Recipe Write Up: Chicken Gumbo

Would you believe me if I said that I have never had southern food? And by southern food, I’m not talking about its fast food counterparts since we all know that that stuff doesn’t even come close to being authentic. Well I truly hope you believe me about not ever having southern food because until this week, it was true. And yes, I’ve not only never had authentic southern food but I have also never really had its crappy counterpart.

Now as much as I would love to play the innocent little angel who just never managed to find herself eating classic southern cuisine the truth is a bit more…lazy. Yep, lazy. Why? Well, because there was just nothing about it that seemed to make me think ‘Gee, I wanna try that!’. That was until I went to college and became friends with Therese, a native of Texas. Through her and her love of food, I learned about the wonders of  food from the south. Now prior to this crash course in southern yum, I knew next to nothing about southern food, in fact, I knew next to nothing about the south (besides that whole civil war thing.) I think this map sums up my general understanding of U.S geography and what I know about our fair country.

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Yea this sums things up pretty well

With this basic, almost childish understanding of the U.S my mind was relatively blown as I learned about how different regions of the country had their own unique flavors and dishes. I think this is the point when I became obsessed with wanting to try southern food. And this was the movie that officially made me obsessed with wanting to try gumbo or anything from New Orleans.

tumblr_mddxksOhSU1rb8ly8o1_500_largeWell it took a few years but at last, I’ve done it, I’ve made gumbo and it was GOOD.

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Chicken Gumbo

Adapted from In a Cajun Kitchen. Serves 8 as a soup

1 chicken (about four pounds), cut into serving sizes
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups onion
1/2 cup celery
1/2 cup green bell pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 whole bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 cups chopped tomatoes, fresh or canned, undrained
2 cups warm water
2 cups raw rice
2 cups fresh or frozen green beans (substituted for okra)

Heat the oil in a large heavy pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Pat the chicken dry, saxon with salt and black and cayenne pepper/ Brown on all sides, removing the pieces to dish once browned

Add the flour to the oil remaining in the pot; reduce the heat to medium-low, and stir constantly for five minutes, incorporating crusty bits on the bottom into the flour

Add the onion, celery, bell pepper, and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, for five minutes. add the bay leaves, thyme, tomatoes, water and chicken and accumulated juices, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, cover for forty five minutes. (Start cooking the rice after the chicken has been cooking for about fifteen minutes).

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Add the green beans and simmer for 15 minutes; serve over rice.

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Foodie Ramblings: A week of crazy

Phew, what a week.

I was in New York one minute, then in Boston, and then, to finish the week off, went off to the Hamptons for some beach fun. But I’m getting a bit ahead of my self. Let’s rewind to Tuesday, when all this crazy began.

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Perfect day for the city *sigh* I’m going to miss this place

Hello NYC!!! Having became a recent fan of the show Sex and the City and its over-the-top obsession of all things NYC, I am starting to realize how much I am going to miss the Big Apple. So when my close friend asked if I wanted to meet up in the city for dinner and a show I naturally jumped at the chance. Now out of all of my favorite places in the city, my number one place has to be Central Park. Every reason why I love that place can been seen during a musical number in the film Enchanted. Just watch the seen where they sing “That’s How You Know” and you’ll totally understand. While there wasn’t much singing going on, there were plenty of families and couples out on the pond in little boats, independent musicians putting on small little concerts, and those guys who make those big bubbles. After our walk, we high tailed it over to the west side of Manhattan for some yummy Mexican food curtsey of a small place called Tortilla Flats. Not only was the food delicious for the price (We both opted for dishes on the combo menu which included rice and re-fried beans) but the portions were super generous. Also, I had the best sangria ever, one that was under $10. Can’t go wrong there. As for the show we saw, First Date, it was very good. Now I am not a fan of romantic comedies and the like but I found this to be very entertaining. Its featuring that guy from that TV show Chuck (Zach Levine I think his name is) and some girl from Smash. I can assure you, most of the people in the theater actually knew who these people were. I’m just weird like that.

