Tag Archive | cooking

Everything is Better in Mini Part 2

I realized that I never finished the mini series! I left you all hanging with the question: What else is better in mini? Mini Europe cannot be all there is that minifying improves! The suspense has probably been killing you, the agony of not knowing tainting the enjoyment of your everyday life. For that, I apologize. You’ll understand my MIA later in this post once I explain my first full week back in California, but for now I will reveal the other thing that, when mini, takes on a whole new amazingness.

Cupcakes.

My baking obsession has been a well-documented phenomenon throughout the year’s posts, and I was giddily prepared for the wonder of having a fully stocked kitchen once again (Partner constant heard me lament about missing a stand mixer). It was probably only one, maybe two, days before my house was filled with the smell of freshly baked cupcakes and heat from the oven. And the baking has been consistent since.

Blueberry and Cream mini cupcakes

Peanut Butter Chocolate mini cupcakes (fondly called Coma Cupcakes)

Devils Food with Pomegranate Buttercream mini cupcakes (newly named Wistful Poms)

Peach and Vanilla Pie

Chocolate Mousse (okay that one didn’t require an oven)

Chocolate Covered Digestive Cookies (yes like the British biscuit!)

And then of course there is all the cooking I’ve been doing as well, but that’s more of just throw together meals rather than noteworthy baking amazingness. It has been awesome having all this freedom in the kitchen, and my brother’s coworkers and my dad’s office mates are all being really spoiled by their freshly delivered goodies.

Unfortunately I can’t spend all day everyday baking; summer school waits for no girl and my first week was upon me way too quickly. I’m taking General Psychology Lab, Psychology of Gender, and The Hollywood Myth of the Romans (yes we are watching Gladiator!). So obviously that means that I am taking three classes during A session of UCLA summer school. I mean that doesn’t sound too bad, right? WRONG. It’s absolute murder. Here’s to put it into perspective a bit: UCLA normally has 10 week terms, but summer sessions are only 6. In one 10 week term, a full load is considered 3 classes with anything more than that being considered an overbooked and stress inducing schedule. The most people usually take in a summer session is two classes. Therefore I am a psychotic masochist in taking what is a full regular term load in a shortened term. Okay the masochism is not really all that surprising to my friends, but this may be taking it to a whole new level. The majority of my week has been spent either in lecture or doing readings and assignments outside of class preparing for the next lecture. No sooner do I finish one thing on my to-do list than I have to add another three. Luckily I have Brinkley and baking and crafting and reading for reviews on my other blog to break up the monotony of body image lectures and readings.

Thankfully I survived my first week, partly because of the opportunities to catch up with some old friends that will now probably be taking center stage on this blog/platform. Monday night I went to dinner with my best friend from high school, Laura, where we had one of the most awkward waiters we have ever had. It felt like he was trying to usher us out of the unbusy but still with a few tables left restaurant as fast as possible. That has never happened to us! Then on Wednesday, after breakfast with Laura at our favorite place The Tea Garden, my college best friends and I reunited in our foursome for the first time in over a year. It is really difficult to work around the schedules of four people, but thankfully we did as Aisha, Keith, and Aaron are amazing and we all had so much to catch up one (haha their initials make the acronym AKA, so calling them that from now on!). It can be such a relief to just see these people again; they have been with me through so much and being around them all just warms my heart. Of course it is all twinged with homesickness for England and missing Partner and Pippa and all my other friends in the UK, but I can worry about how to make it back to England once I graduate in five more weeks.

Until then, it’s all about university work, baking, and spending quality time with my incredible family and friends (and hopefully some blog-worthy shenanigans!).

Cheers!

Will It Grill?

Answers:

Yes

Burgers, Sausages, Chicken Skewers, Bell Peppers, Courgettes, Onions, Steaks, Chicken, Veggie Burgers, Arms/Fingers of the Grillers

No

Steak for 6 seconds on each side, Cauliflower

These are the experiments that were conducted at yesterday’s joint birthday BBQ extravaganza.

