a lot of time to cook.  Which is sort of problematic when you run a food blog.  With that said, I'm going to apologize in advance if (more like when) the posts here slow down a bit.  

Alright, with that out of the way (whew!) we can move on to more exciting things like kale.  If my brother were reading this, he'd go, "Liz, kale is not exciting."

Well, dear brother, you are WRONG.  

I had a phase last year where I went through kale like no one's business.  I ate it raw.  I sauteed it.  I always said I would make chips but never actually got around to it.  Regardless, I was sort of in love with kale.  And then I moved back home and we didn't have grocery stores that carried it.  The horror!  After having about a day where I was just inconsolable (not really, but I did miss it) I promptly forgot about kale and continued on with my summer.

Well, I found this picture on my iPhoto and have decided that I need kale in my life again.  And if that can't happen, then I need to get it in yours.  Here the kale is sauteed and garnished with a healthy dash of pepper and squeeze of lemon.  I like kale paired with acidic flavors, and the lemon does just that.  This is great as side dish or can even be used as a main if you tossed some tofu or beans with it.

Lemon-Pepper Kale


1 large handful of kale
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup water
1/2 lemon
1 tsp pepper


Heat a saute pan over medium heat.  Add the oil and saute kale just until bright green, about 1 minute.  Pour in the water and let simmer until the stalks are tender, about 10-15 minutes.  Add the lemon and pepper, and toss to coat.

Monday, August 27, 2012

PB & J Thumbprint Cookies

I'm really excited about these cookies.  Like, so excited that I have to randomly (or not so randomly) drop them into conversations so I can go on and on about just HOW EXCITING they are.  See, I've never made thumbprint cookies before and they're just about the greatest thing ever.

I know most of you are going, "Liz, where have you been?!"

The truth is, I always saw them as complicated.  I didn't want to play around with fillings - especially jam.  I have this deep-seated aversion to jam hands and just about anything sticky.  I have a huge canister of peanuts, though, that my dad made me buy in case the apocalypse hits or something (I kid you not) and since I don't really expect that to happen in the next year, I thought they'd be of some baking use.  

These turned out really well.  They're very buttery with a nice crunch from the crushed peanuts.  And then my favorite part -- the jam.  Who would've known?  Definitely make these, even if you're not a huge jam fan like me.  It might make you a believer!

PB & J Thumbprint Cookies


1 3/4 cups flour
1 3/4 cups crushed peanuts
2 sticks butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup strawberry jam


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix the flour and peanuts and set aside.  In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar.  Scrape down the sides and mix in the vanilla extract.  Gradually add the peanut-flour mixture until combined.  You may have to use your hands to fully form the dough.

Drop tablespoons of dough onto the baking sheet.  Press your index finger into the center of the cookie, being careful not to press too hard.  Bake 15-18 minutes.  Let cool for 2 minutes on the cookie sheet, and then remove to a wire rack.

In a small sauce pan bring the jam to a boil.  Spoon into the thumbprints.  Let cool.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Old Fashioned Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

So, this blog hasn't seen an update in nearly a week.  I actually have a legitimate excuse this time unlike the other countless times where I just get too caught up in my Netflix account to actually give a you-know-what about anything else.  On Saturday I moved into my new place for law school and the days before were filled with packing, packing and more packing.  I'm all moved in now, though, and already cooked two full meals.  I am in love with my new kitchen.  It's so spacious and actually has useable counter space.

Today I'm going to share with you some cookies I made for a Hunger Games viewing party.  I was all excited to have baking supplies in the apartment (yay!!) so it goes without saying that baking something was of the GREATEST importance.  What's the point of having a swanky new oven if you don't use it?

I'm really happy these cookies turned out well because for starters, a new oven always has potential to mess with otherwise fool-proof baking.  Also, I may or may not have fudged a bit on the baking soda and not put in the exact amount.  They turned out well enough, though.  And that's good, because we definitely have about two dozen of them in the freezer and will be eating them for weeks.

Old Fashioned Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies


1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 stick butter, softened
1 egg
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a small bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.  In a separate bowl, cream the butter, peanut butter and sugars together.  Mix in the egg.  Pour the flour mixture into the bowl and mix until combined.  Fold in the chocolate chips.

Form 1 tbsp balls of dough and arrange on a prepared baking sheet.  Slightly flatten the dough balls and bake for 8-10 minutes.  The cookies should be browned on the edges but still soft in the center.  