Wednesday. Spent bulk of the day traveling. Once I finally managed to get off the Amtrak train from hell (5 hours!!!!!) I dropped off my stuff at my sister’s place in Somerville before heading over to my soon-to-be neighborhood, Brookline, to meet my friend and future roommate. Together, we dined on inexpensive Indian food from a place called Curry House. While at first I was a bit skeptic about the taste considering the price, I was super overjoyed to find my Saag Paneer and Chicken Tikka Masala (I couldn’t resist) to be extremely flavorful and spicy. Sorry I don’t have any photos of my meal. I was starving and wolfed it down with my friend in a matter of minutes.

Relaxed, artsy...oh god, I'm becoming a hipster

Relaxed, artsy…oh god, I’m becoming a hipster

Thursday. The reason I came to Boston for the remainder of the week. Believe it or not but I had an interview at the America’s Test Kitchen!!! Yes that’s not a typo, I went to THE ATK for a potential internship working in their library. While the interview went well, I didn’t get the internship. Yea I am disappointed but I think I am fairly certain that they wanted to give the opportunity to someone who hasn’t had a chance to work in a library setting like I have (I worked in one for four years). The girl who interviewed me was very nice but did put emphasis on how it was a great place to start if one has never worked in a library before. Rejection aside, it was a great experience and it gave me a chance to explore Brookline Village. It was there that I found a small, artsy, independent cafe that I totally fell in love with. The Kookoo Cafe is just the kind of place one can go for it a decent brunch/lunch, a good hot drink, and the kind of atmosphere one can either read, have a conversation with friends, or do some last minute studying before class. Basically, I love places like these. Will def be going back even if it is a bit out of the way from apartment or anything else.

Friday. Driving. Lots and lots of driving. The roads were horrible and the trip that normally takes about 4 hours took a shocking 6 hours!!

Saturday. The Hamptons! Just let that word sink in. As my sister said yesterday, we are very grateful to know people who can afford to rent a beach house out there. As for the house, it was not the most beautiful piece of architecture out there. However, the view from the deck was outstanding, especially during sunset. The beach too, was outstanding and I am not the biggest beach person out there. Soft sand, perfect seashells, the ocean nice and blue and beyond freezing. It was a great day, one spent with close family friends…and sangria!!! Free, homemade, sangria. Talk about being the bees knees.

And that, everyone, was my week. I actually do have a recipe to post here but that will wait until later. I don’t want to bombard you, dear readers, with any more text. I think I have done enough of that already.

Can you believe that in six days I will be officially moving to Boston???

Angry Librarian Rant

Welcome to what is surely going to be one of many posts wherein I tackle the ‘librarian’ part of this blog. Believe it or not, in just a few weeks (2!!) I will be moving to Boston to start grad school for library and information science. As cool as it is to always write about food, I figured why not throw in a bit variety to my little blog. Mix things up a bit every now and then. While I will try to make these segments as informative and interesting regarding the subject of library and information science, there will be the occasional rant or two. Keep in mind, I’m still a student after all so a few minor frustrations are bound to happen. Like this one.

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Can’t you just feel the seething anger in this librarian’s eyes!!!

Today, my parents left home for a brief vacation leaving me home with my grandma and two cats. With nothing much to do, I decided to tackle this online tutorial thing that my school is requiring all its new students to do. Broken into different sections, the tutorial wants to be sure that all incoming students are comfortable using the campus’s web-based technologies, online research databases, and other resources. While I think offering students a chance to brush up on stuff they might not be familiar with is nice, that does not give the school an excuse to treat their students like idiots.

What is a database?

How do you cut and paste on a Mac or PC?

My Reaction?

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I’m going to go out on a limb and say that these are things that if a person didn’t know than they probably would not have managed to get through their undergrad years let alone into grad school. But oh, the virtual belittlement gets worse. Those questions were only from the first part. In the second section, the questions focused on using the school’s library catalog and research database. Having worked four years in my undergrad’s library, I can honestly tell you that most library catalogs are the same. True they might have some differences but the basics are the same. Now I’m not trying to sound mean or anything, but once again, if a person didn’t know how to do this stuff, how on earth did they manage to graduate? Yea I can tell you horror stories of students at my undergrad coming up to me at the desk and admitting that, as seniors, they had never checked out a book before but they still knew how to research articles and journals. I would imagine that people who are going to grad school for library science would know something about well, libraries???

