March 2011


I love going back and looking at my Google search history at the end of the day.  I always find it funny to see my random progression of thoughts, and today was no exception!

Verbatim Google Search History
- polycythemic
- how long is milk good after the expiration date?
- hydramnios / polyhydramnios
- attenuated definition
- causes of congenital diaphragmatic hernia
- how to calculate standard deviation
- recipe clone for pf changs garlic noodles
- what germ layer forms esophageal muscle
- traveler’s insurance commerical song
- how to draw a frog
- is glee new tonight?

From these virtual clues, one might gather (a) that I was studying for an embryology test, and (b) I was hungry.  Yes and YES.

After taking care of step (a) on my agenda, my growling stomach was begging me to now take care of (b).  Feeling ravenous, I headed straight home after my test, only to be greeted by a mountain of dirty clothes and an empty refrigerator.  Anyone who has ever been to my  apartment knows washing clothes hovers around 57th on my chore ranking preference, so judging by the avalanche overtaking my laundry room, I was in for a long night!

Once all the clothes were sorted into 7 neat little piles, I decided to address the empty refrigerator problem.  After a few minutes of digging, I found a crumpled box of cinnamon burst cheerios in the back of my pantry, and poured a big ole’ glob of milk right on top of them.  Yes, you read that correctly- apparently in answer to my second search above, 2 weeks is too long.

Since the ketchup and jar of jalepenos in the fridge showed about the same promise for deliciousness as the milk, I threw load number 2 of clothes in the drier and got in the car to search for sustenance.  Not even one mile from home, I see Burger King, and the potent smell of a Jr. Whopper called out to me like a siren’s song.  Just as I am about to turn on my blinker to give in to my instantaneous craving, what tiny will power I had left about the situation kicks in and I keep driving.  A few minutes later, I find myself in a deserted Kroger at 11:30 at night with no list and no ideas. 

I stopped at the produce first, finding  it almost luxurious to shop in the empty store without being bumped by over-zealous cart drivers and waiting on acutely critical apple examiners.  Ultimately, I settled on 2 packs of luciously red strawberries and a package of goat cheese.  By this point, I had an idea so I grabbed some pecans and strawberry jam and was out the door.

If you have ever eaten the strawberry salad at Julep in Jackson, I bet you know where this is going.  “Fresh strawberries, candied pecans, and goat cheese served over field greens with a strawberry balsamic vinaigrette”.  If you aren’t salivating now, I guarantee you will be after you see the pictures!

Here is my {late night} interpretation of this delicious salad:

Here’s what you’ll need.

The first step of this recipe is making the deliciously sweet and crunchy candied pecans.  Grab some sugar, a little bit of butter, and about 1/2 cup of pecans. {you’ll also need some vanilla extract, too – my vanilla somehow escaped the photo shoot!}

If you want to throw this together in a hurry or if you just don’t feel like making your own sugary little gems, feel free to substitute any kind of  store bought candied pecans {I found the praline pecans above by the checkout line at walmart}

If this candying thing does sound right up your alley, keep reading!

Melt 2 teaspoons of butter over medium heat.  Stir in 2 tablespoons of sugar and 1/2 cup of pecans.  Turn the heat to medium/high and stir the mixture constantly with a wooden spoon until the sugar begins to boil and turns a golden brown-ish color {this took my pecans about 3 minutes}.  Remove the pot from the heat and stir in 1/8 teaspoon of vanilla. {it will bubble and hiss, beware!}

Immediately pour the pecans onto a silpat / parchment and cool.  That’s it.  Easy as pie! 

Now it’s time to address these beauties.  Out of all the fruits in the world, there are none I love more than strawberries.  Seeing them in grocery stores makes me pine for summer, and they taste even better when bought on the side of the road off the tailgate of a pick-up truck {or is that just a Mississippi thing?}

Rinse and slice the berries. 

The next {and last!} step is to mix up some yummy strawberry balsamic vinaigrette.  Put 1/4 cup strawberry jam or preserves {I used low-sugar preserves} in a small bowl and add 1 tablespoon of water.  Microwave on high for 30 seconds.

Next whisk in 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar.  Season with salt and pepper.

Here we go, ready to assemble this thing and make someone’s mouth very happy.

Fill 2 large plates with assorted field greens.  Layer half of each ingredient {strawberries, pecans, then goat cheese} on the greens.  Drizzle with dressing, and voilà!

Bryan and I have eaten this salad for lunch the past 3 days and I still haven’t stopped craving it!  I hope you’ll love it too!

