Totoro cake and cooking adventures

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It’s only been a little over a month since my last post! I’d say that’s pretty good for me =)

I don’t know if this counts though since I’m not really going to post any recipes. But I had a bunch of pictures on my phone so I figured I’d post them.

The top picture is from my friend’s birthday. She loves Totoro, so I thought I’d try to make a Totoro cake. I’m really not very good at baking though so I was pretty nervous. I found this video and recipe so thought I’d give it a try but at the last minute I decided I didn’t want to attempt making the blueberry lemon cake, so I went with Funfetti instead. I mean, who doesn’t love Funfetti cake? I used plain buttercream for the stomach and eyes, the blueberry frosting recipe from the link for the rest of the body, and plain black frosting for the eyes and v’s on the stomach. I also had a couple friends help me with baking the cake, making the frosting, shaping the cake, and decorating the cake. So really I didn’t do a whole lot.

The bottom panel of pictures is from a cooking competition my church had between the family groups. Each group had to use chicken, kale, and strawberries to make an appetizer, entree, and dessert. Technically we only needed to use one of the ingredients in each course, but I thought a) it would be more interesting and b) our team would would get more creativity points if we used all three ingredients in all three courses.

Our group split into three team, one for each course. For the appetizer we made mini chicken tacos with shredded kale, cheese, and a strawberry salsa. For the entree we made Hmong stuffed chicken wings – that is, de-boned chicken wings stuffed with ground pork, rice vermicelli noodles, shredded carrots, onion, Hmong/Thai peppers, and kale (this was a substitute for cabbage), seasoned with salt, pepper, and oyster sauce. This was served over a bed of garlic/cilantro rice with a side of sweet and spicy Hmong pepper sauce (traditional Hmong pepper sauce (Hmong/Thai peppers, cilantro, green onions, fish sauce, lime) with pureed strawberries). And finally, for dessert we made chicken and buttermilk waffle cupcakes with strawberry cream cheese frosting topped with a popcorn chicken and maple glazed kale chip garnish. All in all I thought our team did a really good job with everything and even though we didn’t win the competition, we had a ton of fun cooking together.

Anyway, I don’t have much else to say. So I’ll end it with the rest of the random pictures from the cooking competition that I had on my phone.

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Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala

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I guess it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything. I’ve been cooking, but I guess usually nothing new. My church still has the general routine of playing sports (indoors at the university gym right now because it’s winter) and then having dinner. I think these days the average number of people is around 20-25, but it’s slowly been growing.

Last week there was a new high of 36 people. I reused this recipe but in taco form. 10 lbs of chuck roast, 5 lbs of chicken (as a side note, this recipe totally works for chicken too), and then when we realized there were going to be over 30 people, we went out and bought 3 lbs of ground turkey for regular tacos (seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic power and chili powder). We also easily demolished 10 avocados worth of guacamole.

One thing we learned was that slowcooker recipes prepped the night before are really good for these dinners. Keep in mind the part about prepping the night before is key. But I’ll get back to that later.

This week I was traveling for work. I went to RPI and Williams for recruiting. I was really scared that I was going to get stuck in Albany because of the blizzard, but I was very fortunate to get out in time. I don’t think I’ve ever been that happy to be home and in my own bed before.

On Saturday my brother and sister-in-law came to visit. My bf and I had brunch with them and another friend at Bassett Street Brunch Club. I really like their food, but I’m starting to think it’s not worth the 1 hour+ wait. I really should remember to go at night sometime since brunch is served all day. We also went to Babcock Hall to get cheese and ice cream, and later that night we cooked a great steak dinner.

So basically my Saturday night was really busy. Which means I didn’t have time to prep a slowcooker meal. I decided to do one anyway and use the “high” setting for the first time (supposedly halves the cooking time). This was a mistake.

I tried out this recipe for chicken tikka masala. Except that I multiplied everything by approximately 3 1/3 to provide for the large crowds. This was the fatal flaw. I generally overfill the slowcookers, but when I prep the night before I cook on low overnight (12+ hours when the recipe usually calls for 8-10). We were really rushed on time tonight, so we started the slowcookers at 5pm. I checked on it at 8pm and had a mini heart attack when I realized the meat was still mostly raw. We quickly moved it to 3 pots on the stove and boiled/simmered for 15-20 more minutes which seemed to do the trick.

Overall the recipe was really good – it was a little hot (cayenne pepper), creamy (greek yogurt + heavy cream), and all the different spices (paprika, cumin, garam masala, cinnamon) worked really well together.