Partner’s birthday is coming up this Friday and one of the other girls in the Keble MCR has her birthday today, so the two of them combined forces and planned a BBQ to celebrate with all of Keble MCR and a select group of their friends. It seemed that within a week of the Facebook invite being posted, there were 80 people RSVP’d, so legendary is Dan’s cooking skill. And luckily for me, I was quickly requested as a sous-griller and dessert baker (both my parents would be so proud). I love helping people out with big parties, so much more than being just a plain guest. And this party definitely turned out big!

Having planned out the desserts and baking schedule the night before, Dan and I met for breakfast at Greens Cafe before heading off for a Tesco run. Sometimes grocery shopping in the UK can be really frustrating with different names for things and a few basic cultural differences leading to an extra 30 minutes inside a store as you search for sweetened condensed milk and baking chocolate. But we did eventually find everything for the three desserts we needed to make from scratch.

Baking commenced at 11 am and didn’t finish until nearly 3 pm, though when compared to the Super Bowl party, this time around things were super relaxed and went smoothly. Possibly a function of only having to make four recipes instead of the 11 we had for the other party, but nonetheless we have also kind of found a rhythm in the kitchen and got into a groove quickly. First up was the easiest, only no bake item: Rocky Road! Simple enough, melt chocolate and stir in mix-ins before popping it in the fridge for the rest of the day.

Rocky Road

Then Dan worked on the two chocolate and two carrot cakes (unfortunately we had to make them from box mixes for lack of time, money, and recipes) while I made a brand new recipe of Oatmeal Lemon Creme Bars. Just in case everything came out poorly, we had a revolving oven of my family’s recipe for chocolate chip cookies cycling through the whole day; thankfully I had frozen cookie dough from my last batch ready to go. I still kind of can’t believe that nothing went wrong. Timing was all perfect, ingredients all available, dishes all simple to clean. Before we knew it, everything was finished and all that was left was for me to frost the cakes while Dan made us lunch.  Easy peasy, oatmeal lemon bar squeezey.

It was only 3 and the party wasn’t starting until 6, but there was still tables and chairs to nick from Acland’s kitchens and a sound system to figure out, so we worked on the outside party area for a bit then headed upstairs for reading/relaxation/15 minute cat naps. Dan had to start the grill up all too soon, and it was nonstop from then on.

Four hours in front of a grill…FOUR HOURS! There was no break as people were all hungry and eager for some of the Grill Master’s wares and his assistant’s grilled vegetables (okay that second part isn’t true, but I like to think that people actually wanted the vegetables as more than a TMO until more meat came off the coals). Burgers, sausages, chicken wings, kebabs…the waiting pile of meat seemed to grow of its own accord as people had apparently heeded our notice of not having ordered enough meat to go around.

Full grill=Happy guests

What we did run out of was charcoal, sending one of our dance team friends on another Tesco run so that we could fire up the other half of the grill and serve our anxious customers. Food was flying off the platter faster than Dan and I could put it on–except the cauliflower. And I still have no idea who thought it was a good idea to grill unseasoned, unoiled cauliflower? Hint: It doesn’t work, sorry cauliflower fans. As for the sides situation, since Dan and I both spent the entire night in front of the BBQ, I have no idea how people fared in terms of sides, but I never heard any complaints so I’m assuming it went fine.

Nick, Pippa, and Pippa’s younger brother

A few times people were kind enough to ask Dan and me if we needed a break to go socialize and get something to eat ourselves, but every time we politely declined. Both of us agreed that we had the best job and the best location in the entire party. Apart from the fact we both love cooking, because everyone went to the grill at one point or another during the evening, we got to meet everyone and socialize with our friends while slinging burgers and sausages, all while hanging out with each other. Was there any better way to spend the night? No, we were both in agreement.

