Portobello Fries

On Father’s Day I had Jerry pick up two portobello caps that I had planned on marinating and grilling along with our shrimp and burgers. They would have been awesome if I hadn’t had forgot them at home.

Left with the caps and a plan down the drain I looked for something to do with them. Then it hit me – Portobello Fries! I had pinned a recipe for them a while ago but, never had the stuff to make them when I wanted to.

The “fries” are definitely not the most attractive food but, they were delicious. I varied the spices a little bit since I don’t like too much heat (red pepper flakes) and I didn’t have any cheese. I added some thyme and onion powder and increased the garlic powder. I cut mine a little thicker than they did in the original recipe so, they took longer to cook but, it was worth it. Instead of the basil aioli I made my favorite go-to “sauce” that I use for everything from a burger topping to dipping chips. It’s super complicated…ready?

Special Sauce

Sour Cream

Prepared Horseradish

Take as much sour cream as you want and add in as much prepared horseradish that you want. Stir together. Taste test and adjust as necessary.

See…totally complicated.

I’ll definitely be making these again but, I won’t be taking a picture of them because it just doesn’t do them justice.

{ASOP} Mug Brownies

I’m a Pinterest addict. I love pinning recipes and craft ideas, most of which I will never make. However, I decided to add a new category to the blog – ASOP or As Seen on Pinterest, for when I do actually make something I’ve pinned. Today’s ASOP is mug brownies.

Last night, I wanted something sweet but, didn’t have the desire or supplies to really bake anything. Instead I was perusing Pinterest when I stumbled on a recipe for mug brownies. The first time I heard of making anything in a mug in the microwave was on Michael Simon’s show where he made a “chocolate cake” in a mug. At the time, I was skeptical and when I came across mug brownies I was still skeptical. It’s hard to resist the temptation of a sweet treat in a minute and forty seconds though so, I gave it a try.

I got out my favorite Rainforest Cafe mug and added my dry ingredients:

1/4 cup all purpose flour

1/4 cup sugar

2 tbsp cocoa powder

I mixed those up in the mug and then added:

2 tbsp vegetable oil

3 tbsp water

and stirred it up until it was all combined in the mug. I also mixed in about a tablespoon of mini chocolate chips.

Then I popped the mug in the microwave and set it for 1:40 and let it go. While the mug brownie was cooking, I whipped up some fresh whipped cream.

When the timer on the microwave went off, I grabbed the mug with a pot holder ( it’s definitely hot) and stuck a butter knife in the middle to make sure it was done. Despite my suspicions, the butter knife came out clean. I let it cool a little (but not enough that my whipped cream didn’t melt a little) and grabbed a fork.

The result? It definitely tastes like a brownie but, it’s not a brownie. It’s very moist with a little bit of a chewy brownie texture but, it’s obviously missing the characteristic exterior of a classic brownie. It works for a quick, chocolaty and sweet snack if you just need something in that category but, if you’re craving brownies, it probably wouldn’t help. I’m not a huge fan of chocolate so, I ate about half and let Jerry finish the rest. I would make it again though, if I was looking for something quick and sweet.

Hot Fudge Sauce

I love making gifts for Christmas. I don’t get to make nearly as many as I would like to but, I do what I can. One of the things I had decided to make this year was hot fudge sauce. It’s my absolute favorite topping for ice cream. It’s not hard to make and it makes an awesome gift because it’s hard to find someone who doesn’t like hot fudge. Searching the internet for recipes I found that many of them included corn syrup which I didn’t want. Then I found one on one of my favorite websites, Big Girls Small Kitchen, that was exactly what I wanted.

I’ve now used their recipe so many times, I’ve been able to tweak it a bit to fit my needs but, it still remains the same base. You can find their original recipe here. Over the course of my testing I’ve changed it so that it fills 3 pint jars (and is easily cut in half or thirds). I also converted all the measurements over to weight because that’s the only way to keep it truly consistent over time. Finally, I use both unsweetened and milk chocolate at the end and I add a double shot of espresso instead of espresso powder.

