Thursday, June 27, 2013

Asian Salmon with Grilled Bok Choy and Spicy Rice

I made this the other night for a quick, healthy dinner.  I was so pleased with the results that I thought I would share it here on the blog.  It's hard to tell what it going on in the picture, cuz there is a lot going on in this dish.  However, even though there are a lot of ingredients, it is surprisingly easy and quick to make.

I really love Asian food and I'm finally getting to the point where I can make it at home.  If you know some good sauce combinations, you can make unlimited delicious, Asian-inspired meals.  My favorite go-to Asian ingredients?  Soy sauce, Sambel Oelek, and ginger.  If you have those three ingredients in your dish, it's going to taste awesome.  Sambel Oelek is a chili garlic sauce that most major grocery stores carry.  It costs about $3 and it's awesome.

I was craving Pad Thai when I made this, which is why I added the peanuts and the cilantro.  Cilantro makes everything tastes better.

Asian Salmon with Grilled Bok Choy and Spicy Rice (this is enough for two people)

Make enough rice for two people (I use a rice cooker, so I just made one scoop of rice).  When the rice has finished cooking, add one big tablespoon of Sambel Oelek, 2 big squirts of soy sauce, 1 inch piece of ginger (grated) and two shallots (minced).  Set rice aside.

While your rice is cooking, grill about 4 stalks of bok choy.  I grilled mine inside on a griddle pan, but if you've got time, grill it on a charcoal grill.  Very tasty.  Let it grill for about ten minutes on each side. Pull off the griddle pan/grill and top with salt and pepper.

Brush 1 piece of salmon (or two small pieces) with soy sauce.  Add about one tablespoon of peanut oil to a saute pan.  If you don't have peanut oil, canola will be fine.  Heat pan to a medium/high heat.  Saute fish for five minutes on each side.

Grab your plates.  Add a scoop of rice, your bok choy and a piece of salmon.  Top with peanuts, cilantro, chopped carrots and some cole slaw mix.  Garnish with a lime.

This dish comes together really fast and tastes great.  You could also use soba noodles instead of the rice.  Or make more bok choy and have a carb-free version (though if  you read my blog, you probably aren't watching carbs).

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Sarong Style




I loved wearing scarves as sarongs on the beach.  Everyone has about a billion scarves these days, so just pick your favorite and save yourself some money. This is my all-time favorite scarf: I bought it in London while I was studying abroad.  It's a large square, so it's perfect for a cover-up.  Perhaps a bit skimpy, but the beach is the only place where you can get away with that sort of thing.

Are you tired of beach posts yet? Sorry!  Beach style is the best!

Top: Old Navy, Swimsuit Top: Old Navy, Swimsuit Bottom: Victoria's Secret, Sunglasses: Urban Outfitters

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

In My Lunchbox

Now that I have a full-time job, I'm back to packing a lunch everyday.  Now, I'll be honest, I really get into packing a lunch.  My thirty minute lunch break is my me time, so I like to have something to really look forward to.  I know most people are a little unimaginative when it comes to packing a lunch (PB&J everyday? no thanks), so I thought I would start sharing some of my combinations.

Remember yesterday's homemade bread?  Talk about something to look forward to!  I made a salmon salad (a.k.a tuna salad, just with salmon).  I kept it simple: a little mayonnaise, a hardboiled egg, some onion, salt and pepper.  Some celery would be great if you've got it around.  Then I took a salad.  Don't mix your salad in the morning; mix it up at lunch.  I take a ziploc full of spinach leaves, a seperate ziploc with coleslaw mix, and then a ziploc with chopped tomatoes.  I add my dressing to the tomatoes, they soak it up and get really tasty, but they don't get mushy.

And there you have it: a simple, delicious, and healthy lunch.  No more PB&J's.

*sorry for the crappy picture, I took it at work.
*also, not trying to hate on PB&J's.  I really love PB&J's.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast: First Attempt


I have a tendency to put things off.  I plan a huge project, get all excited about it, and then life gets in the way.  And by life, I mean sitting on the couch and watching Lost (or some other show) for the fourth time.  My New Year's Resolution was to bake as much bread as possible (see my 100th post), and the book Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast by Ken Forkish was going to help me.  However, there is a lot of paraphernelia involved in getting started (which all together costs about $100) so making homemade artisan bread has fallen to the bottom of my to-do list.

The other day I decided I wasn't waiting anymore.  No I don't have a kitchen scale or a proofing basket.  I didn't even have the required 7 3/4 cups of flour for the recipe I chose.  But I plowed ahead anyway and what I got was so worth it.

I think this is some sort of conspiracy: if people knew they could make bread this good at home all bakeries would go out of business.