Four hours at the grill. My dad will be so proud 🙂

But regardless of my new grilling lessons, I am at heart a baker, and I was really looking forward to everyone’s enjoyment of the desserts we had made earlier in the morning. Of course I wasn’t expecting the reactions I received. Always unsure about a brand new recipe that hasn’t been tested, I was a little anxious about how the lemon creme bars were going to go down with everyone. Were they an adequate follow-up to my peanut butter chocolate cupcakes (which, funnily enough were still being talked about last night as people lamented that they hadn’t known I was baking and so hadn’t requested their repeat appearance)? Based on their quick disappearance and the most common comment after one bite being “Holy shit”, I think I can say with mild confidence that yes, they were well liked. There was one girl who kept dragging over all her friends to get another bar, so afraid that they would be gone before they had a chance to try them! And one of Dan’s friends from his lab has asked for them to accompany Dan’s birthday cupcakes we are making for the Engineering lab on Friday 🙂 All the other desserts went equally as well, people loved Dan’s carrot cake, and the two of us ended the night under the stars smiling over how successful the day had gone.

There really is nothing like spending the entire day with my dance partner baking, cooking, and laughing. Happy Birthday Dan!! So happy that you got such an amazing party 😀

Dan, the BIrthday Boy and Grill Master

Baking by an Insomniac

Why do we feel the need to classify things? Sometimes I feel like classifying things is simply an excuse to limit ourselves in these pigeonholes of expectations. Why can’t we move beyond our category and become an amalgamation of randomness? Randomness is often so much more entertaining than rigidity (oddly enough that is one of my biggest issues with the restricted syllabus style of ballroom dancing). I mean, why does my blog have to be only a travel log, book review site, autobiography, baking adventures, or cultural commentary? Exactly. I think it can be all of the above and more, and in honor of this realization, I baked you all cupcakes!

Okay so I more of baked cupcakes because once again the baking bug bit and I figured that I was already in the throes of insomnia so I might as well be productive. Doing my research probably would have been a better use of my time, but definitely not as fun. And as a queen of rationalization, I’ll use the excuse that baking was productive; by trying out yet another new recipe, I could check it off of my miles long list and bring a smile to my dance partner’s face when he receives his next cupcake delivery.

I am really looking forward to going home in a few weeks, if only because I really miss using a stand mixer instead of trying to cream things together by hand. Beating butter that isn’t at room temperature yet with a fork, trying to make it smooth and fluffy, just doesn’t give as uniform a product. I’d say that I’ll have to retry all these recipes once I get home and have a better stocked kitchen, but we all know that by then I’ll be so distracted by another new recipe that the only way these will be retried is if they are requested.

Granted, if anyone back home could taste these, they would be requested again and again and again, they are that good. And what interesting flavor of cupcakes did I whip up at 11 pm last night, you ask? Can they really rival my peanut butter chocolate coma cupcakes that I made for Dan’s Super Bowl party ages ago?

Answers:

1. Snickerdoodle Cupcakes!!!!!! Like the cinnamon-sugar-awesomely named cookie that I realize now I have never made before. But now I have made them in cupcake form, so maybe that counts as well.

2. Unfortunately no. But that is not because these aren’t delicious (with yet another deadly good batter and perfect cinnamon-sugar cream cheese frosting), it’s because NOTHING is better than my PBCC cupcakes. I doubt I will ever be able to make a cupcake to rival those, especially since I’m probably going to leave Red Velvet cupcakes to the experts. Dan’s story of a baking failure kind of scared me out of attempting authentic Red Velvet, especially without a modern kitchen.

I can’t wait for Dan to try these tonight and tell me his thoughts. Only then can I really learn if my cupcakes are ever as good as I think they are, or if I’m just kidding myself haha. Here’s the recipe in case anyone wants to try these at home! (I’ve been getting a few requests from people for the recipes I’ve been trying, so posting them here is easiest.) 

snickerdoodle cupcakes

Yield: 28 cupcakes

Prep Time: 25 min

Cook Time: 20 min

I halved the recipe because I ran out of cupcake liners! Time for a Tesco run?