Some changes I made:
1) I used chicken thighs instead of breasts because thighs don’t get as dried out.
2) I used ground ginger instead of minced fresh ginger because I really hate biting into chunks of ginger.

Otherwise I tried to follow the recipe fairly closely, but it was hard because I had to multiple everything by approximately 3 1/3, and everything was split unevenly between two slowcookers (one is much bigger than the other).

I would definitely recommend this recipe and I would definitely make it again.

A Different Slow Cooker Chicken Curry

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Almost a half a year later and I’m finally posting something new! It’s not that I haven’t been cooking, I just haven’t been documenting things.

Not really sure what to say… a lot has happened in the last six months, but nothing particularly that I feel the need to share in this blog.

I’ve been to many weddings lately. I went to my cousin’s wedding in California in April, a friend from Madison’s wedding in Milwaukee in June, a different friend from Madison’s wedding in Whitewater in July, and a friend from college and family friend’s wedding (to each other) this past weekend. Additionally, I have two other college friends’ wedding (to each other) in Bozeman (MT) in a few weeks and a high school friend’s wedding in Massachusetts in September. But I’m not certain I’m going to either of those two yet. Sooooo many weddings. They’ve all been really fun so far though.

This past week I took some time off from work and went home for about a week. It was nice to be home and see the family and catch up with old friends and eat really good Chinese food (xiaolongbao, dim sum, etc – stuff that doesn’t really exist in Madison!). I also went shopping with my mom and ended up with a leather jacket, a new dress, and a sweet pair of Converse. I also inherited my parents’ iPad (apparently they weren’t really utilizing it), that I am currently using to write this post.

Basically since moving to Wisconsin, my Sunday routine has become church, lunch, sports, then cooking dinner for most of the people at sports. The weather has been really nice lately. Normally I “play” basketball, frisbee, or tennis. And by “play” I mean I practice my shot (I finally learned how to shoot a basketball properly!), I toss a frisbee around, or I just hit a tennis ball around with people. I’ve decided that I hate competition, so I don’t really like to play games.

In terms of cooking, there are usually anywhere from 11-25 people who come by to eat. That means we usually end up making pasta because it’s the easiest thing to cook in bulk. Some of the other things we’ve done are lasagna (technically also pasta, but different because it’s harder to make), quesadillas, and kimchi fried rice. I’ve also gotten really into zucchini and asparagus. I never liked those vegetables as a kid, but recently I’ve found that I really like them. I did find out that my mom actually hates zucchini, which is probably why I never really gave it a chance either.

This week I finally decided that I should try a new recipe and actually take a picture so I could finally update this blog. This barely counts though because I didn’t actually do any of the food prep. Some friends got all the ingredients, chopped all the vegetables, and dumped it all in the slow cooker. I just watched and told them to add the coconut milk (my friend was not going to add it because he knows I don’t really like coconut milk. It’s true, but I find it tastes ok in curries). So I helped, right? Right.

I thought it came out quite well. A couple comments I would make:
1) We ended up leaving out the cayenne pepper and the peas. I would add those both back in. We left out the cayenne pepper because a fair number of our friends can’t eat spicy food and we left out the peas because there wasn’t room in the slow cooker. I think the curry would have been quite good with those ingredients added in.

2) We were rushed on time so we cooked it on high for a little less than 4 hours. This caused the sweet potatoes to be a little hard. If I try this recipe again I will make sure to leave enough time so that I can cook it on low for 8-10 hours.

I’m feeling too lazy to re-type the ingredients/steps, so I’m just going to put a link to The Lemon Bowl. We ended up tripling the recipe I think.

Hopefully I’ll be better about updating in the future, but I make no promises.

Slow Cooker Chicken Curry

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I love soups and stews. Back when I was a kid my parents had a fun little theory that the reason I liked soup so much was that I was too lazy to chew. I think it’s actually a combination of two things: I’m generally cold, and my jaw comes out its socket kind of easily so yawning or eating hard/chewy things cause it to click and hurt a little bit. So I guess my parents were not completely wrong.

And I suppose they’re not all wrong about me being lazy either. Today I attempted to make Golden Curry even easier than it already is. For those who aren’t familiar with Golden Curry, it’s one of the easiest dishes to make. All you have to do is cook meat and vegetables, then add the block(s) of curry and water, mix, and you’re done! Easy, right?

But tonight I attempted (and succeeded) in making Golden Curry even easier. And it was all made possible by my trusty … wait for it… SLOW COOKER! I’ve probably said it a thousand times, but I’ll say it again: I LOVE my slow cooker. I can just do all my prep the night before, dump everything in the slow cooker before work, and hot, delicious food is ready when I get home!