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Pet Peeve Wednesday

1) I love my family.  I really do.  But I cannot wait until I move for law school on Saturday.  I've gotten to the point where I have zero tolerance for just about everything.  It's become a real case of, It's me.  Not you.  And I need to get the hell out of here.

2)  I always forget how terrible packing is.  Seriously.  It seems all productive and sort of fun when you think about it.  You get to go through all your clothes and play with packing tape.  But then you start the actual act of packing and it's just about the worst thing ever.  I think next time I'm hiring professional packers.  I don't even know if those exist, but I'll find them.

3)  I moved back home a month ago and JUST found my pair of beige wedges that were hidden in my boxes.  I am going to wear the crap out of those for my last few days home.

4)  The expressway driving practice has continued.  I now no longer feel like upchucking into my glove compartment when I merge. Of course there is still the panic and excessive sweating that makes me want to change shirts before the next exit.  Baby steps.

5)  This is completely unrelated to my move, but there are way too many amazing shows on Netflix.  I go through my queue and there are more shows listed there than I can feasibly watch in a lifetime.  I know I shouldn't be stressed out by my Netflix queue, but I totally am.

6)  Did I mention that I move in three days??  Whaaaaa????????

What's peeving you off today?

Monday, August 13, 2012

Steak Salad with Lemon-Parmesan Vinaigrette

Did you guys watch the Olympic closing ceremonies last night??  I was out for the first half and was really worried that I missed the Spice Girls reunion.  Luckily, it came on later when I was curled up on my couch with my jammies and ice cream.  Those women are total rock stars.  They were by far the best performance and the dance moves and singing were so spot-on that I felt like I was reliving my childhood.

Other favorites were the Monty Python bit, Russel Brand (I can't believe I just typed that), and the Top 40 part with DJ Fatboy Slim.  Some of the other numbers, though, I didn't really understand.  Like, why did the ceremonies end with that random band that nobody ever heard of?  Okay...maybe my family just never heard of them, but I still think it was a weird choice.

Seeing that this is a food blog, I do have a recipe for you.  I can't think of a decent transition, though, so....

**Insert Decent Transition Here**

I've been trying to eat healthier lunches since I've been home, because I don't want to go off to law school with an extra ten pounds.  That's reserved for all the stress eating after I start law school.  The problem with eating healthy at home, though, is that we usually have so many leftovers that it's silly to cook up something separate for lunch.  Therefore, I've been trying to utilize leftovers for healthy different lunches.  Some have been less than successful, but occasionally I hit the jackpot.

Steak Salad with Lemon-Parmesan Vinaigrette


1 steak filet, sliced
1 zucchini, chopped
olive oil
lemon juice
parmesan cheese
1/2 head romaine, chopped


Heat a grill pan over medium heat.  Season the filet with salt and pepper on both sides.  Place on the grill pan and cook roughly 5 minutes per side for a medium-rare steak.  Set aside and let rest for 10-15 minutes.

In a saute pan, heat oil over medium heat.  Add the chopped zucchini and cook for 10-15 minutes, until tender.  Set aside. 

For the vinaigrette, whisk together the olive oil and lemon juice until emulsified.  Adjust the amount of each depending on how acidic you like your dressing.  More lemon if you enjoy acidity, less if you don't.  Mix in the parmesan.  Combine all of the ingredients and toss to mix.

Serves: 1

Monday, August 6, 2012

Brown Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies

I've had some issues with my internet provider and have had to make countless calls to their customer service line.  I am going to make a strong statement here and say that they have THE WORST on-hold music ever.  It's like some electronic power music that hits some pretty heavy interference about half-way through, so it sounds more like a windstorm than music.  It's even worse than the overly peppy acapella groups that Loyola uses.  Luckily this morning I wasn't put on hold as long as I usually am (upwards of 20 minutes) and I only had to suffer through about five minutes worth of the electronic-power-windstorm.

Speaking of windstorms, Chicago was hit by a pretty awful storm a few days back.  It hit at the perfect (not) time when I had to drive my friends to the train station.  Thank you for that impeccable timing, thunderstorm.  We had perfect weather the next day, though, which was much appreciated because we had my grandparents over for their birthdays.  My dad made BBQ pork chops with all the fixings and then we bought an eclair cake for dessert.  My grandma can't do dairy, though, so I made her these cookies so she could eat something with us.

