Thursday, June 26, 2014

Chocolate Malt Cupcakes

I can’t believe it has been over three months since I last posted.  I chalk this up to general busyness, distractions and denial.  I’ve had such a jam-packed three months what with travel to Florida for my work’s Annual Meeting, traveling one last time sans-child to North Carolina and Virginia for baby showers, and general anticipation as we are less than one month away from Baby Girl Samuel’s due date.  That last part is what I’m in denial about.  I am so excited to meet her yet still in awe/anxious that this little girl, who doesn’t have very far to go to come into this world, seems to be worlds away from our life now.  Yet I know she will fit into it as if she’s always been here.  The familiar mystery of her fascinates me every second of my day.

And as these weeks have passed and I’ve hit the halfway mark of my pregnancy, or finally entered the third trimester, and now move into this last month, I feel like I’m getting to know her more and more.   I’m learning that she loves it when I eat, or I anticipate eating.  A plate of food could be put in front of me and I feel the kicks of excitement immediately, before even a bite is taken.  There must be something that happens mentally in my body that transmits to her.  I hope she keeps that love of food once she is in this world.

She is also camera shy.  At doctor’s appointments, she has repeatedly turned away from the sonogram wand or the Doppler and made it difficult to read her heartbeat or get a good glimpse of her preciousness.  At the end of one sonogram session when we were trying to get all the relevant anatomy measurements (which ended up requiring a second follow-up visit the next week), we were giving up when she gave us a coy little smile that seemed to imply she knew she was being difficult.  And that she was enjoying it.  Let’s hope she doesn’t keep that tendency once she is in this world! 

So even with my absence in posting recipes, it doesn’t mean I haven’t been cooking.  It just means my mind is running in many directions and it’s hard to lasso them into a cohesive post.  So I’ll share with you these Chocolate Malt Cupcakes.  These boast a classic flavor combination for a summer potluck or picnic. 

Chocolate Malt Cupcakes

For the Cupcakes
 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
½ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup packed light-brown sugar
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 ¼ cup malted milk powder
1 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 recipe Vanilla Frosting
24-28 Whoppers

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line two standard muffin tins with paper liners.  Whisk together the first six dry ingredients (flour, cocoa, both sugars, baking soda, and salt).  Combine the milk and milk powder in another bowl until dissolved.  With a mixer on medium-high speed, beat flour mixture, milk mixture and oil until combined.  Add sour cream and vanilla.  Beat until combined.  Divide batter among the cups evenly (about halfway to the top).  Bake for 20 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean.  About half way through the twenty minutes, rotate the pans.   Frost with Vanilla Frosting and top with Whoppers.

For the Vanilla Frosting
1 ½ cups unsalted butter, room temperature
1 pound confectioners’ sugar
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

In an electric mixer, beat butter on medium-high speed about 2 minutes until pale and creamy. Add the confections’ sugar a half a cup at a time, beating on medium speed until incorporated.  After every two additions of sugar, raise the speed to high and beat for ten seconds to fluff the frosting.  Once all sugar has been added, add vanilla and beat until smooth.   If not frosting immediately, store in refrigerator up to 10 days in an airtight container.  Bring frosting to room temperature before frosting.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Jalapeno Popper White Bean Chili

Spring is such a tease.  I may not be very familiar with the concept of 'teasing' because I am not the most flirtatious person (unlike a certain, smiling spaghetti squash-sized baby flirting through the sonogram screen) but I can tell when I'm being teased with and spring is not being very subtle about it.  With just a couple 55+ degree days in the past month, and a high of 38 tomorrow (on March 25th), and the constant restoring/unstoring of my snow boots . . . I get it.  Spring is not to be trusted.  I only hope that in a month she will have proven me wrong and shown what a wonderful, magical season she can be before she hands the days off to the heat of summer.

Parallel these irritations with Duke's unfortunate early exit from the NCAA tournament on Friday (before 2:30 pm), and I am seeking comfort in some more hearty fare.  This chili is easy, full of fiber and protein, and incredibly filling.  I made this for a couple friends and their two-year-old son.  Everyone enjoyed it -- even the toddler.  He is a budding chef, I believe, because he took the chips and salsa I had put out as appetizers and dipped the chips in the chili.  Genius.  Future leftovers will be ladled profusely over a plate of tortilla chips, topped with crumbled bacon and sour cream -- then devoured in that manner.  

As with most slow cooker recipes, it makes a ton so hopefully, once you finish the leftovers, the temperatures outside will finally be a glimpse of the warmer months ahead.  

Jalapeno Popper White Bean Chili
Adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

1 yellow onion, medium, chopped
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced 
1 bell pepper, diced
1 pound chicken breasts, boneless and skinless
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
12 ounces dry white beans, picked through to remove any bad beans/stones and rinsed (I used white kidney beans -- very important to rinse these!)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
8 ounces light cream cheese, cubed
1 cup frozen corn kernels

In a slow cooker, add all ingredients except the cream cheese and corn.  Cook on low for 7 - 9 hours (I actually ended up cooking mine for about ten - eleven hours and it was fine).  Remove the chicken and shred into pieces.  Return chicken to the slow cooker and stir in the cubed cream cheese and the corn. Cook for another 15 minutes or until the cream cheese is melted and the corn is cooked through.  Stir to make sure everything is incorporated.  Serve with desired toppings like sour cream, cheese, crumbled bacon, salsa, tortilla chips, etc.  