Am I crazy in thinking this??

Blueberry and Nectarine Buckle

I have noticed something in the last few weeks, perhaps you have to. It seems that I have unintentionally become the queen of the crisps and cobblers. I’m not totally sure how this happened; I don’t recall pulling a sword out of a stone nor do I remember a long lost grandmother inviting me over to her mansion for tea before dropping the royal bomb.

    My exact reaction if my grandmother WAS either a queen or Julie Andrews

My exact reaction if my grandmother WAS either a queen or Julie Andrews

Seriously, when I was baking this dessert I found myself thinking, “Gee, I have been making a lot of stuff with crumb toppings lately.” One look at my blog later and I realized that throughout this summer I have made a crisp, a streusel, ‘pie bars’ which are essentially a kind of cobbler, and now, I am adding a buckle to the mix. See what I mean about being queen of the crisps and cobblers? As much as I do enjoy being the queen of something, I think I will be handing in my crown soon. All of these recipes have been super delicious but I think after this one, I’m gonna try and do something a little different. I will add the the combination of blueberries and nectarines makes for an absolutely mouth watering summer dessert. While nectarine season may be ending, give this dessert a shot next summer; your family will thank you for it.

Prep bowls for the win!!!

Prep bowls for the win!!!

By the way, if you are like me and have no idea what the difference is between a buckle and a crisp, let me enlighten you.

A buckle: These desserts are a single layer, have fruit in the middle, and feature a streusel like topping, which gives the dessert its buckled  appearance

A crisp: Baked with fruit (duh) and have a crumb topping. Similar to a buckle, neither dessert has a bottom.

A cobbler: A deep-dish dessert with a fruit filling and a thick topping.

A brown betty or betty: Usually made with apples but other fruit can be used as well. Unlike the other three, this dessert is layered, with the fruit sandwiched between a crumb crust and topping. *Given this information, I think my strawberry-rhubarb dessert is technically a betty not a crisp*

Blueberry and Nectarine Buckle

From The Sono Baking company Cookbook Serves 8 to 10

Streusel Topping
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold, unsalted butter, cub into small cubes

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons purse vanilla extract
2 cups blueberries’2 cups diced (!/2-inch) nectarines (about 2 nectarines)
Confectioners’ sugar

1. To make the streusel: In a medium bowl, use a fork to stir together the flour, brown sugar, salt, and cinnamon. Add the butter, and using your fingertips, quickly work it into the dry ingredients until pea size crumbs formal set aside in the fridge

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder; set aside

3. Set the oven rack in middle position. Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter a 9 by 12 inch baking dish; set aside. Pull a baking sheet to set the dish on while baking

4. In the bowl of a standing mister fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugar and salt on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, and then the vanilla. On low speed, beat in the dry ingredients just until absorbed. Fold in the fruit. Transfer to the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle the streusel over the top

5. Set the baking dish on the prepared baking sheet. Bake, rotating the sheet about two thirds of the way through the cooking time, until a cake tester interred into the thickest part of the buckle comes out clean and the topping is nicely browned and crisp, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and cut into squares.

I ended up using margarine for some of my butter so mine may be a bit more buttery than it should be

I ended up using margarine for some of my butter so mine may be a bit more buttery than it should be

Behind the Curtain Dessert Challenge!!!!! + Recipe Write Up: Peaches and Cream Streusel Bars

Over the last few years, I have become quite the blog reader. What started with just a few websites has grown to be a folder that includes about 30 or so links to various blogs. Besides reading about different recipes, ogling beautiful food photography, and obsessively clicking through various blogrolls, I have, on occasion, come across a post or two that would mention the phrase ‘blog hop’. Confused, I did what any child of the internet era would do, I went to Wikipedia to give me an explanation. Well, when good old Wiki let me down, I did the second best thing out there on the internet, I Googled the term. This is what I learned.

Blog Hop

A blog hop is a set time frame where a group of authors post about a topic and share links to the other blogs so readers can go to them.

