Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Croque Monsieur + Baby Arugula Salad with Creamy Dijon Vinaigrette

Croque Monsieur

Cooking inspiration can come from the most random places.

Several weeks ago, I was watching Girls. Specifically, the episode "One Man's Trash", where Hannah has an affair with a rich, hot, brownstone-owning doctor. While she's sitting in his gorgeous kitchen, she looks around and remarks, "I feel like I'm in a Nancy Meyers movie."

I thought to myself, "Man, I love Nancy Meyers movies. I don't have places to go or things to do. I should watch It's Complicated, then Something's Gotta Give, and then It's Complicated again, all in one evening." So I did. For those of you who aren't familiar with her films, Nancy Meyers is known for her impeccable attention to detail in every tiny aspect of each scene. Every home in her films is stunning and beautifully decorated, but the particular detail that always sticks out to me is - what else? The food.

It's Complicated is definitely the food-porniest of all Meyers' movies. Meryl Streep's character, Jane, plays a chef/bakery owner, and several scenes heavily feature food preparation. From the scene where a slightly stoned Jane makes pain au chocolat from scratch, to her preparation of her ex-husband's favorite meal of roasted chicken, sauteed string beans, mashed potatoes, and double fudge cake in anticipation of their evening rendezvous, to her admission that she makes ice cream (of the lavender-honey variety) when she can't sleep, food is ALL over this movie.

Croque Monsieur

My favorite food-related scene in the movie occurs when Jane prepares Croque Monsieur and a salad for her architect and love interest, played by Steve Martin. She tells him that Croque Monsieur was the first thing she learned to cook for herself when she lived in France. I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm pretty sure that one of the first things I learned to cook for myself was grilled cheese. Croque Monsieur is basically grilled cheese on crack. Gruyere, ham, and dijon mustard get sandwiched between slices of white bread, topped with a Mornay sauce and more gruyere, then broiled.

The day I made this, I mentioned over on Facebook that it's really not fair to all the other sandwiches how good this is. This takes about 30 minutes to make. Any quicker, and I'd be in BIG trouble since I pretty much want to eat this every day, while imagining that I'm cooking it in a kitchen painstakingly designed by Ms. Meyers herself. Until I can live inside a Nancy Meyer's movie, I'll settle for just cooking like her characters. Trust me...the rest of that food is coming. Roasting a chicken has been on my culinary to-do list for far too long!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Snicker-Chip-Doodle Cookies

Snicker-Chip-Doodle Cookies

You may be wondering, what the heck is a Snicker-Chip-Doodle?

Allow me to explain.

When a Snickerdoodle and a Chocolate Chip Cookie love one another very much, they hug, and they kiss, and they fool around a little, and in 9 months 8 - 10 minutes they give birth to a Snicker-Chip-Doodle.

That's right. Cookies can get pregnant. Yay science!

Now, these cookies may not look like anything super special. However, they're addictive, and chewy, and chock full of flavor. Plus, they stay soft for eons, which is always a plus when you don't want to house 16 cookies in one day.

Not that I'll judge you if you do that. A Bitchin' Kitchen is a judgment-free zone, at least when it comes to cookie binges.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Caramelized Onion Risotto

Caramelized Onion Risotto

Who here has played the game two truths and a lie?

Let's play:

Statement #1: Risotto is difficult to make.

Statement #2: Risotto is one of the most delicious foods on the planet and cooking it will impress your cat, your lover, your dentist, and your mom.

Statement #3: Onions are a miracle vegetable that taste like unicorn tears when caramelized low and slow in olive oil.

Statement #1 is most definitely a lie. Since risotto requires constant stirring for 30 minutes, it sometimes gets a bad rep for being difficult or annoying to make. To that I say, preposterous! It's so simple a child could make it. Well, a really patient child who's allowed to play with hot stoves and cook with wine.

This is my favorite version of risotto that I've ever made. As I indicated above, I'm a huge fan of caramelized onions, and could probably eat them straight from the pan and be happy. Instead of doing that, I stirred them into a cheesy risotto, and cried happy tears over my delicious plate of carbohydrates.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Yeasted Banana Sandwich Bread AND a Toasted Peanut Butter + Nutella + Banana Sandwich

Yeasted Banana Sandwich Bread

Hey, remember that dummy that gave up dessert for Lent last year? Oh right, that was me.

I was shockingly successful. I think I only screwed up twice - once at a girlfriend's bridal shower, and once when I completely forgot about Lent in a fit of hunger and ate a bag of peanut M&Ms.

