Mission Statement

Culinary Adventures in a College Kitchen

Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Shows of Summer

One thing that I absolutely love about summer is the extra free time.  While I'm doing some work with a lawyer in the city, I find myself with a lot more hours than when I was in school.  This means several things.  For starters, I actually clean my apartment.  I dusted, scrubbed and windexed the heck out of my apartment and it looks pretty spankin' clean.  All future house guests are grateful, because that bathroom was not pretty before.  Believe me.

I also get to cook more.  Bake more.  Sit on my couch and huff tapioca pudding cups more.  And most importantly, I get to catch up on television.  Some of these are first times while others are repeat offenders.  I love 'em all the same.  Without further adieu, I bring you the shows of summer.

1) Gilmore Girls

This one will always and forever be on any tv show list that I make.  I watch this entire series about three times a year.  It's what I put on when I'm sad.  It's what I put on when I'm doing work and want something in the background.  It is my perfect catch-all-show.

2)  Dawson's Creek


First off, I should start by saying that I am a Joey/Pacey fan.  That's pretty much the first thing anyone will ask you when they hear you watch the show.  I actually can't stand Dawson as a character, but there are so many other wonderful things happening that I can overlook the milquetoast Dawson Leery.  Plus, there are all the awesome 90's overtones.

3) Grey's Anatomy


McDreamy.  McSteamy.  McMan.  This show has a hot doctor for everyone.  Plus, it can make me cry like a two year old who just had their toy stolen.

4) Firefly

It's written by Joss Whedon and has Nathan Fillion in REALLY tight pants.  You really can't go wrong with either of those things.

What are your shows of the summer?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Growing Pains and Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

This weekend I had the pleasure of attending my good friend Autumn's wedding.  Autumn is my first friend to get married, and it was both a wonderful and slightly strange experience.  Friends getting married means that you are officially adults, right?  How did that happen?  I feel like it was just yesterday that I was a freshman at Loyola, anxious about making friends and navigating a new life with such horrors as shared bathrooms and laundry.

I actually met Autumn during that freshman year at Loyola.  She lived on my floor, as did the two friends who took the train with me to the wedding.  


An old picture from freshman year.  Yes, that is a Twilight t-shirt on me.  Feel free to mock.

I feel so blessed to have these friends in my life, and hope that they will continue to be a part of my life as I move on to law school.

Okay, enough schmaltz.  This weekend had me getting a bit nostalgic (and weepy) but I will spare you any additional saccharine memories.  Instead, I bring you a cookie recipe.  


These are great cookies to eat when you're feeling all weepy and nostalgic over a friend's wedding and how you are no longer eight and can't order from the kid's menu at restaurants.  They're also just really good cookies.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

(Adapted from Annie's Eats recipe)


1 cup butter (very cold and cubed)
1 1/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 1/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp coarse salt
1 tsp baking powder
2 1/2 cup peanut butter chips

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add in the eggs one at a time and mix until combined.  Mix in the cocoa powder until incorporated.  Slowly add the flour, salt and baking powder and mix together.  Fold in the peanut butter chips.

Transfer dough to a floured surface and knead until the dough comes together.  This won't take too long.  Divide the dough into 12 equal portions and bake 4-6 cookies at a time for 16-20 minutes.  Let cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet before removing to a cooling rack.



Any of you going through some growing pains?

Friday, May 25, 2012

Chicken Salad...err...Salad

Remember that super easy chicken salad?  Well, I have an equally super easy way to use up the leftovers. You might be wondering what has me going all semi-homemade as of late.  What an I say, sometimes I like them easy.


All joking aside (seriously, though, when is the joking ever aside on this blog?) there is a beauty to having ready made food on hand for busy nights.  Or for the nights where I am just plain lazy and want to spend all night on the couch watching Grey's Anatomy.

I started re-watching the series, which always coincides with me trolling WebMD and thinking that my everyday maladies are life threatening illnesses.  There actually was a story line on one of the episodes where this guy with what appeared to be a simple runny nose ended up having fluid from his brain draining from his nose.  Every time I have the sniffles, I think of this.