Strawberry Salad with Candied Pecans and Goat Cheese

- 4 cups field greens
- 1 1/2 cups fresh strawberries, sliced
- 2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
- 1/2 cup candied pecans (recipe follows)
- 3 Tablespoons strawberry balsamic vinaigrette (recipe follows)

for candied pecans
- 1/2 cup pecans
- 2 teaspoons butter
- 2 Tablespoons white sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon vanilla

for vinaigrette
- 1/4 cup strawberry jam
- 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 4 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- salt and pepper, to taste

Melt butter over medium heat.  Increase to medium/high heat and add sugar and pecans.  Stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the sugar becomes bubbly and golden.  Remove from heat and add vanilla extract.  {the mixture will bubble}.  Immediately transfer pecans to a silpat or parchment paper to cool.

For the vinaigrette, combine strawberry jam with 1 tablespoon water.  Microwave on high for 30 seconds.  Next whisk in olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  Season with salt and pepper.

To assemble salad, top 2 cups of greens with 3/4 cup strawberries, 1/4 cup pecans, and 1 ounce goat cheese.  Drizzle on 3 tablespoons of vinaigrette.

{this recipe makes 2 salads}

Meet Barbie & Teresa. {aka my sister Laura and her sweet friend Madison}

I have no idea when these Mattel inspired nicknames originated, but these two have been dubbed “B & T” for as long as they have been friends.  Both of them are are cute as can be, and I love it when they come over to my apartment to bake/laugh/make messes. 

Today’s cooking escapade was inspired by a sad little stale-ing loaf of white bread sitting in Madison’s dorm room.  This poor little loaf had been forgotten and just as it was on its way to the trash, Laura had a sugar-laced eureka moment – turn it into bread pudding!  Resourcefulness in desire to calm an insatiable sweet tooth must run in the family.

This recipe is a version of the bread pudding Laura’s boyfriend’s mom makes… we added a few tweaks of our own and ended up with something so divine that it had to be physically removed from my apartment to keep us from eating the whole pan. 

Besides being unbelievably delicious, this recipe is super easy to make, although the people that are lucky enough to have this served to them would never guess! 

Here are the ingredients {I bet most of this stuff is in your pantry now!}  While we used a sandwhich-style bread, I bet an airy bakery bread would be even better… feel free to use whatever you have on hand, it will be fabulous either way!

The sweet little loaf of inspiration.

First cube the bread (or tear it like we did!) into a 9×13 dish.  We used a disposable tin pan, which was perfect for transporting the finished dessert to hungry friends.

Next make the custard part of the pudding using the milk, sugar, eggs, vanilla, and butter.  Make sure to use an electric mixer to whip all this together, otherwise it is really hard to get a uniform consistency and the pudding might taste “eggy” as opposed to smooth and creamy!

Pour the custard evenly over the bread and let it soak for 10 minutes {a little longer is ok if you forget about it sitting in the kitchen, which we may or may not have done…}

Meanwhile, mix up some cinnamon sugar.  We used 1/2 cup of sugar and 3 Tablespoons of cinnamon {I like things extra cinnamon-y}… feel free to use store-bought if you have it, our grocery store was just out today.

After the bread has absorbed all the custard-y goodness it can possible stand, sprinkle cinnamon sugar over the top.  We used about half the batch we mixed up (so a little over 1/4 cup) but use as much/little as your taste buds prefer!

That’s it!  Simple, right?  Bake the pudding at 350 for 40 minutes.

Now it’s time to make the sauce.  While traditional bread pudding has a relatively thin and pourable sauce, ours had a much thicker and sweeter consistency, so perhaps it should be called an icing or glaze instead.  Whatever you call it, this stuff is good!

Melt 6 ounces of white chocolate chips and 1/2 stick of butter over medium heat, then take the pot off the stove to add the water, vanilla,  powdered sugar, and sweetened condensed milk, stirring after each addition.  Place the mixture back on the stove and let me flavors meld over medium/low heat for a few minutes.  Before serving, stir the cinnamon sugar into the mixture {we used the rest of the mix we made earlier, so about 1/4 cup}

Drizzle the glaze over the warm bread pudding, and try to make it to the table with this little bowl before digging in.  It will be hard, trust me. 

Just a little note, make sure the glaze is warm when you are ready to serve the dessert, otherwise it will likely be too thick to pour.  If you are taking the pudding somewhere {like we did after we finished a very unfeminine portion of it}, pour the sauce in some sort of tupperware container and just re-heat it in the microwave before you need it!

I hope you enjoy making this as much as we did!

White Chocolate & Cinnamon Bread Pudding

- 1 loaf white bread, cubed
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/2 stick butter (melted)
- cinnamon sugar (for sprinkling on top)

for icing / glaze
- 6 oz white chocolate chips (about half a bag)
- 1/2 stick butter
- 3 Tablespoons water
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
- cinnamon sugar (to taste)

Preheat oven to 350.  Cube 1 loaf of white bread into a 9×13 baking dish that has been sprayed with cooking spray.  Make the custard by combining milk, vanilla, sugar, eggs, and butter with an electric mixer.  Pour over the bread and let soak for atleast 10 minutes.  Sprinkle liberally with cinnamon sugar and bake for 40 minutes.