These are a permutation of Jessica's Brown Butter Chocolate-Stuffed Toffee Cookies.  I didn't have any toffee chips on hand, so I went with just chocolate and re-named them.  I highly recommend making these or any of the other cookies on Jessica's website.  I may or may not have made most of them repeatedly.

Brown Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies


1 1/2 sticks butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg + 1 yolk
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups + 2 tbsp flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
chocolate chunks/chips


Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  In a bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda and salt.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter, whisking constantly.  Continue to whisk until brown bits are at the bottom.  Remove from heat immediately (butter burns fast) and let cool 10-15 minutes.

Mix the butter with the two sugars.  Add the eggs and vanilla.  Mix in the flour mixture until a dough forms.  It will be crumbly, so use your hands to mix it all together.  Roll about 1 tbsp of dough into a ball and press chocolate chip into the center.  Top with another 1 tbsp dough ball and place on baking sheet.

Bake for 12-15 minutes.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Coconut Bars

These bar cookies were truly made with love.  I had a family dinner at my grandparent's house and although my grandma is the queen of cookies (I learned everything I know from her) I volunteered to bring dessert.  

This recipe had me at peanut butter.  And chocolate chip.  And coconut.  


I usually keep a bit of whatever I bake for myself, but I sent the entire batch to my grandparents.  I knew that I would have about zero control with them in the house, and my last doctor's appointment showed me that I need a little control.  Like five pounds worth.

I was more than happy to bring the entire batch and share them with people that I love.  Make these pronto and share with the loved ones in your life!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Coconut Bars


1/3 cup butter
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup sweetened shredded coconut
2/3 cup chocolate chips
1 cup powdered sugar


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare a 8x8 baking dish.  In a bowl, mix together the flour, salt and baking powder.  Set aside.

In the bowl of a mixer, cream together the sugar, butter and peanut butter.  Add the eggs and vanilla, scraping down the sides.  Put the mixer on low speed and add the flour mixture.  Fold in the chocolate and coconut.

Pour the batter into the baking dish, smoothing it evenly.  Bake 30 minutes, or until the center is browned and the edges darken.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Date-Nut Overnight Oats

I really wish I was a morning person.  I look enviously at all those people who get up nice and early and squeeze in a workout before finally hunkering down for breakfast.  They're probably the same people who organize closets and successfully avoid impulse magazine buys while waiting in the check-out line at the grocery store.

I like quick breakfasts because when I wake up in the morning the last thing I want to do is spend a long time making breakfast.  Overnight oats are great because they're fast and require minimal clean-up.  That's my main gripe about scrambled eggs.  They cook up quickly, but I always find cleaning the pan a pain in the you-know-what.

I usually mix just about anything into my oats (coconut is surprisingly tasty) and one of my absolute favorite mix-ins are chopped dates.  This one combines dates with chopped walnuts and warm cinnamon and nutmeg.  

Date-Nut Overnight Oats


1/3 cup old-fashioned oats
1/3 cup milk
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cinnamon
chopped dates
chopped walnuts


Combine the oats, milk, nutmeg and cinnamon in a bowl.  Let chill in the refrigerator over night.  In the morning, mix in the dates and walnuts.  

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Haircut

Lots of exciting things happened this weekend.  My dad officially moved into his new office.  I got bangs.  And I drove expressways for the first time and didn't kill a single person!

I know that expressway driving is pretty much like regular driving, only at higher speeds, but it still terrifies me.  It's the merging that gets me.  Cars going 65-70 mph are going REALLY fast.  And when you're the type of person who won't do a left hand turn unless practically no cars are visible, merging poses a bit of a problem.  I did it, though, and it should make driving to law school (hello expressways!)  a little more comfortable.

Anyway, let's get to the important part of this post.  I mentioned earlier that I broke down and got bangs.  I was convinced that I would regret them, but I don't!  I brought in a picture of Zooey Deschanel this time so my hairdresser knew exactly what I wanted, and I absolutely love my new haircut.  Fingers crossed that I like it as much when I style it myself!

So, did you guys do anything exciting this weekend?

Friday, July 27, 2012

Mediterranean Couscous with Olives and Artichokes

Yesterday I spent the entire day helping my dad move his office down a floor in the hospital.  It was hours of lifting boxes and pulling carts.  Oh boy, I hurt in places I didn't even know it was possible to hurt.  I'm counting this as my daily workout, because my butt hurts WAY more than it does after sets of squats.  So, there you go.