Anyway, for the salad I mixed together the chicken salad and three bean salad with some chopped romaine.  The salad is filling and the mixture of the dressing from the bean salad and the chicken is pretty fantastic.  I ate this with a bun and large glass of lemon water.  The perfect summer meal.

Chicken Salad...err...Salad



Ingredients:


Romaine lettuce, chopped
Three bean salad
Chicken salad


Directions:


Combine all the ingredients.  Eat.  Eat.  And eat.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Ridiculously Easy Chicken Salad

So, this hasn't had a new post in a week.  I'd like to have some really cool explanation like I was absconding with the Avengers or aliens invaded, but the truth is that I'm back with my parents for a bit after graduation and I left my camera at my apartment.

Oh, and I also was in Virginia for half of last week.

Both of those in tandem are why all you voracious Tip Top Shape readers (the...let me count...three of you...or perhaps four) have been left high and dry this past week.  I'm back with a vengeance, though, and this site will return to its regularly scheduled programming.  

I actually missed blogging while I was in Virginia.  There's something nice about the routine of waking up, editing the post and immersing yourself in the genius of all those other blogs.  I even missed drafting the posts, something that I oftentimes find daunting when I'm planning what to post for the week.  My brother's girlfriend's sister (now isn't that a mouthful?) used to be a serious blogger, and my fingers itched after talking with her about blogging and food photography.

So, it's good to be back.

Today's recipe is so ridiculously easy that I almost didn't post it.  I'm not a big fan of semi-homemade meals, but sometimes any given night does not allow hours in front of the stove, or even twenty minutes.  This meal is for those evenings when you don't have time to cook but want to avoid the fast food trap or frozen meal quick sands.  It's nutritious, fresh and the leftovers can be used in a variety of ways.

Without further adieu, I bring you this ridiculously easy chicken salad.

Ridiculously Easy Chicken Salad


Ingredients:

Rotisserie Chicken, pre-cooked (2 cups)
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1-2 tbsp lemon juice
1 stalk celery, chopped
1/2 cup almonds slivers
1/4 tsp pepper

Directions:

Remove meat from the chicken and chop into bite-sized pieces.  Set aside with the almonds and celery. In a separate bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, lemon juice and pepper.  Add the chicken, celery and almonds.

Eat any way that you like.  My recommendations are: mixed with salad greens, on a bun or in a wrap.

Monday, May 14, 2012

People I Admire

A lot of people idolize actors.  They look up to those people in front of the camera, spouting off honeyed words that make women fangirl across the globe.  Who hasn't fallen in love with Ryan Gosling after seeing The Notebook?  Or Colin Firth thanks to Bridget Jones' Diary or Love Actually?  These men say the most delightful things, sending us girls into a delirious dither, and we are hopelessly smitten.  I'm this way with writers. Because, at the end of the day, Ryan Gosling and Colin Firth didn't write those delicious lines coming out of their equally delicious mouths.  It's time we give the writers some love.

1.  Joss Whedon


My love for this man knows no bounds.  I've already featured him once on the blog.  This will most likely not be the last time, either.  The creative genius behind Buffy, Angel, Firefly and Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog, Whedon is right up there with Barbra Streisand and Jonathan Groff as someone I would ugly cry if I met.  You know the ugly cry.


Yeah, that would be my face.

2.  Nora Ephron


I have read every single piece of writing out there that has Ephron's name on it.  I've even read the When Harry Met Sally... screenplay, despite having seen the movie enough times to recite lines by memory.  I love writers that can capture the human condition, and Ephron just gets it.  Her movies are the perfect balance between laughing out loud and crying into a hanky.  And her essays are just pure hilarity.

3.  Emily Giffin


This guy in my fiction writing class told me that my writing reminded him of Emily Giffin.  If I didn't have a general revulsion for him (just trust me -- we all did) I would have kissed him.  I happen to think that the ordinary in life can be extraordinary, and Giffin depicts this beautifully in her books.  I also might semi-stalk her on Facebook and think she has the most delightful fashion sense.

4.  Shonda Rhimes



First off, girl is a hell of a sassy tweeter.  I follow her on Twitter and her responses to crazy rabid fans are the best.  Plus, she is responsible for creating my favorite doctors at Seattle Grace.  Derek Sheperd? Mark Sloan?  Owen-freaking-Hunt?!  Shonda, there are not enough words to express my gratitude.