Amused and inspired, I decided to get in on the blog hopping action. The group that was crazy enough to accept a novice food blogger like myself? Behind the Curtain Dessert Challenge. While some blog hop groups like to bake/cook their way through cookbooks, this group dedicates each month to a different flavor combination. Last month, for example, was blueberries and lemon. Remember that lemon chiffon cake that I ranted about? Yea, that was supposed to be for July’s blog hop. Well, I can proudly say that I not only managed to complete my dessert on time, but that it came out tasting fantastic as well.

For August, the flavor combination was peaches and cream. Since I had never baked with peaches before, I was super excited to be able to participate. As for what to bake, I decided to do another bar desserIMG_20130804_160742_20130807194903214t. After all, the last bar dessert I made came out great! I strongly suggest   giving this recipe a try while peaches are still in season. I can assure you, you and whoever you feed these bars to, won’t be disappointed.

Special thanks to Sheryl of LadyBehindtheCurtain.com for creating this blog hop as well as letting me participate. Congrats to everyone else who participated this month as well.

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Peaches and Cream Streusel Bars

Adapted from a recipe found at sallysbakingaddiction.com

Crust and Topping
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1/3 cup light brown sugar
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cubed
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
A pinch of nutmeg

Peach Filling
1 Large Egg
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 medium peaches, peeled and chopped (should be about 1/2 cup)

Vanilla Glaze
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoon milk (may need more depending on what consistency you want)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven 350F. Line an 8×8 baking pan with aluminum foil with enough hanging on the sides for removal. Spray with nonstick spray.

2. For the crust and topping: whisk the flour, oats, brown sugar, until combined. Add the cold putter and mix with food processor or fork until it becomes coarse and crumbs and small and pea sized. Remove 3/4 cps of the mixture and set aside in small bowl. This will be the top crust. Add 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon and the nutmeg and mix to combine. Press the remaining mixture into the prepared pan evenly and bake for 15 minutes.
*You can add 1 whole teaspoon of cinnamon to the crust/topping before dividing it up too. I did it this way because I forgot to add the cinnamon until after the crust was in the oven*.

3. For the filling: whisk the egg and sugar together until smooth and creamy. Add the flour and salt. Whisk until combined. Fold in the peaches. Pour the filling over the hot crust and cover with the remaining crumb topping. Bake for 30-32 minutes or until golden brown on top. Let cool in pan for about a half hour before removing. Place in fridge to chill for two hours before serving.

4. For glaze: Whisk the confectioners’ sugar, milk, and vanilla extract together until smooth. Drizzle over dessert. (I took mine out of the fridge halfway through, drizzled the glaze and put it back in the fridge to set).

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Foodie Ramblings: Cast Iron Skillets

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As I have continued to down the foodie path, I thus far done quite a bit of research in regards to different types of cookware and bakeware. While my collection of kitchen based items has certainly grown in the last few years, it is still far from being completed. Although I have some pieces that I would be lost with out, there is only so much one can find in the heaps of stuff that my fellow Clarkies left behind when they moved off campus. Things such as rice cookers, slow cookers, and cast iron skillets. This last item in particular was one that I didn’t necessarily think I ever needed. But then I borrowed my friend’s cast iron skillet to make home-made crab rangoon one day and suddenly, I started thinking about getting one for myself. Sturdy, resilient, and capable of holding an even heat, purchasing a cast iron skillet seemed like the ideal thing to do, especially after another friend informed me that they found theirs at a nearby thrift store for under $10! Well for a bargain price like that, how could I say no?

Well, saying no turned out to be quite easy; whenever I went to the thrift store they always seemed to be out of cast iron skillets. While I did debate purchasing one online, I decided that I had enough stuff at school already. Moving out was already going to be -and was in actuality- an unfun chore, why should I burden myself with an extra 5+ pounds of weight? But after months of putting it off, I took the plunge this afternoon and bought my first ever piece of cast iron cookware. So, in honor of my new kitchen toy, I have decided to list the top five reasons as to why anyone who is remotely interested in cooking should invest in a piece of cast iron cookware of their very own. Enjoy!

1.It’s made of freak’n iron! Unless you possess the a super human’s touch of destruction, the thing isn’t gonna break.