For this batch, I cut my recipe in half. I was only making one jar to give away and wanted some for the house but, not a full jar. I start by weighing out all my ingredients and having everything ready to go. Making hot fudge sauce goes pretty fast and you need to be ready with your ingredients.

The butter and cream are combined over medium-low heat until the butter is melted and it just starts to boil. Then the sugars are added to the mixture and stirred until they combine with the cream until the sugar dissolves and is no longer gritty.

Then you slowly whisk in the cocoa powder until it is smooth and thick. Remove the sauce from the heat and whisk in the remaining ingredients. Then let it sit for a couple minutes and whisk again.

After you whisk the second time, take a taste. You may want to add a little more milk chocolate or vanilla depending on your taste. Let it cool a bit and when it’s warm but, not hot, pour it into your pint jars. Then let it completely cool on the counter before putting the lid on and storing in the refrigerator. It’s important to let it cool completely or else it will crystallize in the fridge.

Mason jars make great vessels for gifts because they’re cute on their own or you can add ribbon or cloth or whatever you want. I like to tie a ribbon around the neck of the jar and attach a card with the hot fudge sauce recipe so the receiver can make their own when it’s all gone.

Shrimp and Grits

I love quintessential southern food. Fried chicken, biscuits and gravy and pecan pie are just a few of my favorites. One of the things I love most and that I enjoy making for myself is grits.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to find “real” grits in upstate New York. I consider real grits to be hominy grits which are usually made of white corn. It’s also very hard to find non-instant or quick cooking grits in these parts. They just don’t have the same texture. Then, one lucky day a few weeks ago, I stumbled upon Bob’s Red Mill Organic Corn Grits/Polenta. I had been told that they existed but, had not been able to find them at the grocery store. Clearly, it’s not exactly what I wanted. Real grits cannot be confused with polenta however, they are a big step above the quick cooking in a strange cardboard cylinder ones that you usually find. So, I took them home to make my shrimp and grits.

There are a few other key ingredients that you’ll need besides grits. One, of course, would be shrimp. I was able to find some shrimp in the seafood case of my local Hannaford and it was on sale. You’ll also need bacon which I suggest purchasing from the meat case at your grocery store, too. It was a lot less expensive and way better than buying the packaged goods. The rest of the ingredients are simple and many of them you many have in your refrigerator or pantry already.

Ingredients:

2 cups of water

2 cups of whole milk

1 cup of grits

4 tablespoons butter, cut into 1 tablespoon pieces

8 oz of cheese, shredded

1 pound of shrimp, peeled and devained

6 slices of bacon, chopped

2 shallots, minced

2 – 4 cloves garlic, minced (depending on your preference)

1/4 of a fresh lemon

Pinch of oregano

Salt

Ground Black Pepper

Directions:

Start by peeling and devaining your shrimp if it hasn’t already been done by the store. Toss them in a colander and give them a good rinse and then pat them dry with a paper towel.

Mix your milk and water together in a medium size pot and then set it over medium heat until it starts to boil. Add a good pinch of salt and pepper and then pour in your grits. Cook until all the liquid is absorbed, whisking and stirring frequently. Once the grits are cooked, stir in your butter and cheese.

Fry your bacon in a large skillet until it reaches your desired level of crispness. Use a slotted spoon to remove the bacon pieces to a paper towel to drain. Add the shrimp to the reserved bacon grease and cook until the shrimp just turn pink. Remove the shrimp and add it to your bacon that is draining. Add your shallots and garlic to the pan and saute until slightly transparent. Add the bacon and shrimp back to the skillet with your oregano, a pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper and saute for 1 – 2 minutes watching the shrimp closely so it doesn’t over cook. Taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary.

To plate your shrimp and grits, pour a laddle of grits into a wide bowl and use a small spoon to hollow out a circle in the middle of the grits. Spoon the shrimp mixture into the hollowed out area and Voila! You have shrimp and grits.