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Honey Chipotle Spiced Glazed Almonds

Now that Baby Girl Samuel is half-way baked (as of tomorrow), Robbie and I are busy thinking of things we want to teach her, show her and basically force upon her so she turns into the perfect combination of the two of us.  These things include a love for food, diabetic cats, and most importantly, a love for Duke University.  Particularly a deep and abiding support of its athletics department and specifically its basketball team.  Some of our friends realize this and are showering her with gifts, quickly falling into first place for godparent (just kidding, Alexis). 

Nonetheless, we live and breathe Duke basketball in this apartment.  Robbie, for example, would like to name the baby Jabari-a Parker Samuel.  Unfortunately for him, I am holding the lead in the name race with Mary Jordan Samuel, Jr.   We’ll see who wins out. I hope for her sake, neither of us do.

This weekend is a big game for Duke.  We play that other school down the road (bless their hearts) in what should be an emotional and action-packed game.  We are coming off of a loss and UNC is coming off of a somewhat mediocre season (although they beat Duke in Chapel Hill) and some pretty serious fraudulent academic allegations, which have been an absolute delight to follow in the news.

So Saturday night should be fun.  I imagine a lot of friends back in North Carolina will be watching it and should they be looking for some munchies to enjoy during the game, I recommend these almonds.  They are sweet and spicy (but not too spicy) and incredibly easy to make.  I used to think fancy nuts were something I had to spend $5.00/ounce on but nope, hit up the bulk bin at your local grocery store and make some fancy ones yourself.  At least you can enjoy some good snacks during the game no matter the outcome for your team.   

Honey Chipotle Spiced Glazed Almonds
Adapted slightly from A Southern Fairytale

1 lb raw almonds
3 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp honey
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp chipotle pepper powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 Tbsp granulated white sugar
1 Tbsp dark brown sugar
Kosher Salt (optional)

Preheat your oven to 325°F and prepare rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.  In a medium saucepan, heat the honey, butter and salt until melted.  Once the mixture is melted and starts to simmer, remove the saucepan from the heat and add almonds, stirring with a rubber spatula until all almonds have been coated with the mixture.  Dump the almonds onto your prepared baking sheet and spread them evenly.  Bake almonds for 10 minutes then stir them once.  Bake the almonds for another five minutes and stir them once more.  Bake for five more minutes and remove them from the oven.  While the almonds are baking, mix your spices together – the chipotle chili powder, cinnamon, garlic powder and sugars.  Once you’ve removed the almonds from the oven, sprinkle the mixed spices onto the nuts and toss them on the baking sheet with a spatula until fully coated. (NOTE: The original recipe recommends you line a counter or additional baking sheet with parchment to do this step but I was too lazy and didn’t want to dirty another baking sheet.  Also, what New York City apartment has extra counter space?  Certainly not this one.) Sprinkle with kosher salt to add an extra bite of saltiness.  Let them cool on the sheet and periodically stir them to keep them from sticking together.   You may have to do some declumping as they cool but that just gives you an excuse to eat a mixture of hardened butter, honey, salt and spices. 

Monday, February 17, 2014

Thai Red Curry Chicken

I have some explaining to do. My regular posts of the last month or so have masked what has been a pretty crazy end of 2013 and beginning of 2014.   

Robbie re-aggravated a high school back injury in December that led to meetings with surgeons and neurologists and concluded with back surgery two weeks ago.  We’ve had epic amounts of snowfall and very cold temperatures daily so it made traipsing from Robbie’s hospital back to the apartment to his mom’s hotel where he stayed for a few nights  and finally back to the apartment last weekend a bit of an adventure.  Meanwhile, Robbie is on strict orders not to lift anything over 5 pounds or do any repetitive bending.  So I have been carrying his groceries, his overnight bag to/from hospital and dealing with Newt’s needs the past couple weeks (and for the next four) all while managing a body that is 4+-months pregnant. 

Yes, that’s right, we made it ‘official’ last week after we got the additional news that the baby is a girl (at least that’s what two doctors and an ultrasound technologist reported).  We are both in awe that we are bringing a being into this crazy life we live and that we get to introduce one of our favorite cities to this small person who, we hope, will find the magic in it as much as we do.  We find it even more surreal that we are having a daughter.  We were both a little apprehensive at first – ‘Is it better or worse to live in New York City with a baby girl?’ ‘Is the name we are leaning towards going to garner criticism from our New York peers?’  And for me, being a female myself, I remember all the self-esteem struggles of middle-school years (and even those issues that remain today) and wonder if I can be as supportive a mother as my own was and continues to be.   Plus this baby, if it arrives on time, will be a Leo.  Just like me.  Poor Robbie. 