Ingredients:

CAKE:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I used all cake flour, no all-purpose)
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups whole milk (used skim milk…this is what happens when you don’t intend to bake but get the urge and have to modify based on what is in your almost empty refrigerator).

ICING:
12 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 pound powdered sugar, sifted (or at least to desired consistency. I hate overly sweet frostings so I only used enough to make the frosting creamy)
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 Tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

TOPPING:
2 Tablespoons sugar + 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 28 muffin tins with paper liners.

2. Sift together both flours, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.

3. In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in vanilla. Add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with additions of milk, beating until combined after each addition.

4. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each about 3/4 full. Bake about 20 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into the center of one of the cupcakes comes out clean. Remove to a wire rack to cool completely before icing.

5. Prepare frosting: In a medium bowl, use electric mixer to blend cream cheese and butter. Add sugars, vanilla and ground cinnamon. Spread onto cooled cupcakes, or scoop into piping bag and pipe on the frosting decoratively. Place sugar-cinnamon mixture in a fine sieve and tap it lightly over the cupcakes to give them a light sprinkle.

Tips:

*The cake part of the cupcakes can be stored up to 2 days at room temperature, or frozen up to 2 months in an airtight container.

Enjoy! And I’ll post Dan’s comments at the end of this post once he gives me the official review 😉

Kelsi spiked our food!

Not really, but she may as well have since the four of us giggled more today after dinner than we ever had. And it wasn’t even like one of us had some sense still in us, we all were just crazy people. But completely mellow crazy people. Kelsi and Janosz told us that this is what we would be like if we were high, so I guess we would all end up asleep in Kelsi’s room cuddling with Janosz. Worse things could happen to us.

We continued our weekend binge on each others company with yet another brunch and dinner party day. Ironically, both meals involved leftovers from yesterday. Buckwheat pancakes and eggs for lunch, osso buco (or in my case osso bucco sauce over a chicken breast) with leftover goat cheese risotto for dinner. And then the best chocolate fudge balls from this site called Chocolate Covered Katie and dessert wine for dessert. Janosz pretty much went into a food coma/wine daze, which may be how we ended up all cuddling with him and not wanting to move. My friends are just soooo cozy.

Today wasn’t all about food though. It’s a two essay week AND the Southern championships for ballroom this weekend so I wrote one of my papers today, and it’s going to be an interesting tutorial to say the least. Basically my essay is supposed to be on prosocial behavior and whether it is motivated by altruism or egoism, and I say that it is entirely egoism but not from a social psychology perspective. I say instead that the strongest argument comes from biology and natural selection, essentially Darwinism. Yeah I know I’ve probably bored most of you, but remember that this is a SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY course and I just wrote a paper kind of saying that the social psychology explanation is useless. Oops. Hopefully she stills likes it!

Overall it was kind of a great weekend. Fun but productive and put me in a great spot to start the week off right 🙂

Sneak peak of the week ahead…wine tasting, shopping, two tutorials, lots of dance rehearsals, SUDC, a musical…and who knows what else is in store!

Cupcake Update

Because I was completely lazy last week and never got around to blogging, a tragedy occurred. Yes, readers, I apologize, but you missed our second cupcake endeavor. Fortunately there has now been a third so I can remedy the situation with a double cupcake experiment extravaganza!

I now understand what parents feel like if they were ever instructed to pick a favorite child, because picking my favorite cupcake that we’ve made thus far feels utterly impossible. How do you choose between three items that are so unbelievably different? Answer, you don’t, you become an equal opportunist cupcake baker.