Who are some people (writers or not) that you admire?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Parsley-Panko Crusted Tilapia

 My taste buds have changed a lot over the years.  I used to be all about chicken.  Prepare it any way and I would gobble it up in no time flat.  There's a story my family likes to tell about a trip to Disney World when I was around ten, and I ordered chicken fingers at every single place we went to including a Mexican restaurant.  Clearly, I had a very sophisticated palate.

Then I went through a beef phase.  Barbecue beef.  Mongolian beef.  Beef beef.  To hell with my cholesterol, it was delicious!  Plus, I was in high school and I couldn't pass up the delectable option of a taco salad at lunch.  I mean, I was only human.
                           
Now, I've turned onto fish.  Shrimp.  Salmon.  Tilapia.  Coming from being only an occasional sea food eater, I felt like this entire new world was opened up to me.  I also discovered that most of these fish are ready to eat in about 20 minutes.  Yes and yes.


Whole Food sells these frozen tilapia filets that are only about 3 dollars for two.  Every time I see them at Whole Foods, I get super excited at the low price, despite my buying them each time I'm there.  What can I say, I live for the small things in life.


My favorite way to prepare tilapia is lightly breaded and cooked in the oven until it is delightfully crispy, but still tender and most on the inside.  I make Jessica's macaroon crusted tilapia pretty often, but last week I wanted something more savory.  Armed with some panko breadcrumbs from my pantry, I whipped up this simple recipe.

Parlsey-Panko Crusted Tilapia


Ingredients:
2 tilapia filets (fresh or frozen and thawed)
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1 egg beat
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
dried parsley
lemon juice

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Place a cooling rack (like you would use for cookies) on a cookie sheet and set aside.

If defrosting the tilapia, place in a strainer and run cold water over the filets until thawed.  Pat the filets dry.  In a small bowl, beat the egg and set aside.  In another bowl, mix together the breadcrumbs and parsley.

Dip the tilapia in the egg, shaking off any excess, and then dredge in the breadcrumb mixture.  Place the filets on the cooling rack and slide the baking sheet in the oven.  Bake for 15-20 minutes.  Finish off with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Pet Peeve Wednesday


1)  My TV is out.  This means no Grey's Anatomy finale.  No How I Met Your Mother re-runs.  No Sheldon Cooper.  What is life?!  Luckily I have all seven season of Gilmore Girls to tide me over until the maintenance man comes.  I should thank my lucky Stars Hollow.


2)  Lately, I've been having these annoying episodes where I get the spins but without the fun drinking that usually comes before.  I know it probably has something to do with these delightful migraines that I've been having, but I would very much like it to stop.  The spins is bad enough after a night out, but at least you did something fun before.  These spins?  Not so much.

3)  You might remember that I watched the Les Miserables 25th Anniversary DVD earlier this week.  Nick Jonas is  one of the leads, and while I know it is a publicity stint to have a "big name", it still makes me want to dry heave into a potted plant.

4)  With the above said, I could not approve more of Ramin Karmimloo as Enjorlas.  I mean, just look at that face.

Now youtube him, and listen to his voice.  That face.  That voice.  You're welcome.

5)  I have the world's most sensitive skin and every time I get my eyebrows done it looks like I got into a street brawl.  I had them done this morning for graduation and my doorman full-on avoided eye contact when I got to my building.  I must look shifty with half of my face blown up to twice its normal size.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Lemon Crinkle Cookies

I am officially done with college.  Which, you know, is sort of crazy considering that for four years I had homework and papers, and now I don't have anything.  I don't even have a summer job (although I have something in the works) so I am truly having some down time.  I am a lady of leisure (pronounced lay-sure, because I am fancy like that).


I had grand ideas of this meaning writing dates at Starbucks where I would finally hunker down and start that original novel that has been on the back burner for as long as I can remember.  I also envisioned myself working out daily.  Maybe vaccuming at some point.  Instead, I have sat on my floor with my laptop and watched half of the last season of Grey's Anatomy, all 5 season of The Guid and about half of Firefly.  I also watched the 25th Anniversary Les Miserables DVD and sang along obnoxiously loud.  My neighbors love me.