I know posts have been less frequent here, and it's basically because I'm home and no longer cooking like a beast.  My mom makes most of the meals (we're the typical nuclear family) and I feel weird making us wait ten minutes before eating so I can snap pictures.  Not that my family would mind.  My dad always makes these weird salad concoctions (believe me, they are NASTY) and goes, 'Liz, want to take a picture of this for your blog?'.  I usually tell him that since most of the world lacks his iron stomach and affinity for gherkins, I'd better steer clear.

This salad made me think of him, though.  He's notorious for making salads with all the odds and ends in our fridge.  Marinated artichokes.  Pickles.  Left over pork.  Doesn't matter what it is -- it'll go in the salad and be smothered in Western dressing.  This couscous salad doesn't involve pickles or Western dressing (Thank God), but it does have a bit of everything in it.  Mixed together with fresh basil and a light balsamic vinaigrette, it's the perfect summer meal.

Mediterranean Couscous with Olives and Artichokes

1 2/3 cup Israeli couscous
1 tbsp olive oil
1 3/4 cup water
1/2 cup sliced olives
1 cup chickpeas, rinsed
5 artichoke hearts, quartered 
1/4 cup chopped sundried tomatoes (not packed in oil)
1 cucumber, quartered and sliced
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil


Cook couscous according to directions on package.

Combine all the ingredients, up to the balsamic vinegar.  In a small bowl, whisk together the balsamic and olive oil until emulsified.  Pour into the couscous mixture and toss to coat.  Serve either on its own or with a main dish.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Turkey Burgers with Basil Mayonnaise

I'm not a big burger person.  I never order them at restaurants, and even when I was a kid I would order chicken strips over a burger any day.  I actually went through a huge chicken strip phase when I was a kid, where I refused to eat anything else if we went out.  We had a trip to Disney one summer and I proceeded to order chicken strips at every restaurant that we went to.  I believe this was the same trip where I was afraid of birds and would run for cover every time I saw one.  In case you didn't know, Florida has A LOT of birds.

Anyway, I was never a big burger person until I made these turkey burgers.  I literally ate them for every meal the week I made them, and it wasn't only because I made six and I was the only person in my apartment.  I actually looked forward to them.  I would count down the minutes until five o'clock, when I could make dinner without feeling like an old lady with dentures and hip issues.

I know I always say, 'You hhhaavvee to make *insert food here*!!!', but this time I'm serious.

You hhhaavvee to make these burgers!!!

They're moist and flavorful, and the basil mayonnaise is the perfect compliment.  And then you have the fontina cheese and some buns, and I'm just about ready to head down to the courthouse and marry the whole thing.  It's that good.

Turkey Burgers with Basil Mayonnaise


For the burgers:
1 lb ground turkey
1 zucchini, grated
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tbsp mixed dried herbs (basil-oregano-parsley)

For the basil mayonnaise:
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 tsp dried basil
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tbsp lemon juice

For assembly:
6 hamburger buns
4 oz fontina cheese, sliced
6 romaine leaves


In a bowl, mix together the ground meat, bread crumbs, grated zucchini, herbs, salt and pepper.  Form into six equal patties and place on a prepared baking sheet.  Broil the burgers 8 minutes on each side.  Add the cheese and broil for 1 minute.

While the burgers cook, whisk together the mayonnaise, basil, lemon zest and juice.  

For assembly, spread the mayonnaise on the bottom half of the bun.  Add the burger, romaine leaf and the top of the burger bun.  

And enjoy!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Grilled Pork Sandwich with Fontina

I have to apologize in advance for the awful pictures that will accompany this post.  I made this sandwich for dinner and took the pictures in that witching hour when each picture you takes get progressively worse, and considering that the first one wasn't all that spectacular, it's not a pretty...well...picture.

Anyway, don't let the subpar pictures fool you.  This sandwich is easily one of the tastiest things that I have made in the past month.  The pork is nice and flavorful, and the basil mayonnaise may just be my new favorite condiment.  And I don't even like mayonnaise.

I used my leftovers from the Herb-crused Pork Chops for this, but you could easily whip up a batch just for these sandwiches.  Believe me, you'll want to have it more than once.

Grilled Pork Sandwich with Fontina


2 Herb-crusted Pork Chops
1 large baguette, halved and sliced into quarters
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tsp dried basil
1 tsp lemon juice
4 oz fontina cheese, sliced
romaine lettuce


In a small bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, basil and lemon juice.  Spread the mixture on both sides of the baguette quarters.  Layer on the cheese, romaine and the pork.  