We are getting good at working with what we have

Last week Janosz and I made these peanut butter cupcakes with peanut butter frosting and chocolate ganache. I think they should be called Americans in England cupcakes because everyone here seems to–rightly–think that Americans are obsessed with peanut butter. Of course one look at my food shelves just proves them correct (current total of PB jars: 4). This was another recipe that neither of us have tried before, so all bets were off as to how they would come out. We needn’t have worried though, after just making the cupcake batter and not even starting the frosting, Janosz and I were like kids in a peanut butter store. The batter was INCREDIBLE. We kind of wanted to just forgo the cupcakes and eat the batter instead. But we didn’t in order to preserve our poor stomachs. We did however spend a considerable amount of time brainstorming other ways to use the batter: on a sandwich, on french toast, in a sweet potato, on a spoon, on Janosz’s finger, over ice cream, the possibilities were deliciously endless. We had to keep reminding ourselves that cupcake batter is not lunch!

Peanut Butter Cupcakes w/ Peanut Butter Frosting and Chocolate Ganache

Think of a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, but a million times better. And with dark chocolate. They were unbelievably rich but oh so delicious. So I take back my earlier statement, these are definitely my favorite cupcakes thus far. I’ll be making them again and again and again!

Jordan is our first taste tester

This weekend Janosz really wanted to make a throwback cupcake to his favorite chocolate cake that he makes at home. Jordan joined us this time, but it really ended up being Janosz’s show and Jordan and I just hopped in to stir or pour when Janosz directed us to do so.

Jordan gets to see how we improvise our baking

It ended up a little bit like The Little Red Hen (that children’s story where the hen’s friends don’t help her make the bread and therefore don’t get to taste it) except not really at all like that since Jordan and I were rewarded for our meager amount of help with lots of left over cake batter 🙂

Yummy batter 🙂

Double Chocolate Cupcakes with a Caramel Frosting…and the verdict…first chocolate cake I’ve ever liked. I am really not a chocolate cupcake person at all and I loved these. Not quite as much as the peanut butter ones, but these were still great. And Dan (the dance partner) will happily be getting another cupcake delivery in his newly purchased cupcake container.

Of course it is really spending time with my friends rather than the baking that takes the cake. Pun entirely intended ❤

The Cult of the Dirty Chai

We have all returned! Jordan and Sam came back on Thursday morning and now the gang is all here, back in the suddenly freezing cold city of Oxford, and giddily awaiting the beginning of term.

Haha, yeah right.

Something they neglect to tell you when you are applying to Oxford and preparing to start work on the Monday lectures begin for the term is that term at Oxford actually starts up to a week BEFORE lecture series do. Many of my friends arrived to emailed essay assignments and deadlines already fast approaching. The term hasn’t even officially started and the college library is seething with stress and tension. Granted, traditional students have collection exams and are studying, but even visiting students were circling the main room trying to find an open desk. Meanwhile, it was Thursday and I hadn’t received any correspondence from my tutors much less assignments, so my newly arrived friends were willing to put away their books for a few hours to catch up.

We went to my new favorite coffee shop on Turl Street called The Missing Bean that has the most amazing Dirty Chais that I have ever had, and I couldn’t resist peer pressuring Kelsi into ordering one as well (as if that took a lot of pressure!). I don’t know if the employees there don’t get orders for dirty chais often, because they certainly knew what it was, but for some reason on of the baristas commented that Kelsi had joined the Cult of the Dirty Chai, while looking over at us. I was the only one sitting there with that drink making his comment even more confusing, but entertaining nonetheless. Next door is also this great secondhand bookshop complete with a cooking section for Kelsi and an extensive collection of other genres for the three of us.

Cappuccino art at The Missing Bean

Coffee and books may have taken us a while, but not quite to dinner time, so we all ran an errand together and then just hung out in the JCR before eating our first dinner back in hall. Sam joined us then, along with a new visiting student, and I felt so bad for her because we five were catching up with each other in rapid fire and probably overwhelmed her to the point of deer in headlights eyes. I mean, it’s to be expected, we haven’t seen each other in 6 weeks! We went back to old times–well as old as last term can be considered–and chilled out in Kelsi’s room until we parted ways for bed, finally feeling like life was getting back to normal.