This curry was sooo good. Of course the fact that I was fasting today may have played a part in that. Haha. My church has a retreat coming up this weekend and a bunch of us were fasting today in preparation. Personally I think I need to prepare myself for playing drums for the praise band. I love playing the drums, but I have a hard time not being super self conscious about how I sound. I know I shouldn’t be thinking about that and that I need to ask God to give me the right attitude and the right heart. I also think I need to spend more alone time with God… which is hard when trying to balance work, volunteering, church stuff and socializing. Hm…

At any rate, I’ll be playing this weekend and I don’t think I’ll have adequate time to practice. Gotta have faith that God can work despite that.

Agh, so much for going to bed early today. Ok. The recipe. It was really good. It needed something green (for the picture… maybe peppers or peas). Can probably feed approximately 3-4 people, but I would suggest adding another chicken breast.

Ingredients
1 chicken breast, cut into bite-size pieces
3 carrots, chopped into 1″ pieces
1/2 onion, sliced coarsely
1 large potato, cut into chunks (not too small)
2 cups water
1/2 8.4oz box Golden Curry mix

Put all ingredients in the slow cooker. Cook on low for 8-10 hours. Serve hot on white rice.

Slow Cooker Chicken Tacos

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Weekends always go by way too fast. I can’t believe it’s Saturday night already. I’m lying in bed listening to the wind outside… and I’m very grateful that I’m inside right now.

Today we had “ladies night” which consisted of a bunch of the women from my church getting together to have dinner and play some games. I know I said in my last post that I hate games, and that’s still for the most part true, but the games we played were not particularly competitive and didn’t require a ton of brain power.

One of the games we played was called Imaginiff which involved answering questions about the other players like “imaginiff was a joke. What kind of joke would he/she be?” One of the questions that come up for me was “Imaginiff I was a character from Winnie the Pooh. Which one would I be?” Top two answers were Eeyore and Tigger. Does that make me somewhat manic depressive? Either sad and depressed or bouncy and happy? Hm, fascinating.

Anyhow, the menu for the night included slow cooker shredded chicken tacos, chips with homemade guacamole, and “chipwiches”. I’m not going to post a recipe for the chipwiches because all they were were chocolate chip cookies (using the recipe from the back of the bag) with vanilla ice cream in the middle.

The tacos involved an incredibly easy mexican rice recipe and an even easier slow cooker chicken recipe (only three ingredients. Three!). Put ’em in a tortilla with some lettuce, cheese, salsa, and guacamole and you’re good to go!

Rice recipe from Allrecipes.com
Chicken recipe from Iowa Girl Eats

Ingredients
For the rice:
2 cups uncooked long grain rice
1/2 onion, diced
28 oz diced tomatoes with liquid
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon cumin
oil

For the chicken:
6 chicken breasts
1 jar (11 oz) salsa
1 packet of taco seasoning

In a frying pan, heat oil and saute onions with cumin. In the bowl of a rice cooker mix all the ingredients. When the rice cooker goes from cook to keep warm, uncover and mix to allow the rice to dry out a little bit.

In the bowl of a slow cooker, pour half the jar of salsa. Place the chicken on top of that. Sprinkle with taco seasoning. Top with the rest of the salsa. Cook on low for 8-10 hours or on high for 2-4 hours.

And that’s it. So super easy!

Sweet and Spicy Chicken

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A guest post!

I haven’t really cooked anything new in a while. I’ve been cooking some, but have been sticking with old favorites like fried rice and broccoli. I guess I’ve been mildly busy since coming back to Madison… although I’m not sure exactly what I’ve been up to for the last two weeks.

Let’s see… I guess I’ve been very social lately. A while back bunch of us threw a birthday party for a friend. It was a small, chill gathering of people with pizza, wine and ice cream cake! And… last Friday I had some co-worker friends over for dinner. On Saturday some of us went skating, then got bubble tea/coffee (I’m really not a huge fan of bubble tea. Kind of an asian fail I suppose). Sunday went to watch the Pats-Texans game but most people just went to play games… I think I’m the only person who remotely cared about that game. Tuesday I had dinner with a couple of friends (bulgogi!), Wednesday my family group came over for games and stuff, and today a friend came and cooked this sweet and spicy chicken! I think I’m a little socially exhausted… and yet I have a lot of other social things coming up… hmm.

