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6.21.2016

Coconut Sticky Rice with Mango


  I'd forgotten how much I like the process of things.  Things meaning food, and the making thereof.  I feel like coming out of school I was a directionless, lifeless mess that needed a solid month of detox.  Finals and life happenings whooped me real good.

  This meant that my kitchen suffered a little bit.  I had just dropped a solid amount of money on a new computer, I was spending a couple of weeks working 2 jobs while I was working on putting in my two weeks as a barista, and then I spent a lot of time stressing out over how on earth I was going to make a living off of tips by shoving burgers at people's faces.  Also, do I know where or whom I'll be living with once my lease ends in August?  Nope.  Sure don't.

  I'm figuring it out.


  But all that crud aside, this is my mental health summer.  Even though I'm working 6 days a week my schedule is still fairly flexible, and Sundays are always my chill day.  And that's been hella nice.  Once my brain calmed down and I got back into a yoga routine, I started to relax a bit more.  I've been making time for friends and fam, but also learning to enjoy time by myself.



  And so I've gotten back into the process.  It started with a humble loaf of banana bread that I brought into work with me one night.  Servers and bartenders alike gobbled it up, and it made me remember how much I love making and sharing kitchen creations.  It also made me remember the summer I spent in Arizona, where I made a whole lot of creations but had very few people to share it with.  Backtracking to those days, sticky rice and mango came up.  I distinctly remember my aunt leaving the recipe out for me when she was at work, and being unemployed and bored, naturally I made it.


  If you recall, this dessert was not only delicious and perfect for a hot summer day, but it was also the icebreaker between me and and basically the only friend I made that summer, Francesco. Remembering all that was humbling, very humbling.  It also reawakened my creative spark.  Immediately I was off, hunting through Woodman's for the absolute perfect rice like a crazy lady.  And damn did it feel good to be back.


  So, by all means, wherever you are in your life this summer, make this rice.  Maybe take a heaping portion to your next door neighbor, even if he doesn't speak your language.  Maybe eat it for breakfast, cold and from the fridge, before you rush off to work.  I just can't tell you how therapeutic it is to wash rice, let the grains flow from your fingers, and then steam it.  This dessert is simple but it does take some time, so plan accordingly.

  I'm off to continue my summer meanderings, including but not limited to sunbathing, speaking broken Spanish thank you's to the kitchen staff and dishwasher for making tacos for the servers on slow Tuesday nights, nods of solidarity to fellow restaurant employees as we cross paths wheeling trash to the communal dumpsters, getting frustrated with bad tippers, wrestling with class schedules, creating fantastic inside jokes with new friends, etc.

  Take after this rice and soak up these lovely summer days while you can.


Coconut Sticky Rice with Mango
Yield: serves 6

Ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 cups glutinous (sweet) rice*
  • 1 1/3 cups well-stirred canned unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1/3 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted lightly (or shredded coconut is also delicious for a topping)
  • 1 large mango, peeled, pitted, and cut into thin slices (at least 24)
*Rice should be quite opaque, meaning it's not as translucent as other grains.  That being said, don't stress about it too much, any good white, short-grain rice will do in a pinch. The brand I used was Three Horses Sweet Thai Rice.

Directions:
In a medium bowl wash rice well in several changes of cold water until water is clear (Mine never got totally clear, but after about 8 washes there was a noticeable difference in the clarity.). Cover the rice in cold water and cover with plastic wrap, let soak overnight at room temperature.

Drain rice well in a fine mesh sieve (Alternatively, a colander and cheesecloth also works well.). Set sieve over a large deep saucepan of simmering water (sieve should not touch water) and steam rice, covered with a kitchen towel and a lid, 30 to 40 minutes, or until tender (check water level in pan occasionally, adding more water if necessary). 
While rice is cooking, in a small saucepan bring 1 cup coconut milk to a boil with 1/3 cup sugar and salt, stirring until sugar is dissolved, and remove from heat. Keep mixture warm.

