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Strawberries and Cream Butter Cake

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There is no wrong time for cake. It can be 3pm on a Thursday in June, and it’s still the right time for cake. It’s too bad that we always associate eating cake with birthdays, Easter, or other holidays, because I am convinced that we all need more cake in our diets. What’s that you say, that’s a calorie bomb? Nonsense.

Ever since I started working at a restaurant in Galveston, I’ve come to the conclusion that eating a piece of cake only on holidays is a sin. Once a week I get a piece of cake from our bakery case, perhaps a slightly ugly one that the frosting has melted off, or the layers have broken. I dwell in its deliciousness and wonder, why don’t I eat cake more often? What on earth has had me eating cake only on my birthday for nineteen years?!

I have vowed to now eat cake more often. Even if this means I have to run a few more miles than I’d prefer. Because after running in the scorching 104 degree Texas heat, crawling to my front door gasping for water, I’ll reach the fridge and jerk it open only to find a beautiful strawberry and cream cake. I’ll hear the singing of angels and no longer will it matter that yet another pickup truck nearly ran me over today. Three in the afternoon on a Thursday I’ll cut myself a slice, but first I’ll probably take a nap on my laminate floor.

I love strawberries- in fact, for a long time it was the only fruit I would eat. So when I went to the grocery store and found two pounds of beautiful, red strawberries, I couldn’t help but imagine putting them into a cake. Even better, a cake covered in cool, homemade whipped cream for the hot summer month.

The problem? I was having a hard time making time between my work schedule to bake, so my strawberries sat in the fridge for a few days. Freaking out was a bit of an understatement. I’ve had horrible experience with strawberries going bad several days after purchasing them, so if I wasn’t checking the fridge every two hours, I was either calling my mother, asking a friend, or googling the life expectancy of strawberries or how to make them last just a few days more. Thankfully, every single berry was just fine.

This cake is delicious, perfect after spending an afternoon in the sun. Not super dense, but springy and moist, covered in pillows of whipped cream and sweet strawberries. The gelatin keeps the cream from separating, which keeps your cake beautiful for several days. Not that there’s anything wrong with ugly cakes, because in the end, they always taste great. (And healthy for you, I mean, it has strawberries! And strawberries = fruit! And fruit = healthy!) So Happy Thursday, and go on and grab another slice.

Adapted from The Sweet Life

For the Cake

Unsalted butter, for greasing
All-purpose flour, for dusting
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup + 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs plus 2 large egg yolks
½ cup whole milk

Preheat oven to 350° F. Using a small pastry brush, butter bottom and sides of a 8-inch round cake tin. Line bottom of tin with non-stick baking paper; butter paper and then flour bottom and sides of tin.
Using a fine mesh sieve, sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a medium-sized bowl. Whisk to well combine, set aside.
In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugar and vanilla on high speed until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs and yolks, one-at-a-time, beating well after each addition.
Reduce the stand mixer speed to low, add the flour mixture in thirds, alternating with the milk in 2 additions, beginning with the flour and ending with the flour; beat until just combined (do not over-mix).
Pour batter into prepared cake tin. Using a small offset spatula spread the batter evenly.
Bake, rotating tin halfway through baking, until a cake tester inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes.
Transfer to a wire rack; let cool in tin for 10 minutes. Remove cake from tin and return to wire rack to cool completely.

Strawberry Cream Topping

1¼ pounds or 20 ounces fresh strawberries, hulled and thinly sliced
½ cup sugar, divided
1½ cups heavy cream, 35%, cold
1 teaspoon unflavoured gelatin

In a medium-sized bowl, stir together the strawberries and ¼-cup sugar; set aside.
Place two tablespoons cold water into a small-sized saucepan and sprinkle with gelatin; let soften 5 minutes. Place saucepan over low heat, and stir until the gelatin is dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool.
In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment, whisk the heavy cream and the remaining ¼-cup sugar until very soft peaks form.
Continue to whisk, and gradually add the gelatin mixture; beat until soft peaks form.

Assembling the Cake

Using a serrated knife, cut cake in half horizontally.
Place bottom half, cut side up, on a cake stand or plate.
Drizzle the juice from the berries onto the cake.
Evenly arrange half of the strawberries over the bottom cake layer. Refrigerate the remaining berries.
Top the strawberry layer with half of the whipped cream, leaving a 1-inch border.
Place the top half of the cake, cut side down, onto the layer of strawberries and cream.
Top the cake with the remaining whipped cream, leaving a 1-inch border.
Refrigerate the cake, at least 1 hour (preferably up to 1 day).
Just before serving top the cake with the remaining chilled strawberries.
Enjoy!

