Tuesday, February 24, 2009

I love baking for people...

And cooking. It just makes me happy. And if it's a surprise? Even better!

I've been itching to bake recently. So, Sunday I picked up things I knew I needed (baking soda, brown sugar, chocolate chips) and decided I'd raid the pantry to come up with an idea. Also, I used the massive America's Test Kitchen/Cook's Illustrated cookbook we have.

What I came up with?

Banana, Salted Pecan Chocolate Chip Muffins

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups non-fat greek yogurt
1 cup frozen-thawed bananas (including liquid), pureed
3/4 cup chopped roasted salted pecans
1 (heaping) cup semisweet chocolate chips
Vegetable cooking spray for muffin tins

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, sugar and salt in medium bowl; set aside.

2. Whisk yogurt and eggs together, add vanilla extract. Fold yogurt and eggs into dry mixture until just barely combined. Fold cooled butter into battter. At very end, add pecans, chocolate chips and pureed bananas into batter.

3. Spray twelve-cup muffin tin with vegetable cooking spray or coat lightly with butter. Use ice cream scoop to divide batter evenly among cups. Bake until muffins are golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Set on wire rack to cool slightly, about 5 minutes. Remove muffins from tin and serve warm.

Side notes - this recipe made 12 large muffins and about 20 mini muffins. I used muffin liners, as well. They all only cooked for 20-25 minutes. The recipe isn't exactly like the Cooks Illustrated one found online - the cookbook had slightly different directions. They could probably use the extra butter the online recipe included, and the online recipe said to cream the butter and sugar, using a mixer. Also, it called for low-fat yogurt, and I used non-fat greek yogurt because that's what I had in the fridge. But these turned out pretty good - they were delicious right out of the oven, and not quite as good as they sat. But that's expected, right?

All I know is that I brought in 9 large muffins and like 6 mini muffins to work, and in less than 3 hours, they're gone.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


That was tonight's dinner. That's the beef in cabernet stew with frozen peas throw in and a spoonful of mashed potatoes on top. The peas cook in the microwave in the stew, and I made the taters.

I got home and I was absolutely famished. As well as exhausted, and cold. We got a tiny bit of snow that turned into rain (and will continue to rain tomorrow) and it's just gross out. All I wanted was creamy, buttery (cheesy?) carby goodness. In reality, what I wanted was polenta - that's what Omar (my brother) cooks with the beef dishes, but I decided to raid the community pantry and found potatoes. And while I did eat probably the same amount or more potatoes as in the picture while I was making them, I feel like it's a respectable balance of something sort of good for you and something baaaad for you. :) (Because those potatoes have butter and half and half - the only decent fat level milk we had in the fridge - in them. )

Mmmmm....this may be lunch tomorrow since it's going to be icky.

Monday, February 16, 2009

ok...so...the job!

Finally, a wrap-up of my first week at the new internship.

I work in Infant/Toddler Boys, and I work directly with a few people in the department, but pretty much do what's needed for whomever in IT Boys. The people I directly work with and almost everyone I have encountered seem like friendly, sane, intelligent folks.

There's a kitchen/lunchroom with four (?) tables, a big fridge, a coffee maker, vending machines, two microwaves and a sink. After spending the summer with a company that had none of the above (well, a sink), I really appreciate this! Also, the lunch room has been a nice place to meet people. Since I can take up to an hour (and at least 30 minutes) for lunch, if I want to be social, I can.

[There's one girl I've sat with twice - she's friends of this girl Jennifer who's from NC and is super friendly to me. Well, I'll see this one girl in the bathroom and such, and she never says a thing. So she's maybe the one "bitchy" encounter I've had so far. But whatever, I don't feel like I'm missing out on much by her not talking to me.]

So what do I do all day? Print photographs from trend research trips. I printed somewhere around ~400 pictures from the trend trip to LA Monday/Tuesday. I'm reprinting a good 200 back out because we cut a bunch up to make trend boards. And I do a *lot* of mounting and cutting. Basically, they make "life-size croquis" of shirts and pants when they can't get the sample back in time for a company so they print things out on those giant 40" fancy color printers. I have to use like 3" wide double stick tape, cover large cardstock boards with the tape, and smoothly apply the shirt to the board. Then I use scissors to cut the shirt out. Exacto it every once in a while to clean it up and reach where the scissors can't (particulary the arm hole).

I've also had to mount boards. Tuesday, this was not pretty. Basically, it's the same double stick tape and 20x30" foam board and paper. Completely cover the board (or paper) with tape, and attempt to smoothly attach it to the opposite item. And then trim it with the exacto (because it's not exactly 20x30"). Yeaaaah... So Tuesday, I had two to do. The first went fine. The second? I messed up FOUR times. And then it was 6pm.

BUT, by the end of the day, a coworker showed me what's now my favorite way to do it, and Wednesday/Thursday, I mounted two more boards problem-free! Also, the same coworker, who the board was for, stayed very nice the whole time I kept fucking up. I could tell she was frustrated by the end of Tuesday, but I was honestly surprised by how nice she was about it.

So...that's about it. Everyone got to leave early Friday (and it was a generally slow day). I'm listed as an "undefined" (time period) intern, which means there's a possibility they'll keep me on for the summer. While I'm very much searching otherwise, I am so thankful for this job! And who knows what might open up at Garan during this time... ;)

I am the definition of grace and intelligence in the kitchen

Yeah friggin right.

So, the beef in cabernet - since it was stew beef and slow cooked for a solid 12 hours, it definitely turned into a wine stew of sorts. I wanted to reduce the wine sauce and help eliminate some of the alcoholic flavor of the wine, so I dumped it into a large pot from the slow cooker and turned the stove eye on. On for less than five minutes, I notice that some of the shredded beef, onions, carrots, celery deliciousness are already stuck to the bottom of the pan. >.< I figure I still need to reduce it, so might as well go for it. I add cornstarch mixed with broth to the mixture, bring it to a boil and let it simmer for a bit.