Source:  Slightly adapted from Giada's Weeknight Meals

Friday, July 20, 2012

Moving On

I am moving out of my apartment today and I'm finding myself with so many feelings.  It's funny, because this isn't the first time I moved.  I changed dorms twice during college, and then I moved into my apartment.  I said good-bye to several places that I called home, but this time is different.

Each of those moves, I still knew I would see my friends the next week or the next month.  We had college linking us together, and we couldn't escape each other if we tried.  Now, though, with law school, things are different.

I had a friend over a few days ago and when I hugged her good bye at the end of the night, it occurred to me that this was an actual good bye.  It wasn't, 'I'll see you later' or 'See you this weekend'.  In a way, it was a definitive end, and I don't know how I feel about that.

Okay, I guess I do.

I've never been good with good byes.  I get awkward and uncomfortable, and I want them to end before they even begin.  I realize that this doesn't have to be a true good bye with my friends here.  We have Facebook, phones and my impressive badgering skills.  Still, though, the chance that it could be a real good bye is difficult to take.

I don't really know the point of this post.  I'm not asking for advice or sympathy.  A lot of people move and they go on with their lives.  It's a part of getting older and growing.  I guess I'm just not completely ready for that next step.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Banana Muffins

I almost feel silly posting a recipe for banana muffins.  I mean, banana muffins are the type of thing that just about everyone has made at least once, and there are hundreds of other recipes floating around the blogosphere.  But, I have somehow misplaced my camera cord in all the packing and these are the only photos already loaded on my iPhoto, so...

I hope you like banana muffins!

As the story usually goes with banana muffins, I had overripe 'naners that were too far gone to even freeze, and instead of throwing them out (or more likely tempting another day on the counter) I decided to make some muffins.  I cut the recipe in half, and holy-jiggle-thighs am I glad that I did.  It took some self control to only eat one of these a day.  They were very dense and sweet, and I pretty much wanted one every fifteen minutes.

Banana Muffins


3-4 large bananas, mashed
1/2 cup sugar
1 slightly beaten egg
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups flour


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.  In another bowl, combine the bananas, sugar, egg and butter.  Mix in the flour mixture.  

Pour into prepared muffin tins, and bake for roughly 20 minutes.  

Source:  Cat Can Cook

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Bang Debate

Guys, I'm having a serious problem over here.  When I was a freshman in college, I got bangs.  After two years of wearing those bangs in just about every way possible (full bang, side bang, bang bang) I grew them out, and swore that I would never get bangs again.

Well, guys, I'm getting the itch again.  You know how some people get an itch for tattoos or really expensive and unpractical shoes?  I'm getting the bang itch.

I blame The Amazing Spiderman.

Do you see that?  Emma Stone's bangs just look so darn adorable, and then I watched The Devil Wears Prada, which pretty much ALWAYS puts me in a bang-mood.  I think I might have to do it this time.  Despite saying on numerous occasions that I would never get bangs again, I just might.

What are your thoughts?  Do you like bangs, or is it a trend you wish would disappear and never come back?  I'm personally leaning toward a Zooey Deschanel bang.

I like the length and it looks super cute on her.  Anyway, gah, I don't know what to do.  Decisions, decisions!

Pet Peeve Wednesday: Moving Edition

1.  I have no idea how I have accumulated so much stuff.  I thought that I didn't have that much, and then I started packing my boxes.  Holy-pack-rat, I feel like my apartment should be featured on an episode of Hoarders.  Especially my kitchen.

2.  All this packing has stirred the dust that I probably should have gotten rid of weeks ago, and now I am itching, sneezing and generally unpleasant to be around.  I also am pretty sure I've developed a rash inside my nose.  Did you hear that?? INSIDE my nose.  I disgust even myself.

3.  The worst thing about packing is that there are SO many things I'd rather be doing.  It is literally the last thing I want to do with my day, but it's not the sort of thing you can put off.  Well, I guess you can, but if my mom comes here Thursday and sees a bunch of empty boxes I might not survive the night.  And I like living -- it's pretty nice.

4.  I'm going to have to vacuum before I leave, which is pretty much up there with packing and cleaning the refrigerator on the list of things I really, really don't want to do.

5.  I am definitely having my mom clean the refrigerator.

Any of you guys moving?  If so, I feel your pain!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Herb-crusted Pork Chops

Last night I watched Enchanted for the first time in a couple years.  That movie was HUGE when I was in high school.  My friends and I would listen to the soundtrack on the ride to and from school, and we'd sing along obnoxiously to all of the songs.