This year I wised up. As some of you probably know, Lent started up again yesterday with Ash Wednesday, and I was smart enough to skip the food related sacrifices. It's just too hard when you write a cooking blog.

Instead of something food related, I gave up liquor and beer. Since I'm single and childless, a lot of my social life unfortunately still revolves around drinking at bars, which will make this somewhat tricky. Fortunately, I didn't give up wine, so I'm just going to look like a fancy, fancy person at bars from now until Easter. Quit giving me the side eye. As one of my favorite Miranda Lambert songs points out, Jesus drank wine too.

Yeasted Banana Sandwich Bread

On a somewhat related note, did I ever tell you guys about the time I got escorted out of church on Ash Wednesday for disruptive behavior?

Toasted Peanut Butter + Nutella + Banana Sandwich

I was 4, and it was during Ash Wednesday Mass with my preschool class.

For some ridiculous reason, I found it unacceptable that the ashes were not pink, proceeded to have a meltdown right there during Mass, and had to leave. I'll probably get paid back for that unfortunate episode some day. I'm sure that my future children are going to be a real treat to be around.

Toasted Peanut Butter + Nutella + Banana Sandwich

Let's discuss this bread now. I adore a sweet, non-yeasted, banana bread as much as the next girl. I love making them to use up overripe bananas, but wanted to do something a bit different this time. I came across this recipe on the King Arthur Flour website, and could not be more pleased with how it turned out.

On its own, this bread is soft and very slightly sweet, with a subtle banana flavor. After making this bread, I decided that it was destined for greater things than just toast, and came up with this sandwich. Take one bite, and you'll feel like Santa Claus. On Prozac. At Disneyland. Getting laid. (Maybe I should give up making Friends references for Lent has been 9 years.)

I don't know what this sandwich is. Breakfast? Lunch? A weird dessert-wich? It really doesn't matter. Go make it immediately.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Mini Red Velvet Cheesecakes

Mini Red Velvet Cheesecakes

This Thursday will be my first Valentine's Day as a single lady in quite a few years. I know a lot of people who aren't in a relationship on this day get bummed out, but seriously, don't. Just don't. Celebrating Valentine's Day as a single person can be equally, if not more fun. Take the money you would have spent on a gift for your significant other and treat yo self to a fancy ass bottle of wine and some chocolate. Drink the bottle, eat all the chocolate, and revel in the fact that you don't have to share a single sip or bite.

Whether you're single or coupled-up this Valentine's Day, you should definitely make these little cheesecakes to celebrate. They're super easy to whip up, and look and taste like you put in way more effort than you actually did. Plus, if you have any Valentine's Day related rage to work out, you get to violently pulverize Teddy Grahams in a food processor to create the crust, which feels fantastically cathartic.

I'm going to keep this short today, because I'm writing this while watching the Grammy's. Specifically, I'm watching that guy from "Fun" bop around in skinny capri pants. Are those a thing for men now? If so, I probably have many single lady Valentine's Days ahead of me, because that is SO not cute.

Mini Red Velvet Cheesecakes

Monday, February 4, 2013

Salted Caramel Chocolate Cupcakes

Salted Caramel Chocolate Cupcakes

As a person who loves baking and cooking, there are a lot of garbage foods that people don't expect me to like.

McDonald's Quarter Pounders? Get in my face.

Cool-Whip? Guilty.

Little Debbie Strawberry Shortcake Rolls? Until someone comes up with a way for me to bake these at home, Little Debbie will get two of my hard-earned dollars the one time a year I allow myself to buy these hydrogenated oil-laden treats.

Cake mix is another one of those processed junk foods that I like...kind of. I love that boxed cake mixes bake up consistently fluffy, moist, and light, but I don't love that they don't taste very strongly of chocolate. They just taste sweet, with a barely discernible chocolate flavor.

These cupcakes have all the wonderful qualities of a cake mix - the light, fluffy texture, the moist crumb, and the ability to stand up to a huge mound of frosting, while also actually tasting like real chocolate.

You can certainly make these as basic chocolate cupcakes, but I made them even better by following Emily's instructions to transform these into Salted Caramel Chocolate Cupcakes. The center of the cupcake gets cored out and filled with salted caramel sauce, and then topped with a rich chocolate ganache, and a sprinkling of fleur de sel. If you've been reading my blog for awhile you're probably aware that I'm a HUGE fan of sweet + salty desserts, and these were absolute perfection.

I brought these over to a friend's house for dinner Friday night, and one of the girls there brought a couple cupcakes home to her husband. I got this message from her on Facebook the next day (B = her husband). Sooo, ladies? Make these for the man in your life this Valentine's Day. Just sayin'...

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