Biscuits and Sausage Gravy

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I have a problem. An addiction, actually. When I moved down to Texas I found gold in the form of biscuits smothered in thick, creamy, white sausage gravy. Next thing I knew I was waking up early in the morning to walk over to the cafeteria, sleepy and still in my pajamas. I’d grab a worn down plate, place my biscuits and gravy carefully as to get the perfect ratio of bread to sauce, and sit in hard, brightly colored booths alone. Happily, would eat my gold slowly, perhaps studying for an exam or just people watching. Near the end of the year I did this nearly every day.

Perhaps the reason I gained some of my freshman 15.

I think I became known for my addiction, my excitement was always extremely noticeable whenever there were biscuits and gravy served. I would not be surprised if my sadness was also noted when there was, in fact, no biscuits and gravy. A friend of mine even put in a request to the cafeteria to serve more biscuits for breakfast. My little college life became a routine, and needless to say breakfast was on the beginning of this list.

A few weeks after my freshman year of college let out, I found myself really missing the alone time I had early in the mornings. I missed watching the corps march around, the studiers, the early risers. I missed watching the people who were clearly uncomfortable with sitting alone (something I think people should all try, it’s actually pretty relaxing), and seeing friends walk in on occasion. But obviously, most of all, I missed biscuits and gravy. I craved it, it was all I could think about at times. I’d spend time searching up recipes, whether or not to add sausage to my gravy, how to get the fluffiest and prettiest biscuits. Should I use regular whole milk, or go out on a limb and use buttermilk. These sadly, are the thoughts that ran through my head.

I wasn’t lying, I’m addicted. Madly, utterly addicted.

I finally got around to making my own gold before work one morning. I played music in the kitchen as I baked up my buttermilk biscuits and stirred up my roux for the gravy. Plated up my food, took some pictures, and ate. And I was happy. My biscuits were a bit flat due to the fact that I eyeball measured everything, because at the time I had no measuring cups or spoons. So today I bought some pretty, deep red measuring spoons at Target. I get excited over cooking supplies. And biscuits. This is sad, I need help.

My addiction has been quieted for now, but I give myself two weeks until I start craving it again.

Also, just as a note for the recipe, the biscuit dough is very wet, I’d strongly suggest using floured hands, make a ball out of the dough then plop it into a shallow dish with flour. Cover the dough ball with flour, then take it in your hands and pat off the extra. Place in the baking dish and repeat until full/dough is used up.


Biscuits and Sausage Gravy
via Taste and Tell Blog

Buttermilk Biscuits

makes 12 biscuits
total time: about 25 minutes

  • 2 C flour
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 4 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 C buttermilk
  • Additional flour
  • 2 Tbsp melted butter

Preheat oven to 500ºF. Spray a 9 in springform or cake pan with some nonstick spray.
Add flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and salt to a bowl and mix the ingredients together evenly. Using a fork or pastry blender, cut in the butter until the pieces are no bigger than a small pea. Fold in the buttermilk until everything is just blended, and there are no streaks of flour remain. Do not overmix, the mixture should still be lumpy.
Line a plate or tray with some flour and using a 1/4 C measuring cup or 1/4 C ice cream/cookie scoop, scoop out balls of the dough onto the tray of flour. Flour your hands and roll each ball around in the flour to evenly coat them in a layer of flour. The dough is very wet and very sticky. Place the dough balls into the prepared pan. Place 9 balls around in a ring and 3 balls in the center of the pan. Brush the tops of the biscuits with melted butter.
Bake for 5 minutes at 500ºF (middle rack) and then lower the temperature to 450ºF and bake for another 15 minutes.

Sausage Gravy

total time: about 15 minutes

  • 1 16 oz. tube of pork sausage
  • Additional fat if needed: bacon grease or butter
  • 4 Tbsp flour
  • 3 C milk
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Heat 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil to a cast iron skillet or large saucepan over medium high heat. Add the sausage and break it up into bite size chunks, but don’t break it up too much, you want nice cocoa puff sized chunks. Brown the sausage and get some fond on your pan.
Turn the heat down to medium. Remove the sausage and drain, reserving the fat. Return about 3 to 4 tablespoons of the rendered sausage fat into the pan. If you don’t have enough fat, add a little bacon grease or butter to bring it up. Add the flour and cook while whisking until the roux is golden brown. Keep stirring and slowly pour in your milk, making sure to whisk out all the lumps. If it looks too thin, don’t worry, it’ll thicken once it simmers. If you like your gravy super thick, use less milk (2 or 2 1/2 cups). Once you added all the milk, return the sausage back to the skillet, and season with salt and plenty of freshly ground pepper. Simmer the gravy until it’s thickened and serve it over your split biscuits.

