Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Homemade BBQ Sauce

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I had the opportunity to host a dinner party.  I wanted the theme to be a "classy tailgate" and take backyard tailgate foods and scale them up for a dinner party.  We decided to serve sliders with classy toppings (arugula, blue cheese crumbles, avocado, etc) along with some chicken for those that didn't want to eat red meat.  I wanted to make this chicken special, and when I found this recipe for Ina Garten's homemade BBQ sauce I knew I had found exactly what I was looking for.

I know this looks like a huge laundry list of ingredients, but believe me, it's worth it!  This BBQ sauce is incredibly dynamic.  It starts off somewhat smoky, then tangy, and then it has this little kick at the end from the red peppers.  This BBQ recipe would probably work best with chicken.  The longer you leave it in the fridge, the more time the flavors have to meld together and the more delicious your recipe will be.   It is time consuming, but the results are certainly worth the effort, especially if you want to add a little something special to your backyard BBQ (or classy dinner party).

BBQ Sauce
Yield:  1 quart
Prep Time: 1 hour

-                1 lg onion, chopped
-                3 cloves garlic, minced
-                ½ c vegetable oil
-                1 c (10 oz) tomato paste
-                1 c cider vinegar
-                1 c honey
-                ½ c Worcestershire sauce
-                1 c Dijon mustard
-                1 c soy sauce
-                2 tbsp chili powder
-                1 tbsp ground cumin
-                1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

In a large saucepan over low to medium heat, sauté the onions and garlic in vegetable oil until the onions are translucent.  Add the tomato paste, vinegar, honey, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, soy sauce, chili powder, cumin, and crushed red pepper flakes.  Simmer uncovered on low heat for 30 min.  Store in refrigerator if not using right away. 

Source: slightly adapted from Ina Garten

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Chocolate Chip Cookie Brownie Bars

Spoiler alert - I'm obsessed with Glee.  (there may be some other spoilers at the very bottom of the post...).

I adored the first season of Glee.  I loved that there was a show about kids singing a cappella in a high school.  And I could look past all of the teen pregnancies and broken hearts and other stupid drama because the show was about music.

The second season kind of lost that.

The third season has been even worse.  But you know what?  I dig it.  There's a very fine line between over-dramatic and so dramatic that it's intoxicating, and I feel Glee has pushed the script over the edge to the point where I cannot look away.  High schoolers sleeping with their teachers (who adopted their baby), lesbians fighting for their right to kiss in the hallways, two high schoolers getting married much to the chagrin of Jeff Goldblum and Brian Stokes Mitchell.  Classic stuff!  I tried so hard not to get sucked into this over-the-top drama, but Glee was always on during dinner and my mom refused to change the channel so I'll blame it on her ;)

For a while I was a closet watcher, but when I saw how excited two of my friends were as they chatted about the latest episode I could no longer hold back.  I started to let it casually slip that I watched Glee "because it's on during dinner," but after a while they saw through the charade and the three of us would be shrieking over Quinn not getting any solos and what was going to happen to the show when everyone parted ways.

With the season finale looming overhead, I decided the three of us should actually watch the show together.  I DVR'd the last episode so we could watch it uninterrupted and invited the girls over for an absolutely sinful dessert.  I've had this dessert before at a friend's house but now I finally had the excuse to recreate it.

It's quite simple, really.  You whip up a batch of brownie mix (either from a box or from scratch, mine are from  a box) and a batch of chocolate chip cookie dough (again, mine are the break and bake kind).  Pour your brownie mix into a 9x13 in. pan, plop balls of cookie dough throughout the brownie batter, and bake.  Even though the brownies and cookies cook for different times, the cookies will take longer to cook since they're in the brownie batter.  The combination of brownies and chocolate chip cookies is nothing new, but if you're looking for a real treat, you can whip these up in a matter of minutes and wolf them down in about the same amount of time.  A sinful treat to eat while watching your guilty pleasure show :)

Also, how many more life lessons could Glee cram into one episode?  Is the next season going to start with a funeral or a wedding??  I CAN'T WAIT UNTIL APRIL 10TH.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

And the Award Goes To...