Now, I've made homemade bread before, but it was nothing like this.  I made the Joy of Cooking French Bread about a year ago, which they call a "rustic" loaf.  Now, nothing against the Joy of Cooking, which is possibly the best cookbook of all time and a must-own for every cook, but that bread doesn't even compare to what I made under Forkish's instruction.  You bake it in a Dutch oven and the entire process is about 8 hours long.  I mixed everything by hand, no spoons or KitchenAid Mixers allowed.  You don't knead it, you stretch it and fold it.  When I pulled it out of the oven and turned it on its side to cool the crust flaked and crackled.  The crust was almost burnt (per Ken Forkish's request) which gave it a complex flavor I had never tasted in bread before.  My husband and I were so amazed that something this wonderful could come out of our oven that we literally passed the loaf back in forth for about ten minutes.

I'm not going to give you the recipe; there is so much involved in making this bread.  Ken Forkish is very particular about mixing, folding, and shaping, and I could never explain all of that here.  That's why he wrote the book.  That being said, this bread was actually incredibly simple to make.  It took all day, but the hands-on time was very small. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who has ever even thought about making homemade bread before.  (Not ready to commit?  Click here for a bread recipe by Jim Lahey, who invented the Dutch-oven bread baking method).

I read an article the other day that really struck me.  It was actually an advice column and it was discussing the ten things that women regret from their 20's.  The regret that really stuck out to me was not taking risks.  Perhaps its weird to talk about risk and bread making because there isn't much of a risk in bread making.  You put the dough in the oven and it either tastes good or it doesn't.  But that column struck me, and over the past week, I have found that it has affected almost every decision I have made.  That column is what encouraged me to get off the couch and make this bread.  We need to take big risks, but we also need to take little risks everyday.  So what if I don't have a proofing basket?

I'm so glad I finally did this.  Now that I know how delicious this bread is, I feel more comfortable eventually spending the $100 on supplies.  I'm so excited for my next day off so that I can make another loaf.  It's so rewarding to pull something like this out of the oven.  If you like to cook, or bake, or even just eat bread, check out Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Double Duty




I love wearing dresses as skirts.  It really mixes up my wardrobe.  I wore this to RedBar on our last night in Destin.  If you are planning a trip down there, be sure to go to RedBar!  It's in Grayton beach and it's absolutely wonderful.  Great atmosphere, great music, and the best crab cakes I have ever eaten in my life.  There are also some cute little shops around it.  I love exploring cute little beach shops.

Striped Shirt: Old Navy, Black Dress (worn as a skirt): Target, Watch: Fossil, Shoes: Old Navy, Assorted Jewels

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Beach Beauty Essentials

Untitled #1




Staying pretty at the beach is all about simplicity.  Let's be  honest, any make-up you wear is going to be beaten away by sand, sweat, water and sun, so best not put too much on.  But I always feel better with a little bit of make-up, so here are my go-to beach products.

1.  Super City Block by Clinique.  This has just the tiniest bit of color in it plus some hefty sunscreen.  

2.  Nars Blush in Orgasm.  Yes, I know, it's cheesy, but beauty products are cult classics for a reason.  This gives me the prettiest glow.  It's like I have just a tiny sunburn, without the negative effects of an actual sunburn.

3.  Bare Escentuals A Little Sun All-Over Face Color.  Because of my fair complexion, most bronzers make my skin look dirty.  This bronzer is really light and gives me just a bit of color.  

4.  Cover Girl Lip Perfection in any color.  This stuff is the bomb!  I have a few colors and they are all beautiful.  And cheap!  These act more like a stain than a lipstick, which is perfect for the beach.  Get one without the shimmery stuff, they last longer.  Like........you can't get them off.

5.  Victor & Rolf Flowerbomb.  This is the perfume that I wear everyday.  No point in not smelling amazing at the beach.  And it mixes well with the scent of sunscreen.  

6.  OPI Nail Polish.  Go for an unexpected color.  Everyone wears bright colors at the beach, but I wore a dark green (not this exact one, I wore I Come in Peas, which is one of the Sephora by OPI colors).  I like to keep things interesting.

And last but not least, SUNSCREEN!  Don't forget the sunscreen!  My tip for not getting burned?  Start your day with a generous coat of high SPF lotion (50 and up people, 15 and 30 aren't doing anything.  Stop kidding yourself), and then I re-coat every hour with a high SPF spray.  The sprays don't give you an even coating, so you need to be sure and start with a lotion, but I love them because they make re-coating fast and easy.  I try to get another lotion coat at some point during the day, normally around lunchtime.  If you don't want to get burned, you have to be serious about it.  Everyone I went to the beach with got burned except for me.  Sunscreens only last for about 80 minutes, so be sure to re-apply accordingly.  Also, SPFs begin to break down after a year.  Don't use last year's lotion. Buy fresh SPF.  Nothing ruins a beach trip like a sunburn.  