Several things are known for sure though:

·      We are blessed to be experiencing this entire process and how the body just seems to know what it needs to do – with relatively few aches and pains.  I had minimal sickness and have been feeling relatively normal with the exception of some tighter pants.  Talk to me in July though during the throes of a New York City summer.
·      We are so excited to bring a little bit of Samuel-Mullinax blood into this world.  Twenty bucks says she’ll have dimples and a bit of wit.
·      This little girl, who we haven’t even met, is already so loved and obsessed over.  Her pictures already hang on the refrigerator and she is in our thoughts constantly.  I guess this starts the next ‘forever’ of worrying and thinking about her wellbeing.
·      The only odd pregnancy side effect was my aversion to sweets.  For the first couple of months I lost my sweet tooth and craved only salty and comforting things.  Chilis, soups, ramen bowls, etc. were all I wanted. That has since changed, which has greatly helped my daily sodium intake.

Due to this last point, and the fact that it is so cold out, Robbie and I have been exploring with more home-cooked meals.  We anticipate mealtimes will be an important part in rearing this child since, as you now, food is a pleasure for both of us and we hope to share that with her.  All signs at this point suggest Baby Girl Samuel has been enjoying them as well.

We made this dish for two reasons: Valentine’s Day and in honor of the news we will be having a baby girl -- a stretch, I know, but the coloring is more Team Pink than anything else, right?  The dish has gotten even better as each day passes as the flavors meld and merge into something a little more complex.  A fact, according to my mother, that can apply to parenthood.  Each stage of a child’s life is better than the one before it, as he or she grows, learns and develops.   I’ll be sure to report back over the next 18 years and let you know if I agree.

Thai Red Curry Chicken
Adapted slightly from Eat, Live, Run

1 to 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 tbsp coconut oil (I used refined)
3 cups coconut milk
1 1/2 cups water
3 tbsp red curry paste
2 baby bok choy, chopped
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 inch knob ginger, grated
1 cup snow peas, cut in half
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced into thin discs
1 1/2 tsp sugar
2 tsp fish sauce
juice of 1 lime
1 tsp salt
cooked white rice

Heat the coconut oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Add the ginger and sauté until fragrant. Add the chicken and stir, cooking until not quite cooked through. Add the curry paste and continue to sauté over high heat for another couple minutes. Pour in the coconut milk and water. Add the bok choy, bell pepper, snow peas and sweet potatoes. Bring curry to a boil (this took us a bit longer than expected.)  Reduce heat and simmer. Stir in the fish sauce, salt, lime juice and sugar. Continue simmering over medium/low heat until veggies are soft, about 8 – 10 minutes.

Serve in bowls over white rice.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Swiss Chard Casserole with Farfalle and Cheeses

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day!  I hope you were able to do something civic-minded this long weekend (if you are getting a long weekend) even if it was just being kind to the opposing football teams’ fans regardless of whether your team won or lost.  As volunteer and human-rights oriented as MLK was, it is appropriate that he continues his legacy by giving us a three day weekend in January.  The man keeps on giving. 

We are gearing up in New York City for some football.  The Super Bowl teams are set and the Super Bowl-themed flags on light posts, along the side of city buses and in the subways are running rampant.  It is going to be interesting to see what the next two weeks bring us.  I promise that I will venture out to see what some of the festivities are and report back.  Either way, the weather looks like it will be a chilly one since we are hovering just below freezing for the next ten days it seems – and they are calling for six-ten inches of snow tomorrow. 

Because of the chill, I fear I’ve been inundating our dinners with soups, stews and chilis too much.  I forgot we may need to have something a tad more non-liquidy every once in awhile – you know, just to give our spoons a rest and our forks a chance to get in the game.

I found this recipe in the New York Times Cookbook (a favorite of mine) and, as expected, it did not disappoint.  It was easy to make and seemed appropriate for cold nights without making me go to bed with indigestion.  I tweaked it a bit but it came out just as I had hoped – the freshest pasta dish you can get before April when the farmers markets start being bountiful again.

Swiss Chard Casserole with Farfalle and Cheeses

1 pound Swiss chard
extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot
1 cup chopped canned tomatoes, drained
½ pound farfalle
2 oz. goat cheese
¼ cup grated Parmesan, plus more if needed

Start with the most time-consuming part of the recipe – rinse the Swiss chard, drain it, remove it from the stems and chop it fine.  (I ended up just tearing it with my fingers because I found I worked faster that way.)  Heat a swirl of oil in a deep-ish skillet over medium heat.  (You want it deep because you have a lot of chard that takes up a lot of room before it wilts.) Add the onion and sauté until tender.  Chop your shallot.  Stir in the garlic, chopped shallot and tomatoes.   Stir to incorporate and to ensure there isn’t too much liquid from the tomatoes. Add the chard and cook for about 8 minutes, until the chard has wilted.  Heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the farfalle until al dente, according to the package suggestions.  Drain the pasta when done.   Dump the chard into a casserole dish (mine was a little smaller than a 9 x 13 dish) and stir in the goat cheese and half the Parmesan.  Fold in the farfalle and mix with the chard mixture.  Once incorporated, sprinkle the top of the casserole with Parmesan cheese and bake about 15 – 20 minutes until heated.  Serve with more Parmesan cheese if wanted.