How does she know you love her?
How does she know she's yourrssss???????

I forgot how hilarious and absolutely delightful that movie is.  The whole concept of dropping fairy tale characters into contemporary New York is just brilliant.  LOVE.

Do you know what else I love?  Pork chops.  Especially when they're seasoned with a nice blend of herbs and sauteed to perfection.  Add a little squeeze of lemon juice and I'm gone.  Hook, line and sinker.

I made these with my Garlic Roasted Red Skin Potatoes a few weeks ago, and I promptly made another batch two days later.  The herb crust delivers a pop of flavor and the pork chops stay tender and juicy.  These are simple enough to make for a weeknight, but could easily be used for something more special, too.

Herb-crusted Pork Chops


2 thin-cut pork chops
1 tbsp mixed herbs (oregano-basil-parsley)
1 tbsp olive oil


Season the pork chops with salt and pepper.  Press the herb mixture onto both sides of the pork chops evenly.  

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Cook the pork chops six minutes per side, until they are fully cooked.  The juices should run clear when the pork chops are done.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Panna Cotta with Fresh Strawberries

I've always wanted to make panna cotta.  It's such an elegant dessert and the name's fun to say.  I've had it on my back-burner-of-desserts for quite a while, but when the occasion would come I usually went for something more decadent.

Which is insane considering that this uses three cups of heavy whipping cream.

Panna cotta is a cooked Italian cream typically found in the Northern region of Italy.  It's a mixture of milk, cream and sugar that is cooked and then set in the refrigerator.  It's similar to creme brulee without the carmelized topping.  Panna cotta can be flavored with a variety of ingredients, but this one is sweetened with honey.

The great thing about this dessert is that it is very rich, but it doesn't weight you down.  The Italian cream is silky in texture and pairs beautifully with the fresh berries.  The crazy brief prep time before the chilling doesn't hurt either.  In less than fifteen minutes (not counting chilling) you have a delicious and elegant dessert that is sure to impress all your dinner party guests!

Panna Cotta with Fresh Strawberries


2 cups whole milk
1 tbsp unflavored powdered gelatin
3 cups heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup honey
1 tbsp sugar
1 cup strawberries, chopped


In a saucepan, mix together the milk and powdered gelatin.  Let sit for 5 minutes, softening the gelatin. Put the saucepan over medium heat, and whisk for 5 minutes.  Do not let the mixture boil.  Remove from heat and add mix in heavy whipping cream, honey and sugar, about 2 minutes.  Pour into either ramekins or wine glasses and let cool before covering and putting in the refrigerator.  Set either over night or for at least 6 hours.  Add the berries and serve.

Source:  Everyday Italian

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Pet Peeve Wednesday

1.  I haven't done one of these in ages.  Basically, I ran out of things to complain about, which is surprising considering that about 80% of my day is spent complaining in some shape or form.  But...I'm bbbaacckkkk!!  I hope you enjoy your weekly dose of snark.

2.  I can't stop watching 90s teen dramas.  They're just so bad.  And good.  And so unrealistic, yet I still watch and complain about how my life is nowhere near that awesome and I will never meet a smart-ass-albeit-charming man like Pacey Witter who can cook me a pasta dinner while spouting off a bunch of super smart SAT words.  Life is unfair.

3.  Two months after graduation, Loyola decided to get it's act together and mail our diplomas.  TWO MONTHS.  What if I entered into some extremely risky bet regarding my graduation that could only be settled by seeing my actual diploma?  I'll tell you what -- I'd be screwed.

4.  I set my text tone as the Tardis landing, and now every time someone texts me I get super excited thinking the Doctor has finally come to pick me up for our intergalactic adventures.  This is not a complaint.  It's pretty awesome.

Btw, if you're like "What the frick is a Tardis?!", it's a blue telephone box that the Doctor travels all of time and space in.

5.  I'm moving out of my apartment and back home in two weeks.  An entire Pet Peeve post could be drafted about that.  Which I may or may not do next week.

Until then, lovelies!

So, tell me, what's peeving you off today?  Or are you one of those amazingly righteous people who are above being annoyed by things or people.  If so, pass on your wisdom, please!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Ham and Muenster Cheese Panini with Thyme

I watched Crazy Stupid Love for about the eighteenth time last night and my mouth went dry during this scene.