Transfer cooked rice to a bowl and stir in coconut-milk mixture. Let rice stand, covered, 30 minutes, or until coconut-milk mixture is absorbed.  Rice may be prepared up to this point 2 hours ahead and kept covered at room temperature.

While rice is standing, in cleaned small pan slowly boil remaining 1/3 cup coconut milk with remaining 3 tablespoons sugar, stirring occasionally, 1 minute. Transfer sauce to a small bowl and chill until cool and thickened slightly.

To serve, mold 1/4 cup servings of sticky rice on dessert plates. Drizzle desserts with sauce and sprinkle with sesame seeds or coconut. Divide mango slices among plates.

Sources: Lightly adapted from epicurious.com


4.29.2016

Salted Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies


  I'm winding down fast, folks.  I love school, learning, and all that fun stuff--but the tail end of this semester is absolutely relentless with all of its decisions, expectations, and unpredictable happenings.  Caught in these situations, I tend to overeat and feel very numb.  Class notes are a thing of the past, and even scrolling through happy Pinterest things doesn't appeal to me.  I have projects on projects and I'm not doing anything.  Whoops.  Enter Spotted Cow and Gilmore Girls, and lots of sweet potato fries.

  But between these bouts I'm generally pretty productive.  Sunday night, for example, I spent on the 3rd floor of the library, and I mean literally cross-legged on the floor, studying until I couldn't physically see and the place was closing.  

  Balance, balance.


  It's been difficult finding baking inspiration, particularly in my teeny apartment kitchen that's generally full of friends and roommates and a whole lot of garlic action.  I find myself sort of automatically telling people that baking is what I do for fun and to relax, even though I haven't actually frosted a cupcake in a solid 6 months.

  Finallyyy one day I got out of lecture, the sun was shining, and I had to make my why over to the following scheduled class discussion.  I started walking, turned to my classmate and said I was out, and then caught the next bus home.  I was so sick of calculating participation points, talking about all these different "-isms" and how they relate, that I just up and bailed.

  Whoops.  But not.  Cuz these brownies were the result.


  And in the spirit of such rebellion, here I am writing this blog post instead of doing the other 8 million things I should be doing before I go and work the rest of my Friday away, thanks to the apartment showing that stood me up and effectively wasted my morning.  These brownies were born out of desperation, you could say.  I was an improvising whirlwind the afternoon I made these, and I even used my roommate's Nutribullet to make a rough powdered sugar.  Fun fact, you can do that with granulated sugar in a pinch.

  And now we go back to real life, with a brownie.

  Here's to more goods coming your way soon <3


Salted Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies
Yield: about 12 brownies

Ingredients for the brownie:

  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 6 ounces chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon instant coffee or espresso powder (optional)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • coarse sea salt, for topping


Ingredients for the peanut butter topping:

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 3/4 cup smooth peanut butter 
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


Directions:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Grease an 8x8 inch baking pan and line with parchment paper, grease the parchment as well.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

Boil two inches of water in a medium saucepan.  Combine butter, chocolate, and coffee powder in a heat proof glass or metal bowl and place over the simmering water.  Stir constantly until the chocolate and butter are melted.  Remove the bowl from the heat and let the mixture cool slightly.  Stir in the vanilla (or, in my case, some spiced rum I had on hand...).

Whisk granulated sugar into the chocolate and butter mixture.  Then, fully ensuring that the chocolate mixture isn't too warm still, begin to whisk in the eggs one at a time.  Fold in the flour mixture and spoon into prepared pan.

To make the peanut butter mixture, whisk together peanut butter, melted butter, powdered sugar, salt, and vanilla until smooth. From here you can either pour the mixture on top of the brownie batter and use a butter knife to swirl the two together, or you can pour it into a large ziploc bag to and pipe it on top of the brownie batter before swirling.  Sprinkle the top with coarse sea salt before popping into the oven.

Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until a skewer/toothpick inserted comes out with just a few moist crumbs (but not straight up liquid-y batter).  Let cool for about 30 minutes before noshing.