Chilling in Kelsi's room

Friday was much of the same, unnoteworthy drudgery of the rest of the week. I had a meeting with someone I’m doing research for in the psych department and then went to the science library to study because I finally had an essay assignment and was aching to feel productive. And that’s kind of what I did the rest of the day, just did my readings, some on my own, some next to Jordan in the college library, all with the thrill of holding pen to paper alongside a textbook again. My first essays are due Wednesday and Friday, but oddly enough the Friday one was assigned first so that one is getting priority. Plus the topic is fairly simple and thus a good one to ease back in with. Another coffee shop on High Street, another dinner at hall where Jordan and I somehow couldn’t find Kelsi and Janosz, and another night of talking until 11pm without understanding where the time went.

And then came today. Beautiful, bright, blue, -3 degrees Saturday morning. Yup, winter has officially hit Oxford, in my Southern California opinion with a vengeance. I should have looked out my window this morning because then I would have seen that the ground and buildings were covered in a fine layer of frost (which I insisted on calling snow) and therefore would have known that it was a poor decision to wear sweatpants and a tank top to dance practice at 8:30 am. But alas, I didn’t look out my window, I didn’t dress appropriately, I did freeze. At least practice went smoothly so it was worth losing an appendage or antenna or two to frostbite. Mental note: windows can be a wonderful tool. Use them.

Continuing in our cooking exploits, the mutually agreed upon social activity of this term, Janosz took the lead in our making sweet potato pancakes. Sounds kind of odd, and they definitely were not the fluffy American breakfast pancakes that we associate pancake with, but they were pretty tasty. Of course, we always pick recipes with huge yields so we are having sweet potato pancakes part two tomorrow for lunch again. It gives me an excuse to leave my room and walk through the (hopefully) nicer sunnier weather tomorrow to hang out with my friends 🙂

Jordan’s parents are still in town so they graciously took the four of us out for our traditional weekend cream tea. We were planning on taking them to the Rose as that is thus far our favorite local tea place, but the wait would have been an hour so we went to The Grand Cafe instead. The Grand Cafe and Queens Lane coffee house both battle over which of them is the oldest coffee house in England (guess which one is right) and they couldn’t be more different. The Grand Cafe is truly grand, small in size but big in atmosphere of a Revolution-era Paris salon and mirrors on two walls that make you think the cafe is more than double the size it really is. The tea was pretty good, second best in Oxford so far for me. The Earl Grey was loose leaf and you could actually taste the lavender, which is the mark of a good Earl Grey. The scones were a little too large for me, had a slightly more salty/almost biscuity like flavor (in my opinion, I was the only one who thought so), but they were warmed! I love it when they are warmed, makes such a difference. Clotted cream was once again the unsalted butter, but the jam was very complementary. And service was great, something rather rare in England. The true highlight though was getting to know and converse with Jordan’s parents. I really enjoy meeting my friends’ parents. Besides the fact that I just get along well with that generation of people and academics (Jordan’s dad is a professor at Chico State), I always find it interesting to see how my friends are with their parents and also the similarities. Call it the psychologist in me haha

Jordan and her dad

Me and Janosz

Kelsi and Jordan

We felt really lame after dinner at hall for saying that we were all just going to go back to Kelsi’s room and chill…again…on a Saturday night. None of us are really big on partying or anything, but it is the first weekend and even people who you wouldn’t think were the clubbing type were doing something. Now, we really were not in the mood to go clubbing and Jordan, Janosz, and I had all of our school stuff with us so we really really were not going clubbing like that. But we wanted to do something! So we went back to The Grand Cafe, where from 7-11 pm, the elegant restaurant and coffee house becomes a decently priced cocktail bar.

We tried to take a picture of all of us through a mirror...and kind of succeeded?