I'm giving myself a free pass for doing nothing because in three months I will be entering my first year of law school and relinquishing anything resembling a social life.  Therefore, let's dance Netflix Instant.  Our time together is limited.


In between marathon-television-watching sessions, I did manage to do some baking.  I made these cookies for my last day in the office last week.  I finished my semester long internship and wanted to end it on a sweet note.  The office liked these, and I think you will, too!  They're not overly sweet with a delectable tartness from the lemon.

Lemon Crinkle Cookies




1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 egg
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar


Directions:


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.


In a bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.


In a separate bowl, cream together the butter and sugar.  Add the vanilla, egg, lemon zest, lemon juice and mix together until combined.  Slowly mix in the flour mixture.  


Take 1 tbsp of dough and roll in the powdered sugar.  Place onto a prepared cookie sheet, placing the dough balls about 2 inches apart.  Bake 9-11 minutes, until the cookies are no longer shiny on top.  They will NOT be browned, so make sure to not overbake.




Source:  Mel's Kitchen CafĂ©

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Curried Chickpea Soup


This soup is the absolute coziest.  What exactly does it mean for a soup to be cozy?  Well, let me pontificate for a moment.

A cozy soup is perfect for a rainy day.  It is eaten curled up on your couch with a napkin tucked into your side for unintentional dribbles.  It pairs well with romantic comedies and good books.  It makes you relaxed and deliciously comfortable with one spoonful.

Cozy soups.  They're a wonder.


I made this last week during the first rash of rainy days in Chicago.  I wanted to use up some of my dried beans, and this seemed like the perfect the way.  I also had some swiss chard that I had no idea what to do with.

I used dried chickpeas so it took a bit longer to come together.  If you used canned beans, though, this would come together fairly quickly.  Don't skip out on the curry powder and garam masala if you're unfamiliar with them.  It gives the soup a nice heat that isn't too overpowering.

Curried Chickpea Soup




1/2 pound chickpeas
2 chicken bouillon cubes
1 cup swiss chard, de-stemmed and shredded
1 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/4 tsp cumin


Directions:


Cover the dried beans with water and soak overnight.  Drain the beans and cover with clean water.  I used about 4-6 cups.  Add the bouillon cubes.  Bring the beans to a boil and cook until the beans are tender, but not mushy.  This takes about 1 hour.  


Next, add the spices and swiss chard.  Cook for 10-15 minutes.  The liquid reduces quite a bit, so I would recommend eating half of this as soup and the other half served over quinoa or rice.  It had it both ways and it was equally delicious.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Crazy Kids

I just read the most disturbing article on HelloGiggles about the newest ways teenagers are getting drunk.  Forget raiding your parent's liquor cabinets.  Now teenagers are getting scarily innovative with ways to ruin their mind and body.  Here's a taste of what's in the article:
  • Drinking hand sanitizer
  • Soaking tampons in vodka 
  • Smoking nutmeg
  • Snorting bath salts
Um, can I get a collective "ew"?  Believe or not, I'd heard of the tampon one before.  It was brought up in my health reporting class, and had me crossing my legs real fast.  I mean, honestly, if you're sticking vodka soaked tampons up there because you are that gun-ho to get drunk, you might have a more serious problem than underage drinking.

Judgmental Blair Waldorf Face.

I really don't understand teenagers going to such extremes for a good time.  Maybe I was just a prude in high school, but none of my friends were snorting bath salts or smoking nutmeg.  Who even knew you could smoke nutmeg?  Was someone just like, "Hey, let's try smoking my mom's nutmeg.  It's pretty rad with pumpkin pie."

I don't get it.  A really good time for my friends and I were Friday movie nights with cookie cakes from Dominick's.  I never drank with them on the sly or snuck in some pot.  I don't even think I knew what pot looked like in high school.  The craziest thing we did was contemplate sneaking into a movie.  And we didn't even do it.  We thought about it.

With all the dangers associated with these radical ways to reach a high, I have to put out a general advisory and say it is NOT WORTH IT.  A few hours of fun is not worth risking your health.  So, don't do it.  I'm not going to get all D.A.R.E. on you guys, but just think twice before you stick a vodka soaked tampon up there.  The end.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Oreo Cheesecake Cookies

I love classic couples.  Peanut butter & Jelly.  Cereal & Milk.  Scarlet & Rhett.  I have another couple to add to the classics.