Side note/Tip: Your grits should be “flowing” – not watery but, not thick either. If they seem to seize up a bit (like mine are in the picture), you can stir in a little more milk prior to serving. This may mean you want to add a bit more salt and pepper, too. It’s also great tip for reheating them as leftovers. Sometimes I think they’re even better the next day.

Things Change or Stating the Obvious

When I started blogging it was a major outlet for me. I was not in a good place and I needed a way to connect with other people. I had started to find that through my activity on Twitter and I even started the (unofficially hiatus’d) Albany Tweetup. I had a lot to write about because I had no one to talk to and I’ve always had a lot to say. I had cut myself off from most of my family and friends and the one “friend” I had was a nightmare. Blogging was an amazing outlet for me. It led to so many great things and I had so much fun doing it. Thankfully, my life changed and I was able to find my way back into the light of the world, I found friends that I could talk to in real life, I was able to mend things with my family and I developed an amazing relationship with a guy who loved me despite it all and still loves me today. I can’t help but mention how lucky I am.

As my life progressed into the positive, I posted less and less. Looking back, it’s probably because I was living in the moment and enjoying the people I was with and the real life conversations I was having with them. I’m not saying blogging doesn’t give you that opportunity but, when you’ve denied yourself of real life interaction for awhile you have a lot to catch up on.

I no longer have the need for an outlet or a place to express my feelings. I have that in my real life with my friends, my family and my fiance. However, there are parts of blogging that I miss. I love to travel, cook, bake and try new places and the thing I miss most is sharing those experience with a large online community. On the cooking and baking front you can get very helpful feedback on recipes you’ve tried and new ideas. When it comes to travel, I love to take pictures and I miss sharing them. I know that when I’m looking at a new place I find pictures say so much more than a description.

Anyway, the point of my rambling is to introduce myself back to the blog world. I am making no commitment (as of right now) to blog with any particular frequency but, I am committing to posting some new things. I have pictures of places we have gone, hotel tours to post and delicious recipes I’ve been adapting from my favorite books and blogs. I don’t expect anyone to drop what they’re doing to start reading my blog again but, I hope to get back into the community for some new, more positive reasons now.

{Hotel Tour} Hilton Montreal Bonaventure

At the end of August, derryX and I spent a weekend in Montreal. The basic purpose of our trip was to eat dinner at Garde Manger. I won’t get into the details of our trip because you can read derryX’s three part recap of our trip but, I will say it was totally worth it. The food was delicious and I’m still dreaming about lobster poutine.

While we were in Montreal we stayed at the beautiful Hilton Montreal Bonaventure. The hotel is conveniently located in the city of Montreal and is connected to the underground city which has great shopping and some nice looking quick eats.

We stayed in a king superior room with a garden view. It was a little more expensive than a normal king room but, it was bigger and had a nice view. The setup of the hotel is a bit strange. I think it is actually only 2 floors but it is the top 2 floors of the convention center. It’s a huge square with a rooftop pool and garden. Our room was spacious and minimally decorated.

Our super comfy King bed

The view of the rooftop garden. There was a pond behind this that had some visiting swans and ducks.

I love a brightly lite bathroom with great amenities.

A full view of the garden. The hotel kind of centers around this and the pool on the other side.

Finally, I leave you with this. This dial was in the bathroom on the outlet. It didn’t seem to control anything in the room. It was strange.

Inspiration from Lauren Conrad

Do something that you love, surround yourself with people you trust, learn from your mistakes, work hard, and don’t let other people’s opinions of you become your limitations.

(via)

It shouldn’t be a secret that I’m a fan of Lauren Conrad. Not a super fan or anything but, I like her style, business sense and (what I’ve seen of) her personality. So, while catching up on my LC reading, I found this wonderful quote at the end of her final post for Forbes Life. I think it’s a great reminder for every day life and working towards your dreams. The best part though, is the reminder to not let others limit you. You know your life better than anyone else and because of that, you shouldn’t let other people decide what to do with it.