2. It’s mad versatile! As Bonappetit.com pointed out, you can use it on the grill or in the oven, to make pizza, bread, dessert, or just sauté vegetables. Need a meat mallet to pound down some chicken? Time to take advantage of your skillet’s heft and shape.

3. It’s non-stick! If seasoned with oil and baked in an oven for the correct amount of time at the right heat, chances are you won’t have to worry about food sticking to your skillet.

4. It heat’s like a dream. Not only will it heat evenly ensuring that everything will be cooked well, it can withstand some pretty hot locations. Stove tops, ovens, even a camp fire. Any cookware you can take camping is a thing worth having.

5. Cleaning is a breeze. Recall how I mentioned seasoning your skillet? Well, not only does it make your skillet non-stick, but it saves you the chore of cleaning, kind of. Giving your seasoned cast iron skillet a good soap down turns out to be detrimental to its non-stick properties. At the same time, it could potentially leave a rather soapy after taste on the next meal you cook with it.

Bonus: It’s sexy! Ok, this was something that I stumbled upon and just found mad amusing.

Call me crazy but I find these things kinda hot. There’s something rustic about them. Like a guy with a great beard. When you see someone working with a big heavy pan, it’s a turn on. Or at least… that’s what I tell myself.

Recipe Write Up: Lemon Pancakes with Mixed Fruit

IMG_20130721_140443_20130729194855367I’m going to be honest here, I am not really a big fan of breakfast. While some people may enjoy making the meal a big affair, determined to cram in all of the major food groups onto one plate, I’d much rather sleep in and miss the whole thing. In fact, when I was an undergrad, this was the meal I was most likely to skip. Now don’t go thinking that I hate breakfast as a whole. Personally I agree that one is much better off starting their day with a healthy meal than waiting a good four hours for lunch time. The food on the other hand, not really my type of stuff. Sure, I’ll nom on a bowl of cereal and have a glass of juice, but outside of these and a few other choice items, I really don’t like anything else. Bacon and sausage? Not things I grew up eating so a natural distaste for them already, Eggs? Maybe for an early lunch but never for breakfast. Waffles? Eh.

Now before going further, I will say that I love french toast, muffins, and oatmeal. See, I’m not a total loser. But if you’ve noticed, I left one breakfast item out. Pancakes. Do I like them or hate them? Well, thanks to Ihop, I hate them. From the taste to the texture, these things are really not my cup of tea. It’s almost sad how one bad experience with something can forever change one’s opinion towards it. Sure, I’ve tried to overcome it but alas, it never seems to end well. The pancakes are either too doughy or just lack flavor. Additionally, I always feel like I have digested an anvil after eating a plate of the little saucers from hell. However, I am proud to report that my opinion of pancakes has started to shift.

For the first time in years, not only did I find myself craving pancakes, I wanted to make them myself, from scratch! Turns out, it’s true what they say about things being homemade, the difference in taste is astonishing. I think if I’ve had more homemade pancakes in my life than perhaps I would have seen the light sooner. Well, I guess better late than never. Hopefully my future Boston roommates like lemons and pancakes since I’ll definitely be making these again.

Lemon Pancakes with Mixed Fruit

From Masterchef: The Ultimate Cookbook

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons whole milk
1 large egg
2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter, plus about 2 tablespoons for frying
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1/2 cup fresh blackberries
1/2 cup fresh blueberries
1/2 cup fresh raspberries
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar

  1. Whisk the flour granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl to blend. Whisk the buttermilk, milk, egg, melted butter, and lemon zest in a medium bowl to blend. Keep the two mixtures separate until ready to cook.
  2. Heat a heavy griddle or skillet over medium heat. Once hot, coat the griddle or pan with some butter. Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture and stir until a slightly lumpy batter forms. Using about 1/2 cup of the batter for each pancake, pour the batter onto the griddle, evenly spacing the pancakes. Cook until golden brown and puffed, about 2 1/2 minutes per side.
  3. Divide the hot pancakes among four plates, top with berries, east with confectioner’s sugar and serve.

Should make about 8 pancakes.