Over the past week I have been awarded two Liebster Blog Awards!  I couldn't be more flattered.

The Liebster award is a special award for blogs that have less than 200 followers (we're getting there!).  Liebster is a German term that means, "favorite, beloved, or dearest."  Thank you very much to Terri at That's Some Good Cookin' and Rina at I Thee Cook for thinking that my little blog deserved some extra love.

So now, I would like to pass the award onto five other up-and-coming blogs that I believe you should check out!  I follow all five of these blogs and I very much enjoy their writing style, their stories, and most of all - their food!

Jackie at A Bitter Sweet Wife

Melanie at Adorkable Recipes

Andrea at Quest for Delish

Kristina at Whipped Baking

Emily at Life On Food

Thanks again everyone!  And be sure to check these girls out and continue to share the little blog love :)

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Oatmeal Smoothie

I came across this yesterday afternoon as I was lounging on the couch after my first week of actual teaching.  For some of you, putting raw oatmeal in your smoothie may be old news, but I had never thought of doing this before.  It makes perfect sense, though - adding oatmeal to your fruit smoothie increases the fiber content and gives you a good dose of whole grains.  Adding oatmeal also makes the smoothie much more filling and well balanced.  This would be the perfect breakfast to take along with you since you're getting your fruit, dairy, and whole grains all in one meal.  I'm going to have to keep this one in my back pocket for those days when I only have 15 minutes to get ready for work (like when I woke up at 7:45 yesterday.  Oops).

I thought the raw oatmeal would make the smoothie gritty but it didn't!  You can taste the oatmeal, but the fruit and yogurt balance it out nicely.  It was so smooth and creamy and best of all you can substitute different ingredients to fit your tastes.  There's absolutely no reason to skip breakfast in the morning when you have something wholesome and delicious that can be whipped up in a matter of minutes.  I think that reusable tumbler with the screw on lid and straw was one of my best investments.

Oatmeal Smoothie
Yield: 2 servings

- 1 c ice
- 1 c fresh/frozen fruit
- 1 banana
- 1/2 c oatmeal
- 1/2 c yogurt
- 1 c liquid (juice, milk, etc)
- 1 tbsp honey (optional)

Put all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth.  Pour into glasses and serve immediately.  Can also pour into a plastic bag and freeze.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Super Bowl Party Food (and other fun things)

These past two weeks have been pretty amazing.  They started off terribly, as I had already gotten sick from the kids and was incredibly overwhelmed with the thought of having my own classroom.  As the week wore on I became more comfortable in my new surroundings and confident in the lessons I started to plan.  I start teaching Math on Tuesday (we've just started the Geometry unit) and I couldn't be more excited.  As the weeks press on I'll be getting busier and busier, but I'm thrilled to continue down this path.  

In other fun news, I took a boot camp class on Wednesday.  I found this deal of LivingSocial that was 6 classes for $20.  The studio is about 15 min from my house and I even managed to get one (hopefully 2!) friends to sign up with me!  I consider myself to be in pretty good shape right now since I was able to get in 4 workouts last week (including a 3.3 mi run over the weekend!).  However, this class absolutely destroyed me.  It was a lot of upper body work (including pull ups with only 50 lb resistance!) and core work and my entire body was sore for 3 days.

I'm going back again on Wednesday. 

Seriously, this was such a fun and amazing experience.  If you love pushing your body to its limits I would absolutely suggest signing up for a class.  I learned a lot of great back and arm workouts that I hope to incorporate into my own workout circuits.  

And in other news, it's the Super Bowl this weekend.  Even though my boys didn't make it to the Super Bowl this year (I wore my Saints gear to school on Friday for "Super Spirit Day"), I will be attending a raging Super Bowl party along with every single person on the Eastern Seaboard.  Unlike every other person on the Eastern Seaboard, I will probably be in bed before midnight.  I thought I'd post some super sides and desserts that you can whip up tonight or tomorrow morning before you head to your own Super Bowl party!  Be safe and have fun!

Appetizers and Sides

Vanilla Bean Sugar Cookies and Royal Icing - the possibilities for this are endless!