Oreos & Cheesecake.

And cookies.

I'm actually pretty indiscriminate when it comes to what goes with my cheesecake.  I love it on its own.  I love it with fruit.  I llloooveee it with chocolate.  Oreos are a no-brainer, but I'd never actually tried it before these cookies.


I had no idea what I was missing.

These cookies are buttery, sweet and loaded with cheesecake-y goodness.  So, if you happen to have some cream cheese and Oreos left over from Cookies and Cream cupcakes, then make these.  If you don't, go buy them anyway.  You don't want to miss these cookies.

Oreo Cheesecake Cookies


Ingredients:

1 stick butter, at room temperature
3 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1 cup crushed oreo 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375.  

Crush the oreos and put them in a small bowl.

Mix together the butter and cream cheese until fully combined and creamy.  Add the vanilla extract and mix, scraping down the sides.  Next, add the sugar and combine.  Mix in the flour.  With a spatula, fold in the chocolate chips.

Make 1 1/2 - 2 inch balls with the dough, and roll the dough balls in to the crushed oreos.  Place on a baking sheet covered with either parchment paper or a silpat, and bake for 12-15 minutes.  The cookies should be browned on the edges but still puffy in the center.


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Pet Peeve Wednesday

1) I've been waking up with splitting migraines lately.  This is so not a fun thing to have at seven in the morning, when you're trying to get ready for work.  I dropped an entire carton of milk this morning because the room was spinning.  Luckily the cap was still on.  I don't even want to think about me trying to clean up that mess.

2) I also wake up a sweaty mess, because apparently my body doesn't like the ONE cover I sleep with.  So, not only do I have a migraine, but I am clammy and probably smell like the backseat of a taxi.  Sometimes, I even disgust myself.

3)  Friday night the fire alarm went off repeatedly in my building, a random foreign man who wasn't Colin Firth was yelling up and down my floor and my neighbor decided to have a screaming match with her boyfriend at 2 in the morning.  What even?!

4)  Cilantro. I know a lot of you are probably cilantro lovers, but this herb should not exist.  It infiltrates every single Thai or Mexican dish that I eat.  It ALMOST ruined Chipotle for me.  I ordered a burrito bowl with both the cilantro-lime rice and guacamole and nearly gagged.  Holy-cilantro-hell.

5)  I made 2 dozen cupcakes for a party that ended up having a grand total of four people.  Guess who's been double fisting cookies n' cream cupcakes like she doesn't have a care in the world?  Guess who also has been suffering from (not so) mysterious stomachaches?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Three Bean Salad

I've been sick the past two days with a stomach bug, and I have never been more grateful for leftovers.  Usually I end up sick when I have absolutely nothing in my refrigerator.  This time, I had all of my leftovers from my party.  In one word, my fridge is stocked.


I made this three bean salad for my end-of-the-semester party.  The theme was "American Picnic" - yes, I have themes for my parties, feel free to mock - so I made some mini burgers, chicken salad and this bean salad.  Sadly, it was demoted to a two bean salad for the party due to my broken can opener.  I did consider going at it with a knife for a moment, but decided I liked my fingers more than kidney beans.



I have been eating this salad for just about every meal possible.  It is the BEST mixed with some chicken salad, lettuce and love.  I thought it might be too adventuresome for my touchy stomach, but so far I've heard no complaints.

Three Bean Salad


Ingredients:


Chickpeas
Green beans
Kidney Beans
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup olive oil
salt/pepper


Directions:


Choose your own ratio for the beans.  I personally like it chickpea heavy, but that's just me.  If you're using fresh beans, soak them overnight and boil for 45 minutes - 1 hour.  If your beans are canned, rinse and set aside.  Boil the green beans until crisp tender, 4-5 minutes.  Put in a strainer and douse with cold water immediately to set the bright green color. 


Mix together the apple cider vinegar and sugar, until the sugar is dissolved.  Slowly pour in the olive oil, whisking continuously until the dressing has emulsified.  Pour over the beans and let marinate for at least an hour.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.