How can a man look so incredibly sexy eating a slice of pizza?  I don't know if it's the pizza or that suit, but I can say with absolute certainty that I would jump that man.  Correction:  I would eat that slice of pizza and then jump that man.

On a completely unrelated note, I made a sandwich.  This isn't just any sandwich, though.  Oh no, this is a sandwich so devastatingly delicious that I have made it no less than five times since these pictures were taken last week.  It's just the perfect combination of the sweet ham, salty cheese and tangy dijon mustard.  Add in the thyme and all of its grilled perfection, and I'm a goner.  This one's a keeper.  Much like Ryan Gosling in that suit.

See what I did there, yeah?  Brought it all full circle ;)    

Ham and Muenster Cheese Panini with Thyme


1 loaf ciabatta bread
1 package Virginia honey ham
Muenster cheese, 4 oz (sliced)
1 tbsp dijon mustard
2 tsp dried thyme 
1 tsp butter


Slice the ciabatta into four equal pieces.  Halve each of the four pieces and smear mustard on both halves.  Sprinkle on the thyme and then layer the ham and cheese.  Heat a griddle pan on medium heat and melt the butter.  Cook 4-5 minutes per side, until the cheese is melted.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Garlic Roasted Red Skin Potatoes

I rarely make potatoes.  After making this last night and having my mind properly blown, my only coherent thought besides, "I want moreeee!!!" was "I need to make potatoes more!".

Could there be a more perfect and delightful food?  I don't care that there are like 100 calories in each tiny red potato.  Or that I am incapable of eating less than, like, eighteen of them.  DON'T EVEN CARE.  These are soft on the inside with a crispy herbed outside layer.  I think an added squirt of lemon juice would be all sorts of jazzy. 

I made these with herb crusted pork chops (recipe to come!) and they rocked my socks off.  Well, I actually wasn't wearing socks, but I'm sure if I were they would have been rocked off.  These potatoes were part of a dinner I made of a friend and my Dawson's Creek night where we sat on my floor and watched all the best Joey/Pacey episodes and mocked Dawson.  There really is no other way to watch that show.

While they do have to cook for quite a while (just under an hour) it's mostly hands-off cooking time which I think places these in the easy-weeknight-meals segment.  It makes a ton, too, so you'll have leftovers!

Garlic Roasted Red Skin Potatoes


12-14 red skin potatoes, quartered
1 tbsp dried herbs (I used basil, oregano and parsley)
6-8 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup olive oil


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Wash and pat dry the potatoes.  Quarter the potatoes and spread them out on a baking sheet in one single layer.  In a bowl, mix together the herbs, garlic, salt/pepper and olive oil.  Pour over the potatoes and toss to coat.

Roast the potatoes for 50-60 minutes, tossing occasionally.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Femme Friday: Katie Holmes

I watch a lot of television.  I'm not surprised.  You're not surprised.  You're probably rolling your eyes right now and going, "Yeah Liz, those eighteen posts about your favorite television shows and how you have no life outside of the ol' boob-tube in no way gave us any clue about your voracious television consumption".

My recent binge-watching (the only way to watch, really) of Dawson's Creek re-introduced me to one Katie Holmes.  Before this, I basically thought of her as that chick who made Tom Cruise go all cray-cray and jump on furniture.  And as the mother of the cutest and best-dressed celebrity on this planet. 

 Eat your heart out, Shiloh Jolie-Pitt.  

Dawson's Creek presented her in a new light, though, and in the wake of the TomKat divorce placed me firmly on our girl Katie's side.  A little research about the divorce, and my thoughts on it only solidified.

According to insiders, her and Tom Cruise fought vehemently about whether or not Suri would be raised as a Scientologist.  While that isn't cited as the reason for the divorce, I bet it's a fairly large factor.

I always thought Scientology was a little loopy (or maybe just Tom Cruise and Scientology) and I think it's pretty brave of her to fight back if she feels that her daughter being raised in that way isn't in her best interests.  It sounds like she really has her ducks in order with the plan of attack for the divorce, and I'm interested to see how it all turns out.

What side of the TomKat divorce are you on?  Do you have a side?  Do you even care to have a side?  Sound off in the comment section!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Cookie Frosting

Remember when I said I was making my own birthday cake?  Well, that was before I remembered that I only have one cake pan at my apartment and that I am incapable of actually choosing a cake without hours of deliberation.  That cannoli cake I made for my family took me an entire week to choose, and the final cake ended up coming from two separate recipes.  Instead of putting myself through that again, I settled on cupcakes.