Sources: adapted from Joy the Baker (aka queen)


3.09.2016

Malted Milk Rice Krispies


  FRIENDS.  I'm writing I'm writing I'm not writing a paper, I'm not writing because I have to, I'm not writing to be persuasive or grammatically correct or to utilize my critical thinking skills I'm just WRITING.  I'm writing because I want to talk to you and I want to wax poetic about things like rice krispy treats.

  I missed you.


  I've had a hella couple of weeks.  Obligations on top of homework on top of just really frustrating things that kept happening.  So I'm giving myself this evening off.  I stayed away from tear-inducing paper brainstorming sessions and went to some office hours instead.  I did some awkward socializing I really didn't want to do and talked to some alumni about their experiences studying a foreign language while eating provided refreshments.  I goofed around with classmates and spoke up during discussion sections even when I wasn't super confident.  I went home for meals to play with the cat and laugh with my awesomesauce roomie.  I kinda liked today, taking it easy was nice.  And much needed.

  But these krispies were not made during a time of take-it-easiness.  In fact, these were made months ago...wowza.  However, they do have some fond memories attached to them.  On a texture note, personally I found them to be best when microwaved for just a bit once they've been chilling on your counter for a day or two.  Then, if it all possible, you should eat them fairly later in the evening in your living room after a fun, if long night out.  Your cat will probably meow/beg at you, and that's fine, just don't forget to share with the good friend you have crashing on your cheap futon.


  Late at night with friends is definitely the best time to consume these sweet, malty, and lightly salted treats.  Because the malted milk will remind you of your dad, and how he taught you the three best ice cream toppings (although definitely not altogether...): Magic Shell, Creme de Menthe, and Malted Milk Powder.  You'll sit and ruminate on this, and get all serendipitous.  And in your mildly buzzed state you can discuss this with said friend crashing on your futon, while a cat rubs against your legs and purrs.


  If you can't finish this rich little treat, wrap it up and save it for the morning that's coming in just a few hours.  Go to bed, savoring this slightly fancier version of a treat you have always always always loved so much, and don't forget your water bottle because you will be very thirsty very soon.  Sleep, dream.  And then the next day, go to brunch with your friend and drink coffee or tea.  Eat great food in a small place that smells amazing.  Accept that it's the end of the weekend, and believe that you can accomplish all that you have to this week.  Remember that college is for learning, but also very much for making memories and having fun.  As you tidy up after your friend, give him a bagful of rice krispy love to share with his roomies.  Also, thank Joy the Baker for an amazing recipe you managed to find a 30 minute time window for to throw together and photograph.


  Keep baking, keep piano playing, keep writing, keep doing whatever you have to do to keep yourself in a healthy state of mind.  That is so much more important than whatever else you're putting ahead of it.  Because hey!  You never know where those quirky little habits can take you.  They may even get you published in the school newspaper. :)


Malted Milk Rice Krispies
Yield: 9 squares, or 12 smaller ones

Ingredients:
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 8 cups mini marshmallows + 2 cups mini marshmallows
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 cups rice cereal
  • 1/3 cup malted milk powder
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped Whoppers candy
  • Coarse sea salt, for topping

Directions:
In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter.  Melt butter until it begins to crackle and sizzle.  This means the water is cooking out of the butter and the butter will begin to brown.  Add 8 cups of marshmallows to the melted butter just as it begins to brown and reduce heat to low.  Add salt and stir until the marshmallows are completely melted, and the marshmallows and butter are thoroughly combined.  Quickly add the rice cereal and malt powder and stir to combine.  Now stir in the remaining two cups of mini marshmallows.

Allow mixture to cool just slightly before adding 3/4 cups of the Whoppers candy.  Stir until just combined.

Press the mixture into a 9×9-inch square greased pan.  Use a greased piece of wax or parchment paper to firmly press the mixture into the pan.  The krispies will be thick.  Press the remaining Whoppers pieces into the top of the treats.  Allow to rest at room temperature until set and sliceable.

Slice into 9 large squares or 12 smaller and wrap individually.  Treats will stay fresh for up to five days.