I do realize I could let it cook longer and get thicker, but by now, I'm just ready to be done. So, after it's cooled for a few minutes, start to transfer it to plastic containers. Boy am I smart when I try to pour a whole pot of stew into a container made to hold MAYBE half of the contents. It takes the container completely spilling over for me to realize this, and I don't think I've made a bigger mess.

Plus, the whole bottom of the pan is nicely scorched on. I pray I just didn't scrape too much off to give the whole freakin stew that lovely burnt flavor. It's finally in 4 small containers, cooling before I stick most of them in the freezer. God I'm glad the one roommate that had been around left to run for a while. I did NOT want anyone to see me being a complete retard.

Culinary suggestions

[Seriously, later this afternoon, I will blog about Garan. <3]

I was a total slug Saturday...so to make up for it, I was up by 8am Sunday. Went to Trader Joe's, home by 1, back out to grocery stores in Astoria by 2 (after eating). I'm such a dork. I walked down to Key Foods for their cottage cheese sale, but on the way, stopped at Trade Fair and Top Tomato (more of a veggie/fruit store) to price check. I got a few things at Key Food and then stopped at TT and TF on the way back. I shopped at four freakin stores Sunday. :dork:

I had a few plans on things to cook - a slow cooker beef in Cabernet wine inspired by this delicious recipe my brother made on Thanksgiving (one of MANY things). And I think I'm going to attempt a slow cooker chicken curry today - chicken thighs, sweet potatoes, eggplant, maybe some chickpeas? and peas?... (Any ideas?) I'm sort of blending together this recipe and a slow cooker curry recipe from an America's Test Kitchen cookbook.

But last night, after getting the beef in the slow cooker, I also made roasted shrimp and broccoli. The recipe is found here, and I found out about it through The Amateur Gourmet. (He's so cute, imo...) I have a few issues with it - I thought my broccoli was cut small enough, but by the time the shrimp was done, the broccoli is still a bit too crunchy. I figure by the time I reheat it, the microwave may take care of that issue. But I'm trying to figure out how to dress it... It's been a while since I had actually had cumin and coriander, so the flavor was good but a bit unexpected. Any suggestions on things to dress it or what to throw in with it if I decide to make it into a salad? It's good but it's just missing... something.

So...the beef (it was a stew beef, with lots of carrots, onions, celery, garlic, bacon, a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon - $3 buck Chuck from TJ's) ended up cooking for 12 hours! And now it's cooling in the fridge. The plan is to skim off the fat and possibly reduce the wine down a bit more. :) I wish I could share the full Beef in Barolo recipe with you (I do have it...) but I will say, Cook's Illustrated is sort of worth the cost if you're a culinary type. As for the coming curry, I definitely want to do the sweet potatoes, eggplant, some onion, and throw some peas in at the end. Does anyone think chickpeas are a warranted add-in? Any other suggestions? Thanks!

Friday, February 13, 2009

love/hate relationship

[yes, i will update about the internship asap, but this is just a quickie morning post while it's slow at work.]

starbucks. i have a total love/hate relationship with them. their coffee is fairly meh. they're EVERYWHERE in nyc. they have some great sugar-free flavors. they gave me the crappiest, non-foamiest latte this week.

but this morning, after being stumped on what to eat, i decided to wait till i got into the city. there's a bux on the first floor of the empire state building, where i work, so i ran in there - i had noticed their little 'plates' before. i have to say, i was impressed with what i got. the 'protein power plate' - a mini wheat bagel, a small portion (well, maybe 1 tbsp?) peanut butter, two triangles of white cheddar, a hard boiled egg, 2-3 slices of apples and some grapes. it was $4.95, which i know is a total rip-off, but i was pleasantly surprised by that option. it was yummy, the fruit was good, the cheddar was good, and they even thought to throw salt and pepper packets in, because no egg is good without those.

so, yeah...nice start to the morning. and i even behaved and made coffee at home. :)

anyone have any good coffee shop suggestions for nyc/astoria?

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Tomorrow is the big day!

So I'm officially settled in in Astoria! And tomorrow is my first day at my internship. Eeeek, can you say nervous?

My apartment is definitely awesome. The landlord left a bit too much of her shit sitting around, so we're dealing with that, but it's a good space. I'm also adjusting to the weather - inside and out. Our apartment is a tad cold, but that's what ConEd does. 70 from 5am-11am, 68 from 11am-5pm, 70 from 5pm-11pm, 68 from 11pm-5am. But we have lots of (nice) tile in the apartment, which makes it particularly cold.

My roommates are sweet girls and I think whatever kinks we have, they'll be worked out. We all seem pretty open, so issues will be taken care of as they happen, I hope!

I work 9am-6pm five days a week. It takes 10 minutes from my front door to the subway platform, probably about 30 minutes on the subway, and then the Empire State Building isn't more than a 10 minute walk from my stop at Herald Square. Not wanting to be late tomorrow, I'll probably leave at 8am, and being the prepared dork I am, I'm setting my clock for 6am.

So, I'm heading to bed now...or as soon as I stop letting the Grammys distract me. And after I figure out what I'm wearing. I hate that I question everything - clothes, purse choice, shoes, everything. I mean, I want to carry my larger dark red purse, but then I'm not sure if it's too big. Or if the red will clash with the brighter red of my coat. Or blah blah blah. Stupid, but I'm never quite confidently decisive on days like this. >.<

Monday, February 2, 2009

I really need to find my own version of Global Village in NYC. I love this place. Taking a breather from my whirlwind day in Raleigh. Mmm iced sf