I also don't wear eye-makeup at the beach.  I've got my cute sunglasses, what do I need eye-makeup for?  Also, I have yet to find a waterproof mascara that can last a whole day at the beach.  

And there you have it, my beach essentials!  Any beauty tips for the beach?  

Monday, June 17, 2013

Beach Bum







I just came back from a week-long trip to my favorite place: Destin, Florida.  The beach is the most relaxing, beautiful, and fun place in the entire world.  At least, I think so.

What is it about going out of town that makes you want to buy a bunch of new things?  Normally, in preparation for a beach trip, I would have bought a new swimsuit, a new cover-up, and a ton of make-up products that I "needed." This trip, I decided not to do any of that.  The only thing I bought for this trip was sunscreen.  Ok, I'm lying, I did buy these adorable sunglasses.  But only because they were $10 and I can't find my other pair.  I think they got lost in the move.

What did I get out of this little exercise in self-control?  I learned that my wardrobe is actually more inclusive than I give it credit.  I learned to get creative.  Most importantly, I learned that a button-down is the most perfect beach cover-up of all time.  Think about it: you can wear it so many different ways.  You can wear it buttoned up for modesty.  For a sexier look, you can wear it open.  You can tie it up for a super cute, 1950's look.  You can tie it around your waste if you're not feeling so great about your butt and you can throw it over your shoulders prepster style when you feel them starting to burn.  Um....need I say more?  And, if you wear one in a thicker cotton, they don't get weird looking when they get wet.

This look here was my go-to beach look this past week (I had another super cute one as well, but more on that later).  Once I got to the beach, I took off the shorts and I was good to go.  The braid kept my hair in place, and the hat kept my scalp from getting burned and me from getting a headache.  And I threw in the hair scarf for some extra sass.

Do you have any tips on being super-cute at the beach?  What's your go-to look?

Shirt: Gap (men's), Shorts: Cut-offs that I made from an old pair of Olie's jeans, Swimsuit: Old Navy, Scarf: Thrifted, Hat: Target, Sunglasses: Urban Outfitters

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Summer is Here






Shirt: Forever 21, Shorts: Men's Levi's that I stole from Olie and than cut off into shorts, Belt: Super old, I have no idea where I got it, Shoes: Urban Outfitters, Watch: Fossil, Assorted Jewels

Monday, June 10, 2013

Neon and Floral




Neon top: Forever 21, Floral Pants: Vintage, Heels: Payless, Assorted Jewels

Friday, June 7, 2013

Mixing and Clashing





These are some of my new "big-girl-job" pants that I never seem to take off.  How is it that polka dots go with everything?

Lace Top: Forever 21, Black Sleeveless Top: Old Navy, Belt: Vintage Levi's, Pants: Target, Shoes: Journey's, Assorted Jewels

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Kitchen Classics: Blueberry Muffins

There are some foods that everyone loves.  Mom's spaghetti, grilled cheese burgers, chocolate chip cookies.  With this fervent love comes almost impossible expectations.  Is there anything more disappointing than a bad hamburger?  Since I started seriously cooking around 19, I have found that oftentimes the most classic recipes are the hardest to make.  The blueberry muffin is no exception.

On a side note: I consider myself something of a muffin master.  I make super awesome muffins.  I love experimenting with different flavor combinations and somehow they always turn out really great.  But alas, I can never make a good blueberry muffin.

I've tried probably a dozen recipes.  Both Ina and Paula have let me down.  I've made up my own.  Also disappointing.  I had almost given up the cause.  Maybe blueberry muffins were something that I just couldn't make.  An it's-not-you-it's-me kind of thing.  Maybe I wasn't worthy to make good blueberry muffins.  However, I woke up the other morning with a strange blueberry muffin optimism.  A quick google search and I came across Martha Stewarts's blueberry muffin recipe.

How could I forget about Martha?

Most muffin recipes are basically the same.  But this one looked different.  It was made more like cake than like muffins.  So I decided to give it a try.  Boy, am I glad I did.

These are blueberry muffins.  When you think of a blueberry muffin, this is what you think of.  The crust is almost crunchy and the inside is soft and fluffy.  They take a little extra work, but they are worth the effort.

So, after years of searching, I have found my blueberry muffin recipe.  And yes, it's a very good thing.