Festive Meringues with Chocolate Ganache

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Right now, at this very moment, would best describe my average day on campus. Sitting at my desk as the sun lowers into the ocean in hues of yellows and purples, piling textbooks on my right as my exams draw closer, bon appetit magazines mocking me on my left, as I sift through foodgawker dreaming of the days I will one day rid myself of horrible cafeteria food. Soft music pulses through the thin dorm walls as hallmates enter in and out of their dorms, anxiously chatting with one another about the events of their college lives.

The once-a-semester game of Humans vs Zombies has begun here, where kids with nerf guns run around marked with silk yellow ribbons around their arms shooting (or becoming) zombies- whom are other infected students. The Original Zombie, an unmarked player who just so happens to be a philosophy professor who is blessed with incredible speed, started the infection today. Nothing is more entertaining then watching people get chased around campus. It’s even better when the human running for their life drops all their books and sprints across campus.

Along with zombie hunting we have miles of beach, and whereas locals don’t think too highly of it, to me- it’s still very much a beach. The sandy shore seems to go on for eternity as the warm gulf waters crashes in a timely matter into the shore. The coast is dotted with both touristy restaurants and hole in the wall joints, group bikes are always being rented out on the weekend. It isn’t uncommon to see students dressed in their bathing suits, surfboard or fishing gear in tow, heading for a lazy day in the sun. If the constant pounding of lecture exams and lab practicals didn’t exist, every day here would be a vacation.

I love college. It may be cliche to say, but it really is an amazing difference with the freedom. I love meeting new people, the traditions, even the stress of tests and the relief you feel when you make an A. I can’t wait for the years to pass as I get deeper into my major and pick my classes towards what I’m interested in, not the generic have-to-takes that we are given in our first years. However I even find our basic biology, calculus, and history classes interesting to a degree, although I’m still craving future genetic courses, equine management and anything dealing with my hopeful future. It’s exciting, it’s terrifying, stressful and a whole lot of fun- that I don’t want it to end.

I made these little meringue cookies forever ago while I was on my winter vacation from school. I was absolutely terrified to make them, but as I whipped up the eggs and sugar and began piping them, I was relieved to realize just how easy they were to put together, even if you’re like me and used the wrong piping tip! The best part about these guys (other than the ganache, yum!) is the priceless look on peoples’ faces as they eat them. You’d never expect the small sandwiches to melt in your mouth with such a creamy, luxurious texture. And too be honest, you really can’t eat just one.

Festive Meringues with Chocolate Ganache

Recipe found at Martha Stewart

Ingredients

  • 3 large egg whites
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure peppermint extract (I personally did not add this, as I’m not a fan of peppermint extract)
  • Red gel-paste food coloring
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 6 ounces good-quality semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 175 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper; secure corners with masking tape. Fit a pastry bag with a small open-star tip (such as Ateco #22). Set aside.
  2. Make meringues: Put egg whites and sugar in the heatproof bowl of an electric mixer. Set bowl over a pan of simmering water, and stir gently until sugar has dissolved and mixture is warm to the touch, 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Transfer bowl to an electric mixer fitted with the whisk
    attachment. Mix on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form. Mix in peppermint extract.
  4. Using a new small paintbrush, paint 2 or 3 stripes of red food coloring inside the pastry bag. Fill bag with 1 to 2 cups meringue. Pipe small (3/4-inch-high) star shapes onto prepared baking sheets. Refill bag as necessary, adding food coloring each time.
  5. Bake cookies until crisp but not brown, about 1 hour 40 minutes. Let cool completely on sheets on wire racks.
  6. Meanwhile, make ganache: Heat cream in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until just simmering. Pour over chocolate in a small bowl. Let stand 5 minutes. Gently stir until smooth, about 5 minutes. Let ganache cool at room temperature, stirring every 5 to 10 minutes, until thick enough to hold its shape, about 45 minutes. (If ganache sets
    before using, reheat in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water; repeat the cooling process.)
  7. Before serving or mailing, fill a pastry bag fitted with a small plain round tip (such as Ateco #5) with ganache. Pipe a small amount onto bottom of 1 meringue. Sandwich with another. Repeat with remaining ganache and meringues. Transfer to wire racks; let set 30 minutes.