For the glaze, melt the white chocolate chips with 1/2 stick of butter over medium heat.  Once combine, add the water, vanilla, powdered sugar, and sweetened condensed milk.  Return to medium/low heat for a few more minutes.  Add remaining cinnamon sugar.

Spoon the warm pudding into a bowl/parfait glass/ramekin and drizzle with warm glaze.  Sprinkle a few white chocolate chips on top and enjoy!

This week I (a) turned 24 and (b) started my new blog!  So excited to be {finally} writing here… and, if we’re being honest, also so excited to turn 24!  I am definitely still in the stage where growing a year older continues to be “fun”, and I hope that feeling contiues for atleast a few (or twenty) more birthdays :D

While I am always one to make plans for birthdays {mine/family/pets/celebrities/basically any breathing person that gives me an excuse to eat cake and ice cream}, i’ve been unusually busy lately and forgot that the big 2-4 was even coming up.  As usual, though, my sweet other half remembered the occasion had a big ole’ surprise planned for me (I must commend his secret keeping abilities here- I had no idea this was coming, and I always figure out surprises- just ask my mom regarding every Christmas of, oh I don’t know, my whole life)

I left class Friday, feeling worn out and excited for a weekend of doing absolutely nothing, when Bryan called and told me to pack a bag with 4 days worth of warm clothes, that he would be there in two hours to pick me up for the airport.  What…the…heck.  I was thrown so off guard, yet somehow I managed to lug out my huge black suitcase {which may or may not have still been packed from the Breckenridge trip 8 weeks ago…} and throw in the few clean turtlenecks from the bottom of my closet. 

When we got out at the airport, I commented on how utterly hot it was outside {83 in February? really?} and with a smile Bryan asked if I would like to go somewhere a little more windy.  I apparently didn’t get the joke until he handed me our plane tickets… we were headed to Chicago!

Here are a few pictures from our fun weekend:

From the plane to the pizza place {so suprising} – Lou Malnati’s Chicago Deep Dish

Bright and early, breakfast at the “legendary” {and by legendary I mean Food Network recommended it} Ann Sather’s

Get on a plane.  Drive to Ann Sather’s.  Eat this cinnamon roll.  Come home.  {seriously, one bite of this is worth a whole trip… it was that good}

Call me an unabashed tourist- I love Chinatown(s)… heard the stop for this called on the train and I was off that car before Bryan could catch me!

 

We stumbled across this Chinese bakery on one of the little side streets of Chinatown- we were the only tourists in the whole place, which definitely enhanced the authenticity factor… the tiny signs perched atop each “delicacy” advertised preserved duck eggs, green bean paste cakes, walnut with bean paste cakes, and {my personal favorite} red bean paste baby moon cakes.

Close up of some yummy(?) Lotus Paste cakes… the locals at the bakery were ordering and eating these things like they were going out of style.  As for me and Bryan, let’s just say our taste test didn’t last very long.

There was one gem of deliciousness we were excited to see there, though- bubble tea!  We opted for a smoothie to drench the bubbles {aka tapioca pearls or “boba”} and I thought it was much tastier than the traditional bubble teas we had tried before

An expanded view of plasticized cadaver organs {aka the only picture I took at the Museum of Science and Industry- oops!}

Dare I say a birthday sundae is better than a birthday cake?? {enjoyed/devoured at Ghirardelli on North Michigan Avenue}

Ghirardelli has the right idea: my future parenting philosophy.

Lovely scenery on Michigan avenue encountered while exploring/shopping/playing

Can I move here? Please?

Pretty pretty please?

Hey there.  My cute dinner date waiting for me on the streets.

After dinner all I wanted was….. a slurpie.  Mississippi is seriously missing out.

Floor 42, please.

Bryan + Cosette = bff

A little rainy afternoon sustenance(?)

“The Bean” {Millennium Park}

Bryan is transferring here.  I am coming with him.

Whoosh.

Last night’s dinner: classic Chicago hotdogs, of course!  Bryan gave this a 10 out of 10.  My verdict?  Let’s just say I’d rather have a red bean paste baby moon cake.

Favorite part of the trip: Bryan suprised me with tickets to ride the train home!  I have been wanting to do this for practically forever, so I was beyond excited!

Our home for the next 14 hours…!

And yes, the conductor came by to “collect our tickets”!

Overall, I could not imagine a more fun way to ring in my 24th year of life!  Good thing I have until July to plan my “counter suprise” for Bryan’s birthday….

On another note, the weather is absolutely gorgeous here today- lightly windy, sunny, and 70-ish… while I would love nothing more than a day of tennis and dog walking, I have a lovely day of studying ahead {as do my sweet tennis partners, Laura and Bryan}… maybe a gigantic glass of tea and micro on the porch will be a nice enough substitute? I doubt it, but keeping my fingers crossed the “sput of spring” we are having lasts til this weekend!

Hope everyone has a wonderful day :D

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