Blueberry Muffins (by Martha Stewart)

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for tins
3 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup milk
1 3/4 cups blueberries

In a large bowl, sift together your flour, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat your butter and sugar on a medium speed for about 5 minutes.  You want this to form a light, off-white mixture.  I had to scrape the sides of my mixer a few times and beat it a little longer than 5 minutes.

Add egg, egg yolks, and vanilla.  Beat until combined.  Reduce the speed to low.  Alternate adding flour mixture  and milk, beginning and ending with the flour.  Your mixture should be thick, almost like cookie dough.

Now gently fold in your blueberries with a large wooden spoon.  
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Grease a 12 muffin tin with butter.  Don't use cooking spray.  We're using butter today.  I mean, it's a blueberry muffin.  Fill tins.  I filled mine to the brim.  Go crazy.
Sprinkle the tops of the muffins generously with sugar.  Once again, go crazy.  This is not a healthy breakfast.  
Bake for about 30 to 40 minutes until the tops are golden brown.  Once they are done, let them cool for a few minutes in the tin before you remove them.  And there you have it: perfect blueberry muffins.  These take a little longer to make than traditional muffins, both hands-on and in the oven, but they are so worth your time.  Perfect for a lazy Saturday or for a family brunch.  Or for you to make for yourself and then eat too many because no one is watching.  Don't worry, I did the same thing.  

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Hump Day Artist: Me

Yesterday I told you all that my friends had given me some feedback on my blog.  I think my favorite comment was made by one of my closest friends, who jokingly refered to my Hump Day Artist posts as "cheating."  In response to this, this week's Hump Day Artist is me, Meredith Olinger.  Which, perhaps, actually is cheating.

I do a lot of things: I have a full-time job, I run this blog, I'm very involved in my church choir, and I am constantly baking and cooking.  But I consider myself first and foremost an artist.  I started this blog as a way to explore the things that influence my work, but that I could never really explain how or why.

This has been an interesting year for me art wise.  When I was in college it was so easy to make work.  However, it's become increasingly difficult to make art.  The pieces I have made have been strange and I honestly don't understand what they are doing or what I even want them to do.  But this is all part of the process.  These objects don't just spring out of no where and one great painting comes at the expense of ten terrible ones.  Making art is frustrating and difficult, but those paintings that work, that make sense to me, make it worth the while.

So, to encourage myself, I'm showing you some of my work.

To see more of my paintings and drawings, go to mereditholinger.com




Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Update On The Starving Artist

So, if you regularly follow my blog, you must have realized the recent lack of posts.  It's been a bit nuts over here in the Starving Artist household and I've had to take a little break just to get my life in order and to focus on some things that needed my attention.  So here's what's been going on:

1.  My husband graduated from Medical School (notice the picture above), which is pretty incredible.  This is the culmination of about ten years of hard work and I can't believe that it has finally happened.    With this comes many ceremonies, multiple parties and lots of impromptu celebratory margaritas.  I'm so proud of him and it's been a blast, but also a bit exhausting.

2.  I've started my first full-time job.  I absolutely love it, but it has been a HUGE adjustment for me.

3.  We moved.  You knew that already and it has been about a month, but it just won't die.  I swear that the boxes are reproducing in the garage.  Also, the general sprucing-up our our new home is taking much longer than anticipated (all the trim in our house is beige.  WHY WOULD YOU PAINT TRIM BEIGE!!!????).

Now that you have all of my lame excuses for why I haven't been posting, here are some things I'm looking forward to with regards to The Starving Artist:

1.  My in-laws gave me a sewing machine.  I've always wanted one and I can't wait to learn how to use it.  I know how to hand sew and embroider pretty well, but I have no idea how to work a sewing machine.  Today (which is my day off) I am reading the entire instruction manual front to back.  My first two projects are going to be a pillow and a maxi skirt.  If they go well, I will be sharing them with you here.

2.  One of our best friends gave my husband a grill for graduation.  I've always wanted to learn how to grill, but I've always been intimidated by it.  My husband is pretty good at it, so we begin lessons tonight.  I want to share with you all what I learn.  Plus, we should get some pretty kick-ass recipes along the way.

3.  My friends have been very vocal about what they like (and don't like) about the blog.  One friend complained that there is no men's fashion, and I thought it would be great to throw that in from time to time.  I have a pretty stylish husband, who has agreed to model for the Starving Artist (I honestly don't know how I talked him into this).  I'm incredibly influenced by men's fashion (I steal my husbands clothes on a daily basis) so I'm excited to add this to my blog.

I'm so excited about moving forward here at The Starving Artist.  Thank you all so much for stopping by this little project of mine on a daily/weekly basis.  Your support means the world to me.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Red Door






Shirt: Gap (men's), Dress: Thrifted, Necklace: Zara, Shoes: New York and Company, Assorted Bracelets