One thing I’ve really decided is that I don’t really do so well at being around large groups of people… In all the things that I did over the past couple of weeks, the ones I enjoyed the most involved fewer than 7 people and the activities were eating and talking (and maybe a little skating). Things I don’t really enjoy are large groups and games. I really don’t like games… which is kind of unfortunate because it seems like all my friends here love games. Hm. But yeah, my ideal night involves cooking/eating and then just chilling and talking with friends.

Well. Enough of my rambling about all the socializing I’ve been doing over the past couple of weeks. Tonight, the recipe I’m posting is from my guest, Angela!

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Her recipe for sweet and spicy chicken was extremely simple and surprisingly delicious! Not to say that I doubted her cooking skills, but rather I’m usually not a fan of the sweet/salty (or spicy) combo, so I was pretty skeptical of this recipe when she told me it involved salsa and peach/apricot preserves. But I was very pleasantly surprised! And as Angela says, it’s college-student friendly! Too bad I didn’t know about this when I was in college.

I’m pretty sleepy so I’m going to wrap up, but thanks to Angela for this awesome recipe!

Ingredients
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast
3 Tbsp taco seasoning (see below for make-your-own taco seasoning)
1-2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 jar (11 oz) salsa
1/2 cup peach preserves (or apricot jam)

Taco Seasoning Ingredients
2 2/3 tsp chili powder
1 1/3 tsp salt
1 1/3 tsp cumin
1/3 garlic powder
1 1/3 flour

Cut chicken into 1/2″ cubes. In a plastic bag, coat chicken with taco seasoning.
In a frying pan, brown chicken in oil.
Combine salsa & preserves and stir into skillet.
Bring to a boil then reduce heat, cover, and simmer 2-3 minutes.
Serve over rice.

Kid’s Meal All Grown Up

I love the movie Despicable Me. It’s not artsy or sophisticated in any way, but it makes me laugh. A lot. So whenever I find out that one of my friends hasn’t seen it, I make them watch it. And somehow I never get tired of it. I mean, it’s just cuteness overload.

I guess the movie brings out the little kid in me. When I found out that a couple friends hadn’t seen it yet, naturally I had to make them watch it. So I was planning a menu for the night and I started thinking about kid food. When I think “kid’s meal” the first thing I think about is chicken nuggets, fries, and corn. It was a reoccurring meal throughout elementary, middle and high school (until I started going off campus for lunch). And then in college one of the dining halls had kid’s night once a week, which consisted of all those foods too.

And then I had an idea. (Or as Gru would say, lightbuuulb!) I decided to recreate this classic kid’s meal, but with a twist of sophistication. Homemade chicken nuggets instead of the typical frozen ones, sweet potato fries instead of boring, normal french fries, and avocado, corn and black bean salad instead of plain old canned corn.

It took a long time, but everything turned out really well! I’m hesitant to post recipes because I didn’t really measure anything. When seasoning things I just freehand everything. So I’m just going to put ingredients and preparation steps. Sorry for those of you who need measurements.

Sweet potato fry recipe adapted from The Food Network
Salad recipe adapted from Center Cut Cook

Ingredients for chicken nuggets
Boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-1.5 inch pieces
Flour
Eggs
Garlic powder
Salt
Pepper
Chili powder
Panko
Oil

Season chicken with oil, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and chili powder.

In a bowl, beat a couple eggs. On a plate, mix flour, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. On a separate plate, pour out the panko.

For each piece of chicken, dredge in the flour mixture, dip in the egg, and then roll in the panko.

At this point you can choose to be “healthy” and bake the chicken at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Note: if you use this method, the nuggets might be a little pale.

Or, you can choose to be carefree and deliciously unhealthy and fry those suckers. That’s always my preference! 🙂

For the sweet potato fries, I used all the same ingredients from Paula Deen’s recipe, but I didn’t measure them. I’m sure if you follow the measurements from the link, they’ll turn out great.

For the salad, I more than doubled the avocado (I LOVE avocado). I used five avocados, two packs of tomatoes, two cans of corn, and one can of beans. I skipped the cilantro (I’m not a huge fan of cilantro), and only used one lime. Instead of red wine vinegar I used apple cider vinegar (that’s all we had), and I didn’t measure how much vinegar, olive oil, salt or pepper I used. But it’s really simple. I just mixed everything together in a big bowl and chilled it in the fridge until everything else was ready.

It was a really great Sunday night, although sadly it caused me to fail to get to bed at a decent hour in order to start my Monday off well. Oops. In other news, I’m super duper excited to go home in five days! Ok, that’s all I have for now.

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