Double Chocolate Chip Cookies with Peppermint Kisses

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Coming home was like slipping back into an old routine. All the Christmas decorations were in their similar places, my brother still sitting in the brown recliner, the family room rug was still slightly crooked from the dog jumping on top of it, and said dog still followed me around the house. Several days went on and my brother still owned the remote and I still vacuumed dog hair.

But I didn’t mind it at all. It was almost as if the past four months of being away in Texas never existed. Seeing family and friends. Always being asked the same question- “How’s college?”, but never getting sick of answering it. I loved being able to sit on the couch watching Food Network and not having to worry about the Chemistry exam on Wednesday or whether or not I would get over the third cold I’d caught in two months. I easily went back into the routine of taking care of my dog, driving in the snow, and complaining about the cold.

My comfort of being back home got me thinking of whether or not deciding to go to college in Texas was a good idea- if I should have stayed in Michigan all along.

It’s easy to begin missing things you took advantage of for years without a second thought. My Mom’s hugs being one of them, warm and comforting. Strangely I craved Coney Island, such simple food, but nearly non-existent in Texas. Actually, they don’t exist- at least not a good one. The ones in Texas are overly colorful, order at the counter service with strange characters who work there, serving crappy hot dogs that don’t deserve to be called coneys.

I began wondering if I had made the wrong choice to move to Texas. I missed my friends, and seeing my family on every holiday and birthday. I missed my dog keeping my feet warm. Dwelling on the idea made it worse, I began dreading the day I’d have to leave. But I soon then began to realize how nice it was to get away from the same people I had known most of my life, the new people I had met and the experiences one could never get outside of Texas. I began to think into the future of my major and the amazing classes offered at my school and I realized just how excited and happy I was to be at my dream school.

By no means do I want my vacation to go any quicker, but I no longer am completely bummed about going back. While I’m not looking forward to exams and stress, I’m still excited for the little things that occur in college that keep amazing me every day.

The first thing I made when I came home were these cookies. When I saw them I couldn’t get over how cute they were, the little kisses striped in the center just screamed Christmas. However, be warned, the cookie batter in this recipe is extremely thick. When I began mixing in the dry mixture, my very old electric mixture began to slow down in resistance. Urging it along, I began to scrape down the sides in hopes that my helping of mixing it while continuously turning the bowl. (my biggest pet peeve of the mixer, shouldn’t it be able to do that itself?!) I was so into the idea that my already old piece of machinery was slowing down that I accidentally let my spatula slip, only for it to get sucked into the churning beaters. My father just stared at me as I yelled at the electric mixer and watched as it tried to swallow my spatula. Somehow, my spatula survived and my batter mixed together perfectly, cookies came out beautifully and nothing burned.

A good first day back in the kitchen? I think so.

Double Chocolate Chip Cookies with Peppermint Kisses
adapted from Our Best Bites

1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 1/2 c. flour, lightly spooned into measuring cups and leveled with a knife
1/4 c. + 2 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 c. semisweet chocolate chips
48 Hershey’s Candy Cane Kisses, unwrapped

Preheat oven to 350.

Cream together softened butter, shortening, brown sugar, and white sugar for 1-2 minutes on medium-high speed or until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla. Meanwhile, combine the baking powder, baking soda, salt, flour, and cocoa powder. Add to the butter/sugar mixture and mix until combined. Mix in the chocolate chips.

Drop the dough by the tablespoonful onto an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until the centers are set but still soft. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 1-2 minutes. Top each cookie with an unwrapped Candy Cane Kiss. Allow to cool completely, long enough for the Kiss to harden. If necessary, after the cookies have cooled, they can be placed in the refrigerator or freezer to re-solidify the Kiss.

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

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There’s something about the smell of pumpkin that just screams autumn. The warm mix of spices and pale orange color seems to always bring me back to when I was younger and went to my grandmother’s house for Thanksgiving, passing around beets, mashed potatoes, kielbasa and my Aunt Carol’s pumpkin roll. We sat around three tables lined up, laughing and eating. Hearts warm and bellies full, a few adults would nod off one by one and us children would contemplate our Christmas lists for the upcoming month.