Now, I feel bad saying that I settled for these cupcakes.  These are not settling cupcakes.  These are delicious, impressive, take-eighteen-pictures-of-them-because-they're-so-freaking-beautiful cupcakes.  No settling over here.  I don't think I've ever been so excited to show something I baked to my friends.  I actually put them on a fancy schmancy platter and made my friend take a picture of me with them.

And by fancy schmancy platter I mean the top of the tupperware container that I stored them in.

Anyhoo, you should all make these cupcakes.  They are super impressive for minimal effort and most of the ingredients are probably already in your pantry.  So, what are you waiting for?  Get baking!

Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Cookie Frosting


For the cupcakes:
1 1/2 cups hot brewed coffee
3/4 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
2 1/4 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
12 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
1 cup peanut butter chips

For the ganache:
6 oz semi-sweet chocolate
1/2 cup heavy cream

For the peanut butter cookie frosting:
9 tbsp unsalted butter
1 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
3 cups powdered sugar


For the cupcakes:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a bowl combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Mix together the cocoa powder and coffee in a bowl and set aside.  In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter and two sugars.  Add the eggs on at a time.  Mix in the vanilla extract.  

Add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the coffee-cocoa mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.  Fold in the peanut butter chips.   Fill the cupcake tins 2/3 of the way.  Bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

For the ganache:

Bring the heavy cream to a boil.  Pour over the chocolate and let stand for two minutes.  Stir until the chocolate is melted.  

For the peanut butter cookie frosting:

Mix together the peanut butter and butter.  Add the powdered sugar, mixing until a thick frosting forms.  With clean and dry hands form round disks and press the tines of a fork on the top to make it look like a peanut butter cookie.  Place on a piece of parchment paper.

To assemble the cupcakes, use an offset spatula to smear a layer of the ganache on the cupcake.  Press a "peanut butter cookie" on top.

Source: Annie's Eats

Thursday, June 28, 2012

I'll Have What She's Having

I can't remember a time when I didn't love to write.  When I was seven, I wrote a series of baby stories on the now defunct word program Creative Writer that I printed out and handed to all of my family members at my brother's birthday party.  A few years later I wrote my first fanfiction with my neighbor, in which we met actors Jake Lloyd and Jonathan Jackson and proceeded to go on rollicking adventures  involving the cast of General Hospital.  From there I embarked on countless stories.  Some of them were completed while others remain in that half-baked world of fragmented characters and unfinished story lines.

Growing up, I looked up to writers because I recognized myself in them.  We shared a geeky sort of undercurrent that I just couldn't find in the hottest It girl or It guy.  A few weeks back I wrote a post about writers that I admired.  Yesterday, we lost one of those writers.

The first Nora Ephron film that I saw was When Harry Met Sally... staring Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan.  I was a freshman in college and went to one of those movie parties where a bunch of half-friends meet up to watch a movie instead of actually embarking on the task of getting to know each other.  Luckily, this meant no one spoke over the dialogue.  I loved Sally Albright's neuroses and Harry Burns' bleakness.  They were characters that were truly flesh and blood.  They weren't cardboard stereotypes spouting out equally cardboard and stereotypical lines.  They acted how people really act; talked how people really talk.

After that movie, I went and delved into the other Nora Ephron penned films.  I then went on to read Heartburn and all of Ephron's books of essays.  I even read her play Imaginary Friends, a piece about the turbulent relationship between writers Lillian Hellman and Mary McCarthy that largely went over my head, but I enjoyed regardless.  She had a way of stringing together words that were genuinely amusing, even if you didn't always get the joke.

This year I took a fiction writing class, and when asked who my favorite writer was, I responded without hesitation that it was Nora Ephron.  Her passing affects me more than I think the passing of a complete stranger should.  I've never met her.  Never spoken to her.  I admittedly haven't even read all of her works, but I found myself particularly moved yesterday when I first heard the news of her death.

I take comfort in the fact, though, that although she may be gone her works are still here and far from being forgotten.  Who can hear the name Katz Delicatessen without thinking, "I'll have what she's having" or see the Empire State building without thinking of Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks finally seeing each other for the first time after dozens of just-missed-you moments?  I know I can't hear or see either of those without thinking immediately of Ephron's films.

So, lovely readers, any of you have a favorite Nora Ephron film or writing.  As cliched as it is, mine will always be When Harry Met Sally.  That's one of those movies that I never tire of!