And dang the cocktails were yummy! I tried a White Peach Bellini; it was so good.

Too many good choices!! Kelsi and Sebastien

Yum 😉

And while yes, theoretically it wasn’t that much different than hanging out in Kelsi’s room since we all just sat and talked, but it felt different, more like going out without the actual hassle of going out. So good drinks, good company, good decision in my book. We definitely found our post-formal hall hangout spot too.

Me and Jordan

Happy to be getting back into the swing of things here!

Welcome Back Dinner, part 1

Does it count as a welcome back dinner if the person you are welcoming back has already been here for 24 hours and you went out to dinner with her the night before? I think I’ll count it, or maybe change the name to “Welcome Back Dinner, which we cooked this time” to be more accurate. And there may not be a part two (it depends on what we all decide to do today when Jordan and Sam arrive) but just in case…

Janosz and I ended up dressed as Twinsies again

Kelsi was a bit jet lagged, understandably, and ended up sleeping til 11 am. I don’t think she would’ve woken up even then if it hadn’t been for the fire maintenance guys knocking on her door and Janosz texting her about what time we were all supposed to go to breakfast. I had already been awake and therefore already eaten, so I just went along for some tea 🙂 Really not wanting to spend another day holed up in my room, I walked around the City Centre with Kelsi while she ran the errands I ran last week. We have been so lucky this week with the weather. Yesterday may have been a little gloomy, but it wasn’t that cold at all! If this is what winter in Oxford is going to be like, I can totally handle it.

We decided around 3pm that not only was I not going to dance rehearsal that night (I haven’t been feeling well and was not up to it), but that we were also going to cook dinner and make mulled wine so that I could finally taste this drink that I’ve wanted ever since the weather turned chilly. To be fair, it has always been chilly, I just felt like mulled wine was more of a Christmas drink. So we made a highly successful trip to the grocery store to pick up ingredients. Only it ended up becoming a pain in the you know what when we were doing self-checkout. I don’t know why I have this aversion to other people checking out my groceries for me because I always go to self-checkout no matter how many groceries I have. For some reason, the machines hated Kelsi and me this time and it kept calling over an employee to verify every single item we rang up. It was pretty embarrassing, not to mention frustrating. By the time we were halfway through I had his employee code memorized but was too afraid of getting in trouble to just input it myself and save him the walk to our machine and us the embarrassment of needing him AGAIN. It literally took us 30 minutes to check out and by then we were so irritable that Kelsi swore off self-checkout again and I just swore once or twice.

Janosz joined us for the actual cooking, taking a much needed break from his studying for collections exams. Kelsi delegated him to making the mulled wine while she and I prepped everything for the Turkey Encore main course.

Kelsi and Janosz do prep work

Mulled Wine, pre-simmer

It was an easy and vegetable laden recipe (just the way we like it) that only took as long as it did because we had to peel and chop so many vegetables. After they were blanched and the turkey cooked, it was all one big–and I mean big–stir fry.

Good thing Kelsi had a lot of practice stir-frying at Vassar

It came out looking so colorful and was so delicious. We also cooked way too much, of course, so now each have between one and three meals of leftovers ahead of us. Not bad, especially cost-wise when you divide it up amongst cost per meal yield. And you can’t put a price on the fun you have cooking with great friends 🙂

This is what we had to stir fry all together!

And as for the highly anticipated mulled wine…totally worth the wait! The best parts were definitely the comforting warmth from the simmered alcohol and the poached apple slices at the bottom of our mugs.

Deliciously colored and tasty, mulled wine poached apple

Yeah we kind of went Jenna-and-Aisha-college-style for the drinking, wine in coffee mugs. Some things are just too convenient and good to change.

Browsing cupcake recipes for our next baking attempt

If you want the recipes, hop  over to Kelsi’s blog Kelsi’s Kitchen Adventures because I’m sure she is going to post this recipe…eventually…