As I got older, I spent less time worrying about what I’d get for Christmas and more time enjoying the gifts the season brought me- warm doughnuts from the cider mill, bundling up in sweatshirts to go apple picking, bringing in firewood for the fireplace, and the brilliant colors of the leaves as they changed. I miss the golden yellows, rich oranges, and reds ranging from bright scarlet to crimson. I miss Michigan.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Texas. I love the people, I love their pride for Texas, and their unconditional love for it. I love their kindness, the hospitality. I love my college’s traditions, the sense of family I get every time I attend a football game. I can see myself living here for years to come. But deciding to attend college here has done a complete flip on what I’m use to. I doubt I can remember what a pine tree looks like, and I’m sure chipmunks are extinct. I’ve eaten more mexican and seafood this past month than I have in several months back home. Real cowboys exist, and the weather seems to remain a constant, comfortable temperature. However, being the oddball northerner I am, I wear shorts and a tank top on this “brisk” 78 degree day, whereas my fellow college students wear jeans and sweatshirts. I love Texas so much, but I can’t help but miss what I grew up on.

Last weekend I visited my father and decided to celebrate the month of October with pumpkin cupcakes. Ever since the end of September I’ve been so excited for all things autumn and Halloween- pumpkin pie being top on this list. However, without the changing colors of leaves or dropping of temperatures to remind me that it is, in fact, autumn, pumpkin cupcakes seemed like the perfect fix to my minor homesickness. And they really did satisfy. Subtly spicy and extremely moist cake, creamy frosting that isn’t overly sugary, they brought me back to every Thanksgiving spent with my family. Just what I need after spending my days in the dorms and library, studying for midterms.

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
From Brown Eyed Baker

I cut the recipe in half to make approx. 18 cupcakes, but this recipe is the full which makes around 32. And let me tell you, 32 would be plenty fine with me! They’re so delicious!

Ingredients

Cupcakes:
4 cups cake flour (not self-rising), sifted
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 Tablespoon + 1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 Tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2½ cups packed light-brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1½ cups canned pumpkin (not pie filling)

Cream Cheese Frosting:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
12 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 pound (4 cups) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract

To Make the Cupcakes:

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices.

2. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream butter and brown sugar until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of buttermilk, and beating until just combined. Add pumpkin; beat until just combined.

3. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until golden brown, 15 to 18 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool 10 minutes; turn out cupcakes onto racks and let cool completely. Cupcakes can be refrigerated up to 3 days in airtight containers.

4. To finish, use an offset spatula or a pastry bag fitted with a decorated tip to top the cupcakes with cream cheese frosting.

To Make the Frosting:

With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter and cream cheese until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low. Add sugar, ½ cup at a time, and then vanilla, and mix until smooth and combined, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.

If not using immediately, frosting can be refrigerated up to 3 days in an airtight container; before using, bring to room temperature, and beat on low speed until smooth again.

Chicken Parmesan

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I absolutely love the difference between foods in the north and south. When I visit my father, I’m able to dive into a breakfast of biscuits and sausage gravy, something that I have found the northerners just can’t make as well. In Michigan, I can go down the road for killer Chinese food, a place that I will really miss when I’m in college. Being down in Texas for college orientation has turned me into a huge seafood lover, something I completely avoided while up north. Cajun food down south is brilliant, and addicting- I find myself craving court-bouillon from time to time. And of course, Mexican food is made right.

Of course, I’ll miss the Coney Islands abundantly scattered across Michigan, and the really good little Italian restaurants. One thing I was told while down in Texas was that Italian food is nothing like it is up in Michigan. There just aren’t very many little places that cook authentic Italian, which means I’ll probably end up getting it somewhere that also serves tacos. (I mean, come on, even the Dairy Queens have the option of ordering a taco.)

After orientation at college, I had a few days left to spare with my Dad, Aunt, and Uncle. I wanted to cook dinner for them at least once, especially for my Dad, who lives off of frozen dinners. We ended up having to buy close to everything ingredient wise, since neither my father nor my Aunt really cook. My Aunt even resorted to stealing a sugar packet off of a restaurant table.

This recipe is one of my favorites for chicken parmesan. I don’t know if it’s the mounds of mozzarella cheese or the kalamata olives that add a spicy kick to the sauce and chicken that I enjoy more. It helps to prepare everything ahead of time before throwing it into a hot saute pan, because time does get away from you easily with this recipe. I forgot about that, and ended up sputtering around the kitchen trying to put things together. Although it took me a bit longer than usual, they were kind enough to let me take a few shots in the dining room. I walked back into the kitchen/living room space to put my camera away, and when we returned with plated food, I found my plate- the one I had previously photographed- chickenless. Turns out my Aunt’s dog decided he wanted a try and was tearing apart the piece of chicken half his size. At least I know the dog really enjoyed it!

Chicken Parmesan
From Tyler Florence of Tyler’s Ultimate on Food Network

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus 3 tablespoons
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted
  • 1/2 bunch fresh basil leaves
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans whole peeled tomatoes, drained and hand-crushed
  • Pinch sugar
  • Pinch red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 skinless, boneless, chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 cup dried plain bread crumbs
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 (8-ounce) ball fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
  • 1 pound spaghetti pasta, cooked al dente

Directions
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Coat a saute pan with olive oil and place over medium heat. When the oil gets hazy, add the onions, garlic, and bay leaves; cook and stir for 5 minutes until fragrant and soft. Add the olives and some hand-torn basil, reserve the rest of the basil for finishing the chicken. Carefully add the tomatoes (nothing splashes like tomatoes), cook and stir until the liquid is cooked down and the sauce is thick, about 15 minutes; season with sugar, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Lower the heat, cover, and keep warm.

Get the ingredients together for the chicken so you have a little assembly line. Put the flour in a shallow platter and season with a fair amount of salt and pepper; mix with a fork to distribute evenly. In a wide bowl, combine the eggs and water, beat until frothy. Put the bread crumbs on a plate, add the 1 cup parmesan, chopped parsley, and garlic powder Season with salt and pepper and stir with a fork until thoroughly combined.

Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high flame in a large oven-proof skillet. Lightly dredge both sides of the chicken cutlets in the seasoned flour, and then dip them in the egg wash to coat completely, letting the excess drip off, then dredge in the bread crumbs. When the oil is nice and hot, add the cutlets and fry for 4 minutes on each side until golden and crusty, turning once.

Ladle the tomato-olive sauce over the chicken and arrange the mozzarella on top. Sprinkle with Parmesan, and remaining basil. Bake for 15 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly. Serve hot with spaghetti.

Beautiful ocean, one of many places to walk to from campus!

Chive, Cheddar, and Cayenne Biscuits

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Deep in the jungle that is my recipe box lives a piece of paper so tattered and stained, it’s an eyesore to anyone who sees it. Vegetable oil is splattered across the face of the text, with two giant splotches over the recipe title. The paper itself is slightly tanned and heavily creased from continuous folding. To some this may be a paper that needs to be thrown away asap. But to others it’s a sign of a really, really darn good biscuit recipe.

These biscuits cause symptoms such as attacking the plate, stealing another biscuit while simultaneously shoving one into your mouth, hiding extras strategically behind the ketchup bottle, or finding yourself strangely sad when you hear your brother ate the last leftover. Generally you will find yourself craving for them randomly. Simply put, I love these biscuits. Sometimes I wonder what my life would have been like if this ugly piece of paper never entered my life. I’d probably be eating Bisquick biscuits, which aren’t bad, but when I think of Bisquick I think of pancakes.

My backyard has chives growing in the back like weeds. It’s been there since I was a little girl, a  patch rising up out of the dirt, with dew that always seems to be sprinkle over it. When I was younger my brother and I use to enjoy tricking the other neighborhood kids into thinking we were eating grass. I felt so clever, chomping into the delicately flavored onion to the horror and disgust of the kids who thought I must be part cow.

I no longer trick younger kids into thinking I’m eating grass, but instead have found to enjoy its existence in my backyard. The chives bring a nice, calm background note into the biscuits, and the cayenne brings a subtle kick to a generally simple biscuit. Whether you dress them up or just eat them plain, I am not kidding you, these biscuits are amazing.

Let me just say that several more times for emphasis.
Amazing. Amazing. Amazing.

Chive, Cheddar, and Cayenne Drop-Biscuits
Adapted from a recipe from my ninth grade cooking class
Makes around 9 biscuits

  • 2 cups flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 3/4 cup sharp cheddar, shredded
  • a handful of chives, chopped
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil

Sift the flour, baking powder, salt, and cayenne into a large bowl. Combine the cheddar and chives with the dry mixture. Pour the milk and vegetable oil over the dry mixture, then stir until just combined.

Spoon onto a baking sheet. Bake at 475 degrees for 11-13 minutes.